More info at http://www.gunhistoryindia.com/
Guns, Influence, and Power
Reviewed by: Timothy May, Department of History, North Georgia College and State University.
Published by: H-War (August, 2006)
There is no question that the advent of gunpowder weapons permanently changed the course of warfare, but exactly how this happened varies from region to region. Often in the public’s mind, the impact of firearms is relegated to Europe and its origins in China; somehow everything in between is overlooked. Thus, Iqtidar Alam Khan’s volume, Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India will hopefully begin to fill that void.
Khan’s work is important for two reasons. First, it traces the origins and influence of gunpowder weapons in India as a regional history rather than as an ancillary to a larger work. The author critically examines when firearms appeared in India, and then what other influences–whether local or foreign–played in the development of the weapons. Moreover, he discusses their impact, not only on the medieval state, but on society as a whole. Second, Khan’s work serves as a model for other regional studies on firearms as well as the distribution of other forms of technology or goods.
Chapter 1 of Gunpowder and Firearms discusses the diffusion of firearms into the subcontinent by focusing on the role of the Mongols as agents of transmission. Although the author notes that the Chinese had been using gunpowder weapons before the Mongols arrived on the scene, it is not until the end of the thirteenth century that firearms of any sort, particularly rockets, appear in the Sultanate of Delhi or in regional literary references. While he places the greatest emphasis on the Mongols as the agents of technological transmission, Khan does not rule out other sources such as a Himalayan or sea route. Regardless of their origin, knowledge and use of these weapons quickly spread.
Chapters 2 through 4 focus on the use of artillery from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Although cannons became somewhat common throughout India, the Mughals used them the most effectively, thus giving rise to one of the popularly called Gunpowder Empires (along with the Ottomans and Safavids). Yet, these three chapters emphasize one key point. As in late medieval Europe, the expense of cannons meant that few among the nobility besides the ruler possessed the resources to purchase them. Fortress walls gave little shelter against cannons and the nobility quickly learned to acquiesce to the authority of the ruler.
Although similar situations appeared among some of the regional Indian states, the rise of the Mughals brings this phenomenon into better focus. Chapter 3 continues to deal with centralization of power, but in the context of the arrival of not only the Mughals, but also the Portuguese with their European metallurgical and artillery advances. From the Portuguese, the Mughals and others learned how to make cannons from wrought iron, thus reducing the cost of the weapon, while at the same time improving it. The Mughals, who learned from Ottoman advisors, quickly grasped the importance of light artillery as it became less expensive and more easily manufactured. While magnificent in siege warfare, the lack of maneuverability of heavy cannon left it virtually useless on the battlefield.
Chapter 4 discusses the dominance of the Mughals. By the time of Akbar, heavy mortars and cannons were rarely used in the Mughal military. Light cannons that could be used on the battlefield were the mainstay of the Mughal artillery corps, including the shaturnal, similar to swivel guns, but carried on the backs of camels and even in the howdahs of elephants. As this chapter ties into the arrival of the British East India Company, Khan continues to discuss technological developments, or the lack thereof.
In addition to artillery, handheld firearms also became ubiquitous throughout the Mughal Empire. Chapter 5 examines the nature and development of handguns in the Mughal Empire. In addition to local factors, Khan includes a good discussion of Western influences, which in this instance includes the Ottoman Empire. Western influences included new technologies in firearms manufacture. However, not all of these became widespread. As a result, stagnation occurred particularly in terms of standard weapons. The preferred weapon became the matchlock, even after other technologies surpassed it. Why the matchlock remained the weapon of choice ties into chapter 6, which discusses the role of the matchlock musket in the centralization of Mughal authority.
Mughals also used musketeers to maintain their authority. Babur began his career with a scant musket bearing force of just over a hundred men, but by the time of Akbar, over 35,000 musketeers existed in the Mughal military. One reason for this was that, despite the cost of their weapon, the musketeers were actually less expensive than garrisoning cavalry forces. The expense of feeding the man and his horse grossly exceeded that of a musketeer. Thus, a small but trained force of musket wielding troops allowed the Mughals to assert their authority in even the most remote provinces. This was also possible as, for several decades, the nobility were forbidden to recruit their own forces of musketeers. At the same time, this mass force of troops with firearms undermined the Mughals. As the matchlock became ubiquitous, its cost dropped, but it also was deemed very reliable by those using it. Thus, even when other technologies came into the region, like flintlock muskets, the Mughals failed to adopt them due to economic reasons as well as the matchlock’s popularity.
