Loading A Muzzle Loader

FedericoFCavada

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
In the Union army, I think that "cleaning" bullets were relatively common? They used a different color of paper from the others in the 10-rd. package, so they were visibly different from the others. the rationale was that these would not hit the same point of aim as a typical cartridge, and if the soldier so issued was actually a good marksman, with a keen knowledge of his weapon and its capabilities, he'd not use the cleaning cartridge for a particularly precise shot? I can look this up when I have time...

In any case, the "cleaning cartridge" instead of just having a relatively thin "skirt" like a typical "Minié/Burton" ball had a plug with a zinc washer or plate at the end. The basic idea was that when the powder charge detonated, instead of the lead skirt flaring into the rifling, the disk would be driven forward such that the bullet would take the rifling of the barrel, but the zinc would scrape against the sides of the barrel and hopefully scrape out and expel some of the black powder fouling. Recall that the typical package was a wrapped paper bundle with ten cartridges and an "eleventh" paper tube sealed on one end containing some dozen to a "baker's dozen" of percussion caps. When the package was opened, the tube with caps would be torn open and the contents dumped into the cap pouch on the belt or on the carriage straps. The cartridges would be put end up in the tins inside the cartridge box. Extra packages of cartridges would have been stuffed into pockets, or the knapsack, or both. Callow, under-trained young men would have dumped these when NCOs or officers were not looking due to the wait. Many would have later regretted doing so when ammunition supplies got low. Resupply was often an ad-hoc, improvised affair. More often than not, it was going through the cartridge boxes of the wounded and the slain.

As for what Mr. Dixon has revealed about not cleaning the barrels in the rifle muskets of the ANV, this may reinforce the CSA predilection for Enfield-type cartridges? In such cartridges, there is a powder cylinder, and a separate wrap with the bullet pointed the reverse of a typical U.S.-style Model 1855, or Model 1861, or Model 1863 paper cartridge. The end of the bullet inside the paper wrap is dipped in molten wax lubricant. After the powder charge is poured down the barrel, the cartridge is inverted, the heel of the bullet wrapped in lubricated paper is inserted into the muzzle, and the paper tube is snapped off, leaving the paper-patched bullet in the muzzle. The idea here is that the lubricant and paper would help control fouling, or at least keep it somewhat softer. I've used different mixes of lubricant, and in my admittedly limited and subjective experience, the late-war U.S. lube of 8 parts bees wax to 1 part tallow is too stiff, sticky, and hard to deal with. I'd have thought this mixture was adopted simply because the U.S. South can be so hot, humid, and muggy. But even in Texas, I've found it is too thick. Since you've still got the rifle you have, you might consider shooting it again?

You'll have to measure the true bore diameter. Then you can get some Minié/Burton balls made up for you, or make your own, that are two thousandths of an inch smaller than your bore diameter. If you'd prefer, you could always go with the "true to spec" Minié/Burton or Pritchett bullets for your caliber, although accuracy will suffer. But it would be more like the ammunition actually issued. Making paper cartridges is relatively straightforward after the typical "learning curve." You'd need a dowel or cartridge forming rod cut to size, pieces of paper of the correct size and dimension, a powder measure, a supply of musket powder, and some linen or cotton thread and a cord attached to a peg or nail to "choke" the paper cylinders. Some paste or glue could be helpful when starting out. In N-SSA and other skirmish events, we use a rubber/plastic/polymer tube that is sealed at one end. The powder charge goes in, and then the Minié/Burton ball is put in nose first, and then lubed along the grease grooves on the skirt. The tubes are reused, and while clearly a modern contrivance, are easy and straightforward to use, and shed moisture a bit better than pieces of rolled paper! For practice, you can try your hand at loading and firing yourself, and try to meet various challenges. Certainly it is a lot of fun, but it is also revealing about the way that these arms were used. Again, good luck!
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
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Location
Collierville, TN
Urine works.
Works? It should work good at corroding the barrel. Hmm. Black Powder is made from saltpeter. And the Confederates is said to have collected the contents of chamber pots to manufacture powder.
Is this really a thing? I guess ONLY as a last resort when they had to hold the line and needed to swob the bore.
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
@FedericoFCavada Thank you very much for all that. I do however, owe you an apology. The Belgian reproduction I refered to, along with several other guns, was stolen from my father's house back in the early 1980s. I still have my original Waters smooth bore but dont fire it any more. I have a couple of reproduction flintlocks I fire whenever I get a chance. I want to try making paper cartridges for one of them, a Charliville.

I will read over everything you wrote carefully because these battle field details interest me greatly. I am going to watch the videos you suggested on you tube when I find them and get a chance to watch them from start to finish.


I am very grateful for all the trouble you went to in your comments to me and am looking forward to delving into the information you posted.

