From the Musket to the Machine - Crazy Century (Part 1)

Today I want to tell stories about how humankind has traveled from musket to machine gun literally in a century. In short, we will go through the technical problems that arose in the weapon and how they were solved. Here the reader can practice his design thought. In the second part there will be also myths, myths and their dispelling downwind.

Terms used

Caliber - nominal designation for the diameter of the barrel. Since the designation is nominal, it can be in mm, it can be in inches, say, 7.62mm = 0.3 inches. Sometimes in an inch system, 0 is discarded and it turns out, for example, .45 caliber.

Line - 1/10 inch; in tsarist Russia, the British system of measures was used with the translation into Russian terms. Therefore, the English line (1/10 inch) and point (1/100 inch) was called a line and a point. The designation of the caliber, respectively, was in the lines, hence the names of guns and rifles; for example, a 6-line rifle was six-tenths in caliber or 15.24 mm, a 3-line rifle was three-tenths in inches or 7.62 mm.

The rifle is a weapon with helical rifles inside the barrel. During the shot, the bullet crashes into the rifling and as a result of movement along them begins to rotate around its axis. A rotating bullet in flight loses energy much more slowly, which means that it is noticeably more stable. But even here one cannot do without flaws - a bullet by no means any geometry will stabilize from rotation.

Musket - muzzle-loading weapon for shooting with two hands.

Rifle - rifle for shooting with two hands.

Union - in the military-historical sense, rifled musket. In the 19th century in Russia, the word union for some time was synonymous with a rifle. For example, in advertisements for the sale of retired rifles Berdan, they could be called chokes.

Obturation - impermeability of the trunk behind the bullet.

Black powder = black powder - historically the first type of powder, consisting of saltpeter, sulfur and coal in a ratio of approx. 75 to 15 to 10.

We begin, of course, with the musket. Two centuries ago, absolutely all the armies of the world were armed precisely with this type of weapon. What was the musket of the early 19th century in the technical sense? Its main components were the barrel for directing the flight of a bullet, a shock flint lock with a powder shelf to ignite the charge, a ramrod for filling the bullet, and a bed for holding all this together. The cartridge for the musket was a spherical bullet and powder charge rolled together in a paper wrapper. Cartridges and bullets for them were made in the army directly in the field. It should be noted that from the very moment of the appearance of the musket the powder was used exclusively granulated - by pressing and tumbling the powder of a mixture of nitrate, coal and sulfur was converted into small granules. This is necessary because burning powder powder is unstable, the pressure curves in each shot are very different - respectively, the accuracy and accuracy are insignificant, you can not be sure that if the barrel withstood a single shot with a certain charge, it will not break it from the second. A significant increase in the powder charge is impossible due to too high pressure at the start and low at the end. Actually, because of this, those who decide to make a samopal from a water pipe and who independently prepare gunpowder suffer - ungranulated powder burns unpredictably. Therefore, its emergence at the beginning of the 16th century, the musket is obliged precisely to the granulated powder. So, the parts used in the standard infantry musket of the beginning of the 19th century (from the book of Fedorov).


What did a musket shot look like? The shooter had to see through the chuck wrapper and pour some powder on the powder shelf, close the shelf, put the trigger on the safety platoon, put the musket upright. Pour the remaining powder into the barrel, stretch the cartridge and throw it down with a bullet down the powder. Take out the ramrod, send them a bullet and flatten it with several blows to fix it in the barrel. Remove the musket from the safety platoon, point it at the target, all that remained was to pull the trigger. No matter how ridiculous it seemed, I didn’t find a suitable video of charging the musket and firing it; everywhere there are some minor errors (however, regarding the rules of the tsarist army). More or less close to reality video:

Due to a number of reasons, the musket shooting efficiency remained low; without going into the fundamental problems of military shooting (and I will talk about them in the 2nd part), we can note only technical reasons - poor quality of the barrels, poor obturation of the bullet during movement in the barrel, uneven distribution of gunpowder between the shelf and the barrel from shot to shot. In the case of shooting from shortened samples, the result of shooting was the worse, the shorter the barrel was; in the case of cavalry pistols, it was only possible to hit the target by accident; recommended shooting at close range. In Russia, the trophy factor played a negative role: after winning a war, a large number of enemy muskets were sent to the army and, although they differed constructively only in trifles, the calibers and the state of wear were completely different.