While firearms aided the process of centralization, it also played a role in undermining the Mughal’s authority. Because of the affordability of matchlocks and the relative simplicity in gaining expertise with them, one did not have to train for years to be a warrior. Ultimately this let to the diffusion of firearms into the general populace and resistance to central authority. Beginning in the late-sixteenth century, not only political rebels, but even peasants opposed to tax collection acquired firearms. As domestic tensions grew, the widespread use and manufacture of matchlock muskets played a role in the breakdown of central authority, and the Mughals, despite several innovative attempts, failed to halt the eventual Balkanization of their empire. Khan’s work is impressive and is the result of twenty years of research that ranged over four hundred years of history. Utilizing Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, and English primary sources and supplemented by a wide array of secondary works, Iqtidar Khan has produced an excellent work. The four appendices are useful supplements dealing with the use of firearms by the Mongols, the analysis of terminology in a couple primary sources, and the origins of the Purbias, who were gunners for a few Indian states in the 1500s. The volume also contains almost thirty illustrations of firearms and their use. These dramatically illustrate Khan’s points as well as show the reader the variances between the weapons.
Yet, the book is not without faults. While Gunpowder and Firearms is an insightful and well-argued work, the author exaggerates the Mongols’ use of gunpowder. While it is true that the Mongols never met a weapon they did not find a use for, there is no concrete evidence that the Mongols used gunpowder weapons on a regular basis outside of China. Indeed, the author recognizes this and notes that his claims are based on Persian terms which could be interpreted as firearms. Unfortunately, while many of these terms such as manjaniq are used to refer to cannons, during the medieval period manjaniq meant a mangonel. It is plausible that in later periods, the Mongols did make more extensive use of gunpowder weapons, but in period of the conquests (1206-60), there is inadequate evidence to support Khan’s assertion.
One other minor criticism is the exclusion of Kenneth Chase’s Firearms: A Global History to 1700 (2003). I suspect that, given their publication dates, Chase’s and Khan’s books crossed paths. Although Chase takes a global perspective, the authors reach similar conclusions. Nonetheless, Gunpowder and Firearms will appeal not only to historians of India, but also anyone interested in the development of weapons and military systems or the creation of states. In summary, not only is Iqtidar Alam Khan’s work an impressive study on the diffusion of firearms in India, it will also serve as a model for others pursuing similar research on the spread of technology or goods on a regional basis.
- “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.” — Mahatma Gandhi (An Autobiography OR The story of my experiments with truth, by M.K. Gandhi, p.238)
- “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” — The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate
- “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.” — Adolf Hitler (H.R. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talks 1941-1944)
The Indian Mind / psyche has been vaccum for the Weapons.
The proof lies in the History of the gunners of various kings emperors and leaders being outsourced from either Turkey / European nations.
the roots of India’s anti-gun legislation
- After the 1857 upraising the british were busy putting in place measures to ensure that the events of 1857 were never repeated. Lord Lytton as Viceroy (1874 -1880), brought into existence the Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878)
- Aftre 12 years of Indian independence the Arms Act, 1959 was enacted and later supplemented by the Arms Rules, 1962.
- In the mid to late 1980s, the Government, citing domestic insurgency as the reason, put a complete stop to all small arms imports.
- Indian Arms Act 1959 (on the same lines “distrust for the armed citizenry)
- Indian Arms Rules 1962 (on the same lines “distrust for the armed citizenry)
This piece of article is from the Indian Express and shows the importance of the gunners in the Armies the oldest piece of the armed forces.
The largest and most elite Indian Army regiment — the Regiment of Artillery — celebrates its 179th raising day tomorrow. It was on September 28, 1827, that it was Indianised with the raising of the 5 Bombay Mountain Battery. This unit has an unbroken record of service since then and presently forms a part of the 57 Field Regiment. It has the glory of being conferred with 11 honour titles to date. Other units of that vintage include the 1 Kohat, 2 Derajat and 4 Hazara Mountain Batteries.Babur is credited with being the first to use artillery in India, in the first Battle of Panipat (1526). Then, artillery was used in wars throughout the Mughal period and later during the reign of the Marathas under Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the East India Company.‘Gunners’ are a breed of professional warriors. The Regiment of Artillery has a history of dauntless grit and selfless sacrifice. Its valour during the military operations of 1948, 1962, 1965 and 1971 is much celebrated. Names like Dinshaw Mistri at Naushera (J&K, 1948); 2/Lt Goswami and his TA Gurdip Singh VrC, of 13 field Regiment, at Chushul (Ladakh, 1962); Major S.K. Mathur at Kanjarkot (Kutch, 1965) and Brigadier Tom Pandey (Bangladesh, ’71), are still remembered. They were all awarded the Maha Vir Chakras for their gallantry and devotion to duty.Talking about the gunner fraternity, the French go ga-ga about their gunner — General Napoleon — even today. The British still adore their master gunners, Lord Alanbrooke and Air Defence C-in-C, General Sir Freddie Pile, of 1939-45 vintage. The Indian gunners, too, hold their institutions and legends in high regard. And why not, seeing that it was this regiment that has given the nation four army chiefs?The other half of this revered institution is The School of Artillery, Deolali. It is the Malgudi of gunners. Located along with it is the Artillery Training Centre and its welfare wing, the Artillery Association, at Nasik Road Camp. There is another training centre at Hyderabad. Together they have become the temples of learning, training, bonding and caring.The gunner’s motto — ‘Sarvatra: Izzat-O-Iqbal’ (everywhere with honour and glory) — is a reflection of their professional ethos and values. Their colours are their guns. In its 178th year, this formidable part of the Indian Army is alive and ticking.September 28 will be marked by prayers, mess parties and barakhanas where all ranks join in. The gunners will pay their respect to their colours and heroes — both living and dead. It will also be a time for them to rededicate themselves to the high traditions and professional values of their distinguished forbears.
