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calendar   Tuesday - October 01, 2013

Bang Bang

h/t to Vilmar, who today posted on the Bira Gun without even realizing it. The Gardner Gun is Bira’s daddy.


An old cure for the problem of having too much ammo on hand

The Gardner Gun, the greatest little machinegun that ever wasn’t


image

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not

Once upon a time, in the early Industrial Revolution but before the Age of Steel, slightly after the dawn of metallic firearms cartridges but before the onset of properly drawn cases, there were machines that were guns. But not machine guns. In a world in love with wheels, camshafts, gears, belts, and reciprocating assemblies, these not-quite automatic weapons were a cross between a rifle battery and a sewing machine. You’ve heard of the Gatling Gun, a cumbersome, finicky, multiple barreled, usually horse drawn affair. You may also have heard of the Hotchkiss and the Nordenfeldt, two other mechanical repeaters of that era. By the time Hiram Maxim got around to inventing the properly fully automatic belt fed machine gun a few years later, the era was over. But for about a decade, 1874 to 1885-ish, the hand cranked multiple barreled pintel mounted repeating gun was king of the world. And then faded into forgotten obscurity, although the Bira Gun came late to the party, was made entirely by hand, and never actually put to the test of combat.

The problem with all of these weapons was solved by Maxim and his belt feed. You simply couldn’t feed these guns cartridges fast enough to maximize their usefulness. And nearly all of them were fed from the top, where a big cartridge hopper rather gets in the way of your gunner’s aim.

The Gardner Gun, patented in 1874, solved at least 3 of the problems inherent in the Gatling Gun. It weighed a whole lot less, so it was easier to carry around. It had a very simple mechanism with about 6 moving parts per barrel, so it jammed less and was easier to clear when it did jam. It was water cooled, so you could maintain a high rate of fire without having to build a carousel battery with half a dozen or more barrels. And it probably cost a whole lot less too.

Here’s the patent drawing for the Gardner Gun’s internals:

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Kudos to you if you immediately notice the similarity between this weapon and an automobile engine. Because they’re nearly the same thing. Four stroke engine, four stroke gun. Intake, compression, power, exhaust. Load, fire, extract, eject. The operating crank is the crankshaft and the bolts are the connecting rods and pistons, and the chamber is the combustion chamber. Exchange cartridges for gasoline, add a couple of valves and a spark plug, and it’s an engine. Well, not exactly, and exactly backwards in operation, but mighty similar nonetheless.

Gardner guns could be made with as many or as few barrels as you wanted, from 1 to 10, though 2 was the most common. Make them in brass or in steel. Invented in America, but a dud in our market, Gardner took his stuff to Europe and sold lots of them.

Cartridge most often used was the Army round of the day, the .45-70. Rate of fire was entirely dependent on your ability to feed the thing, and on the quality of your cartridges. Call it 300-500 rounds per minute, which is just as fast as the current Browning M2 fires.

Dependable? Tests run by the British Army found that the Gardner ran 16,754 shots before wearing down, with only 2 dozen jams the whole while. Pretty good for a chunk of brass milled to the nearest 100th of an inch.

Oh, and these things are completely legal. Because it ISN’T an automatic weapon. And you can buy new ones. And then all you need to do is get out your reloading press and churn out buckets and buckets of .45-70 ammo. Black powder powered, paper patched 500 grain lead bullets. Have fun!

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Links? Loads.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 10/01/2013 at 12:01 PM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun Control •  
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