1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 32

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 32

Chapter 27

Andrei had it. He was sure now that after months of experimentation, he had the right chamber shape. The outside of the chamber was shaped like a long barn with a peaked roof. The inside, of course, was a round hole of the same size as the barrel. After the chamber was loaded, it simply inserted into the rifle, roof down and muzzle forward, which put the touch hole on the right side, aligned with the pan. He had tested it on the firing bench, fired dozens of rounds through it with no real problems. He reported to Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev that they were ready to go into production. Granted, Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev wasn’t the official person he was supposed to report to, but he was Andrei’s patron, so he was who Andrei told first.

Sheremetev told him to make two dozen of the rifles and to have them sent to the Sheremetev estates. Andrei did so. It was a disaster.

In the field the chambers had a bad habit of slipping out of the guns. Even worse, sometimes they didn’t slip out of the rifle, not all the way. Instead they got shifted just a little so that the touch hole was still aligned enough to fire the charge, but the muzzle of the chamber wasn’t properly aligned. At which point the gun had a tendency to blow up. Any bit of dirt that got into the chamber lock misaligned the chamber and caused it to misfire or sometimes escape from the chamber lock when fired. One of the Sheremetev deti boyars had died when an escaping chamber had hit him in the head.

Boyar Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev was not amused. Worse, Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev was embarrassed, because the first guns shouldn’t officially have gone to him but to the army. Sheremetev excused the slip by saying that he was having the sample tested to help out his deti boyar and wasn’t it a good thing that he had. For if he hadn’t, the army might have got stuck with rifles that weren’t ready yet. The explanation was accepted but not believed and Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev resented Andrei. But even more he resented the Dacha and Natasha for the fact that he had to ask them for help.


Filip, Bernie and the team came out to look at the AK2 and discussed how they might be fixed. There were a lot of problems with it. The upside down barn shape of the chamber was supposed to provide a guide to position the chamber. And it sort of worked, but a bit of dirt in the chamber lock or a burr on the chamber took the chamber out of position and there was still the gap between the chamber and the barrel. Unlike a six-shooter, the way a rifle was shot put that gap altogether too close to the face of the person firing the weapon for comfort. So the barn was modified. Just the back of the chamber was shaped like a barn. Just enough to allow the chamber to be positioned in the dark. The rest of the chamber was basically cylindrical. That went a long way to fixing the dirt and imperfections problem, but made the alignment problem worse.

One of the team, who had been in charge of the actual installation of the plumbing at the Dacha, remembered that they had used pipe sections inserted into the expanded end of the next pipe section. He suggested that the back inch or so of the barrel be resized so that the chamber could be shoved into it.

As stated, the idea wasn’t workable, but there were possibilities. Rather than inserting the whole front end of the chamber, a round lip, not very big, that could be shoved forward might work. It would have the problem that it couldn’t simply be slotted in like the chamber of the AK2, but maybe a lever that opened up the slot that the chamber fit into then closed it back might be the answer. But Andrei didn’t like that way of doing it. It introduced moving parts and, worse, introduced them right where a great deal of force would be exerted.


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11 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 32

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Ah, research. It’s a wonderful thing, is it not?


  2. ET1swaw says:

    Sorta like a tround, sorta like a replaceable chamber, and sorta like a single-round replaceable magazine. Strange concept for a gun IMO (but if they can get it to work?!?!).

    I love that the Russians are making AKs (and with nothing to do with the Kalishnikovs)!!

    The French, Suhl, and Essen are each making their own version of Sharps clones (Cardinals; etc.), and cartridge making is in infancy (hampered by the delayed recovery of attendant zinc resources (present in Germany, but current production is done primarily in India and China (both of which Russia has some trade with (overland via Safavids and Ottomans)))).

    And for some reason the ‘Ferguson Rifle’ concept is a non-starter.

    And so far the AK concept can still make use of Flintlock/firing-pan primer methods sidestepping primer (mercury fulminate or ‘?potassium chloride?’) production problems. (IIRC MF primer production problems was one of the deciding factors in limiting SRG production design to muzzleload flintlocks vs numerous breechload designs for the USE!!)


  3. Doug Lampert says:

    @2, historically the British rifle units and light infantry rejected the Ferguson, and it was invented there and was combat tested in fairly large numbers. Expensive, hard to make even in the 1770’s, and prone to failure of the stock. Also allegedly prone to fouling although Wikipedia claims that’s from a mistake in using too large a ball in the tests.

    In any case, does anyone in Grantville even know how to build a Ferguson?

