Howdah Pistol
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Basic Information

A howdah pistol is one of a fairly heterogeneous class of large calibre, typically single-shot pistols used as a close-defence weapon by big game hunters in India (and, to a lesser extent, Africa) during the Colonial Era. The main purpose of these weapons was to protect the hunters from Tiger attack (or counterattack as the case might be) - they were generally large weapons with a ferocious recoil and only accurate at very close range, which, given that they were meant to be used to shoot a large animal at point blank was not much of a problem. Many designs also fired a multi-shot load for enhanced close range killing power and multi-barrel designs were not uncommon - some surviving examples resemble nothing so much as a sawn-off shotgun. Some later examples enhance this resemblance by being break action.

The name derives from the fact that quite a lot of big game - especially tigers - was hunted from the back of an elephant in that era and the hunters sat in an enlcosed structure on the elephant's back known as a howdah. Since this was where the pistol was stored and the place it was meant to defend, the name followed more or less automatically.

Once the weapon existed, it was then used from time to time as a self defence weapon against other - often two legged - targets. As a combat pistol it would have been somewhat lacking due to its short range and limited accuracy, but for close protection, home defence or, indeed, assasination, it would seem entirely suitable.

Howdah pistols were eventually made obsolete by a combination of magazine rifles (meaning more chances to hit the tiger with your primary weapon) and high powered, large calibre revolvers, which could supply the user with half a dozen powerful close range shots.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Probably useful for making a first impression on the mutinous sepoys or rampaging ghazis that have just burst into your office - even unloaded, that wide a barrel is likely to concentrate the mind somewhat.
  • Also useful when the thuggee sneak into your bungalow at night to strangle you.
  • Or for shooting at eldritch abominations that lurk in pre-human temples in the deep jungle and take a lot of killing.
  • As noted, good for assassinations as well - or for fending off attackers in the narrow, smoggy alleys of Victorian London.
  • If your system tracks such things, these weapons should be prime candidates for injuring the user with their recoil.
  • In later eras, such things could be used to defend vehicles - including railway engines - from unwanted passengers. This is very steampunk and would also work in dieselpunk up to and including Mad Max style road-action. Actually, if you like steampunk, they could even evolve into gondola pistols for airship defence.
    • There are a number of modern pistols, including shot-firing revolvers such as the Taurus "Raging Judge" marketed directly in this role (anti-vehicle jacking that is, not defending against airship pirates).
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