The writer is a member of the Academic Council of Bangalore University
13 Oct 2006, 0231 hrs IST, TNN
MUMBAI: The British may have left us six decades ago but fascinating traces of empire continue to pop up in unexpected places. On Tuesday, when
an unclaimed locker at the State Bank of India’s head office at Fort was finally opened, the authorities found a gun and a small pile of ammo: an automatic Mauser pistol and five magazines with 261 cartridges.
The locker, registered in the name of Lt A B Greenwood, also had a copy of The Times of India dated September 14, 1923.
Brijesh Singh, deputy commissioner of police (zone-I), said on Wednesday that the bank came across the little haul when it was checking on its unclaimed lockers. On January 27 this year, two carbines and 12 grenades, believed to have been stashed away by Khalistani terrorists, were found in a locker at the SBI’s Bandra branch. The SBI was earlier known as the Imperial Bank. The police believe that the Mauser pistol and the cartridges were placed in safe-keeping before Independence. Seven big cartridges, inscribed with ‘K-10 VIII’, a rod to clean the barrel, a wooden box, some documents and a holster were also in the locker. The Times of India copy has a prominent advertisement from Richardson & Cruddas, the 1858 engineering firm whose nameplate still dominates the factory shed at Byculla. It was nationalised in 1972.
After the general manager of the bank, Tarachand Walve, informed the MRA Marg police about the find, a team of policemen arrived on Tuesday morning to take possession of the goods.
From the documents available DCP Brijesh Singh provided additional details: ‘‘There was a letter from the deputy post master general to Greenwood acknowledging receipt of the two packets found in the locker. There was also a piece of paper which stated that the automatic pistol had been custom made for a Rajah (whose name is not mentioned) and that it cost Rs 300.
“The cartridges cost Rs 200, according to another receipt. The receipt also mentioned that the pistol was a present given to Greenwood,” Singh added.
Unfortunately, there are no personal papers to give us a lead to learning more about Greenwood’s identity or his address. But given that the weapon has lain peacefully in the locker for 83 years, the police have ruled out a possible conspiracy. The ISI has not been blamed.
From Dixie Gun Works Blackpowder Annual
Source: Royal engineers canada
After considerable testing, they settled on an arm of the French Minie system. This practicle muzzle-loader employed a hollow-based sub-caliber conical bullet that a soldier could ram down the barrel easily, which, when the gun was fired, would be expanded into the rifling by the force of the explosion.
The first British issue Mini rifle was the .702 caliber Pattern of 1851. Externally it resembled the older smoothbores, with the exception that it mounted a sophisticated graduated rear sight rather than the customary non-adjustable notch. This arm was issued to selected troops in the Crimea, where it received almost instant acclaim.
Swiss smallbore experiments convinced the Select Arms Committee that a reduction in caliber would provide greater range, better accuracy and an advantage in logistics. Exhaustive research and redesigning resulted in one of the finest arms of the age, the .577 caliber Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket. The gun was sleeker and lighter than its forebearers and, for the first time in an English military arm, had a barrell that was secured to the stock by bands rather than pins or wedges. With its brass furniture, browned barrell, case-hardened lock and oiled walnut stock, it was indeed a handsome piece.
Though tests showed that ranges of 900 yards were not excessive for the riflr, it was agreed that the P-53 Enfield did its best work at distances between 50 and 300 yards.
The cartridges for the P-53 consisted of a heavy paper tube containing 2 1/2 drams (68 grains) of musket powder and a 530-grain, pure lead “Pritchett” type bullet which had a boxwood plug in its hollow base to improve expansion. As the bullet incorporated no annular grease rings like the French and American Minies, it was wrapped with a strip of greased paper to facilitate loading. Then cartridge itself was covered with a thin mixture of beeswax and mutton tallow for waterproofing.
To load his rifle, the soldier first bit off the rear of the cartridge and poured the powder down the barrel. He then inverted the tube (the projectile was palced in the cartridge base up), pushed the end portion into the muzzle to the approximate depth of the bullet and tore off the remaining paper. The bullet could then be easily rammed on top of the charge.
