Stocking Model 1850 (Pepperbox)
Six-Shot Compact Pistol
The Stocking Pepperbox utilized a pack of six barrels rotated to meet the percussion cap action.
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The "pepperbox" gun was developed as a way to provide a repeat-fire function in a compact form. The gun also came to be known under the names of "pepper-pot" and "pepperbox", all related to the distinct shape of a kitchen pepper grinder dating back to the age of matchlock firearms. Pepperbox guns achieved a certainly level of fame during the period preceding the American Civil War (1861-1865) when their rise was noted as early as 1830. Such guns were essentially offshoots of traditional revolvers though, instead of a rotating cylinder containing the shot chambers, the barrels themselves were rotated to meet the action. Because of their popularity and ease of use/manufacture, many firearms producers all over the world took to designing and selling their own style of Pepperbox. Their design was no doubt helped by the arrival of the Industrial Age and the development of the percussion cap system of operation.
Stocking & Company was an American firm based in Worcester, Massachusetts and they, too, delved into the Pepperbox industry. A single-action form was made in which six barrels were rotated along a central point, each barrel aligning to meet the action. A trigger pull actuated the barrel's rotation through mechanical means while also enacting a spring-loaded hammer set over the mass of the pistol. Percussion caps were used at the end of each barrel assembly, these sat upon individual nipples, with the hammer falling on these caps in succession as the trigger was repeatedly pulled. The barrels were machined out of a single piece of metal for the required tolerances and the trigger unit sat under the body of the gun in a traditional fashion, protected some by a thin oblong ring. The handle was a curved section finely contoured with the weapon's profile and covered in wooden grips. An offered caliber was 32 and the barrels measured 4 inches long.
Pepperboxes like that offered by Stocking were intended from the outset to serve the civilian market as a self-defense measure. However, their usefulness went beyond this and many types were purchased by officers of military forces when possible - most often through private dealings as these weapons were not standard-issue guns. Pepperboxes continued in popularity through to the end of the 19th Century by which point the revolver was firmly entrenched as a trusty sidearm and the semi-automatic pistol was beginning to take form.