Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A tale of two shotguns -- the ongoing evolution of craftsmanship in Second Life

Clay Kungler with the new Albion Importers Ltd. G.E. Mason
shotgun, designed and built by Ernst Osterham

I've now been a participant in Second life since the fall of 2004. I have always found things in-world that astonish and amaze me, and lately, the thing that continually impresses itself upon me is how the stuff that people make in-world just keeps getting better and better. There are objects that showed up in SL a couple years ago, that at the time, I looked at and said, "wow that is downright cool--who would have thought somebody could make one of those things and have it turn out that well?" But now, just a couple of years later, I look at a new version of that same type of artifact, and my jaw hits the ground and eyes bugout, and I make noises that are largely incomprehensible.

Let me give you an example of this phenomenon, illustrated with an examination of an everyday artifact that no home should be without and which everyone finds highly useful a wide variety of social situations: the double-barreled, breech-loading shotgun.

Here is an illustration of me holding a shotgun that I believe has been in production for a number of years. It was created by a skilled and well-respected gun maker and is a good representation of a typical double-barreled shotgun of the type with exposed hammers, and which breaks open at the breech for reloading.

Historically, this style of gun was very popular from the latter part of the 19th century into the early 20th century, and certainly is appropriate for use in Old West sims like Deadwood and Tombstone. The maker of this particular gun always strove to make his guns as authentically styled as possible. His representations of percussion "cap and ball" revolvers are particularly well-crafted. And this shotgun is a good example of his efforts as well: it has the proper elements that such a gun should have; its scale and proportions are good (especially for larger avatars); and it is technically authentic in that it fires just two shots before requiring reloading (so it's not one of those idiotic Old West fantasy guns that keeps firing all week without reloading). And by golly, she makes a hell of a lot of noise when fired. This is a fine gun for use in Old West rp--it is a well-executed representation of a popular type of frontier weapon. But it is an example of an earlier generation of historical weapons in Second Life.

What does the new generation of historical guns in SL look like? Well, y'all, take a gander at this here:

Above is the new G.E. Mason "Boxlock" hammerless-style double-barreled shotgun that has recently been offered for sale by Ernst Osterham through his "Albion Importers Ltd." shop. Ernst makes a variety of objects, ranging from 19the century music boxes and wax cylinder recording players, to furniture, to excellent and unique firearms. This particular piece is an example of a style of shotgun that was invented by English gunsmiths in the 1870s and which became increasingly popular over time. While it is historically plausible for use in the Deadwood sim, it was a fairly new style at that time and there would not have been many of them around in the 1870s Black Hills. They would however, be extremely appropriate (and far more numerous) in the time-frame represented by the Tombstone sims.

With the qualification that such guns as this would be few and far between on the American West of the 1870s, I just outright love this firearm and pretty much carry it with me everywhere I go these days.

Yep it's one them "gonna have to pry it outta mah cold, dead hand" situations.

Not only is the gun a beautifully made 3-D model (crafted using sculpties to get the hard parts like the stock just right), its operation is controlled by an attractive HUD that allows you to fire either standing or kneeling, to sling the firearm over your back, and utilize various options such as changing from firing slugs to buckshot.

Here is my friend Clay Kungler firing his Albion Importers shotgun from the standing position:

And here he is firing the same gun from the kneeling position, while Deputy Bram Ansar looks on:

You also have the option of setting the gun's animations so that the actual process of opening and closing the breech for reloading takes place (if you are in a high lag environment, you can forgo this animation in order to keep things running more smoothly).

And as I said, you have the choice of carrying the gun slung on your back, carried in one hand ("at the trail" for those of you who know those things), or at the ready (which is my favorite):

The gun works in an authentic way from a technical standpoint as well. You fire both barrels and then need to reload. If you choose the buckshot rather than the slug option for your rounds, multiple projectiles will come out of each barrel, but they spread out the further they go, so that type of load works best for relatively close work--just like a real shotgun.

Now mind you, I mean in no way to denigrate the older example of a shotgun I mentioned. Nor do I wish to dismiss the amount of effort and skill that its maker put into creating it. Like I said, its maker offers great weapons, including that double-barreled shotgun--it's a really good weapon and remains an excellent choice for use in any Western rp environment. It also has an advantage in price--if there is a drawback to the Albion Importers gun, it is that it is relatively expensive compared to many of the historical weapons you can find in-world. The older version of a shotgun costs considerably less.

Nonetheless, when I look at something like Ernst's hammerless shotgun, I feel like I can once again believe that there really is such as thing as progress...and yes, I even begin to think that maybe there really is a Santa Claus.


  1. I wouldn't mind having one of those in my stocking! (In fact, I might just make it happen.)

    I hear what you're saying about having the shotgun hold only two rounds, time to reload, and such...on the other hand, when you're shooting zombies, a chamber that holds many rounds and impossibly quick reloading come in handy.

  2. Being a Brit, I have a huge dislike of guns and know little about them. But now I find myself lusting after one for RP purposes thank to your excellent posts on the subject. It was the same with my Webley 45 from Ordinal Malaprop - I knew they were the only weapon most UK investigators would have in the 1920 in Call of Cthulhu and so I just *had* to have one in-world. HBA now *needs* a shottie or rifle to protect him from bears and cougars!

  3. Hey Rhia,

    Yes, good point--if you have invited some folks over for a barbecue and zombie shoot, and you want to have some shotguns on hand, I would suggest a pump gun like the Winchester 1300 "Defender"--pump shotguns have the advantage of holding 5 to 9 rounds in the mag, depending on make and model. The also reload easily and quickly. However, in Deadwood, we have to eschew their usage, being as pump shotguns weren't invented until the 1880s and weren't really common until the 1890s.

    Hey HB,

    Oh I absolutely recommend one of Ernst's boxlock guns for use on your property at St. Helen's. Not only is it a work of art--beautifully detailed and elegantly sculpted--it is just fun to use. It also looks great in the hands of smaller avies. You will note in the illustrations it looks just perfect for me, while in Clay's hands it looks a tad diminutive. That is because Clay has a monster of an avie.

    Oh, and Ernst will do custom engraving on the guns as well, though I am not sure how much that adds tothe price.

  4. Custom engraving is free to all who ask politely. I can't speak as to the prices charged for rude and generally assholish customers.

  5. I would think that the assholish folks just need to accept that they will have to pay a premium in return for indulging themselves in incivility.

    It seems fair to me.