Friday, January 3, 2020

Swiss cheese (fiction)

Kelly Carney walked around the detritus of the battle-field where Kate’s store used to stand.

He had heard the story at least a dozen times. He had not been there when it happened. He was still trying to piece it together.

It took him a while to realize that the people who were most authoritative in the retelling had not been there either. The not-there's retellings only matched up in the most superficial of ways. The people who had been involved in the battle had only seen tiny splinters in a highly disjoint way. Furthermore, they had been under fire and their retelling of their perceptions were not a compelling narrative.

So Kelly was looking at the hulks that had been dragged off to the side. Something was talking to him but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

A good problem solver is cued in by any number of small clues. It might be melted insulation or a rub mark. It might be a smell or a sound that is not quite in place. A bit of oxide, a crack, the look of a fractured surface or a bur dragged the wrong way.

It took awhile, but Kelly was patient. He knew these things would talk to him in their own time. Kelly was a very good problem solver.

The thing that was tickling Kelly's intuition were the tiny holes in the armor covering the windows of the vehicles. Barely a quarter-inch in diameter and directly in line with where the drivers would have been sitting, the disjoint stories started to align.

The jagged edges of the holes were dragged rearward, suggesting that whatever hit the armor had punched through it and then the projectile and the displaced armor rearranged the priorities of the occupants. They bailed out and filled the Kate’s Store just before Wade Hawk blew the structure to flinders.

Wade Hawk himself walked up to Kelly while he was trying to piece together what had happened.

“Whatchya lookin’ at?” Wade asked. His voice was a bit louder than the norm, a common tendency among those who have been close to explosions. As the saying goes 'YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL AN SAPPER, BUT YOU CANNOT TELL HIM MUCH.'

Kelly tapped one of the holes in the armor. “I am looking at these. I can’t quite figure them out.”

Wade hardly even looked at the hole. “I bet if you had a digital vernier you would find they are 0.277 inches in diameter.”

That was such an odd number that Kelly just had to reach into his bibbs and pull out his verniers.

It may have been a little bit closer to 0.275”  but varied depending on which diameter he measured, the hole not being EXACTLY circular.

“How did you know that?” Kelly asked.

“’Cause I put them there.” Wade said.

“And how did you do that?” Kelly asked.

“I shot them in.” Wade said with more than a little satisfaction.

“With what?” Kelly asked. Pointing at a bunch of minor dents and gray smudges on the three-eighths-inch plate. “Most of the bullets hardly left a mark.”

“My .270 Winchester.” Wade said. “I hand-loaded it with monometals.”

It did not take long to determine that Wade’s hand-loads blew through the armor plate like it was warm slice of Velveeta. They even punched through when the armor plate was tipped 45 degrees from perpendicular. They went through when even the largest hunting rifles loaded with common cup-and-core bullets splattered.

It was promising information but Wade only had another hundred Barnes bullets left and .270 Winchester was an uncommon chambering.

Kelly was downcast.

Wade could not resist yanking Kelly’s chain. “I didn’t expect you to roll over like a female collie. I always thought of you as a problem solver.”

Kelly moped around for a couple of hours, and then he had an idea. One thing led to another and a few days later found him and his wife Di negotiating with one of Benicio’s minions for a barrel of screws. Benicio's influence meant that they got them for a very good price. Basically, they had to return the barrel.

The barrel had come out of the local, shuttered auto plant.

Part of the automaker’s process was to install the doors in the body shop. Then, after the body, including the doors, were painted, to remove the doors so they could be processed on their own line. It was not possible to paint the doors separately because the metal flake would not be uniform from panel to panel.

That left the automaker with the problem of either trying to match the original hinge screws back to the originating vehicle or to simply use new. They chose to use new screws resulting in 16, slightly-used screws for every vehicle they made. The screws were 33 Rockwell C and had a tensile strength of 150,000PSI or five times the strength of hot rolled steel.

There were twelve barrels of the used screws.

Kelly was in his glory as he fiddled with the processing. He had to anneal them, then cut off the heads. He soaked them in acid to remove the rust, lubricated them and rolled them between two, tapered plates to reduce their diameter much the way a child would roll a ball of clay between their hands to make a snake.

Case hardened, quenched and tempered in lots of two thousand, the steel cores were everything a major super-power could have asked for: A case of 56 Rc over a tough center of 40Rc.

Then the operation went low-tech. Di created a small cottage industry where the steel cores were “paper-patched” so the rifling of the relatively soft barrels could grip the bullets and impart the necessary spin. Junk rifles were used to test the product. The bullets, being steel, were lighter than the typical .30 caliber bullet. The powder that pushed a 165 grain bullet at 2600 feet-per-second pushed the 125 grain bullet at 3000 feet-per-second.

The crude profile of the core was not aerodynamically efficient, but it turned 3/8 inch steel armor plate into Swiss cheese out to a quarter mile. It would have to be good-enough. The advantage was that there would be more than "plenty" for every shooter of .308s and ought-sixes, .300 Mags, Mosins, AKs and even thuddy-thuddies.



  1. Wow. My mind is being blown with this stuff. Things like this never would have occurred to me. Another reason I like reading this kind of fiction.

  2. Is this ordinary steel 3/8ths inch plate, or armor plate? I don't see where they would have gotten that much armor plate.
    I ask because it isn't difficult to punch a hole in ordinary 3/8th inch plate; I've done it with soft point 30-06 and 7.62x39. I haven't tried it with .308 yet but I suspect the effect will be similar. With military FMJ (which is cheap) I suspect it would do better. Of course, .308 AP will do more but it is rare and expensive - unlikely to be available to them.

    1. AR 500 and other 'armor' plate is out there in plenty of locations, so it wouldn't be that hard to find.


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.