Common calibers of the day?

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nkbj

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Once upon a time I actually did wear out a rifle, a Japanese made .45 Kentucky with six tiny narrow little dinky lands* for rifling. Shot great for a long time but when it went, yeah it was gone. That experience makes me wonder what it took to use up various styles of rifling back then. You look at the ratios of land width to groove width and see what they made. That's either a whole bunch of shooting or generally poor maintenance and I think it was the latter.

*AS you might suspect it liked plenty of FFFg, a 65 grain photon torpedo.
 

Darto

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Yes, I read somewhere that a mathematical average of size on the originals he examined was about .39". I am guessing his average was based on the Oklahoma museum stats.
The East coast had no dangerous game and was more wooded than Europe. Long barrels to prop against a tree while standing back from it and because carried in hand instead of on a horse. Long barrels, lesser calibers, lighter weight due to smaller necessary powder charges and pressures for less dangerous game and you had to carry the weight around by yourself.

I would guess that Historical bullets found at some battle sites are skewed by some shooters using military muskets along with lesser caliber hunting rifles.

Another source says most originals of Kentucky Longrifles were about .28 to .60 which means .44 is exactly half way between those two extremes (Second paragraph of article linked below):
The Kentucky Rifle – Edenton Historical Commission
 

oldwood

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Before 1800 and for a time after , early records reflect guns less than.47 cal were considered inadequate for hunting and war. Calibers ran between .47 to .60. After 1820 the only invaders east of the Mississippi would be vermin trying to devour farmer's crops , and informal shooting matches were very popular . Small calibers were the order of the day.......oldwood
 

Rifleman1776

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The curator of the J M Davis Gun Museum in Claremore, OK about 20 years ago told me that most of the long rifles in the museum are in the .38 to .40 caliber range, and there are hundreds of them on display. He also mentioned that rifles were freshed out as required too, increasing the bore size. As a side note, there are very few flintlock rifles on display as most were converted to percussion at some point.
My last visit to the Davis museum was many years ago. But that 38-40 range is my recollection also, but I ain't positive. Great museum, BTW.
 

Loyalist Dave

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This from eye witness Joseph Doddridge...,

Joseph DODDRIDGE.JPG


Which is about a 155 grain ball..., which is something pretty close to a .470 ball
He doesn't say there weren't any smaller, he simply noted the lower threshold, from what he had known.
No way of telling since rifles in collections, EVEN if they were all exactly preserved..., are a very small sample compared to how many folks that we know owned rifles.

We should also note that perhaps there was a local bias against smaller calibers, since we know that a .440 round ball will do just fine, even down to a .390 will work well to 100 yards on a human..., a wound might be all that was needed to send an enemy off to heal and thus to flee a fight. Let us not forget that large bias that a lot of "well versed" hunters have against the black powder rifles that we use, even when they are quite large in caliber.

LD
 

appalichian hunter

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In a hostile shooting situation it would be better too wound your opponet instead of kill him right out, if he is dead you just let him lay until able too go back and gather the dead, if wounded you effectively take not only the one shot but one or two others too get him off the field.
 

Artificer

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Some things we don't often think about.

First, it wasn't just game animals early colonists had to deal with on caliber size. Even in Tidewater/Coastal Regions, wolves were a real threat up to and including at least the first half of the 18th century and some spots much later than that.

As they got closer to the Appalachian Mountains, then more dangerous critters came into play like Panthers/Mountain Lions and Black Bears. Also, there was bigger game like Elk and Mountain Bison.

The early Settlers in Kentucky used "buffalo wool" to spin into apparently quite usable stockings and sometimes woven hats and gloves, at least until they got their flax crops going enough for their needs. This was in the 1770's.

So a lot depended on where one was as to what one hunted to eat and by what one tried to keep from getting hunted.

Gus

P.S. I've come across a few references that said rifles with 36 balls to the pound were popular before the AWI. This would make them .52 caliber and as it turns out, this is the average size of period originals in Shumway's books.
 
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Loyalist Dave

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In a hostile shooting situation it would be better too wound your opponet instead of kill him right out, if he is dead you just let him lay until able too go back and gather the dead, if wounded you effectively take not only the one shot but one or two others too get him off the field.
Right but that's modern logistics thinking. Not only two to take him off, but folks to tend his wound. Puts a strain on the economics of your enemy.

So in the AWI, depending on what one is using you tend to hit center-mass..., or if a regular soldier, your main weapon is the bayonet vs the chest of the other guy..., a collapsed lung takes the fellow out of the fight, and he normally doesn't live long enough for wound care to be a factor....

Alas in the 18th century the "Regimental Surgeon" was attached to a regiment to tend to the officers. High rankers in command sometimes would have a "personal physician", but Joe Dirt the Private Man, had to deal with stuff on his own, or a wife tended him.

At the end of an engagement it was "gallant" for the victorious commander to allow the vanquished to "collect the wounded and dead". Now, how many more might have been in the "wounded" list had they been evac'd during the fight, instead of waiting until the battle was done ???

