Danger of rapid firing?

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Artificer

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I can't remember if I've seen two or three "flash off's" of powder, though in each case it was in re-enacting over the years where only powder was loaded.

The worst thing that ever happened to me was when we did an 18th century Battle Demonstration in front of the National Archives on Constitution Avenue in DC, on July 4th.

This was my second or third time doing it. Anyway, we got permission to do "Highland Drill," which was a sort of an advancing Skirmish Drill/firing that the 18th century British Army ONLY allowed Highlanders to do.

Temperature was in the mid 90's with a "fair" amount of humidity (which means a LOT of humidity outside the South), but that wasn't all. Since the "ground" we were on was Asphalt, we were told it got to between 110 to 120 degrees. We could feel that heat coming through the soles of our period shoes.

OK, so the Highland Drill calls for the Soldiers to advance rather piecemeal and of course under the orders of an NCO. When told to halt, we were supposed to put a knee down on the ground and shoot/reload from that position, to make smaller targets of ourselves. Pretty good period tactics, actually.

HOWEVER, since we wore Philabegs (Small Kilts) that meant putting a BARE knee down on 110 to 120 degree Asphalt. We only made THAT mistake ONCE and then for some strange reason we modified the Drill Position to a sort of squat. ;)

The Drill also calls for the individual Soldiers to load and fire at will, until ordered to stop firing. So we were really burning through blank charges pretty fast and of course faster than it would have taken them to ram down live rounds each time.

On top of the heat of the air and asphalt, the sun beat down on us mercilessly. That and the quick firing heated up the Brown Bess Barrels so hot that wherever skin touched the barrels, it welded a layer of skin onto the barrels. Even trying to NOT touch the bare barrels, there isn't much forearm to grip on a Brown Bess. We eventually learned to hold onto the leather slings, but not before there were singed pieces of skin welded to many parts of the barrel. Most of us wound up with skin burnt off all over our left hand and a bit less on our right hands. WOW, is cleaning burnt/welded skin off a Brown Bess barrel and blood/skin off the slings a Bloody PITA!! :eek::)

Gus
 

Osseon

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I can't remember if I've seen two or three "flash off's" of powder, though in each case it was in re-enacting over the years where only powder was loaded.
My question is do those flash offs happen as soon as you pour the charge? I think I'd be worried less over a flash and burnt hand and more over if the flash off happens while seating a ball, in which case you can lose a hand.
 

Artificer

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My question is do those flash offs happen as soon as you pour the charge? I think I'd be worried less over a flash and burnt hand and more over if the flash off happens while seating a ball, in which case you can lose a hand.
Most happened during pouring or just slightly afterward, before one could have put a ball on top, even from a cartridge.

Gus
 

Craig "Wildcat" Wilcox

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Way back in 1961 or 62, we (NSSA) were "re-enacting" the first "battle of Bull Run". Everyone was inspected for leaving the ramrod back at the camping area, and not having any projectiles with them. We were furnished with about 50 rounds of 100 gr black powder wrapped in paper, and percussion caps.
It was a hot July day as we "Unionists" moved forward toward the Rebel line - and w had not gone but about 200 yards when A) I was almost out of cartridges, and B) that barrel had burnt my hand pretty badly. So, 50 rounds in about 5 minutes! After I "played dead" - out of cartridges - I was taken to a nice AIR CONDITIONED tent where real Army medics were taking care of we wounded guys. Simple dressing, and a few minutes in the cool, and I was cured!
Then it was off to the artillery, much nicer. Still have a few scars from the burns.
 

vintovka

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Soldiers Back in The Day did many things that we would never do — like priming the pan BEFORE pouring the rest of the powder down the bore — AND pouring the powder from a horn.

I have seen videos showing the rapid fire technique of priming FIRST and then pouring powder down a hot bore and spitting the ball in after it, without any cook-offs. So it CAN be done, but WHY would you want to take the risk?