P-53 Enfields saw limited used during the Crimean War, and their marked superiority over the older muskets, and even the P-51s, caused them to be in great demand. The War Department and East India Company set about equipping all their troops with versions of the P-53 rifle musket, and by early 1857 the arm was being carried in India by the regular British regiments hired out to the Company, as well as many sepoys (native troops).
At first the rifles were well received by the sepoys, but sooner a rumor was spread that the cartridges were greased with pig’s or cow’s fat. The former was regarded by the Muslims as unclean, and the latter by the Hindus as sacred. To the native troops this was just another plot by the Feringhees to force them to renounce their traditional religions.
Fears and rejection of the cartridge began to spread. Officers noticing the unrest amongst the sepoys suggested that the drills be revised to allow the men to tear off the base of the cartridge with their fingers, or to allow the troops to grease their own cartridges. These reasonable suggestions, however, had come too late.
During a parade on February 27, 1857, the sepoys of the 19th Native Infantry refused to accept their issue of cartridges. Their commander, Colonel Mitchell, rushed to the parade ground and threatened to ship the troops to Burma. The soldiers became restive and Colonel Mitchell backed down, fearing an open revolt. He allowed the men to retain their arms and return to duty while he decided what to do. On March 23 the 19th Infantry was marched some 90 miles to the south to Barrackpore where it was ignominiously disbanded.
Three days later another incident occured which brought the situation rapidly to a head. A Sepoy named Mangal Pande had run amok during a parade and cut down two British officers. He harangued the troops to join him and kill all the British, while surprised officers looked on aghast. The commander at Barrackpore, General John Hearsey, rushed to the scene and was warned by one of the officers, “Have a care–his musket is loaded!” Hearsey continued undaunted. “Damn his musket, ” he replied. “If I fall, rush in and put him to death somehow.”
The frightened sepoy turned the rifle on himself, but only sustained a minor wound. He was captured, tried and hanged, but his name became a rallying cry for the mutineers, and “Pandy” a term of contempt the British heaped on all native troops.
The Europeans soldiers were out-numbered some eight to one by the Indians, and it was decided that as many Crown troops as possible be swiftly brought to India–a decision that merely fanned the embers of the rebellion.
Events soon speeded up, and on May 10, in Meerut, 85 sowars (native troopers) of the 3rd Light Cavalry who had refused to take the Enfield cartridges were sentenced to deportation, publicly stripped of their uniforms and medals, and imprisoned. This humiliation and harsh punishment proved to be the final straw and Indian soldiers and civilians rebelled. After releasing the prisoners, they swarmed to the European bungalows where they committed unspeakable depredations.
Sepoys ransacked houses for weapons and valuables, killed the inhabitants, then burned the structures to the ground. Despite numerous warnings the British were caught completely off guard, and by the time they were able to organize a defense. Meerut was in ruins. The sepoys headed toward Delhi some 40 miles away, and when they arrived the old Emperor received them cooly, although they were hailed by other rebels as liberators. The native troops within the city rose and by May 12, Delhi itself had become a hellish scene of carnage. The rebellion had begun in earnest.
According to General G. F. McMunn, in his book The Armies of India, “The mutinous regiments, under command of their native officers, marched to Delhi, to Lucknow, or to Cawnpore, with their British colours flying, wearing British war medals, with their bands playing British airs. The British on the ridge before Delhi could often hear the mutineer bands playing the airs their officers had taught them, before the Emperor’s palace. The anomalies of the mutiny were many. In some regiments the officers were murdered with every possible atrocity. In others great pains were taken to conduct them within reach of a place of safety. One day the bulk of the regiment or the older native officers, with tears in their eyes, would protest their loyalty to their colonel and comrade of fifty years. The next morning he and his officers would be dead in the rising sun.”
Military arms found in India during the time of the Mutiny were of two basic types: regular British service patterns carried by Crown troops, and weapons ordered from contractors by the East India Company to equip its own Army.
For the most part, the arms used by the East India Company kept pace with those used by the Regular Army. This had two distinct advantages. First, the Company was able to take advantage of the research and design work done by the Board of Ordnance, and secondly it was able to place orders with the very same contractors who were furnishing arms to Her Majesty’s forces.
Generally, Company guns were of the same style as those of the British Government. Often, however, subtle differences, such as a slightly modified trigger guard or ramrod would be encountered. The lock markings were quite different: Government locks would be engraved (later stamped) with a crown surmounting the initials “GR” Georgius Rex for King George III) or “VR” (Victoria Regina for Queen Victoria), the date of manufacture, and the name of the contractor or the word “TOWER” for Tower of London Armouries where the gun would have been assembled. The P-53s that were made at the Royal Small Arms Factory bore the name “ENFIELD”. Company lock-plates featured either a quartered heart containing the letters “VEIC” (United East India Company), a rampant lion holding a crown, or simply the contractor’s name.
