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“I fear no tramp”: when cyclists carried pistols

Cycling ads, late 1890s

Inflator. Check. Spare tube. Check. Pistol. Check. Bicycle magazines of the 1890s carried adverts for guns “designed especially for cyclists.” Sears Roebuck sold mail-order “bicycle rifles”. Round-the-world bicycle tourists carried guns for obvious reasons, ditto for members of the City of London Cyclist Regiment, but given the plethora of adverts a great many everyday Victorian cyclists were clearly packing heat when they went riding.

“No Lady or Gentleman Rider should be without one,” urged T.W. Carryer of Staffordshire in England. Its “lovely little shooter” was “the Cyclist’s Friend.” Presumably it wasn’t so friendly to tramps.

Iver Johnson Cycling Revolver

Iver Johnson’s Arms and Cycle Works covered both bases, making bicycles as well as guns. Today, Smith & Wesson makes a range of police bikes; back in the 1890s it produced a safety hammerless revolver which was “specially adapted for Bicyclists” and which “may be carried in the pocket without inconvenience or danger.”

Smith & Wesson Hammerless Bicycling Revolver

The illustration in Smith & Wesson’s 1893 advert is poking fun at a rival company’s gun (or the pump-action cyclist had eaten too many baked beans for lunch).

Bicycle rifle

The Quakenbush Bicycle Rifle was produced in numbers – 4321 were sold between 1896 and 1919 – and can sometimes be found on gun auction websites.

Parker, Stearns & Sutton Liquid Pistol

However, for those kindly cyclists who didn’t want to resort to lethal force there was always the Liquid Pistol by Parker, Stearns & Sutton. Promising this water pistol was “not a toy”, the New York manufacturer said its product would “stop the most vicious dog (or man) without permanent injury.”

H & R Arms Bicycle Revolver

And, from 1904, we have:

iver johnson cycle revolvers 1904

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