The Medusa Model 47 (once produced by Phillips & Rodgers, Inc.) is a unique revolver that has the ability to chamber multiple calibers, making it interesting to handgun enthusiasts.
The Medusa chambers, fires, and extracts 25 different cartridges (actually 117, if you count every one ever made, but only 25 were claimed) in the .380/.38/9mm/.357 ammunition range (just about any handgun round with a bullet diameter between .0355 and .0357 inches). Various rounds can be mixed in the same cylinder loading and fired with no problem.
The revolver WAS sold under the CADCO name and listed at the now defunct URL http://www.cadco.com/firearms/pri.htm (don't bother clicking on it). Modern Gun Magazine (which went belly up in 1995) predicted: "This gun will change the industry." (We read that from time to time in gun mags, which have to put enticing titles on their covers to get us to pick them up and maybe buy them.)
See how it does it in the continuation
- - - - - -
The elementary fact which allows multiple calibers to be fired through a single barrel is that they all have bullet diameters within a few thousandths of an inch of each other. (This is why .38 Specials can be fired in most .357 Magnum handguns.) But, they also differ in shell diameter, length, and whether they are rimmed (like most revolver rounds) or rimless or rebated (like most semi-automatic rounds). [Wikipedia entry on rims] A NASA engineer developed an ingenuous solution which enables many of them to be fired (and ejected) using the same cylinder and ejector mechanism.
A close inspection reveals how the Medusa's unique cylinder works. Look at the face of the cylinder and you will see recesses on the chambers for revolver cartridge rims, plus what appear to be fingers projecting into the chamber opening. You can depress them with your fingernail. Unscrew the extractor rod and remove the extractor/latch, and you will see that the fingers are part of a cylinder-long spring mechanism that deploys in slots just below the cartridge rim recesses.
When you insert a rimmed (revolver) cartridge, the finger is pushed toward the center of the cylinder and is not functional. The rim helps to position the cartridge.
But when you insert a rimless (semiautomatic pistol) cartridge, the finger is again pushed inward until it springs back out into the extraction groove to hold the cartridge firmly in place against the outside wall of the chamber. After you fire and open the cylinder, pressing the ejector rod forces the entire assembly backward. The fingers extract the cartridge case, either by gripping the extractor groove of a rimless cartridge or by pushing against the rim of a revolver cartridge.
Roger Hunziker patented a firing pin which helped make the design reliable:
Firing pin mechanism
Document Type and Number: United States Patent 561331Inventors: Hunziker, Roger A. (Conroe, TX, US)Application Number: 509837
Filing Date: 08/01/1995Publication Date: 03/25/1997 Link to this page: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5613315.htmlAbstract: A firing pin for a weapon is movably mounted in a pin bushing which is resiliently biased within a bushing guide. The bushing guide limits maximum forward travel of the pin bushing. The pin bushing is urged into a position of firm contact with the rear of the cartridge, but limited in its forward travel by the bushing guide. The tip of the firing pin is prevented from passing entirely through the primer when struck by the firing pin hammer. The mechanism insures more reliable firing, particularly if several different caliber shells are being fired.
More details at PatentGenius
Some similarity with the Korth
The only other revolver which has an extractor anything like this (but for a single caliber) is the high quality Korth [produced by a company which turned 50 years old in 2004], which happens to be tomorrow's What's The Firearm?:
"The most unique feature of the Korth revolver is the extractor, which extracts the 10mm rounds without moon clips. The only way to describe the system is that it is that it is an off-center, spring loaded extractor that holds the web of the cartridge in place." [Source]
Leroy Thompson: "The 9mm cylinder is very cleverly designed, with the extractor star slightly offset so that it fits into the rim of the 9mm case."
The Colt deal
As the new millenium approached, some predicted a breakdown in the infrastructure of society (at least for a time), as computer algorithms designed for two-digit years got confused and power and banking systems failed. The VPC accused the firearms industry of exploiting fears by introducing firearms which would assist people in protecting their property and loved ones during the turmoil.
In 1999, at Colt's request, Phillips and Rodgers converted a Colt "Magnum Carry" to their extractor design, to be sold as the Colt "Survivor." It was shown (without pre-announcement) at the SHOT show that year. 25K pre-production orders were placed by dealers (the largest order for any product in Colt's history).
Marketing News, v 33, n 5, p 51, 01MAR1999 announced Colt would introduce an 18-caliber revolver called the Survivor.
Firearms Business announced H&R 1871 filed suit against Colt, claiming that Colt's new "Survivor" revolver infringed on a trademark held by H&R and used on a line of shotguns. Firearms Business reported that H&R planned to aggressively market its Survivor line with the release of a special Y2K edition, and that Colt's sought the same market for its revolver. According to Firearms Business, "The ‘Survivor' name is a key element in both companies' plans to capitalize on market opportunities raised by expected Y2K banking and infrastructure problems." Colt informed P&R, Inc. there was a problem with the name.
