Muzzleldrs Does rifling work with round ball?

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
As for the OP... the simple answer is yes, because rifles were invented before the Minié ball was. Indeed, the Dreyse "needle gun" actually fired a slightly elongated acorn shaped bullet, as it predated the Minié ball.

The main problem was the need to hammer the ball down the barrel to get it to engage with the rifling, which led to slow loading (which was why the Minié was such an advance).
 

Rhea Cole

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It depends what you consider "a waste of ammunition". A low hit rate results, certainly, but that's common for the period.

Throughout all the works I've read on the Napoleonic Wars ranges of 50 yards and under are by no means the rule. Contemporary tests showed:

In range tests, frequently 20% of shots hit a large target (6 foot high and wide like a line of infantry) at 300 metres, 40% at 150 metres; in regimental shoots the average (of French units in the July monarchy) was 14.3% of shots fired for ranges between 100 and 300 metres. (Both of these are reported in Forward into Battle by Griffith.)


If by "a waste of ammunition" you mean a hit rate against a realistic target (a man sized one) at seventy yards of one in twenty, or one in thirty, or one in fifty, or even one in a hundred... well, welcome to 19th century warfare for men without rifle training. The hit rate is low, and everybody knows it, but a lot of that is because men are not aiming their weapons right rather than because the weapons are impossible to aim right at that range.
There are a hundred something pages here written by experts, I see no reason to spend hours writing a synopsis of a highly technical subject here. Anyone can google it & read to their heart’s desire.
 

Saphroneth

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There are a hundred something pages here written by experts, I see no reason to spend hours writing a synopsis of a highly technical subject here. Anyone can google it & read to their heart’s desire.
This might once more be one of those cases where your faith in the ability of an amateur researcher to find a report you're thinking of using Google - with little to no specificis - is misplaced, or rather the ability of Google to divine what the researcher is trying to find is misplaced.

I have a report of an actual battle in which ordinary British infantrymen firing at a range of 400 yards were able to achieve some (if minor) effect on their target; this was shaped by the unusual configuration of the terrain, but I see no reason to think that firing at 100 yards is automatically impossible.

To quote your own information:
During tests carried out by the U.S. Ordinance Bureau in 1860, ten men fired 5 shots each at a 6'X6' target with .69 cal. muskets. At 100 yds only 37 of the shots scored hits that were scattered to every corner of the target; at 200 yards between 18 & 24 shots hit the 6'X6' target. These were trained soldiers that did the shooting.


At 100 yards, you get 37/50 shots hitting, or 74%. This is not useless; in fact, it's a better hit rate than in every battle in history.
 

Booner

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My first black powder rifle was a Thompson Center Hawken cap & ball that I built from a kit. I intended to use it to hunt deer. The nature of the country round about the farm where I lived meant that a shot of more than fifty yards was unlikely. To shoot in the barrel & adjust the sights, I used a round bale as a rest. Across a pasture, up against a bank lay a very large tree trunk that stepped off at the range I needed. I used both Hornady Buffalo Bullets & round ball with lubricated patch. I also loaded with both black powder & modern propellent.

Once I had the hang of the Hawken & had adjusted the sights, I could consistently hit my knothole bulls eye with the conical bullets. All around the knot was a ring of roundball hits about the size of a plate. In that test, the conical bullet pattern was about four inches in diameter. The ball pattern was about eight inches. This result was from about 50 rounds or more each fired from a rest over time by me & a friend at about 50 yards.

The evidence of that test supports the conclusion that the diameter of the circular error of a round ball fired from a rifle is about twice that of a conical bullet fired from the same barrel.
...........................….

My reply to this post is from the standpoint of being a target shooter; in 60 years of shooting I have always tried to get the smallest groups as possible. If I were a hunter, I would be more interested in the highest velocity possible while maintaining a group small enough to dispatch the animal as fast as possible. But being a target shooter has a different objective than that of a hunter. Precision and accuracy have a different meaning for someone who's trying to put as many bullets as possible on the "X" than the person who's trying to harvest an animal.

