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Old July 31, 2012, 01:08 PM   #51
Jim Watson
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I have read that Mr Browning designed the A5 shotgun to be able to handle black powder shells as were still common in 1905. Anybody ever tried it in the modern era?
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Old July 31, 2012, 04:15 PM   #52
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IIRC during the Indian Wars the soft copper cartridge cases used in the 45-70 were the source of a lot of problems, the extractor would cut through the rim leaving the body of the case stuck in the chamber. The troops were not issued a broken case extractor, it was said a cavalry trooper then could cuss for 20 minutes straight without repeating himself. The cartridge case was simply too new an idea-First Generation, to use current terminology-to be completely relied on.
IMHO TOO many things would have to been invented at the same time by ONE
person-invented AND perfected AND the manufacturing procedures and tools designed and manufactured-for a practical semi-or fully automatic weapon to have been adopted then, and as others have noted black powder is NOt a suitable propellant for such use.
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Old July 31, 2012, 05:06 PM   #53
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What? Gatling's detachable stick magazine doesn't count?
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Old July 31, 2012, 05:52 PM   #54
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"What? Gatling's detachable stick magazine doesn't count?"

In the context of what I'm thinking of, no.

Those magazines were gravity powered.

I should have been more specific regarding an internal spring integral with a follower.
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Old July 31, 2012, 05:58 PM   #55
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Here are two of those early soft-copper cases.



The one on the left is a .45 Schofield for the Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver. The one on the right is a .45-70.

Both appear to be rimfires, but they have the Benet inside-the-case center fire primer, which is identifiable by the crimp just up from the case head.

The Benet primer, developed at Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, allowed a centerfire round in a case that was made of copper, which was simply too soft to support a Boxer or Berdan style primer.

I figure both rounds were loaded sometime prior to 1885 or so, when drawn brass cases finally came into service.
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Old July 31, 2012, 06:11 PM   #56
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IIRC in the first model Gatling guns the magazine was really just a hopper, loose cartridges were simply dropped in. And strictly speaking the Gatling Gun was not a machine gun as we think of it since the power of each round was not used to operate the action.
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Old July 31, 2012, 08:25 PM   #57
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Quote:
The one on the left is a .45 Schofield for the Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver. The one on the right is a .45-70.

Both appear to be rimfires, but they have the Benet inside-the-case center fire primer, which is identifiable by the crimp just up from the case head.

The Benet primer, developed at Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, allowed a centerfire round in a case that was made of copper, which was simply too soft to support a Boxer or Berdan style primer.

I figure both rounds were loaded sometime prior to 1885 or so, when drawn brass cases finally came into service.

Mike,

As amatter of information, here are a couple of .45 S&W rounds in my collection:



Both rounds have the Boxer primer, the December, 1889 is the earliest boxer primed Frankford Arsenal I have.

Bob Wright


Whoops!


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Old July 31, 2012, 08:55 PM   #58
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As for the first detachable bolt rifle magazine, that looks to be James Perris Lee's 10-shot magazine on the Lee-Metford in the 1880s.
And that one cannot be detached and carried around loaded. The Mondragon rifle was what I was thinking of.
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I have read that Mr Browning designed the A5 shotgun to be able to handle black powder shells as were still common in 1905. Anybody ever tried it in the modern era?
BP was common in shotshells well into the 1920s. When the Auto-5 was designed and patented, it was designed for BP shotshells. Smokeless powder shells caused a few issues with the repeater, requiring the later addition of the famous friction ring/cone.
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Old July 31, 2012, 09:42 PM   #59
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Bob,

The boxer-primed copper cartridges were a pretty dismal failure. Apparently the copper wouldn't hold the primer adequately and they were prone to popping out.

Interestingly enough, though, the Benet priming system apparently wasn't an unqualified success, either, as the internal cup had a tendency to slip out of place, which would allow the round to go dead.

Scorch, the Lee-Metford Mark II, which introduced the 10-round magazine, did have a detachable magazine. I'm not 100% sure, but the Mark I* may also have had a detachable magazine.

As for the Mondragon, it was designed in the early 1880s and patented in the late 1880s, but it wasn't manufactured in anything other than one-off machine room pieces until 1901. It was also a semi-automatic.
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Old August 1, 2012, 04:08 PM   #60
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Quote:
Quote:
As for the first detachable bolt rifle magazine, that looks to be James Perris Lee's 10-shot magazine on the Lee-Metford in the 1880s.
Quote:
And that one cannot be detached and carried around loaded. The Mondragon rifle was what I was thinking of.

