Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Gorgeous--more firearms of the "Old West" in Second Life

Yes, I know I tend to write frequently about recreated historical firearms in Second Life. Hey, I like guns, they've been a part of my life since I was in my teens. Growing up on a small farm, firearms were a form of useful tool that you had to understand and respect, just like an axe or a saw, or any other technology we employed. But then my relationship with firearms evolved beyond that, into an appreciation of the gunmaker's art, and a love for the sheer beauty of what skilled machinists produced in the last century and a half--so I got into collecting, and recreational shooting, and ultimately working with firearms as an aspect of my professional life.

So you just have to indulge me when I wax poetic over of the work of certain SL weapon-makers.

As the title of this piece says, there is the good: in fact, there is a great deal of good work done in-world by content makers who produce very nice, functional period firearms that are quite respectably authentic. And sometimes what they make is really good.

Below is my Sergeant OHanlon alt with model 1873 Single Action Army Colt revolver that was made by Deadwood sim co-owner Caed Aldwych (Perceval Dryke).

It's proportioned properly, it has the right shape and appearance for a model '73 SAA, and by golly, it's not all tarted up with stupid movie-land crap like angels or crosses on the grips, or engravings of "hello kitty" on the cylinder, or any other Stoopid Shit. It looks like a frakkin' army-issue Colt revolver, it comes with some decent poses and anims, it shoots pretty well, and it functions like 6-shot single action is supposed to.

Does it have exquisite detail? No, it doesn't. Does it come with all kinds of extra optional animations and poses? No. But for crying it out loud, it's a freebie--it comes as a part of the complimentary "cavalry soldier" package that you can pick up at the Ft. Laramie entrance area to the Deadwood 1876 sim.

I shall repeat that: IT'S A FRAKKIN' FREEBIE. IT COMES WITH AN AUTHENTIC 1870's-STYLE CAVALRY HOLSTER AND BELT RIG. I have a couple of alts that use this gun and rig, because it looks good and does the job and was a cost-effective option.

You can spend a whole lot more of your hard-earned linden dollars on stuff that's not nearly as good. In fact, there are so-called "authentic" firearms for sale in-world that will cost you a shitload of money, but that are utter weaselcrap. I'm not going to name any names, but that's the bottom line: there are supposedly "historic" guns out there that certainly qualify as the "bad".

So, you might ask, what really bothers me with certain SL "historic" guns?

Well it's not just the ones that they are sloppily made, pig-butt ugly, and look very little like the actual historical guns they are supposed to represent. What really kills me are the ones that function in wildly implausible ways: ridiculously high rates of fire; bizarre reloading operations; and inauthentic magazine capacity. Holy Moses in his bathrobe, how hard is to look up a weapon on wikipedia and see how many rounds the fucker actually held?

OK here's the new rule: dumb-ass first person shooter games like "Gun" are not legitimate sources of accurate information about historical firearms. You need to actually understand something about what the guns looked like and how they operated before you can make an "authentic" or "realistic" recreation of an historic weapon. You can only use certain weapons in certain ways in particular time periods. Let me give you some practical examples of what it means to follow this rule. For example:

* You do not get to bring weapons into an 1860s or 1870s sim when those weapons--such as lever action and pump action shotguns--were not invented until the 1880s. Nor do you get to make shit up--like adding a lever action to a single shot muzzle loader.

* You cannot "dual wield" (fight with one in each hand) certain types of pistols in ANY fuckin' time period. Like Volcanics. They were LEVER ACTION pistols. That means they took two hands to operate, numbnuts. Not only were they crappy pistols that quickly become obsolete, but there is NO WAY IN ANY FUCKING UNIVERSE THAT YOU COULD USE TWO OF THE GODDAMN THINGS SIMULTANEOUSLY UNLESS YOU'RE A FUCKING OCTOPUS!

* Likewise, skip these foolish cut-down Winchesters you see here and there. That is an imaginary weapon created for 1950's and 60's TV shows and movies. I have yet to see any historical examples or evidence that anyone in the late 19th century actually fucked up a perfectly good rifle in this manner. It is NOT a useful weapon in this buggered-up form. In part this is because the Winny has a tubular magazine under the barrel--so when you cut down the length of the barrel, you also have to shorten the magazine and reduce its capacity. In effect, Mr. SL gunmaker, you can't make a cut-down Winchester and still script it with a 12 round magazine, and then call it "authentic" or "realistic." It would hold maybe five or six rounds after you chopped it. And don't tell me that it gives you more hitting power with a rifle round, because the earlier Winchesters used the same ammo as the Colt pistol. So all you did was make a clunky hand gun that takes two hands to operate.

