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Giganotosaurus

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In the spirit of TristramEvans TristramEvans Weapon Porn thread and noticing that several people expressed interest in it I figured I'd make a general guide to firearms.
Mostly I'm going to focus on the general ignition mechanisms (how the gun shoots a projectile) but I welcome everyone else to chip in with other specifications for more particular firearms.
Now let's get started with the beginning:

While gunpowder has existed since roughly the 9th century CE it was mostly used for fireworks and primitive flamethrowers sometimes called "Fire Lances". Starting in roughly the 13th Century metal working finally advanced enough to make primitive cannons and firearms known interchangeably as "Hand Cannon's" and "Handgonne's".
Tannenbergb%C3%BCchse.jpg

At it's core a Hand Cannon was simply a gun barrel with a small hole in the top of it attached to a pole or handle of some sort to better hold. To load a Hand Cannon you simply had to pour an amount of gunpowder into the barrel followed by a projectile, usually a small rock. To fire a Hand Cannon you simply had to point the barrel at your target and touch a lit candle wick into the small hole on the outer side of the tube igniting the gunpowder and propelling the projectile. This ignition system, called "Touch Hole", was tremendously inaccurate but had a great psychological effect on those who had never encountered it before. The Image above is of a (Presumably German) Hand Cannon minus the pole. The barrel pointing to the left and the Touch Hole is on the right.

Unfortunately Hand Cannons were very dangerous because they could easily blow up due to a variety of factors including but not limited to: loading too much gunpowder, the projectile getting caught in the barrel and the barrel being made of faulty metal.
A interesting side note here is that many cannons were made of bronze. I'm not 100% sure why but I think it had something to do with steel being a pain in the behind to make steel.

Eventually around the late 15th century a new ignition mechanism was invented called the Matchlock. A Matchlock firearm (Also known as an Arquebus or Harquebuse) used a simple mechanical system to automate the firing of the Hand Cannon as well as attaching the barrel to a crossbow stock.
Loading a Matchlock was similar to the Hand Cannon, although small metal balls replaced the stone projectiles and various tools allowed for measuring the ideal (Non-Explody) amount of gun powder.
To fire a Matchlock you simply had to light a small piece of candle wick attached to a lever and pour a small amount of gunpowder into a small "Flash pan" which is connected to the touch hole in the barrel. You would then squeeze a lever with your whole hand (or later pull a trigger with your finger) which would swing the lit end of the candle wick into the flash pan igniting the trail of gunpowder into the touch hole.
Here's a close up of a early matchlock mechanism:
PS8004046.jpg


Here's some late Japanese matchlocks
Edo_period_rifles.jpg


And finally here's a weird Matchlock revolver:
Drehling_GNM_W1984_ca_1580.jpg


In the next post I'll talk a bit more on matchlocks, followed by wheellocks, flintlocks, caplocks and finally cartridges.
 

Giganotosaurus

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While matchlocks were accurate enough to actually hit something at a short distance they still required you to light a candlewick right before you shot something.

Enter the Wheellock in the late 16th century:
Pistola_espa%C3%B1ola_de_llave_de_rueda_s._XVII_%28M.A.N.%29_01.jpg


Instead of using a lit piece of string to ignite the gunpowder, the wheellock used a absurdly complex mechanical spring system to spin a wheel of steel along a piece of flint which would create sparks that would ignite the flash pan, which would ignite the gunpowder in the barrel.
This system allowed you to have your gun ready to fire hours before you needed to fire it without the risk of accidental discharge that came with matchlocks. Unfortunately the Wheellock mechanism was incredibly complex and expensive, requiring a clock-maker to make, allowing only the financially well off the ability to afford one. Wheellock's were very popular with cavalry mostly in part to the extreme difficulty of loading and firing a matchlock while on a horse. This also led to wheellock pistols being the most common form of the system, because it's easier to carry four preloaded pistols on a horse rather than reload a muzzel-loaded long gun while in combat. Loading a wheellock was almost identical to loading a matchlock minus the fiddling around with the lit candlewick. After loading you simply had to wind the steel wheels spring, lower the flint holder onto the wheel and pull the trigger releasing the spring.
As stated before, due to the high price tag the wheellock didn't see widespread adoption and most armies still used the matchlock for their rank and file troops.

Now onto the Flintlocks!

Flintlock_ignition_animation.gif

Flintlocks are a much simpler version of the wheellocks. They have been around since wheellocks but started to become standard issue around the 1660's replacing matchlocks and wheellocks universally. Unlike a wheellock, which required a complex spinning wheel, the flintlock used a simple spring to strike a piece of sharp flint on a piece of steel which created sparks to ignite the flash pan. Early flintlocks had a million different names and were as expensive and complex as the wheellocks. But as time passed they became cheaper and cheaper to produce until they were finally standard issue (in Europe at least) by the 1700's.

