Chewed roundball

Muzzleloading Forum

Help Support Muzzleloading Forum:

Joined
Feb 3, 2022
Messages
435
Reaction score
648
When I first started shooting smoothbore in N-SSA competition, I was advised by one of my team's top shooters to use an RCBS .678 round ball mold in my .69 bore Chiappa/Armisport M1842 replica. I was advised to prepare the ammunition thusly:

  1. Roll the ball between two farrier's files.
  2. Double-dip the balls in Lee Alox.
This is the way I prepared my ammunition for some time. My very first Nationals, where they make you shoot Expert class if you have never been before (and are thus unclassified), I made it to 10th place (I can't remember if it was 25 or 50 yards now).

This is what the balls look like raw, roughed, and dipped:
balls.jpg


I do not think there is any aerodynamic aspect to the roughening up. As you can see, the Alox fills in all the dimples, and you end up with essentially a round ball when finished. Although, the roughening does obliterate the sprue.

I have tried applying Alox to unroughened balls, and the Alox tends to flake off. The dimples provide a "tooth" to allow the Alox to adhere to the ball.

I do not think the Alox functions as a lube at all. In fact, after firing several rounds you can start to feel a gummy band of resistance about a foot from the breech that I suspect is Alox fouling.

So, what is going on? When you rough up a round ball, it grows about .01" in diameter. Imagine you are squeezing a ball of clay in your fist so that it squirts out between your fingers. The amount of clay has not changed, but the effective diameter of the ball of clay has grown. So why not just se a ball that is .688" to start with? Well a solid larger round ball will become impossible to load after a few shots. But a smaller ball covered in lead bumps will consume the windage in the bore with the bumps, but the bumps, being lead and tiny, will smear away on loading, even with fouling present. The Alox just adds another layer of deformable material to the surface of the ball. The balls fit so tightly that I have to be careful on loading because sometimes the ball will compress air in front of it and bounce the ramrod right out of the barrel of the gun when you let go for another go at ramming! My balls are a very snug fit in the bore.

The N-SSA does not allow flammable patch material in muzzle loaders (the fear is cook-offs). So, roughening up the balls is a way to reduce windage in the bore without using a patch.

The N-SSA does allow the wrapping of the ball in aluminum foil. I believe this metal "patch" serves the same purpose as the roughening - the wrinkles on the foil act as deformable windage-eaters in the bore.

Clearly, I'm in the camp of tight-fitting balls with minimal windage to get good accuracy.

But I have a teammate who shoots a significantly undersize ball in his musket (about .015" as I recall). He seldom misses. I've seen him go 16 hits for 16 shots and 18 hits for 18 shots. Clearly, there is more than one way to achieve accuracy in a smoothbore.

For some years I did the "files" trick. I found it very tedious, time consuming, and it made my hands hurt something awful. So, I invented The Vortex Ball Roller. It is a machine that works with a drill press and achieves the same result as the files but in seconds per ball. You can do an entire skirmish season's worth of balls in 30 minutes.

This video shows how it works and how I used to do it with files:
 

DixieTexian

Pilgrim
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Messages
191
Reaction score
282
and that was before they knew the effects of oral lead poisoning.
but again, life expectancy was so short then that few lived long enough to have any serious effects from it.
Average life expectancy was much shorter, but that was largely due to infant mortality. If one lived through age two or three or so, life expectancy wasn't that much shorter than it is today.
 

TexiKan

40 Cal.
Joined
Jan 2, 2005
Messages
489
Reaction score
97
A past thread I posted showed an image of a fellow on horseback blowing a lead ball into his rifle barrel. The photo was in a book about the Alamo with artwork by Gary Zaboly. That image took a lot of criticism on this forum--arm not long enough, etc., etc. No one really addressed the concept of putting lead balls in one's mouth and loading as a faster method. Oh well....
 