But, on 15OCT1999, Colt, under pressure from the Clinton Administration and already facing lawsuits, narrowed it's product line, and the Survivor (or whatever it would have been called -- a new name was never selected) was history. Read the complete story about it at ezapper.com. (If the revolver is still available, you can make an offer.)
With the Colt deal falling through, and the fears of chaos after Y2K not materializing, the demand for Medusa dropped. P&R, Inc. discontinued it.
Gary Reeder's version
Gary Reeder picked up the rights, the tooling, and the remaining parts from his friend and business associate Roger Hunziker (the Roger in Phillips and Rogers). He produced a similar revolver called the Skorpion (renamed for legal reasons) in his own shops. It is a K frame sized, round butt gun with a slab sided 4" target grade barrel. After producing about 40, he reportedly discontinued production because customers didn't heed his warning not to use +P ammo, which produced pressures high enough to potentially cause damage, resulting in returns for repairs. (The original Medusa didn't have this restriction.)
The Taurus Triad
In 2005, Taurus was well along toward introducing a revolver called the Triad, which could fire .38, .357, and 9mm rounds using a specially designed moon/star clip. For a a brief time, it was listed in the Taurus catalog at the URL http://www.taurususa.com/products/product-details.cfm?model=TRIAD-85SS&category=Revolver (don't bother clicking on it, as you'll only see a blank page). But, citing market research showing a lack of demand, Taurus abandoned the project before any were actually sold.
More likely, Taurus realized it takes more than a clip to make 9mm and .357/.38 rounds work well in the same chamber. The 9mm Parabellum has a diameter just forward of the rim of app. .392 inches, then tapers down slightly to .38 inches. The .357 Magnum shell, on the other hand, has a diameter of .38 inch and straight walls. You don't want the forcing cone having to straighten up a bullet before it enters the barrel, even ever so slightly, if you want maximum possible accuracy.
The simplest way to fire both .357/.38 and 9mm in a revolver with one barrel is use two cylinders. The bullet diameters are close enough (.0355 9mm vs. .0357 .357) to make the same .357 barrel adequate for all but competition shooting. The German Korth, French Manurhin MR-73, and Ruger Blackhawk Convertible have the second cylinder, which can be interchanged without tools. Astra used to make one. It's not as impressive as being able to mix and match in the same cylinder, but it's good enough for most practical purposes.
Conclusions and opinions
While the Medusa is a fascinating bit of engineering for the revolver (which has seen little really significant design innovation in over a century); the complexity is not justified unless one happens to have a cheap source of a mixture of cartridges, tests cartridges for a living or hobby (which is what motivated the design of the Medusa in the first place), lives in countries where one is limited to one firearm, is a secret agent dropped in somewhere with no ammo resupply, or anticipates a regional or global cataclysm after which one will have to scrounge for ammo.
Its a solution to a problem few reading this are likely to experience: having access to only one handgun and a mixture of cartridges not of our choosing. And yet, it's an impressive piece of design and engineering, to be lauded.
When your life may depend on your firearm, you want it to be as simple and reliable as possible, and you want to practice with the same cartridge you'll might one day be using to save yourself and/or others. (If you paid big $ for a 12oz S&W which can fire .357s or .38s, endure the pain of practicing with .357s. Otherwise, just buy a cheaper one which can fire .38s only.) Statistics show ordinary, law-abiding citizens are very rarely in situations which cannot be resolved with 5 shots or less, so a single caliber, small, lightweight revolver meets most of our self-defense needs nicely; and there's very little to go wrong with a well-maintained revolver.
There's also the well-documented tendency to unload a weapon on a perp once you start firing (some kind of adrenelin thing). LE types often fall victim to this. (Three drug agents in Atlanta pumped dozens of rounds in a 92-year-old innocent grandmother after she fired ONE shot at them in what she thought was self-defense against home invaders.) Firing 12-15 rounds when you only needed a few can get you in a lot of legal trouble (if not with the law, with a civil suit).
But, if you prefer to carry a semi-auto with a high-capacity magazine, more power to you. Who knows, you might be in an extended gun fight like we see in the movies some day, and not have time to do a quick reload of a revolver. If you do, I'll be posting about you here at A-C-E (hopefully not posthumously) as it will be a rarity.
Quite incidentally, and insignificantly (for trivia value only), a bad guy in the Da Vinci Code had a Medusa.
In Greek mythology, Medusa (Greek: Μέδουσα Médousa, "guardian, protectress" was a monstrous chthonic female character, essentially an extension of an apotropaic mask, gazing upon whom could turn onlookers to stone. Secondarily, Medusa was tripled into a trio of sisters, the Gorgons. Medusa was originally a beautiful nymph, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors," but when she was raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple, the goddess transformed her beautiful hair to serpents and she made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn a man to stone. [Wikipedia entry]
Here's a Blue Book of Gun Values entry.