Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Manufacturing Cartridges in the 19th Century - Part II

In our last post, we studied how metallic centerfire cartridge cases were manufactured in large factories in the 19th century. We will continue our study of the manufacturing process in today's post.

Where we last left off, we'd just studied how the brass cases were shaped. The next step is to attach primers to the cases. In the 19th century, primers were made of copper caps. The process worked as follows:

The copper caps are made by punching blanks from copper sheets and then formed into small cups (similar to the cartridge cases in the previous post). A bunch of these caps are placed onto a plate with indentations in it to hold the caps in place. Then, this plate is covered by two other plates, which have holes drilled into them, corresponding to the positions of the caps, when all three plates are placed on the loading frame. The top plate can move horizontally for a short distance and when it is moved, the holes on this plate move clear of the holes in the middle plate, and thus it forms a bottom to the holes of the top plate. The shock-sensitive priming material is made damp with water and carefully spread over the top plate, so that it fills all the holes drilled into it. The surplus priming powder is brushed off. Then the top plate is moved back into position, where its holes correspond to the holes in the middle plate and the caps in the bottom plate. The priming material thus falls through the holes into the priming caps. The caps are then moved to a press and a tinfoil disk is pressed on to the priming powder and then varnished over with spirit varnish, to make the caps waterproof.

Manufacturing the priming powder and filling the caps were both considered as dangerous operations in the 19th century. Therefore, the British parliament passed a law that specified that only one person was allowed into the room where the priming powder was made and the room where the caps were filled. This law was to ensure that if there was an accident, there would be minimum casualties.

The caps are placed on the bases of the cartridge cases prepared in the previous post and then they are pushed into place by a descending rammer and are now ready to receive the propellant powder and the bullets.

In our next post, we will study how the bullets were made and the propellants loaded in the 19th century manufacturing process.

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