And yes, I know that weapons like that are perfectly suitable for most "fantasy" old west sims where you also might have vampires and lycans running around, stripper poles in the saloon, and Northwest coast totem poles amidst the Plains Indian tipis. That's cool, if that's what floats your boat. Or if you're in a sim like old Sigil was--openly and unashamedly based on the genre of the spaghetti western--well, yeah, then you could argue that having a Hollywood reloader (ie, you never run out of bullets) is actually appropriate.

Ultimately, of course, anyone can make anything thing they jolly well want in SL--it's one of the joys of the platform. But if you are going to call what you make "realistic" or "authentic" then I think you ought to put in some effort and research time in order to actually warrant using those terms.

I am not embarrassed to say that yes, I am an authenticity snob when it comes to my old west technology.

If you too care about the quality and authenticity of the weapons you're using, why spend a lot of money on dross and sludge when you get something as gorgeous as this (the rifle, not the nudie picture):

That's the Kiergarten Armoury Sharps rifle for hunting and target shooting, which we have discussed in an earlier piece. It actually looks like an 1874 Sharps, and it functions like one as well, requiring you to reload in between each shot. Yeah, it's not too handy in a wild-eyed, grief-fueled shoot-em-up, but by damn, that's how a single-shot rifle actually worked.

And it's only $400 lindens.

Let me say that again: it's only $400 lindens.

And Jasper Kiergarten keeps making cool, gorgeous stuff like this. He just sent me an example of a Sharps model 1869 military carbine. This was a Civil War issue weapon that was converted at government arsenals after the war to fire the new .50/70 cartridge--a great many of these were used by the U.S. cavalry until the 1873 Springfield "trapdoor" was put in service. Look at the image below--you will note that not only are the parts of the action textured to look like case-hardened steel, but there is actually a goddamn saddle ring on the left-hand side of the stock.

Now that might not seem important to most of you, but let me ask you this: how do you think troopers hung on to their carbines when they weren't using them? Velcro?

They had a carbine sling that hooked to the ring, so that they could carry the carbine hanging by their side (conveniently at hand--not slung on their back). Now all we need is for someone to make a jacket layer version of the carbine sling, and we're all set.

Anyhow, that's why I like Jasper's work. It looks really damned good, it works like it's supposed to, and it reflects his understanding of how the guns were actually carried and operated. It's all in the details, like that dang saddle ring. After all, how many other weapons have you seen in-world that should have a saddle ring on them, and actually do?

So if you can get something that good looking and detailed for a few hundred lindens, what can you find if you're ready to invest some serious money?

Holy dog crap on white toast, I am so glad you asked me that question. I've already told you about wonderful--but pricey--weapons like Ernst Osterham's boxlock double-barreled shotgun. But here's something in the same class that you haven't seen yet:

This is a SAA Colt cavalry model with the 7.5 inch barrel made by Lockmort Mortlock. My crappy screen shots don't do justice to this gem of a recreated historical firearm.

It's not just that the proportions and the shape and design that are spot on--it's the freakin' detail. The screws in the frame are there. And they are different sizes like the actual thing. You can see the spring in the extractor rod housing. You look on the top of the barrel, and you know what you see?

That's right, the markings telling you who made this and where.

So is this cheap? No of course not. Lock currently has the civilian version of the SAA for sale (4 inch barrel), and it runs around $1,500 lindens.

BUT in addition to the gun, you get a great belt and holster with options for how many rounds you want in the bullet loops; you get options on different finishes; you get different firing poses including single-handed standing, double-handed standing, and double-handed kneeling; AND you get accessories like an ammo box that you can click on and reload the weapon.

Frankly I can't wait to see what he's going to make next. Lock is a true artist, as well as a sincere and enthusiastic firearm historian. Lockmort Mortlock's products are available in the vendor area of Ft. Laramie in the Deadwood 1876 sim.

Come on, do I really have to generate the slurl for you? Show some ambition and initiative.


