Monday, 7 January 2013

Varangian Arms: Sophia

"Mad Science" means never stopping to ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?"
–Schlock Mercenary 
A firearm is a confluence of many fields of science and technology: chemistry (for the propellant), metallurgy/materials science (for the substances used in manufacture), mechanics (for moving parts), physics (for the ballistics of the projectile), biomechanics (for the actual ergonomics/handling of it), (arguably) psychology and neuroscience (for how the person handling it actually thinks and treats it), and perhaps one day, electronics (if electronics come to displace many of the old fashioned mechanical systems). I am proud to announce a series of posts for weaponry designed as more novelties for hobbyists, researchers, movie/stage props, and "firing range toys" more than actual tools for combat or defense. In the words of Cave Johnson, "Science isn't about why, it's about why not."

You may have heard of the WikiWeapon project to create an open source, 3D printable firearm, but "open source" development of weapons without conventional patents is not a new concept. I figure the zeitgeist may be right for open source weaponry and concepts. The manufacture of the first weapons pre-dates the modern concept of intellectual properties by thousands of years. Likewise, some designs are simple to manufacture and replicate with basic tools, such that a patent cannot be easily enforced. For instance, the Kalashnikov family of weapons has long since become the de facto open source platform in the developing world, churned out in places like Khyber Pass workshops by the dozens.

So, without further delay, I would introduce you to Varangian Arms: Weapons designed for aesthetics, novelty, and curiosity rather than self defense or combat. This makes them more suitable (as stated before) as stage props, oddities for a gun range, and glorified science projects. From steampunky anachronisms to futuristic designs, Varangian Arms is based on historical, obscure, and interesting designs. If anyone out there actually designs one of the Varangian projects on CAD or actually builds the thing, I have one request: that it be put under an Open Hardware license. The abuse of intellectual property laws by rent-seeking media companies and patent trolls is something I find annoying. A few other common sense things: Obey local ordinances and policies regarding the use of these designs, since these are more science projects. Varangian Arms designs are deliberately unsuitable for criminals and spree killers. Also, avoid infringing on existing patents, since an army of angry lawyers is the last thing any field needs.

The first Varangian Arms design is a cyberpunk inspired firearm called "Sophia," specifically a re-imagining of the revolver. The Greek word for "Wisdom" ironically describes a confluence of bizarre innovations used in revolvers. Sophia would be a suitable sidearm for a science fiction character, perhaps a detective or mad scientist. "Sophia" is inspired heavily by the designs of Emilio Ghisoni, such as the Mateba Model 6 Unica and Chiappa Rhino. It should have most of the following features (if possible).

1) Most importantly, Sophia has the barrel being located at the bottom "6 o'clock" position instead of the "12 o'clock" position common for revolvers. This makes handling recoil easier, although increases the mechanical complexity. Sophia is NOT an auto-revolver, but instead just a weird "conventional" double action revolver (although it should be able to fire single action).

2) The cylinder has a few quirks on its own. It has the ability to chamber multiple calibers, like the Medusa Model 47, due to claws that lock the bullets into place. It is still designed to withstand the pressures of up to a .357 Magnum shell firing, and has 6 chambers.

3) Another feature is the cylinder slides forward when the trigger is compressed, much like the Russian Nagant M1895 gas seal. This feature allows a revolver to be suppressed conventionally, like the KGB did with the Nagant.

4) I am not sure the sliding cylinder feature would allow a conventional swing-out cylinder to be used (like in the bulk of modern designs), but there are some alternative possibilities: One is a cylinder that partially "pops" out (like the Russian OTs-38), a replaceable pre-loaded cylinder (like a Remington 1858), or perhaps even a side-mounted loading gate with spent cartridge ejector (like the original Nagant revolver).

Sophia is a fairly complex system, with the cylinder and unconventional barrel placement being the most complicated (and arguably delicate) parts. I would hope some individuals out there would seek to further the mad science of "bizarro gunsmithing," as advocated by Varangian Arms.

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