Too, many richer Indian princes had their own private armies, whose arsenals were stocked with everything from the latest British and European military weapons to fine sporting arms, surplus East India Company flintlock muskets, and rifles and domestic matchlocks.
The Crown troops for the most part were equiped with the new Enfields, as were a goodly number of mutineers. Once the rebellion had begun, the sepoys seemed to forget their objections to the “accursed cartridge” and gleefully turned them on their former masters.
While undoubtedly the most common model of the P-53 in service was the 39-inch-barreled infantry rifle, two variations–the 33-inch-barreled P-56 Short Rifle and 30-ich-barreled Artillery Carbine–were also available in some quantity. In fact, all the men of the 60th Rifle Regiment, who were stationed at Meerut at the time of the uprising, were armed with Short Rifles.
The main differences among the three arms, besides barrel length, were the rear sights and bayonets. While the infantry rifle took a standard triangular bayonet, the Short Rifle and Artillery Carbine were both fitted with a long, leather-handled, wavy-bladed “yataghan” style sword bayonet designed to offset the guns’ reduced lengths.
Many Company troops still carried the older .753-caliber Pattern 1842 percussion smoothbores, and arsenals were well stocked with India Pattern and New Land Pattern Brown Bess Flintlocks. Aside from their ignition systems these three arms resembled each other quite a bit. They all featured more or less ornate brass furniture, full-length walnut stocks, and pinned barrels.
The .75-caliber India Pattern Bess had been introduced in the late 18th century. It was simplified and streamlined in 1802 and rechristened the “New Land Pattern.” When the decision was made in the early 1830s to switch to percussion ignition, the New Land models were at first converted to that system, and then, following a disastrous fire in the Tower of London where a great many of these muskets were destroyed, work was started on the manufacture of the P-42.
This last general-issue smoothbore musket was similar to its flintlock ancestors, although it incorporated simplified brasswork and a new-model bayonet catch located at the forend cap. Earlier Brown Bess bayonets simply slipped over a stud at the muzzle and, with the exception of some East India Company models, they employed no catch or retaining spring.
Two other percussion smoothbores that found favor in India were the .753-caliber Sappers and Miners Carbine and Artillery Carbine. They both looked a great deal like the P-42 Musket and, in fact, used the same locks and furniture. Their barrels. however measured only 30 inches, and this extra bit of handiness caused them to be quite popular with the sepoys. The Sappers and Miners Carbine, which was originally intended for issue only to company pioneers, was fitted for a long straight sword bayonet (early ones were saw-toothed) with a socket similar to that found on the P-42 musket bayonet. The artillery carbine mounted the standard triangular blade.
The 26-inch-barreled .733-caliber “Victoria” cavalry carbine, while never particularly popular with the regulars because of its excessive recoil, was also used on both sides during the Mutiny. It resembled its infantry cousins, but incorporated a “Paget” swivel ramrod that made the arm easier for the trooper to load on horseback.
While none of these smoothbores had the long-range accuracy of the modern P-53s, they were deadly at 50 yards, could be loaded fairly rapidly and, like all British military arms, were well made and serviceable.
Prior to the decision to equip all troops with rifles, the British Army and East India Company formed special rifle units which were at first armed with flintlock Baker rifles, and later with percussion Brunswicks.
The Baker had first come into service during the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars and had served with distinction on the Peninsula Campaign and in America. It was later issued worldwide, and continued in regular service for almost 40 years. The design of this sturdy weapon hearkened back to its Germanic Jager forebears. Its .625 barrel was rifled with seven grooves, and featured a bar at the muzzle to which a brass-hilted, 17-inch-bladed sword bayonet could be affixed. The Baker had all-brass furniture, including a buttbox on the right side of the stock where a soldier could carry tools or spare patches. It was loaded with loose powder and a patched ball in the manner of the American and German arms it emulated, although the soldiers were issued paper cartridges so the rifle could be fired rapildy with “running ball,” should the need arise.
In 1837 the Baker rifle was replaced with the Brunswick. While this percussions cap rifle resembled its flintlock ancestor externally, the rifling system was totally different. The brunswick employed a.704 belted ball which fit mechanically into two deep spiral grooves in the barrel.
Brunswick bullets were issued to the troops sewn into greased calico patches. Powder was contained in separate packets. Like the Baker, musket type cartridges were given to the soldiers for emergency use. The Brunswick took a wide-bladed sword bayonet, somewhat similar to that of the Baker.
Both Bakers and Brunswicks were on hand in some numbers during the mutiny, though it is likely they saw more use with the sepoys than with the English. The Bakers were old and in questionable condition, and because of their heavy recoil and indifferent accuracy, the Brunswicks had never been particularly popular with British riflemen.
