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Jerome Prusak





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 11:04 am    Post subject: Rapid Fire Muzzleloader?         Reply with quote

Before the creation of automatic firearms, the only way for muzzleloaders to achieve rapid fire were to:

1) Increase the number of barrels of a muzzleloader?

2) Increase the number of projectiles (buck and ball, buckshot , or birdshot) in the barrel of a muzzleloader?

3) Increase the number of barrels and the number of projectiles fired in the barrel of the muzzle loader?

I don't know alot about muzzleloading firearms, any input would be helpful. The reason I'm asking this question is because I was curious to compare early methods of rapid fire to today's modern weapons.

Thank You. Happy


Last edited by Jerome Prusak on Thu 01 Nov, 2012 6:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 11:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a few other things you can do to increase the rate of fire.

1. Training with rapid fire drills. Rapid fire is somewhat of a unique skill that needs pratice.
2. The right equipment. Pre-measured powder loads, pre-cut patches and having the ball handy.
3. A slightly undersized round ball. This cuts down on accuracy but can make the loading much easier expecially after the barrel get fouled.
4. Use a musket instead of a rifle. The smooth bore doesn't foul as qucikly when shooting with black powder. And you thought the armies stuck with muskets because they were too cheap to replace them with rifles. I don't think rifles became popular in armies to after the Minnie Ball was invented which allowed rifles to be loaded about as quickly as a musket.


Not sure that increasing the rate of fire was always a top priority. It seems that the idea was to shoot, then get in to hand to hand were the real fighting would happen.


In case it isn't clear Ball means bullet.
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The pepper box is the earliest example I'm aware of. I believe they were around in matchlock varients in the 1400s. Later they developed into semi-auto-revolving pistols, like a revolver but with a long cylinder comprised of several barrels instead of having a short cylinder and a single barrel. I believe that many of these, if not all of them, were muzzle loading.

Note that firing multiple projectiles at once (ie a volley gun or shot gun) is not generally considered rapid or automatic fire.

Functionally, the early cap and ball revolvers were really just muzzleloading pepperbox pistols with a 'barrel extention'. A long pepperbox was a very unwieldy firearm, so shortening the barrel-group and adding a single barrel extension was a logical solution.

IMO the most important development that can be attributed to creating a 'rapid fire' or semi-automatic firearm is the realization that the powder charge can do more than simply push the bullet forwards. While you can fire several bullets in sequence with a double action revolver, the cylinder is still rotated manually when you pull the trigger. Firing quickly does not equate to automatic/semi-auto fire.

Also see the gatling gun. I believe they used gravity-fed magazines and hand-cranked barrel assemblies - essentially a large pepper box pistol with a magazine. Very cool design.

Sorry I hit a kind of tangent there, but I think the pepperbox and gatling guns are good points for this research. Strange to think that two modern infantrymen with a 240b could outgun an entire company back in the day.

As Joel noted though, practically (in a military sense) rapid-fire was never as important as accurate fire. Even today, we mainly use semi-auto, removed the full-auto functions on most standard-issue rifles and full-auto machine guns are mainly used to suppress, not eliminate. It's also worth considering that even with a pepperbox or cap and ball revolver - sure, you get six (or whatever) shots before reloading, but then reloading is a much lengthier procedure - and wouldn't it suck to take a ball to the head right as you were packing that last barrel? It was probably great for skirmishes, raids, guerrilla warfare etc but doesn't seem terribly practical in regular warfare.
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There were also flintlock "revolvers" and very sophisticated systems with multiple charges in a single barrel that could be ignited one at a time by moving the lock mechanism for each shot. Of course, there were several variations on breech loading flintlocks, the most famous (but not necessarily deservedly so) was the Ferguson which was a refined adaption of the French Vaubon system.
"Those who live by the sword...will usually die with a huge, unpaid credit card balance!"
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ye Olde loading block for rifles.


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-Sean

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Tom King




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 12:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.allempires.com/forum/forum_posts.a...5&PN=1
a few ranging from the 16th-18th century

such as



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Christopher Treichel




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2012 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

there are a few more ways.... to include making the touch hole bigger so you don't have to prime....

