Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Spud guns!

This takes me back. Our version fired tennis balls, using 3-4 soda cans (back when you could remove both ends with a can opener) with a tennis ball can on top; that way the ball would not travel all the way down the barrel. Duct tape, of course, held the whole thing together. Arm by squirting lighter fluid into the touchhole at the base, then swoosh the tube back and forth to aerate. Hold tube at angle with base resting on ground, pop in ball, light with strike-anywhere match. Done correctly, it would fire a tennis ball several hundred feet with a hearty roar and (visible at night) an impressive sheet of flame from the muzzle. Side effects of correct firing included lost finger hair from touchhole blowback, the disintegration of the gun as the duct tape softened from the heat of repeat firings, and on at least one occasion the immolation of the tube and its subsequent loss from stomping on it to put the fire out.

It still amazes me that we suffered no casualties from the above-described activity, or from the various permutations of model rocketry we dabbled in (Armor piercing? Check. Stuffed with firecrackers? Check.). On the other hand we inflicted no casualties either, so we had that going for us.


Michael said...

The problem with lighter fluid is the lack of smoke.

We used to use FF or FFF black powder, in small doses (~200 grains). Drill a small hole in the end to run the cannon fuse in. Makes a healthy bellow, lots of smoke, and a zippy potato.

Or if you want to really have fun, fill a film canister with BP and run a foot or so of cannon fuze into it. Tape it up tightly with duct tape, and tape the cannon fuse up tightly as well leaving a 1" stub or so exposed. Load this exposed-fuze-end down in the pipe, and you can get a cool airburst hundreds of yards up in the air, assuming you've got enough delay fuse.

Mike said...

Dave, I believe the tubal immolation was due to the black paint applied to the cannon exterior.

The paint was, as I recall, added to contribute a certain elan for night operations. Unwisely, as it turned out.

Dave S. said...

Mike, I remember the paint definitely melted but I wasn't sure if the fire was a result of the paint or the buildup of lighter fluid residue on the gun. In general, we rarely lacked unwise elan.

Michael, smokelessness was a plus as far as we were concerned, although the filmcan airburst sounds cool. On balance, and nothing personal, but I'm kind of glad you didn't live near us; you would have shelled us into submission.

Minn. Transplant said...

Found you via Hugh Hewitt. Nice blog, and I love the name as well. This is a favorite teen memory of mine as well, but we elevated it to an art form, with carved and shaped potatoes, lubed 2 inch PVC pipe and grill starters for pushbutton ignition (no blowback) This then progressed in to a long and nefarious career blowing up stuff.

Going to college in Idaho has very few advantages, but lax prosecution for explosives and a cheap and ready supply of reloading supplies and potatoes is one of them.

I've added you to my favorites list and look forward to further postings.

Mike said...

1. "Unwise Elan" - is the voting still open for this blog's name? Whoops! Oh, damn....

2. Dave, perhaps I'm mentally whitewashing the facts to retain my lucrative spud cannon contracts for the military. But IIRC, the only cannon which went up in flames was one of the two black-painted ones. While possibly coincidence, I've always blamed the paint job.

3. Originally, point #3 was to be simply "Hugh Hewitt?" but you've already explained this question in the blog proper.