Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Apache Pinfire Revolver

Of late I have been watching the first season of Man From U.N.C.L.E. courtesy of Netflix. Half the fun is the gadgets and enhanced weapons used by the lead characters, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. While making notes my mind wandered to a vicious weapon I was once sure U.N.C.L.E. would never allow their agents to carry, the Apache pin fire revolver.

I first encountered this murderous creation of L. Doine Invor when my Grandfather took me to the PANHANDLE PLAINS MUSEUM in Canyon, Texas. He explained to me that it was actually three weapons in one.

In its 'carrying configuration' it was a set of brass knuckles capable of pounding one's opponent into a bloody pulp.

There was a knife as well. When this double edged ribbon of steal was deployed a man could be sliced to pieces.

If neither of these weapons was equal to the task the brass knuckles unfolded to make the grip for a revolver. Unfold the trigger and your enemies could be annihilated in a hailstorm of bullets.

I shuttered, realizing this deadly device was mere inches from me behind a thin sheet of glass.

I was six at the time.

In the, shall we say numerous, years since I have gained a more realistic understanding of the Apache. Still, they are neat beasties.

Production started sometime around 1869. I'm not sure how long they were made. Depending on when they were made, or the grade, the features change a bit. Being French, some are very fancy.

Others are, is functional the right word?

A few years ago I encountered one at Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas. The clerk on duty was kind enough to take it out of the case and let me examine it.

I still think the little beastie would make a creditable set of brass knuckles. In fact, the knuckles are the heavest built part of it.

The knife changed on some models from a strait blade to a kriss style wavy blade on the one I was able to examine. After close inspection I'm not sure it would survive determined letter opening. This is not a knife I would want to make anyone made at me with.

This brings us to the firearm portion of the Apache. Depending on who you ask, it was available in 6mm or 7mm pin fire, perhaps both.

Pin fire cartridges seem to were in production in France longer than in the United States. Reloading equipment and components for pin fire cartridges are available in Europe. Be warned, they ain't cheap! It would take a very determined owner to be able to fire one.

Having said that, the pinfire cartridge seems to have a good track record. It only complaint I got on them when I made an inquire a while back was moisture coming in through the pin channel. If they are dry, they usually work.

In the case of the Apache my big complaint would have been the small caliber. Be it a 6 or 7mm black powder cartridge, you would get more punch out of a 22. This is something else I wouldn't want to get anyone mad at me with.

Still and all, I first saw one of these at a museum with my Grandfather. As of 2007 it was still there. The only reason I left 'Collectors' without it was the $2,600.00 price tag.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Clay Allison's Practical Joke

Curious Events in Dodge City


Clay Allison's Practical Joke

It was in my school days that I first came across the curious tales surrounding a visit the notorious Clay Allison made to Dodge City, Kansas in 1878. In the 130 + years since the events transpired the tale has been told, retold, and so embellished with each telling as such tales are, that the truth of the events are probably lost forever. The facts we can be sure of are as follows.

Clay Allison visited Dodge City, Kansas in September of 1878. The noted gunmen Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp were lawmen at the time.

Wyatt Earp was employed by the City of Dodge and Bat Masterson was Sheriff of Ford County. The friends were not bothered by jurisdiction and watched each others backs.

City law of the day stated visitors to Dodge (read cowboys from trail drives) were not allowed to wear guns in town. At the time firearms were turned over to the bartender at the first saloon they would visit and returned when they were ready to leave town.

During his visit to Dodge city Clay Allison did not surrender his guns and did not behave well at all!

During his rapage Clay was never confrounted by Bat, Wyatt or any other lawman.

Now, if you know anything about either Bat Masterson or Wyatt Earp this makes no sense at all. Bat was a professional lawman that took his job serioiusly and tried not to use excessive force doing so. Wyatt was a professional lawman who never retreated beyond "the air at his back" and didn't consider much any kind of force excessive.

In old news paper accounts and memoirs of people who were there are dozens of conflicting accounts of the day. Clay is protrayed riding up and down the streets of Dodge "looking for a lawman to kill." Some accounts have him shooting up store signs and windows, street lamps, and making a general nuisance of himself. One account has him riding his horse into saloons wearing nothing between his hat and boots but his gunbelt!

