Selecting an Firearm
Experience, it is believed, has fully demonstrated that, in order to insure the best results in service, our small Army should be furnished with the most approved arms and material practicable. To effect this, the careful selection of an excellent (the best if it can be determined upon, for the chief trouble of such a selection seems to be from embarrassed richness in this branch of invention system of breech-loading rifle small-arm, and suitably working efficient ammunition for the service of the arm, is pre-eminently desirable.
If, from the abundance of good things to be chosen from, the difficulty of selection can be overcome, the rest, with adequate appropriations, is comparatively easy. A prime essential of such manufacture should be the institution of a rigorous standard from which there should not be the slightest departure, except by competent authority. Especially should this apply to the chamber of the gun or seat of the cartridge, the dimensions of which should be invariably fixed, and the greatest nicety of finish and adjustment of breech mechanism insisted upon. In other words, the chambers should, within the limits of mechanical construction, be of the same dimensions, to the thousandth of an inch, both for the body of the cartridge and its flange or head. The seat of the extractor should not occupy any part whatever of the body of the chamber, and its surface should be as smooth as it is possible to make it. The depth of the flange recess of the chamber should only be sufficiently deeper than the thickness of the head of the cartridge to be employed in it to allow for the easy closing of the breech-lock, the small variations of thickness of metal from which the case is made, and of necessary manufacture. A difference of 0.01is believed to be ample for all purposes; its diameter may be at least 0.03 larger than that of the cartridge-head, which should itself be great enough to allow a secure hold to the extractor. All the angles of the chamber should be slightly rounded. The length of the chamber should be but a few hundredths of an inch longer than that of the case of the cartridge, and its throat, or seat of the projecting part of the bullet, should be accurately attended to, so that, with the cartridge in situ, the breech-block being closed, it should always occupy the same relative position with respect to its bearings in the chamber, and the bullet have the smallest necessary distance to move before engaging the grooves of the barrel, which engagement should be well advanced before the bullet is free from the case, to insure that it will start with its axis in the direction of the axis of the barrel. The expansion of the case in firing should immediately shut off escape of gas around its body to the rear—the only limits in difference of diameter of chamber and case allowable being those necessary to insure the required ease in loading, and there should be no fouling of the chamber in firing ball-cartridges.
A little reflection will convince all that an invariable chamber is the prime essential to the proper performance of the cartridge, assuming, of course, that the latter is also as carefully made. This once obtained, let us insist on the case of the cartridge fitting as closely as practicable—the limit of variation allowable being only the very small unavoidable range of thickness in metal strips, and a reasonable life or wear of dies and punches necessary to the be obtained only by the adoption and preservation of exact standard gauges, by frequent and every-day careful inspection of material and work, and keeping the attention of mechanics directed to the necessity of constant watchfulness over and frequent verification of their tools, dies and punches, in current use to insure the desired nicety. Without this constant care in keeping up to the standard, work, however satisfactorily and successfully inaugurated, will soon become indifferent.
Farrow, Edward S. American Small Arms; a Veritable Encyclopedia of Knowledge for Sportsmen and Military Men. New York: Bradford, 1904. Print.
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