Loading A Muzzle Loader

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poorjack

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Location
NC
I know Craig Barry very well & have discussed this very topic with him. The raw number of muskets recovered from battlefields & how many were refurbished is documented. The armorers who refurbished dropped muskets did not file a report on the number of muskets that were loaded or the number of rounds loaded. There was no form with that data point printed on it to report with.

In the absence of a paper trail, all numbers are anecdotal. In the posting you have cited, Barry & Bilby were aware of the report cited. The problem they had with it was the total lack of any paper trail to support it. Nobody knows what the 27,000 musket breakdown was based on. Maybe it was from hard data, maybe it was an educated estimate, nobody knows. If there was a regulation stating that armorers report on how many of the muskets they found were loaded & how many loads, we would have thousands of those reports. If an official ordered an accounting of the number of loaded muskets found, there would be a paper trail. As we know, no such documents exist. Anybody who finds a data stream to support the oft cited 27,000 claim will trumpet it to the heavens, but nobody has found it yet.

I have absolutely no intention on entering into the endless speculation that exists on this topic. All I know is that without a regulation requiring an accounting, a record of that data simply doesn't exist. That is the Army way.
Absolutely. My take on this is they were much more focused on getting guns back in service than speculating on why they were in the condition received. I'm sure some guy working away in the armory thought about why a gun was still loaded and wondered if the guy carrying it got off any shots at all before possibly becoming a casualty.
 

thomas aagaard

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Denmark
I know Craig Barry very well & have discussed this very topic with him. The raw number of muskets recovered from battlefields & how many were refurbished is documented. The armorers who refurbished dropped muskets did not file a report on the number of muskets that were loaded or the number of rounds loaded. There was no form with that data point printed on it to report with.
Clearly the Washington arsenal did some sort of counting. Without that, there would have been no numbers.
And the unregulated numbers was put into official army communication by the ordnance officers working there and forward as part of their official duties. And we have a number of ordnance officers who where in a position to know what was going on, who write about this issue both during and after the war.
It is not anecdotal. That is officers who are in a position to know, who are reporting on what they are doing and operations they made.

Can we trust the numbers? maybe, but that is not in any way different than when any other official source tell us something.

This is no difference to when X general sends a message to his boss that he is now in x town and inform him of the situation.
Or when a General mention in his report how many men he got.

If this was anecdotal, then so would most of the OR be...
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Clearly the Washington arsenal did some sort of counting. Without that, there would have been no numbers.
And the unregulated numbers was put into official army communication by the ordnance officers working there and forward as part of their official duties. And we have a number of ordnance officers who where in a position to know what was going on, who write about this issue both during and after the war.
It is not anecdotal. That is officers who are in a position to know, who are reporting on what they are doing and operations they made.

Can we trust the numbers? maybe, but that is not in any way different than when any other official source tell us something.

This is no difference to when X general sends a message to his boss that he is now in x town and inform him of the situation.
Or when a General mention in his report how many men he got.

If this was anecdotal, then so would most of the OR be...
Anecdotal in this context means that there is no paper trail that supports the data. It is the term of art that historians use.
 
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MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
Some of the posts made reference to a cleaning round. Any thoughts on how effective these rounds were at cleaning versus pouring hot water down the barrell? Did a cleaning round effectively have zero velocity or range and that's why the soldiers discarded them?
 

captaindrew

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Some of the posts made reference to a cleaning round. Any thoughts on how effective these rounds were at cleaning versus pouring hot water down the barrell? Did a cleaning round effectively have zero velocity or range and that's why the soldiers discarded them?
These were meant to clear some of the fouling while you were firing, not a replacement for cleaning which would have to be done at some point.
 
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Booner

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Some of the posts made reference to a cleaning round. Any thoughts on how effective these rounds were at cleaning versus pouring hot water down the barrell? Did a cleaning round effectively have zero velocity or range and that's why the soldiers discarded them?
In post #5 of this thread is a picture of a cleaning round. I'm assuming that is a picture of a "Williams Cleaner Bullet" which was the most common type of a period cleaner bullet. What's missing in post #5 is a zine disk-shaped washer, which was supposed to flatten and increase its diameter once the powder charge was ignited, it scaped the bore of the rifle, removing the fouling as the bullet travelled down the barrel. It sounded good in theory, but the actual results fell short.