Several accounts have Clay stairing down either Bat or Wyatt, or both. Other stories have him being backed down by one of the two famious lawmen. One fanciful tale has Bat watching Clay from his hotel window with his old Sharps Buffalo Rifle ready to drop him if he went too far.

If you know anything about the men involved this is nonsense. In short, had Clay met Bat or Wyatt that day, someone's story would have come to an end.

The question becomes why didn't they meet? The mystery lasted so long because no one was entirely sure of the exact date it happened.

The answer came in the 1950's when a western historian was rereading Charlie Sidingo's tales of his days as a young cowboy titled RIADA AND SPURS.

This time he spotted something he had never picked out before. When Charlie and his cowboy friend heard about Clay's rampage whey were at the train station reading the latest details on Chief Dull Knife's raid.

Dull Knife had jumped the reservation and led a war party across the Kansas frontier. Several settlers had been killed in and around Meade, Kansas on Sepetmber 16, 1878. News of the outbreak and raids reached Dodge the next day, September 17, 1878. This was also the date of Clay ride. Now everything clicked into place.

Fort Dodge was only a short ride from Dodge City. One of the first things the commander did when informed about Dull Knifes outbreak was round up he could get his hands on. These were a couple of ex-buffalo hunters who had worked for the army as scouts before. They were none other than Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. When Clay was having his 'lawdog hunt' they were miles away helping to round up Dull Knife's band.

There is one last part of the story, but it is pure spectulation on my part. Clay Allison has been accused of being many things, a drunk, a viscous killer, a bully, but I don't think anyone ever called him stupid. I think he knew the two noted lawmen were out of town before he ever started acting up.

I believe, where ever he is today, he is still laughting about it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Guns of U.N.C.L.E.

I have recently had a chance to reconnect with a childhood classic through Netflix, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To be sure this has been an enlighting experience on several levels.

Originally I came into the series in the second season so many things I took for granted. By that point they had gone through many of the 'growing pains' all new series suffer. Starting with season one this time I watched them struggle to get their footing. For example, to most folks the iconic image is Robert Vaughn telling his fountain pen to "Open channel D." I had not realized in the early days he talked to a very unconvincing pack of cigarettes.

From what I understand the producers had always wanted to have a special UNCLE gun, but early on they tended to use whatever was in the prop room. This led to an early goof that was quickly corrected.

In the pilot our hero, Napoleon Solo, shoots down two bad guys with a Luger. Now, the P-08 Luger has been the stereotyplical villain gun since the 1920's. In 1964 World War Two had been over nineteen short years. This promotion photo probably gave the PR department a collective heart attack. I mean look at him. That doesn't say 'hero to the rescue.' He looks like some city slicker that's come to steal your granny's egg money! They took that Luger away from him right then! To date the only other time I've seen him with one was when he pulled it from a shoulder holster and used the butt to hammer through a plastered up wall. When it came time to shoot he had something else.

The U.N.C.L.E. carbine showed up in the pilot, but even it went through several prototypes. To be sure the weapon everyone identifies with the series is the modified P-38, but there were others. One was built up from a Mauser pistol. Illya Kuryakin is seen with one in this photo. This little beastie from the 1930's was quite functional, but it just didn't have the flair of the P-38.

I have heard that in the pilot episode Illya used a U.N.C.L.E. carbine built up from a 1911, but I haven't been able to spot it. This is the weapon I would build up were I to do so, but I wouldn't bother with the scope. I seem to recall most scopes need to be sighted in every time they are fitted to a weapon. I don't know where to get the special pre-sighted U.N.C.L.E. scopes.

Another development is a leather pad that would strap to the small of your back under your jacket to hold all the carbine parts. Even when I watched the show as a kid my reaction was "Yeah - Right!" It would take an entire entry to list the, admittedly percived, problems with this beastie.

As a kid I was amazed at the cool moves and slick gun handling Napoleon and Illya displayed. As an adult I was amazed they didn't have a gun coach on the set. In one situation Napoleon almost gets himself swamped or shot while trying to assemble his carbine for a firefight inside an apartment. In another, I believe it's Illya, is on a hillside with an assembled carbine but shoots it from the hip like a pistol at a couple of bad guys at least fifty yards away.

In another scene Napoleon had his hand over the slide of the carbine while blazing away. I shoot a P-38 regularly and remember thinking the hot brass was going to burn the daylights out of his hand. When I backed it up and reran the scene I realized he was doing that to keep the viewers noticing the slide wasn't moving. I'm interested to see if they get better in later seasons, or if I just thought they did when I watched them when I was younger.

