Followup: Firearms for Monster Hunting in the Roaring Twenties

Meteor hammer anon again! First off thank you for all the info, it’s deeply appreciated (and yeah, sapient is actually the word I should’ve used haha).

But I feel the need to refine my question a bit, if that’s ok. First, my story is actually going to be drawn web comic style, so the limitations of prose aren’t really an issue for me. Second, I suppose the crux of why I was sending that ask is because I’m having a hard time coming up with useful weapons that small species (like humans) could use agains larger ones, especially in a stealth environment. I thought of the meteor hammer cause it’s easy to hide and can deal a lot of damage – but that’s really it. (I’m not very well versed on weapons ^^’). Guns ARE an option, so long as they are from around the roaring twenties (the character in question is actually already carrying a pistol – a C96 to be exact, though I’m not sure if it’s the best choice). And finally one last comment – it is worth noting that most of my ‘dragons’ are so derived from the original concept the term almost doesn’t apply anymore – the point being that most don’t actually have the hard shells of typical dragons.

Thank you again for all the help you give writers, and I’ll look forward to any response you give me if you decide to! (You guys are awesome!!)

Okay, so, first off, visual media is where the meteor hammer shines. It’s a very visually dynamic weapon. The only hitch is, that this is the weapon of a martial arts master. Your characters can’t just pick them up and roll with it.

So, basing your setting off the 1920s immediately, and dramatically changes your weapon options. If you need to take down something significantly larger than you, firearms are the first solution.

The C96 is a legitimate option, but it might not be the best choice. It was chambered in either .30 Mauser or 9x19mm. There were Chinese manufactured .45 variants, though I’m not sure on the production dates for those. Also, there are C96s chambered in 9x25mm, but those are a rarity. The biggest problem is simply reloading. The C96 loads 10 rounds from a stripper clip. (There were 20 round variants produced before World War 1.) Individual rounds can be loaded at a time. However, the box magazine is not detachable. (There are variants, including ones manufactured by Mauser with detachable box magazines, however most of these date from the 1930s or later. As far as I know, the only ones from the 20s were Spanish bootlegs shipped to China, starting in 1928.) There were also select-fire variants, though the earliest examples I’m aware of date to the mid-30s.

On a similar note, the Luger P08 went into production in 1898. These were chambered in 7.65mm and 9x19mm. They use a more familiar, detachable box magazine loaded into the grip. They have an 8 round capacity, and the top of the slide is articulated strangely (it folds vertically when ejecting rounds, instead of traveling straight back.)

The British Webley Revolver was a break open revolver chambered in .455, and .38. The Mk 4 .455 entered military service in 1915, and the .38 caliber Webleys saw police use in the early 1920s.

While it’s archaic, today, the Colt Single Action Army entered production in the 1870s. These were chambered in .45 Long Colt (though, the gun can be found in an incredibly wide range of calibers today, and it can be a little difficult to determine when a given cartridge first popped up. Even in the 20s, this was a remarkably accurate and reliable revolver. The biggest downsides are that you have to manually load each shell separately, and it is single action, meaning you need to manually recock after each shot. The gun is over 150 years old today, and it still holds up as an excellent sporting pistol, a century ago, it would have been a viable combat weapon.

Also, worth noting that magnum cartridge was developed by Elmer Keith in the 1950s. So, while I’m listing revolvers, and you can get a Colt SAA in .44 magnum today, those would not have existed in the 1920s.

In the spirit of the Magnum, there is one unusual example worth listing off. The Mars Automatic Pistol developed in 1900. Forgotten Weapons did a video on the pistol a few years back.

Finally, the elephant in the room is the Colt 1911. These were adopted by the US Military in 1911, and were revised in 1926 (this would be the M1911A1.) The original 1911s had some reliability issues if they were loaded with anything other than ball ammunition, but this would become one of the most widely adopted handguns in the 20th century.

I’m probably forgetting a lot of revolvers that would be contemporary. The Smith & Wesson Model 30 was in production from 1903 to 1976, for example. This is also not a complete list of handguns, off hand I know the Smith & Wesson 1913 was in production throughout the decade. So, you might be able to find some other more obscure options.

One weapon that I expected would fit, but doesn’t, is the Browning Hi-Power. I remembered these as entering production in the mid-20s, but they didn’t actually hit the market until 1935. In the 20’s FN was still producing the Browning M1903, and M1910/M1922.

For larger weapons, there were bolt action rifles. The Mauser 98 (or Kar98, with Kar being short for Karabiner, meaning Carbine) was the standard Germany infantry rifle in World War I. The M1903 was the American equivalent. While you’d be hard pressed to hide these unless you were wearing an overcoat, both are excellent, accurate rifles. Winchester produced a lever action rifle (the Model 1895), which would have still been commercially available in the 1920s.

