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Firearms for Space 1889

The period of the 1880s was one of great innovation, transition and variety when it came to small arms.

The field of handguns was dominated by the revolver, although multi-barreled weapons such as the Lancaster and pepperbox were by no means rare. Metallic cartridges could be encountered in centrefire, rimfire and pinfire configurations, and cap and ball weapons were far from extinct. The pinfires in particular seemed to be popular with inventors. Guns such as the ”Apache” that incorporated blades and knuckledusters are quite well known, but pinfires were also built into swords, wallets and various other items. 12, 18 and even 20 shot pinfire revolvers were built.

Many nations of Earth were still using rifle-muskets or even smoothbores, but the most common military weapon was the breech-loading rifle. These single-shot weapons used a metallic cartridge and fired a lead bullet of between .40-.50 calibre. These were simple, robust weapons, and a trained man could keep up a surprisinly high rate of fire –trials with the Soper breech loader managed 60 shots per minute! By the 1880s many nations were in the process of adopting a new pattern of rifle. These usually combined three new innovations:

To use any 19th Century small arm in this system all you have to do is establish the Damage, Range and Loading system.



Automatic pistols may be encountered as inventor's weapons or in Steampunk 1920.

These have to use a full jacketed round that is not as effective as rounds that can be used in non-automatics, so a Luger 9mm and Colt .45 Auto are classed as medium weapons and something like a Browning .32 pocket pistol is a light weapon. Most Mauser C96 broomhandles were 7.63mm (c.30) calibre but count as medium weapons because of their very high velocity.


All rifles do 2pts of wounding and save on 1 with the following exceptions:


Other Weapons.



Heavy and Howdah pistols15yds
Medium pistols10yds
Light pistols5yds


Le Mat shot barrel, or buckshot-loaded muzzle-loading pistol.5yds (scattergun rules)
20g and 12g Shotgun.30yrd
Scatterguns15yd (scattergun rules)

Shotguns and scatterguns half their chance of hitting (rounded up) if fired at double range and cannot fire beyond double range. Scatterguns add 2 to hit if target is at close range –within 10 yds. Shot-loaded pistols add 2 if within 5 yrds.


Rifle range is dependent on the round that the weapon uses. Most weapons of the period used :

Rifle RangeLong barreled (yds)Short barreled (yds)
Pistol calibre longarms7545
Pistols fitted shoulder stocks. 30
Modern c.30 rifle12090
.40-.50 metallic cartridge rifles9060
Muzzleloading rifles7545
Snider converted rifle musket7545
Smooth bore muskets4530
Long Hunting Rifle200
Express or Heavy Hunting rifle.150
Light hunter/ Rook Rifle7545
Saloon rifle/gallery rifle15
Air rifle10
Invented Electric rifle120
Moon Man Electric rifle45

Sub-machine guns can be classed as short barreled pistol calibre weapons.

Other Weapons.

Typical bow30yrd
Hjamaal/ Asiatic bow45yrd
Light Wooden Crossbow30yrd
Steel Crossbow45yrd
Arbalest/ Siege Crossbow75yrd
Stone/ Grenade5yrd

Since the term is often used wrongly, a brief word of explanation on clips.

Both clips and chargers resemble little metal rails that hold cartridges. Although they look similar the two are in fact very different:

Note that chargers and clips are both magazine loading devices, not magazines. Calling a magazine a clip is incorrect. A clip is actually something that fits inside a magazine. For further information see here.

Since the clip actually forms part of the rifle’s mechanism a clip-loading weapon cannot be topped up with loose ammo –it is a full clip or nothing.

Personal weapons that loaded by detachable box magazine did not exist in 1889 and charger-loading had only been invented by Paul Mauser that year. Many nations did not adopt these for at least a decade. These are included in the rules for inventions or Steampunk 1920. The Mauser C96 pistol loaded by 10 round charger, the Lee Enfield by two 5 round chargers. Examples of box magazine weapons were the Colt Automatic pistol and submachine guns.

The rifle-musket used the Minie Ball that expanded to fit the rifling when fired, so the rifle musket can be loaded as fast as a smoothbore but shoots like a rifled arm.

The Snider conversion converted muzzle-loading weapons to metallic cartridges. Such weapons shoot as rifled muzzle-loaders but can be loaded as breech-loaders.