When it comes to shooting a round ball out of a muzzle loader accurately, everything is more critical as to how the weapon is loaded verses a 'Maxi' or 'Mini" ball. The rifle I started shooting round balls with was likely the same Thompson Center Muzzle loader model (Renegade?), except mine was a flint lock. If I remember correctly, the twist rate was 1:48 or there about, Which is somewhat of a compromise twist rate for shooting a ball and/or a conical bullet from the same rifle. The twist rate is maybe a little too fast for a ball and maybe just fast enough for a conical, but I found it to shoot a ball pretty accurately is I didn't try to load a maximum amount of powder in it. When shooting it from a bench, with a front rest and a rear bag, I quickly found a powder load that would give me a 2 inch group at 50 yards. But I was looking for better accuracy, and a 2 inch group wouldn't win at match shooting. I purchased a pamphlet from a man who shoot muzzleloaders on the U.S. Olympic team and what I found in his pamphlet open my eyes. When you start shooting a muzzleloader, you essentially become a hand loader (DUH!) with every round. And just as in handloading for centerfire, and if you are a target shooter, consistency in every action is critical for accurate shooting.

What I learned from the pamphlet writer is "tolerance" is critical. Always use the same amount of powder, shoot a swaged ball instead of one that has been cast as a swaged ball is more consistent in weight and diameter. And perhaps most critical, always use a lubed patch of the same thickness. I was shooting a 0.50 caliber rifle with a swaged 0.49 caliber ball. My patches, which I purchased commercially, were either 0.012 or 0.015 in thickness, depending on the manufacturer. With the 0.015 patch, my groups tightened up considerably, but it was difficult to load, and the leading edge, or nose of the ball would be deformed by trying to load a ball/patch combination that was a couple of thousands of an inch oversized for the bore. I decided to try varying my patch thickness by small amounts to see if I could find the "sweet spot" between ease of loading and accuracy. I purchased some ZIG ZAG cigarette rolling papers, and found that if I used my lubed 0.12 patch with two cigarette papers layered on top and then followed by the ball, the whole affair still loaded easy and my groups shrunk to roughly a 1/2 inch at 50 yards. I was very happy with my results, and won a few matches with this combination, and if I didn't win, I normally placed pretty high. And I always got some strange looks when I used the rolling papers. I think varying the patch thickness is somewhat similar to adjusting neck tension in precision centerfire reloading. In both cases, what you are trying to do is adjust the tension the projectile has to remain in it's static state (not moving out of the case in a cartridge or down the barrel in a muzzleloader), while as the pressure of the expanding gasses begins to move it down the bore. You'll get higher pressure, and a higher, more stable velocity between shots if there is more resistance to the bullet being moved----up to a point.
 
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Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
When it comes to shooting a round ball out of a muzzle loader accurately, everything is more critical as to how the weapon is loaded verses a 'Maxi' or 'Mini" ball.
I want to check terminology here, because I've seen some people think that "the Minié ball" (named after Claude-Étienne Minié, the inventor) is "the Mini ball" (meaning a small ball).
 

Booner

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I want to check terminology here, because I've seen some people think that "the Minié ball" (named after Claude-Étienne Minié, the inventor) is "the Mini ball" (meaning a small ball).

Sure. Glad you asked. To avoid confusion, when I refer to a round bullet, I try and use the term "round ball" and may give it's caliber. I would not refer to a small caliber round ball as a "mini ball," as that's not an accurate term, as what's small to me might still be large to you.
The type of conical I'm referring to is what is being sold today to muzzleloaders as a hunting bullet. Some are referred to in a generic sense as a "Mini Ball" or "Maxi Ball," or more specifically, Thompson Center makes a conical, flat-based bullet with the trade name of "Maxi-Hunter" and Hornady offers their hollow-based "Great Plains" conical, which comes pretty close to a copy of Capt. Minie`s bullet.

I hope that cleared things up, and sorry if there was any confusion.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
The type of conical I'm referring to is what is being sold today to muzzleloaders as a hunting bullet. Some are referred to in a generic sense as a "Mini Ball" or "Maxi Ball," or more specifically, Thompson Center makes a conical, flat-based bullet with the trade name of "Maxi-Hunter" and Hornady offers their hollow-based "Great Plains" conical, which comes pretty close to a copy of Capt. Minie`s bullet.
Thanks for the clarification, I just...
Wow.

