Monday, October 17, 2005

Ode to the .22LR

Oh, .22LR... providing us with extremely cheap entertainment for 118 years nearly unchanged.

Yup, 1887.

Something else happened in 1887 too... Winchester introduced a lever action shotgun, in 10 and 12 guages. And, they sprung forth a special one-off, with a rifled 12 guage barrel and a 10 guage reinforced action.

Yes, the venerable (well, not venerable, closer to vaporware) .70-150 winchester.

What it *does* do, however, is light a fire under the mad scientist's idea box and immediately he pops up a custom built Winchester 1887 rifle chambered in.... in... in....

.577/450 Martini Henry. Must check on breech diameters tomorrow...

Hey, it's not so farfetched, Norinco's making quite a few brand-new 1887's nowadays.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The .25 broomhandle. Which isn't really a broomhandle....

Ok, so I made allusion to this concept in the first post and never really expanded upon it. Well, stuck at home here with whatever feverish delusion strikes me (It's not the flu, but I feel just as funky), I figure it's time to post.

Compactness is the name of the game these days. Pistols keep getting smaller and smaller... Seecamps, Keltecs, Rohrbaughs, they keep shrinking. But they're at a bottom limit now with the current design strategum... roughly 9/16" thick or so, tiny grips, bore axis ratio up there because of the size... they aren't easy guns to shoot.

Why so thick? There's a good mechanical reason. Take a look at the keltecs... the trigger bar has to move past the magazine somehow, in order to reach the hammer/sear mechanism. That takes what already has to be roughly .400" wide and adds to it, plus the width of the polymer required for the grip. The modern design of pistol simply cannot be as narrow as possible because of the trigger bar.

Why am I emphasizing narrow? Because in my mind that's the most important aspect of the weapon for concealability. Men and women carry the 1911 in a high-hold IWB because it's THIN, without regard for length or depth of frame. Look at an NAA Guardian.... it's short, it's not deep.... but it's wide, and heavy. It's brick-like in the pocket, and impossible to locate in a holster. It's just... wrong. Designers are shrinking the *wrong dimensions*.

So here's my idea, and I may be ruining whatever patents I may get because I'm posting publically, but I'm in this for the guns, not the money. Anyways... the perfect concealable pistol must be as NARROW as possible, in order to fit along the body without printing. Length is a concern, but not as much as narrow. It shouldn't be terribly deep either, particularly in the grip, because that's the dimension that must conform along the curve of the hip. How do you accomplish this?

The key is in disregarding length. By doing this you can seperate the magazine well from the grip... the broomhandle layout, magazine ahead of trigger guard. What this accomplishes is having a mag well that's not being flanked by any other mechanism... it's only as wide as required to hold the magazine itself. And, with a different layout altogether, it need only be as wide as the walls to hold the follower (I.E. instead of the magazine sliding into a magazine well, it *is* the well, and latches into the receiver front and back). With a .25ACP cartridge I can see the magazine being roughly .28 to .30" wide. The widest part of this weapon would be the chamber and bolt, needing the extra width of material for mechanical purposes... and using a design constraint of .125" for the chamber walls, you now have a pistol that's a whopping .5", yes, one-half inch thick at the widest point and tapered at the nose and towards the grip down to .35 or .4".

The bolt would be standard blowback, perhaps enclosed like the Ruger .22 designs. It may also be on a sloped track... an upward angle. Why? Because if the bolt doesn't traverse over the area covered by the hand, then the overall bore axis can be lowered to a point where the bore axis is actually *within* the gripped surface... the bore could be made nearly inline to the first knuckle joint of the hand. The perfect pointable pistol, aiming as easily as pointing your finger. Flip would be nonexistant as the torque axis is aligned with the support axis. Recoil would be easily handled since it's just a .25acp. Power would be enhanced because insteadl of a <1" barrel like the pocket .25s, you'd have 2" or perhaps more. The load could be enhanced with a slower powder. All manner of new ideas fall inline to create what very well could be a revolution in concealable pistol design. With a middle/ring depth grip, the pistol would still only be 1.75" deep or so, less than the tiny keltec.

Can I start laughing like a madman yet?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The perfect number.

Revolvers. Ubiquitious, classic yet modern. They've been around for well over a hundred years.

I think it's interesting to study the design of things to figure out why they were made the way they were. One of the most obvious features of any given revolvers is the number of rounds carried in the cylinder. With larger frames, it really is just a question of capacity... to a point, because the issue of where the lockup notch falls in relation to a cartridge becomes an issue. An even number of rounds means the cut is over a cartridge, weakening the cylinder. An odd number of cartridges means the cut is over "dead metal"... and an odd number will often fit better around the cylinder.

And that last clause brings us to the point of the post: How many rounds is right for as compact a revolver as possible?

