semi-auto muzzleloader...


April 3, 2013, 09:53 PM
Been thinking of a hypothetical semi-auto muzzleloading submachinegun the last couple days....trying to work it up in my mind if it's even possible.

My idea would consist of sten-type stick magazine with ten holes for .490 balls and a nipple on the back of each. On the back of the stick magazine, would be a rack-and-pinnion type setup that would feed the magazine from right to left and would be operated with a gas piston that would operate the rack-and-pinnion with excess gas pressure going out through a blowoff valve. Since the stick magazine feeds directly out the left side, it would drop out of the carbine and allow you to insert a new magazine from the right and continue.

Wouldn't a larger charge of say 100g of black powder be enough to operate the gas piston and operate the machine?

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April 3, 2013, 10:14 PM
I can see the operation in my head, and the rack-and-pinion type mechanism is interesting and could be made to work.

I think maybe that muzzle loader isnt a term that would apply. Percussion or cap lock would be a better term.

4v50 Gary
April 3, 2013, 10:27 PM
I forgot the maker, but there was a flintlock that was lever action. The powder and balls were stored in the magazine.

When you wanted to reload, you tilted the muzzle down and then turned the lever. That rotated a cylinder that picked up a ball and then upon further rotation, the powder charge. the lever was then rotated forward to deposit the ball and then powder into the barrel.

Imaginably, a flapper device like what Browning experimented with to test his theory on gas operation could make such a flintlock semi-automatic.

The advantage we have today is that we can machine something much tighter than the hand-fitting done by the gunsmiths in the 18th Century.

April 3, 2013, 10:28 PM
in terms of the 'magazine' is what is described as a 'harmonica rifle', which several makers built in the early-mid 1800s.
So far as auto/semiauto function goes (and a semiauto submachinegun is a contradiction in terms, though the real distinction is how many shots may be fired with a single trigger pull): that would be better achieved with recoil operation, permitting the barrel/receiver/'magazine' to recoil, and using a spring to return them to battery. Sideways movement of the magazine to bring a fresh load into alignment with the barrel could be accomplished with a stud fixed to the grip frame and grooves in the body of the 'harmonica'.
Blackpowder produces far too much solid residue to permit gas operation for any long series of shots: the first true machineguns, such as the Maxim, did use blackpowder cartridges and were recoil operated.
Finally, a fully automatic arm, whether using cartridges or not, is likely a prohibited item under GCA34, while a semiautomatic one using non-fixed ammunition would PROBABLY be permissible.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike

April 3, 2013, 10:47 PM
The limitation on machine guns seems to only extend to cartridge firing guns. A gun utilizing loose powder and ball is non-NFA.

April 4, 2013, 02:20 AM
No need for primers, just go electric start :) could even get clever with the barrel and gas tube to act as a transformer to recharge the circuit to augment the next shot. Even if you wanted to go no-battery you could do a pump start to charge the circuit, essentially you would be using a spark plug of some type and it's not that hard of a circuit either mind you.

If you move the powder to the rear stock, say in 1/2 pound units you could measure amounts out to feed the chamber and just need a ball pickup from the magazine. You could potentially out firepower modern rifles with this setup.

I have been toying with this idea for some number of years now. It would not be an impossible project to do but it would turn some serious heads and it would revolutionize the firearm world.

April 4, 2013, 03:20 PM
If you lighten the hammer spring on a percussion revolver enough that blowback from the nipple recocks the hammer and rotates the cylinder, then you will have a fully automatic handgun. I'm told it has happened, but not to me.


April 4, 2013, 08:47 PM

This thread on TFL has a lot of neat stuff. I would love to see someone make a lever action or semi-auto harmonica rifle, using a detatchable "magazine" block with a bunch of chambers in it

4v50 Gary
April 4, 2013, 09:40 PM
Dunno if electric spark will ignite black powder. Plenty of threads on the 'net says it won't.

I'd rather go with a maynard tape primer like the 1855 Springfield had. Perhaps a roll of cap gun caps will do the trick.

April 5, 2013, 01:11 AM
Folks have been experimenting with the concept of side-fed repeating C&B's. Check out this underhammer revamp of the Harmonica Rifle

Your concept of actually using gas pressure runs into the fowling issue. Black powder is just inherently messy stuff. A small blowoff valve is going to get mungled with crud. You'd have to make it big, and that leads to other troubles.

What about a gravity feed? So instead of trying to vent gas off the barrel you have some kind of switch that retracts when the trigger is cocking back, the mag falls one down, catches again and the hammer hits the primer. It would be semi auto but might work if the timing issues could be addressed.

Sam Cade
April 5, 2013, 01:26 AM
I forgot the maker, but there was a flintlock that was lever action.

Cookson or Lorenzoni probably what you are remembering.

April 5, 2013, 08:35 AM
Mormon Pioneer John Browning made harmonica rifles twenty years before the American Civil War with up to 20 round bar "magazines" he himself seemed to think 3 shot was excellent and his customers seemed to like 5 shot the best.

His much better known son John Moses Browning made a working machine gun that became the model 1895 "Potato Digger" that in its proto type models used BP .45-70 quite well.

Perhaps a spigot and swinging lever type gas system such as John Moses's MG might be made to power his Dad's older design or some parts of it with more modern bits tossed in.

If we work hard enough at this we will no doubt have the anit's screaming for muzzle loader control in no time........


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