I'm thinking maybe what became the Remington Lee was first. Started out as the Sharps Lee, but they went out of business before the first production run of them was finished.
FWIW, the earliest patent date on the side of the magazine is May 28, 1872. Haven't done any research on the patent so I've no idea what feature of it is covered by that one. The relevant detachable box magazine patent was issued November 4, 1879

Edited to add: My example of this rifle was sporterized by some dummy that wanted to make it look modern. My previous interest in the book used as a backdrop in the photos was as a source of photos showing carbine models in an attempt to salvage something that looked remotely "right" out of the gun. Turns out there's a whole mess of info on the development of the detachable magazine in there. Who'da guessed. Took years of effort and more than one person to get one that worked. Definitely did not spring full-grown from the mind of James Paris Lee.
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Old August 1, 2012, 10:13 PM   #61
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Well I'll be.

I thought about the Remington-Lee, but for some reason I had it in my mind that the R-L magazine was semi-permanently affixed with a large-headed screw that made it easy to remove for cleaning, but it wasn't truly a detachable magazine.
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Old August 2, 2012, 05:18 AM   #62
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VERY GOOD QUESTION!

Here are the two reasons the South did not opt for "High Firepower" weapons:

[1] LOGISTICAL

[2] TECHNOLOGICAL


LOGISTICAL- First of all, many military men at the beginning of the CiviL War were convinced that the troops in battle (and armed with muzzleloaders) fired "too fast" already! So, there was genuine concern that the troops would shoot up all of their ammo before the battle was "half fought!"

Supplying your troops with adequate ammo is a "Logistical" problem.

Of course, the modern American military has conquered the "Logisitcs Problem" [i.e., delivering the necessary supplies to the troops at the Front in adequate quantities] by the use of ships, airplanes, trains and trucks. To the Civil War commander, his army WAS SUPPLIED BY SLOW MOVING WAGON TRAINS away from the rail head or river port.

So, you can see that there was quite a difference between what can be delivered by wagon train VS modern, 21st Century, methods.

TECHNOLOGICAL - From 1863 ownward Southern military units were capturing Spencer Carbines BUT THE SOUTH NEVER DEVELOPED THE ABILITY TO "DRAW" RIMFIRE SPENCER CARTRIDGE CASES! So, many of those Spencers were simply turned in to storage because Southeen made ammo was not available for them.

Matter of fact, when Lt. Colonel James Burton, Superindent of Confederate Armories made his famous "buying trip" to England 1863-the "item" at the top nof his list was to purchase was Spencer cartridge case making machinery. Guess What? The Brits didn't have the foggiest idea as to how Spencer cartridge cases were made!!!

The following year when the .577 Snider was officially adopted by the Brirish Army-Snider "cartridge cases" were made from a IRON base WITH A WRAPPED BRASS STRIP making up the sides of the "cartridge case." Such a cartridge case in a Spencer would not have worked for several reasons.

Matter of fact, the "modern centerfire cartridge case" did not even "evolve" until decades after the Civil War was over!

Immediately after the Civil War the "Benet Inside Primed" cartridge case evolved and only later was the modern "centerfire" cartridge case invented.

Wartime and immediate post wae cartridge cases WERE MADE OUT OF COPPER. Copper cartridge cases have a tendency to "stick" in the chambers of hot weapons-ask General Custer's troopers about that one!

Modern "Brass" cartridge cases did not even "evolve" UNTIL MORE THAN A DECADE AFTER THE CIVIL WAR. Unlike copper cases, hot brass cartridge cases are easily extracted [within limits] rom "hot" guns.

Last but not least, evev IF the Confederate Ordnance Department had had the "technical expertise" to manufacture modern, drawn, brass cartridge cases-after Mid-1863 when the Copper Hill region of Tennessee was captured, the Confederacy DID NOT have had the copper supplies necessary to manufacture cartridge cases.

By 1864 the Confederacy was so desperate for copper from which to make percussion caps they were sending out agents into the hills of Northern Georgia, East Tennessee, etc., to beg, buy or seize copper moonshine stills!

To put it another way-while the Confederacy, provided with blueprints, could have manufactured M-1 Carbines for general issue; they did not have the technical ability to manufacture the ammo! [to "draw" brass cartridge cases!]
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Old August 2, 2012, 05:47 AM   #63
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By 1864 the Confederacy was so desperate for copper from which to make percussion caps they were sending out agents into the hills of Northern Georgia, East Tennessee, etc., to beg, buy or seize copper moonshine stills!
Did they call it moonshine back then? I thought moonshine was illegal whiskey brewed during the prohibition era.
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Old August 2, 2012, 06:35 AM   #64
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I don't understand the question. The time of the Civil War era saw the invention of the first modern style firearms (lever action repeaters), cartridges, and first machine gun (Gatling Gun).
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Old August 2, 2012, 10:45 AM   #65
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"Wartime and immediate post wae cartridge cases WERE MADE OUT OF COPPER. Copper cartridge cases have a tendency to "stick" in the chambers of hot weapons-ask General Custer's troopers about that one!"

