Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Zimmerstuzen

I've talked about Zimmerstutzen, or "parlour guns" in a few previous posts. These were, and are, guns that use only a primer charge to propel a ball  or other projectile. They go back at least to the 19th Century and the invention of the percussion cap. but reached their peak in the late 19th and early 20thC, with the invention of rimfire cartridges and the CB Cap and BB Cap. The gun seen above is the Guardian Derringer, a modern interpretation of a mid-19thC Zimmerstutzen by Pedersoli. It's in .177 caliber (most period guns were closer to 6mm) and uses a modern shotgun primer rather than a percussion cap. This provides a bit more oomph than a percussion cap, and unlike the cap, pieces of the primer won't fly off on ignition. (This was a big annoyance with the Remington Rider reproduction I owned a while ago- pieces would fly off and hit me in the hand hard enough to break the skin!) You can find this gun at Dixie Gun Works for $255

Zimmerstutzen began as expensive toys for the wealthy, who could afford a gun with no real practical use, but by the 20thC you could buy an inexpensive BB-cap firing "Flobert" rifle for the equivalent of $42 in today's money:

These were outdoor rifles, although I suppose some were used by those who had a large enough house. They were a bit ore powerful than the percussion-cap propelled guns, and were used by boys for hunting small birds and rodents. I've owned a few, most of which I never fired. One problem with the simple lock mechanism of these cheap guns was that they didn't seal up as tightly as modern actions, and it wasn't unusual to get some gas escaping in the direction of the shooter's face!

Flobert guns weren't the cheapest of the primer-only guns. There have been a few that were cheap enough to be sold as toys for kids. One was the 1950s era Kruger Pistol, which used an extremely small .14grain powder charge- actually a paper cap!- to fire a ".12 caliber lead bullet," more properly called one pellet of #5 bird shot.

That $3 price tag translates to $28 in 2012 dollars, still very reasonable. The Kruger had a few problems, not the least of which was that the corrosive nature of paper caps resulted in the rapid corrosion of the thin metal parts of the gun. Regular cleaning and lubing would prevent this, but how many kids would do that? As a result, working examples are rare today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aguila Colibri Low-Power .22

I've written previously about my affection for CCI's Standard Velocity .22 cartridges, and Aguila's SSS Sniper Subsonic round. Here's an even slower cartridge: The Aguila Colibri. This is certainly the lowest energy .22 round on the market today, on a par with the old RWS CB caps. (You can still buy the RWS CB Caps, but they're ridiculously expensive. Cheaperthandirt wants $33 for a tin of 100!)

The Colibri uses a primer charge only, and no powder, to propel a 20gr bullet. It's recommended for pistol barrels only. Muzzle energy is listed as 6 foot pounds, which is 1/17th the energy of the CCI Standard Velocity cartridges, and muzzle velocity a sizzling 375 fps. Not very impressive. But very useful.

I bought a brick of these for basement practice, and they're ideal for that. Loading them singly in my tuned Ruger Mark-III, shooting offhand, I got one ragged 5-shot group at 7 yards. The report was less than you'd get from a CO2 gun, about on a par with what you'd get from a spring gun. The sound of the bullet hitting the steel bullet trap was much louder than the report of the gun being fired. And yes, you can hear these as two separate sounds, as it takes the bullets a lazy 56 milliseconds to reach the target.

My second test was in my Ruger Single Six, in which they were also accurate, quiet, and much easier to load. The last test was in my 1930 Iver Johnson Model X rifle, which is nearing completion in its restoration, and the Colibris were almost silent in that gun.

I'd planned on using my Daisy 717 for indoor practice over the winter on days when I didn't feel like driving through 27 miles of snow to get to my club, but with these I can shoot the same gun I use at the range. Same sights, same grip, same trigger. And I can also safely shoot older guns that I wouldn't trust with modern high-speed .22s.  You don't even need to use a heavy-duty steel trap like my Champion .22 Bullet Trap; a wooden box filled with Duxseal or a cardboard box filled with old magazines will easily do.

If you're looking for a slightly more powerful round designed for rifles, Aguila also makes the similar Super Colibri. Same 20gr bullet and primer-only propellant, but it leaves the barrel at a smoking 500fps with an ME of around 11 foot pounds or what a moderately powerful spring-air pellet gun can generate. A little louder, but with the guarantee that the bullets won't stop midway down a long barrel.

Postscript: After doing a bit of research, I have learned that Aquila's rimfire cartridges use lead styphnate primers, which means that shooting indoors without good ventilation is probably not such a great idea. I'm currently looking into making a portable air filter that would be effect for trapping the lead in the air- perhaps the 3M HEPA type furnace filters might work.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Best Gun Cleaner

The new aerosol gun scrubbers are great, but you can get the same thing in a cheaper package at the local auto parts store. Yes, good old spray brake cleaner. It'll dissolve powder, carbon, lube and more.

