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Small Arms Development

Excerpts from:

"A History of Weapons and Warfare"
by Colonel Carlos Fuete, U.S. Army (Ret.),
Defense Institute Press, Mexico City.

Small Arms Development: The Draka Experience

[Note on terminology: until roughly the 1820s, the inhabitants of the Crown Colony of Drakia were commonly referred to as "Drakians"; after that, as "Draka." This article follows that usage.]

The initial migrants to the Crown Colony of Drakia in 1781–1785 included a number of Loyalists and Hessian regiments; most of these were stood down when their members took up the land grants issued by the Crown, but they remained active in the Militia reserve forces.

The original armament of the newcomers was a mixture of breech-loading Ferguson rifles (25%), muzzle-loading rifles of both the "Kentucky" and "German/Jaeger" varieties (10%) and ordinary Brown Bess smoothbores (65%). All of these weapons were flintlocks, but their performance differed widely, as follows:

Brown Bess
Caliber: .75 inch
Weight: c. 11 lb.
Range: 75 yards effective, 150 maximum
Rate of Fire: 2–4 rounds per minute
Operation: Muzzle-loading
Kentucky Rifle
Caliber: .50 inch
Weight: 9 lb.
Range: 150–200 yards effective, 400 maximum
Rate of Fire: 1–2 rounds per minute
Operation: Muzzle-loading
Ferguson Rifle (with round ball)
Caliber: .45
Weight: 10 lb.
Range: 200–250 yards effective, 400 maximum
Rate of Fire: 6–8 rounds per minute
Operation: Lever-operated screw plug

The Ferguson rifle, invented by General Patrick Ferguson (b. 1744, Pitfours, Aberdeenshire, d. 1807, Cape Town, Crown Colony of Drakia), was obviously far and away the more efficient weapon. The breech was blocked by a vertical plug, coarsely threaded like a giant bolt. The lower end was attached to the front of the movable trigger guard of the weapon, which had a wooden handle affixed to the rear behind the hand-grip. A complete 360-degree turn lowered the plug and exposed the chamber of the rifle; a ball and paper cartridge of black powder were then loaded, the flintlock primed, and the action reversed to seal the breech. The weapon was then ready to fire.

The Ferguson rifle — "the gun that broke the tribes" — had all the advantages of Brown Bess and the Kentucky rifle, with features uniquely its own. Unlike the Kentucky rifle, it could carry a bayonet, a factor of some importance in the 18th century, and unlike Brown Bess the "sticker" did not interfere with loading. Not only was its rate of fire substantially better than the smoothbore, but it could be loaded comfortably while in the saddle or lying down behind cover. The threaded plug gave excellent gas sealage, and the lighter bullet meant that more ammunition could be carried. Unlike muzzle-loaders, it could not be multiply loaded by mistake in the confusion and noise of battle. Best of all, it could be manufactured with the rather primitive gunsmithing technology of the period; the plug had to be turned on a lathe, but this was the only unorthodox part.

In Europe and America, military conservatism kept the Ferguson rifle confined to specialist units; the British army was satisfied with its volley-and-bayonet tactics, the French enemies never showed any signs of initiating an arms race, and the Americans preferred smoothbores and the vastly inferior Hall breechloader for reasons of national pride and lack of competition.

The Drakians could not afford such luxuries. Faced by native opponents capable of fielding armies of tens of thousands fanatically brave spearmen, they needed a weapon that could hit hard, fast, and far. Armories were established, using skilled gunsmiths from among the Loyalist population and later European immigrants, and enough breech-loaders were produced to reequip the entire militia. Drawing on the experience of the Dutch colonists before them, the new masters of the Cape rapidly formed units of mounted riflemen, supplemented by light fast-moving horse artillery. With Fergusons, a few dozen colonists were a match for regiments of black spearmen. Fighting from mobile wagon-forts, a few hundred could shoot down thousands without loss to themselves. By the mid 1780s, the Drakian soldier of the early conquest had taken on the characteristics that were to last for most of the next fifty years: mounted on a small hardy pony and leading a string of remounts, equipped with a Ferguson, two double-barreled pistols, knife, and saber. Regiments of black slave-soldiers filled garrison and infantry roles.

