Guycot: A Rocket Ball Chain Rifle From 1879

The “Guycot” is a rocket ball chain rifle system named for its two creators, Paulin Gay (the designer) and Henri Guénot (the financier). They patented the idea in 1879, and manufactured it in both rifle and pistol form – I have a previous video on one of the pistols and today we are looking at two of the rifles. The chain inside holds a series of compartment links, each sized to fit a 6.5mm rocket ball projectile (a hollow-based bullet filled with a powder charge and set with a primer in its base). This is a baseless style of cartridge, so there is no residual case needed to extract or eject after firing. These rifles have a capacity of 80 such rounds, while the pistol models held either 25 or 40 rounds.

Only a few hundred Guycot guns were made, and they were a commercial failure. This is probably due to several factors. The guns must have been quite expensive to produce, and the ammunition was proprietary, expensive to make, and likely quite fragile. The ammunition was also extremely underpowered, with only enough space for a tiny amount of powder in each bullet. This would have been fine for indoor parlor shooting, but woefully insufficient for almost anything else.

Thanks to Ader of Paris for the chance to film these very cool pieces of firearms history!


  1. “(…)they were a commercial failure. This is probably due to several factors.(…)” points another disadvantage
    [reloading] was a somewhat unsafe procedure as if the user forgot to engage the safety or it accidentally disengaged (relatively easy, as it was only held in place by friction) the weapon would fire: the fact that nine or so chambers would have to be loaded before the first one reached the firing position did not help matters.

  2. I suspect the “moved-back” trigger on the later model was to give it better handling. The trigger on #197 is about where you’d expect to find it on a best-quality double shotgun. The one on #120 was pretty obviously inherited directly from the pistol (which came first), and while reaching it with your hand wrapped around a pistol grip would be no problem, doing so on the rifle version would require a bit of a “stretch” to reach it with your hand on the wrist of the rifle stock.

    The system does solve the major problem of the similar-in-ammunition -concept American “Volcanic”, namely gas sealing at the breech. It seals much like a transitional “gas seal” percussion revolver, a type fairly common in Europe in the 1850s. (see “Lang gas seal revolver” for one British example.)

    The most obvious parallel to this in both ammunition technology and timing is the Venditti pistol of 1870-71. Often quoted as an 1850s development “copied” by the designers of the Volcanic, in fact it was just the opposite; a Volcanic type that arrived twenty years too late, after the centerfire metallic cartridge had beaten all other types to become the world standard.

    I could see this being made to fire “caseless” ammunition composed of a monolithic-grain solid propellant similar to solid rocket motor composition. That would most likely solve the low velocity issue.

    With a faux outer “barrel” only about half as long, and a clockwork to keep the chain moving as long as the trigger is held back, you could have a steampunk submachine gun. (Game designers take note.)

    clear ether


  3. When I was eight years old, I really wanted to know how a gun works, and nobody told me.
    Thanks to the Guycot, I can proudly say that 8 year old self’s assumptions how firearms operate were correct 🙂
    and the gun even looks like it was drawn by an 8 year old.

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