European civilians rapidly joined existing Crown or Company regiments and some formed their own irregular cavalry or infantry units. A good number of these clerks-turned-warrior carried high-quality sporting rifles or shotguns brought from home, although when available, they would opt for military muskets or carbines.
Mutineers were known to brandish matchlocks, but they too preferred the modern percussion arms. Many Indian princes (and at least one princess–the Rani of Jhansi) even rode to battle wearing traditional gold- and silver-ornamented Indo-Persian helmets, breastplates and chain mail.
Handguns were widely used during the Mutiny, and we find many references to them in British dispatches, letters, and reminiscences.
Colt revolvers were well known to the British. In 1851 Samuel Colt had exhibited his wares at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, and had made repeated attempts to interest the Board of Ordnance in adopting them for the military.
Large .44 caliber 1st, 2nd and 3rd Model Dragoons, as well as the widely popular .36 caliber 1851 Navy revolver, were imported into England and were eagerly snapped up by officers and civilians headed for the Crimea, Africa, India and any number of other colonial outposts throughout the world. The initial acceptance was so good that Colt was promoted to open a London factory in 1853.
The Colt’s main rival in England was the self-cocking (double-action) five-shooter of Robert Adams. Adams too had exibited his Deane, Adams and Deane revolver at the Crystal Palace and, like Colt, was an aggressive entrepreneur who was anxious to secure lucrative government contracts.
Trials by a select small-arms committee showed that the singel-action Colt navy had greater long-range accuracy than the Adams, but that the Adams was more powerful (both .442 and .50-caliber versions were available), and that it could be discharged much more rapidly than the Colt–two features that were favored by British officers. The Adams’main drawback was that it could not be fired single action.
In 1855, however, Adams incorporated the improvement of F. B. E. Beaumont, which enabled the gun to be thumb-cocked. This sounded the death knell for the Colt Navy, as reports of its lack of power began to filter back from the Crimea and, later, India.
A typical damning report of the ’51 Colt’s lack of stopping power against the sepoys was related, second hand, by Lieutenant Colonel G. V. Fosbery.
“An officer, who especially prided himself in his pistol-shooting, was attacked by a stalwart mutineer armed with a heavy sword. The officer, unfortunately for himself, carried a Colt’s Navy pistol of small caliber and fired a sharp-pointed bullet of sixty to the pound and a heavy charge of powder, its range being 600 yards, as I have frequently proved. This he proceeded to empty into the sepoy as soon as he advanced, but, having done so, he waited just one second too long to see the effect of his shooting, and was cloven to the teeth by his antagonist, who then dropped down and died beside him. My informant, who witnessed the affair, told me that five out of the six bullets had struck the sepoy close together in the chest, and all had passed through him and out of the back.”
The Board of Ordnance did favor Colt with some orders for the Royak Navy, but they eventually chose the Beaumont-Adams for general adoption by the Army. This decision, coupled with the public’s flagging enthusiasm for his wares, caused Colt to close the London factory after only 4 years of operation. Even though the Colt Dragoon revolvers were every bit as powerful as the Adams, their finish was not as good, and they were half again as large. For want of other arms, Dragoons and Navies were used in the Mutiny, though officers discarded them for more “modern” weapons as soon as they had the chance. Because of this, Deane, Adams and Deane .442 and .50-caliber revolvers and Beaumont Adams .442s seem to have been the most favored, if not most widely used, handguns during the Mutiny.
Other handguns used during the rebellion included a potpourri of English pepperboxes, transition revolvers, double-barreled greatcoat and holster pistols, and
military horse pistols. In the latter category, two particular arms saw some action in India–the Pattern 1842 Lancer’s Pistol and the East India Company pistol.
The single-shot P-42 Lancer’s Pistol was, as its name implied, adopted as a sidearm for lancers who did not carry carbines, and for cavalry troop sergeants. It was little more than a scaled-down version of the P-42 musket, and its poor balance and awkward hold, abetted by a 9-inch .75- caliber barrel, caused it to be “lost” by the men at earliest opportunity. It featured the usual P-42 brass furniture and a Paget swivel ramrod.
The East India Company Pistol, while maintaining the same general dimensions, caliber and ramrod as its Regular Army cohort, was somewhat better designed. It’s grip was not as severe as the P-42’s and the brass furniture was much hardier. Also, a lanyard ring was attached to the butt.
Crown troops were eventually sent to Dehli and finally laid siege to the sity–a siege that would provide severe hardships for both the Europeans and the mutineers. Rations became short, and disease broke out. Ammunition became so low that the British would pay natives to retrieve cannon balls after they had been fired. Finally, on September 14, 1857, Dehli was stormed by a mixed force under Brigadier General John Nicholson, and the city was reoccupied.
Other part of India, notably Cawnpore and Lucknow, both about 250 miles south of Dehli, were the scenes of fierce fighting and horrible carnage. However, by mid April, 1859, English forces had the situation pretty much under control.
