last modified 06/14/2018
Welcome to a website devoted to velodogs, bicycle guns, and other tiny pistols made by velodog manufacturers. I have also included a last section concerning the variety of other small pistols available about the turn of the century. This site hopes to present as much information about these guns and as many pictures of them that I can find. Most pictures will come from my own collection but I have added others where I am able. I also hope to present as much information about them that I can find, including their historical background, the arms industry at the turn of the 20th century, who made these guns, their relationship to other small weapons of the age such as baby bulls and puppy revolvers, and, finally, why they lost popularity by the first world war. I will be adding information and pictures on a continual basis and I welcome your feedback and any contributions you can make to the site. I am always looking for new guns with maker's marks, to include here and I am open to reasonable prices should you wish to sell your velodogs.
Readers should be aware of Alain Daubresse's exceptional website, www.littlegun.be. This site is devoted to guns manufactured in Liege, Belgium and is the best and only online source for velodogs and other small guns produced in the heyday of Belgian arms manufacturing before the late 20th century. The site also includes pictures and information about small guns manufactured in other European countries. It can be a little daunting to those new to this site because the wealth of information is overwhelming. But if you are patient and systematic you can work your way through this exceptional collection of pictures and information. Mr. Daubresse does not specialize in velodogs and does not deal with bicycle guns in their generality, but it is the first stop for anyone interested in small guns. The site is in both French and English. Mr. Daubresse also publishes a series of excellent photographic volumes concerning Liege gun making.
Other important sources for those interested in velodogs and other contemporary small guns include, A.B. Zhuk, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns; Ian Hogg and John Walter, Pistols of the World, rev 4th edition; John Walter, The Greenhill Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers. One can also search google but most sources of information are brief, copy each other and are mostly incorrect.
I envision the scope of this site in this way; a definition and description of velo dog revolvers with a presentation of the velodogs of major manufacturers, a section on historical background, a section on available type of small guns available. This is a work in progress with new material presented as frequently as possible. I have made pictures a little larger than life size with exceptional clarity. My purpose is for the reader to see very clearly, every possible detail.
All materials and pictures in this website are copy write c) 2017. If you wish to make use of any materials herein presented, please let me know and you are free to use pictures with accreditation.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Table of Contents:
A. What is a velodog?
B. Special Features.......in progess
C. Velodog Manufacturers
D. Historical Background
E. The Rise in Urban Crime
F. The Bicycle and Personal Protection
G. The New Gun Manufacturing Industry
The Variety of Other Small Pistols of the Era
Velodog 5.5 center fire to .22lr modification
A. What is a velodog?
Studying the velo dog revolver is unlike studying any other gun because the gun itself is named after the cartridge it used. As such, any gun using the 5.5mm velo dog central fire cartridge introduced in 1894, is, by definition, a velo dog gun. Whatever the size, shape or type of gun, if it used the velo dog cartridge it was a velo dog.
In the picture below the 22short is on the far left, followed by the .22long rifle, the 5.5 center fire velodog cartridge and last, a very rare velodog shotgun shell. Not only are the velodog cartridges much longer than the .22short and the .22 long rifle, but the velodog loads are a much heavier and larger rim because they were center fired.
Parisian Charles Francois Galand, the inventor of the cartridge also introduced a small, very well made revolver, in 1894, which came to be known as the typical velo dog hand gun. One version had a trigger guard and one had a folding trigger with no trigger guard so that the pistol would fit small pockets more easily. Both styles were quickly copied by other manufacturers as the design became tremendously popular. The version with a trigger guard was easier to handle, but the version without the trigger guard and with a folding trigger, proved more popular, perhps it was cheaper to manufacture or perhaps because it was more easily concealed. Subsequent velodogs, especially those made in Spain, dispensed with Galand's excellent cylinder locking mechanism in favor of a central pin and collar, discussed later. The long cylinder had five chambers and was double action only. The hammer was concealed and loading was accomplished by rotating the lever lock on the front of the receiver and removing the cylinder. Other velodogs, especially those made in Spain, offered a standard hammer. Another Galand version, more rare and illustrated under the Galand heading in the France section, had a side pivoting cylinder which certainly made loading the pistol far easier. This model also had a fold down lever at the rear gate of the cylinder for loading individual cartridges. This model was more convenient to use. The folding trigger model was the most copied, but with a different front locking mechanism. The advertisement below described the two initial types while the second advertisement, for the Tue-Tue version indicates another design with a side extending cylinder.
The Tue-Tue version of the velodog was similar to the standard version but chambered a more powerful .32 caliber cartridge and hence the name, meaning "death, death."
Most subsequent Velodogs did not use either of Galand's approach to cylinder take down. The designs were excellent but evidently it was easier, and probably cheaper, to use what was standard on most small hand guns of the day. This more usual system had a long pin running through the center of the cylinder which could be extended, pivoted, and then used to extract spent shells from the cylinder. In turn, this mechanism and the cylinder itself was held in place by a collar which held the cylinder inside the receiver while the long extractor pin was slid into place in the center of the collar, running through the cylinder. It sounds complex but was actually quite simple and worked well.
Below is the 'typical' velodog design. The most notable component is the very long cylinder to house the 5.5mm center fired velodog cartridge. Most were hammerless, actually having an enclosed hammer, but later guns included a hammer, especially those from Spain. Virtually all velodogs were double action though single action shooting was possible, if difficult because of heavy hammer springs. Most employed a folding trigger and were rather streamlined in shape to offer better pocket concealment. Some had safeties which blocked the hammer from firing but not all.
A second shape, known as the bossu, or hunchback, is essentially the same gun with a square rear hump.Many people found this shape pistol easier to handle than the more streamlined design above. This bossu shape became more popular over time as velodogs competed with 6,35 or .25acp Browning Baby Semi-Automatic pistols. As a result, many hunchback design pistols were chambered in 6,35 rather than velodog cartridges. Most had a lever safety inhibiting the internal hammer from firing, as does this one in the upper rear of the receiver. I will have more to say about both velodog extractors and safety mechanisms in the next section, dealing with velodog special features.
One essential feature of the velo dog was that it was small, from a little over 4 inches front to back to about 5 inches. It had to fit in the hand and it had to fit comfortably in a small pocket. Because these pistols were designed to be used by cyclists, as well as other ordinary folks with small pockets, the guns were small.
Complicating matters, many of these revolvers using the velo dog cartridge were quickly designed to use other cartridges, including the .22short illustrated above, the even newer 6.35 or .25acp cartridge as that cartridge gained popularity after the introduction of the Browning Baby, a semi automatic pistol using this new shell. The large community of collectors still consider these .25acp guns velodogs even though they do not adhere to the most important definition of a velo dog gun. Essentially, it was the same design but with a shorter cylinder.
Almost immediately, gun manufacturers all over Europe introduced their own velodog cartridges for use in their own velodog pistols . And while the 'nominal' velodog cartridge was 5.7 or actually, 5.5mm, the length varied somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer. [For a discussion of velodog catridge manufacturers, see www. 5.7 velodog municion.org] One reason the velodog was so well received by the arms manufacturing industry was the lull in gun sales in the last quarter of the 19th century. With the coming of peace after the 1870s, the huge surplus of military weapons was adequate for domestic markets.
And yet....this same streamlined velo dog design was subsequently used to house an even larger caliber cartridge, the .320 and then the 7,65 and 32acp, a far more powerful cartridge for those liking the velo dog's slim design but having a little more power. The two pistols below, from the Poulin Antiques auction site were listed as velodogs because they look like ordinary velodogs but they were chambered to use 8mm cartridges.
These more powerful guns, like those using .25acp ammunition--indeed, even those using 6mm central fire velo dog cartridges, all look alike but differ only in chambering. The question soon became: "when is a velodog no longer a velodog?" The velodog shape was so congenial and fit the hand so well, it was only a matter of time until it was used for other calibers. As a result, there is some consensus among collectors that velodogs in general,-- if not in specific chambering,-- share a great deal of design in common, whatever caliber cartridge they employed. Some purists maintain that only the original design using the 5.5mm central fire velodog cartridge are true velodogs. But then, what is the velodog design if it used a more powerful chambering? A rose by any other name? For the purposes of this blog, I will call all guns looking like a velo dog, no matter its cartridge size, part of the velo dog family. But perhaps just not first generation velodogs.
Another point troubling a discussion of velo dog revolvers is the fact that the name has been largely misunderstood. General opinion is that Galand designed this gun for bicyclers to use against wild street dogs and urban fox living close to town. It is true the velo comes from velocipede, the French name for a bicycle. But the ‘dog’ part of the name, would be chien, in French, thereby making for a velochien. The English name, velodog, is curious because England manufactured no velodogs. In fact, the velo dog was named after the short nosed bulldog which was the very popular short nosed revolver of the day. In 1868, the Webley gun manufacturing company designed the English Bulldog, with a stubby 2.5 inch barrel, smaller grip and a cylinder holding five .45 caliber shells. It was manufactured in 1872 and patented in 1878.
It was small enough for a coat pocket, was very powerful and was an instant success. It was soon copied, modified, and reproduced in all major gun manufacturing centers, especially in Liege. Indeed, along with Colt’s revolvers, --indeed, surpassing the Colt revolver-- the bulldog became the gun of choice for self protection. In 1881 President Garfield was assassinated by a gunman using a small bulldog revolver.
