When the world was in arms, and the arms were bolt-action, the essence of “rapid-fire” reloading was the stripper clip. While a few nations (notably the Habsburg Empire) use Mannlicher en-bloc clips, most of them used Mauser-type strippers. After encountering the superior Mauser rifle in the Spanish-American War, the US took steps towards adopting a Mauser-derived rifle (which would ultimately yield the 1903 Springfield and its .30 caliber ammunition). As an interim measure, America experimented with a stripper-feed option for the .30 service rifle, the .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson. Only 100 Krag rifles and 100 carbines were made with the so-called Parkhurst device in 1899; this one sold at Rock Island Auctions in 2010.
Hmm. Here’s a side view:
The Parkhurst Device is a forgotten footnote to firearms history, but the procedures developed to manufacture and load stripper clips had arrived in the arsenals just in time for the adoption of a stripper-loaded firearm, the M1903 Springfield rifle.
For a simple assembly of metal, the manufacture of the stripper was fairly complicated:
Let’s see what a period (1916) book had to say about manufacturing these clips.
Making Cartridge Clips. —The device for quickly inserting cartridges in the magazine of a 0.30-caliber rifle consists of a clip * which holds five cartridges sufficiently tight to prevent them from falling out. As soon as the clip is placed over the breech and the top cartridge pressed, they are ejected and pass into the magazine. The clips are thrown away when empty, so that they must be made very cheaply. The main body of the clip is made from a sheet of brass stock about 0.021 inch thick by 2 7/16 inches wide. The sequence of operations necessary to complete this clip is illustrated from A to G in Fig. 3, and the machine for making the body of the clip is shown in Figs. 4 and 5.
Referring to Fig. 4, which shows a front view of the press, the strip stock is held on a roll located at the right-hand end of the machine. The stock is fed into the machine by the ordinary type of feeding rolls, and the first operation is to cut out a blank as illustrated at A in Fig. 3. This is accomplished by the punch and die B, see Fig.5.
The blank is then ejected from the die and carried on to the next punch and die D and E by means of a transfer slide C similar to that employed in a multiple plunger press, that receives its motion from a crank mechanism at the left-hand end of the machine. The next operation, performed by the punch D and die E, is to form two ribs in the center of the blank, and turn up the two edges as shown at B in Fig. 3. The formed blank is then ejected and the transfer arrangement carries it on to the next operation, where punch and die F and G crimp the outer edges into the shape shown at C, Fig. 3. The edges of the blank are flattened down and at the same time turned up a distance about 3/64 inch above the top surface of the blank. The blank is then ejected from the die and is carried forward over die H. As punch I descends it forces the blank out of the transfer fingers and into the die H, This operation forms four projections which are shown at D in Fig. 3 that act as retainers for the spring to be inserted later. The next punch and die J and K draw up the sides of the clip into a box shape as at E, Fig. 3. Then, as the blank is passed on to the last punch L and its die, it is slightly curved and is ejected from the machine by a crank mechanism N, Fig. 4, which actuates the last die. This sequence of operations is carried on entirely automatically, and, in fact, the machine will run without any attention whatever until the roll has been exhausted. The operator then starts up the machine and the sequence of operations continues.
Making the Spring for the Cartridge Clip. —In order to hold the cartridge in place in the clip, a curved flat spring F, Fig. 3, is used. This spring, which is made from a sheet of half hard brass stock 0.510 inch wide by 0.010 inch thick, is blanked out and bent to shape in the press shown in Fig. 6. The stock is held on a roll A shown to the left of the machine, and is drawn in by a pair of ordinary feeding rolls B operated by a ratchet mechanism receiving power from the crankshaft of the machine. The first operation is to cut off a strip to the required length, form the ends, and pierce the three holes. This blank, by means of a carrier, is then transferred to the punch and die C. Here the blank is bent up into a curved shape and the spring prongs at each end are formed, after which it is ejected. These prongs are used in assembling the clips for holding the spring in place; they catch on a projection formed in the base of the clip. This machine is also entirely automatic in its operation, and, when once started, it will run until the roll of stock has been exhausted.
Assembling the Spring in the Cartridge Clip. —The assembling of the springs in the cartridge clip is accomplished in the small bench machine shown in Fig. 7. The operator places the clip in a nest, then inserts the spring in a slide which carries it forward and inserts it in the clip. The spring is held on this slide and is pushed into the clip automatically by the prongs which fit into the raised catches in the clip. The clip is carried forward into the assembling position by another slide, which works beside the spring-inserting plunger, and operates a carrier D, In order to show the working mechanism of this machine, the top lid or plate that covers the mechanism has been removed, and is shown to the right of the illustration. The clip is inserted through the hole A, and the spring in the hole B, When the operator pulls the handle C, the slide advances carrying the spring and assembles it in the clip. After assembling, the clip is ejected from the machine and drops into a box placed beneath it. The assembled clip appears at G in Fig. 3.
