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Guns of the Silver Screen: V21N7

By Kyle Shea

Harper’s Gun

Here’s forty shillings on the draw
To those who volunteer to come,
To ‘list and fight the foe today
Over the hills and far away.

Those are the lyrics to the ending song of one of the Sharpe series’ episodes. Based on the book series by Bernard Cornwell, the Sharpe series stars fan favorite Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a soldier of the 95th Rifles fighting in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. After saving his commander’s life, he is promoted and, like all real British heroes, is sent on countless missions against the French.

Along the way, he is joined by a group of soldiers called “Chosen Men.” One of them, Patrick Harper, doesn’t get along with Sharpe at first, but over time they become good friends. After a while, Patrick is seen carrying a Nock Volley Gun, a flintlock with seven barrels (Six barrels around one central barrel). It was designed by Henry Nock, a notable gunsmith who made many double barrel shotguns and pistols. His Nock Gun was used by the navy for a while, but use ended due to a multitude of reasons. One of them is because of the recoil. Old muskets already had quite the kick, so having seven barrels on a single musket must have been a nightmare.

Other weapons of the time period were also in the show, including the Brown Bess. Used by the British, the Brown Bess, or the British Land Pattern Musket, is one of the longest serving firearms in history. It has seen action in countless conflicts, including the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Greek war for Independence, and, of course, the Napoleonic Wars. It was the main weapon of the Infantry, though there were some variations that were used for the Calvary and the Dragoons.

Both the Nock Gun and the Brown Bess were smoothbore weapons, meaning there are no grooves in the barrel. The way these guns were loaded was that you first half-cock the hammer. You then poured some gun powder down it before the musket ball. You...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017

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