A smaller version using a .320 cartridge, called the Baby Bulldog, proved very popular as well because it was even smaller and easier to use, with less recoil.
To see how great the difference between a large bulldog and a baby bulldog might be, see the two pistols below
Simply stated, the velo dog was a smaller, more streamlined and less powerful version of the bulldog. Yes, it was made for cyclists but also for many other people requiring self protection with a small, easily concealed handgun. Indeed, an even tinier revolver existed. In the illustration below, the upper most gun is a standard velo dog made in Spain and clearly a copy of Galand's design. The two smaller revolvers housed .22 short cartridges. These tiny guns, often called 'puppies', were tremendously fiddly to use but because they were so small, many European women--especially working girls-- kept them between their breasts or between their legs in special garters to keep safe from rough trade. For instance, even when at home, some women kept a small pistol on their dressing tables.
More about these guns in the historical section as well. The Kolb Hammerless and subsequently the Sedgely Baby Hammerless provided a similar role. The velo dog, with its larger and more powerful cartridge was designed to serve the needs of the general public as well as the bicycle rider.
While most of us have become accustomed to the sleek look of what is commonly thought of as a velodog, shapes could vary quite significantly. Most velodogs housed five chambers but at least one, pictured directly below, housed 20 cartridges.
There are several unusual velodogs in my collection. This Spanish pistol with Austrian registration has a very long barrel.
This second unusual velodog, made by HDH in Liege Belgium, is chambered for 12 cartridges. Additional pictures can be found under HDH in the Belgium section.
The velodog, most usually with a short barrel, was more than a cyclist's low power handgun for chasing dogs. It was a weapon of choice for anyone wanting an easily concealed gun for self defense. The fact was that late 19th century and early 20th century cities were characterized by an enormous rate of crime. The velodog was the best, most easily concealed pocket revolver of the age. It was not fiddly to use as was true of tiny revolvers nor was it too large and powerful for people to carry them in a vest pocket. And in the case of women, the revolver was held in one of the special purses made for the purpose. Aside from being easily concealed, the gun was easy to hold, easy to shoot, never jammed and was quite effective at close range.
Before turning our attention to velodog manufacturers, I would like to dispel a few myths about the merits of the velodog cartridge. At the time, most cartridges were made for military use or for rifle use on farms or for hunting. As such loads were considerable and such weapons required significant skill. In the case of handguns, the heavier charge meant that recoil was significant. Soldiers and hunters were trained precisely to handle such weapons. The notion of a "civilian cartridge" was somewhat alien. Then in 1852, Smith & Wesson introduced the rimfire .22short. It was tiny in shape and not very powerful and not necessarily reliable but it had very low recoil and the guns made to chamber the .22short were easy to use. It was an instant success and remains popular to this day for target shooting. When Galand introduced the velodog cartridge, he sought a round of much greater strength for serious self protection and he improved upon the .22short by making the velodog much longer and therefor less fiddly to use and center fired which improved reliability considerably. The cartridge was also significantly less dirty than the .22short, which was also an important point for civilian use. Galand was not alone in believing the .22short was too weak and about the same time A.J. Stevens, the largest American gun maker, introduced both a rim fired .22long rifle as as well as .25 rim fired cartridge largle for hunting small game with rifles. A Few years later, Browning introduced the center fired .25acp, the 6,35 caliber. All of these rounds were generally similar in power and charge. The rimfire .25 never gained a great following while the .22long rifle remains the most popular cartridge in the world, to this day. The 6,35 was reliable but not adequately powerful. And just as velodogs came to house more and more powerful cartridges, semi-automatic pistols did as well. But neither the .22long rifle nor the .25acp are to be sneezed at. The .22long rifle is responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other charge. In short, the .22long rifle is the civilian caliber of choice. And had the 1968 laws not forbid the importation of very inexpensive baby pocket semi automatics, most still following Brownings designs, it too would enjoy great popularity today. It won't kill elephants, but at close quarters, as the saying goes, it gets the job done.
B. Special Features [in progress]
Velodogs use several methods to extract spent shells, ranging from simple to complex.
The most common design uses a pin rod to push the shells through the same chamber loading the cartridges initially. The pin rod, when not used in extraction, lodged within the central axis of the cylinder. All that was required was to pull the pin rod out, rotate its holder a few degrees and then depress the rod so that the shell was pushed out through the loading gate. It was a slow process but could be accomplished once all five or six cartridges were spent and did not require removing the cylinder altogether. The central pin rod was in no danger of getting lost as it was attached to the gun itself via its holder. The method was slow, but foolproof, and, probably most important, very cheap to manufacture.
Tilting Cylinder Pin Rod.
This system was a vast improvement over the former system, though it used a manual pin rod.
The revolver cylinder was tilted out of the receiver frame and a manual pin rod, ending in a frame surrounding all the shells, pushed them out all at the same time. This more expensive system retained the central pin rod through the center of the cylinder but a spring kept the pin rod extended when not depressed to extract shells. This improved system was used by Colt, Smith & Wesson and many other revolver manufacturers. It was first used By CCC in his TuTu velodog revolver.
Spring Activated Topbreak Revolver
This third system is an improvement over the tilting cylinder push rod system in permitting the gun user simply to open the top break cylinder and have the extracting rod and shell frame automatically eject the spent shells. in extrac 1, a pistol made by Ojanguren y Vidosa, the gun appears to have an external hammer.
Actually it is a top strap release and when it is depressed, the gun pops opens, and the cental rod/shell frame extractor-under some pressure-- shoots the extracting mechanism out.
As you can see the extractor is robust. the central shaft is under significant pressure and as you can see, it has guide rails to keep the mechanism on axis, and from jamming.
--if you notice in picture 1, at the end of the barrel/receiver there is a small screw hanging down. That screw attaches to the end of the large spring running through the receiver and ending in the extractor.
The second pistol is both similar and different. in extrac 2a the pistol looks similar. it is made by Retolaza Hermanos.
The hammer here also releases the top strap and the gun opens, as you can see
The extractor remains depressed until the mechanism below the end of the muzzle is depressed at which point the extractor, under pressure, shoots the shells out.
Both designs, similar in using an extractor under pressure, went on to manufacture 25acp pistols of the Browning variety.
modern handguns have safety mechanisms for more reasons than one might think. The mechanism keeps the gun safe to keep in a pocket, where most velodogs were kept as personal protection concealed weapons. Equally important, in an age long before transfer bars which inhibited a hammer from inadvertently falling upon a cartridge, the firing pin on the hammer was often so close to the end of the cartridge that should the pistol drop, the possibility of the gun firing on its own was very great. Consequently, the smaller the pistol and the more it might be concealed in a pocket or purse, the more important the safety mechanism.
The most usual safety on velodogs was a simple sliding pin in front of the hammer which, internally, blocked the hammer from falling. Pushed one way, the gun could fire. Pushed in the other direction, the hammer was blocked. [picture]. The mechanism itself rarely failed and was simple to build but, conceivably, being external, the lever might be shifted from safety to fire when slid into a pocket. For this reason, the external slide usually had a fair amount of friction.
Other guns placed the safety on the back of the receiver, on the rear strap of the grip, to avoid the problem of the shifting safety. [picture] In this case, the very small safety mechanism pushed a bar into place from behind the base of the trigger mechanism and also blocked the hammer cocking and therefore, from falling. This mechanism was fine for concealing a loaded pistol in the pocket but it did not keep the gun from firing should the gun drop and land on the hammer.
A third safety mechanism was external in design. Some velodogs had a small lever on the hammer/firing pin which moved the firing position away from the cartridge into what is called a half cock today. It was a simple design but thoroughly effective. [picture]. However, since the tiny lever was external and located on the top of the hammer, sliding the gun into a pocket could inadvertently move the lever from safety to fire. The design included a flat spring to keep the safety in place but any external lever was capable of being dislodged.
All of these mechanisms had their advantages and limitations but two other factors probably made the velodog safe to conceal and use. First, the folding trigger meant the gun would probably only be discharged intentionally. Second, trigger weight was usually considerable. These guns did not have light triggers used in target guns. The best safety mechanism was probably having the hammer sit in an empty chamber, which meant the hammer could not fall, hit the hammer/firing pin, and therefore discharge. It meant having one less round in the cylinder.
Cartridge Storage in Grip
Some Arminius 6.35 pistols used the hollow in the grip to store five extra rounds. This was an ingenious idea but it did not catch on.
C. Velodog Manufacturers
Francois Dumoulin & Co
Manufacture d'Armes LePage a Liege
Manufacture d'Armes a feu
Henrion, Dassy, & Heuchen
Leopold Ancion Marx
Pirot & Fresart
Syndicat Leigeoise d'Armes de Guerre
Franken & Lunenschloss
Beuret Freres ?
The classic velo dog design originated in Liege Belgium, long a major site of arms and gun manufacturing. It was quickly reproduced in many parts of Europe and South America but three locations, Liege Belgium, Eibar Spain, and Germany, account for the overwhelming number of pistols. Liege produced the first and its products were carefully controlled and Liege guns have many series markings to indicate manufacturer and who tested the gun. Indeed, reading these proof marks and manufacturing stamps is something of an acquired skill because these marks are tiny and often located in different locations.
