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Guns are a part of American life, and have been since the very beginning, from the matchlock muskets arming the earliest colonies to the Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles of the Old West to the Glock handgun of today. But as guns have become less frequent, gun literacy has declined. We shoot more. Guns And How They Work We know less. This becomes clear amidst our current politically charged debate about guns and how to counter gun violence. So, in Popular Mechanics fashion, let's talk about the gun as a tool.
A gun is a weapon that uses the force of an explosive propellant to project a missile. Guns or firearms are classified by the diameter of the barrel opening.
This is known as the calibre of the gun. Anything with a calibre up to and including. The precise origin of the gun is unknown, although they were in use by the early 14th century and were common place in Europe by mid-century. These early guns were nothing more than large calibre cylinders of wrought iron or cast bronze, closed at one end and loaded by placing gunpowder and projectile in the muzzle, or open end.
Nowadays firearms are a little more sophisticated. However, the physics behind all guns remain the same. When the trigger is pulled the hammer hits the firing pin. The firing pin then hits the primer which causes the powder to burn hence producing lots of gases.
This causes the volume behind the bullet to fill with extremely high pressure gas. The gas pushes on every surface it encounters, including the bullet in front of it and the base of the gun barrel behind it. The increase in pressure caused by the gases causes the bullet to be forced into the barrel hence causing the bullet to come out the muzzle at very high speeds. Once the bullet is fired, it remains in motion from its momentum. The momentum will carry the bullet until it strikes an object or gravity pulls the bullet towards the earth.
Firearms change potential chemical energy into kinetic energy in the actual firing of the gun. Many people do not realise that the force imparted by accelerating the bullet is not the only force acting on the gun, or the shooter. Grains of burned gun powder are sent out the muzzle at high velocity. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer strikes a small charge at the end of the shell, the ammunition.
This charge ignites black gun powder packed behind the lead ball bearings. When the black gun powder burns, it produces gas that rapidly expands with the burning of more black gun powder. High pressure gases exert forces on the back of the bullet and on the gun.
The only way for the gas to escape is to push the bullet out of its way through the end of the barrel. This is how a bullet is fired from a gun. When a bullet is fired from a gun, total momentum before is zero since nothing is moving. After firing the bullet there is a momentum in the forward direction. The gun must therefore have Guns And How They Work same magnitude of momentum but in the opposite direction so that they cancel each other out leaving the total momentum still equal to zero.
For this reason the gun must have a recoil velocity after the bullet is fired i. As the bullet is propelled through the barrel, it gains momentum.
The first primitive firearms originated in 10th-century China when bamboo tubes containing gunpowder and pellet projectiles were mounted on spears into the one-person-portable fire lance ,  which was later used as a shock weapon to good effect in the Siege of De'an in In the 13th century the Chinese invented the metal-barrelled hand cannon , widely considered [ by whom? Older firearms typically used black powder as a propellant, but modern firearms use smokeless powder or other propellants. It inflicts damage on targets by launching one or more projectiles driven by rapidly expanding high-pressure gas produced by exothermic combustion deflagration of chemical propellant. A firearm is a portable gun a barreled ranged weapon designed for use by a single individual.
In order for the entire system of the gun and the ammunition to have equal momentum, the gun must gain momentum in the opposite direction from the bullet. Momentum is a vector quantity, having both a direction and a magnitude. It can only be transferred between objects. When one object exerts a force on a second object for a certain amount of time, the second object exerts an equal but oppositely directed force on the first object for exactly the same amount of time. The momentum lost by the first object is exactly equal to the momentum gained by the second object.
Momentum is transferred from the first object to the second object. In this case, if a gun exerts a force on a bullet when firing it forward then the bullet will exert an equal force in the opposite direction on the gun causing it to move backwards or recoil.
Although the action and reaction forces are equal in size the effect on the gun and the bullet are not the same since the mass of the gun is far greater than the mass of the bullet.
Mar 7, A primer for our politically charged time: What guns are, how they work, and how to use them safely.
The conservation of momentum is also demonstrated when the bullet hits an object. The object that it strikes absorbs the kinetic energy, energy from motion and momentum. If the force of momentum from the bullet is great enough to overcome the mass of the object, the target will be moved along the same vector as the bullet. To increase the accuracy of the flight of the bullet, a technique called rifling can be used. Rifling is where the barrel of the gun and or the bullet is creased with spiral grooves that allow air to pass through.
When the bullet is fired, the air passes through these curved grooves and spins the bullet. This spinning action allows the bullet to cut through the air more efficiently and fly on a truer course, thus stabilizing its trajectory. Article last reviewed: St. Bullets are missiles. Skip to content. How Guns Work: Physics. Ticker Tape lab answers. Modern Physics. Physics: Conservation of Energy Lab Answers.
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