Yes and no.

Burnsides and Gallagher cartridges were made of brass during the Civil War. Peabody cartridges may also have been made of brass.

These, obviously, were externally primed.

Gallagher cartridges were "spun," an earlier alternative to deep drawing (think of a potter molding a piece of clay on a wheel) while Burnsides cartridges were punched formed from thin brass foil.

Hiram Berdan and Edward Boxer both patented their centerfire primer systems in the 1860s.
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Old August 3, 2012, 01:40 PM   #66
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@ B.L.E.
Quote:
Did they call it moonshine back then? I thought moonshine was illegal whiskey brewed during the prohibition era.
Browse to the search engine of your choice and look up "Whiskey Rebellion." You will find that "moonshine" by whatever name has been made since a federal tax was put on whiskey circa 1791. Whiskey was made before that time but the production did not go "underground" until a tax was imposed.

( Guns used by moonshiners is a separate topic )
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Old August 5, 2012, 09:51 AM   #67
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I haven't read through all the Posts but:
The South was originally mostly armed with the weapons seized from Federal Military Forts and Outposts. Some State Militia had their weapons. The South was desperate as the War progressed. You just can't put a lot of time into trying to develop new weapons when your Soldiers need basic arms. Dozens of small makers worked their butts off just to turn out a few guns. If it hadn't been for some arms smuggled in and those captured, the South would have been fighting with sharp sticks by 1863. It doesn't leave a lot of production time nor resources to experiment with.
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Old August 5, 2012, 04:00 PM   #68
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Technology has to advance on a broad front, as mentioned here already how ammunition technology was probably the biggest limiting factor at that time. Other things would be addressed as the problems appeared with newer technologies, such as high velocity cartridges that came along 20 years later. But mostly, it was a matter of simply thinking of something. Everyone has a moment when they say "why didn't I think of that?"

A lot of work and development goes into something that eventually becomes a dead end, at least for military purposes. Think of tube magazines.

There were successful repeating rifles during the Civil War and much better ones not much later. They used tube magazines. Tube magazines are still used, of course, but not in the army. Someone had to think of a different way to carry the ammuntion in the weapon. Box magazines were the thing by 1890 but it took a war for people to realize that loading one at a time was suddenly very old-fashioned. British soldiers did carry a spare magazine for a while before they had "charger loading," although it isn't clear to me why that was done. In any case, the magazine was still considered to be an emergency reserve, an idea that is not quite dead yet.

Military organizations tend to be conservative, you know, and there is often a built-in resistance to new things. That was just as true then as it is now. And yet another factor that we often overlook is that sometimes the wonderful advantages we take for granted in something new had serious shortcomings at the time. In the case of small arms, the use of black powder caused problems already mentioned. In the case of artillery, smoothbore artillery remained in use during the Civil War because it worked well and in some ways better than rifled muzzle loaders that were also widely used. Some of the artillery rifles also had an unfortunate tendency to blow up at the wrong time.
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Old October 28, 2012, 02:00 AM   #69
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Some great info in this thread.
Quote:
They could have even made it a patriotic initiative: Write a list of necessary parts available at the local hardware stores and distribute it to every family in the South. For each submachine gun built and given to the Army, the family will receive special rewards.
Quote:
Adults can get the parts from stores and machine/forge/craft them to fit.
As Bubba has shown us all this doesn't work out well.
Look into what happened when Mao pushed China to increase steel production. I think in 1978. Disaster. People melting down iron pots in home furnaces that made worthless steel then having nothing to cook in. 35 years later and they made it. I do think the Confederates could have manufactured the guns in numbers that would have been significant though.


I agree with all the sentiment the problem was the cartridge not the powder. I could likely manufacture a full auto carbine from items and tools that just happen to be available in my house or most others in the US at the moment(not from guns I already own). The hardest part would be the spring, but I am sure I could find one suitable around here somewhere.

Cartridge cases? Smokeless powder? Nowhere close.

People underestimate the absolutely devastating effects of canister, especially against massed formations. A smoothbore cannon can nearly keep pace with a LMG when it comes to volume of fire measured by individual projectiles. I have oft wondered why no one seems interested in them these days.

