Long Island, NY Matinicock Point Dudley Power Pneumatic Gun Explodes, Apr 1896
Nothing could have been more satisfactory to the Sims-Dudley Defense Company, or as convincing to the official experts and such of the spectators as understood the powder-pheumatic gun than all that occurred up to the time when the experimenets with the live shells were ended.
The weather could not have been more deliciously vernal, and Matinicock Point, hand by Dosoris, Charles A. Dana’s delightful island home, is a charming spot, once part of the vast estate of Gen. James B. Pearsall, and now owned by Leonard Jacob, a retired partner in the firm of Lord & Taylor.
The Board of Ordinance and Fortification, who came to make the official test, consisted of Gen. Miles, President; Col. Royal T. Frank, Col. Peter C. Hains, Major Phipps, and Judge Joseph H. Outhwaite, with Capt. J. C. Ayres Recorder. The Navy Department was represented by Capt. W. T. Sampson, Chief of the Bureau of Ordinance, and Prof. P. R. (illegible)ger.
Others on the ground were Gen. G. W. Wingate, Director; Everett Frazar, President; W. Scott Sims, General Manager; E. W. Frazar, Treasurer; H. P, Elwell, consulting engineer of the defense company; Prof. R. S. Penniman of the Atlantic Cynamite Company, H. P. Merriam, C. H. Woodruff, Leonard Jacob, and Gen. James B. Pearsall.
The gun may be described as the Zalinsky pneumatic gun without the auxiliary of a power house to generate or furnish the propelling force. In other words, the force is generated in the gun, so that it is an independent unit, loaded, served, aimed and fired precisely as an ordinary powder gun, and requiring no accessories whatever.
The Arm consisted mainly of three tubes one central, fifteen feet long, which is the discharging tube, having an independent breech, with the usual locking arrangement, and two sides of the tubes, each ten feet long, parallel to the centre one. The right of the side tubes has, like the central one, an independent breech, with locking gear. The breech of the central tube receives the projectile, that of the right side tube the fixed ammunition for propelling the projectile. The right side tube at its end continues in an elbow under the central tube to the left side tube, so that on the ignition of the discharging powder powder, the air between the powder chamber of the right side tube is compressed to the end of the left side tube, and the developed force is exerted through apertures at the base of the projectile. The principle is akin to that of engines that run by ignition of explosion.
The gun weighs 1,300 pounds, and the mounting 750 pounds. The central tube, of brass, weighs 260 pounds, and the metal is three-eights of an inch thick. The side tubes are of wrought iron, five-eighths of an inch thick. The diameter of the discharging tube is 4 inches, and of the side tubes 3 inches.
Of the many excellent points of this handy and easily transported gun – it can be rapidly taken to pieces by one wrench – are the ease and quickness with which it can be sighted absence of fouling and absence of any accident, although 160 rounds have been fired from it, up to-day.
For the crucial test, five shells had been prepared. The casing was of brass, and the fuses the Merriam. The length over all was 52 inches, but a winged tail, with vanes, to give a rotary motion, took up much of this measurement. Each shell weighed thirty-two pounds. The bursting charge was thirteen pounds of explosive gelatine. The igniting charge was thirty grains of fulminate of mercury and fifty grains of dry gun cotton.
Shot No. 1 was the fuse arranged for a delay of one second after impact. The elevation of the gun was 22°, and the range one mile and a quarter out in the Sound, with the wind behind the projectile. The future of the gun was assured on this shot, as the accident afterward in no way changed the opinion of any as to the merit of the arm.
When the lanyard was pulled the gun sounded and out came the shell. There was not a wobble to it as it soared over the water, and the line was absolutely true. The detonation was just as to timing, and the fall in thirty feet of water sent up a high column. The pressure gauge registered 850 pounds, and the velocity was a little short of 700 feet a second.
Shot No. 2 had the same encouraging and convincing result. The fuse was set for instantaneous action, and the flash when impact occurred was magnificent. The detonations was crashing, and the echo lasted half a minute.
Shots three and four were “dead” as to explosion. The fuses were set for three seconds, but the “meal” powder or “delaying” powder, did not act properly, and there were no explosions while the flight of the projectiles was perfect.
Shot 5 was as complete a success as Nos. 1 and 2. The fuse was set for one seconds and the explosion threw up both a column of water and one of mud.
A consessus (sic) of opinion was that the Dudley gun did as much as has ever been claimed for any pneumatic gun with costly, cumbersome, and multiplies auxiliaries, and that it excelled in the perfect, even, and true course of the live shells it launched.
All the live shells were discharges by the energy developed by fifteen ounces of Dupont square-scale smokeless powder.
New York Times, New York, NY 14 Apr 1896