Naturally, the best option for fire for a mass of infantry armed with such weapons was salvo shooting from the closest possible distance. No wonder that the commander of the American troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill ordered "Do not shoot until you see the whites of their eyes." However, the Americans lost the Battle of Bunker Hill. For aimed fire, there were huntsmen armed with chokes. The fitting of that era was constructively no different than the usual infantry musket except for the presence of rifling inside the barrel and the presence of a high-quality sight. Accordingly, the procedure for charging the fitting corresponded to the procedure for charging the musket, however, the attentive reader probably already saw a contradiction here. In order for the bullet to crash into the rifling and start to rotate, it must come out of the musket tight, but when charging from the side of the barrel it should go in easily. At that time, this contradiction was resolved in a compromise way - the bullet did not come too tight for loading and it was not too easy for it to rotate. To do this, at the stage of filing a bullet, the keeper wrapped it in an oiled rag (“patch” in 19th century terminology), drove it with a wooden beater in the barrel, and then sent it with a ramrod. This required much more time. The probability curves for shooting when shooting from a musket and choke into a 2 meter shield:


As you can see, the results are better at the choke, but not fundamentally, at least, an increase in the range and accuracy of shooting is not proportional to the decrease in the rate of fire and the cost of the weapon. For this reason, the proliferation of fittings in the army after the Napoleonic war was small.

So, what is the first thing that attracts attention in the musket and what can be improved in it? Take your eyes off the screen for a second and think.

I do not know what you thought, the first to improve the mechanism of ignition of powder charge. Namely, a flint lock was sent to the dustbin of history.
Flintlock itself is not as bad as it is sometimes portrayed. Let us not forget that it was perfected over several centuries and accordingly absorbed the experience of a large number of gunsmiths. In particular, its main advantages are simplicity (almost no complicated mechanisms, such as in the old flint wheel lock) and the relative simplicity of eliminating a misfire. If flint doesn’t strike a spark, then it’s enough to cock the trigger and fire again, which is a matter of seconds. According to later data, the probability of a misfire for a good flintlock lock is only 15%, which is not critical - the castle will not shoot an average of 6 times, and even the 6th shot will take only a few seconds more. But the drawbacks of the castle were significant - the castle and the powder on the powder shelf were subject to atmospheric influences - in the rain, wet weather, wind, after crossing it was difficult or impossible to shoot. The procedure for pouring powder for seeding was done by eye, which worsened the accuracy of the shots and gave the soldier an extra opportunity to not have enough powder in the barrel to reduce recoil. Finally, sparks and burning powder just flew into the face of the arrow, especially when the wind blew on him. In the linear parts of the soldiers because of this, as well as due to the strong recoil most often simply turned away at the time of the shot. The possibility of a relatively simple elimination of misfires also has pitfalls, and it is impossible to endlessly try to strike a spark on the powder on the powder shelf because he will pour out from there.

In this case, the chemistry came to the rescue, namely the discovery and study of the mercury salt of a high-boiling acid - mercury fulminate, Hg (CNO) 2. OK. In 1800, it was discovered that the action of a hot, freshly prepared Hg (NO3) 2 or AgNO3 solution on alcohol results in extremely explosive salts. If silver salt was too explosive for practical use, then Hg (CNO) 2 was excellent in this sense. In the second decade of the 19th century, the first samples of the new castle were created. It was based on a cap of copper or bronze foil in which mercury fulminate or a mixture based on it was pressed. The cap is named caps; the primer was put on the tube the other end of which was directed to the powder charge. Accordingly, it was enough to strike the cap so that Hg (CNO) 2 exploded; flame and blast formed ignited gunpowder.


Here it should also be noted that the ignition of so powder charge occurs much faster and, more importantly, more stable than in the case of sparks from flint because the blast wave moves very fast (in the case of explosive mercury - about 5 km / s). The main advantage of the capsule castle was its reliability and not susceptibility to atmospheric influences (however, the paper cartridges remained exposed to rain). The main arguments against the introduction of such locks in the army were the rudeness of the hands of the soldiers (the opinion that because of it the soldiers could not put a cap on the tube) and the complication of the army’s supply — if earlier the army itself carried a supply of flint, now it would have to be constantly supply the finished product.