Now let's talk a little bit about pikes:
The main problem with muskets, be they matchlock or flintlock, is that they take a little bit to reload, even for someone whose had a lot of practice doing so. While your line of musketmen is reloading they are awful vulnerable to a good old fashion cavalry charge. So standard procedure for about 200 years was to keep a formation of pikemen to defend the musketmen form cavalry while they are reloading. Eventually someone got the brilliant idea of sticking a knife in the barrel of a musket in order to turn a gun into a short spear. These were called Plug bayonets and had the distinct disadvantage of making it impossible to fire your musket while they were attached.
Plug_Bayonet_1650.JPG


After a while people started to attach long knives to ring that went around the barrel, allowing you to fire the gun without having to detach the bayonet first.

Next up is caplock's and cartridges.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Alrighty on to Caplock's.
Caplock (Not Capslock like I've typed so many times) muzzle-loaders started to become mainstream immediately after the Napoleonic wars roughly around the 1820's. Initially the Caplock system was near identical to the flintlock system, the only difference being the usage of a tiny explosive called a Percussion Cap instead of gunpowder in the flash pan. instead of pouring gunpowder into the pan you simply had to put a tiny percussion cap in the same position the flash pan would be. When fired a hammer would hit the percussion cap and cause it to explode, igniting the gunpowder. Along with this there was also the development of small premade paper packages of gunpowder and a musket ball called cartridges. Cartridges greatly sped up loading a muzzle loader, requiring you to simply ram a cartridge down the barrel and put the percussion cap in place before cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger.

Eventually in 1841 the Prussians developed the Dreyse Needle Gun.
Z%C3%BCndnadelgewehr_m-1841_-_Preussen_-_Arm%C3%A9museum.jpg


With the needle gun you would pack the percussion cap into the paper cartridge opposite the musket ball (which now looked more like modern bullets). You would then pull back on that bolt above the trigger and load the cartridge into the barrel from behind and close the breech. When the trigger was pulled, a mechanism would poke a needle size pin into the percussion cap which would explode and ignite the gunpowder.
This rifle was at first deemed to complicated by most other nations at the time, but they were eventually proven wrong when the Prussians used the Needle Gun to great effect during the German unification wars. Eventually by the 1870's most European nations had developed and fielded their own versions of the needle gun.
Then in the mid 1880's modern bolt action rifle and metal cartridges were developed, allowing for you to fire a round then cycle the action which would load another round into the chamber instead of loading a cartridge each time you fired the rifle.
After that there was Semi-automatic firearms, which only require you to pull the trigger to fire a round, using the force of the bullet's propulsion to load another round into the chamber.
And finally there is Fully automatic rifles which I probably don't need to explain.

Next will be a general overview of the history of firearms.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Timeline of Firearms:

800's CE:
Gunpowder is thought to be invented in china by alchemists looking for the elixir of life. It is mostly used for fireworks and primitive flamethrowers called Fire-lance's

1200's:
Gunpowder makes it to Europe. Cannons are invented and Primitive firearms, little more than tiny cannons on a stick, soon follow. They are largely ineffective at hitting anything and are incredibly dangerous to use, usually being used as a psychological weapons.

Late 1400's:
The Matchlock mechanism is created, allowing for more accurate firearms. Now instead of aiming and praying, armies can line up a bunch of muskets and fire volleys into their enemies. Long reload times require these musket men to be accompanied by pikemen in order to protect them from cavalry charges while reloading.

Mid 1500's:
The Wheellock mechanism and the early Flintlock mechanism are invented. They allow a soldier to load a gun and not have to immediately fire, however due to the expensive nature of the mechanism's they are reserved to wealthy individuals, while the common soldiers still use Matchlock's.

Roughly between the 1660 and 1700:
Flintlocks become easier and cheaper to produce, allowing them to become more and more wide spread until finally by the 1720's they have completely replaced Matchlock's and Wheellock's.

1820:
Following the Napoleonic wars, caplock firearms begin to be widely adopted by Europeans.

1841:
Johann Nicolaus von Dreyse's famous Needle Gun is brought into service by the Prussian Army. At the time most European powers see it as too complicated and delicate to bother using, the Prussians prove them wrong in the next 2 decades.

1870's:
Europeans have more or less fully adopted breechloading cartridge based rifles as standard armament.

Mid 1880's:
Bolt-action multi-cartridge rifles, along with metal cartridges start to become mainstream with western powers.

1920's to the 1930's:
The bigger powers on the world stage start to introduce Semi-Automatic rifles into their military's, however with the onset of World War 2 this is greatly delayed.

1950's:
Most nations have begun to start equipping their soldiers with automatic rifles. By the 1960's almost all nations on earth have automatic rifles in their arsenal.

The Present:
While all military's have adopted automatic rifles as their standard infantry weapon, you can still find rural villages that have the occasional hunter with an ancient flintlock or even matchlock rifle. These occur in a variety of places ranging from Afghanistan to the Amazon rain forest.

A side note:
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to firearms, I just wanted to give a general background and history whilst facilitating a place for others to add their knowledge to.

