RIA: London-Made Lorenzonis Repeating Flintlocks

A 7-shot repeating handgun before cartridges had been invented? Yep, long before. These two pistols are London-made examples of the Lorenzoni system, in which a gun was made with internal magazines of powder and projectiles and a rotating central loading spindle like a modern reloading powder throw. By rotating a lever on the left side of pistol 180 degrees and back, a shooter could load a ball into the chamber, load powder behind it, recock the action, prime the pan, and close the frizzen all in one automated sequence.

This system originated with a German gunsmith named Kalthoff in the mid 1600s, but it was an Italian by the name of Lorenzoni who made it more practical and began building pistols of the type. Lorenzoni is the name that has been generally applied to the system as a result. These two were made by a gunsmith named Glass in London in the mid 1700s – in these days of hand-made firearms ideas and systems like this would slowly spread and be adopted by craftsmen who were capable of producing them and thought they could find an interested market for them.

The Lorenzoni system offered unmatched repeating firepower for its time, but was hampered by its complexity. Only a very skilled gunsmith could build a reliable and safe pistol of the type, and this made them very expensive.

23 Comments

  1. Just don’t forget to point it downwards all the time. All transfers are strictly gravity fed, no gansta style maneuvers while loading.

  2. “Rule 1: No smoking in the reloading room.” ^__^

    This takes it to a whole new level.

    I like my fingers, I’ll pass on this idea.

  3. Actually, while similar in concept, the Kalthoff and Lorenzoni systems are functionally dictinctly different, and were apparently independent inventions.

    The Lorenzoni has ball and powder reservoirs behind the action, loaded through a flap on the left side. (Some of the Cookson subtype load via a hinged buttplate.) Its chamber-loading breech is a drum, operated by a sidelever much like a crank. To load, as shown, point the muzzle down and rotate the lever, which drops first a bullet and then a powder charge into the chamber in the drum, much like the chamber of the late C20 H&K G11 caseless weapon.

    In the Kalthoff, a rectangular block breech has three chambers. It moves side-to-side as a crank trigger guard is turned underneath, much like the single-shot British Ferguson breechloader of the 1770s.

    As the trigger guard is turned horizontally, it moves the block to load first a ball (from a tubular, springloaded magazine), then the powder charge, and finally a priming charge, with one complete revolution from six o’clock all the way ’round back to six, as seen from above. Muzzle again must be pointed down because the powder is gravity fed.

    In early wheel-lock Kalthoffs, the cranking action also spans the wheel through internal gearing. On late flintlock models, the frizzen is closed but the cock must be drawn back to full cock position by hand.

    While contemporaries of each other and broadly similar in manual of arms, the Kalthoff and Lorenzoni systems are distinctly different mechanically. Rather like the much later Spencer and Henry metallic-cartridge repeaters, as a matter of fact.

    cheers

    eon

  4. Those would be so cool with a Winchester 1894 style lever under the grip. Pull the trigger and then release the butt while still holding the lever, and ‘flip’ the gun forward over the lever to load, and flip back, grasp the butt and pull the trigger again.

    And with a bit of ingenuity you could probably mod your powder and ball flasks to function as a speed loader! 🙂

    Silliness aside, is there anything in the design that packs or tamps the powder? Or is the measure metered into the chamber enough to compress the powder enough?

  5. I suspect these worked reasonably well when well maintained and operated by someone who knew what they were doing. And I suppose anyone who could afford one of these would take care of it,these puppies were expensive!

  6. There’s a reason repeating arms were impractical until metallic cartridges came out. Until that point, the best way to have multiple shots without the danger of an impractically complicated reloading system which could blow off your hand was to get a revolver.

    Given a choice, which would you have if you were going to make that stuck-up prick of a nobleman “disappear” while he’s out hunting in the woods?

    1. stiletto dagger
    2. rapier (en-garde!)
    3. wheel-lock pistol
    4. box-lock double barrel pocket pistol hidden in your coat
    5. Collier revolver
    6. cap-lock rifled musket loaded with exploding musket shell [!]
    7. ceramic grenades
    8. 12-pounder Napoleon (stolen from the local garrison)
    9. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!