The loading block... yet to have someone show me an origional or a reference to one in an origional document.

mechanical means of loading ball and powder from reservoirs in the butt or next to the barrel http://www.nramuseum.org/the-museum/the-galle...tlock.aspx

breachloaders like the Ferguson and the French system which I don't recall the name of.
http://www.nramuseum.org/the-museum/the-galle...ridge.aspx

Break action with replacable breach chambers/frizzen

Multi shot air rifles like the Girondoni system with 21 shots as fast as you can push the lever and trigger Austria had an entire battalion of them agains Napoleon and Lewis and Clark took one with them as well

The craziest is the superimposed shot method.... and a fellow from Philadelphia tried selling something like that to congress. here is one with only two actions. I have seen one with up to a dozen touch holes and a sliding flint lock. http://littlegun.be/arme%20belge/artisans%20i...s%20gb.htm
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Nov, 2012 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Treichel wrote:

The loading block... yet to have someone show me an original or a reference to one in an origonal document.


This is the only thing I see. There's no caption information for the accoutrements, unfortunately. It's not clear if it's meant to be a loading block but that seems to be the suggestion in including it here. It appears to be slate, which would be a strange choice of materials. My first thought on seeing this piece is that it's a Native American slate gorget.



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-Sean

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Jerome Prusak





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Nov, 2012 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the information everyone. I know that revolvers are a unique form of repeater and is not a semi-auto type of firearm. And the Superimposed loading or "roman candle method" to obtain multiple shots looks to be quite unsafe/dangerous. I look at these inventions as stepping stones to the semi-auto/full-auto weapons that we have today. I bet soldiers/warriors in the past, wish they could fire more than a single shot from a muzzleloader, and hence forth came all the odd/unusual inventions that have appeared on this topic.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Nov, 2012 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This might be too far afield for you but Henry VIII had a breech-loading wheel lock hunting piece that used an iron cartridge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_VIII_...issing.jpg

After all that trouble, if they took the next step and pre-loaded multiple cartridges, that was a major milestone in firearms technology. Still, this sort of technology apparently either wasn't valued or wasn't considered practical for the battlefield for a LONG time after.

Bear in mind that, IIRC, as late as the late 19th c., some U.S. military officials were suspicious of auto/semi-auto fire and high-capacity magazines because they worried that these innovations would undermine fire discipline.

I've read that during the U.S. Civil War there was debate about the use of the pistol or saber for cavalry. As I understand it, CSA cavalry were early to abandon the saber in preference of repeating pistols. I think Custer wrote about preparing for a charge and watching the troopers around him drawing their sabers, replacing them and drawing pistols, then withdrawing sabers again, etc., unable to decide what to use.

I guess the Sharps carbine helped resolve that dilemma.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Kjell Magnusson




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Nov, 2012 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's some discussion of early breech loading here: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7364

Posts #49 to #54 on page 2 seems to show that breech loaded, hand-held firearms with swappable chambers would have been invented by the mid 15th century.
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Christopher Treichel




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Nov, 2012 6:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thing that kept repeating firearms from really being effective was fouling... i.e. the residue left behind in every nook and crevice once you fire the weapon...preventing you from operating the mechanism until it was cleaned. This was not solved until the cartrige was invented which allowed the brass sealing the chamber preventing an undue amount from entering the breach. No matter what was tried this problem persisted until the cartridge was invented. Even the cup method shown at the viking link did not prevent this and frequently were either too expensive due to available machinery (high end firearms for the nobility) or due to repeated use and quality of production had a tendency to blow up, like the ones in the falconets you showed which could not handle sufficient loads repeatedly.

As to the loading block... As I said its a neat idea but I have yet to be shown an origional one.
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Christopher Treichel




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Nov, 2012 6:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To be more specific about the fouling aspect... Take for instance the Ferguson Rifle. It has a screw out breach. The process of reloading was sped up by only having to turn the trigger guard one rotation due to a newly invented type of screw. You get about to make about 3-5 shots before the powder residue gets blown into the screw chanels making it almost impossible to turn the screw mechanism which was still pretty good but also even by 1770-80s standards very expensive.

Here is a range report about shooting one... even though Ferguson was able to get off six shots in foul weather during the trials.

http://johno.myiglou.com/ferguson.htm

Firing it produces a hefty crack, and recoil consistent with a 65 caliber round ball, which is to say it kicks, but not painfully so. It does blow powder and reside both up and down, out the screw threads, you can feel a puff of breeze on your forehead when the charge goes off. The first shot out of a clean Ferguson almost always goes without a hitch. Then, you experience the rapid reload, which seems even quicker after you've fired a shot. One twist of the handle, and the breech is open. Push a greased bullet into the breech. Pour powder in until the chamber looks full - the breech plug will knock out any excess. Twist the handle back. Prime the tray, cock, and let fly. With practice, a reload can be done reliably in 8 to 9 seconds. (Legend has it that Simon Kenton could reload his Kentucky rifle in 12 seconds) You can load it while lying down, though it isn't quite as quick. Nor as hazardous during a battle, but that's another matter entirely...

