1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 32
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.