    If you can build a Henry or Sharps it seems like a better idea. And it’s a LOT more likely that someone in Grantville has a Henry to act as a model than a Ferguson.

  4. ET1swaw says:

    @3 Doug Lampert: Thanks for the info! I knew there was good reason, and was well aware of the superiority of the Sharps and Henry. My only nit with them is the primers (Fergusons AFAIK are flintlock not caplock).

  5. dave o says:

    Rifle design by Rube Goldbergtinski.

    #2 ET1swaw: You mean Potassium Perchlorate rather than Chloride. And the problem with making cartridges has more to do with designing the machines to deep-draw the cartridge, than the shortage of zinc.

    It seems to me that Andrei started out with a radically flawed design and is fiddling with it to make it work. Designing a rifle that uses black powder, with its fouling problem, is hard enough. With Russian technology or the lack thereof, we can expect success sometime in the 18th century. Which is not to say the product will be any use in the field, handled by conscripted and ignorant serfs.

    One of the problems cited with the Ferguson is that after a few rounds, it tended to misfire. Or worse, hang fire. I think that this would be a problem with any flintlock.

  6. ET1swaw says:

    @5 dave o: Thanks for the correction!! My collander brain vaguely recalled it was potassium with some chlorine ion (chloride/chlorate/perchlorate), but for the life of me I couldn’t recall which (all I could remember is the 163x forum calling it the Head-process after the person who had called it to their attention).

    Yes it will be a Rube Goldberg (but remember that for all their complexity many of them worked!!). But could you personally suspend disbelief if the authors had Russian (with their proudly held illiteracy and lack of infrastructure) tinkerers come up (in parallel (and sometimes successfuully offshoot) to the USE efforts) with a viable Sharps or Henry clone (as did France and Essen)?


  7. dave o says:

    #6:ET1swaw: It would be a lot smarter if the Russian tinkerers copied a successful design. I’m sure that with sufficient funds, they could find someone willing to sell. But the Western rifles are percussion cap designs and the Russians are working on a flintlock breech loader. There are a couple of such, historically, of which the Ferguson is probably the closest, not too close, to a practical weapon. Making percussion caps is an added layer of complexity, and several added layers of danger.

  8. Stan Leghorn says:

    By the time of the Balltic War, functional flintlocks were in mass production and the Russians should be able to get a copy easily enough. If their focus is on breechloaders, they will have to wait for cartridges. Breach loading loose powder seems like a losing proposition.

  9. Blackmoore says:

    guys, pay attention to what year this story is set in. this new part of the series starts in 1632, so right now it could be 1633 or 1634 – the French Sharps rifle isn’t (quite yet) in production, and there are a dozen other locations working on the same idea of a breach loading rifle.

    Making a copy only works if Muscovy can finance the purchase of a uptime rifle by 1632/3, and that’s going to be difficult considering who else is throwing money at that type of solution.

    The problem with the primer (and any new explosives) is the ability to make large quantities of pure chemicals to start the process, and the blind focus of the USE on Mercury Fulminate as a primer. They wont catch up on that part (unless they can purchase primers from France) around the time of the 1634 raid on the Oilfields.

    It isnt like Muscovy has a uptime trained chemical engineer available to them. These guys are just starting to get advanced Algebra, Calculus, Physics, and hundred of other topics. Alchemy =/= Chemistry that’s going to take a leap of faith that will require a certain personality to accept.

  10. Ken V says:

    IIRC the big problem with the Ferguson was the fact that it used an unattached screw breechplug which was NOT interchangeable between rifles. Although a tap was presumably used to cut the threads in the barrel, wear on the tap required that the threads on each breechplug be filed to fit with the barrel it was intended for. If the user lost the breechplug, he couldn’t use one from a different rifle which might have had, say, a damaged stock–he had to wait until he could visit the armorer after the battle and get a new plug fitted.

    The Ferguson’s chief advantage was that it could be loaded from the prone position, which is fine for light infantry or orther skirmish troops, but not really needed with linear tactics of the 163X period. Its only major use was by the (losing) Tory troops at King’s Mountain during the AMR.

  11. Dave o says:

    #10 Ken V: According to my research, it’s a myth that the Ferguson was used at King’s Mountain. And I would have thought that its tendency to mis/hang fire was a greater disadvantage than any results of wear.

    #9 Blackmoore: Even a cash-poor country like Russia shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone willing to sell them a “modern” rifle. It isn’t as if soldiers were overpaid then. Or paid at all.

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