The quest for high-capactity firearms

A common misconception is that the desire for high capacity firearms is a relatively new phenomenon. This is far from the truth. Since the at least the mid 1800s designers had been experimenting with many novel ideas in an attempt to increase magazine capacity, mostly with little success.

Early next month, the Rock Island Auction Company will be auctioning off a collection of prototype arms which include some interesting “high-cap” guns.

Jarre Double Action Harmonica Pistol

The bullet chamber houses nine pinfire 38 cartridges. The action functions in both single and double action. There is lower trigger attached to the rear of the primary trigger which fits through a slot in the bottom of the trigger guard that when pulled back advances the chamber and cocks the hammer. To fire double action one simply uses the primary trigger in the traditional manner. Fitted

Estimated Price: $9,0000 – $14,000

French Guycot Chain Rifle

Manufactured circa 1878, this unusual and rare rifle features a chain housed in the frame and stock which holds 80 rounds of centerfire cartridges. The “endless chain” has carrying cups that hold the rounds. Once loaded the rifle can be fired as fast as the trigger can be pulled. The belt is revolved until a chamber (or cup) faces the barrel. At the same time a long firing pin is retracted. An inner barrel is drawn back through the heavy outer barrel until it covers the bullet end of the cartridge. When the long drag on the trigger end, the final pressure releases the needle like firing pin, which drives through a small opening in the base of the cup detonating the cartridge primer. The rifle fires a lead conical bullet which is hollowed out to accommodate the powder

Estimated Price: $6,500 – $9,500

Extremely Rare Meigs Sliding Guard Action Repeating Carbine

Patented by Captain Josiah Meigs in 1866, this carbine is fitted with a unique action which provided a level of firepower virtually unknown in the era, with a potential rate of fire of nearly 160 rounds per minute, as compared to the 200 rounds per minute of the Model 1861 Gatling Gun. Blade front and flip-up adjustable rear sights, with no visible makers marks. The buttstock of the arm consists of a buttplate and carved walnut cheekpiece fitted to the 50-round tube magazine, which contains a replaceable 5-track rotating frame with spacers for 10 rounds per track. These frames could be preloaded, cutting down reload times substantially. Mounted on a rail between a pair of mortised tracks is the trigger guard assembly, which has a checkered firing trigger and a smooth long release trigger, and is reciprocated back and forth to rotate the magazine frame and move the breechblock, which extends up out of the frame to eject spent cartridges, Full length forearm with raised decorative carving and cord wrap, leaf pattern raised carving on the cheekpiece and nickel finished brass buttplate.

This design resembles the helical-feed magazine design used by the Calico guns and its clones that were designed over 100 years later!

Calico M960. Photo from Wikipedia

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matt Groom

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  • Michael Hawkins

    You should add the Girandoni Air Rifle to that lineup, get that “first” date back to 1780!

  • Clodboy

    Another truly bizarre 19th century design: The Porter Revolving Turret Rifle.

    A lever-actuated revolving chamber rifle employing a unique vertically mounted cylinder with 9 radially oriented chambers.

    It never really caught on, perhaps because of the tiny flaw that some of those chambers always pointed towards the shooter. 😉

  • El Duderino
  • El Duderino

    And I’m trying to not make any “high capac-tity” jokes…

  • Some immaculate specimens of firearm history! RIA have some exquisite firearms on sale at every one of their auctions.

  • Greetings from Texas,
    I have seen a photo of the Jarre Double Action Harmonica Pistol but it was not identified. The other two were new to me. At times this blog can be humbling.

  • Mr. Tolliver

    Could anyone give me any further details on that chain rifle? I would like to see some diagrams, if any exist.

  • Dave

    Once on gunbroker, I recall seeing a .25 caliber revolver from the turn of the century.( 19 to 20th of course) It was an unusual beast with two barrels, an oversized cylinder with two concentric circles worth of chambers, a hammer with two firing pins. The thing had a 20 round capacity.

    The old Evans lever action rifle from the old west period held 28 shots of .44 rimfire.

    The popular civil war era Lemat pistol held nine shots of .42 caliber, along with a one shot shotgun in the center cylinder area

    Those are just a few examples of the top of my head. The quest for more ammo capacity is an old one.

  • Tam

    See the Evans repeating rifle to see where Calico got their idea.

    Evans rifles can occasionally be found at gun shows for <$1000…

    • Tam, ah, thanks for the link. That woudl be a hell of a lot of fun to shoot if it was loaded with a common modern caliber 🙂

  • Rick

    Take a look at the volley gun:

    Those (as the article says) predate the 19th century by a long ways . . . showing that one of the first improvements on the gun that users tried to perfect was multi-shots and rapid fire.

    Of course, as long as a round consisted of a ball and loose powder ignited by an external spark, they weren’t very practical . . . the self-contained cartridge changed that.

  • John

    These are some truly awesome designs. I don’t remember what it was called, but I once saw a picture of a 20 shot revolver in .32 caliber (I think it was .32) I will try to find a picture…

  • Keith

    There were 2 Meigs at the 2010 Baltimore antique firearm show. One was full engraved and Price on Request – I didn’t even bother asking. The other was the standard version as shown in the above photo – asking price $15,500.

  • Spiff

    And one must not forget the grandfather of them all…the 1718 Puckle gun, with it’s capability of shooting “square” bullets against Turks and “round” bullets against Christians!!