The 'musketball' was for many decades one of the most neglected of archaeological finds. They often went virtually unanalysed, tucked away at. A musket is a muzzle-loaded long gun that appeared as a smoothbore weapon in early 16th The kinetic energy of the bullets was within J. Musket bullets punched mm steel plates, . Cartridges consisted of a spherical lead ball wrapped in a paper cartridge which also held the gunpowder propellant. Where today's modern bullets rely on extreme speed, musket balls use their size and mass as their strengths. Is this answer still relevant and up to date? equipment just to serve the only purpose of reloading the thing: Gunpowder, ramrod.
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The ease of loading the smoothbore musket allowed soldiers to fire quickly, but the shots were not likely to hit their targets.
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In fact, firing one of these guns would be similar to shooting a marble from a modern shotgun. The weapon did not even have a rear sight for precise aiming because aiming was a fruitless effort. The statistics boil down to this: The chance of firing a smoothbore musket and hitting something beyond rock-throwing range was slim, but there was an alternative weapon: The venerable Kentucky flintlock rifle, for example, the weapon favored by frontiersmen and by sharpshooters in the American Revolution, was extremely accurate at long ranges.
At yards, an American soldier with a Kentucky rifle could easily hit a target as large as a horse, a fact that made British cavalrymen very uneasy. The problem with the rifle of the time was that loading it was a difficult and slow process.
Because the ammunition had to fit inside the barrel tightly in order to fit in the spiral rifling grooves, soldiers had a tough job forcing it down from the muzzle, especially under combat conditions, when repeated firing quickly filled the grooves with the residue of burnt powder.
Before long, the rifleman literally had to pound the tight-fitting bullet down the barrel. Soldiers were better off firing three or four shots a minute in the general direction of an approaching enemy unit than firing once a minute with pinpoint accuracy at individual targets. What the infantryman needed was a firearm that combined the best of the smoothbore flintlock musket with that of the rifle—a gun that was easy to load and could hit a small target at yards. That gun was the muzzleloading rifle-musket, and with it came the improved bullet that made it possible.
But before all this came to bear, inventors and sportsmen were working to perfect a new ignition system.
Inthe Reverend Alexander Forsyth, a Presbyterian minister from Belhelvie, Scotland, patented a new, more reliable ignition system than the flintlock system. Rather than have a shower of sparks ignite loose gunpowder, Forsyth employed a flat-nosed hammer to strike powdered fulminate of mercury, which detonated on contact, setting off the main charge of gunpowder inside the barrel.
The copper percussion cap was easy to use and virtually impervious to water and wind. European and American armies embraced the new percussion, or caplock, system because of its reliability. The British army adopted it in after comparing the results of 6, test rounds fired from flintlock and percussion firearms.
The flintlocks misfired times 15 percent of the timewhile only 36 0. Army followed the British lead and adopted the percussion system in The following year, American armories began building smoothbore percussion muskets and converting older flintlocks to percussion weapons. Progress was slow, however, and the vast majority of American soldiers carried flintlocks in the Mexican War of to Even 13 years later, at the beginning of the Civil War, Union and Confederate authorities issued smoothbore flintlock muskets to thousands of unlucky soldiers.
The percussion ignition system made infantry weapons fire more reliably, but there remained the challenge of coupling easy loading with long range and accuracy. Developed over a generation, its final design was the fruit of independent work by men from Great Britain, France, and the United States. Great Britain took the lead. As early asCaptain John Norton of the British 34th Infantry began experimenting with bullet design.
Norton shaped the nose of his new bullet like a cone with a rounded point and made its cylindrical base hollow.
The inspiration for the bullet came to Norton while he was stationed in India and observed natives using blowpipes as weapons. He discovered that the base of the blowpipe arrow was made of elastic locus pith.
It seemed a small jump from there to making a bullet with a base that would expand from the pressure of firing.
