The Nock Gun was a flintlock operated seven barrelled musket designed by James Wilson and used by the Royal Navy. The Nock Gun was not in use for very long however, due to the high amount of recoil produced when shot. The design was contracted out to Henry Nock an Arms Manufacturer in London, hence the name the Nock Gun, although it was commonly named the Volley Gun.
The Nock Gun was invented by British engineer James Wilson in 1779, with the design being contracted out to London based Henry Nock (a gunsmith producing arms for the Royal Navy and British Army). The Nock Gun was designed entirely around the concept of being fired from the rigging of the ship, hence having a relatively short length overall.
The Nock Gun's barrel system was a unique design, consisting of seven barrels welded together. In the centre, the middle barrel was drilled with several small vents to the other six barrels clustered around it, an attempt to prevent the middle barrel from overheating entirely. The middle barrel was joined to the stock via a screw on to a hollow spigot which was then fitted to a few of the vents to hold the other barrels securely.
The fashion, at the time, for the ignition system was the flintlock mechanism when the Nock Gun was designed. Another feature that the Nock Gun borrows from conventional muskets was to use a smaller caliber musket ball than the barrel was bored for (with the barrel bored in .50in while it accomodated a .46in musket ball). Interestingly the first Nock Guns were given rifled barrels, however the rifling made it impractical (in the sense of reloading) and was soon dropped infavour of the smoothbore alternative.
A common misconception is that the Nock Gun was hazardous when fired onboard a ship because it could ignite the rigging upon firing; this is perhaps true, but there are no documented reports of the weapon's use that confirm this belief.
The Nock Gun was bored in .50 caliber (.50in barrel diameter). Yet the issued ammunition was the smaller .46in (12mm) musket ball, a practice which was common in British military circles as the black powder used could foul the barrel, eventually blocking it.
The reloading time for the Nock Gun varied greatly, due to the muzzle loading technique (that was the only method of reloading at the time) and the fact that seven barrels needed to be reloaded each time.
The initial order placed by the Royal Navy was a total of 500 Nock Guns in time for the beginning stages of the Napoleonic Wars (priced at £13 a gun). It was through this use that the Nock Gun aquired a reputation for breaking the users shoulder due to the high amount of recoil produced. There was further concern over the effect of the muzzle flash setting fire to the rigging around the user, potentially burning the entire boat, making officers reluctant to issue the Nock Gun to inexperienced hands.
The Nock Gun's IntroductionEditIt is a common misconception that the Volley Gun (and the Nock Gun in particular) was introduced after the death of Horatio Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar (as Nelson was killed by a musket ball rather than HMS Victory being sunk). The truth, however, could not be further away, as, prior to Trafalgar, the Nock Gun was being phased out.
The first use of the Nock Gun was in the hands of Admiral Howe's fleet at the siege of Gibraltar in 1782. The Nock Gun was used from the crow's nest during this conflict.
In response to the critisms of the Nock Gun a smaller, lighter version entered production, intended to shorten range. Yet this modification did little to combat the recoil which remained too powerful for sailors to feel comfortable when they used it. The few models purchased by the Royal Navy were removed from service in 1804. The majority of these were issued to prison guards throughout the colonies that Britain held.
The Nock Gun, despites its little known existence, has appeared in popular culture through its appearences in the film "The Alamo" as well as the video game "Gun", in which it is used to defeat the final boss. The Nock Gun also aroused some interest in the UK after it appeared in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, and later the TV adaptation, in which it was wielded by the secondary protagonist Patrick Harper. Two examples of the Nock Gun can be viewed at the weapons galleries in the York Castle Museum as well as The Charleston Museum.
Peterson, Harold L., The Book of the Gun