Online Counter Lock, Stock, and History
Lock, Stock, and History
Rare Italian snaplock carbine, early 17th century.

Rare Italian snaplock carbine, early 17th century.





A video made for the Museum of Cluny, and its “The Sword: Uses, Myths and Symbols” exhibit. It tries to dispel some of the beliefs that are still prevalent today about the weight and mobility of fighters in plate armor and show some of the techniques used in combat against armored opponents

I’m always pleased to see videos like this. It’s as if people won’t believe unless they’re shown (and there are always some who go “ah, yes, well, in aluminium stage armour it’s easy.”)

Well, the Museum Cluny video, like the Royal Armoury demo team, uses real steel armour: those two pictures at the start show the originals; the video uses reproductions because no curator will let someone take two exhibits from his museum and roll them around on flagstones. Mike Loades in the UK has been doing similar armour demonstrations for years, as has Tobias Capwell of the Wallace Collection. Eventually the old “clunky, immobile, in with a wrench, out with a can-opener” image of plate armour will go away – but I won’t hold my breath. (That shade of purple isn’t a good complexion anyway…)

Even the faster demonstrations of these combat techniques are still dialled back to about half speed. Try to visualise how much quicker and more brutal this would be if the two fighters meant business, when the first rule was Do It To Him As Quickly As Possible Before He Does It To You.

Writer and swordsman Guy Windsor writes about doing motion-capture work for a computer game; his completely authentic techniques couldn’t be used because they were so small, fast and economical. The game needed big swashing movements because the real thing looked unrealistic, too insignificant to be effective…

You won’t see a “killing fight” (full speed, full power, full intent) recreated very often, either on documentaries or in museum exhibitions, because it’s very, very dangerous for (when you think about it) obvious reasons. These techniques from 600-year-old fight manuals were how men in armour maimed and killed other men in armour - and since they’re the original material, not a re-interpretation after 600 years of being diluted down to sport-safe levels, the techniques will still maim and kill men in armour. Even a blunt “safe” sword is pointed enough (first demo on the video, 1:54-59) to go into a helmet’s eye-slot and through the skull inside…

But if you’re lucky enough to see a full-speed demo between fighters in real armour using wasters (wooden practice swords), be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor. It is awesome. And also as scary as hell.

Comments on comments:

"Pretty much proof positive that the people who claim that skimpy female fantasy armor is for increased maneuverability don’t know what they’re talking about."

They know exactly what they’re talking about. They want to see T&A on fantasy game and book covers, and since they don’t have the balls to be honest about it, this is their excuse.

It amazes me that the old saws about Western armour and techniques are still going about, because surely two minutes’ thought would let you know that of course knights had to be able to get up off the ground…  Europeans were wearing armour for centuries, why wouldn’t they develop techniques of fighting in it?

It’s easier to laugh (do the same people laugh about samurai?) and repeat what “everyone knows about armour" than it is to waste that two minutes thought. Thinking might reveal something to mess with set opinions, and that would be annoying…

Biggest pet peeve: People commenting on the weight and shape of armour restricting mobility…

As before - “everybody knows" that European armour is massive and clunky because that’s what "everybody knows.” God forbid they should ever apply the “if it was so useless then why was it used" logic to anything. Because then they might realise that what "everybody knows" is wrong.

I’m going off to (not) hold my breath for a while… :-P

I saw this video in the fascinating special exhibit at Cluny last time we were in Paris. So pleased to be able to have it on tap, because it was most excellent.


Silver mounted flintlock pistol originating from the Balkans, 19th century.

Silver mounted flintlock pistol originating from the Balkans, 19th century.

Happy Easter Followers!
A lot of time is dedicated to the ancient firearms, but what about ammunition? I know about the upgrades from a standard ball shot to the Minnie ball and such, but was there, like, an old version of a hollow point or some other such alternative ammo?

There was all kind of stuff out there, I certainly need to do a lot more research.  But I did some posts on some very strange ammo.

Like the exploding bullet from the Civil War

The rocket ball, which was a hollow bullet stuffed with gunpowder and sealed with a percussion cap.  It was an early form of self contained cartridge, though not very powerful.

In smoothbores soldiers tended to load their muskets with buck and ball, which was a bullet, and five or six pieces of buckshot.

And then there was the cleaner bullet, which was supposed to clean out the bore when fired, but really didn’t do much of anything.

Two shot pistol/knuckduster combo with folding blade. Maker Unknown, late 19th century. Clearly this piece is inspired by the French Apache knuckleduster.

Estimated Value: $6,500 - $9,500


Paul Revere’s Toothpaste,

Paul Revere was a very talented man who filled a wide variety of roles.  Known to most people for his midnight ride to warn of the coming of the British, Paul Revere was also a silversmith, businessman, soldier, and dentist. 

For the most part Revere’s role as a dentist would not have been too complicated.  Most dental work of the age involved the pulling of rotten teeth.  However Revere was known for making quality dentures from silver wire and ivory.  He also had his own special formula of toothpaste to keep one’s teeth white and clean.

Disclaimer: For good oral health (and overall bodily health) it is recommended you do not actually use Paul Revere’s toothpaste.


