Sims-Dudley Dynamite Cannon (USA)

In the first half of the nineties of the XIX century, the American inventor Dana Dudley proposed two variants of promising dynamite guns. One project involved a slight decrease in the pressure of powder gases using an expansion chamber, while the second involved a movable piston to transfer energy to the projectile. The first idea was able to interest representatives of industry and the army, so that a new project appeared. The development of the existing proposal led to the appearance of a dynamite gun, known as Sims-Dudley.

Until the middle of the decade, D. Dudley independently worked on the development of promising artillery systems. Approximately in 1894-95, inventor Winfield Scott Sims, who was previously engaged in creating mechanisms and devices for various purposes, joined the work. Having created and patented a mass of various samples, US Sims decided to try himself in the arms business. In the framework of collaboration D. Dudley and U.S. Sims improved one of the already proposed structures, and soon brought their project to the assembly and testing of experimental products. In the future, new types of guns were offered to the army. In addition, applications for multiple patents have been filed.

Sims-Dudley Dynamite Cannon (USA)
General view of the Sims-Dudley gun in the stowed position. Photo by

It should be noted that in the context of the Sims-Dudley project, there is some confusion with dates. Often, the year 1898 is indicated as the period for creating a gun, when the inventors filed an application for obtaining patents, both for the entire structure and for its individual units. However, in the fall of 1896, i.e. almost two years before filing documents - two Sims-Dudley guns were first used in battles. Thus, it can be said with certainty that the development of a new dynamite gun project was completed no later than the first months of 1896. The reasons for the late filing of patent applications are unfortunately unknown. For some reasons, D. Dudley and US Sims decided to patent their own and joint inventions only a few years after their creation.

As the basis for further development, an existing project of a dynamite gun was chosen using the so-called. blast chamber. This concept meant loading the projectile and propellant charge into different units of the gun, connected with a set of pipes. Due to the increased internal space of the gun, the powder gases from the propellant charge had to lose some energy before forcing the projectile to move along the barrel. In the original project, the barrel was located above the explosion chamber and parallel to the pipe running to it, because of which the gun was quite large and heavy.

The overall layout of the product. Patent drawing

In the framework of collaboration D. Dudley and U.S. Sims planned to improve the design of a promising gun, as well as reduce its size and weight, which allowed to count on the practical use of the army. All this led to the need for serious processing of all the main units of the gun, as well as to change some features of its layout. In addition, part of the units had to be re-designed, taking into account the convenience of practical use. According to the results of such works, the appearance of the gun was formed, which had a significant similarity with the traditional designs of the time. Nevertheless, despite some external similarities, in terms of design and operating principles, the Sims-Dudley gun was a completely new development.

The design of the body of the gun was as simple as possible. The tool consisted of two tubular units and some other nodes. The upper tube was a barrel, necessary for working with the projectile, and the lower one was an explosion chamber. Between themselves, the barrel and the camera were connected by several clamps, a device with trunnions for mounting on a carriage, as well as a special block of valves. Due to the relatively low recoil force, the gun did not need an anti-recoil device. She also did not receive complex guidance systems, etc. aggregates.

According to some information, at first a prototype gun with a different composition of aggregates was built. In this case, two tubular blasting chambers were placed to the right and left of the barrel. Nevertheless, as the available materials and documents show, such an arrangement has not received further development. A system with vertical placement of the barrel and camera was brought to use in practice.

Placement of artillery units and guidance systems. Patent drawing

One of the main parts of the gun was a smooth barrel caliber 2,5 inch (63,5 mm) of relatively large length. In its place, the barrel was held in several parts connected to other units of the gun. The breech had a thread to connect with the block valves. According to some data, the calculated decrease in pressure in the channel has allowed to simplify the design of the barrel and reduce the thickness of its walls. At the same time, the barrel had sufficient strength to hold itself in the required position on its own and did not need additional supporting devices, as was the case with other dynamite tools.