Velodogs had real serial numbers, of course, though most are numbered according to the specific gunsmith making it. An equal number have tested proof marks but the manufacturer is unknown. The problem is that the overwhelming number of these guns were piece work products, often made from a central design by tens or perhaps hundreds of different craftsman. Most were collected by the 'manufacturer' who stamped the gun with a company's trade mark and then sold it to retailers. At times 'extra' guns, second quality guns or over runs were proofed but send directly to retailers who put their own names on the guns. Sometimes one can recognize a manufacturer's stamp and or a retailer's stamp but often this is not clear. And then one finds a very large number of guns either with proof and registration marks or without that were sold informally or perhaps by the craftsman himself. And some guns bear no marking at all, leaving one to wonder where the gun was made and by whom.
Those interested in proof marks should consult the following books: Gerhard Wirnsberger, The Standard Dictionary of Proof Marks, and Robert H. Balderson, Official Guide to Gunmarks, 3rd. edition. And again, for this period, see littleguns.be.
This manufacturing system may seem haphazard but system is true for jeans manufacturing today. The same Chinese plant will produce jeans for a famous marketing company while over runs are sold for less money to a secondary marketer. And some times one finds fine jeans looking just like the high priced item with no markings at all and available for even less money. When we are lucky we find a full complement of proof markings as well as a clear manufacturer's mark. As a result, given the importance of Liege in producing velodogs, where the gun was retailed in another country and the gun bears the retailer's name, it will be listed under that country though place of manufacture will be noted.
In a perfect situation, I would present pictures of every velo dog and velo dog type that exists. I will however present velodogs from several leading Liege gun manufacturers so that we can see the range of products they sold. This will give us a more than adequate view of what velo dog pistols were common.
whose maker's mark is two C letters back to back. Clement produced a large variety of pistols and several types of velodogs. The pistol below was chambered in 5.5 velodog
as well as velodogs chambered in 6,35, such as the pistol below, when that cartridge became available. Note the unusual safety screw in the base of the receiver. Simply depressing the screw made the trigger inoperable.
Clement arms also produced a large variety of small guns and revolvers, including this tiny .22 short baby, under 4 inches stem to stern
Debouxthay's velodogs looked much like those made by other manufacturers but differed in two significant way. First, the safety was hammer mounted. When the safety lever was pulled back it also locked the hammer and firing pin in a safe position away from the receiver.
Second, the extraction rod was spring mounted so that it was pulled away from the cylinder more easily and with too much pressure which might bend it. The last image is a different velo dog by this maker and it is included in order to illustrate how piece work manufacturing by different artisans was reflected. You will note that both revolvers are identical, except they have different cylinders, made by different artisans. Debauxthay's maker's mark was a double D.
Note the safety switch in the base of the receiver, to the right of the grip.
Was Mr Bonus a manufacturer or a gun retailer selling guns manufactured for him by an unknown gun maker? I have not been able to determine this though my feelings are that he was a retailer as his name is unknown in the Liege registry of manufacturers. In any event, this gun illustrates the alternate shape of velo dog often called a bossu or 'hunchback' for obvious reasons. Moreover, it is chambered for 6,35 or .25acp. One theory holds that this shape came about in order to look more like a semi-automatic pistol at a time when popular interest was shifting to the Browning Baby and other semi-automatics. Regardless, one finds this shape accommodating not only 6,35 but velodog 5.5, .320 and other calibers as well. Perhaps one might call this shape the second stage of velo dog design. LePage guns I have seen have the maker's name engraved along the top strap.
Francois Dumoulin & Cie
The initials JK under a crown, visible in the upper corner of the receiver, is the trade mark of the Liege gun maker Jules Kaufmann
Manufacture d'Armes LePage a Liege
LePage was a major manufacturer of many types of small handguns. His velodogs followed both designs, the conventional for velo dog cartridges and the squared receiver for 6,35 cartridges.
This velo dog differs from those above as it is designed like a fairly standard revolver, which uses the velo dog cartridge. The pistol has a standard arm protecting the loading gate and a lever safety on the reverse side.
It would appear that Francotte, along with so many other gun makers, produced yet his own version of the Novo pistol, described below as originally a design of DD Oury, another Liege gun maker. It appears identical to the novo pistol made by others with the exception that the name Francotte is engraved on one side of the barrel with Liege engraved on the other.
The handle pivots and locks in place in the shooting position when the handle is extended. To close the gun, depressing a small button on top of the receiver releases the handle lock enabling the handle to be folded under the receiver.
I will present several 'novo' pistols with this one sold in Liege by Ancion Marx.
As you can see, it follows a Galand pattern of revolver dismantling
The novo pistol appeared in various finishes and degree of decoration
This next pistol bearing an Oury trademark seem to be exactly like one bearing a Galand trademark. Oury and Galand seem to have inspired each other quite a bit. The Oury design above was copied by Galand a few years after Oury's pocket pistol appeared. Oury introduced yet a third variation of the Novo.
This same pistol, with an engraved receiver, was also sold as Le Novo
Many velodog pistols were equipped with a small leather purse. The purse below was designed for the Novo. Such purses served purposes of concealment but also, to keep gun powder from dirtying everything else in one's pocket.
If Oury and Galand traded designs with each putting his own trademark of the Novo in production, the same was true of the pistol below which was Oury's version of Galand's Tue-Tue velodog revolver with a side opening cylinder.
Manufacture Liegeoise d'Armes a Feu
Once again we can see in the following photographs how varied in shape velo dog pistols could be. Whether by company design or inclination on the part of individual artisans, receiver shapes could vary enormously, as might grips. Cylinders, triggers, retraction devices were fairly uniform.
This next ML gun has Pfund Revolver engraved across the receiver top strap. It was probably sold in Germany or elsewhere German was spoken and sold for 1 pound.
note the flat headed hammer on the pistol below.
Henrion, Dassy & Heuchen, HDH
This was another large company parenting several very original designs, such as this 20 shot velo dog revolver pictured in that company's catalogue. As you can see, the same design could shoot 20 velodogs mistaking 6.5 for 5.5mm, or, differently barreled and with a different cylinder, could hand 16 .32 center fire cartridges. The design of this gun is a great departure from other velo dog designs in having a break open receiver and a system of automatic shell extraction. This illustration comes courtesy of littlegun.be.
Another Bossu style velo dog. This one was called a Lincoln-bossu, a the name for a hunchback, or bossu, revolver chambered for .22 short cartridges. The logic escapes me but, contemporaries understood the nomenclature, I suppose.
The most unusual HDH velodog was pictured earlier. This revolver had 12 chambers for cartridges rather than the usual five or 6 chambers. It is a little larger and heavier than usual but is beautifully made.
Leopold Ancion Marx
Ancion Marx was a huge marketting firm comprising the manufactures of of several Marx brothers and relatives at different time, sometimes working together and often not. The following two illustrations from Ancion Marks catalogues, come courtesy of Alain at littlegun. com. The first exhibits some of their velo dog revolvers. The second, however, presents some of their very similar pistols in other calibers, including 6,35 and .320.
You should note the different hammer arrangements, including two hammerless [or enclosed hammer really] while two others have exhibited hammers but of two different styles; one a flat button with the other more conventional. These guns also exhibit different styles of grips. As I have noted earlier, one wonders if these differences were by design or whether these four guns simply dame from different workshops before receiving the triangular LAM trademark.
In this second illustration, also courtesy of littlegun. be, we see how the same designs were used to house both larger and smaller calibers.
Here again we notice different style guns, probably originating from different workshops.
The Zanardo name and mark appears on several guns made in Liege. Yet, the name does not appear in the Liege registry of gun makers.
Pirlot & Fresart? or Pirlot & Fils
This pretty little 6,35 revolver with bone grips has full Liege proof marks with the trademark PF in a diamond. It is possible this is the trademark of the Liege gun maker Pirlot & Fresart??
SYNDICAT LIEGEOIS POUR LA FABRICATION DES ARMES DE GUERRE
at Herstal, consisting of Jules ANCION & Co, DRESSE - LALOUX & Co, Auguste FRANCOTTE and PIRLOT & FRESART.
Mr. Piret enjoyed a very rare destinction. not only did he furnish arms for the Belgian state run Congo State in Africa, but his velodogs were also sold in Budapest by the gun retailer, Zubek es Tarsa in Budapest, Hungary.
I do not know whether Mr. Sauvour actually manufactured velodog revolvers or whether he was a retailer of many small self defense pistols.
I do not know whether Mr Schroeder manufactured velodogs or simply sold them at his retail establishment. The velodog pictured here, at the bottom of the advertisement, has the Ancion trademark. But Ancion was a Liege retailer as well.
Henri Pieper was a prolific gun Belgian designer with scores of patents registered in his name. Yet only one velo dog bears his name perhaps because he died in 1898. His trade mark, marely visible here, was a crown over the letter P in a circle.
Franken & Lunenschloss
This small handgun, in 6.35, is the only known pistol of its type from this Liege manufacturer. F&L also maintained a manufacturing facility in Cologne, Germany for rifles. The company trademark are crossed swords with the initials F and L on each side.
Beuret Freres ?
