1.5" tear gas cartridges and the Federal Gas Gun

I am looking for the early history of this cartridge and gun. I understand it became available in the 1920s and was already widespread in the 1930s, but I am looking for exact dates and other details, including the actual designation of the gun – was it called the Model 201-Z from the start?
On a related note, I am looking for the book “Swearingen, Thomas, Tear Gas Munitions, An Analysis of Commercial Riot Gas Guns, Tear Gas Projectiles, Grenades, Small Arms Ammunition”, which presumably would help me find out about this (and similar questions about gas billies and hand grenades).
Can somebody help? Many thanks!



I think I can help with questions about tear gas items, (up to the extent that my reference material provides information).

And yes…if you have interest in anything historical, pre 1966


Be aware that Pepper is THE expert, now. What with Swearigen having passed on. And there are THREE interested parties, for sure.


Excellent! Many thanks, Pepper! I fear that I must rely on your expertise and quotes, since I have no way to obtain the book by Swearingen here in Germany – I already checked all libraries I have access to, as well as the antique bookshop circuit.

Well then, more questions ;)

  1. It would appear that the first Federal Gas Gun was similar to the British 1.5" Webley & Scott flare gun, right? This looks quite different from the Federal Model 201-type gun seen usually. Any idea what this retailed for in the 1920s?

  2. The Federal Model 201 (I have only seen it marked Model, not No., but I hope you can educate me further on this aspect) was then introduced in the 1930s, presumably replacing the earlier gun in production. This is also the gun sold in the Federal Gun Case (one Thompson SMG, two Gas Guns, two Gas Billies), and the one seen on many era pictures of the 1930s and 1940s. Can you guesstimate more “precisely” when it entered production? Closer to 1933, to 1934, or 1935? I understand, for example, that gangster Wilbur

Pepper if your willing …PLEASE post MORE pics of your outstanding collection.

All I can say is OUTSTANDING SIR !

This is one of my extra 12ga federals.

[quote=“cobb”]This is one of my extra 12ga federals.


Cobb, can you tell me more about this Gas Billy? What are its markings, when was it made, which cartridge length does it take, what is its weight and overall dimensions? Do you know when Federal introduced the type and when they discontinued it? What did it cost back then? Many thanks!



Hans…I use a clich

[quote=“Pepper”]Hans…I use a clich

Couple quick hits

'now I know what I want for next Christmas…that cased set !

small front hole=spray (for accuracy and distance)

big hole= blast (close up muzzle dispersion)

I know of “no” common Federal style (sorry Cobb) 12 gauge Billy Club chamber (I say common as the style Cobb photos is most common)…usually of one or two versions that externally appear the same, but chamber different Federal cartridges.

You will note that most of these Federal styles have a proprietary breech block to accommodate a specific cartridge head shape…thus not a “shotgun shell”…if you do find one to accept a “shotgun shell”…it will likely chamber a 10 ga Very Flare casing (and would need to have a flat center fire breech block face to fire such a round)

I have never chambered a round in a federal …good info THANKS.

Here is a a 20ga hurcules billie “midget” and a 20ga lake erie detective gas billie “baby giant”.

I’d love that Midget…the 20 Ga Little Giants are fine, but more common than that Midget…I have a home for it !!!

thanks for posting the photo

It’s nice, isn’t it ;)

What distance could you achieve?

Again, what distance? Rather like a modern pepper spray, 10’ or so?

I haven’t seen any of these thingies up close, this is merely academic interest ;)

OK, so the Federal M-29, Federal M-30, and the earlier one (Federal M-22? – from the patent date) all can’t chamber real shotshells. What cartridge DO they chamber? Can you give the dimensons, correct designation, and overall weight?

Would that be the same used in the Remington MK III flare gun adopted by the USN in 1915? Is the 10-gauge Very shell interchangable with a normal 10-gauge 2 7/8" shotshell? What is the length of the case?

When was the Hercules Midget introduced? Which kind of 20-gauge cartridge does it take?

Many thanks for sharing your photos and info!



About that Federal Long Range Offensive Shell with glass projectile – what are the dimensions of the vial? Ie, how much fluid could it contain? What was the agent contained in it? I imagine the effective radius would be rather limited, as it would depend on the dispersion of the fluid agent . . . Any details on this? “Long Range” presumably means the standard 100 yards achievable with the 1.5" launchers?




When was the Hercules Midget introduced? Which kind of 20-gauge cartridge does it take?

in the 1930s it takes a standard 20ga.

I have seen a baby giant fire a standard 20 ga birdshot round.

The Baby Giant is proported (in it’s paper work…yes I have it home John) to have a chamber “pin” to prevent “full length” 20 ga shells from being chambered. My Lake Erie 20 shells are “short cased”…although both launchers I have…do not have chamber pins (I will check that)

I have never seen a baby giant with a pin…like the midget has. I have seen 4 baby giants up close none had a pin and 1 had a 45acp insert that was of the same vintage.

The baby giant I have seen that was new in the box…box,paperwork hang tag,etc…said nothing of a pin. Might be later mfg items.

Have you ever seen the 20ga dm & rock salt loads that were used by the GNRY in the 1930s ?

also their is info in applegates kill or be killed book on the baby giant.

From looking at Pepper’s photo, the Federal M-29 Billy used a cartridge smaller than a 10-gauge, but rather long. The M-29 couldn’t chamber a real, lethal shotgun cartridge. Can someone tell me the exact dimensions of the round it used?
The Federal M-30 Billy seems to have actually been able to use 10-gauge lethal shells (restricted from 1934), but the chamber length seems to have been real short if the shell depicted is any indication. Again, would someone know exactly what kind of round it fired?

Many thanks!




No, I can not, tell you the exact dimensions because I believe the M-39 (I don

Thanks Pepper! Yes, I am still trying to get that book by Swearengen. Proves difficult though.



I finally got Swearengen’s book (Thanks to Pepper, who gave me a tip where to get it!), and it’s excellent. However, one thing is missing that I’d hoped it would be in there: during the 1930s, Federal offered an ammunition vest to go with their gas guns (much like modern grenadier vests). It would hold a number of shells in pouches, similar to a hunter’s vest. Would anyone know more about this item? How many shells it held, when it was introduced, and how heavy it was? Many thanks!