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Duck’s Foot Pistol: Old School

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When you think of concealment, your brain probably doesn’t go to a Duck's Foot pistol volley gun. The term “volley,” in a simple military sense, refers to a lot of soldiers firing their guns at once or in turns to prove that quantity works over quality … but did it really? In any case, this concept was applied to firearms technology before successful repeating arms were even developed.

While they came in many shapes, forms, and sizes, the concept remains similar. Volley guns had multiple barrels, whether in a circle like on the 18th century Nock gun or in a row like the 14th century Ribauldequin. These barrels would then fire all at once to simulate volley fire. In the 18th century, one such gun was shrunken down, and the barrels were splayed like a duck’s foot — hence, the name. Sometimes people from history make things simple.

This duck's foot pistol would’ve been used for close-quarters combat. It had rifling, which in theory would increase its accuracy, but the barrels are so short that they don’t necessarily set it up for total success. However, what it may have lacked in accuracy, it made up in quantity. As a result, it was better suited for use in prisons and on ships to deter people who boarded uninvited — also known as pirates.

Would this have been a good concealable device? In terms of size, it would be easily concealable considering the heavy clothing and jackets of the time period. However, it’s not exactly clear how you could comfortably carry it concealed. It’s doubtful that a holster was available to accommodate multiple barrels, let alone in that shape. 

As with most technology of the time, the flintlock wasn’t the greatest ignition system in terms of concealment, but it was certainly better than needing to keep a slow-burning rope lit. All in all, though, this little pistol certainly solved a firepower issue before the advent of successful and affordable repeaters. 

[Photography Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum.]

Duck's Foot Pistol Details

Caliber: .50 Cal
Barrel Length: 2.5 inches
Action: 4-Barrel Volley
Overall Length: 8.75 inches
Date: ca 1800 G Goodwin & Company (London, England)


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