The Ferguson was a weapon of revolutionary importance, but it was not perfect; for example, the hot gases eventually eroded the seal between the threads of the plug and the drilled breech, requiring a new plug and remachining. It required careful maintenance to prevent a buildup of fouling in the chamber and barrel, and the plug had to be wiped and oiled after every use to prevent corrosion, which could ruin the gas seal. Prolonged heavy firing could heat the chamber and cause disastrous "cook off" detonation of the loose powder during loading. Like all flintlocks, it had a tendency to misfire, which required a lengthy and frustrating drill to clear the touchhole, and it was vulnerable to damp. Furthermore, the round ball used was very inefficient aerodynamically, limiting range and accuracy.

The first important improvement was the McGregor bullet. Captain Angus McGregor, a North Carolina Loyalist of Scottish background, had been using an heirloom "stonebow" (crossbow adapted to throw small stones or lead bullets) to hunt duck on his estate near Virconium. It occurred to him that the same force threw a pointed quarrel much further and more accurately than a round stone; in 1792 he patented a "cylindro-conic" bullet, a short blunt-headed round with a hollow pointed head. McGregor had anticipated the effect of reduced air resistance, but not the even more important reduction of cross-sectional diameter in relation to total weight.

Range was increased to 500 yards against individual man-sized targets, and 1000 against massed formations; as an added bonus the hollowpoint round had much greater wounding power than the round ball. The colonial forces were rapidly converted, since the only modification necessary was a new type of bullet-mold. Performance was altered as follows:

Ferguson Rifle (with McGregor cylindrical bullet)
Caliber: .45
Weight: 10 lb.
Range: 500–600 yards effective, 1000 maximum
Rate of Fire: 6–8 rounds per minute
Operation: Lever-operated screw plug, breech loading

This was the rifle that the Drakian expeditionary force took north to Egypt in early 1800. Egypt, formally part of the Ottoman Empire, had been occupied by a French army of approximately 15,000 in 1798; the force was originally under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, but he had returned to France in early 1800. At the Battle of the Nile Delta in March of 1800, 6,000 Drakians (mostly Janissary slave-soldiers) faced 9,000 French troops under the command of Jacques Menou in a flat, sandy area immediately east of the irrigated zone. The Drakian infantry were deployed in a single-line formation, flanked by mounted rifles, while the French attacked in company and battalion columns — relying on shock action, and preceded by skirmishers. The Drakians opened volley-fire at 400 yards, firing by tetrarchies [platoons]. None of the French formations came closer than 150 yards to the Drakian line, and only a few of the skirmishers were even able to open fire. The French columns broke and reformed for the charge several times, eventually suffering casualties of up to 75%; the crews of the French field-artillery were practically annihilated before they discovered that the Ferguson rifles outranged their fieldpieces.

The battle had begun around dawn; by 1000 hours, the French were in full flight, pursued by the Drakian mounted infantry. Less than 200 of the French expeditionary force ever returned to Europe. Drakian casualties numbered less than 150, of whom only 30 were free citizens. Oddly, this shattering demonstration of the superiority of the breech-loading rifle over the muzzle-loading smoothbore had little impact on the course of the war in Europe. The Egyptian theater was remote, and little attention was paid to it; the details were simply not known. Furthermore, the contending powers in the Napoleonic Wars were stretched to the limits of their manufacturing and logistical capabilities, supporting armies larger than any Europe had known before. The British equipped some of their specialist light infantry regiments (the Royal Greenjackets, for example) with Drakian-made Fergusons; the French, towards the end, issued the superior brass-cartridge Pauly-type rifles to their equivalents. In the postwar cutbacks, innovation became even slower.

The final refinement of the Ferguson rifle was the adoption of percussion ignition in 1804; a copper cap containing fulminate of mercury was used. The inventor — a sporting Anglican clergyman by the name of Forsythe — had been bothered by the delay between pulling the trigger and ignition in flintlock weapons, which made wing-shooting birds difficult. Percussion caps proved useful in military applications because they were immune to damp (unlike the priming powder in flintlocks) and because they were much less likely to misfire — one in several hundred rounds rather than the one in twenty typical for flintlocks.

The war faction in the Drakian Legislative Assembly had succeeded in hanging on to Egypt, despite strong British efforts to return the territory to Turkey; the result was war between the British and Ottoman empires in 1807. Since all available British forces were engaged in Spain, the Drakians had free reign in the Mediterranean theater, and seized Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, the Ionian Isles, and Tunis. The Peace of Vienna in 1814 confirmed these transfers, and the Ottoman renounced its territorial claims in North Africa in favor of Britain, in return for 1,000,000 British pounds in gold (paid by the Drakians) and a large loan.

