From the musket to the automaton - a crazy century, part 2

This is a continuation, start here .

Terms used:

A carbine is something shortened (for shooting from two hands). Occasionally, terminology was used in which the carbine was distinguished from a full-sized rifle by the number of calibers per barrel length. With the advent of low-impulse cartridges with a caliber of approx. 5mm and automata with long trunks in the bullpup scheme, it lost its meaning, because in the family it turned out that there was no carbine at all despite the fact that officially this status was carried by several samples.

Last time we stopped at the last quarter of the 19th century, when the armies of the leading states were armed with breech-loading rifles chambered with a metal sleeve. For the most part, these were fairly sophisticated models with a sliding bolt; a significant part of them will even manage to catch the First World War, but only in the hands of the militia and the troops of the last line. Hence, in fact, a stamp about the watchman with a rifle (i.e. Berdan’s rifle No. 2) in Russian culture. Indeed, in the interwar and postwar period, these weapons could be consistent with the guards of unimportant warehouses. However, the imagination most often draws a rifle in the form of a double-barreled hunting rifle, and not a rifle. The records of the service for this generation of weapons were probably broken by the British Henry-Martini rifle, which is periodically found by various terrorists to this day . Why not turn on the imagination and think, what else can be improved in rifles?

At that time, the effectiveness of artillery and small arms was decided to be assessed according to the formula:

E * P * n

Where E is the energy of the bullet at the target, P is the probability of hitting the target and n is the rate of fire. This formula is very convenient even outside of military affairs, for example, in games. For example, in a network game, we often think which weapon to choose - a more lethal, but slower, or faster, but weaker one. Let us imagine that the choice lies between a self-loading “killer” rifle with damage 200 with a rate of fire of 100 shots / min and a machine gun with damage of 40 and a rate of fire of 600 shots / min. Then the relative power of the rifle will be 200 * 100 = 20,000, and the power of the machine gun 40 * 600 = 24,000, as we see, the machine gun is more powerful by 1/5. Now suppose that a rifle’s magazine has 10 rounds, and the automaton has 30. The indirect difference between 10 and 30 rounds increases the rate of fire of the weapon, since less time spent recharging. Therefore, then we can further assess the power of the weapon. The rifle is 20,000 * 10 = 200,000, the automaton has 24,000 * 30 = 720,000. Now, because of the magazine, the power of the automaton looks even more pronounced. However, there is another factor, namely the factor of probability of hitting. It depends on the spread and the convenience of aiming - if the camera from the first person at each shot from the machine gun will twitch, then it is clear that it will not be comparable with a rifle in accuracy. Plus, if the rifle has a convenient sight for the player with a large field of view, and the machine gun does not have it, then the latter will be the loser. Suppose that the probability of hitting a machine is 2 times less than that of a rifle. Then the power of the machine gun is 720,000 / 2 = 360,000, and the rifle has 200,000, as it was.

These simple examples show the influence of factors in the formula on the final result, i.e. on the effectiveness of weapons. Therefore, to increase the effectiveness of the rifle, we must increase one of the factors in the formula. It was impossible to radically increase the probability of hitting at that time –– rifles and so were supplied with good quality mechanical sights. Increase energy from the target, too, hardly. The kinetic energy is calculated using the formula m * V ^ 2/2, where m is the mass of the bullet, and V is its speed. It is impossible to increase the mass of the bullet because of the weight limits of the ammunition and the requirements of the optimal bullet geometry. Further increase in the powder charge or barrel length did not cause a significant increase in the speed of the bullet. In this situation, it remains to increase only one thing - the rate of fire. And I must say that this way the weapon moved the entire 20th century.

The obvious way to increase the rate of fire - to accelerate the loading of weapons. For example, to equip a rifle with some mechanism that will automatically feed cartridges when reloading. Such a mechanism is called a shop. Do not confuse the clip:


and weapons shop:


And, for example, charging one another:


The presence of the store gave the name to the whole next generation of rifles - shop rifles. It can be noted that now this phrase is primarily understood as a little later samples, under the cartridge with smokeless powder. How to organize the automatic filing of cartridges?

