I Have This Old Gun: Multi-Shot Muzzleloaders

posted on July 21, 2021

Even during the era blackpowder propellant and flint ignition, the pursuit for a repeating firearm was a concept on the mind of many designers and innovators of the time. The goal was simple, to develop more efficient arms that could allow the user to get off as many shots as possible with minimum effort. However, the limitations of the technology available, namely the reliance on a flint-ignited charged loaded from the muzzle of a single barrel, limited the number of safe possibilities for such a firearm.

An example of multiple barrels on a flint-lock pistol.

Certain avenues that were considered at the time included the use of multiple guns, for example pairs of pistols, or multiple barrels on a single gun. These multiple barreled versions allowed each barrel to be fired separately, giving multiple shots, while adding weight and complexity to the overall design. Another concept emerged during this period, to load several loads of powder and ball into a single barrel instead of relying on multiple barrels. This concept called for several flash holes cut into the barrel at the location of each separate charge inside the barrel.

The "superposed" loaded wheel- and flintlock musket from the 16th century.

The ignition would work separately from front to rear, with the goal being the ignition and launch the first load in the stack without setting off the other charges behind. These arms came to be know as "superposed" loaded guns. Several different versions of these "superposed' loaded firearms were developed throughout the black powder era. One interesting example can be found in the NRA Museum's collection, a 16th century arm from Germany that could fire 16 "superposed" loads through the use of two separate wheel locks and a flint lock attached at different points along the barrel.

A "superposed" loaded multi-shot, flint-lock musket with a moving lock and several flash holes in the barrel.

Another example of a "superposed" design includes flintlock muskets with a moving lock and multiple flash holes along the rear side of the barrel. With this design, the lock would be pushed to the furthest point to fire the first shot, then moved back to the next point to fire the next load in line. Even as firearms technology continued to improve during the 19th century with the development of percussion caps, the concept of "superposed" loading continued to pop up.

The Lindner percussion-fired, multi-shot, "superposed" loaded pistol.

One such example is the Lindner pistol, which uses two separate hammers and caps to, ideally, ignite two charges loaded into the single barrel. It wasn't until the development of more efficient repeating designs, like revolvers, lever action and bolt action operated arms, along with the development of self contained ammunition, that the concept of "superposed" loaded firearms finally fell to pages of history. Despite being more curiosities than practical arms today, many such firearms can still be found in the collectors market, though it's unlikely that many owners still fire such arms. 

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.

Latest

right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless
right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless

NRA Gun of the Week: Kimber 84M Pro Varmint

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, watch as American Rifleman staff take a short-action Kimber 84M rifle to the range for discussion.

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 15, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Rifleman Q&A: M1 Garand Vs. M1 Carbine Rebarrels

It seems to me that few World War II-vintage M1 Garand rifles retain their original barrels today, whereas most M1 Carbines of the same era I have seen still have the original barrels?

Record Setting Participation In USA Clay Target League Fall Season

This fall season of the USA Clay Target League has reached new heights, with a record breaking 651 high school and college teams, equating to 11,783 of the young enthusiasts, participating.

NRA Museums: 85 Years Of Preserving The Past For The Future

In June 1923, the Official Journal of the National Rifle Association became The American Rifleman, a bi-monthly publication with a staff that included Maj. Julian S. Hatcher, Lt. Col. Townsend Whelen, Capt. Charles Askins, Sr. and a host of others whose names read like a who’s who of legendary gun writers and experts.

Savage A17: The Semi-Automatic .17 HMR Rifle

Introduced in 2015, the Savage A17 rifle line was one of the first semi-automatics to be chambered for the tiny but hot .17 HMR cartridge. 

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.