The Thompson Sub-Machine Gun entered commercial production in 1921, and would see military adoption in 1928. (These had 20 and 30 rounds “stick” magazines, or the 50 and 100 round drum mags.)

The BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) entered commercial production in 1917, and military use in 1918. This is a fully automatic rifle chambered in .30-06, with a detachable 20 round box mag. It’s heavy (at nearly 16lbs), but it is a lot of portable firepower. There was a lighter, semi-automatic version, called the Colt Monitor which was marketed to police, but also ended up on the commercial market, however that didn’t enter production until 1931.

Thanks in large part to Terminator 2, we’re probably all familiar with the Winchester 1887, it’s a lever action shotgun, though there were iterations, including the Winchester Model 1901. The 1887 is notable for how much you can cut the gun down and still have a functional weapon. The nickname for sawed off 1887s is a “Mare’s Leg.” So let’s look at some shotguns you didn’t expect.

The Winchester Model 12 was an early pump action shotgun. While the pumps you’re used to seeing, like the Winchester 1200, the Mossberg 590, and the Remington 870 would be 40 years away from your setting, the Model 12 was already there, and saw use during World War 1. The Model 12 is, for the most part, the pump action shotgun, you’re familiar with today. The design hasn’t changed that much in over a century. There’s also the Winchester 1897, which is another early pump action shotgun. The 1897 notable for its external hammer spur, which would become unusual in later pump action shotgun designs.

The Browning Automatic 5 was a five round semi automatic shotgun developed by John Browning. Remington produced a variant called the Model 11. The Browning Auto 5 was the first semi-auto shotgun dating back to the final years of the 19th century. This had a 4+1 magazine capacity.

If you absolutely need to take something out silently, the crossbow is probably your best option. Alternately a bow is viable. These are harder to conceal, though I wouldn’t count them out entirely.

The first firearms silencers entered the market in 1909, and regulation wouldn’t catch up until 1934. So, the 1920s were an odd era when you could purchase silencers as mail order items. Of course, silencers do not fully silence a gunshot, but they were commercially available in the 20s, and they can drastically reduce the amount of sound a firearm produces.

As we’ve said before, getting into melee with something considerably larger than yourself is a recipe for disaster. Spears and lances might be effective options, but they don’t exactly qualify as stealthy. Granted, most firearms only fit that definition in the sense of getting into position undetected, and you would need a trench coat to conceal anything larger than a handgun. However it is much safer dealing with a dragon at three hundred yards through the scope of a bolt action rifle, than trying to hit it with a rock while standing in claw distance.

A few things worth remembering:

The M79 Grenade Launcher entered development in the 1950s. Before that the US military relied on either throwing hand grenades or mortar strikes. The Bazooka dates to 1942.

In World War 1, tanks were neutralized using, what we’d now call anti-material rifles. Anti-Tank rifles are in their own category of firearm. They’re not stealthy, they don’t have the accuracy of something like a TAC-50 or M82, but they are period appropriate and would absolutely put down whatever they hit.

World War 1 saw extensive use of chemical weapons on the battlefield, and while this would eventually see the use of such weapons curtailed by the Geneva Protocol in 1925 (this is different from the Geneva Convention, there were a number of distinct international treaties negotiated in Geneva in the 20s regulating warfare.) It’s not hard to imagine a world where these protections wouldn’t extend to “monsters.” (There’s a lot more political history here, I’m not going to get into.)

Additionally, while I can’t find hard data on the first White Phosphorous small arms munitions, white phosphorous grenades first saw battlefield usage in 1915. This is a very vicious weapon that would make a mess out of anything caught in the blast, as white phosphorous burns on contact with open atmosphere (technically, it’s reacting to the moisture in the air), and will continue burning in the victim’s body. Worth noting, phosphorous munitions will leave particulate matter in the air after use, and this can cause injury to anyone moving through the area immediately after bombardment, if they’re not using gas masks and covering their exposed skin.

Production of chemical agents like Phosgene or chlorine gas are depressingly easy, and I’m not going to be going into further details on these, but they’d probably be just as effective.

So, yeah, you have options. There were a wide range of commercial and military firearms on the market in the 1920s. World War 1 had just ended, and depending on where you were in the world, there were a lot of weapons still in circulation. There were also a lot of people who’d been in a military conflict and still had the training to use them. It’s a very complex moment in history, and worth digging into if you’re going to set your story in it.

-Starke

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