Historically, the first solution to the problem of filing cartridges was a revolver. I remind you that the main constructive part of the revolver is the drum in which the cartridges are located. Chambers of the drum serve as chamber for firing. The first patent for a revolver was taken by an American A. Wheeler from Concord (yes, the one near 111 asylum) in 1818. Soon in England production of revolvers with a flintlock and revolver guns based on them was launched. However, prior to the invention of the capsule, it was a cumbersome system, although one cannot say that with the capsule something became much faster. One of the first Koltov revolvers in charge and action:

On the basis of this model were produced incl. and rifles and shotguns. Only the appearance of unitary cartridges for a metal sleeve improved the charging situation. It would seem, why was it at that moment not to use revolving rifles in the army? Indeed, as a curiosity, it can be noted that the idea of ​​a revolver rifle was sent to the competition for a new magazine rifle for the tsarist army, in which the Mosin rifle won. In fact:

  1. The revolver itself is overweight due to the drum. In the case of powerful rifle cartridges, the weapon will have an inconvenient center of gravity, and it will generally be heavy.
  2. Obturation is very bad due to the fragile connection of the drum with the barrel.
  3. Quick shooting is inaccurate. An essential part of the revolver is self-cocking shooting - with an unlocked trigger, pressing the trigger will coax the trigger. However, this requires a corresponding effort, because of which the accuracy of shooting will be low.
  4. Long recharge drum. After each shot the sleeve does not go anywhere, it must be removed with a ramrod. A mini-cleaning rod mounted directly on a revolver for this purpose is an integral part of the design. Charging the cartridge takes a relatively long time. For these reasons, the resource of the revolver as a weapon of self-defense is estimated exactly in the capacity of its store, since after the cartridges are used up, the time for reloading is unlikely to be provided.

For these reasons, the revolvers played a historical role in the sense of melee weapons, replacing the single shot pistols far inferior to them, but the revolver rifles of the revolution did not produce. A completely different, fundamentally best type of store was needed.

And the first successful store was a sub-barrel store. In 1848, the American Hunt developed a magazine (repetitive in the terminology of those times) rifle “Volition”, which never saw the serial production; on its basis, by 1860, B. T. Henry, who worked at O. Winchester's firm, had created his own rifle, which in the future gained popularity during the American Civil War. Revolutionism was in the store in the form of a tube, which was placed under the barrel; he held 15 rounds. For ejection of a spent cartridge case, delivery of a new cartridge and cocking it was enough to pull the trigger guard away from you and put it back in place. Loading and shooting procedure:

As you can see, the rifle provided excellent firing rates for its era. After the civil war, Winchester changed the name of the company to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (literally the Winchester Repeating Weapon Company) and released subsequent rifles of a similar system under the brand name. The most popular was the model of 1866, which became a symbol of the Wild West and was purchased in small batches by some European countries. In particular, Ottoman Turkey bought 50 thousand Winchester rifles, which managed to take part in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78, proving their unequivocal superiority over the remake single-shot rifles of Krnka, which were in service with the royal army. However, with regard to the rifles of Berdan number 2, then not yet received on mass armament, Winchester rifles were probably worse. None of the European states so completely re-armed with magazine-mounted rifles due to the weak cartridge and the flaws in the shutter. However, Switzerland turned out to be the first country in the world to put on a mass rifle - the Vetterly system with the usual longitudinal sliding gate, but a tubular underbarrel magazine, in 1869. For its time, this step proved to be rash - the cartridge was adopted weak, lateral ignition. Already on the example of the Swiss Vetterly, the flaws of the under-barrel shop were revealed:

  1. Unsuccessful location of the center of gravity of the rifle.
  2. Charging a magazine with one cartridge takes as much time as charging one cartridge of a single-shot rifle or so. It follows that the store in battle must be protected for crucial moments, and in ordinary situations, use a rifle as a single-shot. When this crucial moment comes in battle, however, it is never clear, and an empty store will be a demoralizing factor. It turns out that the increase in the rate of fire is only apparent.

