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1-inch Aiming rifle - what was it ?


RodB
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In the 1915 Treatise on Ammunition are listed 2 rounds for a "1-inch Aiming Rifle", described as Morris pattern and King's Norton pattern. It looks very much like the rounds for the 1890s 1-inch Nordenfelt gun - a short cartridge with a solid bullet.

Was this in fact the old Nordenfelt gun still in service ? What was /is an aiming rifle - another name for subcalibre gun ?

Thanks

Rod

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I think it was a small calibre weapon fitted to a larger gun (and possibly firing a tracer round) that was set up to have the same basic trajectory as the big gun and there fore could be used when training gunners to lay the big weapon without having to fire a big expensive round. In more modern times automatic weapons firing tracer has been used on larger guns (including recoiless AT) when the tracer was striking the target then the main weapon was fired.

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Just what I was going to post but a much better and well worded explanation.

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But to blast a 1-inch round out the to range of even a medium gun would require a large cartridge, which the 1-inch round in Treatise on Ammunition does not have. Propellant is 400 grains RFG2 i.e. gunpowder, or 170 grains cordite. My guess is it could propel the 9oz 408 grain bullet to about 3000 yards max. And they're solid, not tracer, so would give no indication of trajectory.

So how would they be of use for a larger gun ? For calibration, pointing directly at a target a hundred yards away i.e. a direct trajectory ?

Rod

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"bullet to about 3000" That would certainly be adequate for firing at most visible targets which "aiming rifle" would suggest. It wouldn't have to be tracer - you'd just get someone to look at the hole in the target!

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1" Nordenfelt aiming tubes firing a solid projectile were used for training purposes, mounted on or inside large calibre naval guns.

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I presume its's 'Morris pattern' as in 'Morris Tube' for rifles - a removable aiming tube, initially used in .577/450 Martinis, which allowed the rifle to be fired in either calibre according to the type of range used.

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The following may help

From an Australian Dept of Defence patent application

"For the larger naval and coastal defence guns a similar principle was employed using the obsolescent 1 inch Nordenfelt machine gun cartridge redesignated "Cartridge, Aiming Rifle, 1 inch", which was fired from sub-calibre barrels variously attached in or on the parent barrel, or took the form of a replacement breech block containing a firing mechanism and a short length of sub-calibre barrel. Patterns were available for both percussion and electric ignition as required."

This suggests that whilst the cartridge may have been of Nordenfelt origin the tube wasn't necessarily so.

From Instructions for Ordnance Artificers for the Use of His Majesty's Fleet, 1921

"After using Aiming Rifles.

After an aiming rifle has been used in a gun, the bore of the latter will, as soon as possible after the aiming rifle practice, and before Service ammunition is fired from the gun, be thoroughly cleaned, so as to remove any residue which may have formed therein.

Such residue will usually be found in a broad ring round the bore of the gun in front of the position of the muzzle of the aiming rifle when the latter is in place; and if left for any considerable time may become exceedingly hard and difficult to remove. It is in fact quite enough to cause the premature explosion of a shell in the gun. "

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The aiming rifle cartridges are exactly as described above, a device mounted either inside of alongside a large calibre weapon that allowed training in gun laying and drill to be carried out economically. They were used by both army and navy.

This had started with the famous Morris Tube for the Martini Henry rifles made by the Morris Tube and safety Range Company. Trials were held with various calibre aiming rifles from 1882, but the first 1" aiming rifle and cartridge was not approved until 1893. The range of 1" aiming rifle cartridges is complex as rounds were made with black powder or cordite propellant, percussion or electric priming, lead or steel bullets and also as reduced charge and blank. To make life even more complicated, each group had its own Mark numbering sequence.

The difference between the Morris pattern and Kings Norton pattern was the design of electric primer used in the Electric Mark IV round.

The range was not important as the aiming tube ammunition did not actually match the trajectory of the larger parent weapon, adjustment sight settings being provided.

The last Mark of cartridge was approved in about 1935 and use continued through WW2.

Regards

TonyE

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Tony E

The Morris tube was a different animal being intended for rifle calibre weapons

"The first general issue of such devices in-the British Army occurred in 1883 when the "Tube, Aiming, Morris, Martini-Henry Rifle Mark 1" and its complementary "Cartridge, Aiming Tube, Morris" were approved for use. These, the forerunners of a family of Morris Tubes consisted of a complete chambered barrel of 0.230 inch bore which was slipped inside the service rifle barrel of 0.45 inch bore, held at the muzzle and breech and used the mechanism of the parent weapon to fire the much smaller cartridge. Auxiliary sights were provided to slip over the parent sight to give some harmonisation over a desired range band.

The basic requirement in this case was to allow training with the newly introduced Martini-Henry rifle to be carried out, other than on the few outdoor ranges considered safe for the full bore ammunition. The attendant advantages were of course a reduction in costs and the chance to accustom the trainees to firing the Martini-Henry rifle without experiencing its notorious recoil. Use of the more common 0.22 inch rimfire ammunition would have complicated the mechanisms by requiring either the bore or the firing pin to have been offset to suit the change from the centre fire to rimfire cartridge system.

Following the introduction of the 0.303 inch weapon and ammunition in 1888 the same principle was applied to the "Tube, Aiming, Lee-Metford Magazine Rifle 0.303 inch Morris" which came into service in 1891. Within a few years there was a family of similar devices to suit the range of rifles, carbines and proprietary machine guns in service; nine distinct patterns were listed in 1899.

