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Kricotronic: electric thunderbolt.

* It has been said that the last 40 years have seen our entrance into the Atomic Age. However I'm not so sure this is actual fact. Of course a few nations have nuclear weapons, and some of the world's power comes from nuclear generating stations but by and large, the average man on the street has no contact with fissionable materials, and the respective good, or evil, that comes from them.

On the other hand, practically everybody has some kind of contact with electronics. All "civilized" nations are powered by electricity, and even the most primitive third-world nations rely to some extent on that mysterious force we call electricity. Electricity is nothing new to firearms either. Some artillery is fired by an electrical charge, and electronic triggers are found on many target arms. But something hasn't seen the light of day is electronic firing of sporting arms using standard ammunition . . . until now. The Krico Sporting Arms Co. (Krico GmbH) has developed a system wherein standard ammunition can have the primer ignited by an electrical charge.

At the moment, the Kircotronic System, as it's called, is meant basically for the target shooter for two reasons; first, a silhouette .22 rimfire rifle is the only arm the system has been adapted to, and second, the recycle time of the twin capacitors isn't fast enough for a quick follow-up shot. The recycle period is being improved all the time however, and in the future it is hard to say just how rapid it might become. As an example, when I first heard about the Kricotronic system it was at the 1984 SHOT Show in Dallas. Talking with the Krico PR people, they stated that recycle time was in the neighborhood of 6-1/2 seconds. In June of '84 when I first saw and fired the system at Krico's factory in Stuttgart, West German, the recycle time had been reduced to 4 to 4-1/2 seconds. By the end of last year when the prototype test rifle appeared at the G&A offices the recycle period was down to 3 to 3-1/2 seconds. Interestingly enough, during this transition the battery pack also got smaller. At first the system was powered by six 9-volt transistor radio batteries. In June the pack was down to four batteries, and by the time the rifle got to America and into our hands, the battery pack contained only two 9-volt units.

Before we get deeply into the Kricotronic system let's talk about the rifle itself, because in this case it is almost secondary to the revolutionary new method of lighting the fire. The basic rifle is Krico's bolt-action Model 340 Silhouette five-shot .22 rimfire. Fitted with a 21-1/2-inch heavy barrel, the M-340 is meant for the rapidly growing game of .22 rimfire silhouette shooting. It boasts a target-styled walnut stock that is stippled on both the pistol grip and forearm. Stippling, while not as decorative a finish as checkering, provides a slightly better grip for the competitive shooter. The barrel is totally free-floating. The receiver is grooved for tip-off mounts, and on our particular test gun we fitted a Leupold M8-8X scope in Beeman rings.

Unfortunately, because of our time frame to get into print, we weren't able to do serious accuracy testing. On two different trips to Petersen's ranch we were met by 35 to 40 mph winds, certainly not conducive to accuracy when testing any rifle, to say nothing about a .22 rimfire. At best, wiht Lapua Match ammo we got slightly under 1/2-inch groups at 25 years, certainly nothing to write home about. However, I did get to fire another prototype (of the Kricotronic system, not the M-340 Silhouette rifle) in Krico's 100-meter test tunnel. Using Eley Match ammo, that gun was capable of under 1/2-inch groups at the full 100 meters. Using that as a basis, along with groups I've shot from other Krico rifles, I think it's safe to say that the Krico brand has proven to be highly accurate.

The rifle is fed from a five-round detachable magazine, the same as the standard Model 340 Silhouette. In fact that's a point I want to stress. Other than the installation of the Kricotronic system, the rifle is the standard Model 340 Silhouette with the exception that now there are no mechanical lockwords . . . none, zip, nil! Only extraction and ejection are the same as a standard rifle. Dual extractors are used, and a solid projection that resides in the bottom of the bolt raceway provides ejection.

firing the Kricotronic the first time is a bit unsettling. Subconsciously, you're aware of the sear breaking on a "normal" rifle . . . you feel it break, if you will. This system, however, is something else altogether. First of all, the "trigger pull" (it's not a trigger in the normal sense of the word; it is a switch) is almost unmeasureable. Our standard pull gauge doesn't even come close to determining the lightness of the Kricotronic's pull. I can only guess it is in the 1 to 3-ounce range--and that's with a two-stage trigger! And even then the first stage, through a series of adjustment screws, can be adjusted out.

