Firearms changed the face of war — now even heavy metal plates no longer guaranteed safety. But one problem still remained – the rate of fire. After all, before the invention of unitary ammunition, everything had to be charged manually, and even the fastest and most agile soldier could not make more than four shots per minute. But this was obviously not enough, especially in the context of the widespread use of linear tactics, so various designers tried to think of a way to increase the rate of fire. Some of them experimental rifles were successful, some – not very. But with the advent of more advanced cartridges, they all went to the landfill. And we will tell you about them anyway – very interesting approaches were used in them.
Italy, the seventeenth century. Designer Michele Lorenzoni creates a recharge scheme that allows you to achieve a fantastic rate of fire – almost 20 rounds per minute. In this case, recharging is carried out with a slight movement of the hand. One minus, each time you have to aim again, but these are details. What did he come up with?
Initially, the scheme was tested on pistols, and only then adapted for rifles. The meaning was as follows: in the wooden butt there were 2 channels – with bullets and with gunpowder. Both channels rested on a rotating drum with two grooves. When reloading, the gun was tilted down the barrel, the drum was turned to a “click” – gunpowder spilled out of the canal, under the influence of gravity, gunpowder fell down and fell down. Then the drum rotated and the bullet fell out on the other side, where it rested against the flap. Then the powder fell out, the drum was turned, the trunk was raised, the valve was removed, and a shot was fired. Repeat until the enemies or shells run out. It was not difficult to reload (powder and bullets) by the way, since the channels could easily reach the edge of the butt, where they were covered with plugs.
Brilliant, right? At the expense of practicing actions to automatism, it was possible to bring the rate of fire to inconceivable at that time values. And everything would be fine if not for 2 small problems.
Problem one – the entire charge of gunpowder was stored in the butt, so that the slightest spark could cause an explosion that could, if not kill, the shooter. then something to tear him. And any hit in the butt could end this. Is it risky? Highly.
The second problem was much more difficult. The design required incredible accuracy. So that no accidental spark during the rotation of the drum, so that nothing gets stuck, so that, God forbid, the flap does not remain in place. In short, over EVERYONE experimental gun I had to work for several days, and exclusively for skilled gunsmiths.
Nevertheless, Lorenzoni guns were produced for quite a long time. But it was an expensive weapon that only really secured officers could afford. However, the idea itself did not find mass popularity. And to simplify it did not work. And then came up with a new type of ammunition.
1718 England. Lawyer James Pack patents experimental gun, then became the prototype of the machine gun. What was the principle?
The very idea of a rotating drum that consistently feeds a bullet has existed since the 16th century. But these drums were served exclusively by bullets, and the powder had to be poured on its own, so they did not find much popularity. Puck guessed to use REMOVABLE drums, already filled with gunpowder and charged. He inserted the drum, fired, turned, fired, turned and so 11 times. He pulled out the drum, replaced, repeated. Wherein experimental gun mounted on a tripod, which provided excellent stability of shooting and high accuracy. It was not necessary to aim anew each time.
Sounds good, isn’t it? But not without flaws. Critical, by the way.
The tripod to stabilize is very good. That’s just the total weight of this design suggested almost the use of “gun crew” for movement. That is no mobility. And the removable drum was not so reliable. There were misfires and jamming. Plus, it was not supposed to recharge it right on the field – only in calm conditions. Yes, and this expensive gun was – albeit cheaper than the previous version, but much more expensive than conventional silicon. So it did not find wide popularity.
1779 Austria. The gunsmith Bartolomeo Girardoni demonstrates a rifle to the Austrian duke, working on an absolutely revolutionary principle. What do you say about a PNEUMATIC rifle that can kill a person with 150 steps?
It is not joke. This is a real military weapon, adopted by the Austrian military rangers. This, damn it, was almost the first really effective sniper weapon. At the same time – with an impressive rate of fire. It was not necessary to fill the powder, set it on fire, wait for the shot. Pressing the trigger – it hits the air cylinder valve, displacing it by a fraction of a second, which is enough to give the bullet a velocity of 200 m / s. As a result, the huntsmen could sighting enemy officers, remaining virtually out of reach for return fire. And silently, without unmasking flashes and smoke.
There were some disadvantages. Pneumatics, as you understand, work the better, the more fully charged the cylinder. So, only the first 5-10 shots from 20 (yes, damn it, the shop for 20 shells that were fed automatically) beat at a phenomenal distance. And then the efficiency decreased. However, the cylinders could also be changed. Right in battle, without disassembling rifles into small parts – simply by unscrewing a metal butt-cylinder and replacing it with a new one. And the balloon itself can then be recharged, and with the help of a hand pump.
The main disadvantage was the enchanting complexity of the design. Which even the students of the master Girardoni could not repeat, after the death of their teacher. So yes, as long as the gunsmith was alive – the Austrian huntsmen gave everyone a “light”. And then I had to get out.
As you can see, the problems of the rate of fire were solved. But the problem of high cost, difficulty in manufacturing and maintenance – alas, no. Therefore, regular troops preferred to use 20 people armed with standard rifles, one fighter equipped experimental gun. So it was more profitable and in price, and in the total rate of fire. But the ideas themselves used in these incredible rifles were truly innovative. And gunsmiths actively resorted to them in the future.