Accordingly in almost the latest experiments that have been made with his guns at Shoeburyness, he succeeded in distancing all competitors as to penetration of armour plates with small projectiles, having driven his 3-inch elongated shot through plates of nearly their own calibre in thickness, and struck out holes with his 70-pounder through the 4.5-inch plates and 18-inch teak backing of the Warrior target; and not only shot, but shells with flat ends, made of homogeneous iron, very thick in proportion to their size, and containing powder alone, without any fuze whatever, were driven through these plates. It was proved that at this immense velocity of impact, the powder is exploded at the instant of the shell passing through the plate, by the concussion, compression, and heat conjointly, evolved by the blow upon the plate, and that at this great residual velocity the effects of the explosion are to a great extent passed on into the interior side of the plate, i.e., into the ship. These are great and brilliant results undoubtedly. The per contra side of the account is, that with any heavy natures of guns, even with the 70-pounder, it is extremely doubtful that any gun can be made to stand uninjured the strain of the explosions to produce these velocities, or therefore to stand more than a few rounds; and to omit all besides, unless a gun be of such a character (whatever be its power) as to give to those who handle it moral confidence, it had better never be at all. The perforations made by the Whitworth projectiles in armour plates at this high velocity, consist of, a nearly clean hexagonal hole, of about the same diameter as the shot, struck through the plate, with parallel sides not quite square to the face, for about 2-3rds through its thickness; the remainder (in an unbacked plate) being a fracture roughly in the shape of a conic frustrum, whose widest base is rather more than double the diameter of the shot. Such apertures, even from a 70-pounder, are mere drill holes, with few splinters from plate or shot, and scarcely any injury to the bolts or other fastenings of the plates; the case is, in fact, an approach, as respects the last, to the old experiment of shooting a candle through a door, without moving it on its hinges; and these clean small holes are easy to plug. In a word, the work is too well done, for the destructive damage to be desired, and is probably more striking as a tour de force, than for any important practical results in warfare to which it will lead.
It is alleged also that Whitworth’s twelve-sided shot dig into even the hard metal of his superbly executed guns at the six leading angles, to a very serious extent, and rapidly weaken them in thickness here, and increase the windage of all natures of them. Having said so much in the exercise of the criticism for which we are called upon, and in which our endeavour is to be impartial, we cannot avoid adding that we do not think Whitworth, so far, has quite had fair play from the War Department; and we have heard with great pleasure that a field battery of his guns, has at length been equipped, for, it is to be hoped, a full and complete course of experiments in all practical directions, in comparison with other systems.
Mr. Whitworth exhibits (2612) –
- 6-pounder muzzle-loader on a field carriage, with Whitworth’s patent elevating sights.
- 6-pounder breech-loader, not mounted, with the beautifully contrived forceps for extracting the remains of the tin cartridge from the gun.
- 1-pounder muzzle-loader, on field carriage.
(All the preceding are of homogeneous metal in single thickness.)
- 32-pounder naval gun, mounted on naval slide carriage. This gun is built up, at the breech part, in three superimposed plies. The inner tube is of homogeneous iron, and the rings of fibrous iron. The gun has double sights.
- Shot and shell of cast-iron of various natures, from 120-pounder down to 1-pounder.
- The moulds and tools for casting them.
- The shot, of tempered steel with flat ends, 70 lbs, that penetrated the 4.5 inch plates of the Trusty floating battery, in May, 1860, or 1861, when fired with a charge of 1/6th its weight.
With a 12-pounder and 1.75 lbs. powder, Whitworth has attained a range at 35° of 10,000 yards, or nearly 6 miles, about the same distance that an old-fashioned musket bullet would go, if in vacuo, at 45° elevation.
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