Title:
Barrel thimble
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A barrel thimble for securing a ramrod to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm. The thimble includes a hollow tubular sleeve portion and flanges extending from the sleeve portion for engagement within recesses formed in the barrel of the firearm.



Inventors:
Echeberria, Julian Guisasola (Guipuzcoa, ES)
Arrizabalaga, Alberto Martinez (Gulpuzcoa, ES)
Application Number:
10/911974
Publication Date:
03/09/2006
Filing Date:
08/05/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41C7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAYES, BRET C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GARDNER GROFF & GREENWALD, PC (Marietta, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. In a muzzle-loading firearm having a barrel and a ramrod for loading a projectile into the barrel of the firearm, the improvement comprising: a barrel thimble for securing the ramrod to the barrel of the firearm when the ramrod is not in use, said barrel thimble comprising a sleeve portion and at least one flange extending from the sleeve portion for connection to the barrel of the firearm.

2. The improvement of claim 1, comprising an opposed pair of flanges for engagement within cooperating recesses formed in the barrel of the firearm.

3. The improvement of claim 1, wherein the sleeve portion and the at least one flange are a unitary integral component.

4. The improvement of claim 1, wherein the sleeve portion comprises a slotted top opening, and the at least one flange comprises an opposed pair of flanges extending from edges of the sleeve portion adjacent the slotted top opening.

5. A muzzle-loading firearm comprising a barrel, a ramrod for loading a projectile into the barrel, and a barrel thimble for removably securing the ramrod to the barrel when the ramrod is not in use, said barrel thimble comprising a sleeve for receiving the ramrod, and integral attachment means for attaching the sleeve to the barrel without separate connectors.

6. The muzzle-loading firearm of claim 5, wherein the integral attachment means comprises at least one flange for attachment to the barrel.

7. The muzzle-loading firearm of claim 6, wherein the barrel comprises a pair of spaced-apart recesses, and wherein the integral attachment means comprises an opposed pair of flanges for engagement within the pair of spaced-apart recesses.

8. The muzzle-loading firearm of claim 7, wherein the sleeve comprises an open end formed by a slot defined between the opposed pair of flanges.

9. The muzzle-loading firearm of claim 7, wherein each of the spaced-apart recesses comprises a slot extending lengthwise along a portion of the barrel.

10. A barrel thimble for securing a ramrod to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm, the barrel thimble comprising a sleeve and an opposed pair of flanges extending from the sleeve.

11. A barrel thimble as claimed in claim 10, wherein the sleeve has an open slot along a top portion thereof, and wherein the opposed pair of flanges extend from edges of the sleeve adjacent the open slot.

12. A barrel thimble as claimed in claim 10, wherein the sleeve has a generally circular cross-section.

13. A barrel thimble as claimed in claim 10, wherein each flange has a smoothly curved profile with inwardly-recessed and outwardly-curved portions.

14. A barrel thimble as claimed in claim 12, wherein each flange has a portion between the inwardly-recessed and outwardly-curved portions contoured to generally conform to an external profile of a portion of the barrel of the muzzle-loading firearm.

15. A barrel thimble as claimed in claim 10, constructed as an integral component formed of a flexible material to permit the flanges to flex relative to one another and maintain a bias force against the barrel of the muzzle-loading firearm.

16. A barrel thimble for securing a ramrod to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm, the thimble comprising: a sleeve portion comprising a hollow tubular element having a generally circular cross-section extending lengthwise about a longitudinal axis, said sleeve portion comprising an open end; and a pair of opposed flanges extending from the sleeve portion adjacent the open end, each flange comprising a tip edge extending generally parallel to the longitudinal axis of the sleeve.

17. The barrel thimble of claim 16, wherein the tip edges of the flanges are directed inwardly toward one another.

18. The barrel thimble of claim 16, wherein the sleeve portion and the pair of opposed flanges comprise a unitary component.

19. The barrel thimble of claim 16, wherein each flange has a smoothly curved profile with inwardly-recessed and outwardly-curved portions.

20. A method of attaching a barrel thimble to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm, the method comprising flexing an opposed pair of flanges of the barrel thimble against the thimble's internal resilient bias, and releasing the flanges to allow tip portions of the flanges to engage within recesses formed in the barrel of the muzzle-loading firearm.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to the field of firearms and, more particularly, to an improved apparatus for securing a ramrod or other equipment used in association with muzzle-loading firearms to the barrel.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In a typical muzzle-loading firearm (including without limitation, muzzle-loading rifles, muskets, shotguns, pistols, cannon, and the like), the main powder charge and the projectile are manually loaded into the muzzle of the firearm. Many such firearms utilize a ramrod during the loading process to seat the powder and projectile against the breech of barrel. The ramrod is typically stored directly beneath the barrel of the gun and is secured in place by at least one barrel thimble as depicted in FIG. 1. Typically, thimbles are hollow tubes, which permit a user to slide a ramrod therein to support and house the ramrod when not in use. In the prior art, thimbles are typically attached to the barrel of the gun with at least one separate connector such as a screw or bolt, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

Attaching a thimble to the barrel of the gun using this method can present many problems in the manufacturing process and may compromise the structural integrity of the firearm. In order to utilize this method, a manufacturer must first drill one or more appropriate sized holes in both the barrel and the thimble to accommodate the screw, and the barrel must be tapped to accept the screw threads. Additionally, the screw must be guided through the thimble and inserted into the barrel. Furthermore, the screw and barrel hole must be coated with a bonding agent or adhesive to keep the thimble from vibrating loose. And the thimble typically is a somewhat complex casting, with a radiused or angled recess to match the barrel's external geometry, adding to expense. This procedure takes a considerable amount of time to complete and is costly for the manufacturer. Furthermore, drilling into the barrel of a firearm may compromise the structural integrity of the firearm and/or present a potential rusting point.