The T-1 (Telliard-Pauly) rifle:

The next step in Draka small arms resulted from the convergence of two factors: the campaigns in North Africa, and the immigration of substantial numbers of French after the fall of Napoleon. The lowlands of Tunisia had been overrun and occupied without much difficulty, and by 1820 they had been divided into plantations and the native inhabitants enserfed. However, to the west stretched thousands of kilometers of the Mahgreb: plain, mountain, and desert, inhabited by several million hardy, warlike Arabs and Berbers. The North Africans were technically backward but not to the same degree as the sub-Saharan tribes; they had a literate class, firearms, horses, some cities, and a tradition of large-scale organization in states and tribal confederacies. To conquer and pacify this enormous area required two generations of hard campaigning — the Berber mountaineers of Kabylia and the Rif Atlas were not subdued until the 1850s — the outnumbered Draka forces needed every advantage they could get. The Ferguson rifle was vastly superior to the native weaponry, but something better was eagerly sought.

From 1812–1816 a French inventor, Samuel Jean Pauly, had worked on the problem of breech-loading rifles. His solution was a cartridge case with a brass base that would expand to seal the breech, then contract when the gas pressure in the barrel fell after the bullet left the muzzle. This was an almost perfect solution — the one used for virtually every small arm from the 1850s on — but rather ahead of its time. In particular, seamless drawn-brass tubing was expensive and its quality unreliable. Pauly also invented a centerfire primer, a percussion cap set into the center of the rear end of his cartridge.

Pauly lived and died in France, apart from a brief visit to England to register a patent. However, his work inspired two disciples; Dreyse, who developed the Prussian "needle gun," the first breech-loader to achieve general issue by a European power, and Francois Telliard (born Lyon, 1772, died Bon Esperance plantation, Nova Cartago province, 1842).

There had been some French immigration to Drakia in the 1790s; refugees from the slave uprising in Santo Domingo (many of whom settled on the sugar coast of Natalia and northwestern Madagascar, then just being opened to settlement), and aristocrats dispossessed by the Revolution. Few of these ever returned to France, but news of how they had prospered in the new land did. After the restoration of the Bourbons, there was another wave of French settlers, this time largely to Egypt and the newly-opened North African territories, consisting mainly of Napoleonic veterans and their families, discontented with a drab peacetime existence or ruined by the fall of Napoleon's Empire. Along with them came others drawn by the same stream, among them Telliard.

Telliard first settled in Diskarapur, in 1816; at that time it was a rapidly-expanding center of iron and steel production, and also of machinery and armaments. Employed as an "overlooker" in a factory manufacturing Ferguson muskets, he took advantage of the Ferrous Metals Combine's policy of making facilities available for after-hours experiments by its technical staff. (Diskarapur's free population at this time was only 3,000, and matters were more informal than they later became.)

Judging from his surviving notes and drawings, Telliard attacked the problem of improving on the Ferguson rifle from two angles. The first was to eliminate the separation between primer and charge (loading the round and placing the cap on the vent), and the second was to find a method of breech sealing which was as good or better than Ferguson's screw-plug.

The solution had the simplicity of genius. Telliard designed a single-piece cartridge, consisting of three elements. First was a rather long, pointed bullet. This was set firmly into a tube of stiffened gauze soaked in nitrate; the tube was then filled with a dough of moistened gunpowder, and a percussion cap set in a cardboard disk was placed over the open rear of the tube. Carefully dried, the round then contained primer, propellant, and projectile in one piece, was strong enough to be handled, and was reasonably water-resistant, due to the shellac then applied to the exterior.

The loading and sealing mechanism was equally simple. A turn-bolt system was used, shaped exactly like a door-bolt. To load, the bolt was turned up (unseating a locking lug at the head of the bolt, immediately behind the chamber) and withdrawn; the same motion compressed the spring within the bolt and readied the firing pin. A round was then thumbed into the chamber, and the bolt driven forward and turned down to lock firmly behind the cartridge. When the trigger was pulled, the firing pin shot forward and struck the percussion cap.

This left the problem of sealing the breech against the escape of gas; experiment proved that a metal-to-metal seal eroded quickly. Telliard then thought of Pauly's solution. Individual brass cases were impractical, but Telliard developed an alternative. A brass tube was made, open at both ends; midway between them was a metal disk, completely blocking the tube except for a hole in the center exactly the size of the firing pin. One end of the tube was threaded, and screwed onto the head of the rifle's bolt. The other (very slightly smaller in diameter than the inner end of the rifle's chamber) was open. When the bolt was pushed forward, the open end of the tube cradled the base of the cartridge. Upon firing, the hot gases pressed against the inside of the tube, expanding it to firmly grip the walls of the chamber with a gastight seal. When the bullet left the muzzle and the pressure dropped, the elastic brass contracted, the bolt was turned and withdrawn, and the whole cycle begun again.