Charles Francois Galand
Manufacture francais d'Armes & Cycles de Saint Etienne
J. Lefebvre, Paris
L. Chobert, Paris
Charles Francois Galand
Galand of Paris, France, is credited with over 150 design patents, the velodog among them. His primary model, the first two gun designs, in silver and black, with his signature cylinder tear down. The next three pictures represent a departure, to a swing out cylinder design which was easier to use. Finally, Galand's own version of the Novo folding grip pistol. Galand also maintained a workshop and manufacturing assembly plant in Liege. Hence, one finds Galand pistols originating from both locations.
This same design was manufactured in Liege, complete with proof marks but without the Galand stamp on the receiver.
Galand also manufactured a similar pistol but with a different cylinder and loading system. In this case the front lever design was replaced with what is now a more familiar cylinder swing out pattern. The central pin is pulled out slightly and the entire cylinder pivots to the side for easy loading. Once loading is complete, the cylinder swings up and locks into place.
Galand's Tue-Tue pistol was similar to the velodog but was chambered in the more powerful .32 caliber cartridge and hence the name which means "death,death". This pistol was manufactured in Liege but is included here as Galand was French and had a design studio in Paris.
Galand also made a novo style pistol, copying that of Oury from Liege.
Manufacture francaise d' Armes & Cycles de Saint-Etienne
This gun is exceptionally well made and incorporates a dropping cylinder rather than the usual cylinder on a pin that must be removed. Unlike other revolvers of this type, where the central pin must be extended in order to slide the cylinder to the side, on this gun the latch behind the cylinder must be depressed before the cylinder can be slid to the side, much like the Galand revolver above. This is a lovely gun.
Despite the obvious maker's mark indicating French manufacture, the proof marks on the barrel beneath the company name indicate that this gun was made in Liege, and the barrel and components were tested in Liege but sent abroad for sale. This was quite common as retailers in foreign countries often bought Liege products for sale abroad.
This next gun was made in Liege and looks identical to a gun listed above bearing the trade mark of Manufacture Liegeois d' Armes a feu. The name A. Gobin appears on the top strap, along with a Paris address which leads me to believe Mr. Gobin was a retailer of Belgian guns.
I believe Mr. Phuet [ or P. Huet?] of Lille France, was a retailer of this next small pistol. The gun has no trademarks or French proof marks though the rear face of the cylinder indicates Liege proof marks. The name Phuet and Lille are engraved on the sides of the barrel.
The name J.Lefebvre from rue St. Lazare in Paris, stamped on this next pistol's top strap indicates the name of the Paris retailer. The gun itself bears standard Liege stamps indicating it was made in Belgium, but bears no company trademark. As such, we do not know who made it but we know who sold it. In design it is a standard 6,35 Bossu hunchback.
L. Chobert, Paris
This next pistol, marked L. Chobert, like the one above, would seem to be marked with the vendor's name rather than its manufacturer. It displays several hall marks of French manufacture, however, such as the round hammer. Moreover, it lacks Belgian markings on the receiver nor the cylinder. It is nicely made, though it lacks a safety.
This pistol is unique in having a very different style grip. Unfortunately, its manufacturer is unknown, though the lower receiver is marked EF.
Arizmendi y Goenaga
Garat, Antua y Cie
Ojanguren y Vidosa
Juan Jose Larranaga
Aspiri y Cia
While velodog pistols were first made in Liege Belgium, a casual shopper for velodog pistols might come to the conclusion that most velodogs were made in Spain. The reasons for this are various, including Spain's peculiar patent laws. In general, patent protection was weak in the early 20th century because so many guns were hand made by private artisans. Still, larger gun makers honored patents registered in other countries even if they avoided the issue by making just enough changes to present a somewhat different gun. In this regard, Spain was in a class of its own. Spain recognized only those patents actually registered in Spain and then actually manufactured in Spain within three years. This meant that only those guns actually manufactured in Spain stood any chance of retaining their design copywrite. Hence, a Spanish gun maker might copy a Winchester rifle and then patent the design in Spain under his own name. Should Winchester then attempt to sell their own original design in Spain, that would be in violation of Spain's patent laws and Winchester would be forced to leave the Spanish market. I use this example because this indeed occurred. Other guns were also duplicated by Spanish manufacturers and if foreign gun makers were concerned, their only option was to secure their own patent in Spain.
One result of Spanish patent laws was that the area of Spain around Eibar, in the Basque region, became a major gun making center and in the case of velodogs, virtually all Belgian designs were duplicated in Spain. Some have claimed that Spanish guns were cheap knock-offs and were not very good and often counterfeited Liege proof marks and registration codes to create a 'better' product. I have not found this to be the case. Spanish manufactured velodogs were as good as those made in Liege. If some Spanish manufacturers duplicated Belgian markings, I have yet to discover ample evidence this was the case. I believe Belgian ill will toward Spanish work was not in the area of velodog design but because copying the Baby Browning semi-automatic 6,35 pistol became a cottage industry in Spain, but this was also the case in Germany and elsewhere. The Browning was an epoch making design and not all foreign copies were as good but that was true of Belgian copies of the Baby Browning as well.
The best book to introduce Spanish handgun manufacturing is Gene Gangarosa Jr.'s fine volume Spanish Handguns, the History of Spanish Pistols and Revolvers. Gangarosa describes several Spanish velodog manufacturers as well as those who made the transition from velodog to 6.35 semi-automatic revolver.
Arizmendi y Goenaga
The company Arizmendi y Goenaga was established as early as 1886 and manufactured many revolvers, many semi automatic handguns and also produced several velodog revolvers, chambered in 6,35 as well. About 1914 Arizmendi formed his own company, Francisco Arizmendi which would specialize in velodogs in all shapes. The maker's mark are the letters AG over a crescent or FAG on the receiver or the grips. As we will see in the next listing, once he established his own firm, Francisco Arizmendi's trade mark were the letters FA under a crown and over a crescent. This first gun design which has a trigger guard, was a copy of the original Galand velodog but with a different way to remove the cylinder. The first two guns are essentially this same design though the first has grips marked FAG and is listed as Arizmendi, where the second version has plain wood grips but is listed as Arizmendi and Goenaga. In short, things were pretty fluid.
The last three guns are different. The first uses a hunchback velodog design to house 6,35 cartridges while the last is a tiny revolver, about 3 inches in length, chambered in .22short. The very last pistol is a hunchback design housing the standard velo dog cartridge.
This following pistol houses the standard velo dog cartridge.
Arizmendi was the single largest manufacturer of velodogs in Spain and possibly in all of Europe. His designs chambered the velodog as well as the 6,35 cartridge when that became popular and include many innovations. His pistols were of decent quality though export models were distinctly better made. Arizmendi guns seem to have no fixed pattern or shape probably because many were outsourced to small shops or artisans. More than other gun makers, Arizmendi borrowed and mixed features from his designs. I doubt there is not a single style of velodog he did not produce. His maker's mark usually included the letters FA in a shield above a crescent but could change to just a shield above a crescent or even just a crescent. And sometimes one finds the letters AF under a crown or even the picture of a policeman for guns manufactured for sale in Germany. If you find an velodog for sale online, chances are strong it is an Arizmendi.
The following gun is known as a Geco, a mark that appears in a circle on the side of the barrel, because it was manufactured for the German retailer, Gustav Genchov & Co, and sold by him.
Similarly, Albrecht Kind sold Arizmendi guns in Germany. It may be happenstance, but Aizmendi's German exports seem better quality than his Spanish domestic sales pistols.
The following three pistols were manufactured by Arizmendi for sale in Germany by Albrecht Kind. The all have a special maker's mark, the figure of a policeman holding a gun. These pistols were chambered in either velodog 5.5 or 6,35.
This last pistol is a direct copy of Oury's novo pistol, presented earlier.
This next Arizmendi export pistol is unusual in having Viennese proof marks as well as Arizmendi's trade mark.
Garat, Anitua y Cie
The picture below is of a small size revolver common in the day, but which is chambered for 5.5 velodog cartridges. It is named L' Eclair in the receiver top strap, a name which was used Garat. The pistol has no identifying stamp maker's mark, but the logo on the grips also identify the manufacturer. The gun has a concealed hammer and a pivoting cylinder. The safety is the tiny button on the revolver backstrap and is quite common for Spanish velodogs. It is an altogether very well made pistol.
Retolaza Brothers produced a variety of velodog pistols under the names Brompetier, Puppy, Velo-Brom, and Velo-Mith, many intended for sale in France. The term 'velo-mith' refers to many velodog revolvers with a Smith and Wesson break open action, especially after 1910. These pistols were usually heavier and better made with some, chambered in larger calibers, used by the military. The Retolaza Velomith Excelsior is a very significant velodog in so many ways. It is larger and heavier than most velodogs and it is probably among the best velodog shooters. If one wanted to shoot a velodog today, this would be the gun to use. It is innovative in being a top break model and it chambers 8 cartridges. This is how the gun works. In order to open, one pulls back just slightly on what looks like a hammer but isn't. It permits the top strap to lift slightly so that one can pull down on the barrel which opens the gun. If one pushes the small button on the fore-end of the receiver, right under the barrel muzzle, the extractor jumps out very powerfully and lifts empty shells for extraction. After reloading, simply lifting the muzzle locks the gun back into shooting position. Essentially, this is a very fine handgun that is chambered for the velodog cartridge. The gun is adequately stout to chamber a 7,65 or .320 round just as well.