For some time, not one of the major European armies did not dare to completely re-equip with capsular weapons, limited only to purchases of more modern capsule fittings for rangers and elite units. The first major rearmament began in France in 1842; the release of old muskets was discontinued, the conversion of old ones began, and the release of new ones with a capsular lock. At the same time, the upgraded samples were repaired. In the same year, similar measures among the leading states were taken in Austria and the United States (corresponding muskets, sample 1842). In Russia, the alteration of muskets began in 1844.

This was the first stage of rearmament - the troops were now armed with guns with percussion locks, mostly smooth-bore, a relatively small part of the army - chokes. The only exceptions were the British Armed Forces, which, because of their small size and high level of welfare of the country, were armed with Biker chokes (the British rifle training level was extremely high at that time, including even annual examinations, a study of the theory of musket shooting, etc.). The next step for large armies would obviously be to equip the whole army with rifled weapons. But here we encounter difficulties arising from the charging of the nozzle - hammering in bullets with a beater is still not convenient and fast for the entire mass of infantry. These difficulties are due to a contradiction - in the case of charging a rifled musket, the bullet must enter easily and go out tight; and how would the reader decide it himself? I propose to take a short break and think about this zamorochkoy.

Historically, this contradiction was resolved in two ways, one of which turned out to be a dead end.

The easiest and most obvious way to get a bullet to go out is to achieve its expansion after charging. In fact, the bullet and so a little was upset from the blows of the ramrod itself, but it was not enough to press it tightly into the grooves. The French captain A. Delvin applied this principle and changed the design of the breech part of the union - the powder chamber was already inside the rifled canal. When she was bullying and attacking her, she pinched, slammed into the cuts and the chamber.


The choke itself, designed by him in 1826, looked for his era as the sniper weapons in the infantry squad now look like and most likely answered the same concept:


However, the union didn’t make a revolution because of its shortcomings - gunpowder sludge hammered the edges of the chamber after several shots, and the bullet stopped entering the grooves. The deformation of the bullet was not quite sufficient for reliable penetration into grooves. Attempts to improve the design (1840) by giving the bullet a wooden pallet about which it would be deformed and the prodolnik who would clean the bore when fired did not have much success - they too affected the ballistics of the bullet. Much better results were obtained by L.E. de Thouvenen, who provided the breech with a pin, onto which, under the blows of the ramrod, the bullet would sit down and flatten.


Initially, spherical bullets were tested, but in order to improve ballistics, a cylindrical version with a sharp tip was adopted. According to V. Fedorov, when firing a shield of 2.1x6.4 m at a distance of 1200 steps, 25% of the bullets fell, which can be called an excellent result. In 1846, in France, Tuvenin’s fittings were adopted for mass armament, and smooth-bore musket infantry mod. 1842 began to be remade into the fittings of this system. Alteration was reduced to a change in the trunk and breech. The disadvantage of the rod choke was the tenderness of the knot with the pin - it was loosened by the blows of the ramrod.

This problem was overcome in 1848-49 by K. Minier, who made a recess in the tail section of the bullet into which a cap of lighter material was inserted.


Being svezheotlitoy looks good:


Under the pressure of powder gases, the cap all the time the bullet inside the barrel pressed on it, forcing it to expand and very hard to cut into the rifling. The need for any details like the rod or the protruding edges of the chamber was completely eliminated, such bullets could easily charge any fitting of previous models with the same speed with which the usual musket was charged. Smooth-bore musket has become a weapon of the past generation. The only drawback of the Minier bullet was the expansion cap, which required high precision in manufacturing.

If all of the above inventions belong to the officers of the Vincennes School, then now we need to go to Belgium. The Belgians Peters and Timmergans in the years 1852-53 were able to change the bullet Minier thus. so that its expansion occurs simply because of the pressure of the powder gases on the bottom, without any cap:


Similar works were carried out in other countries (for example, the bullet of Pritchet 1852 in Great Britain), but the bullet with a vacuum did not force out the bullet with a cup. Its main advantage was greater stability regardless of barrel wear.