Another side note:
For some really weird, unusual or forgotten firearms and firearm accessories I highly recommend the YouTube channel Forgotten Weapons. The guy who runs it finds some really unique gems of weapons ranging from 18th century military-grade Austrian compressed air rifles to guns that literally shoot rocket propelled bullets.
 

Dumarest

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Good stuff and useful especially for those of us who enjoy historical settings and games like Flashing Blades and Boot Hill.
 

Giganotosaurus

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What about ammo and the various types?
While I'm not in the least bit knowledgeable on the finer points of the various types of ammo, I do have a couple of fun facts!*
First off, I recall reading that the ammunition for early muzzle loaded shotguns often consisted of rocks, pellets, forks, knives, or just about anything else you could fit down the barrel. This was typically used during when boarding a ship.
The Gyrojet family of firearms didn't use gunpowder, instead they used a miniature rocket to propel the bullet. To my understanding they were absolutely abysmal, being inaccurate, shoddily built and unreliable.
I can't vouch for the reality of explosive or incendiary ammunition that is so common in video games.
I've been told that .50 Caliber pistols are heavy and will tire you out firing a single clip.
There's some difference between center-fire and rim-fire cartridges, but I have no idea what they are.

Bonus Fact:
Hand made firearms are extremely common in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area, in particular around the Khyber Pass. A local arms industry grew in the area back in the 1800's, and is so famous that it has led to the term "Khyber Pass Copy", when referring to guns produced in the area.

*Not guaranteed a fact or fun
 

Ronin

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While I'm not in the least bit knowledgeable on the finer points of the various types of ammo, I do have a couple of fun facts!*
First off, I recall reading that the ammunition for early muzzle loaded shotguns often consisted of rocks, pellets, forks, knives, or just about anything else you could fit down the barrel. This was typically used during when boarding a ship.
This is false. While there are recorded instances of this being used in a "dire" situation. These foreign materials would damage the barrel. Shot and ball was used, as to not damage the barrel, and was 10x more effective. This was typically not done during ship boarding actions either. Typically standard ammo was used. Perhaps, canister shot was used out of cannon, and swivel cannons. Also buck and ball was used occasionally. But this was more prevalent in colonial hunting efforts. (Buck and ball was a load of buck loaded with a lead ball in a musket)
The Gyrojet family of firearms didn't use gunpowder, instead they used a miniature rocket to propel the bullet. To my understanding they were absolutely abysmal, being inaccurate, shoddily built and unreliable.
This is correct. But it is because of the chemistry, metallurgy, and machining techniques available at the time of development (the 1960's). Its biggest faults, and why it has not been pursued with available technology is because of the initial low velocity when leaving the barrel, and the immediate drop off of trajectory at the end of the propellant burn.
I can't vouch for the reality of explosive or incendiary ammunition that is so common in video games.
Incendiary and explosive rounds do exist. They are made for large caliber rounds, such as .50 BMG (Browning Machine gun). For example Raufoss Mk 211 is an high explosive armor piercing incendiary round (HEIAP) which is used in an anti material round suitable for engaging helicopters, aircraft, and light armored vehicles.
I've been told that .50 Caliber pistols are heavy and will tire you out firing a single clip.
Depends on what pistol .50 round you are talking about and what gun it is fired out of. 50 action express out of a Desert Eagle really is not that bad. It's got some wack to it recoil wise, but unless you have a constitution of 3 on the D&D scale, you will be fine. Now .500 S&W is a bastard. Firing a full revolver cylinder may leave your hand hurting. It is a massive cartridge. Oh, and stop saying clips. These are clips
800px-Clip_M1-SKS.JPG

Most firearms use a magazine. Typically a box magazine.
9mm_pistol_magazine.jpg

There's some difference between center-fire and rim-fire cartridges, but I have no idea what they are.
A centerfire cartridge has a primer in the center of the rear of the cartridge that when struck detonates the power in the cartridge. While a rimfire, the rim contains the primer material, and is struck of the rim of the cartridge. (I'm gonna be really rude here, so I apologize in advance) If you do not know the difference between the two you really shouldn't be writing a thread about firearms. You clearly do not have the knowledge, and will more than likely spread falsehoods about them. It's cool and good you have interest, but do more research and ask people knowledgeable. Otherwise you give bad info to people that dont know better, and are written off by people that do.
Bonus Fact:
Hand made firearms are extremely common in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area, in particular around the Khyber Pass. A local arms industry grew in the area back in the 1800's, and is so famous that it has led to the term "Khyber Pass Copy", when referring to guns produced in the area.
WHile some are made by competent gunsmiths, the vast majority of them are junk. The term sketchy can be still used to describe the good ones.

*Not guaranteed a fact or fun
 

Giganotosaurus

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WHile some are made by competent gunsmiths, the vast majority of them are junk. The term sketchy can be still used to describe the good ones.