Most Velomith Excelsior pistols were utilitarian but others were quite fancy.
The next pistol looks like a Retolaza product though it does not have clear markings. Markings on the barrel are very faint, indicating Belgian manufacture. However, the barrel and the cylinder have no proof marks at all, indicating it was probably made in Spain. It has the same action as the marked pistol above and is also chambered for 8 velodog cartridges.
Ojanguren y Vidosa
Other manufacturers produced similar velomith pistols. This one was manufactured by Ojanguren y Vidosa. This is an interesting pistol in several ways. First, it is designed to look like a Browning semi-automatic because that latter gun was extremely popular. The 'hammer' is actually a lock which released the break open cylinder mechanism and the small pin at the bottom end of the muzzel when depressed, activates the extractor. Like the Retolaza pistols, this is well made and chambered in 7,65.
Another pistol of the same design bears no obvious marking but is either an OV design or a close copy. This is also a top break design
The same company also manufactured more standard shaped velodog pistols.
This first velodog is very typical of what came to the standard shape and features. In this case, this Antonio Errasti pistol is very well. The Errasti trade mark of an A and an E in a circle clearly appears on the upper receiver.
This second Errasti velodog has a different shape and is chambered for 7,65 ammunition. The AE trademark appears on the receiver and the grips also show that it was made by AE. The name Browgrand is engraved along the top strap. This is not the name of a retailer, as is often the case with top strap names, but the name of model which indicates a more powerful caliber.
Arostegui showed how a bossu hunchback velodog might have softened lines to produce a prettier gun.
Juan Jose Larranaga ?
Some vellodogs are imprinted with just recognizable trade marks, or, trade marks one thinks are just recognizable but may not be. This nicely made velodog is one such case. The initials JJL are sufficiently poorly engraved but then, very few Basque gun makers had these initials. so....? And if instead the trade mark is JAL, the gun maker is unknown. This is frustrating, but the next category is even worse.
The following information is provided courtesy of Juan Calvo's excellent work, Catalogacion de Armas. Chapter 14 of Spanish Arms from Eibar, explains that the Velo Extra employed a system of shell ejection. Once all the cartridges were shot, the force of the trigger provided adequate power to expel cartridge shells one by one.
This firm manufactured velodog pistols under the names Bron-Sport, Bron Petit, c.h. le Brong, Puppy, and Velo-Mith from as early as 1900.Their guns were similar to those made by Retolaza Hermanos with the name 'bron' referring to guns chambered in 6.35 rather than the velodog cartridge. Unlike other manufacturers, this company never made the transition to semi-automatic pistols.
Aspiri y Cia
This following pistol bears a trademark AC and it is possible that this refers to the Eibar manufacturing company Aspiri y Cia. It is a lovely pistol with unusual grips. Curiously, the top strap indicates, in English Arms Manufacturing Co., though no Spanish company bore this name which may indicate the name of the vendor.
Burgsmuller & Sohn
"Arminius" marked pistols were manufactured by Friedrich Pickert in Germany. Their different shapes, in different calibers, are all modeled after velodogs from Belgium and Spain with several differences. They were chambered in .22short, .320 and "Browning" 7,65. None were chambered in 5.5 velodog because no arms maker manufactured the cartridge while these others were readily available. All Arminius pistols, and not all made my Pickert, have grips with the face of Arminius, the Germanic folk hero, though two different images were used, as indicated below. This probably means that Arminius guns were made by different makers. All Arminius guns were either 6,35 or 7,65. All have the gun's caliber engraved on the top strap but while some say "hammerless" others have "Deutsche- Industrie" with no "hammerless" engraved . Some Arminius guns were very well made and incorporated several improvements such as a much easier to use cylinder removal system. Instead of the effective but cumbersome Spanish method involving a rod, a collar and a pivot, some Arminius guns employed a simple button and central post, such as the first gun here, while others employ a a pivoting rod and collar but much simplified. This first two guns was chambered for 6,35.
Two different images of Aeminius appear on pistol grips. The first, the most common is
On at least one gun, one finds the following, younger version of what looks like a Greek or Roman hero.
Burgsmuller & Sohn
This velodog is very uncommon, sold by the German gun maker Burgsmuller and Son of Kreiensen Harz in Germany. The gun maker is unknown though the proof marks clearly indicate it was from Liege. Unlike Arminius guns, this one was chammbered for the velodog cartridge. This is the only velodog sold by this retailer that I have ever seen.
To the best of my knowledge, Great Britain manufactured no velodog revolvers, though it did produce a great many other small guns, not least of which was the English Bulldog. It seems likely, however that the following gun was produced for sale in England as the top strap is engraved with the name "Little Dog". This very well gun has a full array of Liege proof marks but the receiver lacks any trade marks at all. Beneath the grip one finds the letter J PP but this may only indicate the artisan making the gun. The gun also lacks any retailer's markings.
South America produced at least one velodog revolver and, according to good sources, until quite recently, sold many others. These are the only two velodog pistols sold in South America that I am aware of.
the Emile Laport company originated in Liege but moved to Brazil near the end of the 19th century. The one velodog we know the company sold was a faithful and very well made copy of Galand's original design. The cylinder indicates that it has Liege proof marks and Laport evidently bought the gun for export and sides of the barrel indicate the company's name and Rio de Janiero
The small 6,35 velodog bearing the name Ameria Cimino has Belgian proofmarks of the cylinder but bears no trade marks. It seems obvious that Cimino was the retailer of this gun. The gun differs from others in having a slightly more pronounced hunchback design and bears the inscription SMA 350385 on the rear grip strap. You might notice a curious engraving on the toe of the grip in picture 2. I have no idea what it indicated but have enlarged it for viewing. Any information would be appreciated.
The following guns are impossible to identify because they have no manufacturer's trade marks at all. Some were clearly made in Belgium because they do have Liege proof marks. Others might be Spanish because they lack Belgian marks but still have no trade marks, proof marks or any sign of where they were made. Some are chambered for 5.5 velodog while others are in 6,35. A few are ordinary and look much like pistols whose manufacturers we already know. Several are very different, even innovative. I assume these gun makers left off any marks because they could not sell them to a manufacturer such as Arizmendi, nor to a retailer like Ancion Marks, or he wanted to sell them himself. These pistols are in no way of lesser quality. The first, for instance, is exceptionally well crafted and employs a more expensive pivoting cylinder for loading and unloading. Another, from Spain, was gold plated.
This must have been lovely when new. It is quite small, chambered for 6,35 and is gold plated. It appears to have been shot a great deal.
This next 6,35 velodog pistol has an unusual sloping shoulder. It is Spanish but little more is obvious.
more listings coming.......
The Historical Background
D. Concealed Weapons, Crime and the Gilded Age
The Belle Epoque, or the Gilded Age, from 1870 though 1914, was a time of peace, mechanical innovation, material progress and great social change. Many factors brought this about but foremost was the harnessing of steam power of the industrial revolution. Wind mills and the use of water power for grinding grains went back centuries but steam power enabled the creation of significantly larger scale manufacturing, and, more important, could be located anywhere one could produce vast amounts of steam. The new textile industry revolutionized how cloth was manufactured as power looms replaced hand looms. England of 1803 had 2400 looms. By 1857, that number increased to 250,000 looms. Workers at these looms, previously rural subsistence farm workers, eagerly traded back breaking and unrewarding agricultural labor for workshops, however great the latter's limitations. The same was true after the American Civil War.
As urban centers grew, so too did exports. Steam powered railroads crossed Europe carrying good and people. And in 1848, a steam powered ship crossed the Atlantic, bringing goods and people, opening up the American west. Nor was this only a north American or European phenomenon; railroads in India and in South America had much the same effect. By the end of the 19th century, a host of other inventions further swelled the ranks of both manufacturers as well as the people they employed. In the 1870 alone, the telephone and the typewriter appeared in 1873; the dental drill and the mimeograph machine in 1875; the phonograph in 1877 and the incandescent light bulb two years later. So many of these inventions made for more organized business offices and required a capable work force. But other inventions mechanized hand made piecework in the factory. The sewing machine, powered by a foot pedal connected via a long rubber drive belt to the machine's central drive wheel, created a variety of off the shelf clothing for urban dwellers. Many machines were also in private hands and can still be found throughout rural Asia. Power was supplied by foot pedals, but steam powered foundries made the metal for the machines and their parts. Slowly, Europe and the US turned from being primarily rural and agricultural to manufacturing, where workers were producers, and, for the first time, also consumers.
E. The Bicycle
Of all the inventions characterizing the new social change of the times, none equaled the 'velocipede' or bicycle. The first velocipede were hobby horses with a low slung seat enabling riders to 'fast foot' across distances. It was invented in France but quickly spread all over Europe and the US. It was quickly mechanized by adapting pedals on each side of the front wheel, like a tricycle, but quickly improved with a chain linking pedals to the rear wheel, which remains to this day. This was an instant success because it provided a rapid means of personal transportation for those unable to own expensive horses or very expensive carriages and more horses. The bicycle was the first means of personal transportation available to middle class and some lower class people.