Together with careful redesign of the bullet, the results were as follows:

Telliard-Pauly Rifle (T-1)
Caliber: .45
Weight: 9 lb.
Range: 800–1000 yards effective, 1500 maximum
Rate of Fire: 8–10 rounds per minute
Operation: Turn-bolt with obturator ring

Field trials in 1820 produced strong demands from the commanders in North Africa for more of the new rifles. The design was not perfect; the cartridges required moderately careful handling, very rapid fire could produce "cook-off," and the machining required for mass production of the weapon stretched the limits of available technology. After a time the brass cup became brittle and inelastic; the tube then had to be unscrewed (with a special wrench kept in a compartment beneath the buttplate of the rifle) and replaced. The advantages were so overwhelming, however, that by the mid-1820s the Draka armed forces were completely reequipped with the new weapon.

Telliard himself was granted a commendation, 50,000 aurics prize-money, and a 4,000-acre plantation in the Cap Bon area of Tunisia. After a further productive decade (during which he developed the world's first practical revolver and was instrumental in organizing the Diskarapur Technological Institute), he retired to his estate to breed horses and experiment with viticulture.1

The T-2 rifle:

After the adoption of the Telliard-Pauly rifle, only minor improvements were made in the next thirty years. The next breakthrough was the development in the 1840s of techniques for cheap mass-production of seamless brass tubing; this was the result of improvements in automotive steam engines, but had a military application. West and Central Africa were being conquered, and the hot wet climate was having unfortunate effects on the permeable cartridge of the T-1; also, repeated attempts to design a workable repeating rifle had broken down on the fragility of the T-1's ammunition. A drawn-brass cartridge was perfected in 1847, and the opportunity was taken to further reduce the caliber of the weapon. The feed mechanism was a steel box beneath the bolt, holding eight rounds and with a Z-shaped spring attached to a riser plate beneath the ammunition. Moving forward, the bolt "stripped" a round out of the lips of the magazine and chambered it. After firing, the bolt was turned, grasping the cartridge with a wedge-shaped extractor on the bolt face and withdrawn. As the bolt withdrew, so did the empty cartridge case, striking a milled "shoulder" and being flung out of the rifle. With the bolt left back, the magazine was exposed and could be reloaded, initially with individual rounds and later with clips of four rounds in a beveled zinc strip holder.

Performance was as follows:

T-2 Rifle
Caliber: .40
Weight: 9.5 lb.
Range: 1000 yards effective, 1800 maximum
Rate of Fire: 10–12 rounds per minute
Feed System: Fixed box, 8 rounds
Operation: Turn-bolt

With the T-2, the black-powder rifle had reached the ultimate refinement. The disposable cartridge helped to reduce the heating problems endemic to earlier models, and also removed fouling from the chamber of the rifle; it was also virtually unaffected by water. The only remaining serious problems were those inherent in the black-powder propellant: fouling of the barrel, requiring frequent cleaning (difficult in the heat of battle), and the large output of smoke, which disclosed the firer's position and could blanket an entire battlefield.

The T-2 proved its worth in the final conquest of the interior of Africa, and in the two major overseas expeditions of the 1850s, the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. In the first, Draka infantry equipped with T-2's repeatedly savaged far larger Russian forces armed with a mixture of muzzle-loading and single-shot breech-loading rifles. In India, the prompt intervention of 20,000 Draka troops saved the British position. (These conflicts also taught the Draka valuable tactical lessons, particularly concerning the necessity for dispersed formations and the obsolescence of cavalry shock action.)

Machine Guns: The Gatling Gun

Richard Gatling (born 1818, Maney's Neck, North Carolina; died 1905, Archona, Archona Province) was a Southern-born inventor. His first career was in the field of agricultural machinery (his seed-drills were ingenious and widely used). His second began in the late 1840s, when he developed the first version of the ten-barreled crank-operated machine-gun that later made his name famous. Gatling failed to interest the American government in his invention, and went to London in the spring of 1850 to test the European waters. He found little interest, but happened to meet (in a City chop-house) a junior member of the unofficial Draka embassy, Marius de Witt, who had worked in the Naysmith Machine Tool Combine's design section in Diskarapur.

