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NEWS OF 150 YEARS AGO

November-December 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, November 6, 1861.

Is the Armstrong Gun a Failure?

The London Mechanics’ Magazine maintains, that the Armstrong gun has proved a signal failure, notwithstanding the denial of its previous statements by Mr. Baring, under Secretary of War. “Recent events,” observes our cotemporary, “have not only fully demonstrated the rectitude of our own statements, but placed the defects of the Armstrong gun in still more prominent colors.” These alleged defects are the following: In the event of firing as rapidly as the necessities of warfare require, heat is rapidly transmitted to the mass of the gun, so that the delicate screw arrangements and breech pieces no longer fit into each other as before. So readily does this change take place, that before the thirtieth round has been fired, the piece becomes useless; even an enormous escape of gas is noticed before firing the twentieth round. The pressure of the gas on the vent piece is such that it exceeds the cohesive strength of any known material of which guns are made; and hence the vent pieces are either broken into fragments or bent so completely out of shape as to render the gun unserviceable. The Magazine further states that during experiments made on board the Trusty, no fewer than nine pieces were thus destroyed on a single gun, which was thus rendered useless until it could be repaired. In another case fifty rounds destroyed four of those pieces, requiring eight hours to replace them and make the necessary repairs. At this rate of going, the gun could in effect fire only one shot in sixteen minutes! Still another objection to the use of this invention arises from the composition of the shot and shell, which consists of iron coated with lead. Each forms, consequently, when exposed to moisture, a regular voltaic pile. Hence it is found that, in a short time, the lead exfoliates from the ball, owing to atmospheric influences alone. The transportation of those missiles in such a condition is alleged to have caused considerable loss of life to the English army in the late Chinese war. If these statements turn out to be correct, of which we see little doubt, it will be seen that Armstrong has not invented such a strong arm as most persons had given him credit for producing.

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