Sorry I haven't made a post in a long time. I've been working on this for english class:
21 March 2007
Guns: The Tools of Death
I shot back a few feet from the blast. I lay on my back and realized I could not remember anything. I jumped up and looked down range. A small cloud of dust rose up revealing what looked like a target. I looked down, and saw a shotgun in my hand. Suddenly, I remembered what was happening. I was at the gun range shooting targets with my friends, who were all laughing at me. For the rest of that week, I wondered, “How do guns work?” Soon the answer was given to me when I looked online, where it was discovered that guns are much more complicated than they seem. Guns are composed of their own mechanics, gun ballistics and gun history, which helps to give a better understanding of the gun.
The inner mechanics are undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the gun. The standard household gun has some of the simplest mechanisms in the gun family. There are many different parts to the household gun. The barrel of the gun is the long tube stretching from the breech of the gun to the tip of the gun. (Muzzleloaders Handbook.) The trigger is the small piece on the bottom of the gun that, when pulled, activates the inner firing mechanisms of the gun. The hammer of the gun, or slide of the gun, is cocked, making it fire-ready. Lastly, the gunstock is located on the back of larger guns and is placed on the shoulder of the shooter to absorb shock from the blast. (Muzzleloaders Handbook.)
Standard guns use some of the simplest parts including, springs, levers, wire, and more. (Hughes. Firepower.) First the bullet is loaded into the barrel. The gun is cocked, pulling back the firing pin and locking the bullet in place. When the target is in sight, the trigger is pulled and the firing pin is released into the bullet. The bullet’s propellant is ignited and the bullet is launched from the barrel. The standard gun must be manually reloaded or cocked. (“Interactive Illustrated Pistol.”)
Semi-automatic guns are a bit different than standard guns. They only need to be cocked once, and every time the trigger is pulled, a bullet is fired. These guns tend to have slides, and the slide is almost always located on top of the gun. The semi-automatic gun is different from the standard gun in many ways, but the most noticeable feature is that semi-automatic guns have magazines. A magazine is a small clip that holds bullets and attaches to the bottom or top of a gun. Every time a bullet is fired, another one pops into the chamber from the magazine. (M1911.org. “M-1911 Operation Description.”)
The mechanics of semi-automatics are a little more complex. First, the magazine is locked in place on either the top or bottom of the gun. The slide is pulled, loading a bullet into the chamber. The trigger is pulled firing the bullet and the force of the explosion launches the slide backwards. A new bullet jumps into the chamber, ejecting the empty shell. The slide locks back in place, ready to fire the new bullet. This process repeats until the magazine runs out of bullets; then it must be reloaded. (M1911.org. “M-1911 Operation Description.”)
Automatic guns are by far the most complicated guns of all. There are three types of automatic guns, each using its own system of fire. The first of which is the blowback system. The bolt is pulled back, thus cocking the gun. A bullet is loaded into the chamber from the magazine. The trigger is pulled, allowing the bolt to slide forward and launch the bullet. The force of the explosion launches the bolt back. The bolt flies back at a new bullet from the magazine and flies back again from the force of the new explosion. This process repeats until the shooter releases the trigger. (Harris. “How Machine Guns Work.”)
The recoil system is very similar to the blowback system except extra springs are used in the chamber to increase durability. (Harris. “How Machine Guns Work.”) Similar the blowback system, the bolt is pulled back, the trigger is pulled, and the bullet is fired, but in the recoil system, instead of slamming into the bullet, springs are used to cushion the impact and save the chamber from damage.
The third and final system in automatic weapons is the gas system. The gas system is the most complicated of the three systems because of the pneumatics involved. This gun is the same as the others, except when it is fired the pressure of the explosion runs into the upper chamber. The pressure pushes back a piston which is connected to the bolt. (Harris. “How Machine Guns Work.”) This style of gun is the most popular since it does not wear down.
The gun mechanics may explain the workings of the gun, but they do not explain the technicality and physics of the gun. Gun ballistics is the science portion of guns. There are four major parts of ballistics, the first of which is internal ballistics. The propellant used is part of internal ballistics. Usually black powder is used in bullet shells, but more recently nitrocellulose, a safer form of nitroglycerine, is used since it has more power. (Williams. “Basic Ballistics.”) The bullet size matters as well. If the bullet is too tight in the shell, the bullet will not fly as far, but if the bullet is loose, there will not be enough pressure to fire the bullet.