Thanks, John
 

Bigred

Private
Joined
Feb 16, 2016
Location
UK
hi there
iam fairly new to civil war renactments here in the UK,the guns are expensive so it just makes common sense to look after them,
ive recently bought 1861 repro that's about 25 year old, the guy was a regular participant at events so the gun has been well used.but the bore was like a mirror so had no worries buying it
had it been all crusty and black and pitted I wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole,i flush it out with boiling warter at the event at the end of each day ,then fully strip the gun when I get home,keeping on top of it just makes it fire when you want it to...surely what every soldier needs
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
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?
In preparation for the corp of discovery expedition ( Lewis and Clark ), Lewis had containers made up of lead to carry powder, once empty, these containers could then be melted down into balls for their rifles. Ingenious but this is was an expedition into the wild, not a battle campaign. As pointed out, soldiers used the paper cartridges issued to them.
 

Package4

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Yes, after actions muskets gathered on battlefields were found with more than one round loaded one atop another. There was no official reporting of this by the armorers who inspected & refurbished dropped muskets. As a result, it is the subject of conjecture that has generated reams of arguments over the years. All that is certain is that an exhausted, frightened soldier could easily load multiple rounds without knowing it. How many times would they do it is anybody's guess; as many as 14 have been reported. As Captaindrew wrote above, it is surprisingly easy to misfire in a group without realizing it. I witnessed what might have been as many as six rounds going off together, that was a memorable blast to say the least.

My purpose here is not upstage or embarrass anyone, but we need to be careful about how to handle responses, as many "Google" topics as to learn. There are reports regarding the Gettysburg Battlefield pickups from the Master Armorer of the Washington Arsenal where the weapons were taken. The report came out in Jan of 1864 forwarded by Captain Benton from Master Armorer J. Dudley, found in Ordnance Records in the National Archives, by Charles Pate:


1/4/1864, Record Group (RG) 156, Entry (E) 20, Volume 40, Letter W28 of 1864: Capt. Benton at Washington Arsenal for - warded a report of Master Ar - morer J. Dudley re the condition of small arms received from the battle fields. 1/4/1864, RG156, E201, Report #376: Master Armorer J. Dudley reported to Capt. Benton on small arms received from battlefields. He based his report on the arms taken from the Gettysburg battlefield. Of the number received (27,574), at least 24,000 of them were loaded. About one half contained two loads each, one forth contained from three to ten loads each and the rest had only one load. Some of the guns had two to six balls with only one charge of powder, and in some cases, the ball was at the bottom of the barrel with the powder charge on top of it. In some arms, as many as six paper cartridges were found whole – not having been torn open. Twenty-three loads were found in one Springfield rifle, each load being in regular order. Twenty-two balls and sixty-two buckshot with a corresponding quantity of powder, all mixed up together, were found in one percussion smooth-bore musket. Mr. Dudley also stated: “About six thousand of the arms were found loaded with Johnson’s & Dow’s cartridges, many of these cartridges were found about half way down in the barrels of the guns, and in many cases, the ball end of the cartridge had been put into the gun first. These cartridges were found mostly in the Enfield Rifle Musket.” About 1,000 of all muskets found, Union and Confederate, had stocks broken at the wrist with the butt of the stocks completely gone. One hundred and thirty-six arms of different kinds had been marred by shot; in many the ball had gone through the barrel or other parts had been shot away. Many barrels were burst, almost always near the barrel from having the muzzle clogged by mud or having left the tampion in place. Mr. Dudley noted that barrels of American manufacture were superior to those of the Enfields and Austrian weapons in both material and workmanship."
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
hi there
iam fairly new to civil war renactments here in the UK,the guns are expensive so it just makes common sense to look after them,
ive recently bought 1861 repro that's about 25 year old, the guy was a regular participant at events so the gun has been well used.but the bore was like a mirror so had no worries buying it
had it been all crusty and black and pitted I wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole,i flush it out with boiling warter at the event at the end of each day ,then fully strip the gun when I get home,keeping on top of it just makes it fire when you want it to...surely what every soldier needs
I am sure you are but I will say it anyways; be careful with boiling water, you could scald yourself easily. As pointed out, it isn't necessary to clean the barrel with boiling water but it will evaporate quicker, very hot but not hot enough to burn yourself would work just as well. As an aside, my brother's father in law was in the army in the 50s and cleaned their rifles with soapy water, per regulation.
 

Package4

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Fouling is residue from the ignition of the black powder, mostly carbon.

There is a slot in the head of the ramrod for passing a cleaning cloth through or they used the cleaning worm, but was done after the bore had been washed out. There really is nothing to sloshing out the bore.
As others have said the slot in the head of the ramrod was not for cleaning the musket barrel, but for gaining leverage using the NCO gun tool for ball pulling. The correct manner of period cleaning of an Enfield musket is to use the issued worm with a wad of tow (the fiber of flax, hemp or jute). Using the head of an Enfield ramrod leaves the last 1/2 inch or so untouched and leads often times to a ramrod stuck in the barrel, it's also the lazy man's or novice manner of re-enactor cleaning. The worm threads onto the small end of the ramrod and gets into the firing chamber, this was the main purpose of the worm, though it was also used to pull balls from an unfired weapon (coming back from pickett, etc.)

Below an original ramrod with a reproduction worm, I bent the worm prongs up a bit to get a better grip on a stuck patch.

IMG_4008.JPG
 

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Location
England
Popper sized for what? the historical size of american bullets? or for effective shooting with no fouling?
The american bullets was arguable larger than needed. Resulting in this issue.

