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Blood on the Sand: Crazy Horse vs. Pancho Villa

by GeoffDesmoulin   September 06, 2011 at 12:00AM  |  Views: 7,195

Geoffrey Thor Desmoulin here to get you primed on an iconic matchup that could be our first "Cowboys vs. Indians" episode and to give you some behind-the-scenes info from my fabrication laboratory (a.k.a. the "Fab Lab") about the early firearms that these warriors carried.

Watch out as I use terms like "surface area" to describe how the powder in each round of ammo burns, "angular momentum" to describe bullet flight stability, and yes, even the term "temporary cavity" to describe the final effects or terminal ballistics these weapons have on a soft target (i.e. ballistics gel or human torso). While there was a large difference between how these two warriors attained their weapons, the damage they make is just as devastating. Enjoy this battle of the Southwest as the revolutionary General Pancho Villa takes on the Lakota Warrior Crazy Horse!

To watch the first 13 minutes of this week's episode click here.

The Warriors

Pancho Villa was born on June 5,1878 and is known best as being one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary Generals. Since Villa was Commander of the North Division, there was a wealth of resources at his disposal due to the mineral mines in the area and proximity to the United States. This wealth allowed Villa to purchase weapons and train his men appropriately for battle. Furthermore, many streets and neighborhoods in Mexico were named in his honor. This "People's Warrior" developed his reputation by seizing land for distribution to peasants and soldiers.

Villa's dominance in northern Mexico began to crumble in 1915 however, when a series of defeats began to take their toll. After Pancho Villa's raid on Columbusin 1916, the US Armydispatched General J.J. Pershingto capture Villa. However, after nine months of unsuccessful attempts General Pershing was recruited back to lead men into World War I. When Pancho Villa retired he turned his large estate into a "military colony" for his former soldiers, solidifying his image as the "People's Warrior."

Crazy Horse,literally meaning "His-Horse-Is-Crazy," was born around 1842-3. He was a great First Nations war leader of the Lakota people. When settlers began encroaching upon his territories and the Lakota people's customs, he took up arms against the U.S. Federal government to stop the oppression. Crazy Horse is best known for being one of the major leaders of a war party at the Battle of the Little Bighorn(a.k.a. Custer's Last Stand) in June 1876, the most famous battle of the Great Sioux War. It was an overwhelming victory for Crazy Horse: the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, including the Custer Battalion (a force of 700 men), suffered a major defeat. In total, five U.S. companies were annihilated; Custer was killed and U.S. deaths totaled 268. Since then, Crazy Horse ranks among the most distinctive First Nations tribal members and has been honored by the U.S. Postal Servicewith a postage stamp from the "Great Americans" Series.

Science behind the Weapons
Okay, here we go. Imma get science on you! Let's look at some Internal, External, and Terminal Ballistics so that when we test the early firearms on this upcoming episode you can see how each plays a role in the outcome of the tests.

Internal Ballistics: The study of a projectile's behavior from the time its propellant's igniter is initiated until it exits the gun barrel. It is a subarea of Ballistics but is of most concern to weapons designers.

External Ballistics: The study of the behavior of a non-powered projectile in flight such as a bullet after it exits the barrel and before it hits the target.

Terminal Ballistics: The study of the behavior of a projectile and its affects when it hits its target.

Internal Ballistics:
All weapons on this episode use black powder as their main source of building gas pressure within the chamber to push the round down the barrel. Black Powder is a ground, pressed, and granulated mixture of sulfur (catalyst), charcoal (fuel), and potassium nitrate (oxygen source). The size and shape of the grains can increase or decrease the relative surface area, and change the burning rate significantly. This concept is dictated by Piobert's Law that states a propellant burns by consuming the outer surface of each grain of the charge first. Thus, the greater the surface area of the propellant's grains exposed to burn - the faster the release of gasses to the chamber and the higher the pressure buildup. Hence, the warrior with the finest black powder grain leading to the greatest surface area, will have the faster burning powder which should translate to a higher muzzle velocity especially with short barreled weapons. There is always more to consider, however. The length of the barrel is also key; looking at the graph below (Fig 1) it is easy to see that the longer the barrel is, the longer the time the gases have to accelerate the bullet to a faster velocity prior to it leaving the barrel.

Figure 1Relationship between chamber pressure, barrel length, and bullet velocity (Broemel QuickLoad Software Results).

External Ballistics:

A bullet will not fly accurately and straight unless it is stabilized because of the centre of gravity being behind the centre of pressure as is usually the case with aerodynamically efficient forms. The principal stabilization mechanism here is spin: spin stabilization means giving the projectile rapid rotation around its longitudinal axis which is performed by using a rifled barrel. This spin produces a mechanical phenomenon called "angular momentum." The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that in order for the bullet to tumble while spinning it now requires a torque. There will be a segment on Spike.com from my Fabrication Laboratory (aka. Fab Lab) where I delve into this concept further.

Terminal Ballistics:

This is where it all comes together. The projectile has made impact with the target. It is characterized by very rapid events, high pressures, and large deformation rates. A bullet must have a significant amount of kinetic energy to reach the target, penetrate into it, and perform its task. However, the key to achieving "stopping power" or the ability to stop a threat is how much of the bullet's energy just prior to hitting the target can be dissipated inside the body of the target prior to passing through the target. This occurs when the size of the bullet causes a permanent cavity or hole in the body and when the bullet creates a large overpressure inside the body and pushes tissues away from its path of travel (temporary cavity), damaging them. Hence, larger caliber rounds (larger permanent cavity) that travel faster and break up upon impact tend to be more deadly.

While it's difficult to say what electronic equipment we'll have available to us during the course of airing of any showing of Deadliest Warrior, the show's hosts are typically available for live tweeting during every week's show so please send in your questions during the show via Twitter to our own former U.S. Navy SEAL, the good Doctor, and your scientist to have them answered LIVE, in real time on September 7 at 10/9c.

That's it for this week's "Blood on the Sand." I hope you're enjoying the more of everything that we are bringing you in Season 3 of Deadliest Warrior!

New Episodes of Deadliest Warrior air on Spike Wednesdays at 10/9c and are posted on Spike.com three days later. 

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