Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/622

This page has been validated.

tain point. Then the casting is withdrawn and allowed to get cold more gradually. A regular and crystalline structure is in this way produced, which has none of the defects of ordinary bronze. It is a moot point whether phosphorus enters into the composition at all. Chemists tell us they can find no trace of it, but this is no absolute proof that a small percentage of the element was not originally contained in the alloy, being burned out after it had done its work of harmonizing the two metals. The inventor is rather reticent on the point, but in any case it is very certain that he produces a uniform and homogeneous alloy of a hard, crystalline nature.

One other expedient Uchatius has recourse to in making his cannon. When he has cast his gun and chilled it, he proceeds to dilate the bore. Wedges of steel, shaped in the form of cones, are forced into the tube of the gun one after another, until the calibre of the weapon has been increased by something like seven or eight per cent. This expansion or dilation of the tube has not only the effect of hardening or steeling the core, but also of rendering the gun more elastic and capable of resisting more effectually the strain put upon it at the moment of firing. The gun, after this process, is in a state of elastic tension, and it is said that there is a pressure from without, inward, equal to that which was exerted to dilate the gun in the first instance; and that this is actually the case can scarcely be doubted, since it is a fact that a section of the gun, before being quite severed, will tear itself loose with considerable violence, and will be found on separation to have partially returned to its former calibre.

So far as practical trials have been conducted with the weapon, the Austrian Government have every reason to be satisfied with the Uchatius gun, which compares favorably with the Krupp steel cannon in the matter of accuracy and durability; while, as regards its cost, it is far cheaper than any other rifled ordnance. A steel field-piece costs upward of £100, even when not protected with rings, while the iron-steel weapon, manufactured in this country, costs about £70 sterling; the steel-bronze cannon of General von Uchatius, on the other hand, are made for £35 apiece.

In construction, the Austrian gun is so similar to that of Herr Krupp, of Essen, that the latter claimed compensation for an infringement of his patent when the manufacture of the Uchatius gun was first commenced. The Essen works, our readers may know, supply not only Germany with steel breech-loaders, but have provided the present belligerents with all their modern artillery. Russia has still many brass cannon on hand, and Turkey a goodly number of Armstrongs, but both powers mainly depend upon their steel Krupps. These stood the German army in such good stead during the last war that their reputation is firmly established. They are of crucible steel, and the breech, instead of being upon a hinge, or in the form of a block, moves round in a D-shaped socket, the escape of gas being further prevented by rings of phosphor-copper.