Why on earth did these people start marketing using a term so easily confused with the primary terminology for the pointed ball?
That's almost as bad as if you tried selling firearms under the brand name "Riffle".
 

DixieRifles

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The 1/43rd had taken up a position in and around the church,

Are you referring to the Oxfordshire Regiment?
Oxs-and-Bucks.JPG


I know that is a Post-1880 Oxs & Bucks badge. But I do have a question about the designation "1/43" as this is a little foreign to us Yanks.

I first came across the British designations while studying WW2 organization. You would find "8 Royal Fusiliers" which we interpret as 8th Regiment. But it is actually the 8th battalion of the Royal Fusilier Regiment. They learned after WW1 to assign troops from one region into other theaters of war. Then sometimes you come across some really strange designations: " 1/5 West Surrey" or " 2/5 Leicestershire". I think I got that.

Q: What does "1/43" designate in the Napoleonic Wars? A battalion? Or smaller?
 

Saphroneth

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I know that is a Post-1880 Oxs & Bucks badge. But I do have a question about the designation "1/43" as this is a little foreign to us Yanks.

I first came across the British designations while studying WW2 organization. You would find "8 Royal Fusiliers" which we interpret as 8th Regiment. But it is actually the 8th battalion of the Royal Fusilier Regiment. They learned after WW1 to assign troops from one region into other theaters of war. Then sometimes you come across some really strange designations: " 1/5 West Surrey" or " 2/5 Leicestershire". I think I got that.

Q: What does "1/43" designate in the Napoleonic Wars? A battalion? Or smaller?
Okay, so here's the way it works for infantry up until 1881.

Each Regiment of Foot has its own distinct existence - for example in this case the 43rd was the 43rd (Monmouthshire).

This regiment is administrative (and usually had a "depot" back home of a couple of companies that trained up replacements). Each regiment has some number of battalions (sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes four or more) which are the actual units used in military operations. So in this case the 1/43rd is the 1st Battalion of the 43rd Regiment of Foot.

A regiment with only one battalion would usually not include the 1/ before it, so this also means that the 43rd had two or more battalions (either at that point or at some nearby point in time). As it happens the 2/43rd existed from 1804 through to 1817, whereupon it was disbanded.

In 1881 lots of one-battalion regiments get merged together, which is not always for the good. This did remove most or all one-battalion regiments from the list though, so from then on any battalion would have a number (as there were always at least two battalions).
In this case the 43rd got merged with the 52nd (Oxfordshire) and produced the Oxfordshire Light Infantry, which became the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire only in 1908.



As it happens post-Cardwell the way of doing things was to expand existing regiments by adding more battalions rather than creating new regiments, at least in the infantry. In the case of the Royal Fusiliers, for example, there were at least 46 battalions raised during WW1.
As previously noted, regiments are administrative.

The 1/5th and 2/5th designations are a peculiarity that came about again in WW1.

I'll look at the complicated mess by following the West Surrey, the 2nd Regiment of Foot.

Essentially pre-WW1 the West Surrey (Queen's Royal Regiment, if you're fancy) had five battalions - 1st, 2nd (regular), 3rd (special reserve, which was the old "militia"), 4th and 5th (territorial force, which was the old "volunteers")

Once the territorial battalions had gone overseas the territorial associations - which were sort of enthusiastic - started raising additional battalions. These used the only battalion numbers (4th and 5th) that the territorials were permitted to have, but to distinguish them they became e.g. the 2/4th and 2/5th, the 3/4th and 3/5th and the 4/4th.

Then you have the New Army being formed, which added extra battalions to the regiment as well formed from new recruits - in this case there were the 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th (all "service" battalions which served overseas) plus the 9th and 12th (both "reserve" battalions which served in the UK training recruits). There were also several "labour" battalions (13th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th) which served overseas or at home providing construction labour, and a "home service" battalion (the 16th) which served for home defence.

Then late in the war it was permitted to form extra Territorial Battalions with new numbers. These were the 19th and 20th.

