Thursday, May 4, 2017

Third Lieutenant Stanley, Firearms Aficionado

In the May 6th, 1940 Vic and Sade episode “Working Out Hank’s Indebtedness",Rush reads a passage from a Third Lieutenant Stanley book. In the book, Lady Margaret is in the direct path of a slithering cobra and Third Lieutenant Stanley acts with authority by quickly dispatching the pesky reptile with his “automatic revolver”.

That phrase caught my attention “..automatic revolver…” I’ve been participating in the Waukesha, Wisconsin Handgun League (WHL) for over 20 years, so I have more than a passing knowledge of firearms. For those that are not aware, an “automatic revolver” is quite a rare bird indeed.

First some background on firearms terminology and history. Some of the first firearms were “single shot”. You loaded them, you fired the shot, and then you re-loaded them. A very slow and tedious process. Think of a pirate gun.

Later the “revolver” came along. This was essentially a gun with 6 or more chambers. As you squeeze the trigger the cylinder rotates, aligning one of these chambers to the barrel. You can shoot six shots quickly but the trigger pull is hard. This is because when you pull the trigger you are rotating the cylinder, cocking the hammer, and then releasing the hammer. The revolver provided for quicker shooting but the hard trigger pull detracted from accuracy. Think of Dirty Harry’s (Clint Eastwood) 44 Magnum Revolver.

Enter the “semi-automatic” pistol. The semi-automatic used some of the energy from the fired round to both cock the hammer and load the next round from a magazine into the chamber. A round is fired every time the trigger is pulled. Since the energy from the shot is used to cock the hammer and load the next round, the trigger pull can be made very light, enhancing accuracy.

Lastly, the “fully-automatic” pistol was developed. In the U.S. these are highly regulated and chances are you’ve only seen them in movies. The fully-automatic pistol uses some of the energy from the fired round to load a round, cock the hammer, and to drop the hammer to fire the next round. The user simply needs to hold back the trigger, and rounds are fired continuously until the trigger is released. Think of an “Uzi” machine pistol.

Notice that there isn’t an “automatic revolver”. I suspect 99 out of 100 folks would consider this an error, a combination of firearm terms that doesn’t make sense. On the contrary, consider the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver. Introduced in 1901, it was the first commercial example of an automatic revolver. Actually, it’s a semi-automatic revolver, but it was common to call semi-automatics as automatics in the early days, since full-automatics weren’t developed yet. The recoil from a fired round would rotate the cylinder by means of a cam. It was well received by target shooters, since the trigger pull was light, as the energy from the fired bullet cocked the hammer and rotated the cylinder. But only 4,750 were produced. It wasn’t a big success and production was ceased in 1924, although it remained in the Webley catalog until 1939 (probably to clear remaining inventory). Today, a Webley-Fosbery would fetch around $13,000 from a gun collector.

So what was Third Lieutenant Stanley doing with such an obscure British firearm? The Webley-Fosbery was never adopted by any army, which makes it even stranger that a third lieutenant would have one (although British officers sometimes supplied their own personal sidearms).

All that I can conclude is that Third Lieutenant Stanley was a firearms aficionado. He was all about accuracy and speed, and in the early 1900’s the Webley-Fosbery was the Lamborghini of guns. It was rare and temperamental, but fast and accurate. Later, semi-automatic pistols came along (e.g. the Colt M1911 semi-automatic, the service sidearm for US forces for many years) making the Webley-Fosbery obsolete.

So assuming that Third Lieutenant Stanley’s adventures occurred in the early 1900’s, this would have been the firearm of choice for a man who knew guns and often used them. Although obscure, it was quick and accurate, perfect for cannibals, counterfeiters, and snakes!

-- Dave in Wisconsin

Monday, May 1, 2017

Broken link fixed!

Oops!  There was a broken link on the recent post: Double Feature in... Wisconsin?  It's been fixed.  Go on and check that out, it's some more fascinating stuff from "Dave in Wisconsin", this time with audio.

I have never been to Boone, Iowa!

Today, I got an awesome Boone, Iowa post card from "Uncle Fletcher".  I have no idea who sent it.  But I would like to tell this person that you made me smile and I thank you!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vic Knows ‘Watt’ He’s Talking About

In the July 11th, 1944 episode, “Don’t Scrape off the Watts!” Sade buys Vic a new light bulb.  It’s supposedly super powerful (1 million volts).  Vic, being a gadget-guy, quickly opens the package and begins to examine it.   He cleans the contacts with his pocket knife.   There’s a lot of discussion about electricity in this episode.  Since I am an electrical engineer, it’s one of my favorites.    Let’s look at that light bulb from the perspective of an engineer.  I am reminded of the Chevy Chase quote, "It was my understanding that there would be no math.”  I know that this may be a dry subject, so I promise to keep the math to a minimum.  
There is a simple law that is the basis for all electrical engineering; it’s called Ohm’s Law.  You’ve heard the terms current, voltage, and resistance.  These terms are all related to each other via Ohms’s Law.  Before I describe Ohm’s Law, consider this analogy:  

You have a garden hose.  “Current” can be considered as the volume of water flowing from the hose.   “Voltage” can be equated to the water pressure.   Put your thumb over the nozzle of the hose and you have “resistance.”   Voltage, or water pressure, is generally fixed.  In the case of the hose, it is fixed by the height of your local water tower.  In the case of electricity, it’s fixed by your local utility.   As your thumb covers more of the nozzle, the resistance is increased and the volume of water coming out of the hose drops.  The same is true with electricity; the more resistance there is to the flow of the current, the less current that will be able to  flow.  

Ohm’s law describes these three concepts:   Voltage (volts) = Current (Amps)  * Resistance (Ohms)   Eqn 1

And electrical Power is simply:    Power (Watts) = Voltage (Volt)  *  Current (Amps)    Eqn 2

Changing any one the terms in these equations will result in the other terms changing as well, to keep the equations balanced.

In your home, the voltage at the outlets are fixed at 120 Volts.   What Vic is doing by cleaning the lightbulb’s contacts is reducing the resistance, since copper oxide is more resistive than copper.  If the resistance of the contacts goes down, and the voltage is fixed at 120V, then the current must increase to satisfy Ohm’s law (Eqn 1).  
With the current increased and the voltage fixed at 120V, the power dissipated in the bulb must be larger to satisfy Eqn 2.  More power results in a brighter light.  

Vic, per usual, knows exactly what he’s doing.  Cleaning the contacts will result in a brighter bulb.  Vic explains it better than I can, “I wanna make these contact points shine up good and bright, that way more electricity can get through an’ we’ll have a brighter light.”

Sade is completely lost on this topic and has no concept of electricity.  Sade’s lack of interest in learning about how things work (recall that she had no interest in understanding how her wash machine worked either) is disappointing to me, but I see this mindset frequently in my personal life.  Russel gets it, but his conversion from horsepower to Watts is inaccurate.  One horsepower is equal to 756 Watts, not 764 Watts.

This episode ends with a sort of sappy appreciation of Sade—maybe a little too sappy.  My mother, although not technically inclined, was always interested in learning and trying technical things.  I recall that she once attempted to work on her car and filled her radiator overflow reservoir with windshield washer fluid.  After realizing her mistake, my father convinced her that we’d have to turn the car upside-down to get it out!

-- Dave from Wisconsin
Wisconsin Professional Engineering License No. 26150-6
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