So there you sit, slowly trying to "take up the slack" on a trigger that you can barely feel. All of a sudden the rifle goes "bang" and you've sent a shot downrange. I guarantee you that first shot goes before you expect it--it has with every person I've seen shoot the rifle. It is almost uncanny how detached you feel from the trigger/switch movement. At first I didn't like it because I felt I had no control over when the shot was going to be fired. It was almost as though I had nothing to do with it. But when I got used to it I can honestly say I shot better groups than I ever had before. Once you understand the feeling, the Kricotronic system does wonders for both the accuracy and your ego.

Basically the system works on the same principle as a spot welder--low voltage and high amperage. The two 9-volt batteries, in series, provide 18 volts. The voltage is stored in two capacitors until the shooter releases the trigger. When the trigger is pulled a thyristor (a one-way electrical switch) opens and allows 300 amps to flow through an electrode that resides in the bolt where a firing pin would normally be. This electrode, made from tungsten, is spring-loaded so that it can rest, under tension, on the rear of the cartridge case (on a .22 rimfire of course it rests against the rim). Because the electrode is so small in diameter--.040 inch--when compared with the surface it's resting on (the primer), opening the thyristor releases the stored charge against the primer. Because it happens so rapidly the charge is converted into heat in micro-seconds. At the point of contact the heat reaches 3,500 degrees C, and since primers only need 400 degrees C in an instantaneous situation to detonate, the primer is fired. In essence all this means is that for all practical purposes there is no locktime. You pull the trigger and the shot is fired--right now!

The switch to turn on the system is located on the right side of the buttstock. Along with the switch is a warning light that goes on the instant the switch is activated. In about three to four seconds the light starts to blink, indicating the capacitors are charged and the rifle is ready to fire. In many ways it acts like, and works like, a modern strobe unit for a camera.

As you may have guessed by now, there is no safety provided with this system because none is needed. And since there are no mechanical parts in the lockwords it would be impossible to use a safety as we know it. Instead, when the switch is turned off, the rifle is as safe as a loaded gun can ever be. In a conventional firearm a sear can always break, or something can go mechanically wrong. The Kircotronic, on the other hand, is totally safe when the switch is turned off.

On problem did surface with the Kircotronic system during our time with it. Before getting into it I must point out that the gun we had was a prototype, and the rifle I shot in Germany was the same. Undoubtedly, when the Kricotronic hits the market, the problem will be cured. The difficulty is simply this: the rifle didn't fire every time the light said the capacitors were fully charged. This situation didn't occur often, perhaps one in 15 times--but it did happen enough to warrant mentioning it. However, once or twice the fault was traced to the ammunition instead of the gun. On a rimfire .22 cartridge, the priming compound is spun by centrifugal force into the rim area of the case. Because the electrode is only .040 inch in diameter, the heat it produces is concentrated into a very small area, and if there isn't priming compound directly under the electrode, nothing will happen.

The few times the cartridge wasn't at fault, it was necesary to recycle the bolt handle, which then allows the capacitors to recharge.

With the electrode transferring such high heat, it does burn itself away after about 500 rounds have been put through the gun. Arndt Kriegeskorte, the designer of the Kricotronic system, feels that Beeman Precision Firearms, who will be the distributor for this gun in North America, will be able to supply replacement electrodes for under $8. The batteries also have to be replaced about every thousand rounds, but any drugstore will be able to supply the shooter with them. There is a plan in the future to offer the system with rechargeable batteries.

So there you have it; not the Atomic Age, but the Electronic Age, so far as shooters are concerned. And what does this electronic marvel cost, you ask? Well, since to say. But here's a guide to go by. The basic Model 340 Silhouette costs $646.50. I was told in Germany the addition of the Kricotronic system would up the price about $110. I think most target shooters would be happy to ante up an extra hundred bucks if it would guarantee their scores going up. And so would target shotgunners. As this is being written, two famous shotgun makers from Italy are talking to Krico about including the system on their target guns. Also, plans are underway to make the system available on centerfire rifles.

So for the first time in many decades, we have an all-new method of igniting the primer of standard ammunition that seems better than the age-old style. It still has some minor glitches, but undoubtedly they will be resolved before the production system ever hits your dealer's shelves. What we have here, folks, is a small revolution in firearms. I'll bet that in a few years it will have grown into a full-scale insurrection!

The Kricontronic rifle will be available in the next few months. For more information, contact Beeman Precision Firearms, 47 Paul Drive, Dept. GA, San Rafael, CA 94903.
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Title Annotation:evaluation; repeater rifle
Author:Hetzler, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Mar 1, 1985
Words:1862
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