Finally, there were the 51st, 52nd and 53rd. These were a type of battalion used for training conscripts who had just turned eighteen - conscripts were first sent into a Young Soldier battalion (the 53rd) and then into a Graduated battalion (the 51st and 52nd). Basically the process meant about 200 new trained 19 year old soldiers every three months.


This is all terribly complicated, but here's the rule of thumb:

In the British Army, a regiment is administrative. If you hear about a formation of infantry in the field it will be a battalion.
 

Saphroneth

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Interestingly there were some multi-battalion regiments in the US Civil War army - the regular army. They were the 11th-19th Infantry inclusive, which were (theoretically) formed of three battalions of eight companies each.

In practice many of the battalions failed to complete organization, but this is why in Sykes' Regulars the 12th and 14th Infantry are composed of two battalions each at Antietam (for example).
These would be referred to in shorthand as 1/12th and 2/12th, for example.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This might once more be one of those cases where your faith in the ability of an amateur researcher to find a report you're thinking of using Google - with little to no specificis - is misplaced, or rather the ability of Google to divine what the researcher is trying to find is misplaced.

I have a report of an actual battle in which ordinary British infantrymen firing at a range of 400 yards were able to achieve some (if minor) effect on their target; this was shaped by the unusual configuration of the terrain, but I see no reason to think that firing at 100 yards is automatically impossible.

To quote your own information:



At 100 yards, you get 37/50 shots hitting, or 74%. This is not useless; in fact, it's a better hit rate than in every battle in history.
My "what was the range of a smoothbore musket" google search scored 102,000 responses.

If you were to refer to Fuller's book, you would not be quite so sanguine about the hits on the 6X6 target. Rounds that barely touch the top & bottom of the target are a significant percentage of the strikes. The armies of the world got rid of their smoothbores for a reason that is obvious when you see how very few rounds hit near the center of the target, which was the aiming point. Being off by 3' is not my idea of a confidence builder.

Fortunately I don't have to remember the effect of smoothbore musket fire at 300 yards. I have the charts from the 1860 test. In three trials at 300 yards, five men firing ten rounds each for a total of 50 rounds fired, there were 7, 9 & 7 hits. All of them were on the periphery of the 6'X6' target, none even came close to the center, which was the aiming point.

As Grant put it so well, at 300 yards someone could fire at you with a smoothbore musket all morning long & you wouldn't even know it.
 

Saphroneth

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My "what was the range of a smoothbore musket" google search scored 102,000 responses.
And again with the listing of the number of results from a Google search.
Did you notice that the very first answer was "300 yards"?

If you were to refer to Fuller's book, you would not be quite so sanguine about the hits on the 6X6 target. Rounds that barely touch the top & bottom of the target are a significant percentage of the strikes. The armies of the world got rid of their smoothbores for a reason that is obvious when you see how very few rounds hit near the center of the target, which was the aiming point. Being off by 3' is not my idea of a confidence builder.
Well, of course going from a smoothbore to a rifle is an improvement if you train your men - and to some extent even if you don't, because a few men will be good shots regardless. But if you can get one hit out of fifty on a realistic target it is exceeding the actual performance of the Union armies at Gettysburg.


As Grant put it so well, at 300 yards someone could fire at you with a smoothbore musket all morning long & you wouldn't even know it.
But you and nine hundred of your friends standing in a line, and nine hundred people all shooting at you with smoothbore muskets? Ten volleys at a hit rate of one in two hundred and you've lost forty-five friends.

British experts quoted the battle range of the smoothbore Brown Bess as 200 yards, and as we've seen it could be used outside that range.



Now, as it happens I found an online source which actually shows the test cards in Fuller. What I'm going to do is to overlay a double line of infantry on the smoothbore ones, assuming that the men are 5 foot 8 inches tall (which is 17/18 of the total height of the 6 foot cards, and which is the average height of an adult American male as of the Revolutionary War - which is when I have data for it).



line_inf.jpg


As you can see, at 100 yards the men are completely peppered. In fact, there are 17 hits on the legs, 12 hits on the body, and at head/neck height there are 9 balls which have a good chance of hitting.
So out of 50 shots fired here there are more than 30 hits (60%).

