A Nock volley gun in the Charleston Museum 1779-1780
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|In service||Royal Navy 1782–1804|
|Used by||United Kingdom|
|Barrel length||20 inches (510 mm)|
|Caliber||.46 inches (12 mm)|
|Action||Flintlock, multiple barrel|
|Rate of fire||Seven rounds per discharge, reloading rate variable|
|Effective firing range||Variable|
The Nock gun was a seven-barrelled flintlock smoothbore firearm used by the Royal Navy during the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars. It is a type of volley gun adapted for ship-to-ship fighting, but was limited in its use because of the powerful recoil and eventually discontinued.
History and design
The weapon was invented by British engineer James Wilson in 1779, and named after Henry Nock, the London-based armaments manufacturer contracted to build the gun. It was intended to be fired from the rigging of Royal Navy warships onto the deck in the event that the ship was boarded by enemy sailors. Theoretically, the simultaneous discharge of seven barrels would have devastating effect on the tightly packed groups of enemy sailors.
The volley gun consisted of seven barrels welded together, with small vents drilled through from the central barrel to the other six barrels clustered around it. The central barrel screwed onto a hollow spigot which formed the chamber and was connected to the vent.
The gun operated using a standard flintlock mechanism, with the priming gunpowder igniting the central charge via a small vent. When the flash reached the central chamber, all seven charges ignited at once, firing more or less simultaneously.
Deployment and use
During the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars, 500 Nock guns were purchased by the Royal Navy. However, attempts to use the gun during combat quickly revealed design flaws. The recoil caused by all seven barrels firing at once was more powerful than had been thought, and frequently injured or broke the shoulder of whoever was firing the gun, and in any case made the gun very difficult to control. Furthermore, officers were reluctant to issue the guns during battle out of fear that the flying sparks would set fire to the surrounding rigging and sails.
A smaller, lighter version was produced, which shortened the gun's range, but the recoil was still too powerful for sailors to feel comfortable firing it. The few models purchased by the Royal Navy were removed from service in 1804.
The Nock gun was brought to modern attention in the 1960 film The Alamo in which one is used by actor Richard Widmark, playing Jim Bowie. The gun used in the film is now in the National Firearms Museum. Nock guns can be seen in realistic period films including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 2003, and fantasy films like Jonah Hex 2010, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 2012.
In Bernard Cornwell's series of historical novels featuring fictional British soldier Richard Sharpe and, more recently, in the Sharpe TV series, Nock guns are used by the character Patrick Harper (a strong, burly man played by Daragh O'Malley).
In the video game Gun, the main antagonist, Thomas Magruder, uses a Nock gun during the final boss battle of the game. It later becomes unlocked for the player's use after finishing the game.
A modern version was custom-built in an episode of American Guns.
- Matthew Sharpe "Nock's Volley Gun: A Fearful Discharge" American Rifleman December 2012 pp.50-53
- "Weapons — Harper's Nock Volley Gun — The Sharpe Appreciation Society". Southessex.co.uk. 2002-10-26. Archived from the original on August 31, 2012. Retrieved 2009-10-23.