  1. Dio, great post! Like you, I grew up around firearms and enjoy the shooting sports in RL. So I am always happy when I come across an SL weapon that not only is good for combat, but actually looks and works like the real thing. Ernst's boxlock shotgun is my favorite SL firearm as it not only looks and operates great, but has pretty authentic knockdown power in combat. There was a reason why many lawmen and outlaws had shotguns!
    What really dismays me are the builders who put out butt ugly weapons that bear little resemblance to the RL weapon and then make them dual weapons. In the real life, few men carried the double rig setup that is so popular in Hollywood and SL. Weapons were expensive in the old west as they are today. More likely you would see someone carrying a rifle or shotgun as their primary weapon and the six shooter as their back up weapon. As an example, William Bonny (Billy the Kid) favorite weapon was his Winchester not his revolver.
    Really didn't mean to get on a soapbox there but like you I appreciate a bit of authenticity in my SL weapons and setups.

  2. hey Blackjack,

    Yep, we've had this discussion before over on the Deadwood forum. And while at some point we've all worn and used dual guns, the simple fact of the matter is that someone wearing dual pistols in the old west didn't use them the way that we tend to use them in SL western sims, ie, with both guns drawn and firing at the same time.

    The fact of the matter is that you wore dual pistols for two reasons: 1. (one) to create the impression that you are a person who is not to trifled with, and 2. (two) to giver yourself additional firepwoer without having to stop to reload.

    This is what we used to call a New York Reload, (inspired by a old NYC cop practice of carrying two pieces, your issue weapon and a private back up piece, squirreled away somewhere like in an ankle holster. You wouldn't shoot with both weapons at the same time--you emptied one weapon and then drew the second to continue firing, if necessary.

    And that's exactly what most old west pistoleros would do when wearing dual pistols. Empty one and then instead of taking time to reload the empty piece, draw the second and keep up a steady rate of fire. Of course, they also would wear double pistols for exactly the reason many of us do in SL western sims: in order to look like a tough customer and intimidate your opposition.

  3. Hiya dio - I'm back after a loooong work-induced break from reading blogs (or making comments on them, really).

    Another cracking post on something you are passionate about. I still haven't got to post about HBA getting the Kiergarten gun (it was at that time the photo bug crept in and I stormed out - I'm back now, saving to hrad drive instead - not as flexible as emailing is some ways, more flexible in others :) ) but I will!

  4. Yep, I am looking forward to finding out if HBA is happy with his Kiergarten rifle. I'm curious to see if he's comfortable with firearms and possibly needs someone to give him some lessons. Just a suggestion. I bet I could find someone who might be willing and able to give HBA a bit of shooting instruction. *cough*

    And I'm also gratified that you as a non-gun nut (I assume), found this post of interest and some entertainment value. It's an easy like for friends like Blackjack who obviously share my love of shiny hardware, but for the rest of my readers, yeah I imagine this kind of post probably seems repetitive and self-indulgent.

    And of course, ultimately, I am mostly writing this crap for my own amusement. But still, I find affirmation and enjoyment in the process when somebody else says, "you know, I really don't give a rat's fat tookus about your subject matter, but that was kinda fun to read."

  5. Oh I *like* guns, but in a more detached way than some of my 'merkin friends such as yer goodself. I - we - didn't grow up with them in the same way you lot did and I like 'em in a John Woo sort of way, or in for their engineering and man-made beauty. So don't think I don't care about your gun posts - I just care in a different way. Put it this way, I'd love all the histoical and cool guns SL has to off, even though I'd never use them as SL sucks at combat, but I wouldn't have one in my RL house ;-D

  6. That's cool, there are lots of different way to care about many different subjects. I like your explanation of your point of view as liking guns in a "John Woo sort of way" -- I can see that, him being the godfather of "gun fu"

    the truth of it all, of course, is that this piece was just plain fun to write.

  7. Dear Dio,
    I was wondering what would the price be for the Colt Single Action Army with 7.5 in. Barrel? Please let me know when you find out.

  8. hello Anonymous,

    Sorry, I just now saw this message from you. I went and checked Lock's shop in the OOC area of Deadwood and he still does not have the seven-and-a-half inch barrel version up for sale yet. I imagine it will be in the 1500 linden range as that is what his short-barreled model SAA's sell for.

  9. Thanks for letting me know. I can wait till he does.