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A harmonica gun
or slide gun
is a form of percussion
The percussion cap, introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the...
firearm which was breech loaded
A breech-loading weapon is a firearm in which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded into a chamber integral to the rear portion of a barrel....
with a steel slide, containing a number of chambers bored in it. Each chamber contained a separate primer, powder charge, and projectile. The slide was inserted in an opening in the breech action and could be advanced by releasing the camlock, moving the slide by hand.
The most famous maker of harmonica guns was Jonathan Browning
Jonathan Browning was an American inventor and gunmaker. Born in Sumner County, Tennessee, he started earning a living as a blacksmith and later switched to become a lock and gunsmith. He invented a 'sliding breech' repeating rifle also called a Harmonica gun between 1834 and 1842 while living...
, father of John Moses Browning. Commencing in 1834 in Quincy
Quincy, known as Illinois' "Gem City," is a river city along the Mississippi River and the county seat of Adams County. As of the 2010 census the city held a population of 40,633. The city anchors its own micropolitan area and is the economic and regional hub of West-central Illinois, catering a...
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...
, he began to make harmonica guns and more conventional revolving
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...
rifles. He continued to improve on the principle after he became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and emigration to Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally Ogden
Ogden is a city in Weber County, Utah, United States. Ogden serves as the county seat of Weber County. The population was 82,825 according to the 2010 Census. The city served as a major railway hub through much of its history, and still handles a great deal of freight rail traffic which makes it a...
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...