Presented is an authentic carrying case for a line
throwing pistol of pre-WW II vintage. IT DOES NOT INCLUDE THE DEVICE OR ANY WEAPON. The case held
an example that was exactly like the Schermuly that is on display at London’s National Maritime Museum. The case otherwise is
complete in all respects including never used coiled throwing lines in their separate sealed compartments. It has the
maker’s brass seal on its cover. Except for some scratches, dent and dings and missing paint the it is in overall
SIZE: 25″ L x 20″ D x 7″ H
Weight 40 poundsBRIEF HISTORY: The Schermuly founder was William Schermuly 1857-1929. He was one of fathers of modern rocketry.
Although William started the business and developed many ideas, it was his third son Alfred James Schermuly, the actual
family pyrotechnist, who invented and put into production this particular Line gun. Produced during the 1920’s and highly
successful for the throwing of line from shore to ship, or ship to ship. The Schermuly system saved countless lives at sea.
the example offered is a classic of this type of line throwing gun. It is of brass,steel and construction with walnut
grips. The pistol is clearly marked “SPRA”, and with the British Royal Crown. SPRA is an acronym for Schermuly’s Pistol Rocket
Apparatus.National Maritime Museum’s Description:
pistol consisting of a long barrel with pistol grip and trigger which fires a short blank cartridge. The cartridge is loaded
into the breech of the pistol and the rocket is inserted into the muzzle. On pulling the trigger, the gases generated by the
fired cartridge eject the rocket on its correct line of flight, and at the same time, burst through the waterproof disc and
ignite the propellant mixture, which carries the rocket and line on the remainder of the flight. The rocket (which is missing)
consists of a weldless steel case filled with propellant mixture sealed in by a waterproof disc. Fixed to the rocket case
is a direction bridle, to the end of which a short length of flexible steel wire is attached, this in turn being connected
to the end of the line to be thrown. The number ‘503324’ and the serial number ‘585’ are stamped on the pistol.U.S.HISTORY of Line Throwing Devices:
The Lyle Gun – Breeches Buoy Lifesaving System
A ship is foundering off the coast – lives are at
risk, crewmen must be rescued. That job falls to the surf men of the U.S. Coast Guard, and prior to 1915, to its predecessor,
the U.S. Life-Saving Service. In situations where the stricken vessel is within a few hundreds yards from shore, it
is possible to effect a rescue without putting a rescue craft in the water and needlessly risking the lives of the rescuers.
In such cases, a line is launched from shore to the vessel. Today a rocket fires that line. Prior to 1952, a small
cannon, a line-throwing gun, was used.
A line-throwing gun is a short-barreled cannon designed to
fire a projectile attached to a rope to a boat or victim in distress. Experiments in shooting tethered projectiles dates
back to around 1800. A mortar device was credited with saving lives in 1850. But it wasn’t until West Point and
MIT graduate Army Captain David A. Lyle (1845 – 1937) began his research and testing that resulted in reliable efficient designs.
Thus line-throwing guns are most often referred to as “Lyle
Guns.” The U.S. government funded many line throwing gun projects. There were about 30 companies who
made line-throwing guns from the late 1800’s to 1952. Famous names included, American Manufacturing, Galbraith, General
Ordnance, Naval Company, Sculler and Steward. Production ceased in 1952 in favor of rockets.
These line guns are used primarily for shore based rescue
operations. The shooter would fire, aiming over the victims’ heads and then pull the line within reach of the victims.
They are also useful for rescuing victims that have fallen through the ice, or are stranded on a cliff or burning building.
Boats in distress need larger lines. Lyle guns were
designed to throw projectiles weighing approximately 18 pounds, carrying heavier rope to ranges as great as 700 yards.
Once the line was fired to the ship, shore crews sent out breeches buoy equipment and instructions to the stranded sailors.
Once the breeches buoy lines were assembled, the sailors could be removed from the vessel.
Standard procedure was for line throwing guns and breeches buoys to be used for wrecks
within 600 yards of the shore; rescues at greater distances were to be accomplished by lifeboats.