Tag: firearms

Pique the Geek 20110313: Firearms 103. Propellants

For a firearm to operate, there must be an energy source to impart kinetic energy to the projectile being fired.  This is is true in general, but our discussion shall be limited to small arms with only a couple of exceptions.  These materials are called propellants, and the name is quite apt.

The first propellant used was blackpowder, the exact origin of which is lost in antiquity.  For centuries, actually up to very late in the 19th century, blackpowder was the only propellant available.

In the late 1880s what is now called smokeless powder was developed, and has replaced blackpowder in almost all applications except for what I refer to as “boutique” ones.  A substitute for blackpowder, Pyrodex(R) was developed , along with some other substitutes for reasons that will become apparent later.

Pique the Geek 20110213: Firearms 102. Shotguns

I was astonished at the response for the first installment for this series, and so decided that instead of just a couple of survey pieces, reader interest justifies a bit longer treatment, getting more into the weeds. Thus, I have come up with a bit more structured series.

Unlike rifled firearms like pistols and rifles, shotguns are smoothbore weapons. That is, they have no rifling to impart spin to stabilize the projectile, in the case of shotguns usually multiple projectiles. Shotguns are a relatively recent development in their current form, but the concept of firing more than one projectile at a time goes back a very long time.

Modern shotguns are designed to fire a relatively large diameter cartridge as opposed to rifles and pistols. In addition, a different system is used to state the diameter of the cartridge in most cases.

Pique the Geek 20110206: Firearms 101

For good, for ill, or for neither, firearms are an integral part of American life.  Everyone knows in a general sense what guns are, but not so many know much more than that.  The conventional wisdom is that those of us on the left are less familiar with firearms than those on the right (a premise with which I do not agree), but the fact is that it important to have a basic understanding of how firearms work.

At the most basic, a firearm is a device used to deliver a projectile, usually at a high rate of speed, towards some sort of target using chemical propellants that are NOT carried onboard the projectile.  Firearms have evolved over the centuries from quite crude affairs to the highly sophisticated devices that are available currently.