De Witt interested his superiors in Gatling's designs, and he was encouraged to move to Diskarapur. There, in cooperation with the engineers from the Naysmith and Ferrous Metals Combines, he quickly perfected his designs. The new metallic cartridge proved ideal for this use, and a reliable weapon with a rate of fire in excess of 600 rounds per minute was quickly produced. General issue to the Draka armed forces began in 1855, and Gatling guns were used with devastating effect in the Indian Mutiny.

The T-2 in the American Civil War

The next major test of the T-2 came, oddly enough, in the American Civil War. While relations with the US had always been rather chilly, many Draka had family ties with the Southern states; in addition there were ideological links, strengthened in the 1830–1860 period as both the South and proto-Domination became conscious of their isolation in an increasingly bourgeois world. Accordingly, when war broke out, Draka sympathy was overwhelmingly pro-Confederate. Direct intervention was impossible; the Domination was still formally part of the British Empire, and had only recently acquired "Dominion" status, with full control of the Executive branch of government. Furthermore, the Draka had no navy to speak of; however, they did have shipyards capable of turning out very modern steel-hulled steamships. Draka yards built commerce-raiders for the Confederate government, and Draka and miscellaneous European volunteers and mercenaries manned them. Draka blockade runners funneled huge amounts of aid into the Confederate ports.

The American armed forces had started the war with the Hall-Springfield rifle, a percussion-cap, single-shot breechloader with a lever action sealed by a Telliard-style brass obturator. Cheap, simple, rugged and easy to maintain, this was an excellent weapon of its type, and both sides used it as the predominant infantry arm. The Confederacy also received substantial numbers of T-2's, enough to arm all its cavalry and many of its elite infantry formations (e.g., the Stonewall Brigade). These — together with the thousands of Gatling guns and hundreds of Meercat armored steam warcars, cast-steel artillery pieces from the forges of Diskarapur, tinned food from the Cape, and cloth from the mills of Alexandria — were instrumental in prolonging the Confederacy's doomed struggle against the superior numbers and industrial resources of the North. Not until 1866 did Richmond fall, and the North lost more than 700,000 dead in the process.

Smokeless Powder and the T-3/T-4

Mining had always been an important part of the Draka economy, and when the Swede Alfred Huskqvist (b. 1820, Uppsala, d. 1890, Kenia province)2 perfected his method of stabilizing nitroglycerin by absorption, it was quickly adapted as the main explosive in the Domination's mines. Dynamite (as the new compound was called) exploded far too readily to be used as a propellant, but proved to be very suitable as a bursting-charge in shells. After settling in the Domination, Huskqvist developed a mixture of nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose that could be extruded into various shapes, and which gave a much more controlled "burn" than black powder. The new compound was patented in 1872, and known variously as "cordite" (from the string-shaped pieces initially used), 'white powder' (from its color) and, usually, "smokeless" powder. The War Directorate immediately noted the superiority of the new propellant (less fouling to build up in the chamber and barrel, no smoke to give away the rifleman's position, higher velocity, and flatter trajectory). The first attempt at use was the T-3, in which double-base smokeless powder was substituted for the original 250-grain load of compressed black powder.

Performance was as follows:

T-3 Rifle
Caliber: .40
Weight: 9.8 lb.
Range: 1500 yards effective, 2200 maximum
Rate of Fire: 10–12 rounds per minute
Feed System: Fixed box, 8 rounds
Operation: Turn-bolt

However, there were serious problems, and the T-3 was withdrawn from service within four years. Recoil was excessive, and the velocity so high that the bullet tended to melt in the barrel, lining it with smears of lead. The rifling also tended to "strip" the exterior of the bullet.

Design studies were undertaken, and the opportunity used to redesign the service rifle from the ground up. A smaller-caliber weapon was used, since it was obvious that the higher velocity reduced the need for a large bullet to achieve severe wounds. The shape of the bullet was redesigned (a "boat-tail" to reduce drag), the round itself was made of lead swaged into a jacket of harder alloy (except for the nose, left bare to expand inside the target), and the feed mechanism was altered to a detachable clip with 10 rounds, which made reloading easier under battlefield conditions.

T-4 Rifle
Caliber: 7.5 mm x 60 mm
Weight: 9 lb.
Range: 2000 yards effective, 2500 maximum
Rate of Fire: 10–12 rounds per minute
Feed System: Detachable box, 10 rounds
Operation: Turn-bolt

The T-4 was the weapon used by the Draka armed forces during the Anglo–Russian War of 1879–1882, and proved to be a war-winner; simple, light, rugged and very hard-hitting. Widely copied in Europe (e.g., the German Mausers of 1888 and 1898), it remained standard issue until 1906.

