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Old 10-07-2019, 08:57 PM
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Could a viable revolver rifle be made today?


So I read that Colt made a revolver based rifle in the 1800s

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt...evolving_rifle

They apparently discontinued it due to design flaws. I imagine with the intention of semi auto rifles that there was no need to try to perfect this. I don't think they used metal cartridges even. Could a revolver based rifle be properly engineered to be perform at least as well or better than a bolt action counterpart with common rifle ammunition?
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:00 PM
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Why is this a question? Define "as well". Obviously the rifle would fire.

Last edited by SamuelA; 10-07-2019 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:11 PM
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As accurate and powerful as rifle, and as reliable as a modern revolver.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:19 PM
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Taurus Circuit Judge

https://www.sportsmansguide.com/prod...RoCsbEQAvD_BwE
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:21 PM
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Colt 1855 Revolving Shotgun
Video description.
Quote:
In 1855, Colt introduced a new revolver unlike the others in their lineup - it was a side-hammer design with the cylinder stops built into the axis pin instead of the cylinder. They then proceeded to scale the design up into revolving rifles and shoguns in several calibers. The revolving shotgun model was the least-produced, with only about 1300 made between 1860 and 1863. This example is in 10 gauge, and has five chambers in the cylinder.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:29 PM
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Interesting, but I'm looking for something that shoots proper rifle rounds.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:33 PM
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I am not a gunsmith. But what would the obstacles be in designing such a thing? Revolvers are supposedly the simplest design, yes? What more would you need to do besides scale up the cylinder and barrel for rifle rounds, elongate the barrel, and slap a stock and fore grip on it?
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:41 PM
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I would imagine that it wouldn't be difficult, even full-auto. After all, most high ROF aircraft cannon are revolver cannons anyway; scaling it down couldn't be too hard.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolver_cannon
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:46 PM
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I'm not sure either. The only thing I can think of is maybe a cylinder couldn't handle rifle rounds and be reasonably small?
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:56 PM
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The problem with revolvers and high powered cartridges (or any cartridge, to some degree) is gas escape between the cylinder and barrel. As noted there have been relatively low power metal cartridge revolver rifles (Taurus/Rossi Circuit Judge is a current example as mentioned) but the issue isn't solved just by having metal cartridges. Metal cartridges do address the problem of cap and ball revolvers (hand guns or rifles) where the gas escaping between the cylinder and barrel gets into the other chambers and makes them go off (chain fire) but not the basic problem of leakage from the chamber that's supposed to be firing.

There are weapons firing high powered cartridges form a revolving cylinder, revolver cannon used on a/c and similar applications. The Mauser MG 213 of WWII was the archetype of post WWII designs in many countries. The Mauser BK-27 (the Eurofighter Typhoon's gun) is an example still in production. In that case the reason for the revolving chamber isn't to store several cartridges. It is to more gradually chamber and extract cartridges at a high rate of automatic fire without having multiple barrels. Anyway those designs address gas leakage of high powered cartridges by various mechanisms using gas pressure to force a sealing sleeve or the whole cylinder gas-tight against the barrel, or another way is make the chamber shorter than the cartridge, the cartridge is only fully rammed when it comes into the firing position, and the cartridge case provides the seal. Methods like this have been used with handguns too, but the revolver cannon designs show it can be done with very high power cartridges.

The question about a high power revolver rifle would be, why bother?

Last edited by Corry El; 10-07-2019 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:00 PM
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Interesting, but I'm looking for something that shoots proper rifle rounds.
Hey, I've got a rifle that shoots 45 Colt.
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Corry El View Post
The problem with revolvers and high powered cartridges (or any cartridge, to some degree) is gas escape between the cylinder and barrel. As noted there have been relatively low power metal cartridge revolver rifles (Taurus/Rossi Circuit Judge is a current example as mentioned) but the issue isn't solved just by having metal cartridges. Metal cartridges do address the problem of cap and ball revolvers (hand guns or rifles) where the gas escaping between the cylinder and barrel gets into the other chambers and makes them go off (chain fire) but not the basic problem of leakage from the chamber that's supposed to be firing.

There are weapons firing high powered cartridges form a revolving cylinder, revolver cannon used on a/c and similar applications. The Mauser MG 213 of WWII was the archetype of post WWII designs in many countries. The Mauser BK-27 (the Eurofighter Typhoon's gun) is an example still in production. In that case the reason for the revolving chamber isn't to store several cartridges. It is to more gradually chamber and extract cartridges at a high rate of automatic fire without having multiple barrels. Anyway those designs address gas leakage of high powered cartridges by various mechanisms using gas pressure to force a sealing sleeve or the whole cylinder gas-tight against the barrel, or another way is make the chamber shorter than the cartridge, the cartridge is only fully rammed when it comes into the firing position, and the cartridge case provides the seal. Methods like this have been used with handguns too, but the revolver cannon designs show it can be done with very high power cartridges.