Typical examples of this generation of weapons, i.e. The first generation of rifles is a British mod. 1853, French 1884 (T), Russian arr. 1856 and many others very similar to each other.


It is likely that these muskets were the most slaughter mass infantry weapons of an infantryman ever armed. Bullets of a very large caliber and a very significant mass, made of pure lead without a shell - in caliber and mass they even slightly exceed the bullets of modern hunting rifles, while possessing a much higher speed.
Further, in the expansion bullets and muzzle-loading rifles to improve, in general, there is nothing and they therefore turned out to be a dead-end branch. An alternative rifle musket was a breech-loading rifle, in which there is no need to send a bullet through the whole barrel. However, the Minier expansion bullets or bullets with emptiness were still used for a long time in cartridges for breech-loading weapons in order to improve the obturation and reduce the effect of barrel wear.

Breech-loading weapons, especially breech-loading rifles, have been known for a very long time. Without mentioning old samples, it is enough to recall that during the American War of Independence, the British Ferguson rifle was tested for a short time.

probably the best that could be constructed in that era without having a capsule. Compared with the traditional musket, it looked quite revolutionary - when the trigger was turned, the breech opened a rifle, where he had to shove a bullet, fill up gunpowder, close the bolt the uniformity of the powder charge, which certainly has a positive effect on accuracy), cocking the gun and pour the powder on the shelf. Unlike the musket, these operations could be performed in any position. Ferguson's rifle was developed in 1770, but from the technical and operational side it turned out to be too complicated a weapon. In the era of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the development of new weapons subsided, and only by 1820 did new designs begin to appear.

In the late 1820s, Prussian gunsmith N. Dreyze was engaged in the construction of a muzzle-loading smooth-bore weapon, but under a unitary cartridge containing immediately both a primer and a bullet and a powder charge. Such a cartridge would have to accelerate the shooting. However, in this area he did not achieve much success, but he got a first-class breech-loading rifle for a unitary cartridge in a paper shell. In 1841 it was put into service in Prussia, however, it began to enter the army only approx. 1848. It should be noted that this is a period of experiments with expanding bullets in France; at that time, the advantages of Dreyse's loading rifle over the muzzle-loading musket were absolutely not obvious, they were simply two parallel views on weapon improvement. Only the subsequent conflicts of the 1860s showed the advantage of a breech-loading rifle. You also need to remember that the Dreize rifle itself has some external features of the muskets of its era.

Draise's rifle bolt had features that will become an integral part of the whole class of rifles in the future:


When turning the handle counterclockwise, the bolt was unlocked and it could be opened by gaining access to the breech of the barrel, where the paper cartridge was inserted. Since the cartridge already had the powder charge (4) and the capsule composition (3),


Nothing but filing and closing the shutter was required. After closing the shutter, all that remained was to pull the trigger and pull the trigger for the shot. During the shot, a long needle punched a cartridge - it passed through a layer of gunpowder and pricked a cap. The paper shell of the cartridge for the most part burned. The needle gave the name to all types of this weapon - which is called needle-rifles.

Let us estimate the revolutionary nature of the model adopted by Prussia in 1841:

  1. The breech-loading capsule rifle, despite the fact that in all countries the basis of armament was still composed of smooth-bore muskets, most of them with a flintlock. However, here it can also be noted that Dreyze’s rifle troops were only hit later. As future conflicts have shown, a significant increase in the rate of fire and the ability to charge weapons in any position follows from breech-charge. Bullets in that era had a large caliber and a steep flight path. Because of this, there were difficulties in aiming at low targets and the seated soldier certainly had advantages over the standing one.
  2. The longitudinally sliding gate that became so popular later on. Including and all the familiar movements to them - turn counterclockwise to open The use of a unitary cartridge in infantry weapons.
  3. Dreyze’s rifle bullet didn’t touch the rim of the barrel by itself — it was a cardboard tray in which it was located, while it was rotating, forcing the bullet to rotate. With a barrel caliber of 0.61 d., The bullet had a caliber of only 0.53 ds and was subcaliber; in this design, one can see the emergence of a system of sub-caliber bullets with a separating pallet of the 20th century. This solution was used to avoid lead and wear of the rifling in the expensive barrel. The cardboard pallet, in addition, potentially reduced the risk of developing too high pressure in the barrel because could skip the powder gases ahead.
    However, this rifle had significant drawbacks. Although now on the Internet you can read reviews of the owners of Draise rifles, it is best to give the floor to their contemporaries. In 1865, fifty needle-rifles were tested in Russia.