The second phase of ballistics is transitional ballistics or the transition from inside the barrel to outside the gun. The pressure of expanding gases inside the barrel launches the bullet out. When the bullet leaves the barrel, the hot gases are exposed to oxygen, which causes combustion; sound, light, and heat energy are given off. (“Transitional Ballistics.”) To reduce the amount of energy given off in this phase, methods of suppression are used. Flash hiders make less oxygen combine with the hot gases reducing the amount of light energy given off. In silencers the expansion of gases is slowed thus cooling the gases and amount of sound energy given off.
After the bullet has left the barrel, external ballistics comes into play. Gravity pulls the bullet down causing a slight projectile motion that is enough to make the line of sight and the line of fire to be unparallel. Air resistance is also a factor in the bullet’s flight path. (Williams. “Basic Ballistics.”) Enough wind can throw a bullet completely off course. Moving targets are also factors in external ballistics. Firing at the future location of a target usually causes the point of impact to be on target. To solve projectile motion in firing, the scope is aimed downwards slightly, making the line of sight relative to the point of impact.
The final phase of ballistics is terminal ballistics, or the impact. The bullet needs to be straight on impact or it will bounce off the target. The distance of firing determines the penetration depth of the bullet. The aerodynamics of the bullet determines the speed of impact. The most important part of terminal ballistics is the type of bullet used. (Williams. “Basic Ballistics.”) A flat end bullet is better for a large blast area rather than penetration depth since it has more surface area. An expanding bullet has a large tip and is very low in weight making it fly further. A fragmenting bullet is very aerodynamic, pointed, fast moving, and has deep penetration. The last type of bullet is the frangible bullet, which breaks, launching many metal fragments into the target.
The final part of guns is knowing the history of guns. The event that started the age of guns was the invention of gunpowder in 1232 A.D. The first actual gun was the matchlock gun in 1400 A.D. which used a wick to light gunpowder behind a metal ball. The next gun was the wheel lock in 1509 A.D., which used a wheel to light a spark. The very first mechanical gun was the flintlock gun in 1630 A.D.; it was one of the first guns used commonly in war, using a piece of flint to light a spark inside the chamber. (Hughes. Firepower.)
The first standard guns are ones commonly seen throughout history. The first revolver was made in 1835 A.D. and was quick to sell among the common people. The first firing pins were made in 1840 A.D. to prevent the tips on the bolts of guns from breaking. The first shotguns were made in 1850; it was one of the first guns to have its very own gun manufacturing company. The first cartridges with rims on the end were made in 1859 to prevent the accidental firing of shells. The breech-loaded gun was invented in 1861 to prevent firing while loading. (“History of Firearms.”)
Soon after the beginnings of the common gun, the first modern day guns began to appear. In 1860 the first semi-automatic gun was invented. Two years later, Richard Jordan Gatling made the gatling gun, which used a crank for power. (Gale. “Richard Jordan Gatling.”) The revolver was modified to use cartridges. In 1873 the first rifle was made, modeled after the musket. (Hughes. Firepower.) In 1879 the first magazine was made for the semi-automatic rifle. In 1885, the automatic gun was made, which led to the modern war machines. (Featherstone. “The Line is Hot.”)
I did find the answers to all my questions in the end, and when my friends and I headed back to the firing range, I knew exactly what to do and I hit the target. My friends were impressed this time, rather than laughing at me. The mechanisms of guns, gun physics, and the development of guns truly are fascinating. So perhaps when you go gun shooting, you won’t end up like I did, under the power of the tool of death.
Bellis “History of Firearms” About.com: Online 11 March 2007 Available:
Featherstone “The Line is Hot” Harper’s Magazine December 2005: 1-8.
Gale “Richard Jordan Gatling” Encyclopedia of World Biography 1998: 1.
Harris “How Machine Guns Work” How Stuff Works (2006): Online 12 March 2007
Hughes Firepower New York City, NY: Lionel Levonthal Limited, 1976.
“Interactive Illustrated Pistol” Genitron: Online 12 March 2007. Available:
M1911.org “M-1911 Operation Description” M1911: Online 12 March 2007
Muzzleloaders Handbook Middlefield, CT: Lyman Publications 1976.
“Transitional Ballistics” Answers.com: Online 12 March 2007 Available:
Williams “Basic Ballistics” Homepages.solis.co.uk (26 June 2004): Online 12
March 2007 Available: http://homepages.solis.co.uk/~autogun/ballistics.htm.