Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/502

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494

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

none at all, and the unwieldy armor-clad battleship are also only the children of experiment and have not yet passed the experimental stage. These constitute one extreme of the problem, while the pneumatic torpedo gun is the other. In the belief of the writer, the large-bored cannon for throwing high explosives at high velocity, propelled by smokeless gunpowder, instead of by compressed air, is a mean between the extremes, which is destined to solve the problem; while the present form of cannon and the armor-clad warship, on the one hand, will be relegated to the rear, and the pneumatic gun, on the other hand, will fall into oblivion.

It was with a view to the solution of the problem of successfully throwing high explosives from powder guns that the writer developed the progressive smokeless powder, which has been adopted by the United States Government, and by the use of which higher velocities with lower pressures are secured than would be possible by any other means. A special form of multi-perforated powder grains, invented by the writer, for throwing aerial torpedoes from guns, makes it possible to so control the pressures, even when full charges are employed, as to warrant the use of guns having a very large caliber and comparatively thin walls. I found that several high explosives could be made sufficiently insensitive to withstand the shock of acceleration in powder guns necessary to any desired velocity.

There was, however, at that time, no means known for making a fuse which should carry a sufficient quantity of detonative material, such as fulminate of mercury or a similar compound, in order to detonate effectually the insensitive high explosive charge on reaching the target. When such a quantity of fulminate was employed, there was danger of its being exploded by the shock of the propelling charge of gunpowder, and in turn setting off the high explosive charge of the shell and bursting the gun.

I designed and patented a fuse in 1895, in which the detonator was positioned at the rear of the shell, and completely outside of the high explosive charge, with the whole strong wall of the shell base between it and the high explosive, in which position, should the fuse go off prematurely from shock in the gun, the detonator would blow out at the rear and no damage would be done, as the high explosive would be beyond its reach. When, however, the projectile with its fuse struck the target, the body of detonative compound was thrown violently forward in a guide tube and into the high explosive bursting charge, due to the retardation of the projectile.

To carry out the foregoing experiments, I built two powder mills at Maxim, near Lakewood, N. J. It was there that the Maxim-Schüpphaus smokeless powder was produced, and there I conducted a large number of experiments with a long four-inch gun, having pres-