I always found it funny how they sometimes half-assedly try to pass off their "copy" as a genuine one by printing the manufacturing markings or even just the name all over the place. "It's definitely a genuine Enfield, Look it's even got the word's Enfeld (Sic) printed 5 times on the barrel!"
It's interesting to see the almost artistic way they decorate their "copies" with the various markings, number's and unnecessary details in order to disguise the fact that it's just a scrap-metal bolt-action rifle roughly hammered into the shape of an assault rifle.
 

TristramEvans

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This is false. While there are recorded instances of this being used in a "dire" situation. These foreign materials would damage the barrel. Shot and ball was used, as to not damage the barrel, and was 10x more effective. This was typically not done during ship boarding actions either. Typically standard ammo was used. Perhaps, canister shot was used out of cannon, and swivel cannons. Also buck and ball was used occasionally. But this was more prevalent in colonial hunting efforts. (Buck and ball was a load of buck loaded with a lead ball in a musket)

This is correct. But it is because of the chemistry, metallurgy, and machining techniques available at the time of development (the 1960's). Its biggest faults, and why it has not been pursued with available technology is because of the initial low velocity when leaving the barrel, and the immediate drop off of trajectory at the end of the propellant burn.

Incendiary and explosive rounds do exist. They are made for large caliber rounds, such as .50 BMG (Browning Machine gun). For example Raufoss Mk 211 is an high explosive armor piercing incendiary round (HEIAP) which is used in an anti material round suitable for engaging helicopters, aircraft, and light armored vehicles.

Depends on what pistol .50 round you are talking about and what gun it is fired out of. 50 action express out of a Desert Eagle really is not that bad. It's got some wack to it recoil wise, but unless you have a constitution of 3 on the D&D scale, you will be fine. Now .500 S&W is a bastard. Firing a full revolver cylinder may leave your hand hurting. It is a massive cartridge. Oh, and stop saying clips. These are clips
800px-Clip_M1-SKS.JPG

Most firearms use a magazine. Typically a box magazine.
9mm_pistol_magazine.jpg


A centerfire cartridge has a primer in the center of the rear of the cartridge that when struck detonates the power in the cartridge. While a rimfire, the rim contains the primer material, and is struck of the rim of the cartridge. (I'm gonna be really rude here, so I apologize in advance) If you do not know the difference between the two you really shouldn't be writing a thread about firearms. You clearly do not have the knowledge, and will more than likely spread falsehoods about them. It's cool and good you have interest, but do more research and ask people knowledgeable. Otherwise you give bad info to people that dont know better, and are written off by people that do.

WHile some are made by competent gunsmiths, the vast majority of them are junk. The term sketchy can be still used to describe the good ones.

I know next to nothing on the subject at this level of expertise, my research interest only extended as far as pointy things, and I genuinely appreciate this level of info-dump, but I don't think you needed to be quite so harsh in the delivery. I'm sure no matter what the topic, no matter how much I knew, I couldn't go on for pages without encountering someone who had come upon sources I did not, to add in some correction. I'm pretty sure there was more than one on my Weapon Porn thread. I appreciate criticism, but would have been pretty discouraged if someone came down upon me that hard.
 

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Good stuff.

The Gyrojet family of firearms didn't use gunpowder, instead they used a miniature rocket to propel the bullet. To my understanding they were absolutely abysmal, being inaccurate, shoddily built and unreliable.

This is not entirely true. They were actually well made, just really pushing the technology of the time. They were also essentially just prototypes, never developed to their full capability. They didn't show much potential for being better than conventional firearms, and they were quite expensive, or at least the ammo was so there wasn't much interest.

The cartridge / projectile (one piece ammo, the projectile contained the rocket fuel) were individually machined to high standards which even makes some of the over engineered German wonder weapons look practical. They didn't just drill holes in the base, they had to use special tapered drill bits which were only good for making a few rounds. Who knows with modern CNC machining and 3d printing maybe the ammo could be made cheaper, but gyrojets still don't really offer any obvious advantages to regular firearms. Other than the coolness factor anyway.

The guns literally fired mini rockets. The gun itself is fairly simple, mostly stamped steel. The accuracy isn't great by modern firearms standards but not terrible to the point of uselessness. They do pack a pretty hefty punch with minimal recoil. Supposedly early batches of ammo were flaky, but they were getting that figured out.

My grandfather had a machine shop and bid on a contract to make the ammo. He didn't get the contract, but he made a few extra empty rounds which he kept from the batch he submitted with his bid. He liked to show them off at family gatherings. I sure wish I knew where those went when he passed, it would have been cool to have one, both for the historical value as well as a reminder of him.


This is a neat video showing them fired, with some commentary by one of the guys involved in making them.

 
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Toadmaster

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Alrighty on to Caplock's.
Caplock (Not Capslock like I've typed so many times) muzzle-loaders started to become mainstream immediately after the Napoleonic wars roughly around the 1820's. Initially the Caplock system was near identical to the flintlock system, the only difference being the usage of a tiny explosive called a Percussion Cap instead of gunpowder in the flash pan. instead of pouring gunpowder into the pan you simply had to put a tiny percussion cap in the same position the flash pan would be. When fired a hammer would hit the percussion cap and cause it to explode, igniting the gunpowder. Along with this there was also the development of small premade paper packages of gunpowder and a musket ball called cartridges.


