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July 31, 2004

Vegas was cool damn hot and fun...

..but you regular lurkers (vice my chatty friends) are probably wishing I'd get over that and put up something cool and dangerous.

Well, I just found out that I have to be an announcer at a horse show, so this is a quickie from a new friend of mine (via the Arsenal) who has a *very* nice Japanese Knee Mortar collection. Here's a sample:

Click the pic for high-res.

But, even better - at least one of his is shootable, and he has the backyard I dream of - one you can shoot mortars in and not have the police (or neighbors with pitchforks) standing at your front door!

More stuff later!

by John on Jul 31, 2004 | Artillery

July 29, 2004

Happy Birthday!!

Today is the Keeper of Castle Argghhh's! birthday!

Happy Birthday, John!

Since I forgot to close the door, and Beth snuck in and posted, I might as well add this:

It's a mixed bag for birthdays on the 29th of July:

1805 Alexis de Toqueville, who understood America
1817 James Blair Steedman, Maj Gen, U.S., d. 1883
1828 Cuvier Grover, Bvt Maj Gen, U.S., d. 1885
1830 Alvan Cullem Gillem, Mar Gen, U.S., d. 1875
1871 Rasputin, Russian monk who proved very hard to kill in 1916.
1883 Benito Mussolini, WW I veteran
1905 Dag Hammerskjold, Secretar General (1953-1961), Nobelist (1961)

Like I said, mixed bag.

In military history, it's arguably worse, what with officer reliefs, sinkings, bad fires, and a portable tennis court. It looks like it's a good thing I didn't want to be sailor...

1846 Landing party U.S. Sloop-of-War Cyane capture San Diego, Ca
1864 Battle of Macon, GA (Stoneman's Raid)
1874 Maj. Walter Copton Wingfield patents a portable tennis court
1918 Assistant SecNav Franklin D. Roosevelt visits Queenstown, Ireland
1937 China Incident: Japanese troops occupy Peking & Tientsin
1942 Japanese retake Kokoda from the Australians, who fall back on Deniki.
1942 Japanese reinforcements land at Buna, despite some losses to Allied air.
1943 New Guinea: 43rd Div Cdr relieved, as his troops press on slowly.
1944 Marines take Orote airstrip on Guam, despite fierce Japanese resistance.
1945 U.S. warships shell naval and air bases on Honshu.
1945 CA Indianapolis torpedoed & sunk; nearly 900 die over the next four days.
1945 U.S. warships shell naval and air bases on Honshu.
1949 Berlin Airlift ends, as Sovite give up Berlin blockade
1953 Soviets shoot down US bomber at north of Vladivostok
1966 Military coup by Nigerian Chief of Staff Jakubu Gowon
1967 Fire aboard carrier USS Forrestal in Gulf of Tonkin, 134 die

by Beth on Jul 29, 2004 | Birthday

July 28, 2004


Anybody who wants to keep track of the Master and Mistress of Castle Argghhh! in Vegas, go visit She Who Will Be Obeyed, which is where SWWBO is blogging the trip.

Bill asks, I answer.

Bill and I have been having a discussion on a different topic, in this email he changes the subject and asks a different question:

...As I had mentioned, I'm a 20-year IBMer and several of us were sitting around and discussing "leadership". In the marketing arena, the guy who sells the most is touted as a Leader. Most of us pooh pooh the very idea. Selling a large volume doesn't do anything for anyone else to increase their sales.

I added that a fine young fellow I met at the University of Colorado was a Marine Sgt. who was getting ready to go to OCS. He was not only a sniper, but he taught at Quantico. I asked him what his definition of "leadership" is, he replied that it is making the right decision for your team while under pressure.

He said that they have the trainees run for five miles and on their return to camp that are instructed to circle an "enemy" campsite and to memorize they see. They are later briefed on what they saw. The direction of a cigarette and how far it had been smoked for example.

What do you think constitutes Leadership? I ask you because you are retired military and I (unfortunately) have no experience like that.

My response is in the Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

July 27, 2004

An email question turns into a post.

Sean asks:


Been reading your blog for awhile now, and I love your weapon pics. So, I have two weapon questions for you that I haven't been able to find sufficient answers for.

1) The French Mitrailleuse- How did it work? I understand that it was loaded via a plate, and it had numerous barrels, but how did it fire? Some lithos I've seen show a crank in the rear, but ????

2) Cloth/Canvas belt ammo. How'd the feed work, how easy/hard was it to make. Why didn't it come around sooner. (Mind's eye- a belt-fed gatling in

Alrighty, let's give that a shot.

The Mitrailleuse: loaded by inserting cartridges into holes in a metal plate. Insert plate and lock. You are correct, there was a crank. BTW, mitrailleuse is the generic french word for machine gun - if you want to find out more about the M1870 gun, search for Reffye, the french Colonel who designed it.

The gun "barrel" was a casing for 25 rifle barrels around a common axis, like the Gatling, except the barrels don't rotate. The barrels were held together at intervals by wrought-iron plates. They were open at the breech, and a removable false breech (called a chamber) containing the firing mechanism and loaded cartridges was inserted. The chamber was held in the firing position by a strong screw resembling roughly those of contemporary breech-loading guns like those guns made by Armstrongs. It was a plate with 25 holes, which allowed the points of the strikers to pass through and reach the cartridge primers. The plate was turned by hand so that one striker was admitted at a time. To avoid any deflection of the bullet by the gases at an adjoining muzzle the barrels were fired in a staggered order. Each gun was provided with four chambers, which were loaded by a charger, and fixed to the breech one after the other as quickly as the manipulation of the screw allowed. The rates of fire were slow by our standards. Sustained, 3 chambers, or 75 shots a minute, and for rapid, 5 chambers or 125 shots per minute. Regular rifle bullets were used, but to enhance the case-shot/shrapnel effect a heavy bullet made of three parts, which broke apart when leaving the barrel, was introduced in 1870 at the rate of one round in nine. The weapon was sighted to 3000 meters. The initial velocity was 1558fps; and the weight of the gun about 800lbs, the carriage a little over that, with the total behind the team, fully combat-loaded, about 3000 lbs.