    This activity is completely voluntary. You are not required to assassinate people with stuffed shirts if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • If that exploding bullet in the rifled musket works like the explosive rounds for the .50 cal in Fallout New Vegas then I’d take that, if it works for Deathclaws, then I’m sure it’ll be just dandy for a stuffy nobleman.

      Juuust in case he’s not alone, maybe aim at the ground in the middle of the group and hope the flying rocks, concussion and other stuff take him and one or two others out.

      If not and he’s just knocked onto the ground and more than a bit stunned, reload and turn the area and him into mulch.

    • “the best way to have multiple shots without the danger of an impractically complicated reloading system which could blow off your hand was to get a revolver.”
      Or use multi-barreled weapon.

      “There’s a reason repeating arms were impractical until metallic cartridges came out”
      Wait. Now I’m confused revolvers are NOT subset of repeating weapons?

      • Oops, sorry about that. The usual repeating arms I had in mind were the linear kind with the chamber and barrel as a single unit. Revolvers generally do not fall into that category and the cylinder is different from linear magazines in that it is possible to load all chambers at one in the case of a break open frame or side-swinging cylinder with speed loaders or moon clips.

      • “Wait. Now I’m confused revolvers are NOT subset of repeating weapons?”

        As far as I know, revolvers are not repeating weapons. Revolvers are some kind of single-shot weapons, like for example the multiple-barreled break-action shotguns. More accurately, pepperboxes, revolvers, multiple-barreled derringers, shotguns and rifles are regarded as single-shot weapons are multiplied by the number of chambers. (How should I put it better?) Single-shot weapons use only power sources located outside the mechanism of the gun. There is compressed magazine spring in the repeating weapons, which a power source located inside the mechanism of the gun.

        According to the usage of the word in English, revolvers are repeating guns. Likely we have just found a difference between the English and Hungarian gun terminology. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 🙂

    • Actually, if he’s like most stuck-up nobility, he no doubt has “mantrap guns” and etc. set all through his hunting preserve to make sure any lower-class poacher ends up as an example.

      I’d just reposition one or two to ensure that he ran into them himself. That way, he has to foot the bill in all respects.

      See “hoist by his own petard”.

      cheers

      eon

    • For a RPG session, I would choose throwable blades with an easy-to-carry weapon (bludgeon, short blade, hatchet, light crossbow maybe a blunderbuss…).

      But a pair of double-barrel pistols with a hunting knife can also do the job.

      If we play a not-so-wealthy character, an artisanal slingshot and a wooden stick will have to be enough. A pointed stick if you are sufficiently lucky (or clever) to use heat to harden wood in ordern to turn it into a pike.

    • 9. a. A beautiful four-barreled flintlock rifle (or shotgun?), which I saw as a child in the arms exhibition of the Festetics Palace. It has four trigger, two sideplate on both sides, and both sideplate has two cock, two pan, two frizzen, and two spring.
      b. Austrian Augustin 1842M Kammer-Karabiner with original tubelock ignition system and rifled barrel. It’s a very handy carbine.

  7. I think that Ian might have been a bit misled as to the consequences of a flash-over due to his being left handed. If he had gripped the pistol right handed then his index finger would not have been over the powder magazine door.

    The latch looks weak enough that the magazine door would likely have simply popped open with a flash, with a corresponding flash in the priming magazine. He would have ended up with burnt fingers, but quite possibly not an actual explosion.

  8. What happens if you have a misfire? You could manually re-cock and re-fire, but if the charge never fires, how do you clear the ball and charge out of the barrel?

    • I wonder if you can unload it by pointing it up and working the lever. The powder and ball should drop back into the reservoir. IF the charge won’t budge, I guess you can poke the slug with a rod. Short of the powder being wet, I can’t imagine not being able to get it to fire eventually. You can pick the vent clean, reprime the pan, and change the flint.

  9. So…. How does this system compress the powder? It seems like it would be far to easy to have a loose charge and that’s never a good thing unless you like having your barrel burst….

    • The danger is when there is an air pocket between the powder and ball, not when the powder is simply uncompressed. Perhaps it could have been an issue if you loaded it and then tapped it to settle the powder. That could cause the powder to settle and for there to be an air pocket.

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