A modern firearm is likely to be mass-produced using high-precision machine tools, and with a uniformity to the extent that parts from one can be interchanged with those from another. This marks a progression of centuries of innovation, in gunsmithing, in machine tooling, and in metallurgy. In the 18th century there was little of the innovations found in a modern weapon, and a rifle would have been made entirely by hand through the work of a master gunsmith. The video below the break is a fascinating 1969 film following Wallace Gusler, the gunsmith at the museum town of Williamsburg, Virginia, as he makes an 18th-century muzzle-loading flintlock rifle from raw materials. It’s a long video, but it leaves nothing out and has a really informative commentary we’re told from the gunsmith himself.
The film opens with a piece of wrought iron being forged into a long strip. We’ve talked about wrought iron as a difficult-to-find blacksmith’s material before here, so this immediately makes us curious as to what material the current Williamsburg gunsmiths use. The strip is formed round a mandrel and laboriously forge-welded to form a rough tube, before being bored with a series of drills and then rifled with a toothed slug. The finishing is done by had with a file, with the rough tube being filed to an octagonal shape. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The Gunsmith Of Williamsburg”→
Over the last century, very little of the basic design of firearm cartridges has changed, but the mechanics of firearms themselves have undergone many upgrades. The evolution of triggers, safeties, magazines, and operating mechanisms is a fascinating field of study. Hands-on experience with these devices is rare for most people, but thanks to people like [zvc], you can 3D print accurate replicas of historical firearms and see how all the parts fit together for yourself.
[zvc] is slowly building up a library of 3D models, with nine available so far, from the Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” pistol to the modern M4 rifle. Except for springs and some fasteners, almost every single part of [zvc]’s models are 3D printed, down to the takedown pins and extractors. With the obvious exception of being able to fire a live round, it looks like all the components fit and work together like on the real firearms. None were ever designed with 3D printing in mind, so a well-tuned printer, lots of support structure, and post-processing are required to make everything work. The surface finish will be a bit rough, and some smaller and thin-walled components might be susceptible to breaking after the repeated operation or excessive force. The models are not free, but all prices are below €10.
These models do demonstrate one of the real superpowers of 3D printing: functional mock-ups and prototypes. The ability to do rapid iterative design updates and to have the latest design in hand within a few hours is invaluable in product development. [Giaco] used this extensively during the development of his kinetic driver. When you buy 3D printable models online, always make sure what possible pitfalls exist.
People unfamiliar with shooting sports sometimes fail to realize the physicality of getting a bullet to go where you want it to. In the brief but finite amount of time that the bullet is accelerating down the barrel, the tiniest movement of the gun can produce enormous changes in its trajectory, and the farther away your target is, the bigger the potential error introduced by anticipating recoil or jerking the trigger.
Like many problems this one is much easier to fix with what you can quantify, which is where this DIY rifle accelerometer can come in handy. There are commercial units designed to do the same thing that [Eric Higgins]’ device does but most are priced pretty dearly, so with 3-axis accelerometer boards going for $3, rolling his own was a good investment. Version 1, using an Arduino Uno and an accelerometer board for data capture with a Raspberry Pi for analysis, proved too unwieldy to be practical. The next version had a much-reduced footprint, with a Feather and the sensor mounted in a 3D-printed tray for mounting solidly on the rifle. The sensor captures data at about 140 Hz, which is enough to visualize any unintended movements imparted on the rifle while taking a shot. [Eric] was able to use the data to find at least one instance where he appeared to flinch.
On today’s episode of ‘this is a really neat video that will soon be demonetized by YouTube’ comes this fantastic build from [John]. It is the Golden Gun, or at least it looks like a Golden Gun because it’s made out of melted down brass casings. It’s a masterclass demonstration of melting stuff down and turning a thirteen-pound blob of metal into a two-pound precision machined instrument.
This build began by simply cutting a wooden block, packing it in sand, and melting approximately 1425 shell casings of various calibers in a DIY furnace. The molten brass was then simply poured into the open mold. This is standard yellow brass, with about 70% copper and 30% zinc. There’s a bit of aluminum in there from the primers, and the resulting block isn’t terribly great for machining. [John] says this could be fixed by adding a few percent of lead to the melt. To all the jokesters suggesting he add some unfired bullets to the melt, don’t worry, we already have that covered.
The machining went as you would expect it would with a large mill, but there are a few things that made this entire video worthwhile. For some of the holes, [John] had to square up the corners. The simplest and easiest way to do this is to break out a file. This is brass, though, and with some steel chisels hanging around the shop your mortise and tenon skills might come in handy. With the very careful application of force, [John] managed to put corners on a circle with a standard wood chisel. A bit later in the build video, a few more sharp corners were created by shoving a broach in the mill and jamming it down into the work.
When it comes to machining builds, this is high art. Yes, it’s the same as building an AR-15 out of a few hundred soda cans, but this one is made out of brass. It looks just great, and that final polish turns the entire project into something that looks like it’s out of a video game. Simply amazing.
Yes, it has its limits, but every new technology does, especially totally home-brew builds like this. The aptly named [NSA_listbot] has been putting a lot of work into his railgun, and this is but the most recent product of an iterative design cycle.
The principle is similar to other railguns we’ve featured before, which accelerate projectiles using rapidly pulsed electromagnets. The features list in the video below reads like a spec for a top-secret military project: field-augmented circular bore, 4.5kJ capacitor bank, and a custom Arduino Nano that’s hardened against the huge electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by the coils. But the interesting bits are in the mechanical design, which had to depart from standard firearms designs to handle the caseless 6 mm projectiles. The resulting receiver and magazines are entirely 3D printed. Although it packs a wallop, its cyclic rate of fire is painfully slow. We expect that’ll improve as battery and capacitor technology catches up, though.
It may not be a “phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range,” and it doesn’t even use plasma in the strict definition, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. It’s a propane-powered bottle-launching rifle, and it looks like a lot of fun.
[NighthawkInLight] sure likes things that go pop, like his watermelon-wasting air-powered cannon and cheesy-poof pop gun. This one has a little more oomph to it, powered as it is by a propane torch. The principle is simple: fill a soda bottle with propane, ignite the gas, fun ensues. The details are a little more subtle, though, and allowances need to be made to keep back pressure from preventing the projectile from filling with fuel. [NighthawkInLight] overcomes this with some clever machining of the barrel. The final production version in the video below is needlessly but delightfully complex, with a wooden stock and a coil of clear vinyl tubing helical plasma accumulator before the barrel; the last bit is just for show, and we have to admit that it looks pretty good.
Unless you count the pro tip on using CPVC pipe to make custom fittings, this one is nothing but fun. But we don’t have a problem with that.
This coilgun started as a stock Airsoft rifle. The stock weapon cost about 40€ (just over $50), but we think it was well worth it since it provides plenty of room for all the coilgun components and solves most of the mechanical issues of the build like a body that is comfortable to hold, a trigger, etc.
The clear tube which serves as the barrel (the same setup as we saw in this coilgun guide) is protected by three stainless steel barrels which surround it. They each host a laser diode which results in a Predator-style aiming mechanism that is shown off in the video after the break. There’s even a night vision system that uses IR leds and a viewfinder attached to the stock.
A camera flash is scrapped for the transformer inside. This acts as the voltage generator, charging up a few capacitors. It seems to have no problem generating enough juice to work well, despite the fact that it’s only being powered from two AA batteries mounted in the magazine.