High Caliber

May 22, 1999

RAY: Ha! We're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and we're here to discuss cars, car repair and the new Puzzler.

TOM: Wow, is this going to be scintillating? Is this going to be...

RAY: Well, I can start off with a joke.

TOM: Is it part of the Puzzler?

RAY: So to speak.

TOM: Go right ahead.

RAY: Back in the days of yesteryear, when the circus was the "greatest show on earth"--now "Baywatch" is the greatest show on earth, but when the circus was the greatest show on earth--one of the chief attractions was the guy that got shot out of the cannon.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Right?

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: So, one day, after the performance--the Ringling Brothers performance--the guy goes to his boss and he says...

TOM: "I quit."

RAY: "I quit." He says, "You can't quit! I'll never find a man of your caliber again!" Well, that being said...

TOM: That's an old joke, man. Even I knew that.

RAY: Well, it dates back to the days of...

TOM: The days when it was the greatest show on earth!

RAY: Exactly.

TOM: And so that joke is the introduction.

RAY: I'm going to segue...

TOM: Into caliber?

RAY: Right. Now, I got this information--actually, I received this Puzzler from a listener, and I received an e-mail, which I've lost, but here's the puzzle. During World War II, the infantrymen carried a rifle that used .30 caliber ammunition. Now, you may ask, what is a .30 caliber bullet?

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: I don't really know what the arcane measurement is, but it happens to be 7.62 millimeters is .30 caliber bullet.

TOM: Really?

RAY: Yes, or 308/1,000 of an inch.

TOM: Really, so there are 4.2 calibers to a millimeter? Really?

RAY: Yeah. OK?

TOM: OK, yeah, all right. There are? I'm with you, man! Yeah.

RAY: And it just so happened that when hostilities broke out between us and the Japanese--I think they actually broke them out--that they hurriedly began to make rifles that would fire a .31 caliber bullet, or a 7.7 millimeter bullet. Why would they do this? That's the question.

TOM: Just being contrary, I guess.

RAY: Just being contrary.

TOM: You would expect the French to do it, but not the Japanese!

RAY: Not the Japanese. They're pretty practical. Why would they do that? I mean, they actually had rifles that had smaller-caliber...used smaller-caliber bullets. But they went out and made a .31 caliber rifle. Why would they do it? If you think you know the answer...

TOM: They probably got the drawings from Italy, and they were a little sloppy with the dimensions.

RAY: That's exact.

TOM: It's a "we got to give you a couple extra calibers."

RAY: Well, one part of it, I think, is pretty obvious. And that is, if they had to vacate a position and their ammunition were captured, it would be unusable to the Americans. What hap? Too big! It doesn't fit in the rifle!

TOM: That's right. It would stick.

RAY: But the other part of it isn't so obvious. If the reverse happened--that is, if we...if the Japanese captured our ammunition, the smaller-caliber bullet would fit in their rifles, and they would be able to use our bullets to fire on us.

TOM: Ohh! But their aim would be bad, right? Because if it's flopping around there in the barrel of a rifle...

RAY: Anything is preferable to throwing rocks.

TOM: Wow! Now that is a great Puzzler, and I know that we are going to get such a raft of mail, probably. It's just too simple.

RAY: You know, I can take this.

TOM: We're going to get mail from Hirohito himself saying, "Thirty-one-caliber--what are you talking about?"

RAY: "We had those first!"

TOM: "We never made...that's why you guys made the 30-calibers, you jerks!"

RAY: It may be true, but at any rate, for the purpose of the puzzle, it was good.

TOM: Whether it's true or not.

RAY: It made a good puzzle.

TOM: It's a great question.

RAY: Right. On the basis of the information you had...

TOM: Roll...rule on?? or not.

RAY: Right. Exactly. It doesn't matter.

TOM: Do we have a winner?

RAY: No.

TOM: I didn't think so.

RAY: We show no winner this week. We do; the winner is Marsh Williams from Ohio...Columbus.

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