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Thursday, 10 March 2016

The First Ever Lubricated Bullet?

Around 1850 a "very curious and interesting magazine gun" known as 'The Jennings' was conceived as a repeater but proved to be too complex to make - so was initially built as a breech loading single shot. Later when attempts were again made to market it as a repeater the bores were found to so badly 'lead' from repeated shots using the pure lead bullets - that accuracy was completely lost.. one could fire some twenty shots rapidly but not hit a man sized target at 500 yards - due to leading that reduced the bore "to the extent that in firing twenty shots from a 50-100 calibre bore there would be a hole in the barrel less than 25-100."
South Island NZ 'Homer Road Tunnel'
 - Looking Much as I recall my Glock Barrel
after a Magazine Full of Soft Lead Re-loads!

(- I am very familiar with that effect from my early attempts to use swaged lead bullets in a first generation Glock 9mm. !) (You name it - I've tried it!)

A Jennings Rifle from 1850s
Robbins & Lawrence (of Windsor, Vermont) were contracted to make 5,000 of the Jennings rifles and Mr R S Lawrence recalled that " The charge of powder was contained in the ball, consisting of twenty two grains of powder only."
The leading problem was the result of not using a "spit lubed patch" like muzzle loaders used.

Early Volcanic Type Bullet.
- Now the thinking man will have already seen that this is a very early design of CASELESS Ammunition.
Mr Lawrence spent most of one night before a demonstration appointment - trying to devise some way to remedy the trouble - and recalled - "At last the simple remedy came, which has proven to be the salvation of all breech loading guns."
" .. purchased a small piece of tallow. With the aid of a lathe in the cartridge shop on the ground, I turned out a number of grooves on the balls and filled them with tallow. I then went on to the stand and hit the target ten times in twenty shots. By this time I had the sights regulated and could hit the target about every shot, and finished after many shots with a clean gun barrel."
Structure of Volcanic Type Case-less Bullet.
'Tallow' is a hard waxy substance made from rendered beef or mutton fat that is used in making soap and candles. ( Rendered fat from pork is called "lard".) - Millions of tonnes of noxious bi-products are 'rendered' every year - separating tallow from meat/blood & bone fertilisers - animal feedstuffs.
Tallow.
- My strange but non-scientific observations - Our New Zealand hard-man shearers will tend to have soft hands from their regular contact with sheep grease (crude lanolin, wool grease) - whereas many of us who like to eat meat and dairy products will suffer from what is known as 'hardening of the arteries' from the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels - which impedes the flow of blood to the heart and organs. - This is the opposite affect of the grease on bullets, that helps keep the barrels clear and fast flowing.
Sourced mostly from a three part story "Forerunners of the First Winchester" by Thomas E Hall published in early "Gun Digest", 11th, 12th, & 13th editions. (1956 onward).

Marty K.
Leading in a rifled barrel is not a simple matter of  'too soft lead'  - it's all about getting a good gas seal with the projectile 'obturating' in the bore - expanding to seal - as leaking hot gas blasting past a bullet will melt the surface and 'solder' it onto the bore. A too hard alloy will fail to obturate - and a too soft surface will melt from the friction as it accelerates down the barrel. - Size is important, while the lubricant reduces friction and helps the gas seal.

It's a doubly good idea to use copper jacketed or plated projectiles - they can't spread the lead into your guns barrel or onto your skin - nor the vapours up your nose.
MK.