The shooting ring remains one of the most original and intricate types of miniature guns that fire. Of course, there are many other unusual shooting devices, but only this became a civilian weapon that was widely disseminated. It is believed that this ring was invented in France in the early 19th century. However, the earliest existing specimen, created approximately in 1810-1819, comes from Scotland.
This ring was made by «Forsyth & Co», owned by the inventor of capsule ignition systems, Alexander Forsyth. As a matter that initiated a shot, it used fulminic mercury granules, without powder.
The ring-revolver has a five-shot cylinder. Its rotation shaft is parallel to the rim-base. There are special nicks on the cylinder to facilitate its rotation. Five pairs of holes drilled parallel and perpendicular to its shaft, and connected at the right angle. Explosive inflammable substance (mercury granules) were placed in parallel small holes without any casing. Metal cylindrical bullets were inserted in perpendicular big holes. When the hammer hit the small hole – mercury, that is sensitive to friction, flamed and released gases that created pressure and the bullet was ejected from the big hole.
The whole construction of this miniature weapon consists of a rim-base, a cylinder and a trigger mechanism. A mainspring is a thin plate attached to the outside surface of the base. One its end is placed under the lip of the trigger, the other end is held by the screw.
The cylinder is attached to the base with a big screw which serves as its axis. There are deep notches on the cylinder, they are necessary for functioning of a lock, which is fixed on the base: it provides the correct location of the cylinder after every rotation, so that the holes with combustible mixture are located in front of the hammer. The hammer is fixed on the base with an axis, its top part has notches for easy cocking with a finger.
The trigger is situated opposite the lock on the other side of the base. The rear of the trigger blocks the hammer when it is cocked, and after pressing the trigger, the hammer darts, hits into the hole and sets fire to flammable composition.
The ring was sold in a case with additional compartments for tools and removable cylinders.
Miniature firing ring-guns at the end of the 19th century
During the following years, a mechanism of this device has changed substantially. The cylinder rotation shaft became perpendicular to the base, and instead of connected holes stuffed with bullets and mercury granules, big chambers were created (miniature pin cartridges were placed there). Every big chamber had a narrow perpendicular hole for its pin (they are located on the outside of the cylinder circuiting it). And the ring started looking just like a massive ring-seal – it was difficult to make out what it contained. Cylinders in different models contained 6 and even 7 cartridges, their caliber ranged from 3.5 to 4.5. To charge this gun, you have to remove the cylinder – so there was also a special screwdriver in the set. Protruding cartridge pins were protected from accidental impact with the metal belt. The hammer in this model has quite a different form: it is like an oblong rounded plate, with the end that protrudes over the cylinder. To make a shot, you need to pull the hammer out and bring the trigger bar under it (it passes under the cylinder horizontally). The trigger itself (a semicircular short lever) is on the opposite side. After pressing on the trigger, the hammer influenced the cartridge, plunging into the hole and banging its pin.
In addition to complicated manipulation with setting the trigger in the operating position, it should be noted that the cylinder is rotated by hand, both to the right and to the left. Therefore, the owner had to remember which side contained the full cartridges with bullets, and had to be attentive, because turning the cylinder in the wrong direction could cause an unplanned misfire: the hammer could hit an empty sleeve.
Nevertheless, people liked exotic miniature guns that fire. Such rings were produced mainly in France and in Belgium (where private workshops often made fake branded firearms, as well as their own products, which were very high quality, by the way). The cylinder in these guns was usually made of steel, the rim-base was made of copper or iron, covered with gold and silver. On this video, you can see one of the most famous varieties of these miniature guns, which was produced under the brand name «Le Petit Protecteur».
Although this ring contained live ammunition, people didn’t use it for self-defense. Firstly, like any tubeless weapon, it can fire effectively only at short distance. Secondly, it uses small caliber bullets: the maximum diameter of its holes could not be more than 5 millimeters. In this case, the only trump could be a surprise effect – it is, in fact, the reason why this mechanism is disguised as a piece of jewelry. But without the fuse (it is absent in any of these models), you would not wear a ring with a cocked hammer. And all the manipulations required before a shot – cocking, cylinder rotation by hand – completely deprive the surprise effect. However, it is believed that spies used the ring for shooting poisoned bullets. But mainly this ring-gun was bought by ladies: more as an addition to their image, rather than in the hope that it would ever be used. This accessory makes you look like a femme fatale. One of the most famous models of firing rings, manufactured in England, was named exactly like that.
As any «trendy» thing in women’s wardrobe, the ring-gun has gone out of fashion. Today, there are several hundred copies of this mechanism, produced mainly in the 60-70s of the 19th century. They can be found in antique shops and in private collections. The cost of such an item starts from 3500 US dollars.
There are also new models made by modern masters for Flaubert cartridges. They are often less elegant and not so comfortable when wearing (cartridges with central ignition system do not allow you to combine a hammer and a cylinder on a frontal surface, so a trigger mechanism is installed on the other side). But it also is an interesting and functional decision.
In addition, there are rings made for metal fraction and capsule gas, or for other types of modern small-caliber ammunition. For example, this gold-plated ring, made in 2016 in Bulgaria, has eight holes. It uses the same 2 mm pin cartridges – they are still very popular among the fans of miniature firearms. This ring has a very modern design, it weighs much less than old models, and its trigger mechanism is not hidden in the rim-body, it is placed on the top. The hammer is made in the form of a metal rod and it is located next to the trigger lever. This is a typical example of modern ergonomics and design, applied to the old technology.
If you are interested in the theme of miniature guns that fire and are looking for information about other models and updates, in particular, about the smallest pistols in the world – it can be found here.