The problem with muzzleloaded weapons is that once your fire the first shot, every subsequent shot pushes the fouling back down the barrel to it's breach, which can result in the weapon not being able to fire, as the hot gasses from the percussion cap can't reach the powder due to the accumulation of the fouling at the breach. In addition, and especially if the musket is subjected to continous rapid fire, is that the fouling gets hard and crusty, as the heat from each shot "bakes" it as the heat dries out its moisture. A certain amount of fouling in a barrel is actually a desired thing, and can improve the accuracy of the weapon as long as the fouling stays moist. Back in the day, the first shot out of a muzzleloader was called the "fouling shot" and it's purpose was to lay down a layer of fouling in the bore, and often this first shot did not land in the same point of impact, or outside the group, of the subsequent shots. Today, instead of calling the first shot a fouling shot, some call it a "cold bore" shot, but no matter what you call it, the purpose of the first shot out of a clean barrel, it to condition it for subsequent shots..

Also you don't need hot water to soften the fouling, any temperature of water works. The idea of using hot water is when you're done shooting, you use hot water with the idea that the water will evaporate faster, so you don't get flash rusting in the bore.
 

Smokin' Joe

Cadet
Joined
Sep 18, 2018
N-SSA shooter here, as a whole target loads use better quality of powder and properly sized bullets for accuracy etc. On the line crisco and beeswax lube, I can easily run 45-60 shots without cleaning/brushing rifled rifle-muskets and rifles... smoothbores not so much. I dont think I've ever had more than 60 cartridges in my box. Not much experience with patched roundball arms. My lube keeps the fouling soft.

Ok, application here... I bet that for the most part with decent ammo, a rifled gun with proper ammo can shoot many rounds without cleaning, but that was not always the case in the field and varying qualities of the supply. Smoothbores foul pretty quick, maybe 9-12 shots before she was all crudded up and difficult to ram and poor accuracy to the point of being taken off the field/firing line to be cleaned. Still need to clean the arms properly ofcourse, the sooner the better or the carbon hardens up.

Barrel heat, I've blistered my thumb after shooting my restored 36 inch barreled Macon conversion of a Mod. 1842 on a hot 98* day. Our team did not do well and this barrel (original) was pretty worthless... So lots of shots, she was starting to crud up, but still could ram the ball home. Who knows how many shots, it was not a good day, that match in particular... 1816s can get pretty hot as well due to their thin barrel. Mirages are epic on a thin walled musket barrels still "in the white." Thinner the barrels, the faster they heat up. Really any metal surfaces can get quite warm in the southern sun. That and vinyl seats in my dad's 70s fury... gotta love 80s era shorts...

On fouling shots, I found one of my rifle-muskets likes a fouling shot, others don't. After doctoring my lube, the fouling shot isnt necessary... now that doesnt anwer all questions, as each gun is unique: the barrel, the rifling, lube, powder, and ball/bullet makes a difference. Smoothbores... are a different animal and someone else can write a lengthy post on that one. However, I believe rifled guns could shoot that many rounds in a sitting without brushing, or using a worm (originals). Cook offs can happen for a variety of reasons, carbon build-up at the breach, pitting, or very fast loading (ember), not cleaning etc., I have not experienced heat causing a cook off, just those other factors.

Btw. Please to not use the Austrian and Enfield rods with the slot/hole for a rag/patch, it was designed for a bar to torgue bullets/obstructions out of the barrel. I've removed so many rods from barrels and each one was a chore!!! I'm echoing the folks that use modern rods to properly clean these barrels, they can better reach the breach face.

Does heat warp the barrel etc.? Not really. The multiple loads of scavanged arms has been pretty well covered. I hope this helps.
 
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Larryh86GT

2nd Lieutenant
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Jan 20, 2018
Location
Near sunny Buffalo New York
This thread might be the right place to ask something I have wondered for some time. Before rifle cartridges how was
black powdered handled? I know there were powder flasks but how did they physically put the powder in the flask.
Was it poured from a keg? Use funnels to pour it into the flask which has a rather small opening? Wasn't there a great
deal of spillage going on? Especially in the heat of battle. And the colonials and trappers did they carry kegs of
black powder with them? I would think a flask of powder did not last long.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
I know there were powder flasks but how did they physically put the powder in the flask.
They didn't.
The soldiers where issued paper cartridges that was made on an industrial scale fare from the battlefields.
This was done as fare back at the mid-late 17th century.

Yes, some jäger/rifle units or militias did use powder flasks or horn.... but you would fill it in camp... Not on the actual battlefield for the reasons you mention.
 

Larryh86GT

2nd Lieutenant
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Jan 20, 2018
Location
Near sunny Buffalo New York
Thanks. In my post: "Before rifle cartridges how was black powdered handled? " I am curious how it was physically
handled from keg to flask. Were small funnels used? And weren't the Army and Navy colts cap and ball revolvers
that would have had to been loaded with black powder from a flask? Also how did they measure the powder? By eye?
 
