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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 6:11 am    Post subject: Metallic Cartridges for Wheellock/Flintlock Breechloaders         Reply with quote

While searching for the first appearance of metallic cartridges I found an article with the title:
Culture Minister Defers Export Of An English Breech-Loading Magazine-Primed Flintlock Fowling Piece By Robert Rowland, Dated 1718 ([url]http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/media_releases/2954.aspx
[/url])

It mentions a flintlock breechloader made by Robert Rowland in 1718 featuring a preloaded and reusable steel cartridge.

The idea sounds quite workable for me. A seperate cartridge in form of a steel tube should be able to handle the gas leakage and fouling problems better than other designs like those of Fergusson and Hall. A small hole in the tube for the priming powder would allow it to work with a flintlock or wheellock mechanism. Ammunition weight and costs would be higher though in comparison with paper cartridges.

Does anyone have further information on this weapon or similar breechloading systems on flintlock/wheellock firearms?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm fairly sure that there is a surviving matchlock archebuse from the time of Henry VIII that used a preloaded steel or iron cartridge and that was a breach loader: I think it actually is attributed as being part of Henry VIII personal collection of arms.

I assume " matchlock " in this case as the actual lock on the gun is missing and the breach mechanism is a side opening trap door made to accept some kind of preloaded chamber. The gun may have had numerous chambers for quick loading or maybe just one for convenient reloading. ( Don't know if the loading chamber(s) got lost or is at the bottom of some dusty museum storage drawer ).

This would be early to mid 16 Th. century.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Richard Hare




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 6:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helge B,

I know I've seen these before, but can't think which book, apart from I believe Great British Gunmakers, 1740-1790,
and quite possibly same title, 1540-1740.
It seems the early ones used a steel "cartridge, with a hole to align with the touch-hole.
The problem was these didn't seal the gasses very well, and this remained a problem untill brass cases were used.
I don't think that a great amount of "cartridges " were narmally carried, just a few, and re-loaded in the field

If you google Paully you should see some very advanced ideas fror the time, and also look at Henry V111's matchlocks. These too were breech-loaders, ...But I can't remember if these took a seperate cartridge...

Solomon said: " There is nothing new under the sun" I think ha was right!

Richard.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This sounds pretty early, even for paper cartridges (early 1600's.) I am wondering if the metallic cylinder others are trying to remember might have been an early cartridge (conic paper cartridge) storage box or component loader. Various cartridge boxes (generally metallic in construction) survive. If it were in fact a metallic cartridge, then I wonder how the powder got exposed to the wheel lock flash for ignition?
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 9:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are photo's of Henry VIII's breech-loading arquebuses in Dudley Pope's book "Guns", which I have. Pretty cool, they are. One thing is though that the locks have been replaced, and the originals were almost definitely wheellocks, rather than the present matchlocks, which are modern replacements. They are supposed to date from the mid-1540's.

The iron cartridges are actually pretty nifty, in that they each have a squared-off tube coming out from the bottom end of them, facing off to the side, which contains the touch-hole. It also allows the cartridge to be properly lined up with the pan to ensure proper ignition. The pan would of course have to be primed separately for each shot, after the wheel had been spanned. Here is a drawing of one of them. Not great, but it gives the idea, about half way down the page: http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Campground/8551/firearms.html

Also, Henry VIII's breech-loading pistols which were fitted to steel targets use the same sort of cartridge, if I recall correctly. All in all it was a pretty good system, the biggest flaw (aside from the fact that they probably didn't seal the gas leakage all that well) was that each firearm would need it's own, specially-made set of cartridges, as I doubt that the technology of the day would have allowed for much interchangeability between the firearms. Here's an article on the gunshields: http://www.vam.ac.uk/res_cons/conservation/jo...index.html

All in all, a very serviceable system, IF the machining was done closely, and lots of care taken. Great for a King's Bodyguard, maybe some of a shipboard guard, but not of much use to the masses of soldiers needing firearms, thus the continuation of muzzleloaders for another three hundred years.