    Let us trust in the experiments - in the course of a detailed study of the grenade shops in the tsarist army, it was found out that the practical significance of such a store would be small. It is quite possible to temporarily increase the rate of single-shot rifles to the level of the under-barrel shop, if the soldiers simply hold several cartridges in their left hand in the girth of the forearm.
  3. Low security store. The attentive reader probably noticed that in the podstvolnom shop the cartridge is bent with its tip into the back of the next one. With a sufficiently strong impact of a rifle, it is not excluded that the capsule and the explosion of the entire store immediately. Experiments on a scarecrow showed that the shooter will at least lose a few fingers of his left hand, not counting severe burns and injuries.

The way out is obvious - the adoption of side ignition cartridges. Actually, this is why the first Vetterly magazine rifle, which was put into service in the army, used a low-powered side-ignition cartridge. How else to solve this issue? I suggest to dream.

The problem was subsequently solved:

  1. Making the capsule small, and the tip of the bullet flat. In turn, the flat nose of a bullet adversely affects ballistics.
  2. Increased taper of the liner. In this case, the bullet nose will simply be buried somewhere below the capsule, or into the groove around the capsule. This solution was used in the French rifle Lebel, however, very recklessly. Incredibly tapered cartridge:


Adopted initially for a magazine rifle, it very soon made it almost impossible to design reliable automatic weapons under it, although the era of machine guns and automatic rifles had arrived.

The advantages of the grenade shop were:

  1. Large capacity. OK. 6-7 rounds of ammunition in the store, plus one on the feeder, plus one delivered - this is quite a lot in total.
  2. Compactness, absence of parts protruding for the weapon profile.
  3. Relative simplicity of adaptation to old single shot rifles.

Although the adoption of this first generation of magazine rifles is not fully justified, it was fueled by an arms race and increased international tensions in the last quarter of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the money spent on them as a whole went nowhere - this type of weapon did not have time to participate in any major conflict; apart from the Lebel French rifle, of course, but it was a kind of transitional pattern to the next generation. Typical samples of the first generation of magazine rifles:


The last generation of magazine rifles was destined for a long life - undergoing more or less large-scale modernizations, they went through both world wars and remained in service until the middle of the 20th century. We see them all the time in games (with the Mosin rifle, the German K98k, the British Lee-Enfield, the American Springfield 1904, several games go out a year) and popular culture. Actually, the situation that preceded their arming was as follows:

  1. There was a well-executed longitudinal sliding gate.
  2. The cartridges were filled with traditional black powder; The potential for improved ballistic weapons was very limited.
  3. The design of the store turned out to be the most problematic part, since simply did not exist uniquely her best option.

Above, I have already mentioned the Lebel rifle several times. The reader could well have the impression of her as a kind of dead-end, but such words would be wrong.
Driven by an arms race and paranoia about the imminent war with Germany, by the mid-1880s, the French military decided to adopt a new weapon. In service were already single-shot rifles Gra arr. 1874, which were actively modernized by equipping the A. Kropachek system with an under-barrel magazine (Austria). Similar work was carried out in other countries. Although this weapon could be called quite modern, the French moved on and introduced a rifle, arr. 1886, she is a Lebel rifle. The main difference from the previous model was the use of a cartridge with smokeless powder instead of black; bullet caliber decreased from 11 to 8mm. This made it possible to increase the speed of the bullet from 450m / s to 615 m / s and increase the ammunition load. The increased energy of the powder required an improved locking system — the bolt was now locked with two lugs instead of more simply locking with the bolt handle in the old rifles. Since when a bullet moves in the barrel, substantial energy is spent on the friction of the bullet against the barrel; the traditional lead bullet was ripped off from rifling at such speeds. To solve this problem, the blunt bullet was equipped with a nickel silver sheath (80% copper, 20% nickel). Many people know the word Melchior by the Soviet tableware for serving - spoons, forks, etc., made under silver. Although by itself nickel silver looks like silver and can be quite used for the manufacture of dishes similar to silver, in reality everything is much more interesting - the Soviet nickel silver dishes most often additionally underwent silvering. Actually, because of this, you may get the impression of the high cost of such a shell for a bullet. Although nickel silver itself is not a cheap alloy (nickel is a rather expensive metal), at that time its cost was quite suitable for the manufacture of bullet shells. Already later, in total conflicts of the 20th century, nickel silver shells are gone, giving way to cheaper, but still not penny alloys. The shell markedly increased the penetrating ability of the bullet, since lead metal is very soft. Soon, by international conventions, shellless bullets were banned as inhumane in war, because All-lead bullet is very easily deformed, causing more severe damage.