At 200 yards there are about 9 hits on the legs, 8 hits on the body, and 2-3 balls at head-neck height - so about 20/50 (40%)

At 300 yards, there are 4 hits on the legs, 2 on the body and 1 at head height. So 6-7 hits out of 50, or about 2 in 15 (13%).

Since 13% is still more than ten times as accurate as Union troops at Gettysburg, I would say that the theoretical accuracy of the smoothbore musket allows for the possibility of effective firing at 300 yards.

If you and 900 friends stood in a two-deep line 300 yards away from 900 men shooting at you with smoothbore muskets at this level of accuracy, each volley would hit more than 100 of you. I think I'll decline to join you...
 

DixieRifles

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In the British Army, a regiment is administrative. If you hear about a formation of infantry in the field it will be a battalion
Don't yell! Just kidding. That explains it for post 1900.
I used to read a lot on the Napoleonic Wars and when it said the 42nd Highlander Regiment formed a square---then I took that to mean the entire regiment, or what was left of it.

So focusing on the 42nd Black Watch Regiment, did the same battalion that fought at the 1814 Battle of New Orleans also fight at Waterloo? Or was it a separate battalion? (Answer in 25 words or less so we don't get too off subject. I think it relates to the topic when you mentioned how many were armed with Baker rifles, etc.)
 

Saphroneth

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I used to read a lot on the Napoleonic Wars and when it said the 42nd Highlander Regiment formed a square---then I took that to mean the entire regiment, or what was left of it.
On the Peninsula it could be either battalion; at Waterloo it would be the only battalion, as the 2nd had been disbanded.


So focusing on the 42nd Black Watch Regiment, did the same battalion that fought at the 1814 Battle of New Orleans also fight at Waterloo? Or was it a separate battalion?

The 42nd Foot wasn't at New Orleans (which was in 1815). The 1st battalions of the 43rd and 44th Foot were at New Orleans.
You may also have meant the 1/93rd, who were Highlanders.
 

FedericoFCavada

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I might point out that the rifling grooves for a Minié/Burton ball or ogival-conoidal bullet shooter/launcher are fewer, wider, and shallower than those used for a patched round ball. The Civil War-era Minié/Burton ball rifle often had variable depth to the rifling too, which is typically not the case for modern-day copies or reproductions.

As for shooting a flintlock rifle with a patched round ball vs. shooting a smooth-bore, one focuses on the front sight, just like any other firearm. That helps with the "flinch" from the priming going off so close to the shooter's eyes. Shooting a flintlock works wonders on teaching "follow through."

According to Øyvind Flatnes, From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms (Crowood, 2013), 51-- the very first jaeger/ jäger rifles used by Norwegian troops were produced in Suhl/ Thüringen/Thuringia, which is a very ancient firearm producing district. The Model 1755 was a .59 cal. with eight rifling grooves with a rate of twist of 1 turn in 25-inches. That is way, way fast in comparison with most, and certainly most modern patched round ball rifles. I've got an Ardesa-Spain-mfr. Pennsyltucky .50 that uses a 1 in 66-in. twist, and a .50 cal. underhammer that is the same. Smaller calibers tend to have faster twists, like on my Miroku Nipon-Tennessee-Mtn. .32, which has a 1 turn in 48-in. twist. Very many modern-day black powder rifles use "compromise twists" like the 1 turn in 48 inches for .50 and .54 so people can use either modern bullets or conical bullets (not Minié/Burton balls mind you), or patched round ball.

As for the Baker rifle of rifleman Plunket who potted a French General in the Peninsular campaign, or, for that matter, was used by a Mexican cazador/ jäger / chausseur to kill ol' Ben Milam during the Battle of Béxar in December 1835, this weapon was commonly issued with two types of balls. One had a linen patch sewn on to be used as a rifle. The other had no patching material so it could be loaded and shot as quick as a musket because the French Dragoons could come up on the skirmishers mighty quick. This represents the first attempt to get the "best of both" namely, the higher rate of fire of the musket and the greater precision and accuracy of the rifle. This eventually created the dead-end technology of the muzzle loading rifle musket using the Minié/Burton ball, which would be supplanted by breech loaders.

