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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/460

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pletely through four inches and three quarters of compound armor, backed with twenty-four inches of oak, and burst inside the bombproof, while in 1897 fused armor-piercing shells containing wet gun cotton were fired from the six-inch quick-firing gun, with a muzzle velocity of nearly nineteen hundred PSM V56 D0460 Tyndall bell mouthed bronze gun.pngTyndall's Bronze Bell-Mouthed Gun. feet per second, which completely perforated three inches of steel and burst behind the plate. Encouraged by these results, this system was adopted by our army officials, but, on trial in larger calibers at Sandy Hook, it gave rise to premature explosions, and the tale of disaster reached its climax on April 29, 1899, when Captain Stuart, of the Ordnance Corps, was superintending the loading of a twelve-inch torpedo shell with wet gun cotton by compressing it into the shell, for an explosion resulted which killed four men instantly and fatally wounded two others. Captain Stuart being one of them.

The history of the attempts made to use nitroglycerin, dynamite, explosive gelatin, and explosives of this class as bursting charges for shell fired from service guns is even less satisfactory than that given for gun cotton. It is not surprising, therefore, that inventors should have proposed catapults, slings, rotary wheels, and other means for projecting these powerful agents into the enemy's midst, but the Mefford air gun, as mounted on the United States steamship Vesuvius, and the Sims-Dudley gun, in which a reduced charge of powder is fired in a chamber PSM V56 D0460 Reflector in which gun cotton is fired.pngMirror or Reflector in which to fire Gun Cotton. exterior to the gun proper, were deemed to possess sufficient merit to warrant their trial in the field. These devices were employed in the recent war with Spain, the pneumatic guns on the Vesuvius being used to throw shells containing three hundred pounds of gin cotton, while the Sims-Dudley guns were used on land to throw small charges of dynamite or explosive gelatin; but, beyond frightening the enemy by the startling character of their reports, these superficial charges produced no serious effect. There is a widespread misapprehension in regard to the devastating effect of these high explosives, for when unconfined the effect even of large charges of them upon structures is comparatively