The question about a high power revolver rifle would be, why bother?
If I may summarize your very informative post and quote Dr. Zoidberg at the same time..."I don't see why not....I also don't see why"
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Ashtura View Post
As accurate and powerful as rifle, and as reliable as a modern revolver.
Go look at any of the large revolvers from Ruger or Smith and Wesson. High energies, even for many rifles, moderately high velocities, and decent accuracy.

Doesn't the gap between cylinder and barrel rob the bullet of some chamber pressure, and consequently velocity?

Edit: And this is what happens when you compose the post in one location, but can't finish posting until later. Great explanation Corry.

Last edited by Gray Ghost; 10-07-2019 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:29 PM
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Well, there are pistols that address the gas escaping from the cylinder. The Nagant M1895, for instance. However, they're usually slow reloading. Unless you desperately need a Spitzer bullet and need to fire from a prone position, a tube magazine lever action is slightly more reliable, faster to reload (ejecting the empties is handled by cocking/reloading) and properly designed ammunition obviates the need for a non-Spitzer tip.

That design also avoids the issue that any problem with the sealing system a revolver might have, which would be happening next to your face like the Colt rifle was disliked for. So, you could probably have designed a decent revolver rifle in 1895, but tube fed lever action and pump action long arms had already been developed, and are generally just as reliable without the drawbacks. You just don't see tube mags on pistols because it would generally hold less than a revolver and would probably involve some weird cocking action.

A long gun is just different enough ergonomically and engineering-wise that the revolver doesn't make a giant amount of sense. That makes me a little sad now that I thought it through, because I had a Lone Ranger revolver rifle cap gun when I was a kid, and it was the one of dozens of cap guns that I still thought was pretty cool.

Ok, cap guns are all stupid. There, I said it. I still like the caps, though. You can hit them with a hammer. Black Cats are even better.

Last edited by scabpicker; 10-07-2019 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:31 PM
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Have you been playing Borderlands 3? (Jakobs will make a revolver in any caliber... up to rocket launchers).
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:15 AM
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It occurred to me that most rifle rounds are rimless, which would make loading into a cylinder problematic.
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Old 10-08-2019, 05:29 AM
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There were two really big problems with revolving rifles back in the day.

The first was already mentioned. When you have a revolver, there is a gap between the cylinder and the barrel. If you did not have this gap, the cylinder would not be able to rotate between shots and you would not be able to open the cylinder to reload. Gas and bits of powder and small bits of metal come out of that gap at very high velocities. In a pistol, this is no big deal since your hands are behind the cylinder, but in a rifle, all that gas and all those small bits come out at high velocity and go directly into your left arm.

This video demonstrates the problem very well:

How NOT To Shoot a Revolver:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFBAcz16GvU

As mentioned above, there have been some revolvers, like the Model 1895 Nagant, that have some way of dealing with this. The Nagant moves the cylinder forward so that it makes a better seal when firing. Still, I'm not sure I would trust to put any part of my body next to the cylinder, just in case.

This video (by the same person, hickok45) demonstrates the difference between a regular revolver and the Nagant:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q57Q72uisGI

The second problem back in the day was a problem common to all revolvers, not just revolving rifles. This was the days of black powder, where you separately loaded a powder charge into each cylinder, then put a lead bullet on top of the powder and rammed it into place, and then put a percussion cap on the back of the cylinder (then repeat that 5 more times for the other chambers). If you did not keep the cylinder clean, any unburned powder on the end of the cylinder could cause a spark to jump over to the next chamber, causing it to fire, which is a really bad thing since that chamber is not in front of the barrel at the time (basically the cylinder ends up blowing up in your hand). Worst case, you get kind of a chain reaction where one chamber sets off the next all the way around the cylinder. Hence, this is commonly referred to as a "chain fire".

These were such a problem that revolving rifles in the Civil War ended up being restricted to only using one chamber, which at that point you're back to having a single shot rifle, which kinda defeats the purpose of a revolver.

The chain fire problem was solved with modern cartridge-style ammunition, so no more loose powder and no danger of one chamber setting off another. The cylinder gap problem can be solved using a Nagant-style cylinder or some other mechanical method that closes the gap when firing. The Nagant was slow to reload, but you could use a different system like a break-action that will eject all six spent cases at once and make the chambers very quick and easy to reload.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
Doesn't the gap between cylinder and barrel rob the bullet of some chamber pressure, and consequently velocity?
Yes. If I recall correctly, the Model 1895 Nagant's forward-moving cylinder was designed more for better bullet velocity reasons than safety reasons. But either way, yes, you get significantly better bullet velocity if the chamber seals against the barrel.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 10-08-2019 at 05:36 AM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:31 AM
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I'll add, don't confuse a long barreled, stocked, pistol with a carbine or rifle chambered for a pistol or intermediate cartridge.