On the whole this system worked well with few mechanical problems until the reduction in calibre of the service small arms forced a corresponding reduction in the wall thickness of the tubes making them fragile and difficult to make.

A sudden massive increase in demand for training devices during World War I virtually sounded the death- knell of such tubes as it was found that less time and effort was involved in making one piece small-bore barrels which could be permanently attached to second grade service rifles, with the resultant weapon being designated for training use only. Where the weapon was thus permanently modified, it became relatively easy to offset the firing pin and hence to make use of the 0.22 inch rimfire ammunition. This design led to the Rifle No. 2 series of trainers which are still in limited use today.(1984)

One disadvantage of this system noted by many users over the years was that the small bore barrel, which contained more metal than its full bore counterpart, made such training weapons heavier overall, with the point of balance being moved perceptibly further from the shoulder."

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"The Morris tube was a different animal being intended for rifle calibre weapons"

Two points Centurian:

Firstly, if you read my post I stated "This had started with the famous Morris Tube for the Martini Henry rifles made by the Morris Tube and Safety Range Company. ", and as you pointed out was of .230" calibre.

Secondly, it was not a completely different animal from the Aiming Rifle tube. Morris had been making aiming tubes for large calibre guns since about 1882 and these had used various calibres, using .45" Martini Henry, ,45" Gardner Gatling and .303" ball cartridges. If you care to check the "Treatise on Service Ammunition 1904" you will find these detailed. It was only a question of a difference in scale, not of principle.

These were all percussion capped cartridges and when used in ordnance with electric firing mechanisms used an electro-mechanical breech piece to fire the percussion primer.

In 1889 The Admiralty approached the Morris Tube and Safety Range Company to design a 1" cartridge with an electric primer which could be fired by the normal electric firing mechanism of the big naval guns, with a maximumrange of 1000 yards. The Electric Mark I was approved for Naval service in December 1893.

Whether a .230" tube fitted to a Martini Henry rifle or a 1" tube fitted to a 6" naval gun they were still Morris tubes in principle, made by the Morris company.

Regards

TonyE

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Except that the large calibre aiming rifles :

a] did not fit snug inside the original barrel and could even be mounted outside. - the tube threrefore had to be much stronger - a barrel in its own right.

b] did not make use of the host gun's own breech and firing mechanism.

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Thanks for responding gentlemen, the old Nordenfelt gun appears not to have been involved. I always enjoy reading debates between Centurion and TonyE, brings out good info. I'm still at a loss to understand how firing the 1-inch slug from a much larger gun could be of training value. I understand it avoided firing the expensive genuine ammunition and causing wear in the barrel. But how exactly did it assist training ? First experience of live firing of the gun ? But from what I've read, firing the gun with the subcalibre gun inside it or attached to it outside couldn't have been much like the procedure for live firing. And large guns didn't point directly at targets so I don't see how "aiming" could be practiced with it. Only gun I can think of would be the 3-inch QF 12 pdr, which was pretty much a line-of-sight gun - would the 1-inch aiming round have been used with this ?

thanks

Rod

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A good point. All the literature I can find talks about big naval guns. However its worth remembering that occasions when battleships pounded each other from extreme range were, perforce, quite rare and the guns could also be used for dealing with smaller craft at closer range, an impudent destroyer for example, or for shore bombardment so aiming practice would still be important (especially for guns in the 6 inch to 8 inch) division. Also there was probably enough shell and gas exiting the muzzle to provide some recoil, possibly just enough to bring the gun back to the loading position, albeit at a gentle pace that trainees could cope with (and without all that distressing noise). If the aiming rifles were used in something like the same way as the tubed Martinis I got to fire in the 1960s then it would be a case of doing the basics on the tubed gun until you were 'safe' and then getting to fire the untubed version (when you find out what recoil really means).

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The first trial aiming tubes c.1882 used Nordenfelt barrels before the final approved version of the Morris Tube in 1891, and between 1882 and 1893 Nordenfelt ammunition was used rather than specifically made Aiming Rifle ammunition. This was expensive for two reasons, the first that Nordenfelt still held patents on the ammunition so the Admiralty and War Office had to pay royalties on every round made, and secondly because the Nordenfelt projectiles had hardened steel cores in a brass jacket which were expensive to produce. Woolwich overcame this to some extent by loading lead bullets into Nordenfelt cases as a precursor to the Aiming Rifle rounds.

With regard to the training value of using the tubes, the main benefit was, as the name suggests, in laying or aiming the larger gun. In the same way that with a Morris tube in a rifle, the sights may be set at say 200 yards to shoot at a target on a 25 yard range, so the sights on the larger gun may be set at say 5,000 yards to hit a target at 500 yards. Accuracy in sight setting could still be practiced by this method.

As for the effect of firing the 1" cartridge in a large naval gun, the recoiling mass would be so large, often several tons, that the recoil of that little cartridge would have no effect at all. The object was to practice gun laying, not to simulate the fire of the full sized ammunition.

Regards

TonyE

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  • 3 years later...

I can remember training on the US 106 mm recoilless rifle, and it had a .50 aiming rifle fastened on the outside of the barrel. The trigger device was worked repeatedly, the .50 caliber (which seemed to have the same trajectory as the 106 mm) fired a tracer round, and when the tracer hit the target the same trigger mechanism was worked in the opposite direction and fired the 106 mm shell. We fired "the sub-caliber device", as I think it was called, but did not fire the 106 mm round, which probably cost several hundred dollars, and might have hit Boston. (We were at Fort Devons.)

Bob Lembke

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