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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

GUEST POST: Building The Perfect Revolver by Seth Skorkowsky


When writing DÄMOREN, the pistol's physical description was critical. I wanted a gun that was unique, yet historically accurate for the time period she was made. It went through several changes before I finally knew what she would look like. I had already decided that Dämoren was originally a holy sword that was broken in the 19th Century. The owner then took the pieces to a gunsmith and had them made into revolver (which at the time was the pinnacle of weapon technology). A friend suggested the idea that she should be single-action and the bullets should be loaded one at a time, making it even slower than modern revolvers.


(Old-style revolvers used a little latch called a Loading Gate to load and unload the pistol.)

MAGIC

The original concept was to have a gun that could kill a demon. Magical swords have always existed in folklore, and the blade of a magic sword hitting and killing its opponent is easy to understand. A magical gun, however, is a different matter. A gun never touches the target, so in order for it to work, the power must somehow transfer to the bullet. My original solution was to have a prayer etched along the inside of the barrel. As the bullet travels down the barrel, it gains this blessing. To finalize the consecration, the word "Amen" would be molded into the bullet itself, thus charging it with demon-killing magic.

Since the bullets had to be molded to have the word "Amen”, that meant my hero would need to cast and load each bullet. I decided that even the brass shells should be engraved and special, and that the hero would only have a limited number of them. Therefore he'd have to save and reuse the shells over and over, while casting new bullets. This also added a few more hindrances on my protagonist, which I liked. I didn't want having a demon-killing handgun to be too easy.

At the time I was coming up with these ideas, I wasn't a very experienced shooter. I was talking to a friend (who was very experienced) about the concept when he mentioned that brass shells don't last forever and eventually do wear out. He said that it shouldn't be a problem since the magic of the gun could also cause the shells to be more durable or heal themselves. I agreed (can't argue with science), but wanted to further explain why holy weapons might heal minor damage, rather than just saying "magic" and ignoring it. Without giving too much away, the solution changed the course of the world mythology. As a tribute to my good friend, who also taught me how to shoot properly, I named my hero's mentor after him. Clay.

CARTRIDGES

Because I wanted Dämoren's shells to be reloads, it meant that the gun had to have been made after 1866. That was the year that modern primer cartridges were first patented. Prior to that, bullets were either cap and ball or pinfire, neither of which I wanted. In order to qualify as an antique firearm, for a scene where the hero gets Dämoren past customs, it would need to be made prior to 1898 and not fire any normal-sized caliber.


(Pinfire (or Lefaucheux) shells had a firing pin that jutted from the side, unlike a primer in the back, as we have today.  They were terribly unsafe.  Bumping them could set them off.  I also admit I was very tempted to use them for Dämoren.)

THE BLADE

Surprisingly, Dämoren's most noticeable feature, the rather intimidating blade beneath her barrel, was one of the last additions I came up with. Early on, I had decided that Dämoren's power to kill demons wouldn't just be reserved to her bullets. As a holy weapon, she should be able to pistol-whip a demon to death. I imagined a scene where Matt, out of ammo and facing an oncoming monster, flips the gun around grabbing by the barrel and clubs the demon down. Then I learned how to shoot and found out how insanely hot a gun barrel is after firing (Who would have thought that TV and movies lied?). In searching for an alternative, I found this:


(Affixing a blade beneath the barrel transformed Dämoren from a spiffy magic gun into a badass demon killer.)

Since Dämoren was to have been made from a broken sword, having a blade in addition the the barrel became an obvious choice. I also decided that the bronze from the sword's crossguard would be the same metal used to make her special shells.

THE GUNSMITH

With magical or masterwork swords, there's always the scene where the owner proudly gives its lineage. Whether it was forged by God (Excalibur), Hattori Hanzō (Kill Bill), or Masamune (Highlander), you want to know that the iconic weapon was made by the best. My original plan was to have Beretta make Dämoren. Beretta has been crafting firearms since the 16th Century and arming my favorite action heroes since the 1980's. Unfortunately, Beretta was never known for their revolvers. Next, I chose Harris Holland of London who is known making firearms for royalty and the wealthy.

Then when researching more information on cutlass revolvers, I stumbled on the work of Celestin Dumonthier


Dumonthier was a French gunsmith known for making some of the most beautiful cutlass revolvers. He was also active during the time window I needed (1866-1898). While the beautiful lines and almost melted way the blade comes off the barrel isn't as all how Dämoren appears, I knew I had my gunsmith. Researching Dumonthier was a fun, albeit difficult, task. Not much is out there about him. The most helpful resource I found was "BLADES and BARRELS" by H. Gordon Frost, which has been out of print for 40 years now.

In the end, Dämoren's evolution was a gradual process from an ornate gun into what she eventually became. She is as much a character as any other in my novel, and building her (at least in my imagination) was a lot of fun. I hope my readers enjoy her and much as I do.


Official Author Website
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Seth Skorkowsky was born in Texas in 1978. He currently lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife, and works for the University of North Texas. His short story "The Mist of Lichthafen" was nominated for a British Fantasy Award (long list) in 2009. Dämoren is Seth's debut novel. He recently signed a two-book deal with Rogue Blades Entertainment for his "Black Raven" sword-and-sorcery collection. When not writing, Seth enjoys travel, shooting, and tabletop gaming.

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