AT Commander's

SOTW Working Mortar

As soon as I saw the $7.99 SOTW mortar, I immediately wondered if the mortar tube was hollow or if it had pegs obstructing the bore. Compared to the Hasbro mortar that "really fires", this mortar looked 100% better and if it could be made operable, it would be cooler in EVERY respect. I had to buy one to see. Lo and behold, it was a straight tube! No interior obstructions. Nothing to interfere with the project that was beginning to congeal… this had REAL possibilities! After I got home and got it out of the package, I was very impressed. The SOTW mortar rocked! I took the tube by itself and headed out to my favorite small town family owned hardware store. I found the spring section and checked spring after spring until I found one that would fit the bore of the mortar tube. Sometimes the diameter of the spring changes a little when it's compressed, so I figured the "try it and see" approach was best. I bought a couple of springs in the size that I felt would best fit the bore (and not be so strong that kids couldn't compress it).

When I got home, I attacked the mortar tube with my Dremel. First, I shoved a dowel in the bore to compress the spring, and measured how deep the barrel was after the spring was compressed. Now I knew how much space I had to work with. I used the 5-Star "Recoiless Rifle" as inspiration, and carved a "J" on each side of the barrel. Next, I dropped a dowel plug into the bore and used a longer dowel to stuff it in as far as it would go. Then I marked the spots visible in my "J" cuts. I drilled a hole from one side of the little plug to the other and re-inserted it into the mortar tube. Then I tapped in a brass tube the same diameter as the hole (well, slightly smaller, so it'd go in).

Note the pic at left. The original version did NOT have the notch at the halfway point (more on this later). I cut some dowels the same diameter as the plug to use as test projectiles. I reasoned that my little wooden projectiles could be made longer or shorter, or drilled and weighted to achieve the mass I wanted for best trajectory. I used a long plug because I figured the extra weight would keep the range down, since I was in the living room at the time. I gave it a test launch - I cocked it and let 'er rip. The projectile screamed out of the muzzle at light speed and whacked into the ceiling hard enough to cause my spouse to gasp from upstairs and come running down to see what happened (ready to holler at a kid, no doube ;-). I didn't see any hole in the ceiling… but didn't look too hard for dents, because I was afraid of what I'd find. If there IS a dent in the ceiling, I hope the texture helps camouflage it! Field testing (outdoors) seemed appropriate at this point. I took it outside and shot it toward the back yard. Unfortunately, I couldn't measure the range because it went over the fence into the neighbor's yard. Oops! I aimed in another direction and fired again several times to average the results. The range out of this tube is between 40 - 45 feet, averaging 42 feet, depending on how crisply I can snap it (and that was with my "long" wooden projectile). Shooting one of the lightweight plastic mortar rounds that came with it only resulted in the loss of the round in the grass... and I didn't measure the range (I don't think I'll duplicate THAT part of the experiment). Maybe it went into orbit... regardless, it lacked play value at that kind of extended range using light SOTW projectiles, so measurement wasn't important anyhow. I ended up making a "half cock" setting to reduce the range. When fired at this setting, the tube has a range of only about 15 feet. Again, that's with my "long" wooden plug for a projectile. This reduced range seemed perfect.

Giggling with my success, I ran to Target and bought a second mortar set and gave this one only theShort Range setting for the kids to play with. The finished product has a range of 15-20 feet. Here's a pic (above) showing the "short range" tube. At right is a pic showing both tubes in the "cocked" position. You can see the spring, the plug, and the cocking handles. On the kid's version, I wrapped the handles with tape so it'd be easier for them to grab onto. Maybe I'll eventually get around to using heat-shrink tubing, but this is fine for now. In retrospect, I probably could've done a better job with the Dremel using a jig and straightedge, so the craftsmanship looks a bit sloppy. C'est la vie. It works. If I make another one, I'll concentrate on cosmetics. You may also see some crusty stuff here and there on the tubes. Neither tube had cement running all the way down the length of the tube, so I had to re-glue the tube halves together. Don't try to build a "full power" version of this mortar unless you're willing to do some extra testing and experimentation. The tube wall thickness doesn't like the full pressure of the spring. With heavy use, I wouldn't be surprised if the full power version screwed up the tube… just because the SOTW tube is a tad flimsy for that power level. The "short range" version is approximately "half cock" on the original prototype, and that seems about right.

Our original MOA fuzzhead is in charge of artillery in our back yard. In the past, he had only some ME guys to help out. At last, thanks to the latest batch of Hasbro TC sets, it's possible for the ME guys to be infantry again… the new MOA (from the Secret Agent set) is fitting into the artillery unit quite nicely, and soon we'll have another (black spider helo guy) to augment the artillery section as well.

With the new SOTW Mortar capabilities, Joe can more easily repel any Backyard Threat and help ensure a balance of neighborhood power. Deterrence through strength! Readiness to meet any opposition! Once again, no challenge is too great for GI JOE… America's Movable Fighting Man!


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