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The News

3D guns can blow up...

In a story from the Independent, test guns fired by UK forensics experts have been shown to explode on firing, even leaving a piece of the barrel in the ceiling.  

picture of Liberator parts

The guns were made from Liberator plans, developed by Defense Distributed, and were shown to be more of a danger to the shooter than the intended victim, if it was to be used in a crime.  Not many details were forthcoming and a spokesman from DD suggested that there was an ulterior motive in the authorities denouncing the gun as dangerous.  They simply don't want them on the street.

The reporter said the test used 9mm handgun ammunition and failed fairly rapidly, within a few shots.  What kind of 9mm ammunition that was used hasn't been identified.  If they had used 9mm machinegun ammunition, which is readily available at gunshows, the bullet could blow up a real gun without any problem.  

3D printed guns are interesting as a project, but it is up to you to learn what the risks are, something that's all to familiar to someone who reloads ammunition.  But if criminals want to use these guns to commit crimes, and it really does wipe them out, maybe we shouldn't advertise the problem.

picture of 3D printed gun


Bogart and the .455 Webley Fosbery

The Webley Fosbery made few appearances in film, much less Film Noir, but in the Maltese Falcon, the gun was used in a murder, "He took two in the pumper...", and when asked if he had seen a Fosbery before, Bogey assured the detective he had.  Great movie and a pistol like no other.

Royal Armouries... in Kentucky!

If you wanted to visit a museum that could show you the last 600 years of arms and armor, you could visit the British Royal Armouries.  They house all the cannon, pikes, armor and all matter of military thinks that the UK isn't using at the moment.  They have four convenient locations... Leeds, Ft. Nelson in Portsmouth, the Tower of London..... and Louisville, Kentucky.

picture of exhibit

Louisville Kentucky???  How did that happen?  Personally I don't know how it happened, but you can visit the Frazier Museum in downtown Louisville, (Just 3 short hours from my house... Leeds is a lot farther...) and see spectacular displays of arms and armor from Medieval Knights, through the Tudor period, and up into the 19th Century.  The displays also contain life size figures in period dress, surrounded by the arms of the time.  It is well worth the visit.  

There is also plenty of American arms from ages gone by to peak the  curiosity any one even remotely interested in martial subjects.  As the Frazier Museum's website puts it, "The Frazier’s extraordinary collection includes over 5,000 artifacts. Ranging from the foothills of Vietnam to the rolling moors of England to Louisville’s own unique story, the Frazier tells moving stories found nowhere else."  It's worth a visit, and a lot cheaper than going to England if you live in the states.

Jules Verne torpedo found by US Navy

A Howell torpedo was found by US Navy dolphins around Coronado Island, San Diego in June of 2013, while on a  mine finding exercise.  Two interesting things about that news item, for one, dolphins turn out to be a lot better at finding mines than our current technology... and the other, they found a Howell torpedo, one of only 3 known in existence.

picture of Howell torpedo

The Howell torpedo was an early competitor to the Whitehead torpedo,  but was significantly better in some ways, but had it's own limitations.  For propulsion, the Howell used a flywheel, which was spun up on board the ship before firing.  One of the benefits of the flywheel was one of the drawbacks of the Whitehead at the time, the flywheel acted as a sort of gyro, keeping the torpedo on course.  The effect on the torpedo from wave action only caused the torpedo to roll, not alter it's course, and that was compensated for by it's rudders.  Whitehead had significant problems keeping his torpedo on course, which he eventually solved by buying the rights to gyroscope gear, and suing Howell out of existence.  The Whitehead used compressed air for propulsion and was silent compared to the noisy flywheel of the Howell. However the Whitehead left a wake, that the Howell didn't.

picture of torpedo boat

In the end, only 50 Howell torpedos were built.  The US Navy dropped the Howell in favor of the Whitehead, as did most modern navies at the end of the 19th Century.  The Howell was no pushover at the time, it could run straight, had a range of 400 yards (twice the Whitehead) and carry a 100 pound warhead.  It the torpedo was fired in anger and missed it's target, a water soluble patch would dissolve over the primer, rendering the torpedo inert.  But the best part was the body of hard rolled brass, a sight appreciated by the likes of Jules Verne.

Animation  by vbbsmyt


Navy manual on the Howell torpedo

Webley's magazine cutoff

Magazine cutoffs were a staple of some 19th/20th Century military rifles. They were to be used in single shot mode, with the magazine in reserve, till some wise officer ordered them released, and then to be used as repeaters.

picture of Webley pistol


This modification apparently is not for rifles alone, as Webley automatic pistols have this feature as well, no doubt mandated by some government agency.  The system works with the magazine, which has an extra locking hole, where the magazine is not inserted all the way and locked in the second hole, keeping the bullets held in reserve and out of battery.  The slide doesn't use the magazine to lock open after firing, and the shooter has but to drop another round in that big .455 hole and continue shooting.  If repeating operation is desired, the catch is pushed and the magazine shoved home.

picture of Webley magazine


The feature does seem odd in a pistol, but it is simple and it works.  The commercial pistols seem to have this cutoff also.  The original idea of a magazine cutoff was an officer controlling the behavior of his troop of men.  In the British Army, there were few men who weren't officers and carried pistols. Very confusing.  At the time cutoffs were in vogue, the idea had some merit, as the British Army was usually a long way from home, really outnumbered, and every cartridge had to be carted the whole way on someone's back.

picture of Webley pistol


My friend Roy Shadbolt kindly sent these pictures of his .455 Webley pistol showing the magazine cutoff details.  

picture of Webley pistol