For those interested in comparisons of weapons, here is one of the top Hungarian black powder shooters, Bálazs Németh comparing the two arms from the Austro-Hungarian forces and the Magyar/Hungarian rebels of '48:

Flintlock rifle vs. Flintlock musket
 
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Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
This eventually created the dead-end technology of the muzzle loading rifle musket using the Minié/Burton ball, which would be supplanted by breech loaders.
I'm not entirely sure you can classify the muzzle loading rifle musket as a dead end technology - my understanding of a dead-end technology is one that has no further development, but rifle-muskets formed the basis for the breech-loaders used by several major armies over the next few years. The Enfield became the Snider-Enfield, the Springfield M1855-1863 became the M1865 "Trapdoor", the French Minié rifles became the Tabatiere rifles and even the Lorenz was converted into the Wanzl.


Otherwise it seems like anything up to and including the smoothbore musket ends up being called a dead-end technology just because it got replaced.
 

CowCavalry

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Once I had the hang of the Hawken & had adjusted the sights, I could consistently hit my knothole bulls eye with the conical bullets. All around the knot was a ring of roundball hits about the size of a plate. In that test, the conical bullet pattern was about four inches in diameter. The ball pattern was about eight inches. This result was from about 50 rounds or more each fired from a rest over time by me & a friend at about 50 yards.

The evidence of that test supports the conclusion that the diameter of the circular error of a round ball fired from a rifle is about twice that of a conical bullet fired from the same barrel.
This anecdotal test is worthless as a test of round ball vs conical accuracy as the Thompson Center barrel has a fairly fast rate of twist designed to stabilize a conical ball. It was not designed to fire round projectiles. You would need to test against a rifle barrel with the appropriate slower twist as the round ball requires, not to mention variation of charge size, patch thickness, or patch lube for optimal results.

edit: had I seen Booner's post, #44, I would not have responded as he covered this quite well.
 
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CowCavalry

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I looked into my folder on this subject. I have squirreled away eight papers, each more exhaustive than the last. The bottom line in all of them is that beyond 50 yds firing smoothbore muskets was a waste of ammunition. I figure they know what they are talking about & that is good enough for me.
And I have seen evidence supporting the notion that the average ACW soldier would have been better off with a smoothbore.
 

Booner

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I'm not entirely sure you can classify the muzzle loading rifle musket as a dead end technology - my understanding of a dead-end technology is one that has no further development, but rifle-muskets formed the basis for the breech-loaders used by several major armies over the next few years. The Enfield became the Snider-Enfield, the Springfield M1855-1863 became the M1865 "Trapdoor", the French Minié rifles became the Tabatiere rifles and even the Lorenz was converted into the Wanzl.


Otherwise it seems like anything up to and including the smoothbore musket ends up being called a dead-end technology just because it got replaced.

I would agree.....

Here in the States in the past decade or so there's been a big increase in the use of in-line muzzleloaders for deer hunting. The breach plug is removed and the powder (typically in pellet form), is placed into the chamber. The breach plug is re-inserted and a primer fits over a nipple embedded into the breach plug. The bullet is inserted into the muzzle end and rammed down the bore as one would a typical muzzleloader, but the bullets can be different. Some use a sabot round, to achieve higher velocities or a non lead bullet. Some can fire darts, as well as your typical conical bullet. I understand that they are capable of excellent accuracy at long distances. At first glance, one would not recognize them to be a muzzleloader as they canhave plastic stocks and scopes on them. I'm not a fan of them, as I'm old school when it comes to muzzleloaders.
 

Rhea Cole

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This anecdotal test is worthless as a test of round ball vs conical accuracy as the Thompson Center barrel has a fairly fast rate of twist designed to stabilize a conical ball. It was not designed to fire round projectiles. You would need to test against a rifle barrel with the appropriate slower twist as the round ball requires, not to mention variation of charge size, patch thickness, or patch lube for optimal results.

edit: had I seen Booner's post, #44, I would not have responded as he covered this quite well.
I will transport myself back 25 years & do it your way.
 
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