Buck n' Ball

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Dave Orchard

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I have loaded roundball and 3 "pairs" of buckshot of slightly less than 1/2 bore dia. Each in Charleville, 20 ga. Trade gun, 24 ga. Fusil as well as breech loading smoothbore.
It's easy to see why buck n' ball load was popular with Roger's Rangers.
Groups at 20 to 25 yds.are pretty similar regardless of caliber or ML vs breech loader: ball hits point of aim and 5/6 buckshot print evenly around the larger cal.hole like spokes of a wheel. (#6 is almost always a "flyer"....go figure.)
B & B has no purpose I can think readily of in the hunting field, but it is interesting to experiment with anti-personellloads that were used centuries ago.
(There is one factory 12ga. Cart. Loaded w/buck & single ball.)

Dave
 

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Though the buck shot does spread out at longer to extreme ranges of the smoothbore musket and thus afford the possibility of more hits at that range, I think we miss a very important aspect of using buck and ball loads.

I hope I will be forgiven the brevity of my following explanation, but modern ballistics testing has shown that a second round in the body of a person or animal does not just add the same amount of additional trauma, but rather can up to square the original trauma - meaning the person or animal is at least going to be "stopped" quicker, if not die quicker than if hit by a single projectile.

I don't know if they knew the ballistics of it, but this was probably evident to soldiers who saw the difference in effectiveness between a single ball and buck&ball loads and is why they were still using it as late as the UnCivil War.

Gus
 

tenngun

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These were used on the battlefield. Hunters need a dead deer, or bear or whatever. Soldiers need an enemy that’s not fighting back. It makes no difference if he is wounded or dead. I would think buckshot going down range could render an enemy hor de combat even if the big ball missed
 

Stumpkiller

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I understand Buck-n-Ball was also used by sentries and pickets who might have to get a shot off in the dark.

Not sure what all's going on here (from the wreck of a British ship sunk in 1782 off St. Augustine, FL).

 

Rat

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Well...I suppose if one got attacked by a pack of wolves, while out deer hunting, maybe some buck-n-ball loads in the kit might not hurt. :) As the wolf populating increases, and their fear of man decreases, (which seems to be happening here in North Eastern Washington) some buck-n-ball loads might not be a bad idea to have.
 

Loyalist Dave

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I think you'd be better using straight buckshot on a group of wolves.
IF buck-n-ball was such a good hunting option, it would be sold as such in modern hunting shotshells, right? If they were equal or better than plain buckshot on deer, then they'd be readily available from several of the big shotshell makers, and in various gauges.
But I've only found Herter's, Wolf Hill, and Centurion offering such loads, and they are marketed for self-defense, and only in 12 gauge. ;)

LD
 

BrownBear

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At one time I dinked around a lot with both buck-and-ball and straight buckshot. Truth be known, from what I read about the ranges used for buck-and-ball, I'd whole lot druther use straight buckshot. If a wound is as good as a kill from the combat perspective of taking a guy off the line, there's just a lot more wounding potential from a dozen balls rather than 4. Sure the pattern gets spread unreasonably for hunting long before 100 yards, but just imagine the wounding you could do with volley fire of buckshot at 100 yards. Based on clanking a dozen buck at a sheet of plywood laid horizontal at 100 yards, it's easy to see. Figure three guys standing in that same 8', and there's still a fair likelihood that all three would catch at least one ball, and virtually a sure thing that you'd get two. You can just about bet on at least one of them taking a ball on most shots. Guy with a 32 or 36 caliber hole in him is still a guy with a hole in him and lots less enthusiasm for standing in line.
 

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Yeah...pure buckshot in a paper cartridge may indeed be the better option. One could certainly throw a greater volume of it, than with a modern shot-shell.
 

Elnathan

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You can just about bet on at least one of them taking a ball on most shots. Guy with a 32 or 36 caliber hole in him is still a guy with a hole in him and lots less enthusiasm for standing in line.
Maybe, maybe not. Unless it hits him right in the head, throat, groin, or major artery, a single buckshot seems unlikely to render a man hors de combat, particularly if at moderate range and through a couple layers of wool. Depending on his level of adrenaline, he might not even notice it. A solid hit from a full-sized musket ball, regardless of where it hits, would be a lot more likely to do enough damage to render him incapable of fighting and moving, not just discourage him. A buck-and-ball load has virtually all of the advantages of a single ball with some of the advantages of a buckshot load, whereas going to a full load of buckshot limits you to fairly close range before it starts to lose stopping power.

Also, buckshot isn't likely to stop a charging horse, which is kind of a drawback on an 18th or 19th century battlefield.

For close-range antipersonnel work, Daniel Boone's load at Blue Licks - 7 or 8 rifle balls and 16 or 18 buckshot and presumable a pretty stout load of powder - strikes me as the most potentially lethal load I've read about. Possibly on both ends of the gun...A handful of rifle balls seems to have been a fairly common load for big smoothbores along the frontier and I've always wondered how well they worked.
 

Sicilian Hunter

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I understand Buck-n-Ball was also used by sentries and pickets who might have to get a shot off in the dark.