The Lee Metford rifle had only been introduced in 1888 so most of the British army still used the Martini Henry. In 1889 the Lee Metford could be found issued to the Brigade of Guards, Rifle Brigade, King’s Royal Rifle Corps and Infantry battalions stationed on Mars. Some Cavalry units on Mars have adopted Martini-Metford carbines. Unlike many of the rifles recently adopted by other nations, the .303 Lee Metford does not load by clips or chargers and does not use smokeless powder. These features would be introduced in later variants.

Rates of Fire.

All handguns, revolving carbines, electric rifles and self loading rifles can fire three times an action unless they hold a lesser number of rounds.

Lever action and pump action weapons can fire twice in an action. Should a character encounter a “Volcanic” lever action pistol it will have a rate of fire of two.

Double barreled rifles and shotguns can fire twice. A gun with a larger number of barrels could fire up to three times.

Submachine guns have the same rate of fire as a Maxim gun, 10 shots per action.

All other weapons fire once a action.

A volley gun such as a Duck’s Foot pistol would fire all of its barrels, but all shots must be made in the same direction.

Minimum Strength to use Firearms.
Light and Medium Pistols1
Heavy and Howdah Pistols2
12g Shotguns3
20g Shotguns2
Pistol calibre longarms, long barreled2
Pistol calibre longarms, short barreled1
SMGs on automatic fire3 (otherwise 1)
Full power rifles, rifle muskets or muskets, long barreled3
Carbine versions of full power rifles, rifle muskets or muskets2
Long Hunting Rifle3
Heavy Hunting Rifle4
Light Hunting rifle, Air rifle, etc1
Standard Bow2
Asiatic, Hjamaal or Longbow3
Wooden Crossbow1
Steel Crossbow, Siege bow or Arbalest2
Throwing Knife2
Stone or Sling1

Smokeless powder.

All handguns in 1889 are assumed to use black powder, which is not smokeless. Any invented automatic pistols will probably need to use smokeless powder if they are to avoid frequent fouling and jams.

Cartridge loading shotguns have been using smokeless powder since 1864. Muzzle-loading shot weapons use black powder.

All rifles use black powder unless they are chambered for the latest high velocity jacketed rounds of 8mm or less. There will be exceptions to this, such as the British .303


The relatively drier conditions of Mars negate many of the drawbacks of Cap and Ball weapons. Large numbers of such arms, many of them of American Civil War vintage, have been exported to Mars.

By far the most common Martian long range weapon is still a bow or smoothbore musket, but some armies have converted to rifle-muskets to varying degrees.

Remington Rolling Block rifles and Winchesters are also encountered. These are quite common in the Chryse region in an area bordered by the Coprates and Meridiani Sinus, but may be found over most of Mars, often as the arms of canal prince’s personal bodyguard.

Earth armies on Mars usually get priority for the best weapons. Earth troops on Mars often have a full compliment of the latest bolt action rifles, even though these weapons may have just been adopted by their nation.

British infantry use the .303 Lee Metford rifle, while Martian units serving the crown use the Enfield rifle-musket. Human cavalry have Martini-Henry or Martini-Metford carbines.

The private troops of the Hesperian Basin Trading Company use Martini-Henrys. They are not likely to receive Lee-Metfords until the needs of all of the British Army have been met. As an interim measure rifles are being converted to Martini-Metfords to simplify joint operations.

French units use the 8mm Lebel Rifle.

German units use the Commission 1888 bolt action.

Belgium units have received the new Mauser 7.65mm, although Albini and Comblain breechloaders may still be encountered.

Japanese forces have the Murata Meiji 22 bolt action.

Russian forces use the old M1871 Berdan breechloader.

US troops use Trapdoor Springfield breech-loaders, although some marine units have the magazine-loading Remington-Lee .45-70 rifle.


Any firearm that does not use a sealed metallic cartridge is of little use in the conditions on Venus.

By far the most common rifle on Venus is the carbine version of the Mauser M1871. This is the weapon used by the Lizardman Feld Kompanies and also by many human units. The weapon’s light weight and handiness are much appreciated in the humid jungle conditions, where shooting ranges are often quite short. The heavy bullet is reckoned to be very effective against thick-skinned reptiles or for punching through foliage.

Guard units at Venusstadt may have the M1871/84 magazine rifle although this is seldom used in the field since it is long and the tube magazine prevents it being cut down, as has been done with many full length M1871s.

All other army units on Venus use their nation’s breech-loaders –ie, Martin Henrys, Springfields, or Berdans. The exception is Italy, who have converted all their breech-loading Vetterlis into magazine Vetterli-Vitalis.

Self Loading Smallarms.