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DixieRifles

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Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
This thread might be the right place to ask something I have wondered for some time. Before rifle cartridges how was
black powdered handled? I know there were powder flasks but how did they physically put the powder in the flask.
Was it poured from a keg? Use funnels to pour it into the flask which has a rather small opening? Wasn't there a great
deal of spillage going on? Especially in the heat of battle. And the colonials and trappers did they carry kegs of
black powder with them? I would think a flask of powder did not last long.
I carry a plastic funnel in my "tackle box"(see above) just in case I do empty my powder flask. Being plastic, it was easy to trim the outside diameter to fit into the Flask. If I don't have funnel, I grab a sheet of paper or a 3X5 card and roll it up into a funnel. Back then, they didn't want to spill any powder and there is no reason for me to waste any.
Flasks come in a variety of sizes. I bought a small---pocket size---to use with my .36 caliber. I did have 2 other flasks but gave one to a friend. So I have one other flask but about 4 spouts. You switch out the spout so that it will "thow" the correct charge you want.
They also used Powder Horns which can come in many sizes.

I think they carried powder in kegs. If you watch "Revenant", they are carrying a lot of cargo and several kegs. But I don't think a small party or hunters would carry that much.
Bascially, you buy the equipment for what you plan to do with your weapon. If you are hunting a buck, you pack 4 or 5 quick speed-loader that have pre-measured powder and already packed with a bullet on top----a modern version of a Civil War paper cartridge. I usually can pour my powder for the amount of shooting that I plan to do at the range.

I took this photo of my flasks and the different spouts. It also shows 2 of my adjustable powder measures for loading consistent charges and experimenting with an increased or decrease in the load.
The small black funnel on the right is one that I stole from my Doctor's office---what they use to inspect your ears.
Flasks.JPG
 
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DixieRifles

Captain
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
And weren't the Army and Navy colts cap and ball revolvers
that would have had to been loaded with black powder from a flask? Also how did they measure the powder? By eye?
The first mistake ---maybe 3rd --- you make with a black powder revolver is to pour too much powder into one of the bores of the Cylinder. You may not notice it until you pack the Ball on top and now you will not be able to rotate the Cylinder to load the next round. That is one reason to get the measurement precisely. Flask works good with a revolver and I assume they were all issued one. The spout holds the right amount of powder. (see above post)

How did the old Mountain Men do it?
This is a bag they carried all their equipment. Hanging on the bag is a Powder Horn, another bag that looks like balls(maybe shot for shotgun), and a Brass/Horn powder measure. I don't know what that small cylinder is but they carried vent pricks for the flintlocks and other tools. A flintlock usually required a second powder horn with finer powder which they filled up the Frizzen Pan---no real measuring needed.
They used the powder measure if they weren't under attack. It won't take long before you can estimate by sight the amount of powder you need. During combat, the mountain man could pour powder directly into the barrel if he was in a hurry. NOT A SAFE METHOD as you don't want to get a flask or horn near the barrel that may have sparks.

MountainMan bag.JPG
 
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captaindrew

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Thanks. In my post: "Before rifle cartridges how was black powdered handled? " I am curious how it was physically
handled from keg to flask. Were small funnels used? And weren't the Army and Navy colts cap and ball revolvers
that would have had to been loaded with black powder from a flask? Also how did they measure the powder? By eye?
they had pre made paper cartridges for revolvers as well
 

captaindrew

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Location
West Palm Beach Florida
Thanks. In my post: "Before rifle cartridges how was black powdered handled? " I am curious how it was physically
handled from keg to flask. Were small funnels used? And weren't the Army and Navy colts cap and ball revolvers
that would have had to been loaded with black powder from a flask? Also how did they measure the powder? By eye?
here's a couple previous threads on revolver cartridges https://civilwartalk.com/threads/reproduction-paper-cartridges-for-revolvers.121693/ and https://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-era-cartridges-for-colt-revolvers.137118/#post-1607408
 

Llewellyn

Private
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
Here is a painting of an earlier Civil War.
They carried pre-measured cartridges hanging on their belts.
View attachment 352739
Those pre-measured powder charges were contained in those small receptacles, usually made of wood or bone, which you can see dangling from the musketeers crossbelts in the English Civil War illustration.

They were known as "Apostles" (a Biblical reference) because the soldiers were initially issued with twelve of them. Did this vernacular term cross the Atlantic ?

Twelve doesn't sound a lot, but it seems that in the course of an engagement, the musketeers with those firelocks would only manage to get two or three shots away before gaps were closed and hand-to-hand fighting started.
 
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DixieRifles

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Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
They were known as "Apostles" (a Biblical reference) because the soldiers were initially issued with twelve of them. Did this vernacular term cross the Atlantic ?
I dont think so. I have heard that term but only recently. And I think some early settlers to America, such as the Pilgrims, did use these.
But Im not an expert of 17th century matchlock arms & equipment.
 
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