The Caplock was also exponentially more reliable than flintlocks, in a test conducted in England in the 1830s, percussion caps failed 1 per 1000 rounds fired, flintlocks failed 1 in 6.

It also opened up new weapon development, specifically revolvers.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Some more side notes here:
Rifling is the spiral grooves on the inside the barrel of a firearm. It greatly increases the accuracy of a bullet by causing the bullet to spin as it exit's the barrel. Rifling's been around since the matchlock days but was expensive and difficult to make until around the 1800's.
When a firearm doesn't have rifling it is called a smooth-bore. They are inaccurate at longer ranges.
There are generally two types of Gun powder, Black Powder and Smokeless powder. To my knowledge the main difference between the two is that Smokeless powder doesn't generate as much smoke. This is particularly useful in battlefields, where all the Black powder would generate so much smoke no one could see what was going on after a few minutes of volley fire. Smokeless powder came into use around the mid to late 1800's.
 

Toadmaster

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There are generally two types of Gun powder, Black Powder and Smokeless powder. To my knowledge the main difference between the two is that Smokeless powder doesn't generate as much smoke. This is particularly useful in battlefields, where all the Black powder would generate so much smoke no one could see what was going on after a few minutes of volley fire. Smokeless powder came into use around the mid to late 1800's.

Smokeless is also much more powerful by volume, so you see a move to smaller caliber, higher velocity projectiles when it was introduced. This also increased the effective range, so a unit armed with smokeless rifles not only didn't have smoke to deal with, they could often engage the enemy while out of range of effective return fire.

The French were the first to field a smokeless powder infantry rifle in 1887 (Lebel Model 1886). The formula for smokeless powder used by the French was a closely guarded military secret for many years. The French accused Alfred Nobel of treason when he sold his own version of smokeless powder to Italy. By the early 1890s most of the major nations had developed their own variant formulas.

It seems kind of like a trivial detail, but smokeless powder was a huge technological advance in military firearms.
 

Toadmaster

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T
The Present:
While all military's have adopted automatic rifles as their standard infantry weapon, you can still find rural villages that have the occasional hunter with an ancient flintlock or even matchlock rifle. These occur in a variety of places ranging from Afghanistan to the Amazon rain forest.

The antiques also have seen some resurgence by enthusiasts. Faithful reproductions for collectors who don't have the deep pockets for originals* as well as those involved in historical reinacting / action shooting. Also a lot of semi-authentic reproductions (totally modern guns taking their styling cues from historical guns, but not entirely faithful copies).

There is also a sizable contingent of black powder hunters who use flint lock and percussion cap muzzle loading guns that take full advantage of modern materials and technology beyond their use of BP and ignition method. At first glance many of these look like modern single shot rifles rather than muzzle loaders. They may fire fairly advanced modern projectiles and mount telescopic sights.

These BP firearms are also often much less regulated, so may be available more easily or even available where gun ownership is generally restricted. For example, England has a ban on nearly all handguns, but it is possible to get a license to own a blackpowder "cap & ball" revolver. Handy if you are hunting werewolves in modern London. :smile:


* an authentic revolver from the ACW period period may cost $1500-3000 for a plain jane, no documented history gun in ok condition. A good Italian replica gun can be bought new for $300-400.
 
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Ronin

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Smokeless is also much more powerful by volume, so you see a move to smaller caliber, higher velocity projectiles when it was introduced. This also increased the effective range, so a unit armed with smokeless rifles not only didn't have smoke to deal with, they could often engage the enemy while out of range of effective return fire.

The French were the first to field a smokeless powder infantry rifle in 1887 (Lebel Model 1886). The formula for smokeless powder used by the French was a closely guarded military secret for many years. The French accused Alfred Nobel of treason when he sold his own version of smokeless powder to Italy. By the early 1890s most of the major nations had developed their own variant formulas.

It seems kind of like a trivial detail, but smokeless powder was a huge technological advance in military firearms.
Beat me to it:smile:
 

Toadmaster

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Oh also just in case it isn't clear, you are doing a great job covering all the basics.

There is always more to add and I'm a huge gun, tech and history nerd, so you add those all together and I'm in my happy place. :hehe:
 

Giganotosaurus

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Also a lot of semi-authentic reproductions (totally modern guns taking their styling cues from historical guns, but not entirely faithful copies).
I knew a guy who made replica Gatling Guns for Civil War reenactor's as a sort of side business. Cool dude, had a Parrot Gun replica in his garage.
 
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Giganotosaurus

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Oh also just in case it isn't clear, you are doing a great job covering all the basics.