You also begin to experience the shortcomings. Up to the third shot, things go quite smoothly and rapidly - no swabbing the bore, no ramming a bullet down a freshly fired barrel. About the third shot, the screw mechanism begins to clog up. By the fourth shot, the screw breech no longer opens. You'll need to dribble a bit of water on the breech threads to free it up. This happens, no matter how much grease you put on the threads. Fergie has a sensitive touch hole - if you don't clean it after every shot, it will begin to either misfire or hang fire after the 2nd or 3rd shot, and I've noticed that this rifle has some very lengthy hang fires. Click, whoosh, oops, nothing, darn it... start to lower the rifle and BAM! Exercise extreme caution with misfires, it can still go off. So it loads quickly, but if you take full advantage of that fast load, normal black powder maintenance will stop you after a few shots. There is also the flintlock mechanism, and the tray in need of priming. Very easy to get this wrong, especially if you are in a hurry. You can dump 3F powder in the tray and get rid of the 2nd flask, but you usually get slow ignition. Dump in too much, and you get the normal flintlock slow fire: click, sssssssss, pow!
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Nov, 2012 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have read this blog before and, while it points out that powder fouling does build up in these rifles, I am not convinced that it happens to every shooter. A good friend of mine, who demonstrates firing a Ferguson - he has a replica - can get many more shots before cleaning than "John" states in his blog. One of the tricks is keeping the screw lubricated with some sort of grease or tallow. Also, and Ferguson knew this when he did his demonstration for the military, a humid day is a better one for keeping fouling soft than a warm dry day. Ferguson claimed, as I recall, that he could fire up to 24 shots without cleaning using his system. My friend, Ricky Roberts, has fired 60 shots without cleaning his Ferguson using greased bullets and keeping the screw portion of the breech well lubricated during firing. If you are interested in finding out more about Ricky's techniques to keep the Ferguson clean and firing, drop me a PM and I will clue you in to where you can buy the book written by Ricky and Bryan Brown which details all this as well as providing some interesting information about Ferguson. And, you can also read my article in The Highlander on the same subject or perhaps even my book on the firearm in Scotland in the 17th & 8th c.

Sean, I think what you are looking at in that photo is an Indian-made gorget, not a loading block.

Lin Robinson

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Nov, 2012 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Ye Olde loading block for rifles.


Sean...I am sure you meant "Ye New Olde loading block".

The loading block is one of three items used by traditional black powder shooters today which have an extremely fuzzy history. The other two items are the short starter and the priming horn. There is little contemporary evidence that these three items were part of the average long rifleman's kit in the F & I and Revolutionary War era. The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle, by Ned H. Roberts, which was written in 1947 when Mr. Roberts was at an advanced age, pictures the equipment which he got with his first muzzle loader as a boy, in 1876. It includes both a short starter and a loading block but keep in mind that these items dated from long after the flintlock had fallen out of favor.

No contemporary loading blocks survive that I know about and that is understandable. They were small, made of wood and easily lost or damaged and could, of course rot away.

The short starter has some antiquity in that it was used post-Civil War by many muzzle loading target shooters who also attached "false muzzles" to the end of their heavy barrel rifles. The false muzzle - actually a piece of the rifled barrel removed from the end and adapted to fit the barrel with pins - was designed to mate with the rifling at the end of the barrel proper to facilitate loading of elongated bullets and avoid wear to the rifling at the end of the barrel. Barrels which were not so equipped were often crowned to facilitate loading and this was believed, especially if the crowning was irregular, to affect accuracy, which it probably did. The short starter was used to start the bullet into the false muzzle until it entered the rifling of the barrel, at which time the short starter was withdrawn and the ramrod put into play. There is nothing in the contemporary record indicating the use of short starters much earlier than the post-Civil War era.

The idea of a priming horn was probably born out of the number of small antique horns which exist. However, just because a horn was small does not mean it was used for priming the pan of a flintlock. There is no need to carry a pound of powder to the woods for a hunting trip - assuming you are not anticipating getting into a protracted gun battle - so a small horn can be adequate for carrying in a pocket to go hunting.

Let me repeat however that this is fuzzy, not absolute, and that many every day items are not written about in the contemporary record because they were every day items, not worthy of mention. So, all these things could have been used, but generally speaking, there is little hard evidence of them. And, I admit to owning and using all three with my own guns.

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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