As New York City resident John W. Cochran designed horizontal percussion turret rifles employing radial cylinders, he realized the inherent danger present in his design. In a chain-fire situation, during which multiple chambers of the Cochran cylinder could discharge at the same time, some projectiles would have been directed backward at precarious angles.
While the usual .36- or .40-caliber Cochran rifle was a seven- or nine-shot arm, Cochran designed a variant to limit potential problems. The revised design features only half a cylinder—and five shots—and this remaining section of the cylinder does not aim any of its loaded chambers back toward the shooter. One possibly unique example of his ingenious solution is known to have survived: While only half a Cochran, no doubt the owner of this rifle was much more confident during firing.
The NRA National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va.; the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo.; and the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, N.M.; all have fine selections of historic arms on display. Admission to each is free, and donations are gratefully accepted. For more information, visit nramuseums.com, phone (703) 267-1600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.|Photo by Michael Ives