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Lepage Wax-Bullet Dueling Pistols

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Ian starts by saying there’s something to be said for dueling — a way of keeping things polite, preventing people from doing and saying things they shouldn’t and that they would regret.

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He’s at the Institute for Military Technology and is taking a look at this set of French wax-bullet dueling pistols. This was introduced by the Lepage company in about 1905, and the idea was to make dueling a fun sport — to take it out of the realm of illegal, dangerous and deadly combat and turn it into something people could practice and enjoy.

This set of classical dueling pistols was designed to fire wax balls instead of lead bullets, the idea being similar to paintball. The wax ball is light, so it doesn’t deliver a lot of kinetic energy so it doesn’t hurt a target so much, while still being able to act exactly like a bullet when shot out of a regular gun.

The guns function like real, actual pistols and have all the necessary parts. But the cartridges are dummy cartridges with a space for primer in the back, and are rounded out in the front to accept wax bullets. The wax balls can safely shoot people at about 20-25 paces away.

There are some interesting things, Ian says. First, Lepage manufactured these specifically for this purpose, but they also made an 8mm version that officers could use to practice what would now be called modern tactical force-on-force training. French officers could use these 8mm wax rounds to practice their actual sidearms instead of the dueling pistol models.

The pistols came with modified fencing masks to protect the face and head to minimize damage. Participants would also wear a guard for the hand to prevent their knuckles from getting hit, and a thick, padded overcoat to protect the rest of their body from harm. This became a popular sport in the early 1900s, with duels being held in the middle of cities and towns.

Ian has the wooden case Lepage used to ship these firearms, complete with a small key. He shows how the guns fit in the box, complete with a cleaning rod. There are two compartments, and the bottom one holds the hand shields, four boxes of ammunition. Ian also walks viewers through the parts of the pistol and how it loads.

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