she gases to lose their heat slowly, cutting the sound of the muzzle blast as the gases finally get to the outside atmosphere. The efficiency of the holding and expansion chambers is obviously the prime factor in the effectiveness of any particular silencer.
"At first, Father thought the gases had to be whirled around and confined to reduce the noise level," his son, Hiram Hamilton Maxim, a former officer in his father's company, told me. "His first model did just that, keeping the swirling gases inside the silencer chamber. But he soon realized that he needed only to delay those gases to reduce the report."
Although the Maxim Silencer Company was not officially formed until 1908, H. P.'s developmental interest in the device actively began two years earlier. An avid hunter and targeteer, H. P. thoroughly loved shooting, but, always the sensitive soul, he also worried that the noise of his gunfire would annoy neighbors. In 1906, he wrote, "It occurred to me one day that there was no need for the noise. Why not do away with it and shoot quietly!"
For two years he sought a practical way to quiet his firearms. His engineering background gave him the reason for the noise-powder gases and sonic crack. But, how could he resolve that? His memoirs record how he built valves, vents, bypass devices, expansion chambers, and more. None worked. Then, during his customary morning bath one day, his scientist's mind was in a technical daydream watching the water run out of the tub.
Maxim wrote, "I noticed in the bath tub the miniature whirlpool that forms over the drain hole when the plug is pulled and the water starts to run out. There was the familiar little hole down in the center of the whirl, and it started me thinking that here was an exactly similar case to my powder gas and bullet problem. Here was the water in a bath tub, the drain plug being pulled out, and the water was able to run out, but slowly because it was whirling.
"Why should not the powder gases act the same way as the water if they were whirled? The whirling would give them centrifugal action precisely as it did the water and cause a 'hole' to form in the center just as the hole formed in the water. I saw the hole for which I had been looking for nearly two years.
"Immediately, I made a little 'whirling tube' which would catch the powder gases as they burst from the muzzle of one of my rifles and whirl them vigorously. In the center I provided a hole for the bullet to pass through but considerably larger than the bullet so it would not touch. The
A period cartoon showing the military use of the Maxim silencer.
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