From left, Matthew Moeller, James Bird, Russell Jones III and David Bound.

Inventors bring relative simplicity to tackling problems with charging mechanisms

Patent No.: US D9175914
Date of Patent: Nov. 3, 2015

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Five U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) employees were recently granted a patent for work on a remote weapons charging handle adapter.

James Bird, David Bound, James Giacchi, Russell Jones III, and Matthew Moeller were granted U.S. Patent number 9175914 on Nov. 3, 2015.

The invention relates to remotely-operated weapons and, in particular, to charging mechanisms for remotely-operated guns.

Remotely-operated weapons are a benefit to the warfighter because they provide the operator with the ability to acquire and engage targets from any type of armored enclosure. An example is the remotely-operated weapon system is the U.S. military’s Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS).

While different remotely-operated weapons may use the same mounting cradle, these weapons often require different charging handle adapters because of the various charging handle sizes and positions on the weapons. The adapters are easily lost, and do not allow for reliable return of the charging handle to the forward position.

The firearm used in a remotely-operated weapon may be a conventional, human-operated firearm. The firearm may be designed to be cycled manually or automatically, for example, by propellant gas or by gun recoil.

The frame on which the weapon is mounted may accept multiple, weapon configurations. Thus, there is a need for a simple apparatus and method for interfacing with different weapon charging handle configurations on a single gun cradle.

For a remotely-operated gun, a linear actuator may provide the input for the charging handle to move the weapon’s bolt to the rear, to enable feeding ammunition. After locking the bolt rearward, the charging handle must then be returned forward to prevent weapon damage.

The M240 Machine Gun, Mark 48 (Mk 48) Machine gun, and M249 Machine Gun are gas-operated automatic weapons which require charging (moving the charging handle rearward and then forward) to load and clear the weapon.

When used on remote weapon stations, the linear actuator typically provides the external input required to actuate these weapons.

The linear actuator moves the weapon’s bolt assembly to the rear position, which cycles and feeds the next round on the belt.

On the linear actuator return stroke, the charging handle is moved forward to the forward detent position.

According to Moeller, “The inspiration was two-fold. One, providing adequate equipment for the warfighter that enables him/her to properly perform their duty and two, the challenge of designing a single piece of hardware that did not require tooling to solve this integration problem.”

The M153 (and other remote weapons) are built to mount multiple small caliber machine guns. Due to interface differences between the weapons (location of charging handle, ejection port, etc.), multiple sets of loose hardware were necessary to adapt specific weapons for proper charging/clearing.

The most notable were the M240 because of its multiple charging handle configurations across the family and the integration of the Mk48 for specific applications. The Abrams Table of Organization and Equipment specifically includes the M240 with a cable charging mechanism.

The original configuration of the M153 provided no means to charge this configuration of M240, even though the Heavy Brigade Combat Team needs to mount this weapon on the M153.

The team had to create a design that would accommodate all of these configurations and eliminate the loose hardware that proved to be a logistical burden. Tolerance space within manufacturing from the weapon technical data packages also introduced integration issues to the adaptation hardware, which was remedied as well.

“As an engineer, there will never be a perfect solution,” Moeller said.

“It is important to balance all of the options within the design trade space to accomplish your main goal effectively and efficiently. Requirements creep is dangerous to schedule. Try to work out all of the requirements up front.” Moeller said.

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The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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