Accordingly, it can be seen that needs exist for improved barrel thimbles and methods for securing a ramrod to a muzzle-loading firearm. It is to the provision of an improved method and apparatus meeting this and other needs that the present invention is primarily directed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an improved barrel thimble and an improved method of securing a ramrod or other equipment to the barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm. In example embodiments, the thimble includes a sleeve portion for receiving the ramrod, and a pair of flanges integrally formed with the sleeve portion for engagement within cooperating recesses formed in the barrel. The thimble preferably flexes to facilitate installation, and is resiliently biased into engagement with the barrel to securely hold the thimble in place.

In one aspect, the invention is an improvement to a muzzle-loading firearm of the type having a barrel and a ramrod for loading a projectile into the barrel of the firearm, the improvement being a barrel thimble for securing the ramrod to the barrel of the firearm when the ramrod is not in use, the barrel thimble having a sleeve portion and at least one flange extending from the sleeve portion for connection to the barrel of the firearm.

In another aspect, the invention is a muzzle-loading firearm comprising a barrel, a ramrod for loading a projectile into the barrel, and a barrel thimble for removably securing the ramrod to the barrel when the ramrod is not in use. The barrel thimble preferably includes a sleeve for receiving the ramrod, and integral attachment means for attaching the sleeve to the barrel without separate connectors.

In another aspect, the invention is a barrel thimble for securing a ramrod to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm, the barrel thimble including a sleeve and an opposed pair of flanges extending from the sleeve.

In another aspect, the invention is a barrel thimble for securing a ramrod to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm. The thimble preferably includes a sleeve portion formed as a hollow tubular element having a generally circular cross-section extending lengthwise about a longitudinal axis, and having an open end. A pair of opposed flanges preferably extend from the sleeve portion adjacent the open end, each flange having a tip edge extending generally parallel to the longitudinal axis of the sleeve.

In another aspect, the invention is a method of attaching a barrel thimble to a barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm. The method preferably includes the steps of flexing an opposed pair of flanges of the barrel thimble against the thimble's internal resilient bias, and releasing the flanges to allow tip portions of the flanges to engage within recesses formed in the barrel of the muzzle-loading firearm.

These and other aspects, features and advantages of the invention will be understood with reference to the drawing figures and detailed description herein, and will be realized by means of the various elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following brief description of the drawings and detailed description of the invention are exemplary and explanatory of preferred embodiments of the invention, and are not restrictive of the invention, as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of a prior art thimble assembly showing a thimble attached to a barrel of a firearm.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the prior art thimble assembly of FIG. 1 taken at section A-A.

FIG. 3 is a side view of a thimble assembly according to an example embodiment of the present invention, shown attached to a barrel of a firearm.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the thimble assembly of FIG. 3 taken at section C-C.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the thimble of FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is a plan view of the thimble of FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

The present invention may be understood more readily by reference to the following detailed description of the invention taken in connection with the accompanying drawing figures, which form a part of this disclosure. It is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the specific devices, methods, conditions or parameters described and/or shown herein, and that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments by way of example only and is not intended to be limiting of the claimed invention. Also, as used in the specification including the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” include the plural, and reference to a particular numerical value includes at least that particular value, unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Ranges may be expressed herein as from “about” or “approximately” one particular value and/or to “about” or “approximately” another particular value. When such a range is expressed, another embodiment includes from the one particular value and/or to the other particular value. Similarly, when values are expressed as approximations, by use of the antecedent “about,” it will be understood that the particular value forms another embodiment.

Referring now to the drawing figures, FIGS. 3-6 depict a thimble apparatus according to a first exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The thimble apparatus 10 is shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 mounted onto a barrel 20 of a muzzle-loading firearm 30. As depicted, the thimble 10 is mounted on a muzzle-loading rifle, but it can be readily adapted for use on other types of muzzle-loading firearms by persons of ordinary skill in the art.

