These are even better cocktail-party conversation-starters than my beer helmet.
Given that we have about eight centuries’ worth of firearms history under our belts, it stands to reason that at least some of it is weird and difficult to believe. In fact, it’s actually sort of remarkable how little true strangeness populates the forgotten corners of gun history. (This is likely attributable to the fact that people who try dumb and reckless things involving guns and gunpowder don’t tend to stick around long enough to make the history books.) However, there’s definitely enough weird gun-related trivia out there to get you past the hors d’oeuvres and well into the salad course…and here are three to get you started.
1. Your Daisy BB gun is only here because of windmills.
The company that almost certainly supplied your childhood BB gun, Daisy Outdoor Products, began as a windmill company. Seems that back in the late Victorian era, a man named Clarence Hamilton owned the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company. He also operated the Plymouth Air Rifle Company. The windmill company wasn’t doing well; transportation costs were eating into profits. The windmill company’s board had almost dissolved it when someone got the idea of giving the little air guns away as a premium with each windmill purchase. The air rifles were hugely popular…the windmills, not so much. Eventually the windmill company rebranded itself as Daisy Manufacturing Company.
2. You really, really, really didn’t want to be in the crosshairs.
The famous “crosshairs” you see every time you squint through a riflescope are, these days, usually painstakingly painted on by hand. Historically, the material used to make reticles was spider silk. From female black widow spiders. Why the black widow? Its silk is actually many times stronger than the silk produced by other, less venomous spiders. In fact, the black widow spider produces a thread that is pound-for-pound as strong as Kevlar. That made it perfect for withstanding the force produced by even the most high-powered of firearms. Back in the day, optics manufacturers employed one or more people whose sole job was the care and feeding of their captive widows (the going rate was two flies a week).
3. Wars aren’t just fought with guns…they’ve been fought over them.
OK, I may have exaggerated the tiniest bit with that entry, since the war I’m talking about wasn’t actually fought over the gun itself, but over the way it needed to be loaded. I refer to the Sepoy Rebellion, also known as the Indian Rebellion. Although the war, which began in 1857 India under British colonial rule, had larger causative factors, what touched it off was the Enfield P-53 rifle, which had just been introduced for use among the Indian soldiers who worked for the British occupiers. The P-53 was a muzzleloader, and as muzzleloaders are a bit slow to reload, the Brits packaged up powder and shot into little paper cartridges. The P-53 had a tighter bore than previous models, so the cartridges came pre-greased…and to release the powder, the shooter had to bite the cartridge open. A rumor began to spread that the grease was made from beef tallow (offensive to Hindus) and/or pork fat (offensive to Muslims)…and that was the flashpoint that got the rebellion started in earnest.
What’s your favorite gun trivia fact? Tell us in the comments!
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