TALES OF THE GUNSTORE! Darwin Awards in the making.

 So yesterday we’re working at the gunshop when a couple of gentlemen come into the shop, wanting to buy some blackpowder.  I tell them that we don’t sell reloading supplies (yet).  I then start telling them where they can get some locally, or the best places to buy it online.

They say that they’re going to need hundreds of pounds of it, and they need it today.  I tell them that most places don’t stock that much on hand, and I then asked what they were doing. 

Well… it turns out that they just built a cannon.  It had a 2″ bore.  They told me that they were going to go shoot it today, and that since they needed 1/2 pound of blackpowder, PER SHOT, that it would add up pretty quick.

You know that sound that a record makes when it skips.  Yeah, I heard that noise in my brain.

“1/2 pound, per shot?”

“Yeah, that’s what somebody told us.” 

“Are you sure you’re not mixing up pounds and ounces?  Or maybe some other unit of measurement?”

“Nope.  This guy we saw at the range told us that’s what he loads his with.”

Okay, let me break this down for the non-physicists in the audience.  That’s enough powder to blow their cannon, and whoever’s setting it off, into smoking fragments of steel and meat.  I suggest that their measurement might be mistaken.  But nope, that’s what some guy at the range told them, so that’s what they were going to do.  Today.  As soon as they found some powder.

By the way, they ask, since they just built this thing, is it legal to have?  See, they weren’t really sure.

Well, I don’t know.  It’s a blackpowder cannon, so I knew they were different than modern Destructive Devices. So I get PvtPyle, because he’s the NFA expert.  They say that they’re not worried about it, because though they have it, they haven’t shot it yet, so just like a homemade machine gun, you can have it, just don’t shoot it.  (which by the way, isn’t how it works, at all, in fact mere possession of an unregistered machine gun or destructive device = a mandatory 10 years in prison). 

So not only had these guys home constructed a weapon that they weren’t even sure was legal, and they were about to load it with enough powder to kill them all, one of my regular customers started asking them about their design.  This regular customer actually knows about cannons. 

Apparently their design was backwards, and dangerous too.  The point that was susceptible to the highest pressures was made of the weakest materials. The Regular then pointed out that they would need to clear the barrel of residue after each shot, and they were like “Really?  We didn’t know that.”  Because you know, not blowing yourself up while you’re trying to load volitile explosives down a hot sparky bore is not really worthy of any forethought.

So PvtPyle gave them a breakdown of how destructive device laws work, and also pointed out what some of the grain weights were for various cannons.  I’m not really sure if any of this sank in at all. Partially because I’m pretty sure they had all been drinking.   Because nothing mixes with homemade, overloaded, ill-designed, questionably legal cannons, better than some Thunderbird.

They left, promising that they would actually do a little bit of research before shooting it. 

Wow.  Just… wow. 

19 Responses

  1. I guess I’ll need to Google news from Utah and look for police responding to a large explosion and finding some remains.

  2. I believe that’s called natural selection.

  3. [...] TALES OF THE GUNSTORE! Darwin Awards in the making.Oh, man. Larry gets some good ones: They say that they’re going to need hundreds of pounds of it, and they need it today. I tell them that most places don’t stock that much on hand, and I then asked what they were doing. [...]

  4. Geez, I’d be tempted to sell them a few pounds of Bullseye or Titegroup and tell them it would work just like blackpowder, but they might want to use a full pound – just to be sure. Just a little extra chlorine in the gene pool.

  5. I’ve had two recurring sayings rolling off of my tongue since I went into the Law Enforcement and Security field almost 15 years ago.

    ” The sheer stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me.”

    “The human gene pool really needs some bleach.”

    Those two morons really take the cake.

  6. When Guy Fawkes decided to try and blow up Parliament, he planted 1800 pounds of gunpowder in the basement. It’s estimated that this would have destroyed not only Parliament, but probably leveled much of the surrounding area, including at least part of Westminster Abbey.

    The amount of gunpowder these guys wanted to put into the cannon for each shot was 1/720 of that. Doesn’t sound like much, until you realize you’re talking about blowing up 1/720 of a building that contains 1200 rooms, 100 stone staircases and 2 miles of hallway, plus anything else in the general area.

    Some people’s children…

  7. Remember, remember
    the seventh of April
    Blackpowder cannon and plot…

  8. There is an applicable saying that I recall from my newspaper days…

    If it weren’t for stupid people, we’d be out of work.

  9. Of course, black powder for cannons is a different granulation and formulation than black powder for guns, so you recommended, Oh I give up. just set up your umbrella when you hear the bang.

    On behalf of MHI, I award ye the Wile E. Coyote award for super genius.

    [hands bronze coated plastic trophy of said coyote timidly cowering under an umbrella with a large rock suspended over his head.]

  10. that award goes to the cannon builders of course.

  11. Muzzle-loading cannon are not DDs … but jesus, what a bunch of idjits.

    I assume their “cannon” was designed like a pipe-bomb with one open end?

    They should have someone with a telephoto lens camera post mpgs for us after their first attempt.

  12. I used to work with a guy who had a cannon he made. He was a machinist who had also worked at one of the arms manufacturers, so he knew a bit about what he was doing. He used to take his out past the Great Salt Lake, chain it to a concrete block, and shoot 2″ ball bearings. He used nowhere NEAR a half pound of black powder.

  13. I usually tell people that they’ll be lucky if the only effect their homemade cannon has in to render them unable to order ten beers in a noisy bar.

  14. Tell them to keep it to Spud Guns

    http://www.spudtech.com/

  15. If you are really interested in this stuff, talk to these folks and learn how to do it right:

    http://www.americanartillery.org/

    Dixie gun works still sells 10 lb mt howitzer tubes and carriage plans …

  16. http://www.docsmachine.com/nonPB/mortar.html

    Three _ounces_ to launch a bowling ball. Thats a bit less then .5lBs…

    AE

  17. not only that, but you can’t transfer more than 50 pounds of black powder a day to a person unless they have an ATFE license to manufacture (or deal) in explosives.

    49.5 pounds, yes.

    50, no.

  18. I’m not encouraging idiots to mess around with questionable cannon designs, but, in a properly built cannon, 1/2 a pound of powder in a 2″ bore is not necessarilly excessive.

    Most of the BP cannons people build are howitzers or mortars, which by both virtue of construction, and bore length are not used with large charges. If one build an gun-type weapon instead, the charge weight can go quite a bit higher for bore diameter.

    Example: The 3″ bore civil war ordinance rifle used a 1lb charge. (construction was about 800lbs of wraught iron). The mountain howizter was 45/8″ bore, and only used 1/2lb of powder. (construction was ~200lb of bronze, with half the barrel length of the ordinance rifle).

    So with a decent design, and moden steel, say 4140, you could build a 2″ rifle that used 1/2lb of powder a shot, and probably would only weigh 300-400lbs. That doesn’t mean that any random idiot can do it, but thta 1/2lb is not necessarilly insane for a 2″ bore.

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