However, most modern military bullets quite easily fall apart and lose their shell.

Turning off the magazine, shooting with charging one cartridge each, turning on the magazine and shooting the ammunition from it with a Lebel rifle:

Speaking about this rifle, it can be noted that in this case it was not so much the rifle itself that revolutionized how much the cartridge used in it made a revolution. This is a good reason to move on to the subject of gunpowder.

Black smoke powder, used since the Middle Ages, traditionally consisted of about 75% potassium nitrate, 15% coal and 10% sulfur. The approximate equation of its combustion can be represented by the reaction:


From the reaction equation it can be seen that many gaseous products are formed; Moreover, if we recall that 1 mol of gaseous substance under normal conditions takes 22.4 liters (and taking into account thermal expansion, when conditions differ significantly from normal, this is much more), then the propelling force of the powder becomes clear. I remind you that the main property of gunpowder is the ability to burn in an enclosed space, emitting a large amount of gases.

If you don’t want to know anything about getting black powder and hate chemistry, you shouldn’t look
The production of black powder was worked out over the centuries, and the quality of medieval powder remained high even by modern standards. The components of the mixture can be called moderately accessible. Native sulfur - a mineral not rare, coal was obtained by charring wood. With saltpeter the question was sharper, because in Europe there were no nitrate deposits (practically the only large potassium nitrate deposit is located in India, hence its historical name “Indian nitrate”). To produce saltpeter, various biological wastes were collected in heaps and mixed with construction debris. The main component of construction waste was chalk (CaCO3), because Lime was widely used in construction (Ca (OH) 2 + CO2 (from air) = CaCO3 + H2O). In the course of biodegradation, organic nitrogen passed into inorganic, and calcium nitrate, Ca (NO3) 2, accumulated in the heap, which remained to be removed from there with water, and the resulting solution was evaporated. The last necessary component was potash (K2CO3), which was obtained by washing the plants with water; historically, Russia has always been one of the main suppliers of potash to Europe. When mixing its solution with a solution of calcium nitrate, an exchange reaction occurred.


After settling and filtration, a solution of potassium nitrate remained. Closer to the industrial age, natural sources of nitrates outside Europe began to play a role, but revolutionary wars were still being played on saltpeter derived from biological waste.

Actually, what was bad black powder?

  1. Having a low hygroscopicity, he still soaked. Drenched and dried powder no longer possessed the same properties.
  2. After the shot, gunpowder created a cloud of smoke. One shot was blown away without problems, but with massive volleys the troops were literally shrouded in clouds of smoke.
  3. By the end of the 19th century, its potential for improvement was almost exhausted. The only way to improve the properties of gunpowder was to increase the content of coal to the detriment of sulfur. The last types of black powder used in the barrel artillery were extremely low in sulfur; I am even sure that from ordinary fire such powder would burn very weakly.

Attempts to improve black powder began from the end of the 18th century. The first major attempt belonged to the well-known French chemist K. Berthollet, the discoverer of bertolet salt (KClO3). He replaced the traditional composition of nitrate with bertoletova salt; at the same time, not only the power of the powder increased, but also its sensitivity to impact, which caused the first and last plant for its production to explode (1788) during the pressing procedure.