Not sure what all's going on here (from the wreck of a British ship sunk in 1782 off St. Augustine, FL).

Stump,
Is the buck and ball load always as depicted?
Is it necessary to have the ball ahead of the buck shot?
 

Rat

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I believe it can be loaded either way. With loose ball and shot I'm sure one would want to put the buck in first, then the ball, or the buck would/could roll back out the barrel. (unless one was shooting uphill)
 

Spence10

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I played around with buck and ball in my .62 smoothbore, had an almost impossible time getting any useful pattern when I loaded the buck on top of the ball. When I tried ball on top it changed everything, I could shoot very useful patterns/groups with the buck consistently close to the ball on the target.
I was using tow as wadding, loaded powder, tow, buck, ball, tow for the best results.

Spence
 

Stumpkiller

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Stump,
Is the buck and ball load always as depicted?
Is it necessary to have the ball ahead of the buck shot?
That I can't say. I don't know that it was mandated. The original paper cartridges I have seen put the ball on the end. But there are two ways to insert a paper cartridge after the charge was poured down the bore. I would not doubt it was a heated topic of discussion at camps in the 1760's. ;-)

BUT, I will say as a practical observation a tight ball (paper acting as a "patch") will keep the smaller buck in the charge while the buck on top may work loose and dribble out.
 

BrownBear

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Maybe, maybe not. Unless it hits him right in the head, throat, groin, or major artery, a single buckshot seems unlikely to render a man hors de combat, particularly if at moderate range and through a couple layers of wool. Depending on his level of adrenaline, he might not even notice it. A solid hit from a full-sized musket ball, regardless of where it hits, would be a lot more likely to do enough damage to render him incapable of fighting and moving, not just discourage him. A buck-and-ball load has virtually all of the advantages of a single ball with some of the advantages of a buckshot load, whereas going to a full load of buckshot limits you to fairly close range before it starts to lose stopping power.

Also, buckshot isn't likely to stop a charging horse, which is kind of a drawback on an 18th or 19th century battlefield.

For close-range antipersonnel work, Daniel Boone's load at Blue Licks - 7 or 8 rifle balls and 16 or 18 buckshot and presumable a pretty stout load of powder - strikes me as the most potentially lethal load I've read about. Possibly on both ends of the gun...A handful of rifle balls seems to have been a fairly common load for big smoothbores along the frontier and I've always wondered how well they worked.
I can only report what I've actually done putting holes in wood at 100 yards. Won't join you in your speculation. The only speculation I'll make is that a hit is better than a miss.
 

Sicilian Hunter

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I played around with buck and ball in my .62 smoothbore, had an almost impossible time getting any useful pattern when I loaded the buck on top of the ball. When I tried ball on top it changed everything, I could shoot very useful patterns/groups with the buck consistently close to the ball on the target.
I was using tow as wadding, loaded powder, tow, buck, ball, tow for the best results.

Spence
Spence,
Thanks for that info!
I like A) that the pattern held B) that all natural materials were use.
I wonder if you could exchange the tow for inner bark fiber and keep the results?
 

Sicilian Hunter

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I can only report what I've actually done putting holes in wood at 100 yards. Won't join you in your speculation. The only speculation I'll make is that a hit is better than a miss.
Bear,
I think that Elnathan was speculating that the combat effectiveness of the buck & ball load had some value in reducing enemies facing you.
I also think that there is a modern thought process in that a wounded man on the battlefield requires 4 others to carry him to an aid station actually reducing the enemy number by 5.
That takes into account that particular enemy force cares about their troops like the US does or uses that doctrine as an SOP.
Don't know if that was the SOP during the AWI but for a settler that may need to turn his game getter into his Militia arm and face down hostile natives or other enemies the buck & ball loads effectiveness may be a standard for the militia unit or maybe just and good idea under the right conditions if the munitions were available whether it be paper cartridge or just a tow wad.
 

BrownBear

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Bear,
I think that Elnathan was speculating that the combat effectiveness of the buck & ball load had some value in reducing enemies facing you.
I also think that there is a modern thought process in that a wounded man on the battlefield requires 4 others to carry him to an aid station actually reducing the enemy number by 5.
That takes into account that particular enemy force cares about their troops like the US does or uses that doctrine as an SOP.
Don't know if that was the SOP during the AWI but for a settler that may need to turn his game getter into his Militia arm and face down hostile natives or other enemies the buck & ball loads effectiveness may be a standard for the militia unit or maybe just and good idea under the right conditions if the munitions were available whether it be paper cartridge or just a tow wad.
Again, I can't speculate about that. All I can do is report holes on target rather than misses. Try a smoothie with single ball on a B-29 or similar silhouette target at 100 yards. Try it again with buck and ball. Then try it once more with straight buckshot. Then decide which you'd rather shoot.

Theoriticians can play with the effect of wounding all they want, but I'd still rather have hits than misses. I did the shooting. I compared the results. I got my answers. Anything less than shooting for answers is theory, and there's always too much of that going around for my tastes.
 
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