Bicycle manufacturing spread all over the globe and continues to provide transportation in many European countries and throughout Asia. In the US the growth in manufacturing was very rapid. In 1885 only six manufacturers produced 11,000 bicycles. By 1890, 17 manufacturers produced 40,000 units. Five years later in 1895, 126 manufacturers produced 500,00 bicycles. ONE year later, in 1896, 300 manufacturers produced 1 million bicycles that single year. Many tens of thousands, perhaps a hundred thousand or more workers manufactured these 'mechanical horses' with many tens of thousands more working in repair shops, customizing shops, and companies producing tires, locks, lamps, and hand pumps. Just bicycle clothing became an industry, especially for women. The New York Times reported, "Never before in the history of manufactures in this country has there arisen such a demand for an article as noe exists in relation to velocipedes." In 1896, American spent $300,000,000 dollars purchasing bicycles with an additional $200,000,000 spend for accessories such as tires, lamps, foot pumps. as well as the slacks and 'bloomers' gathered st the knee when they found their skirts caught up in bicycle chains. Additionally, the advertising of bicycles grew. Cosmopolitan magazine in 1898 contained ads from 38 bicycle manufacturers. In that same year, advertisements for bicycles constituted 10% of all national advertising. Frank Presbry, the authority on commercial advertisement, wrote "the bicycle gave the magazine a measure of recognition as a medium."
The social impact of the bicycle was as great as its economic impact and not everyone thought this a good development. An author in Century magazine noted how the bicycle "puts the poor man on the level with the rich, enabling him to sing the song of the open road as freely as the millionaire, and to widen his knowledge by visiting regions near or far from his home, observing how other men live." Indeed, bicycles were advertised as agencies of freedom, and riders as cowboys taming the wild west.
As women developed a passion for riding, and " in possession of her bicycle, the daughter of the 19th century feels that declaration of her independence has been proclaimed." Bicycles were identified with female sexual liberation and freedom.
With women riders being unchaperoned, moral depravity would soon follow. This popular sentiment was aggravated by the appearance of female bike racers wearing tight fitting pantaloons and.....smoking cigarettes!!
Even Charlotte Smith, an advocate for women's rights, wrote, "the bicycle is the devil's advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances." People of color also took to the road though they were not, not surprisingly, admitted in men's white racing clubs or female racing clubs either.
While historians emphasize the technical innovations of the age and subsequent social change, few, if any write about the connection between bicycles and guns. This is surprising since so many gun manufacturers, such as Browning, Birmingham Small Arms and British Enfield produced fine bicycles. Indeed, Enfield advertised that its bikes were as well made as their guns. The history of the bicycle is extremely well told by David V. Herlihy in Bicycle, from Yale University Press, and Margaret Guroff's volume, The Mechanical Horse, from the University of Texas Press. I would add Sue Macy's thin volume for the National Geographic, entitled, Wheels of Change, which describes how the bicycle helped bring about gender equality. The issue of bicycles and guns eludes these authors, but several websites treat this subject very well. The place to start is Kurt Bauer's excellent Guns and Bicycles [www.violetcrown.org/blog/guns and bicycles]. The site, www.oldbike.eu is a museum of pictures and information regarding everything to do with vintage bikes and includes the connections with guns [www.oldebikes.eu/museum/guns] I am indebted to this site for many of the pictures below. Another good site is Carlton Reid's blog Roads were Not Built for Cars. The connection between guns and bikes is still current. Indeed, as the first picture indicates, the Browning gun company continues to sell bicycles, this one made in Japan.
In general, bicycle manufacturers and gun manufacturers were closely tied together for several reasons. The skills involved with both were similar, gun manufacturers had an existing network of retail sales which helped them advertise bicycles as well and, most important of all, manufacturing both guns and bicycles diversified their market and helped shield against slow periods in one or the other industry. Not all bicycle manufacturers made guns, but the leading gun makers made bicycles.
In addition to Browning, one finds FN, Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, an enormous enterprise, which innovated in both areas of design.
In Great Britain, several gun companies manufactured bicycles, including Birmingham Small Arms and British Enfield
In France the 19th century French firm, Manufacture Francaise d’ Armes et Cycles de St. Etienne indicated quite clearly that it manufactured both.
It was a wise policy as it tapped into the same civilian market twice. Similarly, the current Austrian Voere Gun manufacturing company started life manufacturing bicycle pumps and expanded into both high quality target guns and in the United States Iver Johnson, known so well for its small handguns, was actually called in 1915 Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works and only dropped cycles from the company name during the Great Depression when demand for small guns for personal protection increased greatly.
By 1916, the weapons market surpassed the bicycle market and the company turned to gun making and sales. The company’s products must have pleased buyers as attempts at the lives of both Presidents McKinley and F.D. Roosevelt were made with small Iver Johnson products. Indeed, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy with a small Iver Johnson revolver as well. Far from being ‘mouse guns’ small revolvers were deadly and more than adequate for personal protection. Indeed, Iver Johnson claimed it manufactured the very best bicycle pistol. Bicycles and gun manufacturing went hand in hand and several factors, other than compatibility of skills and workers help explain this.
One single advertisement in an English newspaper gives a clear answer:
The simply fact was that bicycles were thief magnets, both because they were valuable and easily resold, but also because cyclists, especially women, were very vulnerable. The thief knocked the rider down, stole his or her wallet or purse and then made off with the bicycle. Indeed, even when not riding, both men and women were targets of street crime because along with urbanism, new urban employment and a freer urban social life and, of course, that terrific phonograph, came enormous amounts of street crime. And this was not simply an English problem.
The local English press described many bicycle related thefts as was the case elsewhere in Europe as well as the United States. The problem of theft was greater than bicycles, however. The new urbanism meant a great deal of poverty and crime while the transition from town to city also had the effect of loosening social bonds and standard rules of ethics. Additionally, the extreme individualistic social values of the magnate class did little to inspire feelings of responsibility in anyone. Housing was dreadful, sanitation non-existent, and the ready availability of alcohol. Hence, all this plus unemployment and alcohol created a very undisciplined urban unemployed population resulting in street crime. And the new police forces created early in the 19th century caused even more dismay.
G. The Rise of Crime
Urban illegal activity was increasingly ‘organized’ into crime syndicates, gangs of pick-pockets and even burglars and thieves. As more was invented, more was worthy of being stolen and quickly resold. Pawn shops had always existed but they became standard conduits for more goods. And the moneyed economy meant that people carried more money to be stolen. City dwellers were not sanguine about street crime, despite the creation of new police forces largely equipped with very professional uniforms and rattles. Largely ill trained and ill equipped, police were often recruited from the prisons themselves or from barroom toughs and bullies. Among other authors, Charles Dickens described this hard life which brought wealth to some and poverty to so many others and crime to everyone. The police were so ill equipped to handle street crime and certainly not the likes of a Moriarity, as Sherlock Holmes made clear. At best, the police could keep riots to a minimum and defend factories against civil unrest. One does not have to look far to see many of the same conditions in the third world today where wealth can be enormous, along with the poverty and rampant street crime, often with police cooperation....or is that only the case in Mexico?
England’s first police, known as Bobbies or Peelers, were organized by Robert Peel, after the Metropolitan Police Act of 1929. They wore long blue coats and tall top hats and as they were not trusted to possess arms, were issued truncheons and a rattle which was eventually replaced by a whistle. Of the first 2,800 new policemen, only 600 kept their jobs because many were falling down drunkards or spent their working hours selling protection to shop owners and robbing the civilians they were hired to protect. This was the usual pattern in Europe. In France the first police were created in 1667 in Paris but their job was to serve the absolutist monarchy from rioting against the regime. After the French Revolution, Napoléon I reorganized the police in Paris and other cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants on February 17, 1800 as the Prefecture of Police. Again, the police were formed to keep the peace for a tyrannical dictator.
In the United States the Marshals Service was established as early as 1789 but their job was to protect the new government. In 1791 the US Parks Police was established and the US Mint police in 1792. Many individual states created their own police forces but most of the country, especially the west, remained mostly without police through the end of the 19th century. Any manufacturers fearing strikes or civil unrest hired private police, such as the Pinkertons, to keep the peace. Indeed, regard for the police was so low that ordinary outlaws such as Jesse James or Billy the Kid, and many others became popular figures whose thrilling escapades filled the tabloid press from coast to coast.
When bicycle manufacturers sold their products to ordinary citizens, they were happy to provide a 'bicycle gun' as well. Curiously, the genre of weapons called bicycle guns consisted or more than just small handguns because so many standard gun makers hoped to cash in on this new market of bicycle accessories even if they did not produce bicycles. Indeed, in the US, almost every major gun maker marketed a bicycle gun of some sort.
Iver johnson, a company making both bicycles and guns, thought their hand gun was the best available.
Harrington and Richardson, the maker of a great many revolvers advertised
Smith & Wesson went one step further, arguing that their very fine revolvers were also the safest for a rider accidentally falling off of his/her bicycle.
Other major gun makers also advertised their guns as 'bicycle guns.' Stevens, for instance, the largest gun manufacturer at the turn of the century produced an enormous variety of handguns, rifles and 'pocket rifles' or, handguns which could use a skeletal stock attached to the guns rear strap.
Similarly, the Quackenbush Gun Company, major innovator in air gun design and manufacturer of a variety of .22lr caliber rifles also manufactured a special bicycle gun.