Automatic and Self-Loading Weapons

While the Gatling gave excellent service, it was inevitably large, bulky, heavy, and usually mounted on a modified field-gun carriage or steel tripod. In vehicle mounts with an exterior power source, its very high rate of fire and reliability made it nearly ideal, but for infantry service it had severe limitations.

After the adoption of smokeless powder, the Draka Gatlings were modified to fire the new round, but it was obvious that new possibilities were opened by the new propellant — especially by its reduced waste residue and the more efficient "long push" that its slower burn gave as compared to black powder.

The first application was in a heavier weapon, a 25 mm automatic cannon designed for armored-vehicle use and as an antiairship defense. Developed by Charles Manson of the Army Technical Section in 1882–86, it used a form of blowback operation, combined with advanced primer ignition. The breechblock was flanked by two metal arms, themselves attached to a strong coil spring in a sheath around the lower barrel of the weapon. When released, the block was pulled forward by the spring, stripping a shell out of the metal-link feed belt and firing it slightly before reaching the full-forward position. The recoil force thus had to stop the forward inertia of the breech, then move it backward against the mass of the breechblock, the two flanking arms, and the force of the coil spring.

While efficient, the mechanism was not directly transferable to small arms. It did inspire a good deal of experimentation, and in 1890 Dr. Alexandra Tolgren, of the Shahnapur Technological Institute, made the first serious application of the gas-delayed blowback principle which was to be the foundation of Draka small-arms design for two generations.

The Tolgren automatic pistol used a rimless modification of the standard 10 x 15 mm smokeless-powder pistol round adopted in 1881. The feed device was a 12-round staggered box clip in the grip. Operation was as follows: the bolt, which was machined to wrap around the barrel on three sides, ran forward, chambered a round and fired when the trigger was pulled. Above the barrel was a short cylinder, the rear end of which was sealed. A gas port was drilled through to the barrel, and a piston-head and rod were inserted in the tube forward of the port. The operating rod ran forward through a further, slotted portion of the tube which contained a coil-spring, and at the forward end was fastened to two steel pins that ran in grooves back along the outside of the gas tube and attached to the bolt.

At rest, the spring held the breech sealed. When fired, the recoil of the weapon began to blow the bolt backward, against the force of the coil spring and the inertia of the bolt and operating rods. These alone would not have sufficed to keep the breech sealed, but as the bullet fired, high-pressure gas filled the tube above the barrel and prevented the piston head from recoiling. Once the bullet had left the muzzle, the pressure in the cylinder dropped and the piston traveled backwards, forcing the remaining gas into the barrel. The bolt recoiled, then moved forward as the coil spring expanded, stripping another round from the clip and repeating the cycle.

Tolgren Automatic Pistol, model 1890
Caliber: 10 mm x 15 mm
Weight: 2.6 lb.
Range: 50 yards effective, 100 maximum
Rate of Fire: 60 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: Detachable box in grip, 12 rounds
Operation: Gas-delayed blowback, semi-automatic

The gas-delayed blowback system proved to give a reliable operation, particularly after it became possible to chrome-plate internal parts subject to gas-wash.

In 1891, a design team from the Technical Section decided that the Tolgren action could be scaled-up to produce a "machine pistol" — a portable, automatic short-range weapon suitable for police and close-quarter military use.

Machine Pistol Mk. I, model 1891
Caliber: 10 mm x 15 mm
Weight: 7.5 lb. (with collapsible steel stock)
Range: 150 yards effective, 200 maximum
Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: Detachable box in grip, 35 rounds (75-round snail drum for special roles)
Operation: Gas-delayed blowback, selective fire

This proved a great success — although somewhat over-elaborate, as European experience in the Great War showed that a simple blowback weapon with a heavier bolt would do quite satisfactorily. It should be noted that the Draka armed forces initially found little role for the machine-pistol/submachine-gun, since current tactical doctrine envisaged infantry combat at greater ranges. The Draka War Directorate issued it fairly extensively to personnel for whom a full-sized rifle was inconvenient: armored vehicle crews, gunners, and the women's auxiliary branch. The Security Directorate found it much more useful, and equipped about one third of their Order Police with it. No European power showed any interest until after the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.

