A plastic gun

Image source: Фото: ursa-tm.ru

The domestic shooting industry is catching up

Technologists and design engineers of the Central research Institute of precision engineering (TSNIITOCHMASH, part of rostec) have long used the remarkable qualities of polymers in their developments. High strength, low specific gravity, durability, high corrosion resistance, heat resistance, cheapness of these materials-this is what allows you to improve the design of weapons and military equipment.

Today, the scope of application of polymers in TSNIITOCHMASH is increasingly expanding, especially since the new material developed last year by the Institute together with NPP "Polyplastic" has physical and mechanical characteristics 15-20 percent higher than those of already used polymers, and the resistance to cyclic loads on the main indicators is two to three times higher than that of other materials.

"For a long time, plastic was used as an "interface" – in the design of weapons, " says Ivan Kukhtinov, a design engineer at TSNIITOCHMASH. – These were pads on the handles, forearm, butts. The first Soviet self-loading Korovin TK pistol had a variant with plastic handle cheeks. But the industry is not standing still, and there were such types of polymers that allowed the use of plastics in the main parts of weapons."

One of these technologies is the use of so-called embedded parts. It consists in the fact that metal inserts are made in the most responsible places of the structure (guides and places that perceive impacts). Such inserts are placed in an injection mold, and then filled with plastic, which forms the main contours of the part. As an example, you can take the store to the AK-74. It has a plastic body, but it has metal embedded parts-front and rear teeth.

Heckler&Koch was the first manufacturer to risk using plastic for the manufacture of load-bearing parts of weapons. Her VP70 pistol had a frame made of plastic reinforced with metal inserts. The sample did not gain popularity due to some controversial design decisions (free bolt with a very powerful cartridge), but the beginning was made.

"Some military distrust of plastic in weapons is due to insufficient experience of its operation in combat conditions ”

The baton was taken by the Austrian firm Steyr. Its Steyr AUG submachine gun has a receiver made of plastic with metal inserts, as well as some details of the trigger mechanism, the cocking handle and other details. In all other respects (with the exception of the bullpup layout, when the trigger is located in front of the magazine), the sample is a conventional automatic with a steel barrel, bolt, and so on. Steyr AUG turned out to be very successful, gained huge popularity and is currently in service with the armies and special forces of a number of countries.

The next was the Austrian company Glock with a Glock 17 pistol. Its plastic frame is made using the same technology as its predecessors. The trigger is also made of plastic. Another feature was the scheme of the trigger mechanism with a pre-firing drummer (safe action-in the terminology of the company), known for the Roth-Steyr 1907 and Roth-Sauer 1900 pistols of the early XX century. The gun turned out to be very successful and gave rise to a real plastic boom: every major gun company released a sample on the market with a plastic frame and a trigger mechanism with a pre-firing drummer. And on the basis of this sample, Glock has released many modifications of weapons of various sizes and calibers.

The next step in the development of "plastic weapons" was the rejection of embedded parts. The first such model was the P250 pistol from SIG SAUER. It has a completely plastic handle and a block made by a separate part, which is inserted into the handle during incomplete disassembly. The block contains some parts of the trigger mechanism. The unit also has guides for the shutter. It is made of steel sheet by stamping method.

The layout with a separate, removable block was chosen not only to simplify production (casting and stamping are among the most technologically advanced manufacturing methods), but also to implement the modular scheme of the gun. By replacing the handles, barrels and magazines with incomplete disassembly, it was supposed to change both the dimensions of the gun and the cartridge used. The sample was not widely distributed. Nevertheless, the developed concept of a modular weapon with a fully plastic handle was used in the design of the Sig p320 pistol, a full-size version of which was adopted by the US army in 2017 as part of the Modular Handgun System program. The company itself offers four size options for four variants of the cartridge. The 9x19 cartridge pistol can be converted to ammo .40S&W and .357 Sig. Also, each of the four size variants of the gun can be equipped with three size variants of handles.

What are the reasons for such a wide use of plastic in weapons? One of the main ones is its manufacturability, and therefore low cost in production. The frame for the Makarov pistol is all-metal, when it is manufactured by many operations using various tools, the necessary contours are cut out of the steel billet. In the same Glock17, embedded parts are inserted into the injection mold, and then it is filled with plastic.

In the Sig P320, only plastic is fed into the injection mold of the handle, which reduced the complexity of manufacturing the gun by 1.5 times. There is a huge reduction in the resources that were spent on similar details. At the same time, plastic parts are not inferior in any way, and often surpass their steel counterparts. The samples with the use of the polymers, usually 1.2–1.5 times better. In addition, plastic parts are not subject to corrosion, hands do not freeze to them at negative temperatures.

Snake ruler

And what is observed in the Russian industry? The USSR was the first in the world to adopt a plastic magazine for the Kalashnikov assault rifle, which was mentioned above. Also, back in the 60s, long before the appearance of the Steyr machine gun, the domestic gunsmith German Korobov developed a series of machines under the General index TKB-022. The machines were made in the bullpup layout and had plastic cases with metal inserts. Not a single sample was adopted, despite the good characteristics. This is due to the use of some non-standard technical solutions and the fact that the troops already had a Kalashnikov assault rifle, which was well mastered by both industry and personnel. In addition, some military distrust of plastic in weapons is due to insufficient experience of its operation in combat conditions.