While one would think a small rifle would be cumbersome, Marlin demonstrated how their rifle might be attached to bicycle
Similarly, Stevens was quick to point out they had the same idea.
While these attempts to satisfy the needs of bicyclers are noteworthy, the fact is that rifles were not what the public had in mind for protection. Rifles such as these might have served the needs of the hunter biking along a rural trail in search of small game but bicyclists needed some smaller and more easily concealed. Surely the best design was Joubert's French handle bar pistol.
The pistol itself was very well made with a drop down trigger and a manually revolving cylinder.
In France, too, companies advertised their pistols made especially for cyclists.
In the United States, gun manufacturers were less innovative and produced a series of small handguns easily concealed in jacket pockets.
The bicycle also promised to change the military. The concept was simple; the bicycle could provide a platform for weaponry while also enabling infantry greater mobility. The bicycle could even revolutionize police work since bobbies riding bikes could be almost everywhere. Postmen would be able to liver more mail, more quickly.
Bicycles and guns went together. The same companies produced both and bikes were understood as a positive development advancing both the goals of the individual as well as the good of the public. Indeed, as Iver Johnson advertised to young boys, what could be better??
The New Arms Manufacturing Industry
Until recently, arms manufacturing remained a labor intensive endeavor because so many parts required hand fitting and hand polishing in order to produce a fine well working weapon. Smith & Wesson revolvers of a generation or two ago still command a premium because they were hand fitted by skilled gun smiths whose "only" function was to assemble excellent revolvers from mass produced parts. This required enormous skill because the mass produced parts, however good, would not automatically fit together and function as they should. Part of the problem was the importance of springs in the process and even the best springs were individual. Hence, a handgun was more than the sum of its parts and assembling a handgun required understanding how each part effected every other part. Computer/laser manufacturing has permitted greater manufacturing precision which, in turn, has permitted a less labor intensive product.
In the 19th century, however, conditions were totally different. Every part was made by hand and assembly was a long tedious process through which each part was virtually reworked so that the total product functioned as it should. Hence, guns may have followed a central design, that is, they have had a generally similar outward appearance, but were hand manufactured products. This meant that some guns of the same design were simply better than others.
Most gun manufacturing was carried out in individual workshops on a piecemeal basis. One of the great innovations of the middle 19th century lay in the first step in creating a more uniform gun manufacturing industry because of the growth of iron foundries. The shifts in agriculture from hand tools to early tractors and mechanized agriculture not only increased agricultural production, but required the manufacture of iron and steel as well as the factories required to produce these tools. Similarly, new bridge construction and new designs such as the structural steel bridge of 1874 required large amounts of foundry space and the growth of a gun industry was one product of the new foundry. In Belgium, for instance, Liege sat at the foundation of a huge and growing arms manufacturing industry. The numbers seem to tell it all. As late as the turn of the twentieth century, the Belgian registry of corporations indicated that ¾ of all gun workers worked from home. As an example, in 1816, 35 gun manufacturing companies were registered by the Liege Association of Arms and Gun Makers. By 1856, after the invention of machinery to produce uniform gun parts, that number increased to 97 and further increased to 174 in 1884 and to almost 200 by the year 1900. This increase was fueled by increased consumer demand but mostly because it was now possible to produce guns by machine more cheaply than previously. Much gun making remained by skilled artisans but most gun parts could be manufactured more quickly and more cheaply by machine. Even so, before 1914 and the ensuing carnival of weapon manufacturing, Belgium had only two ‘full function’ gun manufacturers; FN and Pieper, which produced all parts of the gun themselves. Even today, however, small companies with relatively few workers still produce a good share of the commercial consumer market. Indeed, handgun manufacturing has more small companies playing important roles in industry development than any other industry, except for bicycle manufacturing, which is why gun manufacturing and bicycle manufacturing went hand in hand.
Other Small Guns Available to Consumers
Guns, largely for military or hunting purposes were readily available, but were large and expensive. The times called for the creation of a small, easily concealed handgun and designers rose to the challenge. Derringers were popular and easily demonstrated their effectiveness. The "deringer" derives its name from Henry Deringer, a Philadelphia manufacturer, who became famous for his pocket pistol designs. His original pistol of 1825 was a single-shot muzzle loading weapon with a flintlock firing mechanism, the predominantly common firing mechanism of that time.
While the deringer was an easily concealed small single shot weapon, its large caliber assured deadliness. Deringers earned their keep as the vest pocket gun of choice for gamblers and card sharks, and the capabilities of a very small gun were brought home to Americans when Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 with a small single shot deringer. The gun was streamlined and by 1866 took it modern shape, hardly changing since then and remains a popular concealed weapon. Modern 'derringers' are spelled with a double r to avoid patent infringement.
Other designs included boot guns and muff guns, popular with merchants and female travellers.
Cane guns were popular because so many men used canes as a sign of distinction. Many were very fancy and very expensive but others were more ordinary and within reach of most middle class persons.The shaft was essentially the barrel with the hand grip providing for a single shot trigger.
The Palm Pistol invented by the Frenchman Jacques Turbiaux in 1882, was designed to be concealed within one's fist and was fired by squeezing the spring loaded lever in the back of the gun. Turbiaux obtained an US patent in 1883 and the Minneapolis Firearms Company produced a licensed version that fired 7 shots in .32 caliber. The Chicago Firearms Company purchased patent rights in 1892 in order to manufacture several thousand Protective Palm Pistol, pictured below.
The French palm pistol, subsequently called the "Galois" was even easier to use.
The Shattuck palm pistol was yet another simple design for a simple personal defense weapon. It had four chambers in the barrel, for .22short, along with a rotating trigger. The small gun flipped open for loading and was discharged by squeezing the bottom plates in the grip.
The need for civilian small guns was evident in the United States even before the Civil War when Smith & Wesson created the .22 short cartridge along with a smaller gun to use it in 1852. This led to an avalanche of small pistols such as the two pictured below. The first is an elaborate and expensive Colt pistol with an open top.
The second, with a closed top. is a Smith & Wesson design. Both were copied by a large number of smaller gun companies in what was probably the first attempts to create concealed weapons for self protection.
Such guns provided adequate personal protection at close range and were easier to use than larger more complex, if more powerful, guns. While it was reasonably small, its long barrel made it difficult to slip in a pocket and some felt it was also too low powered to offer protection.
Small and more powerful; I have already discussed the English bull dog and the baby bull, but something smaller was required and this led in two different directions; one was the truly tiny .22short revolver and the other was the velodog.
Tiny revolvers were easily concealed by woman and were certainly easier to handle than flint lock weapons. It is not surprising, therefore, how many were manufactured. Women could hide them in purses, but men, too, found they fit nicely in vest pockets. And while the .22short was not very powerful, it was very effective at close range as a 'get off me gun.'
The variety of small pistols was very great. Simple flobert type single shot pistols were easily concealed and very easy to shoot. The smallest was under four inches while other had very long barrels to use as boot guns.
The great disadvantage of these tiny flobert guns was that they were single shot and not very powerful. They were best used in very close quarters. Despite the limitations posed by single shot derringers, they became very fashionable. Among other manufacturers, Colt issued small pistols in his and her models.
Another option was the small pepperbox, such as the Sharps pistol, which had four separate barrels with a rotating fire pin. Each pull of the trigger rotated the fire pin once and fired a cartridge. Standard pepperbox design consisted of a manually rotated barrel consisting of up to 8 or 10 different barrels. After each shot, the shooter rotated the the large multi-chamber barrel one notch and fired again. The new improvement was a pepperbox with a rotating firing pin and stationary barrels. Each pull of the trigger fired a shot and rotated the firing pin to the next chamber.
Other companies copied this design. Remington, for instance, was a leading manufacturer of small derringers type pistols. The one below was a tiny single shot.
Remington also produced two shot derringers
And also their own 4 shot pepperbox in several different calibers.
A multi-shot revolver design was the best solution but the most expensive to build. Revolvers just as small had the advantage of providing 5 or 6 shots. They were often engraved and were quite pretty, such as the two guns below, probably intended for women. Pretty as they were, they were very fiddly to use. I have shot these guns and it is almost impossible to get a good grip on them, though, smaller hands might have had better luck.
One solution was the Sable revolver made in Belgium. This Smith & Wesson-style break-open design was sleek and much easier to use. They handle nicely though they were still limited by the weak .22short round. These guns had the advantage of being hammerless and as a result, they did not catch or snag in a pocket for easy concealment.
The Sable is actually a very nice gun and sold well in Europe.
The Spanish copied this Belgian design. The pistol pictured below was manufactured by Orbea Hermanos and it is essentially a duplicate of the Sable, though just a little bit smaller and yet chambered in 6,35.
Other Spanish manufacturers also made a smaller version of the Belgian Sable, but with an exposed hammer. They called this gun the Baby Sable.
All of these tiny pistols were convenient, if of limited effectiveness, which is why Galand's small but more powerful velodog was so successful. The velodog charge was more powerful, longer and therefore easier to load, and burned cleaner than the .22short. It was almost as powerful as the .22long rifle just becoming popular in the States but still unknown in Europe.