Just make sure you buy one of the ones labeled "Non-Chlorinated." The non-chlorinated ones have a lower VOC content, won't damage your nervous system, are non-flammable, and won't attack plastic and rubber parts in your gun.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Marble Game Getter

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Springfield Arms M6, which was derived from the Air Force's AR-6 survival rifle/shotgun. But the AR-6 itself was probably inspired by a much older gun: The Marble Game Getter.

The Game Getter was designed, as the name suggests, as a small game gun that was light and compact enough for the sportsman to carry on every outing, with the hope of bagging whatever small game they might come across. The price? $27-30, depending on barrel length. (Sounds pretty cheap, but $27 in 1918 was equivalent to about $400 today!)The original Model 1908 Game Getter was produced from 1908 to 1918, and generally featured a .22LR barrel above a .44 smoothbore barrel, intended to fire a .44 caliber shot shell.  15" was the most common barrel length, with a lesser number of 12" and 18" barrel versions also produced. The Model 1921, which was offered as late as 1962, replaced the .44 barrel with the more familiar .410 shot shell barrel.

What initially killed off the Game Getter was the 1934 Federal Firearms Act, which banned rifles and shotguns with barrels shorter than 18".  While the Game Getter without a stock was a legal pistol, albeit an ungainly one,  the smoothbore barrel made it a sawed-off shotgun, and that made it an AOW, or "Any Other Weapon," requiring a $200 transfer tax to buy. Marble lengthened the barrel to 18" and appealed to the government to establish the legality of the gun, but by the time it was approved, the market for the gun was gone. Some examples continued to be assembled from the company's stock of spare parts until 1962, but the gun was essentially gone from the marketplace.

A few years ago Marble brought back an exact reproduction of the Game Getter at a suggested retail price of $1,995. That's a lot, but good examples of original Game Getters are going for $2,000 to $2,995 these days. Kind of makes the $600-700 people are asking for a Springfield AR-6 these days seem almost reasonable. If you're interested in a Game Getter of your own, or Marble's line of modern and vintage sight products, you can read about them at Marble's own web site. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Blank Guns, Gas Guns, Flare Guns and Cheap .22s

I was cleaning up in the basement the other day when I came across these two old blank firing guns. I don't remember where I got them, but I think it was back in the 1980s. These are just two of the countless variations on the same basic design that has been made in Germany and Italy and probably other countries I don't know about. Rohm, one of the German makers, also made blank firing revolvers, some of which were modified into the RG10 .22 short revolver that was imported imported by FIE.:

This gun has the reputation of being the worst .22 revolver ever sold. It's made principally of zinc castings and is known to quickly go out of time, and to spontaneously disassemble when fired.

All these auto-styled, double action blank firing pistols operate on the same basic double action principal. 6mm (.22) crimped blanks are loaded into a carrier that's inserted into a rectangular opening just below the "barrel":

The blanks are loaded into the bottom of this carrier strip, and the carrier is pushed in until it stops, with the front flush with the front of the pistol. When the trigger is pulled, the carrier is pulled rearward, lining up the next blank with the firing pin below. The pin strikes the blank, which discharges, and gas fills the chamber above, exiting out the muzzle. Some models I've seen had an insert in the muzzle, further obstructing it and preventing the insertion of a projectile.

I've also seen 6mm tear gas cartridges fired from these. They held a small amount of powdered CN that was dispersed by the primer charge in the blank. I think I had a few of these at one time but if I did, they're long gone. They're still around, but I have no idea of their current legality in the US:

There were also version with adapters that would fire small flares, using the blank to both ignite and propel the flare.

Some time ago I found a more modern version specifically designed to fire flares and noisemaker projectiles- note the 15mm projectile adapter built into the muzzle. It's marked "Made in Germany," and sold in this country as the "Scare Away Launcher" and sold mainly for agricultural and runway clearing use:

This blank gun make much more effective use of the energy of the blank. Instead of pointing up, the blank is oriented at a 45 degree angle, making a smoother passage for the expanding gas from the fired blank:

It's designed such that it's impossible for an actual cartridge to be inserted in the gun, let alone fired. You can't even fit a .22 CB cap into the chamber, and if you could, it would probably destroy the gun. Only the very shortest crimped 6mm blanks will fit. This is a single shot gun, and as you can see, it has an orange polymer body, making it less likely to be mistaken for a firearm. I bought it some years ago for hiking in bear country, the idea being I could load various noisemaker projectiles designed to scare off animals. But after thinking it over I decided that it's more effective and safer to carry an actual firearm. If you're interested in getting one to clear your runway or cornfield you can find them at Gempler's.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yes, this is really a gun

GarE (pronounced "Gary") Maxton is a sculptor and machinist who makes sculptures, jewelry and puzzles out of a variety of metals. One of his specialties is intricate puzzles, like the one shown above. It's called the "Intimidator", it measures 8x5x4", and it weighs 40 pounds. If you have the special key needed to begin disassembly, and you can figure out the sequence, eventually you'll end up with a collection of parts that looks like this:

And if you know what you're looking for, you can select this subset of puzzle parts:

Which in turn can be assembled into a muzzle-loading .45 caliber pistol:

You can read more about the Intimidator here, and more about all of GarE's puzzles, jewelry, and sculptures here.