In the 90s of the last century, the SR-1 pistol (Serdyukov's self-loading pistol, "Gyurza") was developed in TSNIITOCHMASH. This is one of the first domestic pistols with a plastic handle, developed and adopted by the security forces.

Matvey Yeliseyev, the leading engineer-technologist of the Department for the production of combined arms and special weapons of TSNIITOCHMASH JSC, confirmed that, of course, the production process is becoming cheaper, but it is difficult to answer how much.

"It depends on what to compare: a metal part with a plastic one or plastic parts with and without mortgages? – there can't be a clear answer Here, because each case will be different. For example, metal parts can also be made by casting, which is also quite technologically advanced, although it requires some kind of mechanical refinement, and can be processed by cutting, which is the most labor-intensive. Even plastic components with embedded metal parts, similar in purpose, can differ significantly in labor intensity. For example, the CP1 handle and the Glock handle."

Time has passed, work has been done on errors. The experience of plastics operation, both domestic and foreign, is analyzed. Developed in TSNIITOCHMASH, the latest pistols "boa", "Poloz" and " ASP " in accordance with the latest market requests have separate handles from the frames, in which there are no embedded elements. The task of the designers in their development was to exclude embedded parts from the design and use the well-proven plastic armamide in the design of the handles. As a result, using the old, well-known material and the latest technical solutions, the first samples of this class in our country were created.

Another of the achievements of the domestic industry is the silencer of the Boa pistol, recognized by the Federal service for intellectual property as an invention, which is secured by the corresponding patent. Its casing is made of carbon fiber. Carbon has amazing strength and low weight. This design solution allows you to reduce the total weight of the silencer by 20-40 grams, which favorably affects the reliability of the gun, since the silencer is attached to a movable barrel.

Despite some lag, currently the domestic small arms industry is catching up and is on a par with the leading arms companies. Who but the gunsmiths themselves understand the necessary requirements for a substitute for traditional metal? In TSNIITOCHMASH, for example, they refined plastic for their products, or rather, they came up with a technology for producing high-strength material, which is superior to the polymers currently used in the main indicators.

The result is armamide PA SV 40-1MUP, which is used as a raw material for the manufacture of plastic parts of small arms. It is processed into finished products by injection molding on injection molding machines.

Warranty-25 years

TSNIITOCHMASH has been a leading enterprise for the use of polymer materials in small arms samples for the past 50 years.

The research and production base, including injection molding machines, extruders, hydraulic presses, winding machines, equipment and devices for laboratory physical, chemical research and control of plastics and products made of them, was established in TSNIITOCHMASH in the 70s.

The first developments were carried out with the use of thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics such as fiberglass AG-4S instead of existing metal parts. However, the range of thermoplastics produced by the industry did not meet the complex requirements for strength and safety of properties during long-term storage and operation. In this regard, the Institute conducted fundamental research with the involvement of enterprises and institutes of the chemical industry, the Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of higher education of the USSR. As a result, a polymer composition was developed – glass-filled polyamide-6 grades PA6-211-DS PA6-211-DS-K. The material was superior in its properties to foreign and domestic analogues, was characterized by a high level and stability of physical and mechanical characteristics, was processed by a high-performance injection molding method on standard equipment and had a 25-year warranty period of storage and operation.

The creation of such a composition became possible due to the solution of a number of scientific and technical problems, including thermal and light stabilization, staining, cloudless casting, and the use of secondary raw materials.

Glass-filled polyamide-6 is successfully used as a structural and electrical material in the development of the Institute and at industry enterprises, including in parts of small arms and rifle systems, instruments, equipment. Further work on improving polymer materials for small arms was carried out by TSNIITOCHMASH in Department No. 43 (headed by A. Samoryadov) together with the Polyplastic group enterprise. An in-depth study of composition, properties glass fibre reinforced polyamides, technologies of their production and processing into products managed to bring the mechanical characteristics of the material of the produced high-performance extrusion method, "Armamid" SV-303 M and SV-30-MUP to the level of "classic" thermoplastic PA6–211-DS, and in some cases surpass it.

Currently, high-strength glass-filled polyamides are used in almost all samples of small arms produced by the domestic industry.

But here's the question: is it possible to create weapons entirely from plastic? In 2013, American gunsmith Cody Wilson published his invention on the Internet – a fully plastic liberator pistol. Details of the weapon, even the barrel are printed on a 3D printer (with the exception of the striker-it is made of a nail). According to the designer, the barrel can withstand up to 11 shots, then it changes to a new one. Later, several more designs appeared, the details of which are printed on a 3D printer, but they use a steel barrel. According to some reports, in the 90s, the glass gun was developed for the CIA, in the design of which there was no metal, but for the most part it was made of ceramics.

In the same Glock 17 model and similar samples from other manufacturers, only the frame together with the handle and trigger guard, and a number of other small parts are made of plastic. The weight of the metal components is about 400 grams. This is the barrel and the most important parts of the trigger mechanism. And for example, the weight of the " boa " with a metal handle would be approximately 1.2 kilograms, and with the use of polymers-only 780 grams. Agree, a significant difference. Today, the boa Constrictor is one of the lightest pistols due to the use of plastic. Its handle is covered with armamide, some other parts are made of carbon fiber with fiberglass.

And the question of whether viable pistols made entirely of plastic will be created can now only be answered with the words of a well-known song: "Whether it will still be…»

Vitaly Strugovets, Colonel

The newspaper "Military-industrial courier", published in issue No. 49 (862) for December 22, 2020

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