The British repaid the sepoy’s cruelty in kind, and in retribution committed some of the worst rapacity of the conflict. Captured mutineers were shot or hung out of had. One favorite method of execution involved tying a prisoner over the muzzle of a cannon then firing the piece [a method of execution learned from the Indians]. The results were vividly described by an eye witness at Lucknow.
“It was a horrid sight that met the eye; a regular shower of human fragments–of heads, arms and legs–appeared in the air whirling through the smoke; and when that cleared away, those fragments lying on the ground–fragments of Hindoos and of Mussulmans mixed together–were all that remained of those ten mutineers . . .
Perfect callouseness was depicted on every European face; a look of grim satisfaction could even be seen in the countenances of the gunners serving the guns. But far different was the effect on the native portion of the spectators. Their black faces grew ghastly pale, as they gazed breathlessly at the awful spectacle. You must know that this is nearly the only form in which death has any terror for a native. If he is hanged or shot, he knows that his friends or relatives will be allowed to claim his body, and will give him the funeral rites required by his religion; if a Hindoo, that his body will be burned with all due ceremonies; and if a Mussulman, that his remains will be decently interred, as directed in the Koran. But if sentenced to death in this form, he knows that his body will be blown into a thousand pieces, and that it will be altogether impossible for his relatives, however devoted to him, to be sure of picking up all the fragments of his own particular body; and the thought that perhaps a limb of some one of a different religion to himself might possibly be burned or buried with the remainder of his body is agony to him.”
Fears brought about by the Mutiny caused the British Government to transfer control of the country from the East India Company to the Crown.
The Company’s white troops were disbanded, and in the future the only European soldiers to serve in India would be those of the Regular Army. It was decided that the proportion of native to British troops would never be more than two to one, and that Indians would not be allowed to man artillery.
The Government also decreed that small arms given to natives would be of lesser quality than those used by Crown regiments. Muskets and carbines externally resembling the P-53 series, but smoothbore, were included in early issue.
In 1876 Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India. However, the hate and mistrust engendered by the Mutiny would eventually cause the brightest stone in the Crown Imperial to fade in the eyes of both the Indians and the victorious British.
February 24, 2007
On a recent visit to Munger, a small town in Bihar, my cabbie, speaking in a thick Bihari accent, decided to play guide, “Munger has one of the biggest gun factories in India, and guns are easily available here,” he pointed out matter-of-factly.
But forget Munger, what about the rest of the country? If one has to buy a licensed firearm, what are the choices and what are the prices? While a majority of arms dealers are tightlipped about the subject, there are a few who are more willing to divulge information.
Shyam Sodhi, owner of Delhi Arms and Armoury, feels, “It is a floundering business which has suffered a lot in the last 10 years or so.”
Sixty-year-old Sodhi, who has been running his shop since 1966, admits that there are months when he doesn’t sell a single weapon and other times when he sells four-five of them. “The most popular weapons these days are revolvers and shotguns.”
But since import of weapons was stopped almost two decades back, the guns in his shops keep doing the rounds. “We have old guns and sometimes people even leave weapons with us, after the owner has died, for safe custody,” he says.
Sodhi’s shop houses everything from the weapon world including revolvers like Beretta, Walther and Smith, Browning (these are imported), to rifles and shot guns. The business, however, faces a massive lull.
Shabbir Bandookwala, proprietor of India Arms in Mumbai’s Crawford Market, feels that most people who buy guns these days, buy them for reasons of security.
He bemoans the strict rules and regulations that govern the procurement of weapons. “There was a time when we used to have frequent visitors looking for hunting rifles, but these days we only manage to sell shotguns and revolvers.” The import of guns, he informs, was prohibited by the Indian government almost two decades back, in 1986.
But still, these imported weapons cost quite a bit so although people are left with a choice of only old weapons, the supply is scarce. An imported Beretta .32 revolver, for instance, will cost around Rs 300,000 and a Browning .32 would be Rs 280,000.
On the other hand, the ones available from the Indian Ordinance Factory will come for Rs 70,000 or so.
Similarly, a pump action shot gun would cost Rs 30,000 from the IOF and if you want an imported one, then it would cost Rs 200,000. A .315 rifle from the IOF will cost around Rs 40,000 while an imported one can be yours to shoot at around Rs 250,000.
Among imported revolvers and pistols, Smith and Wesson, Walthers and Brownings are still the preferred choice for most. Apart from revolvers, there are pistols available too, but most people don’t usually opt for them. A .22 Beretta pistol, which Sodhi terms a “ladies’ weapon”, costs around Rs 150,000.
It is not only in big cities like Delhi or Mumbai where dealers are finding it tough to sustain business. Smaller cities like Bhopal, which was once considered a hunting ground for licenced firearms, has seen business dwindle steadily over the years.