In 1900 it was decided to develop a full-power semiautomatic rifle. The Tolgren action was adopted; there was initially some doubt that a system without positive mechanical locking of the bolt could operate using a powerful full-bore rifle cartridge, but experiments proved the contrary. A notable feature was the semi-closed bolt; at rest, the bolt was set slightly back from the closed position. When the trigger was pulled, the firing pin struck the primer, and the bolt was simultaneously freed to complete its run forward; this absorbed a considerable share of the recoil and made it possible to build a very light action. The resulting weapon, adopted for general service in 1906 and standard issue until 1936, was the T-5.

T-5 Rifle
Caliber: 7.5 mm x 60 mm
Weight: 9.7 lb.
Range: 2000 yards effective, 2500 maximum
Rate of Fire: 25 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: Detachable box, 15 rounds
Operation: Gas-delayed blowback, semi-automatic

The T-5 was produced in enormous quantity, over 11,000,000 being turned out during its period of general issue; no substantial modifications were made, apart from minor alterations to simplify manufacture. The action worked very smoothly, and the advanced primer ignition and semi-elastic "gas cushion" effect of the delayed blowback gave minimal recoil. The result was a rifle that was very pleasant to fire, nearly as accurate as its bolt-action predecessor, and had twice the firepower. In fact, the T-5 proved to be another classic weapon, its only drawback being the extensive machining necessary for manufacture. In the field, it gave the Draka infantry a density of firepower none of their opponents could match, particularly in combination with its companion piece, the SAW-1.

The Technical Section team that designed the T-5 also saw an opportunity to develop the first really portable machine-gun. Simply modifying the trigger-mechanism of the T-5 gave an automatic weapon, but magazine capacity was too small, the barrel tended to catastrophic overheating (and attendant cook-off) and the weapon was violently unstable in full automatic mode.

Modifications followed. A heavy barrel was fitted, with a carrying handle and quick-change facility, the forestock of the rifle being replaced with a slotted metal guard and grip. A bipod was fitted to the gas-regulator, a straight-line butt and pistol grip was fitted, and the operating mechanism was made more robust. In addition, a pawl-and-ratchet belt-drive device was installed, with provision for quick conversion to magazine feed. The "Squad Automatic Weapon, Mark I" could then take the standard disintegrating link belt feed (usually in 75-round belts packed in a box that clipped beneath the weapon), or 15 or 30-round box magazines inserted from the top. Specifications were as follows:

Squad Automatic Weapon, Mark I model 1907
Caliber: 7.5 mm x 60 mm
Weight: 19 lb.
Range: 2000 yards effective, 2500 maximum
Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: Disintegrating-link metal belt / 15- or 30-round box
Operation: Gas-delayed blowback, automatic

With these two weapons the Domination fought the Great War of 1914–1918 and carried the Drakon banner from Constantinople to Xian.

The infantry squad of the Great War was equipped with a mixture of SAW-1's, T-5's, and machine-pistols; subsidiary weapons included rifle grenades, hand grenades (stick and "egg" types), flamethrowers, heavier water-cooled machine guns, and light mortars. After the winding-down of the Pacification Wars in the 1925–26, the Technical Section decided to run a detailed analysis of the actual operation of these weapons in the field; the Draka armed forces generally were anxious to avoid "victory disease" and self-criticism was being encouraged.

The T-5 had been very popular with the actual users, and was widely imitated in the postwar period; the American Springfield-7 (1927), the British Lee–Shallon (1921, almost a direct copy), the French MAS, the Russian Tokarev… In fact, by 1939 the only major power not to convert to the full-power semiautomatic format was Germany, where investigators were advocating a subcaliber compromise weapon.

Much to their own surprise, the Small Arms Study Project run by Sven Holbars of the Alexandria Technological Institute determined that the T-5 was far from perfect. The average range of infantry combat had decreased, even in open desert country, and all major combatants had adopted the Draka/German system of dispersed infiltration infantry tactics. The full-power cartridge was superfluous at ranges within 800 meters, and 90% of all infantry engagements were at that or less. Beyond that range, crew-served weapons were more effective. Furthermore, the venerable 7.5 x 60 mm made a true selective-fire rifle impossible; a weapon light enough to be useful was uncontrollable in full-automatic mode, and the barrel overheated disastrously.

The Project therefore decided to "reinvent the wheel" and design a new weapon from the ground up. Since the rifle was merely a delivery system for the true weapon — the bullet — ammunition was the first priority. The design parameters emphasized the smallest and lightest possible round which would have good wounding characteristics with the 800-meter envelope and would still punch through the average steel helmet at that range. A small-caliber, high-velocity round was found to give the best effective combination of characteristics (a caseless round would have been even better, but this proved extremely difficult). The caliber settled on was 5 mm (about .2 inch), with a bottle-necked 45 mm cartridge case of aluminum alloy.