The explosion chamber of the Sims-Dudley gun (in the new project it was also referred to as the “combustion tube”) was also not very complex. It was a metal cylinder with a thread on the back, through which it was connected to the block valves. At the front end of the chamber there was a large screw for mounting the collar supporting the barrel. During the final assembly of the cannon, the rear part of the “combustion tube” was to be put on a tube of smaller diameter that served as a chamber for the propellant charge. Like the blast chamber itself, the tube was attached to the gate block.

Drawing of the bolt from the patent for the gun

For the connection of the breech parts of the barrel and the explosion chamber, a new type of cannon received a block of valves of the original design, which was responsible for the correct operation of all the means and the firing. Its main detail was a large metal case of complex shape. In cross section, this block was a part with a cross section formed by three circles of different sizes. The upper enlarged part of the product was connected to the barrel, the lower - to the "combustion tube" and the charging chamber. Also in the block of locks fastenings for other devices were provided. The cavities located behind the breech breech and the explosion chamber were connected to each other by a channel of the desired cross section.

On the left surface of the block-case there was a box-shaped casing with guides for supporting the valves. This system allows you to move the means of locking the barrel and the camera along the longitudinal axis of the gun. In addition, there was a handle to divert bolts away from the breech of the gun.

It was proposed to lock the barrel and the explosion chamber using our own piston-type valves. For locking the conical closures had sector cutting. Both bolts were mounted on a common yoke, inside which there was a gear wheel. The wheel, placed between the valves, was connected with the axis of the control handle, and was also in contact with the teeth mounted on the valves. By rotating the handle, the artilleryman could lock or unlock both gun chambers. The clip of gates was connected to the withdrawal mechanisms located on the left surface of the breech of the gun. Thus, turning one handle and pulling the other, the calculation could rest the barrel and the “burning tube”, and then take the bolts aside to perform the reloading.

A more detailed scheme of the breech of the patent for the gate

The upper bolt, responsible for locking the barrel, had a fairly simple design and consisted of several main parts. The lower one differed from it by the presence of a firing mechanism. Inside the conical part of the gate, which is included in the block-housing, there was a cavity for the striker and his combat spring. The shank of the firing pin was connected to the handle on the back of the bolt. When the mechanism was cocked, the handle with the hammer was retracted to the rear position and locked in it with a special pin. The head of the latter had a ring and went beyond the closure cage. It was proposed to carry out the descent using a cord tied to a pin and passed through a hook on the holder.

In the original project, Sims-Dudley offered a rather simple carriage for transporting and using the gun. It was necessary to use a wooden-metal structure, which was based on a frame with free space in the central part. In front of the frame there were axles for mounting the wheels and mounting for the gun axles. Horizontal guidance was proposed to implement the rotation of the instrument, and for the vertical provided gear mechanism on the basis of the wheel with a collar and a handle and a curved part attached to the body of the gun. At the rear of the carriage there were means for towing and fastening for an additional wheel axle. As a part of the mast, it was proposed to use large-diameter spoke wheels, similar to those used in other structures of that time.

Aggregates breech responsible for moving the valves. Patent drawing

For a new type of gun, special ammunition and propelling charges were developed. Attacking the target was proposed using an unusual-shaped projectile. He received a cylindrical body with a streamlined head. A stabilizer consisting of several flat planes installed at an angle to the axis, or two spiral-shaped parts forming several turns, was to be mounted on the hemispherical tail section of the body. Due to the lack of rifling in the barrel, the stabilization of the projectile in flight had to be carried out by an aerodynamic method.

At the head of the projectile was placed shock blaster. The rest of the body cavity was filled with explosive - the so-called. nitrogelatin. The 63,5 mm caliber projectile had a total length of 18 inches (457,2 mm) and weighed 10 pounds (4,54 kg). The mass of the charge was 5 pounds (2,27 kg). The weight and power of the explosive made it possible to achieve a significant superiority over the existing artillery pieces in terms of impact on the target.

For acceleration and ejection of the projectile it was proposed to use a projectile charge of the original design. In a tubular sleeve, it ranged from 7 to 9 ounces (198-255 g) of gunpowder. In the bottom of the sleeve there was a primer for ignition. The liner was closed with a burning wad to prevent loss of charge during transportation.