On Gettysburg, I agree with the sentiment it was lack of contact with J.E.B. Stuart and Lees inability to adjust. Nothing more complicated. Lee became accustomed to Confederate cavalry running circles around Union cavalry troops and bringing him solid info. You can't be aggressive successfully without good information. Lee didn't have any information.
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Old October 28, 2012, 11:06 AM   #70
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The South didn't adopt modern guns because of logistical consideration.

No one gave it a thought in 1861. Almost everybody on both sides accepted that the war would be a short, relatively quick war and the boys would be home in time for Christmas. Old Fuss and Feathers Winfield Scott knew otherwise but who wanted to hear about his drawn out two year Anaconda Plan? Before Manassas shattered the illusion of a quick war, the South was scrambling for any guns they could get. Besides the arms that were seized from los federales, the South was converting hunting guns to military service. McDowell and later Little Mac both (inadvertantly) did their share in helping supply the South.

Again, the problem remains that until the gas seal problem (resolved with the metallic cartridge case) and fouling issue were resolved (with nitro-cellulose propellants), automatic weapons were not feasible.
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Old October 31, 2012, 10:18 PM   #71
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just some thoughts

RACHEN, I often think of the what ifs of history. like what if Horace Hunley had used the primitive electical technology of the time to power up his undersea craft? or if either side had made the connection of adding fins and propulsion to their observation balloons. after reading the previous threads, allow me to add some of my thoughts. technological advancements happen when the right things come into play at the right time. fulminate of mercury and its propertys was know by 1660's but they were trying to use it as a replacement for gunpower. it didn't work. it kept blowing up inventors and their test guns. never occurred to anyone till 1805 to try it as just a primer. look how well that worked out. Hiram Maxim worked at his uncle's shop during the civil war. the thoughts of a weapon as you questioned were in his mind. but it wasn't until 1884 that he introduced the world to the first true machine gun. he remarked years later the weapon could have been realized earlier, but he was waiting for the development of a propellent that was better then black power. so the idea and the person were present during the war, but not the final piece of technology that linked it all together. in that, I think is the answer. but its still fun to think about the possibilty of history. its fun stuff.
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Old November 1, 2012, 01:28 PM   #72
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"what if Horace Hunley had used the primitive electical technology of the time to power up his undersea craft?"

He would have electrocuted his crew rather than drowning them?
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Old November 1, 2012, 03:10 PM   #73
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I think the military higher ups felt ammunition was a valuable resource that should not be wasted so they favored slow, deliberate fire. Case in point: the Little Bighorn in 1876. Many of the NDN's had repeating, lever action cabines while the Army had the single shot, trap door Springfields. I think I read that when the Spencer was brought out Lincoln himself tested it and immediately wanted them made for the mounted troops. He obviously saw the advantage.
This slow, aimed fire continued through WWI, I don't think it was until the Garand and WWII that the military started changing its mind about fire power.
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Old November 2, 2012, 05:14 AM   #74
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Interesting discussion.

As has been touched upon, the real problems were the tactics of the day, not the weapons. Had Jackson lived, or had Longstreet been in charge at Gettysburg rather than Lee, then there is a real possibility we would live in a far different world today (I, for one, am glad it worked out the way it did).

The more I have thought about it and studied it, a modernized version of a Greek phalanx would have been extremely effective during the Civil War. Imagine if you will, a line of battle armed with revolvers, spears, and bullet resistant shields. Use the revolvers during the advance and take to the spear when distances get close. It would be difficult to inflict enough casualties upon such a formation to have any real effect, and that simple fact would be psychologically devastating to your enemy.

I'll even take it a step further and say that tactical deployment of skilled archers could have been extremely effective in certain instances during the war. A longbow's maximum range is about 300 yards and it's rate of fire is FAR greater than the muzzleloading rifle. Also, broadheads make horrible wounds and if dipped in a nearby pile of dung they would have been almost 100% fatal. Not to mention that bows, arrows, and shields are cheap and relatively simple to build and both sides had plenty of access to the materials required for their manufacture.

In short, while a blowback automatic may have been out of reach at the time, winning strategies were not... At least that is the opinion of General Towe.
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Old November 2, 2012, 05:27 AM   #75
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People underestimate the absolutely devastating effects of canister, especially against massed formations. A smoothbore cannon can nearly keep pace with a LMG when it comes to volume of fire measured by individual projectiles. I have oft wondered why no one seems interested in them these days.
I believe this niche is today filled by mortar rounds, John. Plus there are virtually no instances of large formations on modern battlefields.
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