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Nock Volley Gun: The Fascinating History Behind This 1700s Seven-Barreled Curiosity

Nock Volley Gun
YouTube: Royal Armouries

The Nock volley gun had a seven-round capacity before it was popular.

The history of firearms is full of many strange designs that people have experimented with over the centuries. There is this notion that flintlock rifles of the late 1700s were single shot weapons where you could only fire one round at a time slowly as you reloaded the powder charge after each shot.

However, early gunsmiths experimented with all kinds of fascinating multi-barrel weapons back then. Most people have heard of a pepperbox pistol before. A fascinating early rifle that could fire multiple projectiles at once was the Nock volley gun. Designed all the way back in 1779, this strange black powder firearm was built and distributed to the British military. Mainly the Royal Navy back during the Napoleonic Wars.

Jonathan Ferguson, the Keeper of Firearms and Artillery at the Royal Armouries in London explains the history and unique construction of this fascinating smoothbore firearm in the video below.

Firearms are usually named after the person who designed them. Nock's volley gun is a rare exception since the gun was designed by an engineer named James Wilson. The firearm was then named after Henry Nock, the gunmaker who built the guns for the Royal Navy. We imagine that the first models were not pleasant to shoot like a blunderbuss. That buttplate looks hard and uncomfortable, especially when seven 52 calibre barrels are going off at the same time. When the trigger was pulled, that ignited the powder in the central barrel. Vents in the barrel allowed the rest of the powder charges to go off subsequently. It was probably a challenge to quickly reload one of these. The smoothbore barrels were added later after rifling allegedly made it too difficult.

The Nock volley gun may have been a forgotten quirk of history if not for the movies and TV shows it has been featured in. In 1960, it appeared in the film "The Alamo," in the hands of Richard Widmark who played Jim Bowie. This was a bit of Hollywood make-believe as there were no Nock guns at the real Alamo. Although the movie-used firearm can now be seen at the National Firearms Museum in Virginia.

The unique gun was also introduced to more mainstream audiences into the "Richard Sharpe" books, and later TV series. At least with that show, it makes more sense since it is set during the Napoleonic Wars. The character of Patrick Harper is often seen wielding it.

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Nock Volley Gun: The Fascinating History Behind This 1700s Seven-Barreled Curiosity