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Weapons Info Intro

Weapons Info Intro

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Published by: Otis1964 on Feb 10, 2010
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RWClist Workshop
Weapon Info
Visit Weapons_Info grouphttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/Weapons_InfoMany people have an inordinate fear of firearms. This comes mostly from a lack of familiaritywith firearms in general and a lack of understanding of what they are and what they do. We aregoing to have a short overview of the history of firearms and a discussion of the various types of firearms as well as some photos and descriptions of the various action types.Firearms evolved from the famous discovery of gunpowder during the middle ages. Historybooks used to tell us that the Chinese first discovered gunpowder, and used it for ceremonial and
military uses. Europeans found out about gunpowder following Marco Polo’s famous journeys
to the Far East. That was the common wisdom for centuries. However, there is nowdisagreement amongst historians whether Europe received knowledge about gunpowder from theChinese, or if gunpowder was discovered in China and Europe and developed at the same time.You have to remember that during this period there were plenty of alchemists trying to mixvarious things together for various purposes, the most famous of which was to turn things intogold.Whether gunpowder originated in China and came to Europe, or was discovered and developedin both areas about the same time, it began to be used for military purposes on both continents.
Towards the end of the middle ages, the “Handgonne” was developed, which, although heavy
and producing almost as much of a punch to the user as to the target, was used on the battlefieldto overcome armored knights. This original firearm was simply a metal tube, usually with a
wooden “stock” attached which was held under the arm or butted into the ground, and a touch
hole in the top rear of the tube whereby the powder was ignited. This form of a firearm was thenorm well into the era of the 1500's. This is when we first saw what we would recognize today
as a firearm. The ignition system was no longer a “match” held in the hand, but a match
(burning fuse) held in a small vise which was connected to a trigger, which when pulled, appliedthe match to the touch hole. The caliber of this firearm was much smaller than the originalHandgonne, and it had a stock similar to what we see on rifles and shotguns today.People had been using flint rocks to start fires for centurie
s, and someone, we don’t know who,
got the bright idea that they could use flint to ignite the powder in the touch hole. This was abright idea, as keeping a match lit on a battle field, or while stalking game was not always easy.Plus, to get the match lit was a problem, especially in inclement weather. So, the flintlock andwheellock were born. The wheellock was a flintlock of sorts, except the mechanism was muchmore intricate, but had numerous flints on a wheel which, when wound up and released, wouldrotate the flints under the striker, causing a veritable continuous shower of sparks (until thespring wound down, that is) ensuring the powder in the touch hole was ignited. The flintlock used only one flint, and it was held in a hammer vise which had to be cocked and fell only once,vice numerous times, hitting the frizzen, sending a couple of lonely sparks into the touch hole.So, you may ask, why did the flintlock survive and the wheellock fall by the side of the road?Like all things in life, the cost of buying something and maintaining it is the bottom line. So itwas with the wheellock. It cost far more to buy and maintain one wheellock than to buy andmaintain several flintlocks. Therefore, kings and such, like all leaders, were concerned about the
 
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© Weapons_Info
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Mark Pfeifferbottom line. They could buy flintlocks and outfit several half trained soldiers or they could buyone wheellock and outfit one soldier.Flintlocks had another advantage. Up to now, only the very rich could afford firearms. Now, theability to
hunt and provide for one’s family when game was wary and didn’t allow hunters to get
very close was within reach of the rising middle class. In addition, you could now afford to buysomething to protect your family from brigands and such whereas before you were limited topoleaxes, pitchforks, etc.The flintlock reigned supreme for many years. Because of the manner of loading and the type of warfare practiced, most flintlocks were smoothbores. That is, they had no rifling. Germanybegan to change this in a small measure through the introduction of what was called a Jaegerrifle. This was designed for hunting, and used rifling to stabilize a ball by imparting spin to it.This had the added advantage of extending the range at which a gun could be shot. Thus,firearms went from a 100 foot to 50 yard weapon to a 100 yard plus weapon. Quite animprovement. The American frontier took the Jaeger to heart and adopted it as their own. Theydeveloped it into what we now call the Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, rifle.During the late 1700's to the early 1800's a Scottish preacher, who had more than one outinghunting for game ruined due to inclement weather, developed what is called a percussion cap.This is a small metal (usually brass) cap (so called because i
t looked like a small men’s top hat)
lined with fulminate of mercury. When struck by a hammer on a firearm, this produced a strongspark. The minister, in conjunction with others, developed the first caplock firearm, whereby thefrizzen and touch hole we
re replaced by a “nipple” on top of the touch hole, and the cap was
placed on top of the nipple. The hammer was changed from a vise to a solid design. When fired,the hammer struck the cap, producing a spark, which was directed directly into the touchhole,instead of in the direction of it. This ensured ignition, allowing a shooter a better chance to hithis/her target.This was the standard for over 50 years until Smith and Wesson, an American manufacturerbrought out the first cartridge firearm. The S&W #1 revolver. This was effectively a .22 caliberhandgun, and revolutionized the world of firearms. It was so revolutionary that some Unionofficers during the Civil War even bought (what we would nowadays consider to underpoweredto use in battle) as personal sidearms. The ammunition was basically what might be called alarge percussion cap with s small lead ball in the end of it. The hammer was changed to includea firing pin on the nose of the hammer, which struck the base of the ammunition, thus ignitingthe primer (fulminate of mercury), setting off the small charge of powder.For several years S&W held off competitors until their patent on bored through cylinders wasopened to all comers, at which time Colt, Remington, and others began producing bored throughcylinder firearms. Two other technologies developed along the same time. They includedprimers and pinfire rounds. The primer was similar to a tiny percussion cap set into the center of the ammunition case. Pinfire ammunition had the firing pin installed directly into the side of the
 