Gee, that looks like a mind-numbing job to us. And one easily automated. (It probably was, soon after 1916). The “machine” in this case is real Model T-era technology, a device that processes one part at a time and is powered by human muscle.
At this juncture, we have completed stripper clips, and elsewhere in the same book (see Source below) the entire process of completing ammunition, practically from raw materials, has been described and illustrated in similar depth and detail. What remains, then, is to inspect, clean and load the cartridges into the stripper clips. Onward!
Gaging, Weighing, and Inspecting Loaded Cartridges. — Before locating the cartridges in the clip, they are inspected, gaged, and weighed. These three operations are all accomplished in one machine, which is shown in Fig. 8.
As you can see, this is another highly manual process. Note that in 1916, a century ago, there was no statistical quality control: every single round was subject to inspection. (Despite that… all the grenaded Springfields from Wednesday’s post?). We’ll continue with the explanation of what we’re seeing in Fig. 8 above.
The dies held in the dial A in which the cartridges are placed by the operator act as a gage for the body of the cartridge; that is, the contour of the holes in these dies is similar to the chamber of the rifle. As the dial passes around, the cartridges are carried beneath an electrically operated plunger which inspects them to see that each one has a primer in it. Should a cartridge be encountered that has no primer, this punch drops down into the pocket and breaks the electric circuit, which causes a bell to ring, thus notifying the operator that a cartridge with no primer has passed. When the primer is located upside down, the same action takes place. The cartridge is weighed in a unique and interesting manner. As the dial A passes around, the cartridge is lifted up and caught by the ejector B. This transfers the cartridge to the scoops C which are carried on the weighing dial D. The weighing is done by balances E in which the cartridges are deposited by the scoops C. The bullet comes up to a stop in these balances and a wire hook attached to the balance catches on the wire F when the cartridge carries the correct charge of powder and dumps the cartridge into the box G. When the charge of powder in the cartridge is light, the hook on the weighing balance E rides up over wire F, but as the dial passes around still further the hook catches on a wire located higher than wire F, and dumps the cartridge into the light charge box. It is therefore evident that cartridges which are light in weight pass the first box, but cannot go completely around, as they are ejected by the second wire, thus making certain of dumping the weighing balance and throwing the cartridge out. This mechanism successfully eliminates all light charge cartridges, and keeps them uniform in shooting quality.
That’s a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine, but there doesn’t seem to be any method of catching a heavy load. It is probable that a normal load filled the casing nearly brim-full and therefore a heavy load was not possible, practically.
Now it’s finally time to stuff the cartridges into the clips.
Inserting Cartridges in the Clips. —The machine used for inserting the cartridges in the clips is shown in Figs. 9 and 10. A dial A, which accommodates five cartridges in a row, carries the cartridges around to where the clip is inserted over them. This dial is rotated by means of a crank motion, pawl and ratchet in the ordinary manner, the ratchet dial being located beneath the dial carrying the cartridges. The assembled clips are placed in the proper position in the magazine B by an operator; two operators are engaged in keeping the cartridge dial full. The clip is carried out from the bottom of the magazine by means of a carrier operated by an eccentric shaft, and is located over the five cartridges in the dial A. The ‘”latch” C which is shown thrown back in the illustration runs under a roller held in bellcrank D and seats the clip properly on the heads of the cartridges. The dial then indexes to the next position, where a bending tool comes into action and bends down the prong projections on the ends of the spring in the clip, thus preventing the cartridges from dropping out. As the dial then indexes around to the next position, the cartridges that have been inserted in the clips are picked up out of the dial by means of a swinging transferring arm that drops them in a box; 65,000 of these cartridges are inserted in the clips per day of eight hours. Fig.10 shows a closer view of the machine illustrated in Fig. 9, and gives a better idea of its construction and operation. Here it will be seen that the ejecting or work-removing fixture is composed of two pieces of sheet steel, spring tempered, which grip the clip by the lower surface.
* The term “clip” has been used here, as that Is the name used by the U.S. Army; this part, however, should be properly called a “charger.”
It would be interesting to compare this line to how Mauser’s guys were doing it in Teutonistan, but we’re not aware of any analogous German source.
This is a chapter of a 1916 book, Cartridge Manufacture, by Douglas Hamilton, who was then Associate Editor of the trade magazine Machinery. (We’re looking for Hamilton’s other works in ebook or hard copy, including “Shrapnel Shell Manufacture.”
Complete bibliographical information — and perhaps of more immediate use to you, a .pdf of the document, courtesy Microsoft Corporation — follows.
Hamilton, Douglas T. Cartridge Manufacture: A Treatise Covering the Manufacture of Rifle Cartridge Cases, Bullets, Powders, Primers and Cartridge Clips, and the Designing and Making of the Tools Used in Connection with the Production of Cartridge Cases and Bullets, Together with a Description of the Principal Operations in the Manufacture of Combination Paper and Brass Shot Shells. New York: The Industrial Press, 1916.
Available here: cartridge_manufacture_hamilton_1916.pdf (12.4 MB .pdf file, color).