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The Most Badass Weapons Of The Nineteenth Century

Modern warfare is so impersonal. Back in the nineteenth century, if you wanted to cause some harm, you had to get close and put a little effort into it. Luckily, there were plenty of tools to help get the job done. If you wanna see nineteenth-century badasses in action, tune into the premiere of BBC America’s new gripping crime series, Copper, about a cop in 1860s NYC. New episodes Sundays at 10/9c only on BBC America.

1. Winans Steam Gun

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The Winans Steam Gun was exactly what it sounds like: a guy named Ross Winans decided it was a good idea to make a giant, automatic gun that ran on steam and was attached to an armored carriage. Although it never went further than a prototype, it could supposedly fire 200 balls a minute up to two miles—everything from bullets to a hundred-pound cannonball.

2. Harmonica pistol

Think of the harmonica pistol as something like the N64’s Expansion Pak. These babies packed even more of a punch than any of the other handguns around at the time because they granted the owner many more rounds of bullets. Plus, they look way cooler than a musical harmonica.

3. The Apache pistol

Not only did these bad boys offer the protection that brass knuckles do, but they could also turn into a pistol in an instant (although, hopefully not so casually that its user would injure himself). That’s a pretty sweet “two birds with one stone” kinda situation.

4. Double-barreled cannon

Boston Public Library / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr: boston_public_library / Via billyspostcards.com

For when one cannon just isn’t enough and you simply don’t have enough space for two separate ones, some genius (John Gilleland) in Georgia decided to just shove the two together to create an even more badass and lethal weapon. That’s how they did it back in 1862.

5. Kentucky Flintlock pistol

John F. Bergmann / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: flntlok / Via gatling-gun.com

The Flintlock is included on here primarily to serve as a reminder that everything that came out of the 1800s just looked awesome. Why would anyone want to carry around some boring, all-black AK-47 or whatever when you could carry a gun like the Flintlock and still look like a gentleman?

6. Flamethrowers

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One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use fire as a weapon, and in the 1800s, everyone thought it was high time that the flamethrower make a comeback. It never fully “caught on,” but there’s a few horrible instances on the record where the “Greek Fire” was deployed during the Civil War. Mostly, though, they exploded while in storage.

7. U.S. M1840 Dragoon Saber

Heavier and stronger than its predecessors, the “Wrist Breaker” is cool because swords are cool and it’s cool that the US government still issued them and trained soldiers to use them.

8. War balloons

USMC Archives / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr: usmcarchives / Via sonofthesouth.net

Hot air balloons have a much more violent history than you’d think, now that they usually have flowers and smiley faces and stuff on them. However, after their invention in the 1700s, it was quickly noticed that they could be useful on the battlefield—and they were. During the Civil War, war balloons were either deployed as a means of spying on the enemy or tethered to be used as watchtowers.

9. Turret rifle

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Perhaps best described as “highly impractical,” the turret rifle was a semi-automatic weapon that seemed pretty cool in theory—ammunition rotated around in a wheel and allowed close to rapid-fire capabilities—but sorta fell apart once people realized that at any given time, a round was facing its handler.

10. French Guycot chain rifle

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The chain rifle is one of the smartest ideas on this list. Its main competitor was the Henry Rifle, which could carry sixteen rounds at a time, while the chain rifle could hold eighty. They could also be fired “as fast as the trigger could be pulled.” Why didn’t they become “the new thing”? It’s entirely unclear and upsetting.

Want more Nineteenth Century Badassery? Check out these shots from BBC America’s new series, “Copper,” coming this August.

Copper, Detective Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan) and Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).

BBC AMERICA/Cineflix (Copper) Inc.

BBC AMERICA’s Copper, Eva Heissen (Franka Potente) and Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) in the Five Points.

BBC AMERICA/Cineflix (Copper) Inc.

BBC AMERICA’s Copper, Doctor Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) and Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).

BBC AMERICA/Cineflix (Copper) Inc.

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