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The Volcanic Repeater series were an important step in the evolution of both repeating rifles and the modern metallic unitary firearm cartridge. Based on the Volitional Repeater that had been designed by Walter Hunt in 1848, they were lever-action weapons using a magazine tube mounted under the barrel, and fired ammunition that was derived from Hunt's Rocket Ball design.
The original Rocket Ball was an attempt to solve design issues with Needle Guns, which had easily damaged firing pins and paper cartridges not suited to mechanical loading. The Rocket Ball was similar to the earlier Minié ball, but with a deeper hollow in the base which contained a charge of powder. The Volcanic weapons used the same bullet design, but instead of using caplock ignition they added a percussion primer to the seal on the base of each bullet to make a self-contained round which could easily be loaded mechanically and did not require a long, fragile firing pin to hit a primer buried deep inside a paper case. While this is sometimes held to be an early example of caseless ammunition, it is a borderline example like Russian VOG grenades where arguably there is a case but it is attached to the projectile.
Loading a Volcanic is a somewhat unorthodox process: while it might appear to have a small shotgun-style loading gate, the actual process involves pushing a handle or knob on the follower all the way forward and turning it slightly to lock it in position. The entire muzzle section of the gun is then rotated to one side (turning around the barrel) to allow balls to be loaded into the open end of the magazine tube, after which the front section is rotated back into place and the follower released. This means any real Volcanic weapon will have a distinct vertical seam near the muzzle: any weapon without one is likely to be a non-functional replica.
While this design led to important developments, it was not actually a commercial success: while Volcanic weapons had superior capacity to an equivalent-sized revolver, the tiny powder charge that would actually fit in a Rocket Ball or Volcanic Ball led to fairly pathetic muzzle energy in the region of 56 foot-pounds, less than a modern .25 ACP round. The pistol versions were also very large and bulky compared to revolvers, and it was difficult to operate them without using both hands.
Perhaps more important than the weapons themselves were the connections the company created. Jennings Rifle Company had Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson working for them. This led to the partnership of Smith and Wesson a year later in 1854, and their work at perfecting the concept of the Volcanic Ball led to patenting a copper-cased rimfire cartridge design on August 8th 1854 (US Patent 11,496), and development of the first cartridge revolver following the expiration of Samuel Colt's revolver mechanism patent in 1856 and their coming to an arrangement with Rollin White, who held a patent for bored-through revolver cylinders. Oliver Winchester, one of the company's investors, effectively dissolved the Volcanic Repeating Arms company in 1857, later relaunching the company as the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Volcanic Repeater mechanism was heavily influential on Benjamin Tyler Henry's Henry 1860 rifle and by extension Winchester's classic lever-action rifles, such as the Winchester Model 1866 "Yellow Boy". Two of the world's largest gun companies are here because of this collaboration.
The Volcanic lever action was patented February 14, 1854 by Smith and Wesson (US patent 10,535). Firearms based on the patent were manufactured by Smith & Wesson, Volcanic Repeating Arms, and New Haven Arms until 1860.
|16.5"||.41||20||Pistol-Carbine with detachable shoulder stock|
The Volcanic Repeater and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:
|For a Few Dollars More||Clint Eastwood||Manco (The Man With No Name)||1965|
|For a Few Dollars More||Gian Maria Volontè||El Indio||1965|
|Magnificent Warriors||Richard Ng||Luk||1987|
|Magnificent Warriors||Michelle Yeoh||Fok Ming-Ming||1987|
|Magnificent Warriors||Tung-Shing Yee||Sky 1||1987|
|Invisible Target||in Cheung Man Yiu's office||2007|
|Show Title||Actor||Character||Note / Episode||Air Date|
|The Man in the High Castle||seen on the wall||2015|
|Game Title||Appears as||Note||Release Date|
|Call of Juarez||"Volcano Gun"||2007|
|Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood||"Volcano Gun"||2009|
|Red Dead Redemption||"Volcanic Pistol"||2010|
|Fistful of Frags||"Volcanic Pistol"||2014|
|Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades||2016|
|Red Dead Redemption II||"Volcanic Pistol"||2018|