Discussion Multi-Ball Loads and Rates of Fire

LouG.

Private
Joined
Jun 27, 2021
Eyewitness accounts of major infantry actions during the war sometimes include remarks about the rate of fire---"the heaviest I ever heard," or similar comments. After a term of service, the infantryman armed with the usual muzzle-loader, whether smoothbore musket or Minie rifle, could crank out about three shots a minute---perhaps more, if his weapon had a self-priming Maynard or Butterfield lock. But an Ordnance Department publication issued in 1856, the "Reports of Experiments With Small Arms For The Military Service," presented a technique for achieving an even higher rate:

"The fire of two round balls in the smooth-bored musket has been considered to possess great advantages when used against masses of troops at short distances; but its practical application has been very much restricted in warfare by the large size of the bores of military arms, requiring the use of a charge which was too severe in its effects on the soldier, and very injurious to the arms themselves. The reduced calibre of the new rifle-musket, and the increased weight of its barrel, entirely removed these objections."

"A few trials were lately made at the Washington Arsenal to test the effects of firing two and three round balls at a time from the new rifle-musket, and were attended with very satisfactory results...The round balls selected for trial were those used in the old rifle, having a diameter of .525 inch, and giving a windage of .027 inch [on either side] when used in the new musket. It was found that this windage was sufficient to allow the balls to drop readily and certainly into their places, when used without a paper wrapper; the loss of time, therefore, in drawing and returning the ramrod in loading was dispensed with...In a trial to test the rapidity of loading, by dropping the balls into their places, it was found that the piece could be loaded and discharged five times in one minute..."

Because this publication was widely distributed before the war, the question is: was this fast-loading, multi-ball technique actually used in combat?
 
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1867crete

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 25, 2017
Interesting concept my mind is obliviously drawn to the 69 cal. Buck and ball to create a shot gun effect. One side note with rates of fire. When I was in my prime with re-enacting we almost always had speed loading competitions! It was very fun!!! My record was 3 shots in 52 seconds….. but there was ABSOLUTELY no aiming!!! And no one was shooting at me!!! I think in a battle scenario 3 AIMED rounds is not acceptable rate of fire! My opinion!
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
It’s actually easier with live fire. I can do 3 rounds a minute all day so long as I start loaded. Never did figure why.

the reality of ACW combat was that 3 aimed shots a minute for any length of time was not common. All that heavy a rare if fire wasn’t that common either. Some of the most heavily engaged units at Gettysburg only averaged 200 rounds a man across the 3 day battle.
 

1867crete

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 25, 2017
We always started unloaded at the order arms.
It’s actually easier with live fire. I can do 3 rounds a minute all day so long as I start loaded. Never did figure why.

the reality of ACW combat was that 3 aimed shots a minute for any length of time was not common. All that heavy a rare if fire wasn’t that common either. Some of the most heavily engaged units at Gettysburg only averaged 200 rounds a man across the 3 day battle.
 

ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
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May 7, 2016
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Alabama
Southern troops were trained to hit a target and speed didn't matter as much as "Center Mass"
 
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