The disadvantages were the following:

1. Poor obturation, pollution of the mechanism by the combustion of black powder.
Generally speaking, it was impossible to achieve a good obturation without the use of a metal sleeve in that era. Therefore, in the design of Dreyze’s rifle, the bolt came into contact with the barrel, so as to divert the escaping gases away from the shooter’s face. In the designs of needle rifles, pieces of leather, rubber, and asbestos were used for the obturation, but this did not lead to a fundamental solution of the problem.

2. Insufficient strength of the needles, which at the time of the shot were in the cartridge itself. However, the broken needle could be replaced without disassembling the bolt.

3. Mediocre ballistics ; the case was obviously in a pan and a bullet shape.
Later in Prussia they tried to replace the bullet-ellipsoid with the Minier bullet. Dreyze’s rifle bullet weighing 30g had a muzzle velocity of 305 m / s and an energy of about 1.4 kJ, which is less than a rifled musket with an expansion bullet.

4. The complexity, the need for frequent cleaning. These deficiencies were more or less eliminated in the Chasspo needle rifles, which were put into service in France in 1866. The primer was located at the bottom of the cartridge, which allowed the needle to be made shorter, the bullet was already a cylinder-oval design, the trigger was automatically cocked. The obturation was improved with a rubber gasket, which, however, burned out relatively quickly. In many other countries, needle-rifles were also adopted - in their original form or in the form of alteration from old rifled muskets.

As a disadvantage of all needle rifles, there are problems when filing a cartridge - a paper sleeve can wrinkle, at least in modern shooting attempts. Together with the obturation problem, this can only be solved by replacing the paper tube with a metal one.

So, the transition from a paper sleeve to a metal one, is it justified? After all, the use of metal immediately causes:

  1. Chuck cost increase
  2. An increase in its weight, and, consequently, a decrease in wearable ammunition
  3. Impossibility in the troops to collect cartridges, as was done before

In fact, the transition is fully justified. The weight gain due to the liner is offset by a decrease in caliber; reducing the caliber reduces the mass of the bullet perhaps even an increase in wearable ammunition. The manufacture of cartridges in the army is also quite possible if desired - only liners are needed. In this case, the troops and so could not manufacture cartridges without the supply of primers and lead. The sleeve can also be reused. Finally, considerations of economy in the event of war can be worth the loss and bring even greater losses. The advantages of the introduction of a metal sleeve are significant:

1. Weather conditions completely cease to influence the course of shooting. If the paper cartridge was sensitive to the long torrential rain and had the property of dampening at all, then the metal shot in any weather. In the event of a battle in the rain between an army armed with a paper cartridge and a metal weapon, the first would be unarmed.

2. Increasing the rate of fire due to the simplification of filing the cartridge. If we are talking about a sliding bolt, it is enough to drop the cartridge into the open bolt that already sends it when it closes.

3. Improving the reliability of the mechanism due to the fact that it will stop clogging powder powder, there will be no parts like needles. Speaking of powder deposit, it should be noted that the solid products of combustion of powder in the aerosol are strongly heated and literally fused into the metal surface, increasing corrosion.

4. Possibility of re-fitting the spent cartridge case. In addition to the civilian practice of retrofitting, reloading spent cartridges by the military outside of hostilities was widely accepted in the 19th century.