An early version of the gun with the horizontal placement of the units and its ammunition. Figure Wikimedia Commons

The Sims-Dudley dynamite cannon was noticeably different in terms of size from similar powder systems. At the same time, the growth of dimensions was still acceptable and allowed to exploit it. weapon in the army. The total length of the gun along with the gun carriage reached 14 feet (4,25 m). The total weight is about 1000 pounds (over 450 kg).

The Sims-Dudley gun was not only different in its original design, but also in an unusual way of preparing for shooting. After arriving at the position, the calculation was to detach the extra wheels and place the gun, orienting it with regard to the horizontal aiming at the target. Having completed the preliminary training, the gunners had to unlock the barrel and the explosion chamber with the help of two common handles, and then take the bolts to the side. In the breech breech should put a projectile, pushing it by the channel connecting the main parts of the gun. A sleeve with a propelling charge was placed in the inner tube of the explosion chamber. Further, the valves returned to the place and locked. After cocking the trigger, a shot could be fired.

General view of the Sims-Dudley gun. Photo

Removing the blocking pin allowed the hammer to initiate the ignition of the propellant charge with the formation of a large amount of powder gases. Coming out of the tubular charging chamber through the open front end, the gases entered the explosion chamber and expanded there, partially losing energy. Then the gases had to reach the channel connecting the chamber with the barrel bore. Under the influence of the reduced pressure of the powder gases, the projectile began to move, picked up speed and went towards the target.

According to reports, an unusual way of throwing a projectile allowed us to get the initial speed at the level of 600 feet per second (more than 180 m / s). The effective firing range was 1000 yards (914 m). The 10-pound projectile with 5 pounds of nitro-gelatin provided a noticeable superiority over the existing powder ammunition in terms of impact power on the target.

The design of the dynamite gun was completed by D. Dudley and U.S. Sims no later than the start of 1896. New weapons built and tested at the site. The gun interested the military, resulting in the appearance of an order for the assembly and supply of 16 products of a new type. Soon the army was transferred several guns of the first batch. Over the next few months, the order was completed in full, which allowed the US Army to begin the full-fledged development of the latest weapons.

View of the breech. Photo

In the fall of 1896, the Sims-Dudley gun was the first to participate in hostilities. Since February, 95 has been fighting in Cuba between local fighters for independence and the metropolis of Spain. The United States considered it necessary to support Cuba in its struggle, which led to economic and military-technical assistance. Among other things, in the autumn of 1896, two dynamite guns of the new type were handed over to Cuban rebels. In early October, this weapon was first used in battle.

The 3 and 4 of October rebel troops used American-made guns in the battles of Cécha del Negro and Mount Guamo. As American newspapers later wrote, the newest weapons caused serious damage to Spanish troops, and also became one of the main factors that allowed Cuban soldiers to win. Notes on the first combat use of a dynamite gun included brief descriptions of the gun itself and its ammunition. In addition, published pictures depicting the new system.

The second case of the combat use of Sims-Dudley guns took place only a few years later. In the first half of July, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, into which the Cuban War of Independence passed, US troops blocked the city of Santiago de Cuba. Among other units, the 1 th regiment of the United States Volunteer Cavalry, which was armed with several of the latest dynamite guns, participated in the operation. During the attempts to break through the enemy defenses, the regiment's fighters, nicknamed the “Courageous Riders” (Rough Riders), used dynamite guns several times.

Shutters open. Photo

The shooting results were generally successful. The guns were sent to the targets rather powerful projectiles, but did not differ in high range and accuracy of fire. At the same time, the weapon was much quieter than the artillery systems, which did not allow the enemy to identify the attack and start return fire. As a result, the use of the original instrument had mixed results. The commander of the 1 regiment of the volunteer cavalry and the future president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, noted that he had treated the new weapon without enthusiasm. However, he still recognized the Sims-Dudley guns more effective than gunpowder artillery.

In late July of the same year, an American landing force landed on Fr. Puerto Rico. Soon, US troops occupied a large part of the island, pushing out the army of Spain. Interestingly, during these battles, which lasted only a few days, the American army lost only five people killed and 28 wounded. Success in one of the battles of this campaign was associated with the use of dynamite guns.

Shutters unassembled. Photo

The Sims-Dudley gun was in possession of the 4 of the Ohio regiment of the volunteer cavalry, and the command did not save the resource of the weapon. During the battle of the city of Guayama in the South-East of Puerto Rico, the regiment artillery used their weapons against the Spanish battery. There were only five shots, after which the enemy ceased resistance.

The battle of Guayama was the last combat episode in the short career of the Sims-Dudley dynamite guns. By the beginning of the 20th century, noticeable progress was made in the field of artillery, associated with the development of new explosives and compositions of propelling agents. In this regard, in 1900, the dynamite guns were declared unpromising, but they did not immediately write off. Operation of the 16 guns continued until about the end of the decade. After that, the weapon was decommissioned and sold out for disposal.

One of the dynamite guns D. Dudley and U.S. Sims was acquired by New York businessman Francis Bannerman, and after the change of owner she became an exhibition model. In the future, this product has become a curious hero. stories.

Ammunition for the gun. A, B, C, D are the elements of the fuse, H is the shell of the projectile, F and G are the elements of the liner with a propelling charge. Photo

In 1909, T. Roosevelt, together with members of the Smithsonian Institution, organized a research expedition to Africa. The following year, the expedition members returned home, a parade in New York was dedicated to their return. During this event, T. Roosevelt noticed a dynamite cannon of a familiar model. The Courageous Horsemen present at the parade gave the last honors to the gun. The fate of the decommissioned instrument is unknown. Probably later, under certain circumstances, it went to the smelting as superfluous.

According to reports, only two copies of the dynamite gun designed by D. Dudley and US have survived to this day. Sims Both unique exhibits are kept in the museums of Cuba. The remaining 14 guns that were exploited in the United States appeared to be lost shortly after being written off and sold.

In June, 1898, US Sims filed two applications for patents relating to the overall design of a promising weapon and the original system of the bolt block. Documents with numbers US619025 and US619026 were issued in February of the following year. For unknown reasons, the name of Dana Dudley in the patents for these developments was absent.

Transportation of dynamite guns by rail during the war with Spain. Photo

During the joint work, two American gunsmiths successfully solved a number of problems that had plagued previous projects of dynamite guns. Due to the use and improvement of ideas D. Dudley was able to minimize the dimensions of the finished gun, facilitating its use by the army. The main result of this was the appearance of an order for the release of a batch of 16 guns, later transferred to the troops. A part of the made guns could even take part in real battles.

During the military operation, the relative convenience of using Sims-Dudley guns was confirmed. In addition, the military was satisfied with the possibility of almost silent shooting with a projectile of increased power. Even in the presence of characteristic shortcomings in the form of a short range of fire, etc. guns were of some interest and could be used in real armed conflicts.

However, the story of dynamite guns was coming to an end. Chemists and gunsmiths created new sorts of smokeless powder and blasting explosives, as well as ammunition for them, which made it possible to increase the combat characteristics of traditional artillery without the use of unusual ideas and technical solutions. As a result, it was precisely such systems that were further developed, and dynamite guns were gradually decommissioned. Due to the specific ratio of pluses and minuses, and also due to a significant lag in performance from the latest models, the Sims-Dudley guns were gradually decommissioned. 16 guns of this type remained in history as the first and last dynamite guns in service with the US Army and other countries.

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  1. 0
    24 October 2016 18: 32
    Unfortunately, I missed some of the articles in the cycle ... So, did the dynamite guns remain a purely American concept, or was someone in Europe trying to take them into service?
  2. +1
    25 October 2016 00: 02
    It is interesting how many times the charge for the hole in the bore was not sent. Probably the statistics are modestly silent.

    Thanks to the author.

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