The gas-delayed blowback action of the T-5 and SAW-1 was used for the new rifle. The design was actually based more on the SAW-1 than the rifle, as automatic fire and an integral bipod were part of the specifications. The feed device was a matter of controversy; with the 600 rpm cyclic rate envisaged, a box clip was of doubtful use — it tended to become unmanageably bulky and unreliable with capacities over 34–40 rounds. A 75-round disintegrating-link belt, prepacked in a conical drum, was settled on, using aluminum for the belt and feed lips of the drum, and the new glass-fiber resin for the box itself; the rear face was made semitransparent, so that the soldier could see at a glance how many rounds were left. Performance was as follows:

Holbars T-6 Assault Rifle, Model 1936
Caliber: 5 mm x 45 mm
Weight: 9.7 lb.
Range: 800 yards effective, 1000 maximum
Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: Disintegrating-link metal belt, 75 round drum
Operation: Gas-delayed blowback, automatic; optional 3-round burst

Careful engineering and extensive use of high-strength alloys reduced the loaded weight to less than 10 lbs.; combined with the low recoil force and soft action, this made the Holbars fully controllable even when fired from the hip on full automatic. A bipod was attached below the gas port, and when not in use folded into a slot on the bottom of the laminated wooden foregrip. The stock was a metal frame, with a robust folding hinge; when collapsed, it lay along the left side of the weapon. There were post-and-aperture sights, but the main system was an optical x4 sight; this was optimized for quick use, and encased in a rubber-padded "shroud." Most troops carried their optical sights permanently clipped to the weapon, although they could be removed with the standard maintenance tools. Folded, the weapon was only 30 inches long, an important point given the increased use of armored personnel carriers. The Holbars was usually carried across the chest on an assault sling.

A companion SAW-2 was developed concurrently; this was very similar, but used a 150-round drum and had a heavier quick-change barrel attached to a carrying handle. This two-weapon combination was used throughout the Eurasian war, and remained standard issue for the Domination's forces until the early 1970s.

With the Holbars, the metallic cartridge selective-fire rifle had reached the endpoint of its development; detail improvements in materials and performance were possible, but a fundamental improvement required a complete redesign. The basic breakthrough was a successful caseless cartridge — in essence, a high-tech version of the old T-1. Research began as early as the 1920s, and continued for forty years in a desultory fashion. Apart from gas sealage (no longer a problem with modern machining) the primary difficulty had to do with ignition and heat-disposal. The metallic cartridge served not only to seal the breech of the weapon but to carry off much of the heat of the combustion. The final answer to the problem was to abandon the dual-base propellants that had been in use since the introduction of smokeless powder, and go over to an actual explosive — previous propellants had really been very fast burners rather than explosives proper. To keep chamber pressures within acceptable limits, the explosive was diluted with a combustible synthetic, which also acted as a matrix to provide mechanical strength for the round. The projectile, the bullet proper, was almost entirely enclosed in a rectangular block of propellant, greatly easing the design of magazines and eliminating waste space. Ignition was electrical, and the chemical mix was designed to be very resistant to heat and shock-wave detonation.

At the same time, the traditional stock-action-magazine-barrel design was abandoned, and the pistol grip was placed forward of the action. The buttplate was immediately behind the action (next to the user's face when the weapon was shouldered), which posed few problems since there was now no need to eject spent cartridges.

The resulting T-7 entered field trials in the mid-1960s.

Holbars T-7 Assault Rifle, Model 1971
Caliber: 4.5 mm x 40 mm, prefragmented, other options
Weight: 10 lb.
Range: 800 yards effective, 1000 maximum
Rate of Fire: 2000/600 rounds per minute, theoretical
Feed System: 100- round spiral cassette
Operation: Recoil; optional 3-round burst
Notes: Most T-7's incorporated a single-shot 35 mm grenade launcher below the main barrel; this was loaded from a slot near the buttplate, and there was a selector switch above the trigger group to change from regular to launcher.



Footnote 1. His son, William Telliard, was the author of Ravens in a Morning Sky, the first notable Draka novel, as well as other works, and his granddaughter Cynthia Telliard played an instrumental part in the campaign for women's suffrage. (back)

Footnote 2. Huskqvist settled on a coffee plantation in Kenia province, and the Huskqvist family have remained as Landholders on the estate ever since. Huskqvist's daughter, Karen Huskqvist, was the author of the noted Into Africa. (back)

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