Firearms have been subject to numerous modifications through their history. They’ve constantly evolved to meet the needs of warfare, self-defense, and crime, and several strange examples have popped up over the years.
One of the early attempts to build rapid-fire artillery was the ribauldequin. It was a cart-mounted firing battery used in the 14th and 15th centuries. Because their many barrels resembled a pipe organ, ribauldequins became known as organ guns, and sometimes death organs. Far smaller caliber than cannons but larger than average guns, they played a supporting role in artillery bombardments.
Ribauldequins were designed to be fired in quick succession with a match connecting the touch hole of all the barrels. Perhaps the largest were horse-drawn wagons with three sets of guns on each side, which would have made for a total of 144 guns that could be used against both infantry and armored cavalry. Unfortunately, when these massive gun batteries were deployed, their heavy weight got them stuck in the mud too often to be very useful.
In the 14th century, a rapid-fire weapon would have proved quite an advantage during combat. Ribauldequins, however, suffered from a serious disadvantage as well. While the weapon itself could fire—in theory—dozens of consecutive rounds, the ribauldequin still had to be muzzle-loaded. It took a very long time to reload, which made for a long wait before the next volley. Ultimately, they enjoyed limited use.
9 Periscope Rifles
Invented by English Lance Corporal W.C. Beech, the periscope rifle was used to fire from trenches and bunkers without exposing soldiers to enemy fire. He invented the weapon while serving at Gallipoli, where his invention saw extensive use. He essentially attached his rifle to a wooden board with a mirror aimed along the gun’s sights and another one at the bottom of the board through which the sniper could look. Following Beech’s “homemade” rifle, the governments of the world soon began developing their own.
One of the more advanced was the Guiberson rifle. While most other periscope rifles were bulky affairs that did little more than attach frames to a normal rifle, the Guiberson, when its periscope function was collapsed, looked very similar to a normal rifle. The stock was hinged and collapsible, and when not in use the mechanics of the periscope sight were contained inside the wooden butt. Pressing a switch would contort the rifle and pop out the mirror, instantly turning what appeared to be a normal rifle into one designed for trench warfare. Unfortunately for soldiers, though, most periscope rifles models were developed too late in the war to reach the the front lines.
8 Squeezer Pistols
Unlike traditional pistols, the squeezer pistol’s unique shape allowed the whole gun to fit in a person’s palm. They were marketed as easily concealable alternatives to bulkier handguns, and could hold more rounds than single- or double-shot Derringers, another kind of concealable gun that was popular at the time. This, however, often gave squeezer pistols both a unique shape and somewhat unusual firing methods.
Several were shaped like rectangular boxes, and some didn’t even have triggers. Instead, the entire rear of the gun was compressed to fire. The Mitrailleuse was one such model. When the rear was slightly compressed, it would push a bullet from the magazine into the chamber. Pushing it further would cock the gun and release the pin, firing the weapon. A similar gun, called the Tribuzio, had a firing ring at the bottom of the gun, which was pulled out to load the gun and pulled back to fire it. Probably due to their uniqueness and the availability of other small guns that only required the simple pull of a trigger to fire, squeezer pistols saw very limited popularity.