Brown Sugar




Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate, can be found in the garden section of Lowes or Home Depot, sold as fertilizer)

Mix in roughly equal parts.  Brush well and feel the clean!

Reblogging on the anniversary of Lexington and Concord. 

The Taiping Rebellion Part IV —- Total War

In case you missed Part I, Part II, Part III

After organizing the Taiping Rebellion into a new state called the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, it was finally time for Hong Xiquan to complete his mission of overthrowing the Qing Empire and installing his new Christian Kingdom in China.  The Heavenly Kingdom had grown strong, with an army of over 500,000 soldiers at the ready.  In 1853 a bold new offensive began with the aim of capturing Beijing, the capital of the empire.  An army of 70,000 marched north towards Beijing.  The capture of Beijing, which located hundreds of miles north behind enemy line, was an ambitious goal.  In fact it was too ambitious.  The army, mostly made of people who were born and raised in southern China, were not used to the colder weather of the north.  Many Taiping soldiers died of hypothermia or suffered frostbite.  Without proper supply routes, the army had to rely on foraging and pillaging for food.  It was not long before the army began to suffer from starvation and disease.  The Northern Expedition came within 100 miles of Beijing in 1854.  At Lianzhen they set up quarters to rest during the winter.  This was a big mistake, as Qing forces quickly surrounded the camp, trapping everyone inside.  Rather than destroying the Taiping army in a battle, Qing forces came up with a brilliant plan.  They built a series of levees and dams which diverted the Grand Canal toward the camp.  When they released the dam the entire Taiping camp was flooded in a great deluge.  Qing forces then stormed the camp and finished off the remaining Taiping forces.

After the defeat of the Taiping army in 1854, it became apparent that overthrowing the Manchu Emperor was not going to be an easy task.  The Taiping Army was new, led by inexperienced officers and likewise inexperienced soldiers.  The Qing Imperial Army was strong, but hampered but numerous other rebellions throughout China, and also dealing with a war with Britain (2nd Opium War).  When two side are equal in strength the result is usually a long war of attrition.  It was during this phase of the rebellion that the war would become especially bloody.  Unable to conclusively defeat each other, both sides resorted to attacking each others civilians.  Taiping forces conducted large raids into China, wantonly destroying all crops, farms, towns, villages, and cities in its way.  As a result China fell under the grip of a terrible famine which led to the starvation of millions of people.  In turn, the Qing adopted a policy of no quarter against the rebels.  Captured Taiping rebels were immediately executed, Taiping friendly towns and cities were razed, farms and other sources of food were likewise destroyed.  As a result of the Taiping Rebellion 600 cities across China were destroyed in the mayhem.  Most of the 20-30 million deaths attributed to the rebellion were not from combat, but plague and famine the resulted from total war.

Chinese soldiers inspect a French Mitrailleuse machine gun, mid 19th century.

Chinese soldiers inspect a French Mitrailleuse machine gun, mid 19th century.

The Clair Model 1893 Semi Automatic Pistol,

One of the first semi-automatic designs ever created, the Clair pistols was the creation of three brothers;  Benoit, Jean Baptiste, and Victor Clair.  Unlike most other handgun designs, the Clair pistol was unique in that it was gas operated, with the gas tube located below the barrel.  Most semi-auto handgun designs are recoil operated.  The Clair pistol used the standard French 8mm revolver cartridge (8x27R).  Before the widespread use of detachable magazines, this odd pistol had a fixed internal magazine which was loaded by inserting cartridges into the grip.  When fired a bit of gas from the discharge of the pistol would work a piston which worked the action, ejecting the spent casing while loading a new cartridge from the magazine.  At least that was how it was supposed to work.

The Clair brothers patented their design and built a prototype for military testing.  The Clair was tested against the French Mle 1892 revolver.  Unfortunately the Clair suffered from numerous problems, including failures to feed, jams, and leeks in the gas tube.  In addition the Clair design was too complicated for regular maintenance and mass production.  As a result the Clair pistol was rejected by the French Army.  Only one prototype was ever built.

Rare Bergmann M1897 Carbine, late 19th century.

Estimated Value: $20,000 - $40,000


Recreating Traditional American Music - Rhythm Bones, Banjos, & Fiddles

Carolina Chocolate Drops~

With their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy—the Carolina Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago.

The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory. Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence… They dip into styles of southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—string- band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting.”

  • Rolling Stone Magazine described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as “dirt-floor-dance electricity.” If you ask the band, that is what matters most. Yes, banjos and black string musicians first got here on slave ships, but now this is everyone’s music. It’s okay to mix it up and go where the spirit moves.
  • “An appealing grab-bag of antique country, blues, jug band hits and gospel hollers, all given an agreeably downhome production. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are still the most electrifying acoustic act around.” -The Guardian
  • “The Carolina Chocolate Drops are…revisiting, with a joyful vengeance, black string-band and jug-band music of the Twenties and Thirties—the dirt-floor dance electricity of the Mississippi Sheiks and Cannon’s Jug Stompers.” —Rolling Stone

—Michael Hill


Rare English flintlock pistol combined with a riding whip, 18th century.

Rare English flintlock pistol combined with a riding whip, 18th century.