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May 25, 2004

Ammunition, Part the 4th. Closing out the muzzle-loading ammunition piece.

G'day, everybody! While I certainly haven't exhausted the muzzle-loading era and may return to it, I'm going to close it out for now with a post about 'cleaner' bullets and what to do when your weapon misfires. Then I can move on to black powder primer fired cartridges and beyond - at a later date, at a later date, keep your shirt on!

If you need a refresher, here are parts I, II, and III.

As I mentioned in earlier discussions about black powder, a major problem with those guns and that ammunition was the residue, or fouling, from firing. It doesn't take long before it starts to get hard to load your weapon. Instead of the bullet dropping down onto the powder, you have to exert more and more force to ram the bullet down the bore. That takes time, meaning you reduce your rate of fire, and the distortion of the soft lead bullet can significantly reduce accuracy, and even range, if you distort the skirt of a minie' ball sufficiently. Most Civil War engagements were fought at distances where range wasn't a question, but accuracy, and most importantly, rate of fire, were important.

The most common kind of 'cleaner bullet was the Williams. It came as a Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3. In this photo, they are 1, 3, 2, something I didn't notice until after I took the picture last night. You'll have to excuse me, I was in the basement right after the tornado warning sirens had gone off. Have you ever tried to snag 7 cats and get 'em to the basement - quickly? And I expected Beth's new car to be a dimpled wreck from hail, too. In the event, nothing happened.

Shown with an 8mm Mauser round for comparison. Hi-speed (or patient) version here.

These were designed to clean the bore as the bullet traveled down the barrel. When fired, a zinc ring at the bottom of the bullet would expand to clean the debris and grease from the rifle. On the Type 1, the zinc ring is gone from years in the ground, leaving only the post. The Type 2 was only produced briefly, in favor of the Type 3. The differences are the Type 2 has a thicker ring than the Type 1, and in an attempt to contain costs, a smaller bullet. The Type 3 is basically a Type 1 bullet with the improved Type 2 disk. Depending on who you read, they ranged from really effective (Williams himself) to worthless. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle - and had more to do with training of the soldier and intensity of the combat.

There's more in the extended post.

Last but not least - what do you do with misfires? You recap and try again. If that fails, you drop your rifle and grab the rifle the guy next to you dropped when he took a bullet.

If you win the battle, or the action moves away from your position and you have some time, you get out your 'worm', and pull the bullet, something like this:

You put the puller on the threaded end of your ramrod, pushed it down to the bullet, screwed it in, and pulled it out. Having had to do this a few times myself, it's not something you want to be doing in combat.

Here are examples of both Union and Confederate pulled bullets. The Union bullet as three rings, the confederate, two. The Yankee bullet also has a thinner skirted cone, which made it grip the rifling better. The rings, or cannelures, are for holding grease to aid loading, ease the passage of the bullet, and to make cleaning easier by emulsifying the firing residue.

Pulled bullets head-on.

Side view.

End View.

Keep checking back. I've got more stuff working - the German 'Glasmine' and the "Elsie" mine.

John | Permalink | Comments (0) | Ammunition
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