harper's nock volley gun

I'd like to begin on a lighter note before we immerse ourselves in the technical aspects of the actual firing piece.

First, some information on the 7 barrel gun carried by Patrick Harper throughout the books and films of Sharpe. It was a very important part of the whole Sharpe picture, one of the most mentioned and beloved weapons from Sharpe. Bernard Cornwell doesn't bring the volley gun into Sharpe until Sharpe's Gold (the book) ....... and he also mentions it in Sharpe's Company - the paragraph below from Company gives a good description of the fearsome weapon ...

"(Harper) was loading his seven-barrelled gun, a weapon of extreme unorthodoxy. Each of the barrels was a half inch wide and all seven were fired by a single charge that punched out a spray of death. Only six hundred had been made by the gunsmith, Henry Nock, and delivered to the Royal Navy, but the massive recoil had smashed men's shoulders and the invention had been quietly discarded. The gunsmith would have been pleased to see the huge Irishman, one of the few men strong enough to handle the weapon, meticulously loading each twenty-inch barrel. Harper liked the weapon, it gave him a distinction similar to Sharpe's sword, and the gun had been a present from his Captain; purchased from a chandler in Lisbon"

Below see Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley) with the 7 barrelled Nock gun (on the left is Mike Fitzgerald, one of our members who happens to own the Baker rifle carried by Sean Bean (Richard Sharpe). (Click on image for larger photo).

Daragh with the Nock volley gun

Technical details on the Nock volley gun (information taken from The Encyclopaedia of Weaponry by Ian Hogg - Wellfleet Press/Quarto pub. London 1992)

Nock's Volley gun - 7 barrels brazed together with the outer 6 having their breeches plugged. The central barrel screwed on to a hollow spigot which formed the chamber and was connected to the vent. This chamber fired through smaller vents to ignite the charges in the outer barrels. At first, the barrels were all rifled but this led to loading difficulties and most were later made smooth bored. This improved the rate of fire but reduced range and accuracy.

The gun was made by James Wilson 1779 and named after Nock. Nock was contracted to manufacture the gun and 635 examples were sold to the Royal Navy. A flintlock mechanism fired through a vent that led to the central chamber. Firing cause dignition in the central chamber and resulting flash passed through and ignited the other 6 so all 7 fired more or less simultaneously. The gun was intended for the fighting tops of warships to fire down on the deck of the enemy vessel as it closed alongside. However recoil was so strong and the weapon so difficult to control that a smaller lighter version had to be produced. This made it shorter ranging but still effective as Admiral Howe's fleet showed in relief of Gibraltar in 1782. Nevertheless, it was still unpopular because of the danger of a ship's sails and rigging catching fire from the muzzle blast.

Overall length 37in, barrel length 20in, calibre 0.52in.

The SAS is very fortunate that the secretary owns the Nock gun used in the TV series - the armourers had two or three Nock guns on set, but only one of the guns actually fired, and that's the one owned by Chris Clarke. See below - 7 barrel Nock gun held by the author of Sharpe, Bernard Cornwell. (Click on image for a larger photo).

Bernard Cornwell with 7 barrel Nock gun

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