There is always more to add and I'm a huge gun, tech and history nerd, so you add those all together and I'm in my happy place. :hehe:
Glad you're here! I always liked reading into weird black powder guns/weapons. Found a book at the library years ago that talked about the weird weapons that came out of the Siege of Malta.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Apparently they used them as firework launchers as well.
I can see it now, it's a 17th century zombie apocalypse, your party is trapped on the royal fireworks barge and needs to distract a large horde of zombies. Luckily you have your trusty fireworks mortar!
 

Giganotosaurus

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Say maybe you gunxperts can answer a question of mine that's been bugging me, Why arn't there flintlock cannons? I know that there were flintlock naval cannons, but I haven't come across flintlock field guns (Not that I really looked).
 

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I knew a guy who made replica Gatling Guns for Civil War reenactor's as a sort of side business. Cool dude, had a Parrot Gun replica in his garage.

Another weird exception, the ATF doesn't consider Gatling guns "machineguns" so they are legal without any special paperwork. It is my understanding that even anti-gun California allows Gatling guns (but don't go buying one without verifying for yourself). Doesn't even have to be blackpowder, people build miniatures that fire .22LR and .22 magnum.

The modern electric "gatlings" (the minigun made popular in Predator and Terminator 2) no such luck, only legal when powered by a hand crank, not electric motor.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Another weird exception, the ATF doesn't consider Gatling guns "machineguns" so they are legal without any special paperwork. It is my understanding that even anti-gun California allows Gatling guns (but don't go buying one without verifying for yourself). Doesn't even have to be blackpowder, people build miniatures that fire .22LR and .22 magnum.

The modern electric "gatlings" (the minigun made popular in Predator and Terminator 2) no such luck, only legal when powered by a hand crank, not electric motor.
I think it has something to do with the non-automatic nature of the Gatling Gun.
Something about the crank mechanism.
Might also have something to do with the fact that they are a pain in the ass to move around.
I remember watching some pre CGI western ages ago that had a wagon pulled by two horses roll up and drop a slat, revealing a Gatling Gun.
In the special features they talked about how the Gun was so heavy that the two horse's couldn't pull the wagon loaded with it.
Didn't know that people made miniature one's that fired .22's though.
 

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Say maybe you gunxperts can answer a question of mine that's been bugging me, Why arn't there flintlock cannons? I know that there were flintlock naval cannons, but I haven't come across flintlock field guns (Not that I really looked).

Good question, you know I've never seen flintlock cannons, but sure enough they were a thing.

I suspect it is the relative immobility, lighting a fuse isn't a big deal on a cannon like it is with a handheld gun. Cannon won't move over the short time the fuse burns, so that isn't an issue. Usually not firing at a fast moving target either, so again short delay not a problem. Crew is not moving around much, so also not a big deal to keep a slow match handy. There is also a gun crew, probably a guy whose who whole job is keeping that match lit and making sure it doesn't go anywhere it doesn't belong (like in the powder bunker :shock: ). Really inconvenient for a rifleman.
 

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There are some kits for .22 gatlings, also a popular machining project. What you don't have a lathe in the garage?

 

Giganotosaurus

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There are some kits for .22 gatlings, also a popular machining project. What you don't have a lathe in the garage?
Man I wish I had a lathe, and money to buy all the materials needed to make a Gatling gun, and enough free time to spend on making a Gatling Gun.
 

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The modern electric "gatlings" (the minigun made popular in Predator and Terminator 2) no such luck, only legal when powered by a hand crank, not electric motor.

There are mini hand cranks you can modify an AR-15 with. A “gat crank”, I believe
 

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Kinetic energy =1/2* mass * velocity * velocity.

It's worth remembering that in any weapons discussion. Mass or caliber is important but velocity is much more so.
 
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Toadmaster

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There are mini hand cranks you can modify an AR-15 with. A “gat crank”, I believe

Oddly enough, even though the same in principle to a Gatling, they are illegal in California and a few other states.

I suspect someone in the state legislature was perusing old copies of Soldier of Fortune while in the mood to outlaw something. It looks to me like you would need 3 arms to operate a rifle equipped with one with anything resembling proficiency. One hand at the front, one at the back, and one to turn the crank. :ooh: With the usual 2 arms humans are equipped with, I can't imagine even rudimentary aiming being possible.

Like most of these gimmicky "turn your semi-auto into a legal machinegun" things, I think they were just made to help people spend more money on ammo. It would probably work ok on something tripod mounted though.


Now if they came with a connecting rod like on a train wheel, that might work. The forward hand stroking the rifle thereby operating the trigger.... Oh, yeah, that is an image we need the media to run with. :dead:

I better get that patented before someone steals my idea..
 

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yea, it did not look easy to aim. I was going to allow something like this in my Mythras game, turning a semiauto into a full auto with a high ROF at the cost of accuracy. since full auto is already penalized for accuracy, it would be more for just coving an area with lead.
 