While a revolving action solves the problem of shifting center of balance with tube magazined rifles. The internal magazine, with stripper/enbloc clips, followed by the removable 'box' magazine* solves all the problems without the complications, some mentioned above, of a revolving action.
*One of the early military adoptions of removable 'box' magazines wasn't 'removable', it was literally chained to the rifle. Largely because doctrine and more importantly supply issues hadn't caught up with the technology.

CMC fnord!
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by scabpicker View Post
Well, there are pistols that address the gas escaping from the cylinder. The Nagant M1895, for instance. However, they're usually slow reloading. Unless you desperately need a Spitzer bullet and need to fire from a prone position, a tube magazine lever action is slightly more reliable, faster to reload (ejecting the empties is handled by cocking/reloading) and properly designed ammunition obviates the need for a non-Spitzer tip.

That design also avoids the issue that any problem with the sealing system a revolver might have, which would be happening next to your face like the Colt rifle was disliked for. So, you could probably have designed a decent revolver rifle in 1895, but tube fed lever action and pump action long arms had already been developed, and are generally just as reliable without the drawbacks. You just don't see tube mags on pistols because it would generally hold less than a revolver and would probably involve some weird cocking action.
When using a tubular magazine, about what percentage of the tube is used by the spring when fully loaded? E.g.: If my tube magazine is 15'' long, how many inches of rounds can I expect to be able to load into it?
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
The chain fire problem was solved with modern cartridge-style ammunition, so no more loose powder and no danger of one chamber setting off another.
Right... and it's worth noting that the whole genesis of the revolver pistol and rifle was to give your shooter more than a single shot at a time, when the prevailing weapons were single-shot muzzle loaders. So Colt's revolver dramatically increased firepower in an era when most people were rocking single-shot muzzle loaded rifles, or pistols that looked like something out of a pirate movie.

Not long after the Civil War, cartridge ammo became commonplace. For pistols, revolvers made a lot of sense, but most rifles tended toward larger cartridges than are really feasible in pistols. This was a function of powder volume- to get faster bullets, you need more powder and a larger cartridge case.

So revolver rifles weren't really feasible- what we have from back then were really more along the lines of revolver carbines- they fired pistol ammo, or in the case of the muzzle-loading ones, fired pistol balls with a pistol-sized charge.

However, with the advent of brass cartridge cases, this meant that the problem to solve wasn't to basically make a muzzle loader with more than one charge (what a black powder revolver was), but to basically move a cartridge into place, fire, and eject it. That's why lever actions and bolt actions were initially popular- they're very simple and robust, AND they're compatible with much higher power cartridges than a revolver rifle would have been.

Nowadays, I'd imagine that if there was a move to adapt the modern-day revolver cannon mechanisms to small arms, it would be more in the vein of making a machine gun optimized for high ROF bursts, which is effectively what the revolver cannons were developed for in the context of aerial combat. Why anyone would want to do that, I don't know; most really high ROF machine guns like the MG-42 ended up with heavier bolts and stuff to slow the ROF in subsequent development.
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:58 AM
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...Nowadays, I'd imagine that if there was a move to adapt the modern-day revolver cannon mechanisms to small arms, it would be more in the vein of making a machine gun optimized for high ROF bursts, which is effectively what the revolver cannons were developed for in the context of aerial combat. Why anyone would want to do that, I don't know; most really high ROF machine guns like the MG-42 ended up with heavier bolts and stuff to slow the ROF in subsequent development.
There was the movement in the 70s to use multiple rounds in a burst to maximize single-hit probability. Thinking of things like the G11 or VP70's burst capability. I can't seem to find the actual dispersion spec the Bundeswehr was shooting for, but it was something like 'cover a man sized target at 600m, even if he's running.' The VP70 pistol also has a ludicrous rate of fire in 3 round burst mode, akin to the G11's 2100 rd/min rate.

Not something sought out today. I guess MetalStorm never amounted to much.

Last edited by Gray Ghost; 10-08-2019 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:20 AM
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Are you asking whether it would be technically viable or commercially viable? Technically, you could make one. But, since it's a solution in search of a problem, few people would buy it. Revolvers are generally more complicated to build than locking breech semi-autos, so it would probably be more costly. It's not as convenient to reload as a box-fed rifle, which are insanely popular. A revolving rifle would be a novelty gun that is poorer at its job than cheaper semi-autos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashtura View Post
It occurred to me that most rifle rounds are rimless, which would make loading into a cylinder problematic.
But most rifle rounds are necked. You could machine the cylinder and have the headspace based on the shoulder. That's how rimless rifle chambers work. However, the rifle cartridges shoot more powder at higher pressures than pistol rounds, so the problems of gas and powder escaping through the cylinder gap and the resulting erosion of the frame would be worse for a revolver chambered in typical rifle rounds. There are, as discussed above, complicated ways of minimizing this cylinder gap but the easiest way to manage the problem would be to use lower-pressure pistol rounds.
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