Cheers!

Gordon

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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
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PostPosted: Thu 14 Aug, 2008 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared,

No, the metallic cases seen are usually pitted around the touch-hole, they are definitly made to fit in the gun.
Just had a quick look at Harold L Peterson's book "The Great Guns"
On page30 it clearly shows a breech-loading whellock, made in the late 1500's complete with its metal cartridge and chamber in the open position. the catridge goes up the barrel, then the breech-block flips down behind it, in almost precisely the same manner as the Snider Enfield works.

Jean,
You are quite correct re. Henry V111's guns . The one in the Tower, (now most likely in the Royal armoury, Leeds)
was a matchlock. tho' as you state, the lock is now missing.
Also the Shield pistols he had made were also matchlocks and breechloaders too.

Gordon, I may well be wrong about Henry V11's gun being originally a matchlock. I was led to believe this was the case but my information is decades old, and new iffo may have come to light. I defer to you on this!
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Helge B.





Joined: 06 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2009 2:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Reviving an old thread:

I found some interesting photos of such breechloading flintlocks/wheellocks in another forum:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7364

And a modern version of an american gunsmith:
http://www.woodcentral.com/shots/shot83.shtml

I wonder why such a technology was not taken into military service. The Fergusson had its flaws, but this devices look quite feasible to me. It would greatly increase the firepower in terms of accuracy and reloading speed.

Was it just too costly and difficult to build such cartridges with preindustrial technology?
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2009 12:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was going to say that cost or precision machining was the reason these guns never took off but the more i think about it the issue of them not sealing well may have had more to do with it.

For those that have never shot a black powder gun; its a lot of fun, the smoke, the sounds and smells. But they are MESSY (especially true black powder). Carbon residue gets everywhere it can. If the the breach doesn't seal really well then the cartridge and breech is covered with soot and repeated shooting may cause issues with loading and unloading the cartridge. Even with brass cartridges this can be an issue. Supposedly, one of the many issues the U.S. Calvary faced at the Battle of Little Big Horn was that their Sharps rifles would get so fouled after a couple of shots that the troopers could not, for love or money, get the the brass cartridges out of the rifles.

Another thing that can happen with a poorly sealed breach is getting a smoke/residue blast in the face. To be fair, looking at King Henry's rifle this may not have been any worse than any other wheel lock.

Also one of the real advantages of brass cartridges is that they are self contained and disposable. The cartridges in question look more like removable breech plugs. The user still has to load them, and since they are not completely sealed the cartridges should be redone so often, sooner if it is wet.

So to some it it up. They would most likely be too expensive for the average person while not offering enough of an advantage to be worth it to save the money to buy one.
As for more military use. They would be a supply nightmare, small semi-custom parts for soldiers to lose. Requires more care from the average solder. Hard to reload in combat. And to get the most out of the gun would require a change in tactics, which always seems to be an issue with top brass.
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2009 4:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:

For those that have never shot a black powder gun; its a lot of fun, the smoke, the sounds and smells. But they are MESSY (especially true black powder). Carbon residue gets everywhere it can. If the the breach doesn't seal really well then the cartridge and breech is covered with soot and repeated shooting may cause issues with loading and unloading the cartridge. Even with brass cartridges this can be an issue. Supposedly, one of the many issues the U.S. Calvary faced at the Battle of Little Big Horn was that their Sharps rifles would get so fouled after a couple of shots that the troopers could not, for love or money, get the the brass cartridges out of the rifles.


Actually, the troopers at LIttle Big Horn were equipped with trap door Springfield carbines, not Sharps rifles. The main problem they faced with these guns was from overheating due to continuous firing. The trapdoor action is relatively weak compared to others and especially in the area of cartridge case extraction. Fouling may have been a problem after numerous rounds fired continuously, but the real problem was with overheating. Actually a well-made breech loading rifle leaves nearly all the residue in the barrel. Not much of it gets into the chamber/breach.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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