Giganotosaurus

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yea, it did not look easy to aim. I was going to allow something like this in my Mythras game, turning a semiauto into a full auto with a high ROF at the cost of accuracy. since full auto is already penalized for accuracy, it would be more for just coving an area with lead.
The players could try to rig up some kind of harness that lessened the penalty somewhat.
Or you could rig it up to some kind of remote weapons system, like a remote control sentry gun with a weird automatic mechanism.

Speaking of weird automatic weapons: The Winans Steam Gun, an alleged steam powered rapid-fire centrifugal gun, is great inspiration for bizarre fictional weapons. The only sources of information I've found on it were... questionable... to say the least. Apparently Mythbusters did an episode on testing something like it though. But whether or not it was real, it always peaked my imagination for giant boomerang or discus launchers.
I should dig up my books on siege equipment and make a Siege Equipment Porn thread going over the basics of stuff like trebuchet's and siege towers.
 

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The players could try to rig up some kind of harness that lessened the penalty somewhat.
Or you could rig it up to some kind of remote weapons system, like a remote control sentry gun with a weird automatic mechanism.

yep, there is a mechanism for this. Static placements would probably have the penalty removed due to assumed very solid mounting
 

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I thought I'd go over ammunition and projectiles

Starting off with those used in muzzle loaders. Any reference to modern bullet types not listed here will be in a follow up post.

Ball - Pretty much what it states, these were round balls, slightly smaller than the bore so they could be quickly stuffed down the barrel. Typically lead, but other materials were possible. Primarily used in smoothbore muskets.
In the smokeless era the standard military cartridge loaded with a jacketed bullet is commonly often referred to as ball ammo. It is not ball shaped and has no relation to this ball ammo.

Patched ball (also patch and ball) - Used mostly with rifles. A small thin piece of fabric (cotton, hemp etc) was fitted around the ball to help it engage with the rifling.
Rifles could use regular ball, but if sized to engage the rifling the ball would be difficult to ram down the barrel, and was likely to become deformed reducing its accuracy. If an undersized ball was used, the rifle was little better than a smoothbore musket. The soft patch was just enough to fill the gaps.

Conical bullet - The Minie ball is the best known of this type. These were a cylindrical lead projectile generally with a rounded or pointed tip (basically a modern bullet shape). Slightly undersized to easily fit down the bore they would expand when fired to engage the rifling. Experiments started in the 1830s, but there was no military use before the adoption of the Minie ball by the British in 1851. The Minie ball used an iron plug at the base which was forced into the body of the bullet when fired causing the base of the bullet to expand and contact the rifling. By the time of the American Civil war it had been determined that the iron plug wasn't necessary. A cavity at the base performed just as well, with the gas pressure expanding the base of the bullet. This allowed for much simplified bullet production.
While much less accurate than modern rifles, rifled muskets using conical bullets were far more accurate than the previous smoothbore muskets

Similar bullets were available for use with smoothbore muskets. Lacking rifling their accuracy was only marginally improved, but the better seal did improve range. As smoothbores already could propel bullets further than they cold be effectively aimed, there was little interest for military use.

Shot - rather than a single large ball, shot loads use a weighted measure of small pellets. Like ball, these pellets were generally lead. The pellets are available in a wide range of sizes. Modern pellets are typically categorized as either buckshot or birdshot and range in size from 0.05" (1.27mm) to 0.375" (9.5mm). Pellets smaller than 0.24" (6.1mm) have rarely been found in military use.

Buck and ball - a hybrid round combining ball with a few shot pellets. The idea being that even if the ball missed, some of the pellets might hit the target. The trade off was slightly lower velocity of the ball due to the weight of the pellets.
This type of load was primarily limited to the USA. The US Army adopted an official buck and ball loading in 1835. It added three 0.30" (7.62mm) pellets to the standard 0.69 caliber ball. For comparison the official army shot load for the 0.69 caliber musket was 12 pellets, each of 0.30" (7.62mm) caliber. Individuals could of course vary the number and size of the pellets to their preference.


Modern blackpowder and muzzleloaders
With the widespread adoption of breach loaders and cartridge firearms in the 1860s, muzzle loaders were quickly forgotten, relics of an earlier time. After WW2 recreational use of blackpowder muzzle loaders in the US revived interest in them, and by the 1970s many states had implemented blackpowder hunting seasons. This was the inspiration to revisit and improve the technology. By the 1990s there were a lot of new options for shooters of muzzle loading rifles.

Blackpowder had seen continual improvements over the centuries, but like muzzle loaders, development stagnated with the introduction of smokeless powder at the end of the 19th century. The renewed interest in blackpowder firearms after WW2 also led to new improved powders. While still far from smokeless, modern blackpowders are cleaner and much more stable than the blackpowders available a century ago. Even with modern blackpowders, much more frequent cleaning is required.


Modern muzzle loaders can use all of the above loads, and in addition have some new bullet types using more recent technology. These could theoretically be used in older muzzle loaders, but most are only available in 0.50" (12.7mm) caliber limiting off the shelf availability for weapons in other calibers. A properly connected time traveler however could certainly have modern bullets custom made to fit a more period appropriate rifle.


