Monday, August 9, 2010

Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities: The Haight Fist Gun of WWII

Part of my love affair with firearms is a love affair of unique and curious firearms created for a dedicated purpose either real or contrived. These guns often have unique histories and more often than not represent commercial failure. Sometimes without these guns we wouldn't have had the inclination to design improved new weapons which led to genuine firearm innovations.

Today, is the first of what I hope will become a new series, Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities. To start off this segment I present to you a firearm that is... sort of a pistol. As described in the patent (#2,432,448) it is a "Hand Firing Mechanism" or a "fist gun". The primary purpose is, "[A] firearm which is adapted to be used when in actual contact with an adversary..." The gun's patent application date is Feb. 29, 1944, by Stanley M. Haight, United States Navy.

The weapon, shown below, was a plunger activated weapon, most appropriately described as a "hand gun" attached to the back of a leather glove. Described by Mr.[sic] Haight, to be worn when other arms are not being carried by a soldier who may be distracted with another duty or asleep. The idea was that the gun would be worn loaded and that when a fist was made and an opponent was successfully punched, it would activate the weapon and fire the cartridge. According to the book, Firearms Curiosa by Lewis Winant, the Haight Fist Gun was chambered for the .38 S&W cartridge (that would be the shorter, older, cartridge from which the .38 S&W Special is derived). Note, within the original Patent Application, Mr.[sic] Haight states the weapon was to be chambered for a shot shell. By all accounts I have been able to find, no such weapon was ever produced and that all versions of the Haight Fist Gun were chambered for a centerfire pistol cartridge.

The cartridge, for those unfamiliar with it, is typically found loaded with a 150-grain lead round nose bullet, driven at an anemic 750 FPS from a 4" barrel. In the Haight Fist Gun, it would develop considerably less velocity give that there is no discernible barrel length. Of course, given the intention of the weapon, to serve as a contact only weapon, the cartridge might have provided acceptable performance.

Fist Gun Image Image of the Fist Gun, from Firearms Curiosa Page 224.

Patent 1 Patent Image Illustrating the Weapons Mounting Mechanism and Proposed Method of Function.

Patent 2 Patent Image Illustrating the Plunger Mechanism of the weapon.

Full Patent PDF can be found here.

To my knowledge, the weapon was never used during conflict, nor mass produced. The patent was originally applied for in 1944, the issue date was in 1947. I'm willing to conjecture that the weapon did not excel in terms of performance due to the weak cartridge for which it was chambered, the lack of accuracy, and the lack range, made the weapon a very specialized tool. The uses of such a weapon, being so limited, would not fit into a military state of mind, where simplicity and multi-functional use is the name of the game. Finally, the weapon would not have met with much success with the OSS/Commando type units (for whom it might also have been a marketable item), because it simply would not have been quiet enough for close in dispatch. The close up kill would have been absolutely necessary to use the weapon effectively. I can't help but think that a person might be better served a good knife, black jack, or a pair of brass knuckles over a fist gun. Particularly if one were faced with multiple opponents.

None of this however, makes the Haight Fist Gun any less interesting and it is an appropriate introduction to the Ye Olde Firearm Curiosity segment.



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