Firepower Back to the 1500s: Pre-Collier Repeaters

Clockwork Basilisk: The Early Revolvers of Elisha Collier and Artemas Wheeler” is available right now for preorder on Kickstarter:

Samuel Colt wasn’t the first person to invent a revolver, and Artemas Wheeler wasn’t either. Today Professor Ben Nicholson joins me to discuss the history of repeating firearms before Wheeler and Collier – a history that goes clear back to the 1500s. From Roman candle type guns like the Chambers to superposed chamber designs like the Jennings to truly bizarre designs like the Dolep & Gorgo funnel pistol, we will cover it all!


    • Check out Richard Elgood’s 2021 book “The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns”. Its a bit confusing to read, but it has a good amount of what you are looking for.

  1. Once saw a matchlock revolving rifle at a gunshow here in France it seemed quite flimsy/touristy but the seller said it was C19teenth Indian. Only about 150 euroes and I regret not buying it Cylinder rotation was by hand

  2. I hoped we would have been shown how this marvellous gun had worked…
    (for 22min of talking)


    By the way, what kind of accent this guy has? I am a British Slav and I cannot figure this out.

    • They did describe the long arm in front of them; it has a sliding flintlock with one position for each of four touch holes. The only mystery to me is whether there is a separate pan at each touch hole or the sliding lock has a segmented pan.

    • I’m a Brit from Linclonshire, Mum was an Aussie and I have lived in the US since 1979, so its a ‘Mid Atlantic’ accent. Every year it shifts, and is somewhere off Greenland at the moment and drifting towards Newfoundland…

  3. no one, mr colt and mr browning included, makes everything from scratch. its all pieced together from prior works and improved upon. usually through breakthroughs in metallurgy allow that new possibilities.

  4. It’s always interesting to note that the “Great Innovators” like Samuel Colt almost always have a serious note of P.T. Barnum about them. I don’t care who it is, whether you’re talking Edison, Ford, Musk, or whoever else you might bring up, there’s always something fraudulent and scammish lurking in the background.

    I remember reading all the conventional wisdom back in the day about how Colt came up with the revolver out of the whole cloth, with the story about the ship’s wheel featuring heavily. At the time, I was credulous, and it was only later after noting that there were things like the Puckle Gun, and some odd Italian pieces dating back to the 1500s that I started wondering how much of the legerdemain was actually truth.

    It’s all of a piece with the way that most of your really successful generals are all really sociopathic egotists who somehow manage to perpetrate the fraud with their troops, even as they’re getting them killed in job lots. You have vanishingly few of the “Great Captains” who’re just workaday average Joes doing a job. Slim comes to mind, maybe Grant, but most of ’em are Pattons, Rommels, and the like: Poseurs, all of them. Charismatics with a genius for getting attention, many outright narcissists.

    It took someone like Samuel Colt to make the revolver happen; at least in terms of widespread adoption and uptake. Without him and his massive ego, his fraudulent promotion of the whole idea…? How many more years would it have taken, to get the revolver to where it was by the 1870s?

    • Dear sir: I would refer you to one of the C&Rsenal Q & As wherein Othias bemoans the incredible narcissism, dishonesty, and relentless ambition of just about every firearm inventor he has studied, with the possible exception of J.M. Browning. If you wish to lengthen your list of modest generals, may I nominate Gen. Hobart, inventor of “Hobart’s Funnies,” the oddball sappers’ tanks of D-Day and immediately after?

      • Bill Mauldin said that you could tell a lot about a general by the stories his soldiers traded about him. He noted a story where Gen. Patch supposedly was in his jeep w/o wearing stars (normal precaution), and saw a GI hitchhiking into a town that was off-limits. The GI told him outright what he was doing and how he intended to get back. Patch gave him the ride. Mauldin argued that regardless of whether the story was true, his troops wouldn’t be repeating it if he was an SOB.

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