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GUNS Magazine March 2013 Digital Edition - Page 16
tHe model 1 smitH & wesson’s little rimfire. F Holt bodinson Smith & Wesson’s successful .22 Short evolved from the Flobert cartridge. or the millions of rimfire shooters who burn through billions of .22 rimfire cartridges every year, there is a story to be told—the 19th century story of the development of the world’s most popular cartridge which also can claim to be the oldest rimfire and most useful cartridge still in existence. The story revolves around three main players: Louis Nicholas Flobert (1819-1894), Horace Smith (1808-1893) and Daniel Baird Wesson (1825-1906). Each played a significant role in not only the development of the rimfire cartridge but in the design of the firearms that chambered it. Louis Flobert was a French gunsmith who took the percussion cap, reformed it a bit with a slight rim, added a 5.5 to 6mm round, lead ball to the mouth of the cap and filed a series of patents from 1845 to 1849 that clearly documented the progressive development of his metallic, self-contained cartridges. The percussion cap was the key. Without the Rev. Alexander Forsyth’s earlier work with concussion-fired fulminating compounds and the development of the percussion cap as we know it, Flobert would not have had his cartridge. What the development of the modern metallic cartridge required and what the percussion cap provided was selfcontained ignition. In the Flobert percussion-cap-based cartridge, the priming compound was spread across the inside of the head of the case so Flobert designed smoothbore pistols and rifles that featured a raised rib extending across the face of the hammer—a broad, fixed firing pin so to speak. Since Flobert’s little round balls were propelled only by a priming charge, generating minimum pressure, he relied on the weight of the hammer and the strength of the hammer spring to seal the chamber as the cartridge was fired. Flobert’s simple firearms, firing low cost ammunition, were a tremendous success in Europe where shooting was much in vogue. Since the combination provided shooters the opportunity to practice their sport indoors, the Flobert The 7-shot .22 Short S&W Model 1 is a petite revolver ideal for concealed carry. pistols were commonly referred to as “parlor or saloon pistols.” The majority of the Flobert firearms were made in Belgium and production continued right up to the beginning of WWII. They had to have made a jillion of them because I see a Flobert or two at every gun show I attend. Should you own one or buy one, be advised that 4mm and 6mm Flobert ammunition and Flobert components are still being produced by RWS in Germany and sold in the US by International Shooters Service. Both Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson had broad experience in the New England gunmaking world before becoming partners. Horace Smith was apprenticed at the Springfield Armory and spent 18 years there before taking a variety of positions with gunmaking firms like Eli Whitney, Allen & Thurber and the Robbins & Lawrence Armory, where Smith was hired to refine the design of the Jennings repeating rifle and the Hunt Rocket Ball self-contained cartridge, predecessors to the Volcanic firearms and ammunition Daniel Wesson came from a gunmaking family and was apprenticed to his brother, Edwin Wesson, who was known for his highly accurate target rifles and the early development work on a dragoon cap-and-ball pistol. Unfortunately, Edwin died unexpectedly in 1849 and the shop went into receivership a year later. Wesson was then hired by the Robbins & Lawrence to supervise the production of a pepperbox pistol under the watchful eye of shop foreman, Tyler Henry. Neither the Jennings nor the pepperbox projects were a success, but they did bring Smith and Wesson together, who formed a partnership in 1852 to further develop the Jennings design as a pistol. At the same time, Daniel Wesson had become intrigued with the Flobert cartridge and is credited with making some single-shot pistols chambered for the Flobert ammunition sometime in the 1851-52 period. In May 1853, 16 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • M A R C H 2 0 1 3