The thimble 10 preferably comprises a generally tubular hollow sleeve portion 15 for receiving and housing a ramrod 5 when the ramrod is not in use. It is preferable that the sleeve portion 15 of the thimble 10 has a generally circular, octagonal, or otherwise configured cross-section that extends about a longitudinal axis 17. In the depicted embodiment, the sleeve defines a slotted top opening 19 permitting the sides of the sleeve to flex relative to one another. The thimble 10 further comprises at least one, and preferably two, flanges 12 extending from the top of the thimble as depicted in FIG. 4, on either or both sides of the slot 19. It is preferable that the thimble 10 is made out of stainless steel, brass, or other metal, but one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the material properties of the thimble can vary. The flanges 12 preferably extend from the edges of the sleeve adjacent the open slot 19 at the top of the sleeve portion 15 of the thimble, and have a smoothly curving profile to minimize stress concentrations and provide flexure during installation. Each flange can comprise a single continuous element extending along the length of the thimble, or two or more fins or fingers spaced at intervals along the length of the thimble. In the depicted embodiments, each flange 12 comprises an inwardly-recessed (concave when viewed from the thimble's exterior) portion 14 adjacent its point of connection with the sleeve portion 15, an outwardly-curved (convex) portion 16 distal the inwardly-recessed portion from the sleeve, and terminates in an inwardly and distally directed fin or tip 18.

Flexure of the sleeve portion 15 and/or the flanges 12 allows the tips of the flanges 12 to be retracted away from one another (expanding the open-slotted top 19), and the resilience or shape-memory of the sleeve's material biases the flanges back toward one another, to facilitate installation of the thimble and retain it in place on the barrel. The flanges 12 preferably also provide resilient flexure at the inwardly and outwardly curved portions 14, 16, to facilitate installation and secure the thimble on the barrel. In alternate embodiments, the sleeve 15 does not include a slotted open top, and the flanges provide the flexure for facilitating installation and securing of the thimble to the barrel. And in still further embodiments, the sleeve portion provides the flexure and the flanges are substantially rigid.

In preferred embodiments, the inside diameter of the sleeve portion 15 of the thimble 10 is slightly larger than the outer diameter of the ramrod, to provide a running interference fit to secure the ramrod in place and to minimize vibration of the ramrod against the barrel when not in use. In example embodiments, it is preferred that the flanges 12 extend from and be integrally formed with the sleeve portion 15, as depicted in FIGS. 5 and 6. In order to secure the ramrod within the thimble 10, it is preferred that the sleeve 15 and the recessed portion 14 have inner contours generally conforming to the outer contours of the ramrod. Additionally, portions of the flanges 12 between the inwardly-recessed portion 14 and the outwardly-recessed portion 16 are preferably shaped to generally match the outer contour of the barrel 20 to provide more secure attachment and minimize vibration of the ramrod.

The thimble 10 preferably engages the barrel 20 via at least one, and preferably two slots 22 or other recesses formed in the barrel. The slots 22 are preferably continuous channels or grooves formed in the barrel 20 adapted to receive the tip edges 18 of the flanges 12. In alternate embodiments wherein each flange 12 comprises one or more spaced-apart fins or fingers, the slots 22 can take the form of one or more discontinuous short channel segments or holes spaced along the barrel. In further alternative embodiments, the slots are formed by the intersection of the barrel 20 and one or more ridges or other projections extending outwardly from the barrel. The slots 22 are preferably aligned generally parallel to one another, and are spaced a distance apart from one another that is slightly greater than the unflexed spacing between the flanges 12 of the thimble, such that the resilience of the thimble holds the flanges snugly in the slots when the thimble is installed, preventing inadvertent removal of the thimble from the barrel. Preferably the slots 22 span the length of the thimble 10 as depicted in FIG. 3. However, in alternate embodiments the slots may be longer than the thimble or may only be as long as cooperating portions of the flanges 12. The slots 22 are preferably angularly offset from one another about the periphery of the barrel by between 45° and 75°, and most preferably by about 60°. In the depicted embodiment, the slots 22 are angled towards each other to accommodate inwardly-directed flanges 12. In alternate embodiments, the slots 22 are directed parallel to one another, or are directed away from each other to receive outwardly-directed flanges. In alternate embodiments, the flanges directly engage the outer surface of the barrel, rather than being received within recesses formed in the barrel.

The thimble of the present invention is preferably quick and easy to install. In one form of the invention, the flanges 12 are pulled apart for insertion into the slots 22. The resilience of the thimble 10 will cause the flanges 12 to spring back toward their unbiased position and secure the thimble to the barrel 20. In these embodiments, the tips 18 of the flanges 12 are preferably angled inwardly towards each other such that when the flanges are pulled apart and inserted into the slots 22, the thimble is secured to the barrel 20 by inward bias of the tips of the flanges. In alternative embodiments, the tips 18 of the flanges 12 are directed outwardly, in opposite directions, such that the flanges are pressed together for insertion into outwardly-angled slots 22, and the thimble is secured to the barrel by outward bias of the flanges. Because the thimble 10 does not require a bonding agent to prevent it from vibrating loose, it may be easily removed for cleaning or repair if necessary, and replaced using the procedures outlined above.

While the thimble of the present invention has been described as utilized to secure a ramrod to the barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm, it will be recognized that minor modification within the level of skill in the art can be made to allow the thimble to secure other items to a firearm, such as for example, front and/or rear sights, telescopic sights, carrying slings, and the like.

While the invention has been described with reference to preferred and example embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that a variety of modifications, additions and deletions are within the scope of the invention, as defined by the following claims.