Subsequently, none of the mineral compounds could replace black powder in military affairs. The closest thing in this sense was F. Khebler (Switzerland), who developed mixtures of traditional black powder with ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3). By itself, ammonium nitrate directly affects the slow burning - with its thermal decomposition produces a lot of water. But if it is a very fast burning or detonation, he is capable of a great deal. However, Hebler was late for literally a decade - by the time he actively advertised his compositions, the first representatives of smokeless powder had already appeared. However, the power of the cartridges made by Khebler and equipped with a mixture of black powder and ammonium nitrate, approximately corresponded to the power of the first generation of smokeless powder.

The ability of black powder to burning is due to the fact that it includes both an oxidizing agent (nitrate) and a reducing agent (coal and sulfur); but the properties of the oxidizing agent and the reducing agent may well simultaneously manifest two different groups in the same substance. These substances include smokeless powder, a product of the development of organic chemistry. In 1846, the following case drew the attention of the Swiss chemist K. Shenbane: in the course of working with a nitrous mixture, it had to be wiped with either a rag or a dressing gown that spontaneously caught fire during the drying process. In fact, such cases do not represent something exceptional and occasionally continue to occur to this day. Under the action of the nitrating mixture on cellulose from cotton gown, its nitration occurs and various cellulose nitrates are formed. After drying, it remains to heat the nitrated piece of fabric so that it spontaneously ignites - the nitrocellulose contains both an oxidizer (nitro groups) and a reducing agent (cellulose skeleton). This also implies the possibility of burning nitrocellulose in a closed volume, similar to gunpowder. For several decades, there have been several attempts to create powder based on nitrocellulose, most often in mixtures with something mineral. Although the hunting varieties of such powders were produced in small batches, an acceptable type of gunpowder was not developed. The main problem was the low homogeneity of nitrocellulose, since it largely retained the original fibrous structure.

For gunpowder, uniformity and structure are the most important properties. The burning of gunpowder comes from the surface; Imagine a small ball of compressed powder, which reported burning.

At first, a lot of powder will burn out on the surface of the ball, but with a decrease in the volume of the ball, the amount of burning powder will begin to decrease. The formula of the surface of the ball is 4πR2, from which it follows that even with a small decrease in the radius of the ball, its surface will decrease exponentially. In the same way, the burning rate of gunpowder will significantly decrease. If all the powder is small balls, then when it burns, we will see the following picture: first, the pressure will increase greatly, and a large acceleration will be reported to the pool; but after burning out the first small portion of gunpowder, the pressure will drop, and at this time the bullet will only begin its movement along the bore. So it turns out that only the powder that burned at the very beginning will actually accelerate the bullet, and the core of the balls will burn in vain.

When you try to shoot a self-made powder with powder, the situation will be similar - small particles of powder will give you high (and dangerous) pressure at the beginning, and the rest will be wasted. From here and ruptures of trunks at self-mates; a person knowledgeable in chemistry would use nitrolak to form powder of grains of any desired shape (nitrolac is a solution of dinitrocellulose). Now imagine a cylinder of gunpowder with a hole along the axis. Combustion will occur both outside and inside, and a decrease in the surface area of ​​burning powder from the outside will be compensated for by an increase in the surface inside the cylinder. Finally, imagine that there is not one hole in this cylinder, but several. In this case, the powder will burn faster. Gunpowder, the burning area of ​​which decreases in the course of burning, is called degressive, the one whose area increases - progressive. Against this background, it becomes clear that fibrous, with mediocre homogeneity, nitrocellulose is of little use by itself as a powder. In 1884, P. Viel solved this problem quite gracefully - nitrocellulose was dissolved in solvents, after evaporation of which remained no longer in the form of fibers, but in the form of a solid homogeneous mass. Subsequently, the process was simplified, and the solvent was added in a minimum amount in order to obtain a gel-like mixture (hence the name of the process — gelatinization of the powder). From the product it was possible to form grains of any desired shape.

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