In the system used by the British and danish armies the bullet was loaded with the paper and the paper held the grease.
And both had tests showing that is was indeed possible to fire a hundred rounds with no cleaning. Because each round pulled the fouling from the shot before it, when fired.

The british made their bullets smaller a couple of times with no loss of accuracy. They simply underestimated how much the bullet could expand when the first version of the round was designed.

"Colonel Lane-Fox recalls that as First Instructor at Hythe (before 1855), “as many as 150 rounds were frequently fired out of the same barrel” without any fouling or difficulty of loading. Even more remarkably, the rifles were left to sit overnight without any cleaning “in order to make the test severe.” They still loaded and fired “without experiencing the slightest difficulty in loading.”
Busk’s Hand-Book says rifles were fired “200 times successively without any difficulty in loading.” "


Taken from https://nebula.wsimg.com/a1ee616841...C5D56582B54161E90&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

I highly suggest reading it. It tell both about when the enfield was seen as "perfect" with this cartridge and how it was almost taken out of service because the same cartridges didn't work when transported to other parts of the world. (and show why Minie was a rather minor person in the story of the rifle musket)

And danish testing in the late 1850ties show the same. Firing bullets all day, letting the weapon stay dirty over the night and then firing again the next day. And it note that the last shot was just as easy to load as the first shot.
And in that test the P53 was tested against danish made rifle muskets and against up-rifled muskets.

edit - typos
The Brett GibBon’s article that you provided is very useful, I took the liberty of copying a short paragraph about the use of the grease.
There were problems with the tallow lubricant used for “grease” on the cartridge exterior. It worked great in England, but turned runny in hot colonial weather or in the sweltering holds of transport ships, and would soak into the rest of the cartridge paper and into paper wrappers of the cartridge packs. Problems would be encountered later with the tallow soaking through the cartridge paper, contacting the bullet, and undergoing a chemical reaction with the lead that caused a white crust to form, making the cartridge hard to load. But, by and large, these problems were not as dire as Douglas described them. “Should the grease melt away,” at least one period source advises soldiers to “moisten the cartridge in the mouth in the act of loading.”
I found that fascinating, I had no idea that soldiers would be expected to moisten the cartridge using saliva, must have tasted disgusting.
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
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.
I agree that these folks that lived with their rifles could eyeball a charge close enough in a hurry, I have also read somewhere that you could put a ball in your hand and cover it with powder and that was close enough as well, I don't know as I never tried it.

These leads me to something I have often wondered about; if in time of combat on the frontier, men like Lewis Wetzel, Simon Kenton, Boone, or any other frontiersman, would dispense with the patch and just eyeball a charge and drop a loose ball down the muzzle, prime and fire. I think it was either Wetzel or Kenton that was reportedly being chased by Indians on foot and killed them all by loading and firing as he ran. I have also heard it mentioned but have no way of knowing that they may have "bump" primed their flintlocks when in a hurry; drop the charge and ball down the barrel, bump the butt of the stock on ground with the frizzen closed and prime the pan in that manner. Again, its just a theory I have read somewhere. I would imagine either the touch hole was largish or that might work if you loaded the main charge with priming powder but it doesn't really seem too likely.

I have also seen where reenactors firing muskets prime the pans with powder from the cartridge which I assume would be Fg or FFg, and not prime the pan with FFFFg. From the looks of it, muskets such as the Brown Bess or Charleville have huge pans, flints and frizzens, I assume they would ignite the coarser powder satisfactorily.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
@CowCavalry It has been my impression that historically the troops firing flintlocks did prime the pan from the cartridge. Maybe some more knowledgeable person will chime in on that.

John
Line infantry did.
You primed as the first step of loading. Then the rest of the powder went down the barrel followed by the shot that got rammed down.

With percussion muskets you load all the powder, shot get rammed and then you prime as the last step.

This naturally also resulted in less powder being used in cartridges for percussion muskets, compared to a similar caliber flintlocks.

Note:
Rifle armed units did things differently.
Also note that some armies in some parts of the musket period used self priming muskets.
They worked by having the powder that go down the barrel spread into the pan by it self. It cost velocity resulting in less range.
But it did obviously improve rate of fire.
 
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DixieRifles

Captain
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Location
Collierville, TN
Below an original ramrod with a reproduction worm, I bent the worm prongs up a bit to get a better grip on a stuck patch.
I wish I could find a good worm to use with my .50 caliber guns. Most of my rods have 8/32 thread but a couple have 8/32 on one end and 10/32 on the other.
Most of my tools are threaded screws. I have used them on a few occasions but I don't trust them at griping onto a stuck bullet.

Do they make Worms with these threads?
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
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Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
I wish I could find a good worm to use with my .50 caliber guns. Most of my rods have 8/32 thread but a couple have 8/32 on one end and 10/32 on the other.
Most of my tools are threaded screws. I have used them on a few occasions but I don't trust them at griping onto a stuck bullet.

Do they make Worms with these threads?
Check w/ Track of the Wolf. They sell multiple different thread sized appendages.
 
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