By the turn of the 20th century, developments in the United States took a somewhat different turn. The velodog cartridge never caught on here, probably because the .22short was so popular, and because Stevens Company introduced the .22 long rifle at about the same time the velodog was introduced in Europe. The .22lr was slightly more powerful than the 5.5mm velodog. Some gun owners wanted a yet more powerful round and this led to the introduction of the .22 Balard extra long cartridge. In the end, the .22short and the .22lr have retained their popularity.
One early design was even smaller, the Little All Right Palm Pistol of 1876. Very small, it did fit into the palm but was a traditional revolver in how the pistol loaded and unloaded. The central pin running through the cylinder was removed and the cylinder removed for loading. The trigger, however sat on top of the barrel and when flipped up could be depressed by the index finger. Less than a thousand were manufactured and they are rare today. Chambered in .22short.
The Kolb Baby Hammerless was much more successful
The very first edition of this tiny pistol sold more than 50,000 copies which is one reason they are plentiful for collectors. The Baby Hammerless was heavily advertised as a fine all purpose self defense pistol, especially for women, who could, as the advertisement indicates, holster the gun in a special garter belt made by the Kolb company.
Kolb and Sedgely pistols are cute and once one gets used to their size, can be effective. The best treatment of these small revolvers is Frank M. Sellers, Baby Hammerless Revolvers, which details the various models. For our purposes, we can look at the models indicating the most significant changes.
The two major changes in the .22short revolvers concerned the construction of the hammer and firing pin and the method used for removing the cylinder for loading. Most Kolb Baby Hammerless pistols used a central shaft to hold the cylinder in place but how it locked into the gun varied. The first and by far the most common method was an adaptation taker from the Columbian Hammerless, the precursor to the rest. In this case, the central shaft can be removed once the lever in front of the cylinder is depressed. Conversely, the same lever locks the pin in place after reloading.
The first Kolb model, of 1910, has a different method. The locking pin is part of the central shaft itself.
Another variation consists of a central pin on a spring. Extending the pin unlocks the cylinder which can be removed. To make unloading more convenient, the central pin is attached to the cylinder. So, extending the pin and pushing to the side permits the entire cylinder unit to come out. This was probably more convenient.
The most convenient system was a break open system copied from Smith and Wesson. This is the easiest loading and unloading system of all. The previous methods were traditional and worked well enough but a break open system is a joy. I have shot the pistol below extensively and it is also the best Kolb pistol to hold.
In order to expand their market, Kolb/Sedgely introduced another Baby Hammerless similar to the above but which used .22lr. It should have been a great success but their earlier guns may have already exploited the market. The .22lr pistol is very rare.
The company also introduced a .32 caliber pistol and a large frame pistol for 8 cartridges of .22 short. Both models, the .32 below and the 8 shot .22short following, are rare today.
One reason the company continually updated their pistols was to encourage sales. Their problem was that the first model sold like gang busters and most users were satisfied with their guns. No doubt, subsequent buyers felt they were purchasing improved models.
Eventually, the Kolb went out of production after 1930 and this led to the importation of the Sable, discussed above, until then available only in Europe. Not surprisingly, the Sable sold well. J.L. Galef, the importer of the Sable, also imported small Beretta pistols.
In the end, the velodog was unable to compete with the Baby Browning, a semi-automatic hand gun using center fired 6,35 or .25acp cartridges. The 6,35 cartridge was not the challenge as many velodog revolvers used this cartridge. The Browning Baby offered the allure of a rapid firing semi-automatic action in a thin and small package.
Personally, for self protection, i would choose a revolver over a semi automatic pistol. Semi autos often jammed, stove piped or committed other failure to load or failure to eject 'infelicities'. In such instances, the gun owner would need to remove the magazine [another source of grief] extract the shell by hand, reload the gun. Moreover, the gun demanded being carried with the safety set so that the charged pistol did not go off in one's pocket. Or, if uncharged, one had to charge the gun before using. In actual use, one had to check the safety and pull back the slide before operating and hope everything worked. Some will a argue that these infelicities result from using the wrong brand or type of ammunition but most owners of semi-automatic pistols have no idea which type is better and which will not work at all. That is true, except for magazine malfunctions which were legion. Indeed, most pistols are rarely fired and most owners have little experience in shooting their guns, knowing if a magazine is faulty or whether they are employing the proper ammunition. This is a problem for owners of all types of handguns but especially so for semi-automatics.
What was this compared to a velodog revolver which was always ready for shooting, used no magazines, required no safety as the folding trigger made the pistol intrinsically safe, and could use the same 6,35 cartridge as a semi-automatic pistol. In rare instances when a cartridge failed to fire, one only need pull the trigger again, and there are no failures to load or failures to eject. Most casual pistol owners were far better served by easy to use, failure free velodog revolvers. But, new is always better and buyers found the allure--if not the actual use-- of rapid firing semi automatic weapon too attractive to pass up. One result was the great success of the Baby Browning and the overnight copies of the gun that soon appeared. Small semi-automatics appeared everywhere and soon almost every gun manufacturing company, especially in Belgium and Spain, was marketing their own version of the Baby. The market for tiny .25acp semi automatic pistols was very active until the last generation when lighter alloys and polycarbonite bodies permitted making much more higher powered guns in about the same size. Today it is possible to purchase the same size pistol chambered for .380 or even 9mm.
More than one critic has observed that the only reason more people do not shoot themselves regularly with semi-automatic weapons is that most puchased pistols are mostly stored unloaded, in bedroom closets where, in case of an emergency, the owner will have to check the magazine, check the safety and pull the slide, hopefully, in time. Perhaps this explains the continued popularity of the tiny revolvers such as the pre-war Mossberg Brownie and the post-war EIG Italian copy of the Brownie. These 22lr pistols were designed to look like semi-automatic weapons but were actually copies of the Sharp pistol above, with a four shot barrel with a rotating trigger.
The continuing desire for a small revolver also explains the popularity of the small, easily concealed stainless steel pistols made by North American Arms. This first pistol, chambered in .22lr, has a one inch barrel and is about 3.5 inches long. The second pistol, chambered in .22 magnum, far more powerful, is a modern version of the old Novo design where the pistol is housed in its own handle which is surely easily concealed. And the third, well, the third pistol is attached to a belt buckle with a small snap latch, and is always in the right place at the right time. The belt buckle gun was originally designed by Freedom Arms, a forerunner of North American Arms.
And yet, at the end of the road, the velodog returned and came back to life chambered in .22lr. The Casull company, maker of very expensive but beautifully made handguns introduced the Casull 2000 CA pistol which is, simply stated, a new velodog. It is a beautifully functioning handgun that is very rare because it was simply too expensive to produce. And one did not need to own a bicycle nor a dog.
Perhaps other .22lr velodogs will follow though it is unlikely given the high cost of manufacturing. But, is it possible to convert 5.5mm velodog pistols to .22 rimfire?
As velodog collectors know, 5.5mm velodog catridges are often difficult to find and are very expensive when available. Considering how nicely the velodog fits the hand, it is a shame that the pistols remain just collector's pieces and can not be used to discharge modern ammunition. Hunchback 6,35 models are still usable as 25acp ammunition remains readily available. Of course, only those pistols in the best condition, with tight and accurate cylinder timing should be considered for discharging any ammunition because modern ammunition is more powerful that that used before the first World War.
Is it possible to convert centerfire 5.5mm velodogs to .22 rimfire cartridges? The chamber will house rimfire 22 cartridges but can the hammer and firing pin be modified to discharge a rimfire charge? I have tried to fire rimfire cartridges only to find that it will not work.
First, can the pistol be modified? Until recently, i would have thought not, but I came across a pistol that had actually been successfully modified. I don't know who did the work, only that this gun appeared for sale on gunbrokers.
In this first image, the standard center fire firing pin has been shortened so that it can fire. It probably should have been removed by hacksaw or filed down completely if only for neatness. Above that, a new firing pin was bored into a hole, welded into place and bent so that the pin struck at the right angle and is long enough.
In this next picture we can see the new firing pin and how the chamber in the receiver has been elongated by being bored out or filed out so that the new rimfire firing pin can hit the top of the cartridge rim.
This last picture shows how the new firing pin fit into the receiver in order to hit the rim of the cartridge. Once finished, the length of the firing pin probably shorted slightly to strike properly.
Best Modern Ammunition to Use:
If we assume the pistol is in good shape, the hand moving properly to revolve the cylinder and the timing and lockup accurate, the choice of ammunition is critical. High velocity cartridges are too powerful for the metalwork and I would hesitate to use even standard velocity cartridges simply because the gun was not designed to handle that much power, as little as that might seem in modern pistols. Low velocity subsonic 22lr might work, and 22 short should work well. Aguila .22lr Colibri or Super Colibri would be perfect. This Aguila ammunition contains no gun powder and only a small amount of primer for initial ignition. Consequently, not only are Colibri and the slightly faster Super Colibri very quiet but very weak. They are accurate up to 20 meters and because they are a modern form of CB cap, they will not put too much pressure on the metal work or the barrel. They are a great deal of fun!!
One final consideration remains; is there adequate space at the rear of the cylinder for the new rimfire cartridges so that it rotates freely? Some velodogs had recessed chambers because 5.5mm velodog charges were rimmed despite being center fired. Modern rim cartridges may extend past this recessing and the cylinder may not have adequate room to more freely. Certainly, non recessed chambers would pose a greater challenge but it is possible the manufacturer left adequate room for cartridge rims.
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