RWClist Workshop
Weapon Info
Visit Weapons_Info grouphttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/Weapons_Info
 base of the cartridge. When loaded, the “pin” stood up and the hammer dropped on the pin,
igniting the primer.I mentioned Revolvers earlier when talking about ammunition development, and we need toknow about the development of revolvers. From the earliest days of firearms, one of the thingswhich limited them was the fact that only one shot could be fired at a time prior to reloading.Through the years many different types of firearms were developed to overcome this. There wasthe over/under flintlock. The barrels rotated on a central rod, and were fired one at a time priorto being reloaded, giving up to four shots before the firearm had to be reloaded. In the early1800's the Pepperbox was developed, so called because the barrels (which were like an extendedcylinder) looked like a pepper shaker of sorts. This was a percussion cap handgun, and each pullof the trigger brought a different barrel into line with the hammer, allowing up to eight shotsprior to reloading. Development even went so far as to include some rifles. Rather heavyaffairs. In 1836, Samuel Colt developed and patented the Patterson revolver. For the first time ahandgun which most would recognize as a revolver had appeared. It was a 5 shot and had atrigger which folded up into the frame when not in use. It was relatively fragile, but many
 bought it, including Kit Carson, who is reputed to have dueled with another man,over a woman’saffections, using Patterson’s on horseback.
Colt was not successful in this venture, and wentbankrupt. However, he found other backers and received a contract with the new government of Texas for his newest revolver, the famous Walker Colt. This was a 6 shot revolver produced atthe request and with the design assistance of Captain Walker of the Texas Rangers, and, whereas
the Patterson was a “minuscule” .31 caliber and very refined, the Walker was a .44 caliber andmassive. It was what was known as a “horse pistol” as it was a heavy revolver an
d, as stated by
some, “the only thing needed to make it an artillery piece was wheels....” From this wasdeveloped the Colt’s Dragoons, a slightly smaller version of the Walker, still in .44 caliber, but
easier to carry on a person. In the 1850's, what would become the standard against which all
other single action revolvers were judged, the Colt’s Navy was developed and produced. It was
a .36 caliber revolver and was considered so well balanced that it became the epitome of what arevolver should be. S
hortly after, the Colt’s Army revolver was developed. It was a little larger 
and was in .44 caliber. In 1860, both of these revolvers were updated in design. This eventually
led, following S&W’s development of the bored through cylinder, to the 6 gun de
sign mostpeople are familiar with, the Single Action Army. The SAA was developed in various calibers,not least of which was the .45 Colt for the US Army. S&W came out with their famousSchofield #3, which was a large revolver in .45 Schofield, a slightly shorter round than the .45Colt. The major difference between two revolvers was the method of loading and unloading.
The Colt used a “loading gate”and ejector rod, while the Schofield was a break action which
allowed all spent cartridge casings to be expelled (loaded rounds stayed in the cylinder), andmultiple rounds to be loaded at once. The Army ordered both pistols, but, for the sake of keeping supplies simple, ordered only .45 Schofield ammunition. In the late 1800's both Coltand S&W developed double action revolvers. These were rather sensitive to dirt and, in the caseof Colt, rather delicate. The problems were resolved and in the 1890's the US Army ordered
replacements for it’s aging SAA’s and Schofields. Colt won the contract and produce
d the Army

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