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Friday, 9 March 2018

Personal Weaponry - Percussion Caps -Toy Gun Caps - Ignition Systems:

Researching early 'pin-fire' systems pointed my head at 'percussion caps' and got me thinking about how we initially made things go BANG - and then progressed to where we are today with our very reliable  current metallic cartridges.
Inside A No.11 Percussion Cap
 - A Little Dab'll Do You ..

Way back when - I guess that the guys used a flaming stick or a length of red-hot poker - maybe removed freshly radiant from a fire-pot - to make their 'cannon' or mortar powder go WUMMPPHA & scare the horses.
13th Century Chinese Hand Cannon

Then the history moved us forward again to a hand-held smoldering cord impregnated with saltpeter (a quick or slow 'match') - that later was held conveniently in a pivoting  'Serpentine' which becomes 'THE MATCHLOCK'
Matchlock led to 'SNAP MATCHLOCK' which further advanced greatly when some smart joker adapted the flint-and-steel fire making gear into the 'SNAPLOCK' around the year 1540 C.E.

The big thing to remember about a flint working it's magic on high-carbon steel (- 0.7% carbon gives the biggest, longest lasting incandescent sparks) - is the really hard flint rock "percussively" & forcefully scrapes minute particles of hardened steel to fly as white-hot molten sparks and to rain-down onto the gunpowder fuel-explosive.

 Then in stages on-wards to the 'Miquelet' - 'Snaphance', 'Wheelock' & 'Doglock', all variations of what we know as 'FLINTLOCKS' - that were the only way to go .. for some three centuries .. until percussion caps made that next great leap forward. LINK:

So .. although the "flintlocks" actually operate using a percussive system (flint striking steel) .. in 1840(ish) the percussion cap was developed .. following the discovery of fulminates in 1800 by Edward Charles Howard. The fulminate ions are highly unstable ions that are friction-sensitive explosives. - Knock them hard enough and they explode.

Cap'n'Ball Black Powder Revolver Night Time Shot ... Works For Me.
Note: Only about 50% of black-powder charges turns to gas - the other 50% is ejected as solids and Glowing Charcoal. - Nitro powders are MUCH more efficient. There were of course several different ideas tried - copper cup / caps, discs and pellets, and the tape roll (Maynard) system - familiar to old kids who were once allowed to play "Cowboys & Indians" with cap guns ..
Toy Cap-Gun  Roll Caps

Maynard Percussion Tape From American Civil War

By 1850 the idea of fitting a metal, steel or copper percussion cap or primer into a self-contained cartridge had started. - One version was a horizontal pinfire cartridge - as in this rare image ..
Horizontal Pin Strikes Primer At Base Of Bullet.

 But the logical placement of the "cap" in the base of the cartridge took-off commercially replacing muzzle-loading systems with the breech loading guns by 1860. There are many individuals that had a claim to their part in developing & improving these systems. Claims & counterclaims .. but we've now arrived at fairly fool-proof and reliable cartridges that permit our firearms to perform well as manual revolvers, semi-autos, and full autos.

Along the way the cap gained an inbuilt 'anvil' ..

 'Mini Guns' such as the VULCAN can spew bullets from multiple rotating barrels at up to 6,000 rounds per minute:

Very Deadly efficient - but there may be a further move just around the corner .. 'Caseless Ammunition' .. (once they get the propellant design right and eliminate "cooking-off").

The Next Development?
(Caseless Square 'Rounds')
Marty K.