“The nawabs and those from royal families who required guns for hunting purposes would purchase their guns here. But now we don’t manage to sell guns for months together,” says a licensed arms dealer in Bhopal.
For the record, it’s the same story in towns like Kanpur and Meerut, once considered favourite spots for buying arms and ammunition.
The only way gun shop dealers can now deal in imported weapons is to wait for professional shooters to sell their guns. That makes sense because renowned shooters are still permitted to import guns and ammunition from abroad. Sodhi says that one of the biggest global markets in this sphere is Italy.
It is not guns alone, because getting ammo is as difficult a task. The cartridges are available at IOF but that, say experts, can prove an arduous task. A bullet for a pump action shot gun costs around Rs 40.
But where is the market for arms and ammunition, given that hunting is banned?
Experts say that guns, rifles and shotguns are usually procured by banks and security agencies for their professional duties.
And even as Indian guns of reasonable quality are being manufactured in places like Munger, Jammu, Kanrut district in Assam, Kolkata, Kanpur, and Jabalpur, it is imported firearms that people still desire. So who says a gun can’t be for keeps?
Getting a licence
Getting a gun licence is a big task. In Delhi, an application for a license has to be submitted to the DCP/Licencing with the required forms, photographs, other relevant documents and the approval of the local SHO.
The SHO or the local police station has to give the person a clean chit after checking (in negative) for any criminal history.
After that there is a verification process and if one gets through that then a licence can be issued to the person.
Matchlock Elephant Gun, India, ca. 1800s,
65″ barrel with 7/8″ bore 85.5″ overall length, one brass band, five areas of copper and brass wire binding barrel to wooden stock, JPR EXP 214709 stamped on barrel at breech, includes ramrod, three clusters of decorative brass studsalong right side. – Pitting on rear of barrel, age cracks to stock, finish scraped off 1′ of wood near muzzle.
Old Antique Historical Victorian Prints Maps and Historic Fine Art ———-.
1885 Bolan Pass Gun India Quetta British Military Print One Page From The Illustrated London News C1850-1899, The Actual Date Is In The Title Or On The Page Itself.
Source: India Today
- The applicant has to approach a police commissioner’s office or the district magistrate, fill a standard form stating he/she needs a weapon for self-protection or sport. He has to prove the need for self-protection by producing a written police complaint or prove a history of threats.
- However, the unwritten rule is that only those with the right connections can actually get a licence—a Member of Parliament, for instance, can recommend a gun licence.
- The police, however, must be convinced that the applicant has a genuine need for the weapon and that he/she has no criminal record.
- Once the licence is issued, the applicant can buy the weapon directly from ordnance factories, another licence holder, authorised gun dealers or import the weapon.
Delhi alone has 40,000 licenced weapons. According to reports, 8,801 cases relating to the Arms Act were registered in Delhi in last two years. Little wonder then that in 2007 alone, 35 people were shot dead by firearms in the Capital. Says a senior Delhi police officer, “In Delhi, the number of licenced weapons is 40,000 but the number of illegal firearms is double.
Licenced weapons are mostly used in cases of suicide or domestic violence.” The situation in Mumbai is no different. While records show that only 71 licences were issued in 2006 and only 90 have been handed out till now this year, the ground reality is quite different. people have easy access to country-made revolvers that enter the state from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other northern states. Country-made guns have almost become a cottage industry in several parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
Cities like Hyderabad and Chennai have not remained untouched by this culture of violence. Gunshots rang through the campus of Deccan College of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, in April this year when Umedullah Khan, a second-year engineering student opened fire on Mukarram Ali Siddiqui, a rival student leader.
In October last year, Chennai was shaken by the murder of a Marwari businessman Menak Chand, who was allegedly shot dead with a 9mm Chinese pistol by his wife Pramila Devi.
- November 27, 2007
Crime:The jilted lover of a 23-year-old model Moushami Das arrived at her apartment and shot dead her mother and uncle and then ended his own life.
- October 29, 2007
Crime: Sibling rivalry ended in bloodshed when hotelier Lalit D’Souza shot and wounded his sister Lorna over a parking spot dispute.
- October 29, 2007
Crime: Delhi-based builder Sulekh Malik’s son Varun was allegedly shot dead in the posh Vasant Kunj market area by his friend Moti, who later surrendered in the city court.
- September 2007
Crime: Hotel owner Mohan Shetty reportedly shot at his younger brother Manohar at their advocate’s office over a long festering property dispute.
- April 2007
Crime: In a shootout on the campus of Deccan College of Engineering and Technology, Umedullah Khan opened fire on fellow student Mukarram Ali Siddiqui.
- October 23, 2006
Crime: Marwari businessman Menak Chand was allegedly shot dead with a 9mm Chinese pistol by his wife Pramila Devi.