LD
 

.36Rooster

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I finished, for the second time, That Dark and Bloody River this week. Am now halfway through The Frontiersmen for the first time.

Great reading. My only complaint is the story of Kenton taking the head off a turkey at 300 paces...not too sure about that....

Economies of lead and powder must be considered as the men moved down the Ohio to Kentucky. But as they did so they were encountering larger game like elk and buffalo....
I dont recall the book actually saying he took the head off at 300 paces. I only recall him hitting the turkey at 300 paces, I am inclined to believe that part, at least..

I've read this amazing book 3 times, underlined passages, diagrammed, and studied it. Then stupidly gifted my diagrammed copy away...hopefully the guy read it and took inspiration from the passages.

That dark and bloody river was an excellent one too. Left my copy on a table at work one night and never saw it again.



It is my understanding that the longer barrels helped with powder economy, and as the region became settled, the deer/elk/bear/buffalo got hunted out, and the caliber sizes became smaller, to improve powder and lead economy, as there was less need by that point.
 

.36Rooster

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When I was deciding what caliber to go with I came across a report from the excavations at Fort Michiliminack. The .530" was the most common ball found in the digs. Figured that was a good indicator for the era (just pre-Revolutionary) that I was interested in. So I went with a .54 rifle.
I wouldnt mind browsing through an article or two of this sort out of interest. Any chance you could point me to it?
 

shorthair

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Once upon a time I actually did wear out a rifle, a Japanese made .45 Kentucky with six tiny narrow little dinky lands* for rifling. Shot great for a long time but when it went, yeah it was gone. That experience makes me wonder what it took to use up various styles of rifling back then. You look at the ratios of land width to groove width and see what they made. That's either a whole bunch of shooting or generally poor maintenance and I think it was the latter.

*AS you might suspect it liked plenty of FFFg, a 65 grain photon torpedo.
Likely that they weren't able to clean as much as they would have liked, plus having your only weapon disassembled in territory that wasn't friendly couldn't have been healthy.
 

smoothshooter

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Before 1800 and for a time after , early records reflect guns less than.47 cal were considered inadequate for hunting and war. Calibers ran between .47 to .60. After 1820 the only invaders east of the Mississippi would be vermin trying to devour farmer's crops , and informal shooting matches were very popular . Small calibers were the order of the day.......oldwood
During warfare whatever was on hand is what would have been used.
 

Flintlock

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The curator of the J M Davis Gun Museum in Claremore, OK about 20 years ago told me that most of the long rifles in the museum are in the .38 to .40 caliber range, and there are hundreds of them on display. He also mentioned that rifles were freshed out as required too, increasing the bore size. As a side note, there are very few flintlock rifles on display as most were converted to percussion at some point.
But most all theses longrifles in the museaum are ones made in the 19th century, 1820-1850.
 

oldwood

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Actual 18th century accounts from old books , testify that it was common knowledge , calibers less than .47 were unacceptable for hunting and war. Also , 18th century long rifle calibers ran between .50 to .60. After around 1820 ,most war was over and large game was scarce east of the Mississippi River. Smaller caliber rifles were the choice of the day. Folks had to defend their crops against small game invasion , and competitive shooting was common community entertainment. That is what is in the books . It's hard to argue with actual testimony.................oldwood
 

54ball

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Before 1800 and for a time after , early records reflect guns less than.47 cal were considered inadequate for hunting and war. Calibers ran between .47 to .60. After 1820 the only invaders east of the Mississippi would be vermin trying to devour farmer's crops , and informal shooting matches were very popular . Small calibers were the order of the day.......oldwood
Not necessarily so....
Savanah/Calico/Choctaw Jack led quite a large band of renegades and ex-Redsticks on a series of raids throughout Mississippi and Alabama in 1825. It was so serious that the militias were re activated and the crumbling forts from the Redstick War of 1813-14 were rebuilt and occupied. It was one last terror. Indian raids in 1825 in Mississippi and Alabama would almost be as shocking as Indian Raids today.
Just as quickly as the Savanah Jack raids started, Savanah Jack and his hostiles crossed the Mississippi heading West to Indian Territory, never to be seen again. Like I said, that was one last Terror...
 

Spence10

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Here's a snapshot description of common calibers in the area of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in early 19th century. It's from _An Excursion Through the United States and Canada, during the Years 1822-23 by an English Gentleman_, written by William Blane. I've converted the balls per pound to calibers and weights.

"The usual size of balls for shooting squirrels and wild turkeys, is from 100 [36 cal. 70 gr.] to 150 [31.4 cal. 46.7 gr.] to the pound. For deer and bear, the size varies from 60 [42.7 cal. 116.7 gr.] to 80 [38.8 cal. 87.5 gr.], and for larger animals, as th buffalo and ek, from 50 [45.4 cal. 140 gr.] to 60 [42.7 cal. 116.7 gr.], though a rifle carrying a ball of a larger size than 60 to the pound is seldom made use of. For general use, and for shooting at a mark, the favorite size is from 60 to 80. [average 40.75 cal.]

Spence
 

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