Attachments

  • ML loading.jpg
    ML loading.jpg
    154.8 KB · Views: 0

Loyalist Dave

Cannon
Staff member
Moderator
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 22, 2011
Messages
13,545
Reaction score
9,050
Location
People's Republic of Maryland
...., So, what is going on? When you rough up a round ball, it grows about .01" in diameter. Imagine you are squeezing a ball of clay in your fist so that it squirts out between your fingers. The amount of clay has not changed, but the effective diameter of the ball of clay has grown. So why not just se a ball that is .688" to start with? Well a solid larger round ball will become impossible to load after a few shots. But a smaller ball covered in lead bumps will consume the windage in the bore with the bumps, but the bumps, being lead and tiny, will smear away on loading, even with fouling present. The Alox just adds another layer of deformable material to the surface of the ball. The balls fit so tightly that I have to be careful on loading because sometimes the ball will compress air in front of it and bounce the ramrod right out of the barrel of the gun when you let go for another go at ramming! My balls are a very snug fit in the bore....,

.....Clearly, I'm in the camp of tight-fitting balls with minimal windage to get good accuracy....

This is what I was taught too. That raising "points" on the surface of the round ball for smoothbore shooting, then..., when loading the ball the ball was snug to the interior of the bore, was the "secret". Folks that tried doing this, but the points formed on the ball did not enlarge the diameter to make the ball uniformly snug when loaded, did not see an improvement. Folks that patched the ball to make it snug, don't get a uniform folding of the cloth patch each time, and normally don't get much accuracy improvement.

The "golf ball" idea is sophistry, since as one post has already mentioned, golf balls when struck have a spin imparted (perpendicular to line of flight, but spin none the less), but smoothbores have none.

As for "chewed balls" , folks are confusing two different things.

First, sometimes a person having an amputation in a battlefield or wilderness setting, when there was nothing to dull the pain, would bite down on a bullet..., hence the expression "bite the bullet" referring to a task that is unpleasant for the person but must be completed. "Just bite-the-bullet, and get it done."

Second, there are accounts of a man getting stranded in the wilderness, having only one ball, while having some powder and a gun. After using the rifle or gun to kill some game, the person then retrieved the used ball from within the animal, and then used his molar teeth, to try and form the recovered bullet back into some sort of spherical shape to be reused again, since he didn't have a bag mold with him. So he "chewed" the ball, and the surface was rough since the molars are not smooth. This apparently worked as he was able to shoot another animal for food with the chewed ball, but it wasn't for accuracy, but to simply have something that would give him a chance at survival..., and he got the animals pretty close too, before he would shoot.

LD
 
Joined
Feb 3, 2022
Messages
435
Reaction score
648
With regards to "biting the bullet", I have read an account somewhere in the past that challenged the idea that patients would have been allowed to do this. Battlefield surgeons would be unlikely to allow a small object like a bullet to be placed into the mouth of a patient who was actively thrashing around due to the risk of it being aspirated.
 

hanshi

Cannon
Joined
May 7, 2009
Messages
13,294
Reaction score
7,140
Location
New England
Okay, chew it but be careful not to swallow. I'm of the opinion leather or even wood was used back then. Bullets were scarce and costly. I've never used my teeth on lead sinkers OR lead ball. :cool:
 
Joined
Nov 4, 2006
Messages
5,076
Reaction score
5,280
Location
Western North Carolina
I can not put my hands on it right now, but I have a copy of an old European military loading instruction that required a number of lead balls to be kept in the shooter’s mouth for quicker reloading when on the battle line. Whether the lead was ‘stored’ in their mouths or coming from enemy gunfire, the lead was not good for one’s health.
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2008
Messages
22,537
Reaction score
20,081
Location
Republic mo
Average life expectancy was much shorter, but that was largely due to infant mortality. If one lived through age two or three or so, life expectancy wasn't that much shorter than it is today.
Sort of, walk around an old grave yard, you will see a lot more adults under fifty then over it, but yes, there were plenty of three score and ten or four scour
 

toot

32 Cal.
Joined
May 9, 2013
Messages
6,376
Reaction score
3,066
in a hot battle the soldier had more to worry about than getting lead poisoning from a bullet in his mouth, the other guy was trying to put one in him.
 

Latest posts

Top