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The Fitz Special Revolver

John Henry Fitzgerald's Colts were the first modern combat revolvers.

The Fitz Special Revolver
(Photo by Philip Schreier)

Today, the ease of finding a fine off-­the-­rack defensive revolver or auto subtly belies the tortuous history of personal-protection arms through the past few centuries. In the 14th century, despite innovations, formative, awkward handgonnes’ general inefficiency relegated them almost to the novelty category. The heavy lifting by gunpowder arms, even in warfare, was principally provided by various types of cumbersome cannons at the time.

When true pistols first made an appearance around 1500 A.D., though intended primarily as combat arms, the complicated wheellock mechanisms, by the nature of the size and number of components involved, initially made employing guns...

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