Nock Volley Gun

Nock Volley Gun

Every age has produced unusual weapons and weapons that looked much better on paper than they did in the cold light of reality. One of those weapons is the Nock Volley Gun. The gun was produced by gunsmith Henry Nock under contract to the Royal Navy. 500 were produced in 1780 and an additional 100 were procured in 1787.

The concept was simple. Seven barrels, each firing a .52-caliber ball, were ignited simultaneously by a single flintlock mechanism. Fired from the fighting tops, this weapon would have wreaked havoc on the crowded quarterdeck of an enemy combatant.

One must presume that each barrel would have been loaded in the fashion of the time with “three buck and a ball” and even though the ball is a third smaller than the standard Brown Bess musket’s .75-caliber, the recoil would have been substantial. At a length of 42-inches and weight of 12-lbs it would have been a load of fun to have to manage while in the rigging or fighting tops.

The Nock Volley Gun has been popularized in the Richard Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell and is the weapon of choice of Sharpe’s immense sidekick, Patrick Harper. Contrary Mr. Cornwell’s claims that the gun was disfavored because of the physical harm, broken shoulders, tossed from the fighting tops by the recoil, etc., faults which could have been easily fixed by modifying it as a swivel gun, the volley gun was not accepted because the shower of sparks from the seven barrels presented an unacceptable fire hazard to sails and rigging.

If you want to see what one looks like in detail, I’d recommend viewing this video by the Springfield Armory starting at 4:20 of elapsed time. Sorry, they won’t allow embedding.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Naval Weapons

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