by Garry James
Naval warfare back in the 18th and 19th century wasn’t only about ships coming up close and banging away at one another with heavy artillery until one of them sank. As ships got close there was quite a bit of musketry fire exchanged between marines and sailors. As things could get pretty hot’n heavy during such a melee, British gunmaker Henry Nock figured why have a gun with one barrel, when you could have two… or three… or, even better, how about seven! Enter his hefty, stubby “Volley Gun.”
Designed as the ultimate rigging-clearer, this formidable flintlock involved a cluster of seven .60-caliber barrels that all went off more or less simultaneously with one pull of the trigger. It worked well enough, and even though it had some weight to absorb recoil, about of a third of a pound of bullets, pushed along with several hundred grains of blackpowder produced more recoil than even the stoutest Jolly Jack Tar was comfortable with. That, along with a penchant for spewing out enough flame to catch lines and sails on fire, caused the Royal Navy to rethink the whole matter. Though a couple of models were designed, numbers produced were limited and the guns were prudently withdrawn from service. Still, the Volley Gun has achieved some fame in recent, being the gun of choice of Sergeant Patrick Harper in Bernard Cornwell’s marvelous series of “Sharpe” novels and in the television shows based on the books.