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The result was that the bullet fit more uniformly inside the barrel, producing more reliable and accurate fire. It was an overly conservative decision that squandered the opportunity to develop this innovative design into a truly remarkable weapon. Several years after Norton had begun developing his hollow-base bullet, French weapons experts began working on a similar design. Delvigne led the way when he designed a muzzleloading rifle to fire a new type of bullet.
InDelvigne built a unique rifle barrel with an independent gunpowder chamber at its breech.
This chamber was separated from the rest of the barrel by a strong lip, beyond which the powder could pass, but not the bullet. In the earliest models, after the chamber was filled with gunpowder, Delvigne rammed a standard soft, round lead ball down the barrel and pounded it against the lip with the ramrod until it flattened just enough to grip the rifling grooves.
He soon discovered, however, that the pounding disfigured the ball and greatly reduced its accuracy, so he designed an elongated, cylindrical bullet with a flat base that would expand more evenly under the ramrod blows. InDelvigne even received a patent for an explosive bullet of this general design. Imagine pounding that down a rifle barrel! After loading, the flat base of the elongated, cylindrical lead bullet rested upon the post in a position to be easily and uniformly forced into the rifling grooves when compressed by the ramrod.
The gun and bullet combination was still not practical for widespread military use; the rifle breech was very difficult to clean, and the metal post was prone to breaking.
By this point in the story, it should not be surprising to learn that the French army never adopted the new bullet. The bullet as it would be used by the soldiers in blue and gray was now virtually complete.
In the early s, James H. Burton, a master armorer at the U. By lengthening the bullet slightly and thinning the walls of its hollow base, Burton was able to dispense with the iron plug. An improved version of the rifle-musket—the model built by the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts—became the principal infantry weapon of Northern soldiers in the Civil War.
Hundreds of thousands of Union troops carried the Springfield onto the battlefields of the Civil War, and untold numbers of Confederates captured the weapon and used it themselves. Between andthe Springfield armory manufactured nearlyof the guns; private contractors builtmore; and slightly modified and models accounted for an additionalThe Springfield rifle-musket was a. It was 58 inches long with a inch barrel, and came with an inch bayonet. They often went virtually unanalysed, tucked away at the back of a finds report and warranting only a fleeting mention.
However, the growth of battlefield and conflict archaeology has led to a wave of new research that is rapidly changing our view of these little objects, and what they can tell us about momentous events in the past. A hoard of 2, lead bullets illegally metal detected at Ballymore, Co. Probably concealed by Jacobites prior to their surrender to Williamite forces here in The musket was in fact just one of a range of guns that fired a lead bullet.
Different firearms used bullets of different sizes and weight, and often different types of gun were carried by different troop types. For example, in the late 17th century infantry usually carried heavy muskets, while mounted infantry called dragoons wielded carbines, which fired a slightly smaller ball. Cavalry and officers often employed the much smaller pistol as their firearm.
It is often the case that analysis of bullet types can tell us about the range of different soldiers present at a particular site. One of the most important aspects of lead bullet analysis is knowing where the ball has come from. If the exact findspot of each bullet is not carefully recorded archaeologically, a valuable piece of information is destroyed. The location of bullets on a battlefield provides us with a unique plan of how a fight progressed; it can reveal who fought where, what type of soldiers they were, and where the fighting was hardest.
Often this information can completely re-write previous interpretations which were based solely on historical accounts. If the lead bullets are removed from their context without proper recording all this information is lost. Lead shot recovered from the Battlefield of Aughrim, Co. Galway, and representing an attack on fleeing Jacobite soldiers Above are some lead bullets we analysed for the National Roads Authority on behalf of Galway County Council.
They were fired during the Battle of Aughrim, Co. Galway, inthe bloodiest battle in Irish history. Because we knew the exact findspot of each bullet we could see a pattern emerge, suggesting that this was evidence for a rout that we knew took place.
This small assemblage is surviving evidence of this desperate attempt to escape the slaughter.