If we want to use a metal sleeve, we need a slightly different type of primer. piercing his needle becomes irrelevant - the primer must ignite so that one of its sides remains intact. Throughout the 1830s and 40s, first the hairpin cartridge (father and son Lefoshe) appeared, and then the cartridge of ring ignition (Flaubert). In the first case, the cap was located inside the cartridge on the side wall and made its way with a small drummer, which was equipped with a cartridge. In the second case, the liner lip was filled with a shock train, a side impact was required for ignition. Both systems were unsatisfactory, at least for military purposes (systems using low-power ring-ignition cartridges or hairpin cartridges were limited in service with several countries in the 3rd quarter of the 19th century).On the commercial side, the .22LR (“slender”) ignition cartridge was extremely popular because of its low price. The main problem of the ring-ignition cartridges was the low durability of the sleeves due to the weakened rim and, therefore, limited pressure when fired. A different type of capsule was needed and it became the central combat cap. A patent for it was obtained in 1866 by the American gunsmith (part-time participant in the American Civil War and General) H. Berdan in 1866. At the end of the same year, a patent for a different type of cap of central combat by British artillery colonel E. Boxer. The difference between them is shown in the figure.The main problem of the ring-ignition cartridges was the low durability of the sleeves due to the weakened rim and, therefore, limited pressure when fired. A different type of capsule was needed and it became the central combat cap. A patent for it was obtained in 1866 by the American gunsmith (part-time participant in the American Civil War and General) H. Berdan in 1866. At the end of the same year, a patent for a different type of cap of central combat by British artillery colonel E. Boxer. The difference between them is shown in the figure.The main problem of the ring-ignition cartridges was the low durability of the sleeves due to the weakened rim and, therefore, limited pressure when fired. A different type of capsule was needed and it became the central combat cap. A patent for it was obtained in 1866 by the American gunsmith (part-time participant in the American Civil War and General) H. Berdan in 1866. At the end of the same year, a patent for a different type of cap of central combat by British artillery colonel E. Boxer. The difference between them is shown in the figure.Berdan in 1866. At the end of the same year, a patent for a different type of cap of central combat by British artillery colonel E. Boxer. The difference between them is shown in the figure.Berdan in 1866. At the end of the same year, a patent for a different type of cap of central combat by British artillery colonel E. Boxer. The difference between them is shown in the figure.


Of the leading countries, the British Empire took the first step towards rearming with a metal cartridge. In 1866, the Snider-Enfield rifle with an American D. Snyder design bolt was adopted. The rifle was reworking - old muzzle-loading muskets arr. 1853 under the expanding bullets retained their old trunks, lodges and a trigger, but received a new shutter reclining in the direction. The metal sleeve was not made from a single piece, as it is now, but twisted out of foil and further wrapped in paper.


Foil liners are strong enough and not much worse than seamless ones, but historically have existed for a very short period. In the same year, the United States followed the British example, followed by France and Russia (in 1867 the Krnka rifle, 1869 Albini-Baranova, 1868 Berdan No. 1), etc. All of these rifles were of the same type and they were united by a similar hinged “snuffbox” type, the use of a metal cartridge and a wide remake of old rifled muskets.


Historically, they turned out to be transitional weapons with a minimum service life. were soon replaced with rifles with a longitudinal sliding bolt, providing much better rate of fire and extraction of spent cartridges (the extractor of the snuffing rifles just pulled the cartridge out of the chamber, but did not throw it away). Some rifles of previous generations were a little better than snuffing; in particular, the Chasspo rifle, which was in service with the French army at the same time as the rifle, had a smaller caliber, better accuracy, although it used a paper cartridge. It can be noted that the ballistics of the snuff rifles, as a rule, corresponded to the ballistics of rifled muskets, since used the old barrel, the mass of bullets and gunpowder remained the same. Shooting from a representative:

The next and last generation of single-shot rifles was the generation of rifles of reduced caliber (about 0.45 inches) already with a longitudinal sliding gate. Typical designs for this generation of weapons were Berdan No. 2 rifles, Mauser brothers rifles (not to be confused with German rifles, Model 1888 and Model 1898), Gra's rifle, etc. Their common features were a quick, longitudinally sliding shutter of a simple construction; the locking was done with the bolt handle for the projection in the receiver i.e. was asymmetrical.

Subsequently, this method of locking prevented the introduction of ammunition with more powerful powder than black into the arsenal. The sleeve was already seamless, with a cap of the central battlefield. Bullet - cylinder-oval, completely lead; its expansion was achieved by its relatively long length. To reduce the lead of the rifling bullet wrapped oiled paper wrapping, in the design of the cartridge was introduced prosennik of wax and vegetable fat. Ballistic characteristics:


Shooting looks much more modern:

In general, these rifles were a combination of weapons experience of the 19th century, but again, they did not stand for a long time in service. It would seem, what could have been desired even if the weapon no longer has obvious flaws? And about this in the second part.


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