Probably more than you were after, eh?

Belt-feed. There you run into the genius of Hiram Maxim and John Browning. Simply put, somebody had to think of it. But, in order to think of it, you also had to have all the elements in place for it to be successful.

Making the feed mechanism wasn't that hard. Making it all work, was. First and foremost, in a sense, was cartridges. They had to be strong enough to resist crushing in the belt and going through the feed mechanism. That wasn't possible until fully drawn brass cases were perfected. Wrapped brass and paper or copper simply couldn't take the stress. The belt has to grip the cartridge tight enough to hold it, but not so tight that you can't extract the cartridge, or you tear off the base.

The mechanical guns were actually hard enough to fire using muscle power, especially as they fouled from powder residue, without adding the mechanical action of a belt puller and lifting the bullets into the mix. It really took Maxim and Browning's harnessing of recoil, in a straight line aligned with the axis of the barrel, to efficiently produce enough mechanical advantage to make it practical, and useful.

Don't underestimate creative inertia, as well. The Gatling was developed before strong cartridges were developed (the copper cartridges in play at the time were too fragile and short - drawing technology limited how long a case could be) and the initial loads were iron tubes. Subsequent development of the Gatling maintained the same gravity feed system as much because government, in it's normal peacetime penurious fashion, wanted to simply update the existing guns, and not buy a whole new technology.

In the meantime, Maxim, Nordenfeldt, Hotchkiss and Browning were hard at work with their designs, which pretty much obsoleted the Gatling until the high speed electric motors and steel belted links were revived in the form of the M61 guns from GE for aircraft.

The Gatling-style gun was developed into a belt-fed variety for Naval use however, especially by Nordenfeldt and Hotchkiss, where weight was not of the same level of consideration, and the guns were intended for defense against the new threats of torpedo boats and destroyers - before turning the barrels skyward for defense against aircraft.

That's my story - and I'm sticking to it - until someone barfs in the comments and quibbles with me... 8^)

July 26, 2004

Convention-Free Zone

Since others, who know a heckuva lot more than I do, are going to cover the convention ad-naseum, this will be a mostly convention-free zone this week. I might mention it if something really extraordinary catches my eye - but go elsewhere, like Blackfive, Smash, The Commissar, Dean Esmay, the Queen of All Evil, or Michele for that stuff and come here to clear your head.

SWWBO and I will be going to Las Vegas tomorrow (N.B. Goblins - #1 Son with Shotgun still patrols premises, plus the other elements of a well-rounded defense). I'm sure we'll find something to blog about (heck, we're bringing two wireless laptops with us) and if I can't find anything, I'll do what I'm doing now - re-runs! Which, based on some comments to previous posts, ain't a bad idea. Some of you newer guys apparently don't examine the sidebars, and never visited the Arsenal - even though you were interested in guns!

So, if nothing else, I'll do posts like this, that link to the Archives! Click the pic to view Machine Guns...

Visitors should also note the following caveats:

Periodic Goblin Warning (SM)

As a service to Goblins who are considering Seizing The Arsenal (this excludes LE types: y'all come with a warrant, knock [no no-knocks, please, the front door is expensive], take what the warrant specifies and we'll talk about it in court - just please take care of 'em, you know, periodic cleaning, oiling, etc. They're used to being spoiled like that) here is a periodic warning on Why Trying To Steal My Collection Isn't A Good Idea.

Note to thieves trying to figure out where I live: Once you do that, you've got to get past the living interior and exterior guard, the security system (hint, cutting the phone and cable WON'T help), and finally, if I'm home - me. WonderWife (TM) v3.x is also right handy with the Winchester M97 trench gun. I like that one because it's handy, will blow you into large chunks, but not pass through the walls of the house to annoy my neighbors. Hardwood floors, so clean-up is easy. I'm a reasonable fellow, if you surrender meekly or run away, that will be fine. Not interested in killing or maiming anyone unless you are dumb enough to attack me or my family. The furry members count, BTW. Do that, then I will clean the gene pool. Plus guys, impressive as it looks, it's not as valuable as you might think - and it would be very hard to move, since you would be flooding the market. Not to mention the fact that every dealer within a (classified) radius would have a list of serial numbers and descriptions within 24 hours (ain't the internet great?). Oh, yeah - did I mention that robbing licensees is a federal offense? The feds don't go overboard after little stuff, but whacking this collection would likely garner their interest - so choose your accomodations! Plus 'bangers won't like these - the ones that look like they can shoot a lot - can't, and many of them won't work properly if you hold them sideways like they do in the movies.

So, go find an easier target, eh? No - better yet - get a real job that has better fringes.

Periodic Disclaimer for anti-gunners and law enforcement surfers (I don't mind you LE types)
Heck, I don't mind the anti-gun types until they start trying to send LE types to take 'em away... here we go with the Periodic Disclaimer (TM):

Everything you ever see in photos here that I own is fully legal to own, federal, state, and local - WHERE I LIVE! Your mileage may vary, such as living in the Borg Collectives of California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, etc. Though ya might be surprised to find out what's legal where you live. I am a licensed collector (which isn't a license to collect, just to receive directly via the mails - I still have to do the dealer-style record-keeping), and that only applies to curio and relic firearms. Fortunately, that's about all I want to own. On these pages I will from time to time share my toys, much like Kim du Toit does.

by John on Jul 26, 2004 | Gun Pics