Belted - Essentially a modern evolution of the Minie ball. The specific method varies by brand, but these bullets have a polymer ring at the base of the bullet which engages the rifling when fired. They are available in a variety of modern bullet types including solid, and expanding types as well as a more traditional lead projectiles.
Not to be confused with belted cartridges which have nothing to do with muzzle loaders.

Sabot - Probably best known to many for their use in anti-tank ammo, sabots allow smaller than bore sized projectiles to be used. The sabot is a carrier that surrounds the projectile which then falls away after leaving the muzzle. This is typically done to increase muzzle velocity (small light bullet with the power for launching a larger projectile behind it). With muzzle loaders sabots also allow a much wider variety of modern bullet types to be used than would otherwise be possible. Also allows different size bullets to be used making the rifle more flexible. The adoption of sabot ammo in the 1970s is largely what led to the bulk of modern muzzle loaders to settle on 0.50" (12.7mm) caliber.
 
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The other issue with those gat-cranks is I doubt they really increase the rate of fire by that much.
Just pulling the trigger as fast as you can, an average person can probably fire 3-5 rounds in a second (180-300 rounds per minute). One of the ones I found says one revolution of the crank fires 3 times. I'm guessing the average person can probably crank the handle once, maybe twice in a second, so a rate of 3-6 shots per second (180-360 round per minute) with the added benefit of being more awkward to use.

Real gatling guns had a rate of fire somewhere between 200 and 500 rounds per minute which isn't much faster. 600 rounds per minute is pretty average for most automatic weapons, with some slower and a few much faster.

World record for a person pulling the trigger is 8 shots in one second (480 rounds per minute) using a revolver, 12 shots with a reload in just under 3 seconds.

 

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An odd evolutionary dead end was the Girandoni air rifle
Imagine a gun about as fast as a bolt action rifle prior to the Napoleonic wars. With no smoke to give away your position or obscure your view. I think it was too complicated to make and maintain for the average soldier so it didn't stick around.

It might be fun to give an assassin one of these in a game to mess with players.
 

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An odd evolutionary dead end was the Girandoni air rifle
Imagine a gun about as fast as a bolt action rifle prior to the Napoleonic wars. With no smoke to give away your position or obscure your view. I think it was too complicated to make and maintain for the average soldier so it didn't stick around.

It might be fun to give an assassin one of these in a game to mess with players.
Not to mention not having to lug around gunpowder, all you needed was the air pump and musket balls.
Lewis and Clark allegedly took one of these on their famous expedition, and it's widely claimed on the internet that they showed it off to every tribe they met. I can't vouch for the veracity of this so it might not be true.
There was also another air rifle that attached a small, fist sized, ball shaped air container in front of the trigger guard. When you ran out of compressed air, you'd detach the ball and attach a filled one.
 

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Not very well known, but there are modern large caliber air guns quite capable of killing deer and hog sized game. I only found out about these myself a few months ago when youtube took me a video of a guy using one to hunt hogs.
Most are .30 cal to 45 cal, but there are bigger ones. Most are comparable to service handguns in power. The most powerful I've found was 0.82" (20.8mm) caliber and used helium instead of air as the propellant. It fired an 1100 grain (2.5oz / 71gram) projectile at 900 ft/ sec (274 M/S) with 1979 ft/lbs (2683 J), which makes it compare very closely to a .30-30 rifle.
Not sure why but apparently helium provides a lot more power than air for a similar volume.

Like black powder, air rifles generally have much looser legal regulation, so could be of interest to PCs in areas that restrict gun ownership.


This one is a .45 caliber that claim's to be the world's most powerful production* air rifle. At the "low" power setting it gets 13 shots per tank at 265 ft/lbs which compares well to a .380 Auto. At max power it gets 3 shots at 505 ft/lbs which is comparable to a mid range loading for .357 Magnum (from a handgun). You can buy a large tank to refill the small tank in the gun many times

* There are much more powerful ones being made in small batches, so not "production"..




Definitely not Ralphie's Red Ryder BB gun.
 

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The other issue with those gat-cranks is I doubt they really increase the rate of fire by that much.
Just pulling the trigger as fast as you can, an average person can probably fire 3-5 rounds in a second (180-300 rounds per minute). One of the ones I found says one revolution of the crank fires 3 times. I'm guessing the average person can probably crank the handle once, maybe twice in a second, so a rate of 3-6 shots per second (180-360 round per minute) with the added benefit of being more awkward to use.

Real gatling guns had a rate of fire somewhere between 200 and 500 rounds per minute which isn't much faster. 600 rounds per minute is pretty average for most automatic weapons, with some slower and a few much faster.

World record for a person pulling the trigger is 8 shots in one second (480 rounds per minute) using a revolver, 12 shots with a reload in just under 3 seconds.

To be fair Jerry Miculek is basically superhuman with a firearm. No, seriously.
 
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