Pest control: The Black Powder solution

A reader sent this in to TFB when they stumbled across an odd patent for a type of “Vermin Control”, patented in 1882 by a certain James A Williams. It uses a lever that a rodent would feasibly step on and would be connected to a trigger, which would set it off. It specifically says the patent may also be used against burglars…

A represents a suitable board, from which rises the three standards B, upon which the revolver or pistol U is supported in position. Pivoted to the middle standard is the lever 1), and fastened in any suitable manner to the front end of this lever is the rod G, which extends backward and bears against the trigger of the fire-arm. Bearing upon the rear end of the lever D is a suitable spring, H, which will throw the front end of the lever D upward as soon as the lever is left free to move, and in throwing up the front end of the lever D the rod connected thereto is forced backward, so as to push back the trigger. Secured to the front end of the boardA is a suitable spring actuated treadle, I, the rear end of which forms a trigger to catch over the front end of the lever D. This treadle is first made to catch over the front end of the lever D, which sets the trap, and then the treadle is forced into-the animals hole or burrow. The animal, in corning out, steps upon the treadle and presses the treadle down, which releases the lever, when the spring immediately causes the lever to fly upward and the rod then forces back the trigger and causes the fire-arm to go off, killing the animal that is in front of it.

This invention may also be used in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached.

I am aware that burglar-alarms of various kinds have been used, and which have been connected to windows and doors in such a manner that the opening of the window or door causes a pressure upon a lever which discharges a tire-arm; but in no case have the parts been arranged and combined as here shown and described.


Now that’s a bad day to be a rat!

Much thanks to “C” for the tip!


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • Risky

    That sketch is pure art. Any idea where I can find a high resolution version?

  • Jeff Smith

    “What type of rodent was it?”

    “I’m….not really sure.”

    • SP mclaughlin

      The only good rodent is a dead rodent!

    • Cal S.


    • ” ‘Rodent’s of Unusual Size?’ I don’t think they exist.”

      • uisconfruzed

        ROUS, classic

      • Tassiebush


    • Jose

      …a “furrious democratus”, usually found near big cities…

    • Brad Ferguson

      There are 2 kinds of rats in the US, Norway rats and Roof rats. Norway can weigh as much as a 1lb. Those are the ones that like to make boroughs Roof rats are smaller and nimbler, and tend to nest in walls rather than the ground. Rats make themselves look bigger when startled by making the hairs on the sides of their bodies stick out.

      • barry soetoro

        your mistaken, the two rats are democrats and liberals. king rat is Obama, followed by Hillary-bill. and the whole N.Y. state political system

  • Tassiebush

    That’s significantly more awesome than mixing flour and cement!

  • abecido

    This isn’t a better mousetrap.

    • MR

      More of a low-capacity landmine.

  • ghost

    Rodent’s lives matter.

  • john huscio

    I’d guess you’d have as much luck walking through a field with a colt SAA just shooting them yourself..

  • Southpaw89

    “Honey I’m ho-BLAM!” “Oh sorry dear I already set the alarm…dear?”

  • UCSPanther

    The old “shotgun on a trip wire” trap…

  • UnluckyLuke

    This sure looks great. Beside disposing of rodents and burglars now you have the chance of collecting insurance if your house burns to the ground after igniting wallpaper or carpet with the muzzle blast from ye olde blackpowder colt. All the profits with just one tug of wire. A clever and ingenious man, that Mister Williams.

  • Fred Johnson

    So, that’s what people did with their old cap and ball guns after cartridge revolvers came out. No wonder original Colts cost so dang much these days with most of ’em rusted solid from being outdoors . . . waiting on little rats.

    lol 😀

  • Fred Johnson

    Ooooh. Tempting. 🙂

  • Brad Ferguson

    My Father in law was involved in pest control his entire life. Used to tell me this story, that I confirmed, thru my wife’s uncle. In the early 70’s they were called out to a nasty rat job, in a meat packing plant. It was obvious that no amount of bait was going to provide relief. So they came in at night both had a pump .22.
    They’d wait until the heard the rats running………Then they’d throw on the lights. Shoot 4 or 5 rats then turn the lights off. They went thru that process all night. They killed over 200 Norway Rats.