Ballistics by the inch

Spinning wheel got to go round.*

I was surprised when one of the other BBTI guys said that he had found a reproduction wheellock on Gunbroker recently, and that it wasn’t even horribly expensive. This one:

20200822_092520

Wheellock with Diablo double-barrel pistol.

I was surprised, because there aren’t many reproduction wheellocks out there that I was aware of. It’s a quirky firearm design from the 16th century (Ian from Forgotten Weapons has an excellent primer on Wheellock history and operation in this video), which was superseded by reliable & cheaper flintlocks, and not too many people are familiar with them. But it seems that a firm by the name of Mendi was producing them in Spain in the 1980s. This one is stamped along the top of the barrel “Jacobi Iserlohn”, which is a firm selling historical firearms in Iserlohn, Germany. You might be able to make out the stamp in this image:

20200822_100933

Jacobi Iserlohn.

We didn’t know much about the gun beyond what was stamped on it — it came with no paperwork or anything (which, being black powder, it didn’t need).  As you can see in the image above, it says that it is “CAL 45”, and a normal .451 lead ball seemed to fit, so …

So we figured we’d try and figure it out and shoot it, of course. The first thing was to check the bore, see if the mechanism worked, etc. Most things checked out fine, though it looked like someone had substituted welding rods clamped between a piece of thick lead sheet for the historical pyrite used to generate sparks. See for yourself:

20200822_111309

Welding rod?

Which would clamp in this (called the ‘dog’):

20200822_111313(0)

We adjusted the rods so they were equal length and extended far enough to engage the spinning wheel of the mechanism when the dog was lowered. So far, so good.

Next was to test the wheel mechanism. The way a wheellock works is that there’s a spring inside the stock, attached to the inside of the wheel usually by a chain or strap. Using a suitable crank (we didn’t have one that came with the gun, so we used a simple adjustable wrench), you crank the wheel until a ratchet inside locks it into place. We discovered that this gun only needed to be cranked about half a turn before the ratchet clicked. When you pull the trigger the ratchet is released, and the wheel spins.

We tried that, and it seemed to work.

OK, time to load the thing. We elected to start with a mild load typical for other black powder handguns we have in .44/.45 — 30gr of fffg. The lead ball seemed to fit tightly enough into the bore that we went without a patch. All of that went smoothly.

Last was to put some powder in the pan and see if we could shoot it. First, we cranked the wheel into place. Then we put some powder beside where the wheel was, next to the touch-hole. And gave it a try:

Remember, we had no idea what to expect.

At least we got sparks. Just sparks. The powder in the pan failed to ignite. We considered the matter, and decided that we had been too stingy with the powder, that it needed to more or less fill the pan all around where the wheel protruded.

The result:

Excellent! It fired! It hit the target! It didn’t blow up and kill us! Yay!

So each of us had a go:

That last one’s me. And let me share what it felt like.

Mostly, like shooting any similarly sized/powerful black powder handgun, with the gentle push of black powder. But when you pulled the trigger, you could feel a little bit of torque as the wheel released and spun for a moment. It was different than either a flintlock or cap & ball handgun, in that regard. And the delay between pulling the trigger and ignition was about what it’s like with a flintlock, perhaps a little longer.

All in all, it was pretty cool. And it wasn’t something I expected to ever have a chance to actually try, since most of the wheellocks I was aware of were either 300+ year antiques or fairly high-end (and rare) custom reproductions. Needless to say, if you do get a chance to try one of these things, definitely do it.

Jim Downey

* of course.

(Cross posted to my personal blog.)

September 5, 2020 Posted by | black powder, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fightin’ Swedes/Swiss.

Two last battle rifles today: the Swedish Ag m/42B in 6.5×55 and the Swiss Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 rifle.

Swedish Ag m/42B in 6.5×55

Swedish Ag 3

Swedish Automatgevär m/42

We should have done our homework on this.

Why? Because we had no idea about how to operate it. I’ll save you the several videos of us fumbling with it, trying to figure out what the hell made the thing work. Instead, go watch this video of how the mechanism works, if you’re interested.

At least none of us mashed our thumbs, which even Ian at Forgotten Weapons was nervous about (watch his second video there).

Anyway, the Swedish AG m/42B is a direct gas-impingement self-loading rifle introduced in 1942. It’s a little odd in design, but makes sense once you understand it (which I really didn’t until I did research for this post). And it’s fairly simple and robust, so was able to stay in use until the 1960s. Here are a couple of additional images of it:

Swedish Ag 1

Swedish Automatgevär m/42B

Swedish Ag 2

Swedish Automatgevär m/42B

Those odd knob things? That’s the dust cover/bolt carrier, and it’s how you operate the loading mechanism safely. Go watch the video above — trying to explain it is … complicated.

Note the simple range adjustment dial for the sight there on the left (bottom) in front of the receiver. Nice, easy to use. Because that’s one of the great things about this rifle — the 6.5×55 Swedish cartridge is a very flat-shooting round, and the rifle has an effective range out to 800 meters. The rifle is also relatively heavy, so that combined with a simple integrated muzzle break means that it has very light recoil. See for yourself:

This was really a pleasure to shoot, and while I’m not into rifles that much, I could easily see myself having one of these guns.

Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 rifle

Schmidt-Rubin 1

Model 1911

The Schmidt-Rubin was a heavy battle rifle, designed for the long tradition of Swiss sharpshooting. As part of a series of rifles beginning with the Model 1889, the Model 1911 entered service in 1911 (surprise!). Firing a new more powerful cartridge (7.5×55) than the previous models, it had an aimed range out to 600 meters, and a volley range to 2000 meters. It has a straight-pull bolt action (no need to rotate the bolt to unlock it) which is slick and fast.

Schmidt-Rubin 2

Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911

It’s easy to operate, easy to shoot well. It was also famously accurate, and is still valued as both a hunting and long distance target rifle. With a 175gr bullet at 2650fps out of the long 30″ barrel generating about 2700ft/lbs of energy, it is perfectly suitable for either. Since the Model 1911 weighs about ten pounds, recoil is modest.

As I’ve said several times with these historic rifle reviews, if you get a chance to shoot either the Swiss Schmidt-Rubin or the Swedish Ag m/42B, do so.

But if it’s the Ag? Watch your thumbs.

Jim Downey

September 4, 2020 Posted by | 6.5 Swedish, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Classic Battle Rifles.

You can probably guess which ones I mean. Yeah, that’s how big of an impact they had on history.

The M1903 Springfield and the Lee-Enfield (specifically, the SMLE No.1 Mk III). Both bolt-action guns (actually, both derived from the G98 Mauser design). Both shooting powerful .30 caliber cartridges with an effective aimed range in excess of 500 yards. And both having played an important role in World War I and World War II.

Of course, there are some real differences between these cousins. Let’s talk about that after a brief look at each one:

 

M1903 Springfield

The M1903 Springfield was the successor to the Krag-Jørgensen rifle, bringing greater power and rate of fire into the hands of US soldiers than the earlier rifle offered. The .30-06 cartridge was “high power”: a 150gr bullet at almost 3,000fps, for about 2,800ft/lbs of energy. Which was about 50% more power and a better ballistic coefficient than the Krag had, and that translated into a greater effective fighting range.

1903 Springfield

M1903 Springfield

The M1903 held 5 rounds, inserted via stripper clips for speed. The Mauser style bolt handle was lower on the gun, again for speed. It was slick, solid, and accurate. Here it is in operation last weekend:

One particular thing I want to note: the difficulty that he has with the sight is common, and it’s something that hickock45 comments on at about 1:30 in his video review of it.

The M1903 Springfield entered service in 1903 (hence the designation), was the primary battle rifle in WWI, played a major role in WWII, and continued to be used as a sniper rifle (and in some other applications) through into even the Vietnam War.

 

Lee-Enfield

The Lee-Enfield was the successor to the Martini-Henry (and variants) in the British army, coming into use in the mid 1890s. The new smokeless version of  .303 British cartridge had ballistics very similar to the US .30-06, but was slightly shorter overall. This, combined with a short throw on the bolt-action, allowed for a very rapid rate of aimed fire by a trained rifleman of up to 35 rounds per minute. The magazine of the SMLE held 10 rounds, fed by 5-round ‘chargers’ similar to the stripper-clips used in the M1903. Like the Krag, the Lee-Enfield had a magazine cut-off which would allow it to function purely as a single-shot.

SMLE Mk III

Lee-Enfield SMLE No. 1 Mk III

We didn’t try to manipulate the bolt-action for rapid fire, but this was a common tactic in the British forces, and they could routinely fire up to 35 rounds per minute while keeping the rifle shouldered for aimed fire. This kind of sustained rate of fire made the Lee-Enfield a formidable weapon which remained in use in subsequent variants through the Korean War.

 

So, what were the differences between these two classic battle rifles?

Well, range and rate of fire, for the most part. The M1903 Springfield had a greater range with excellent accuracy, enough to be used as a sniper rifle through WWII and Korea. The .30-06 cartridge is so good for this sort of use that it is still a common long range hunting cartridge for medium sized game and target shooting to this day.

But the M1903 couldn’t compete with the Lee-Enfield for rate of fire, particularly while still shouldered. The Australians, using the Lee-Enfield, even developed a technique which allowed up to 55 rounds per minute:

The tactic was to fire in conventional rapid-fire mode until the enemy was approximately 100 to 150 yds. away. Then the right hand would leave the small of the butt, and the thumb and first finger would grasp the bolt handle. The little or lower finger was then used to fire the rifle, and the bolt cycled using those two fingers, which stayed on the bolt handle until the rifle was empty. As soon as the bolt handle was down, the trigger was then pulled and the cycle recommenced. As the targets appeared, a quick snap shot was made. The bolt was already working and the recoil was utilized with the disturbance in moving the bolt to align on the next target which was again snap shot. Attention was given to the target only until the shot was made.

Wild. I’d love to see someone actually able to do that, with some degree of accuracy.

Anyway, both the M1903 Springfield and the Lee-Enfield rifles are fairly common today. But as it happens, I don’t think that I had ever gotten around to shooting a SMLE until this outing. And I’ve been shooting for 50+ years. Don’t make the same mistake if you can avoid it.

Jim Downey

 

 

 

 

August 31, 2020 Posted by | Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1898 Krag-Jørgensen Rifle

Man, I’m happy that I took a lot of images last weekend when we shot these rifles.

OK, as I’ve noted, I’m not really a “rifle guy”. And especially not a “historic rifle guy”. Oh, I can generally ID most of the major designs in history, but damned if I would be able to identify the dozens of minor variations and such.

Which is why I’m writing these blog posts: I’m learning a lot. And like I said, I’m glad that I took a lot of images, because it’s allowed me to determine specific details key to figuring out what a given gun actually is. Like the “1898” stamped on the side of the receiver of this Krag-Jørgensen Rifle:

Krag

Krag-Jørgensen Rifle

Nah, you probably can’t see it at the resolution I’ve posted here, but I could make out the date there on the left side of the receiver, under and to the left of the “U.S.” stamp.

The Krag was an important piece of history, both in terms of the technology it introduced, and in the role it played as a military arm. It had an innovative magazine design (more on that in a moment), and fired the first metalic cartridge completely designed to make use of the new smokeless powder: the .30-40 Krag. This was a .30 caliber, 220gr bullet that would achieve 2,000fps out of this rifle, for a respectable 1950ft/lbs of energy. The Krag-Jørgensen was well designed overall, and to this day is considered to be one of the smoothest operating bolt-action guns ever.

Now, about that interesting magazine. Take a look here, with the bolt open:

Krag 3

Krag-Jørgensen Rifle

See how the cartridge is tucked off to the left side there? The magazine cover on the outside of the right side of the gun flips open. Then you just drop up to 5 cartridges onto the shelf and close the cover. When you do, they’re all arranged horizontally. Yeah, weird. But it’s kinda cool, because it is fast and easy to load, and you can top off your magazine at any time. You’ll be able to see this even better in the video below.

But before we get to that, I want to mention something else about the design. There’s a “magazine cut-off switch” on the left side of the receiver, which prevents a cartridge from loading from the receiver. Instead, you could just drop a round in front of the bolt face, and chamber it. This reflected the mind-set of the era, when accurate aimed fire was considered more important than rate of fire.  Again, you can see this even better in the video:

 

As noted in the video, this is an exceptionally smooth operating and accurate rifle, especially considering that it is over 120 years old. It feels very well balanced and easy to use in your hands, in part due to the extra mass of metal in the magazine design. It really was a pleasure to shoot. If you ever get a chance to do so, don’t miss it. As hickock45 notes in this video, they’re not terribly common, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

Jim Downey

August 30, 2020 Posted by | Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Nice Reproduction Rifles

As part of our historical rifle weekend, we shot 4 different reproduction rifles all dating to the latter part of the 19th century. In rough chronological order, these were the Spencer Repeating Rifle, the Remington Rolling Block Rifle, the Springfield Model 1873, and the Winchester Model 1885 (High Wall version). Here are our four reproductions:

20200822_133334

Four reproductions.

From left to right in the image:

All shoot the .45-70 cartridge, except for the Spencer, which is in .45 Colt. All are like brand new, having been fired little, even though they were a few years old. Full info is readily available about each original design, as well as about these reproductions, so I’m just going to share some thoughts and video on each one without going into a huge amount of detail.

 

Spencer Repeating Rifle

This nice little reproduction by Chiappa is a very handy and fun gun.

Spencer .45

Spencer carbine

The quality of the gun overall is quite nice, with good wood and a very attractive case-hardened receiver. The lever-operated loading mechanism was smooth, but both the trigger and the extractor were in need of breaking in, as can be seen in this video:

This gun holds seven rounds of .45 Colt in the tube magazine located in the stock (the same number as the original in .56-56 Spencer, which has similar ballistics to the modern cartridge). We were only shooting at 25 yards, but this was an easy gun to use quickly, and I can see how it would have been a revolutionary improvement over the muzzle-loaders of the era.

 

Remington Rolling Block Rifle

The Remington Rolling Block No. 1 Sporter was a very fine gun, exceptionally well made with excellent fit and finish in every regard:

Remington No. 1

Remington Rolling Block

The rolling block mechanism was solid, and gave confidence that it would hold up to plenty of use shooting full-power .45-70 loads. Likewise, the substantial weight of the gun meant that recoil was manageable. This is a gun I could easily spend a day with at the range.

 

Springfield Model 1873

Ah, yes, the Trapdoor Springfield. There’s something that’s just plain cool about this gun.

Pedersoli Trapdoor

Pedersoli Trapdoor

Of course, Pedersoli is well-known for the quality of their reproductions, and this is no exception. The entire mechanism of the breechblock was tightly fitted and solid, operating smoothly. Likewise the trigger was smooth and comfortable. As with the Remington above, the gun had enough mass to tame recoil from the .45-70 gov loads we were shooting, and it was easy to be accurate with it even on first try.

 

 

Winchester Model 1885

This is the so-called “High Wall” version, designed to handle high power loads, such as the .45-70 gov cartridge. This reproduction is by Browning, and this particular gun had been custom etched (with inlay) with a “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” design:

Browning .45-70

Browning 1885

The review of this gun linked above is picky about a number of things which didn’t bother me. I’m not sure whether that is due to our having a slightly different model, or what. I thought that the fit & finish were fine, and the gun operated flawlessly as far as I could tell. I didn’t note any excessive recoil at the time of shooting, though I’m not particularly recoil-shy, so I was surprised to see that in the review. Perhaps if we had tried some more powerful loads?

Anyway, I thought it was a treat to shoot this gun. Here’s one of the other BBTI guys shooting it:

 

All in all, I thought all four of these reproduction rifles were quite enjoyable to try, and I think that any of them would make a fine addition to your safe, if you’re into rifles. While none of them are original guns from the period, they all offer insight into the technology of that time.

Jim Downey

 

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2020 Posted by | .45 Colt, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Diablo 12ga double barrel pistol.

Want some fun? Get an American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol.

Want a serious self/home defense gun? Get something else.

Oops. I gave away my review’s conclusion. But you should go ahead and read the rest of this, anyway.

* * *

When one of my friends sent me a link about the new American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol, I thought it looked like a lot of fun. A lot of people thought so, and the cool little pistol got a lot of attention.

For good reason. It looked well made, well designed, and easy to use.

And it is. Check it out:

Diablo 1

Diablo 12ga

And this is what it looks like in the hand:

Diablo 2

Seriously, this is a very high-quality gun. It’s very solidly made. The fit & finish is impressive. The bluing is rich, deep, and lovely. The rosewood handles fit perfectly, and are warm & comfortable in the hand. They’re polished so highly I at first thought that they were plastic. The trigger is smooth, crisp, and much better than I expected.

The design is simple, but there are little things about it that are quite nice. Such as when the gun is broken open, you can rest it on any flat surface with the barrels pointing up, and it is perfectly stable for loading. If you’re shooting by yourself, this would be very handy.

Since we didn’t know what to expect, we went with the manufacturer’s recommended load of black powder to start with.  That’s just 40gr of ffg, with a recommended half ounce of shot. But all we had to shoot out of the gun were 12ga balls (.69 cal ball, about 500gr — say 1.2 ounce). So we expected it to be mild shooting.

It was:

 

Well, according to this video, that’s probably just about 250fps, and maybe 70ft/lbs of energy. That’s about the same power as a low-performing .22 round out of a 6″ barrel. And it felt like it.

So, since the amount of lead we were shooting was more than double the recommended amount, we doubled the amount of black powder, to 80gr of ffg. Here’s that:

 

Well, again according to this video, that’s probably about 560fps, and maybe 340ft/lbs of energy. That’s about the same power as a typical 9mm round out of a 6″ barrel. And it felt like it. There was a bit of recoil out of the heavy pistol, but it wasn’t at all hard to manage.

Given how well the gun was made, and the mildness of the first shots, we didn’t have any qualms about increasing the amount of powder to double what was recommended. And that was a fun load to shoot. Others have pushed that boundary MUCH further, as you’ll see in either this video (referenced above) or this very long review. By using much bigger loads and different types of powder, it is possible to get up to energy levels in the range of a .357 or even .44mag out of a 6″ barrel.

So yes, it would be a pretty reliable self/home defense gun, in those terms. And we were shooting it at applicable ranges for that use, with adequate accuracy.

But consider several factors here. First, black powder is very hygroscopic: it sucks up moisture out of the air. That can be a problem with a muzzle-loading gun, and was the reason why Old West gunfighters would commonly shoot off their loads each morning and load their pistols fresh. Because wet powder can underperfom very badly. So you wouldn’t want to load the Diablo and then just set it aside for future use.

Black powder is also a slow-burning and very smoky powder. Shooting it indoors would fill the room with very acrid smoke, and may very well spew burning bits of powder out into the room, causing fires.

Lastly, while the Diablo is indeed easy to load and shoot for a black powder gun, that still takes a hell of a lot more time than it would take to load two additional cartridges into a derringer. And almost every common modern self/home defense gun offers more rounds for use than a derringer.

So we’re back to what I said at the start:

Want some fun? Get an American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol.

Want a serious self/home defense gun? Get something else.

Jim Downey

 

 

August 28, 2020 Posted by | .22, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm Luger (9x19), black powder, Data, Discussion., Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Martini-Henry .577/450

“OK, the Snider was fun. Let’s shoot that Martini-Rossi.”

“Martini & Rossi is a booze brand, dumbass. The rifle is a Martini-Henry.”

“Er … right.”

* * *

OK, I’m not saying that actually happened. But I will admit that historic rifles are not really my thing. Fortunately, my BBTI buddies are more knowledgeable.

The Martini-Henry was the single-shot, breech-loading rifle that succeeded the Snider-Enfield (initially in 1871; our rifle was stamped 1887). Designed from the start to shoot a metallic cartridge, it was quicker to load and fire, faster to reload, and more powerful than the Snider-Enfield. It shot a bottleneck cartridge based on the earlier .577 Snider-Enfield, known as the .577/450, which had a 480gr soft lead bullet of .450 diameter (hence the name) pushed to about 1350fps, for about 1900ft/lbs of energy (about 400ft/lbs more than the Snider-Enfield). Because of the increased velocity/energy and the better ballistic coefficient, it had an effective range out to 1800 yards (for ‘volley fire’ applications).

The Martini-Henry is overall a slimmer, more manageable gun than the Snider-Enfield. It’s about 5″ shorter overall, with a 33″ barrel, and weighs about the same.

The biggest design improvement was that the action functioned by the use of a lever. Pull the lever down, and the block drops down, allowing a feeding ramp to align with the chamber. Insert a cartridge, close the lever, and the block rises and the gun is ready to fire. Here are some images of it:

20200822_092237

Martini-Henry from above.

20200822_131559

Preparing to load.

And here’s the rifle being fired:

 

That’s with the full-power, traditional .577/450 loads. Which, while they’re black powder substitute (and hence a ‘rolling’ impulse), still have quite a bit of recoil.

However, there are cartridge adapters available which allow you to use common .45 Colt ammunition. It’s just a brass (or steel) sleeve with the shape of the .577/450 cartridge into which you insert a .45 Colt round. Here’s a brief clip showing that:

 

And here’s what it’s like to shoot the rifle with the adapter:

 

Much less recoil. And if you’re buying commercial ammo, much less cost.

Shooting the Martini-Henry is easy, and while there is a noticeable amount of recoil with the full .577/450 loads, it’s not bad at all. With the adapter and .45 Colt loads, the recoil is very mild. Hickock45 has a nice “woods walk” with a Martini-Henry of the same vintage here:

Definitely, if you get a chance to shoot one of these rifles, take advantage of it.

Jim Downey

 

 

August 27, 2020 Posted by | black powder, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shooting an original .577 Snider-Enfield rifle.

Recently the BBTI crew got together to shoot some historic rifles. I’m not going to go into a lot of the details about each rifle, since there is plenty of information available about each online. But I thought I would share a few pics, some video, and my thoughts about each gun.

The first is an original British .577 Snider-Enfield rifle. This is the “Mark III” model, and dates back to 1866.

The .577 Snider-Enfield is a single-shot, breech-loading rifle. The Mark III has a lock on the side latch which secures the breech block in place. A side-hammer strikes a diagonal sloping firing pin to ignite the primer on the metallic cartridge. The barrel is about 36″ long, and the overall length of the rifle is 54″.

Here’s the rifle as seen from above:

20200822_092253

.577 Snider-Enfield

Operation is simple: draw the hammer to half cock and unlatch the breech block and flip it open. Drop a cartridge into the “slide”, then push it forward into the chamber. Close the breech block and latch it. When you’re ready to fire, cock the hammer the rest of the way (it has a very short throw, so going to full cock doesn’t take much). Aim, fire. Here, see for yourself:

 

Recoil is fairly mild. The cartridges use a modern black powder substitute, and have the typical black powder smooth impulse rather than the sharp impulse of modern gunpowder. It shoots a 480gr soft lead bullet at about 1200fps, for an energy of about 1500ft/lbs (about half of what a modern hunting rifle has).  Here’s what the cartridge looks like:

20200822_130533

.577 Snider-Enfield cartridge

Note that the fired cartridge case is more straight-walled than the unfired cartridge. The cases stuck in the chamber, and had to be knocked loose with a ramrod to be extracted. But you expect some minor issues like that with a gun that is more than 150 years old.

Overall, it’s really a very pleasant piece of history to shoot. If you get a chance, do so.

 

Jim Downey

 

August 26, 2020 Posted by | black powder, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , | 3 Comments

From Gatling Guns to Laser Pistols.

Again, it’s been a while. Partial explanation towards the end of this post.

So, the BBTI team finally got together to do something we’ve been wanting to do for several years now: shoot a Gatling Gun. Yep, a real, honest-to-gawd Gatling Gun. Well, not an original, but a faithful reproduction of the original 1862 patent version, in .45 Colt. This one:

Keith checking the gavity-fed magazine.

It’s such an iconic weapon, having been used around the world for about 50 years (from the American Civil War until World War One). And almost anyone who has seen Westerns has probably seen one depicted on the screen. So when the opportunity presented itself to get a fine reproduction one at a reasonable cost, we jumped on it. And last weekend we were finally able to coordinate our schedules to get out to shoot the thing.

But first we had to assemble it, because it breaks down into several components for ease of transport and use. Overall, the whole thing weighs more than 300 pounds. The main element is the barrel & mechanism assembly:

Barrels & mechanism.

We’ve got a nice tripod to mount and shoot the gun. Here we are assembling that:

Tripod base.

On top of the tripod is a pivoting mount, so you can rotate the gun from side to side. Into that goes a yoke mount, to which the gun is secured. Elevation is controlled by an adjustable wheel screw at the back.

The way the gun works (the Wikipedia entry is pretty good, as well) is that you put the cartridges into machined sections of heavy steel tube called a ‘chamber’ (essentially, a section of barrel), and those are placed in a magazine. The magazine goes into the top of the gun, upside down. Each chamber drops into position behind a barrel, then is pressed forward and locked in place as it rotates to the next position. The barrel then rotates again into the firing position, a firing pin ignites the cartridge, and the bullet fires. As the barrel rotates again, the chamber is released, and falls free out the bottom of the gun. This process is repeated for each barrel in turn as long as you turn the crank and there are chambers in the magazine.

Here you can see a test run with empty chambers to make sure everything feeds and falls properly:

 

Success!

Next, we wanted to make sure that the firing pins were working properly:

After that, it was time to load ammo and give it a try.

I’d loaded 1000 rounds of .45 Colt, using 200gr lead bullets and 6.1gr of Titegroup powder. This is a mild handgun load, but we weren’t looking for a lot of power, just a lot of fun. Still, out of the 30″ barrels we were probably getting about 1,000fps and roughly 450ft-lbs of muzzle energy — a respectable amount of power.

Here’s Keith of the BBTI team giving the Gatling Gun its first live-fire trial;

Yay! It worked!

Soon, I got my turn:

Dude, that’s way cool.

OK, several things we discovered in shooting the Gatling Gun …

One, you quickly realize that once you start turning the crank, you find there’s an optimal speed where it feels easy and consistent. I got there at the end of the video above.

Two, you can go through the 44 rounds that our magazines hold in about 20 seconds when you know what you’re doing.

Three, it helps to have someone actually hold the magazine in position, rather than relying on the small set-screw to hold it.

Four, the gun is surprisingly accurate and consistent. Once we got the hang of it, at 20 yards (the effective distance we had to shoot it), we were all getting paper-plate sized groups. Like this:

The first target. All the rest were this good or better.

Seriously, I was very surprised by this. I expected something more like “minute of cow”. I look forward to shooting it sometime at longer ranges to see just how good you can get with such a gun.

After we all had fun shooting the modern ammo, it was time to try the gun with black powder cartridges. Specifically, 30gr of Goex FFg and the same 200gr lead bullet. I shoot a fair amount of black powder, and know that it can be messy … but man, it was an incredible mess in the Gatling Gun. But it sure was spectacular. Check out the long tongues of flame from this sucker:

And just think about what a battlefield with a bunch of those cranking out rounds would have been like. Blimey.

Now that we’ve finally had a chance to get together for an inaugural shoot of the Gatling, it’s something that each of us is going to take for a while, and share with friends. Look for more coverage of it in the future.

So, what was that about Laser Pistols, and why have I been so absent/quiet here for so long?

Well, about a year and a half ago I got a Glowforge laser cutter, which I mentioned in passing in my post last November. I kinda fell into a deep hole playing with it since then. But it’s all good, because one of the things I have been doing with it is making a whole bunch of handgun display models/art, like this:

Springfield XDM

That’s one of the 42 contemporary designs I’ve done.  I’ve also done a bunch of historical firearms, such as the 1851 Colt Navy Revolver:

Colt Navy Revolver

And even favorites from various Science Fiction franchises …

Farscape Pulse Pistol

The whole thing can be found here:  Art of the Gun and I invite you to stop in, check it out, see the many different designs I’ve come up with so far.  I’ve just launched the site, but already it is starting to get some positive feedback — so maybe you’ll find something you like there as well.

One last thing: we’re not done with the BBTI project. Something else we did this past weekend was to start talking about future projects related to our ongoing research. It’s too early to say too much, but rest assured that we have more work yet to do, more data yet to gather and share.

Thanks for coming by, and for your ongoing support.

Jim Downey

 

August 21, 2019 Posted by | .45 Colt | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment