Wheelgun Wednesday: The Victorian Era Velo-Dog Phenomenon By: Rusty S.


At the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, early cyclists/velocipede enthusiasts seemed to be plagued, however, with curious and often aggressive canines.  This was apparently enough of a common occurrence that René Galand, son of prolific revolver inventor Charles-François Galand, came up with a firearm and cartridge specifically designed for cyclists to shoot at pursuing dogs. The 5.5mm Velo-Dog cartridge was a 30-ish grain .22 diameter centerfire cartridge, though its energy was roughly equivalent to the .22 long.(1)

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Wheelgun Wednesday: The Victorian Era Velo-Dog Phenomenon

Fiocchi manufactured 5.75 Velo Dog cartridges into the 1990s. Image Credit: Gunacution.com

Nonlethal Velo-Dog loads existed as well, including wax, pepper, salt, etc.  The phenomenon of selling a bicyclist’s revolver was so successful that manufacturing spread beyond the dozens of variants being produced all over Liège, Paris, and Madrid.  Various German companies made the “Radfahrerrevolver”, and the United States, Britain and Russia all saw some form of “Cyclist’s Revolver” come to market.

I doubt the 5.75mm round will do much good against the bison… Image credit: Library of congress

Notable Velo Dog Characteristics

Most Velo-Dogs were made as slim pocket hammerless revolvers with a folding trigger.  The emphasis on a relatively safe, no-snag design was due to their intended method of being carried and drawn from a pants pocket, rather than a holster.  Most were chambered in some form of .22 cartridge.  Quite a few had frame-mounted safeties as well. Velo-Dogs chambered for 5.5 or 6mm rimfire Française rounds are readily identifiable by their long, yet slim cylinders, as both cartridges were relatively long for their .22-.236 diameter at 1.35″OAL.

Velo-Dog. Image Credit: Gunsinternational

Velo-Dogs were commonly equipped with either a yoke-mounted ejector, though more advanced models offered break-open tip-up or down ejection.  The Velo Dog design proved so popular with consumers that the design was eventually scaled up to chamber both .25 and .32 (7.65mm) auto cartridges for defense against two-legged assailants.

A very nice, albeit deactivated, example of a French Velo-Dog. Image Credit: Deactivatedguns.co.uk

Though cyclists nowadays may be a smug, annoying, spandex-clad bunch, we can be thankful that the concept of shooting every dog on their morning ride is thankfully left in the dust.

(1) Source Material: Zhuk, A.B. (1995) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns