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Re: Indeed curiouser!

December 27 2009 at 5:52 AM
David Reasoner 

Response to Indeed curiouser!

AAC also produced a short-barrel 37mm aircraft gun, based on an earlier Puteaux design. The following is from The Machine Gun - History, Evolution, and Development of Manual, Automatic, and Airborne Repeating Weapons by George M. Chinn, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC:

"When the mania for "shell gun" mounting in planes was at its peak on the Continent and the revival of interest in air-borne cannon made the military authorities of all countries review what armament their own air forces had available, the American Armament Co., of New York City, announced in 1933 the development of a 37-mm automatic cannon designed primarily for aviation armament.

The director of the company, Mr. I. J. Miranda, and its chief engineer, Mr. B. P. Joyce, who claimed to have designed the weapon, not only made many trips abroad to interest major powers seeking just such an automatic arm but also made many claims for their weapons that were seized upon by writers for various aviation magazines and ordnance publications. Mr. W. S. Shackleton, of London, who was the firm's foreign representative, also published numerous articles on the virtues of this 37-mm automatic aircraft cannon.

The air-cooled, clip-fed weapon used long recoil for operation, and its rate of full automatic fire was 60 shots a minute, with a ridiculously low muzzle velocity of 1,200 feet a second. This is not surprising when the mechanism is examined closely and compared with others already in existence. For, notwithstanding the manufacturing claim that the mechanism was new in principle and was designed "just for aircraft," it goes back to World War I, being nothing more or less than a conversion for air use of the Puteaux cannon developed both in the United States and abroad.

The first country to become interested in the gun was Poland. It was not impressed by the low muzzle velocity and contracted with the American Armament Co. on the condition that the speed of the projectile be substantially increased. The Polish Government posted a bond with a neutral agent equal to the cost of manufacture and demonstration of the weapon. This would be turned over to the company if the tests were successful. The agreement stipulated that muzzle velocity and ballistics would be improved. At the trials in Poland in competition with the antiquated C. O. "W. gun, then made by the Vickers Co., the English-made weapon consistently outshot the American product. It was also demonstrated that the muzzle velocity had not been increased one particle and the Poles ordered return of the bond. The next venture was with Italy with results that were comparable with the earlier failure.

About the only real accomplishment of the weapon was to mislead the American public into thinking this country had an automatic aircraft cannon that was superior to that of any other country in the world. Practically every aviation magazine or ordnance publication contained artists' conceptions of huge aircraft armed with the gun, firing both from fixed positions in the wings and in power-driven turrets. In reality, little or no improvement over the Puteaux, of which it was a close copy, can be found.

The limited number that were manufactured were made in two models, M and F. The M represented a weapon adapted for turret or movable use. The F was for fuselage or fixed installations.

To fire the American Armament cannon, the chambering of the first round requires the efforts of two men. It is a very clumsy operation since the breech must be opened by a special tool which moves the pinion on the breech operating shaft. After the cartridge is chambered, it is fired by percussion, a striker hitting the firing pin a smart blow. The barrel and its extension then recoil together a distance greater than the over-all length of the loaded round. At this time the breech is unlocked by the camming down of the lock. The barrel and breech lock start toward battery while the extractor attached to the carrier remains seared to the rear.

When the barrel assembly is a half inch from the battery position, the sear holding the carrier is released and this assembly starts home. The feed system, which holds a clip of five cartridges, consists of a recoil-operated cage which rotates to feed the rounds through an opening in the loading tray. The carrier picks up the positioned cartridge and the extractor snaps over the rim as it chambers. The final movement forward of the carrier cams up the breech lock and the weapon is ready to repeat the cycle.

After much paper promotion and exaggerated factory claims this gun disappeared from existence shortly before World War II, but not before it had caused a great deal of interest both here and abroad. It was hardly possible to find any prominent aviation magazine of the day that did not show a sketch of an American plane with this weapon in both fixed and flexible mounting.

The company manual sent to prospective customers on the care, use, and handling of the American Armament automatic cannon devoted many pages to the potentialities of its devastating fire. Particular attention was called to the ease of its operation, said to require the services of just one man. A direct quote from the booklet permits the reader to determine whether the company was really serious in describing this allegedly simple feat or whether the gunner was some form of contortionist seeking another hazardous occupation for a livelihood.

"The gunner is seated facing one side of the gun and with his eye at the sight at all times. With his left hand he operates the elevating hand wheel whilst with his right hand he traverses the piece by means of a traversing hand wheel. He fires the gun with his left foot while his right foot works the breech pedal that is used to lock the gun in traverse, releasing the right hand to feed clips of ammunition to the magazine."

Regardless of the performance of the gun, any gunner who could accomplish so many things simultaneously would have made a fortune in public exhibitions."

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  • Thanks - nuyt on Dec 27, 2009
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