I will close with two bits of information.

First, if you're anything like me, you spent Friday nights watching these shows and wishing you had an U.N.C.L.E. carbine. Well, you just might be in luck!

A gentleman in Amarillo, Texas runs THE UNCLE GUN website. He has very faithful replicas of the U.N.C.L.E. carbines and just about any accessories you can think of. He has a real, firing U.N.C.L.E. carbine in the works. In fact, many of the photos I used here tonight came from his site. (Hi Brad, if you object to this drop me a line and I will take them down).

So pay him a visit but be warned, you can kill hours brousing this site.

Second, there is talk of a new Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie. This may or may not happen but I have my fingers crossed. I can only hope they will employ folks who actually saw the original series. We don't need another Fifteen years later affair.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bacardi Gold Reserve and Triple Sec - If you ever wondered

I have been "allowed" to assist with Helene and Maggie's garage sale. One of the items we found was my old travel bar from my Science Fiction Convention Days.

My personal drink was always Chivas Regal, but that's a story for another time. When I checked the inside of the bar case it contained a bottle of Bacardi Gold Reserve and a bottle of DeKuyper Triple Sec. I don't know the legal stand on selling them with the portable bar, so they came out.

Party Time!


The problem is I had not remembered they were in the portable bar. They had been stored in a hot shipping container since May of 2000. So some of you may be wondering what condition the booze is in after being stored in bad conditions. Inquiring minds want to know! Who knows, I might need this for a story someday.

This led to my experiment in two parts. Part one - how do they taste? Personally, I don't really care for either. Even so they were horrible!

Part two - what about the alcohol? Will alcohol cook off in ten plus years?


Booze stored in a hot shipping container for ten plus years still makes a (two) wonderful Molotov Cocktail.

In case you ever wondered.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Simi Thompson - Fireworks HomePlace Style

Still no rain at HomePlace, but that didn't mean no fireworks. At least not for me. Due to the days heat Helene and the cats chose to observe the day with air conditioning. I headed for the range by myself, which is why I am using old and stock photos for this post.

As I had suggested a few days ago, I headed for the range. I took with me one of my favorite firearms of all time, my Simi Thompson. When these were introduced years ago I was appalled by that silly sixteen inch barrel. It destroyed the classic looks of the weapon. A couple of years ago I decided what the hell, and bought one off Auction Arms. I discovered something the first time I took it to the range. If I had fired it back in the 1970's when I first saw one I would have bought it, even if the barrel had been a yard long.

Would I prefer a "real" Thompson? Who wouldn't?! I have used a very convincing replica in my lectures for years. But economics raises its ugly head. I will settle for going the short barrel rifle route. I have the ten and a half inch barrel - stored at the home of a friend who does not own a Simi Thompson - to keep everything legle. Once I free up the funds for the tax I will have the barrels swapped. Until then 'Cyrano' and I will defend HomePlace quite well.

Today I packed two thirty and two twenty round magazines. In a rock'n roll Thompson operating on spray and pray ground rules they wouldn't last long. When working with a Simi Thompson, picking your targets and making your shots count, a thirty round Magazine seems to last forever. That's one of the things I love about this weapon. Once you've made friends with it you can put those thirty rounds pretty much anywhere you want them. You might not center punch bull's eyes at one hundred yards, but a man size target is no challenge.

As I write this it is five after one A.M. on July fifth. When I'm done I will go back out for awhile. So far I haven't heard so much as a firecracker, and I am proud of the folks who are restraining from fireworks this Fourth of July. As Helene says, New Years is coming. It should be plenty wet by then. When I log off Bear, Cyrano and I will go back out for a couple of hours. It's a nice night, and I feel like a walk with friends.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Life Is Good

Treats, Catnip and watching TV with Dad. It doesn't get any better than this.

A Question For Those Who Understand Blogger

Friends and neighbors, I need some assistance here. For reasons I do not pretend to understand I can no longer paste links, addresses or text into my blog.

If there is a way to contact Blogger to ask about it, I can't find it. There may be a solution in the Q&A section, but I'm not having any luck there either.

If anyone has any ideas I would be grateful. I am not aware of any problem with my comment function, but if it doesn't work Email me at

I would be grateful for any assistance.