The world of Space 1889 is technologically more advanced that our world of the same year, so it is within the spirit of the game to include some devices that were invented just after 1889. This in fact already happens: although the .303 Maxim gun was accepted for British service in 1889, it was not in fact issued until 1891.

Self loaders can be inventor’s weapons or private purchases. When issued they will probably be seen in the hands of officers, NCOs or specialist troops such as snipers who could be relied upon to care for them. Many of the earliest self loaders were used by aircraft crews since this was one of the best ways to ensure that the weapons avoided the mud and dirt of field use.

The earliest automatic pistol was the French Clair brothers’ St.Etienne. This was an 8mm tube-magazined weapon. Steyr, Schwarzlose and Mannlicher all produced designs. A typical early weapon would be a 7.63-8mm eight-shot pistol loaded by chargers. The 7.63mm Schwarzlose design of 1898 weighed 23.5oz and loaded by both chargers and detachable 7 round box magazine. Most famous weapon of this (approximate) period was the 7,63mm 10 shot Mauser C96. Like many early autopistols this could be used with a shoulder stock.

The metallurgy of the 19th Century wasn't really ready to produce a truly reliable self-loading rifle, but experiments were conducted. In 1883 Maxim demonstrated a recoil operated Winchester 1866 lever carbine, and Mannlicher built a self loader in 1885. Good models for a Space 1889 SLR would be the Mondragon 1908 (9.25lb, 8 shot clip loader, various rifle calibres: 7x57mm Mauser, 30-30, 6.5mm and Swiss 7.5mm) and the French St.Etiene RSC 1917 (11.5lb, 8mm, 5 shot clip).

The Big Rifles.

Some Victorian hunters hand built great rifles that were mounted on light carts.

H.A. Leveson, known as “The Old Shekarry” had Henry Holland build him a weapon called the “Whisperer” or “Rib tickler”.

Sir Samuel White-Baker took down the Nile a Holland and Holland-built gun that he called “the Baby”, but his native servants christened “The Cannon’s Child”.

Both of these weapons fired a half pound “bullet”. The White-Baker weapon weighed 20lbs, but this did not include the carriage that was needed to help manage the recoil.

Such mighty hunting weapons have an obvious appeal for Space 1889, particularly for travelers to Venus. The above weapons were rifled muzzle-loading percussion weapons, but for the damp conditions of the second planet a metallic cartridge would be needed. Making a strong but light enough breech mechanism may prove problematical so this may end up as a muzzleloader with an encased charge. (Some such artillery pieces did exist).

Such a gun is probably best considered to be a sweeper with a range of 100yds and a burst area of 1. Solid shot is assumed but some of the originals may have used a percussion shell.

1796-1815 Napoleonic Wars
1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
1807 Dr. Forsyth patents percussion ignition
1812 Pauly invents first cartridge breech loader. Retreat from Moscow
1835 Lefaucheux patents Pinfire cartridge
1840 Prussia adopts needle gun
c.1840s European armies adopt percussion ignition. Use of revolvers becomes commonplace.
1849 Miniť bullet invented
1850s-60s Miniť rifles replace smoothbore muskets
1854-56 Crimean War
1858 French adopt rifled artillery
1860s Ironclad gunboats first used. Manual machine guns such as the Gatlin in use
1861-65 American Civil War
1864 Smokeless powder for shotguns.
1867 British patent for box magazine.
1870-71 Franco-Prussian War
c.1870s Breech loading artillery predominates
1883 Maxim builds recoil-operated lever carbine, Maxim patents fully automatic machine gun
1884 French develop smokeless powder for rifles. Maxim demonstrates Maxim machine gun.
1885 Mannlicher self loading rifle. Mannlicher invents loading clip and first clip-loader adopted by Austria.
1886 French first nation to adopt smokeless powder.
“Whitehead”: first self-propelled torpedo invented.
1887-88 Nobel patents important smokeless propellants
1888 Britain adopts Lee-Metford. Britain first to use Maxim gun in Gambia
1889 Mauser introduces charger loading and charger-loading weapon adopted by Belgium. .303 Maxim gun approved for British service.
1891 Britain adopts cordite (smokeless powder). Issue of Maxim guns begins.
1896 US order Browning-Colt machine gun
1899 Maxim ”pom-pom” first automatic cannon in use
1899-1902 Anglo-Boer Wars
1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. Grenades once more become common weapons
1906 HMS Dreadnought launched
19th Century Guns
Guns for Steampunk 1920

Space 1889 Main Page