1. One round does not a revolver, or repeater, make.
2. In *theory*, this can make the thinnest possible revolver. However, timing would be a nightmare as you need to rotate the cylinder 180 degrees, and with the compactness being an issue, it would be just as small and light to have two distinct barrels, and then... tada, derringer.
3. Now we're getting somewhere. Unfortunately, a 120 degree cylinder sweep is still difficult to time... anything over 90 degrees is going to be trouble, mechanically. And, you're going to leave a lot of dead metal between rounds.
4. Surprisingly this has been done... Colt's home defense revolver of the late 1800's had four round cylinders arranged in a cloverleaf. The "star" is actually a "square"... the easiest angle to check for. But, it has strikes against it... mostly because you actually end up with one of the widest cylinders possible, with the full width of the chambers diametrically opposed *and* standing proud at 90 degrees off the live chamber.
5. Ding ding! We have a winner. 5 cartridges arranged around a pin is one of the most compact and useable schemas. The cylinder sweep is 72 degrees, which is within the range of ease mechanically. the 5 cartridges means that the width of the cylinder is less than 4 or 6 due to the angle off the live chamber. Dead metal is kept to a minimum. It simply works, as millions of IJs and S&Ws and other pocket revolvers will attest. The .38 J-frame has been around a LONG time, and will be around for at least as long.

Now, I carry a S&W 432PD around the shop. It has *gasp* 6 shots. Why not 5, the perfect number? This is easy... 6 would fit. S&W wasn't about to change the frame and cylinder dimensions for a single model, and 6 .32 cartridges easily fit in the space that 5 .38 cartridges would. If you note the length is also the same as the largest of the J-frame chamberings, the .357 Magnum. That call was about economics.

if S&W wanted to, they could make a truly *tiny* 5 shot .32 H&R Magnum revolver. But why? The J-frame is small enough for nearly anyone to conceal handily.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Something else that struck me...

While i was thinking about the split-breech system in the previous post, I also considered an extractorless system that is almost but not quite the same, because it employs a split breech that is fully supported, but involves the standard longitudinal entry-exit system as a standard firearm.


Ok, that one's actually too far off the wall to continue on.

But, I'll toss up another idea...

Through history there have been instances of blow-forward firearms. That is, the pressure and drag from the bullet pulls the slide/barrel forward and when it returns, it takes in another round from the magazine.

Well, why not adapt that with a modern gas lock system? The gases act on a free-floating piston which is blown *back* against a spring, delaying the action. When the spring rebounds, the piston runs forward, hitting the end of the gas cylinder and activating a latch there which unlocks the barrel, and inertia takes it forward. Advantages? Longer barrels, since the chamber can essentially lay directly on top of the magazine. Easier to feed too. Disadvantages? A truly wierd function cycle and manual of arms, plus the added stangeness to the feel of recoil because of the gas piston flailing back and forth within it's cyinder.

Of course, stranger things do enter my mind at times, like using the ported gas from a gas-delayed machine gun to run a little vibrating piston compressor and cooling the barrel with an ammonia or freon refrigeration cycle. You'd end up with a machine gun that could fire until you run out of ammo or the rifling wears out of the barrel...

I know this has been "done" before...

..but I thought I'd revisit the idea. The UK first had a system somewhat like this on an aircraft cannon and then Honeywell model 40 Mk 18 grenade launchers do it too.

Ok, ammunition is hopper fed by a sorter... that's another mechanism altogether. The breech of the mechanism is split, and each half is formed into a rotating wheel, one clockwise one counterclockwise. When they turn together they "trap" a live round in the breech. There are an even number of chambers, so as to have a chamber "notch" directly opposite the live chamber in the wheels at any given time.

The bolt mechanism is an interesting quandry... it's likely a heavy forged aluminum piece. The firing pin mechanism is captive within and releases the pin when the bolt is settled against the back of the breech. There are also two "fingers" on either side that fit into the chamber notches opposite from the live chamber in the wheels, which serves to lock the rotation temporarily so the ratchet mechanism sees no stress and holds the two chambers together to not stress the bearings out. When the round in the chamber is fired a gas piston is operated that kicks the bolt back, releasing the breech wheels to rotate, and when the bolt reaches it's rearward limit it strikes a ratchet mechanism that rotates the breech wheels which form the next live, loaded chamber. If the trigger is released at that point then the bolt is locked back. To unload the weapon you'd leave the bolt back and lock it, interrupt the flow of ammunition to the wheels, and run the ratchet mechanism by hand (likely by lever) several times to roll the remaining ammunition out of the breech wheels.

Yes, sounds complicated. But, because of the way the mechanism works (gas operated straight blowback bolt with active firing pin) you essentially have a firing rate variable from semiauto all the way up to as fast as you can move the bolt with gas action... or as fast as a cartridge can fall half an inch into the chamber.

The *unfortunate* part is that the mechanism will require a straight-walled cartridge with no rim.... something custom, but at least not difficult. The cartridge does not require an extraction rim, as extraction is accomplished by simply opening the chamber and letting the rotating breech fling the cartridge out directly downward. The UK version used an aluminum cartridge with those qualities and an enclosed bullet, i.e. the case mouth was even with or beyond the nose of the projectile.

Depending on the width of the chamber walls, you could in theory even make the cartridges out of plastic, depending on the rate of fire and heat absorption and dissipation.

Mind's running wild again, and I like it :) I *need* a copy of autocad....