WTW: How Velo Dogs Let Loose the Dogs of War
Mike the Mook
In the mid- to late 19th century, a scourge was born from a mad inventor that would ultimately change the world as we knew it.
These unusual contraptions allowed man to travel faster and further than on foot, and in some cases were preferred to horseback riding.
Eventually the wheels would become similar in size.
However, when velocipedes were new in the 1850s, and up until the 1930s, they drew the attention of one species in particular: the domestic dog. (Canis lupus familiaris)
Not knowing what these contraptions were, dogs reacted as a human would to a UFO, or the way Native Americans reacted to Spanish conquistadors on horseback.
Well, maybe not exactly. People who spot UFOs usually get locked up in the booby hatch or claim lost time or memory lapses, and the Native Americans thought the Spaniards on horsebacks were like centaurs, despite no evidence of any of them ever reading Bulfinch’s Mythology.
No, the dogs didn’t just react like spooked humans. The dogs went to war, probably because they were tired of the velocipeders riding outside their lanes.
Cyclists were attacked on such a regular basis that they had to have a special firearm designed for them. Sometimes called a bicycle gun, the earliest forms were called “Velo Dogs” – coined by a Frenchman who not-so-cleverly mixed “Velocipede” with “Dog”.
Most were hammerless revolvers chambered in 5.7 Velo Dog, .22 Short, .22 Long, .320 Revolver and other small calibers.
In later years, they could be found in .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .32 S&W and .38 S&W. Iver Johnson Arms & Cycleworks actually produced a few that were sold along with their bicycles.
However, bicycle revolvers were a little bit different than the Velo Dog. For one thing, Velo Dog revolvers were smaller, and many lacked a trigger guard. Instead they featured a folding trigger and, in some cases, a safety.
Not all cyclists are completely evil, of course. In most instances, the rounds were loaded with pepper, rock salt, tear gas and the like in order to dissuade Fido from turning the cyclist into a Scooby Snack. Nobody wanted to kill another family’s pet, especially when the dog is obviously confused and reacting with innate courage.
In fact, some cunning cycle makers would go on to utilize these canines, essentially hampster-wheeling dogs, to power their contraptions.
We can’t confirm nor deny that this methodology is used with gerbils in order to power the Smart Car, although we have noticed how Smart Car drivers tend to stockpile alfalfa pellets in bulk. I just know they’re pouring those pellets into the tank where gasoline would normally go.
Velo Dogs and bicycle revolvers pop up everywhere, and we think the models made by Smith & Wesson, Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson were more intended for self-defense against two legged predators as opposed to plugging a feisty Jack Russel Terrier who got too close to Captain Pedalpusher.
The European-made Velo Dogs, with their folding triggers and sub-optimal calibers, were the weapon of choice for the ancestors of modern spandex-clad cyclists.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we remember a time when you wore regular clothes when riding a bike to the store, work, etc. Now it’s a race to the bottom to dress like Lance Armstrong’s fluffer, or act like they’re training for the Tour De Ghey. How did those ostentatious fops dress back in the day?
We don’t recommend any of these older revolvers for serious self-defense, but they do show how innovative arms makers were getting as they realized not everyone could haul around a Peacemaker or Schofield, much less a LeMat, on their evening cycling jaunts. Make the guns smaller and more compact and people will carry them, lose them on their velocipede and replace them.
These pistols fill a unique collecting niche as there are many styles, calibers and manufacturers out there and the price is more than reasonable.
Pro Tip: We’ve paid as low as $9 for a Belgian-made version!
Brought to you today by Propper (@wearpropper), a member of JTF Awesome.
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About the Author: Mike “the Mook” Searson is a veteran writer who began his career in firearms at the Camp Pendleton School for Destructive Boys at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life, writing about guns and knives for numerous publications and consulting with the film industry on weapons while at the same time working as gunsmith and ballistician. Though seemingly a surly curmudgeon shy a few chromosomes at first meeting, Searson is actually far less of a dick and at least a little smarter than most of the Mad Duo’s minions. He is rightfully considered to be not just good company, but actually fit for polite company as well (though he has never forgotten his roots as a rifleman trained to kill people and break things, and if you look closely you’ll see his knuckles are still quite scabbed over from dragging the ground). You can learn more about him on his website or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson.