Have you heard of a harmonica pistol? How about a gun to shoot around blind corners? The need to kill people during wars or even just to protect your country or territory calls for creativity, and it’s safe to say firearms makers were certainly creative in coming up with inventive and perhaps even unsafe firearms to bring into battle. Here are three of the most creative and weird firearms in history:
Wish you could shoot your enemy from around the corner without risking exposing yourself? Say no more!
Literally translated to “curved barrel,” Krummlauf was an attachment to Germany’s Sturmgewehr 44 rifle during World War II. Not only that, but it also came with a periscope sighting device so that you could still aim at your target. There were also varying versions of degrees depending on your needs: 30°, 45°, 60°, and 90° bends, although it was the 30° that was produced that most. This idea was also applied to tanks to cover dead areas during close-range assaults. You see, troops could effectively take out panzers during WWII as long as they could get right up to the tank, unbothered whether they would survive or not. The Germans depended on their infantrymen to make sure that no enemies could get close and climb up on their tanks. If that didn’t work and Russian troops climbed on the tank, the tank commander would unbutton his hatch, slip out and angle krummlauf, and then hose the enemy troops off without exposing himself to enemy fire or maybe even bothering to get out of his seat… ideally.
The thing with this seemingly brilliant idea was that the curve on these barrels caused the bullets to shatter, causing an unintended shotgun. To try to reduce the pressure built up by gasses once the bullets were fired, designers experimented with drilling small vent holes. That didn’t help much, and the krummlauf’s life span was still short. Predictably, there wasn’t much of it produced. The recoil must have felt weird too, jerking to right pretty hard we expect.
Coffee Mill Sharps
If you are like the rest of the 1 billion coffee drinkers all over the world, then you’d love this gun.
Coffee is certainly an important part of the modern army and it was to the Union Army of 1865 too. During the Civil War, when the soldiers wanted their morning coffee before popping a mini-ball into Johnny Reb, making coffee was left to the individual soldier who received a ration of coffee beans as part of his pay. The reality of this was that coffee could be pretty hard to make in the field as the initial process usually involved bashing the army issue roasted beans between two rocks or against a rock with the butt of their rifle. Done every day for weeks and months, the Army noticed a lot of rifles with broken buttstocks were being returned. The Army used to issue ground coffee but they had to stop. Greedy War profiteers were mixing dirt with pre-ground coffee sold by weight to maximize profits, so the government switched to whole beans instead of just locking up the crooked coffee mongers.
Lt. Col. Walter King of the 4th Missouri Cavalry went to the Springfield Armory to propose a solution. His idea? Attach a coffee mill in the buttstock of the .52 Sharps carbine. He placed his orders in 1865, and less than 100 Sharps carbine were modified to include the coffee grinder before the war ended. In practice, Lt. Col. King’s grinders didn’t work very well, so the project was stopped. About twelve of his coffee mill sharps survived and are worth a tidy amount of money today. One of them was auctioned and sold for $7000. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, you have to be cautious because tons of fake coffee mill Sharps are being sold out there.
The Harmonica Gun
No, you could not produce music with it.
The most famous maker of harmonica guns was no other than John Moses Browing’s father, Jonathan Browning. Before the revolving rifles, each chamber of the steel slide was breech-loaded with a powder charge, projectile, and percussion cap. This slide was to be inserted into the breach, and the shooter had to release a camlock to advance the slide after a full round was shot. Its first model involved lining up each chamber with the barrel through hammering by hand. Later versions rectified this and added double-action models that advanced the slide through the gun to a new chamber whenever you pull the trigger. A major problem that emerged was that there was no way to really holster one of these pistols while loaded. These pistols were a novelty item that never really took off, but tried to solve the problem of being able to fire and reload a pistol quickly. Apparently, even in the 1830s people knew that you might not drop an attacker with a single shot and would need follow on rounds to eliminate a threat.