The old-timers did it because they were in danger of being killed by an enemy. The only danger we are in is being careless or just foolish.
Recall flinter in full garb beating the embers out in his previously magnificent beard.
My ex father -in-law got hit by a spent .30? bullet while he was fishing in a local lake. It just bounced off his jacket and fell to the deck. He never heard any shot. It was hunting season, so the guess is that someone a mile or more away took an horizon shot, and missed whatever they shot at.
Was working in the target pits at the Ione range during a DCM shoot. Guy in front of me yells OUCH!! and grabs the top of his head. Thinking the worst i made him sit and pulled off his hat. Only a red mark!!! We Got the H-LL out of the pits immediately Triggered PTSD like nightmares for 2 weeks. Did finish the course and got the unmentionable 6 weeks later in the mail. Still will not go down in the pits.
 

toot

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If you're referring to the Billy Dixon shot it was somewhat short of a mile, was done with a Sharps cartridge rifle, and has been hotly debated ever since it supposedly happened in 1874.
that is what I was refering to. still one helliva shot either way!
 

Stantheman86

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I pour the cartridge powder in and take a few seconds to tap on the forearm to settle the powder before putting the bullet in, hoping that if there is a spark it will ignite the powder then.

Also, hammer always down on the spent cap

The only way to truly alleviate any threat of a flash fire is to mop the bore after every single shot
 

Crow-Feather

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wasn't there a recorded shot that killed an INDIAN at a mile away, in an INDIAN battle?
[/QUOTE

That was Billy Dixon who shot "Coyote Dung" off his horse at 1536 yards at the battle of Adobe Walls using a borrowed 50-70 Sharps rifle.
An Army counter motor radar unit went to the site and after testing, determined the shot was quite possible.
 

Cutfinger

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I have a friend who was using pre charged loads to load his Parker Hale Enfield 2 band rifle in a speed shoot , the charge went off as he was about to load the projectile, he burnt his hand , some burns were deep and others were just scorches , he still has black dots tattooed on his fingers and hand from the unburnt powder which made its way under the skin . All the antique blunderbuss's I have handled had very little or no bore flair at the muzzle . The big knob at the end of the barrel was there to help use it as a club , and I'd speculate it made the gun easier to hold when reloading . The brass barreled ones were usually naval guns for clearing the masts and boarding parties . The fact the naval ones often had folding bayonetts fitted made them doubly deadly .
 

toot

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I pour the cartridge powder in and take a few seconds to tap on the forearm to settle the powder before putting the bullet in, hoping that if there is a spark it will ignite the powder then.

Also, hammer always down on the spent cap

The only way to truly alleviate any threat of a flash fire is to mop the bore after every single shot
you are so right, keeping the cap on keeps the chance of H2O, getting into the barrel when pushing down the 2sd, charge down. that is a cardinal rule in the NSSA. take the cap off after firing, on the line you will be asked to remove your self!! end of story!
 

toot

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I like Crow Feather's, other name! I guess that BILLY DIXON turned his day into C0YOTE S$$T!? that name is not politicly correct today! those were the days!!
 

Osseon

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I have a friend who was using pre charged loads to load his Parker Hale Enfield 2 band rifle in a speed shoot , the charge went off as he was about to load the projectile, he burnt his hand , some burns were deep and others were just scorches , he still has black dots tattooed on his fingers and hand from the unburnt powder which made its way under the skin . All the antique blunderbuss's I have handled had very little or no bore flair at the muzzle . The big knob at the end of the barrel was there to help use it as a club , and I'd speculate it made the gun easier to hold when reloading . The brass barreled ones were usually naval guns for clearing the masts and boarding parties . The fact the naval ones often had folding bayonetts fitted made them doubly deadly .
No speculation, it's widely known the flare was too help with loading. Not only easier to hold but easier to catch powder on a rocking deck and easier to push shot or ball. This is the first time I've heard about the use as a club. Any blunderbuss that has a cartoon esque flare is just artistic interpretation.
 

Stantheman86

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you are so right, keeping the cap on keeps the chance of H2O, getting into the barrel when pushing down the 2sd, charge down. that is a cardinal rule in the NSSA. take the cap off after firing, on the line you will be asked to remove your self!! end of story!
Even the original British manual of arms calls for the hammer to be left down on the spent cap during loading

I would bet most flash fires are caused by:

A separated Minie skirt that stayed hot and ignited powder

Hammer being half cocked after firing

"Coke" buildup in breeches from improper cleaning retaining a cinder

Finally , probably just crap luck. You can do everything right and still have a hot ember in the breech. It's just a chance that exists with muzzleloaders.

There were no widespread writings or reports of flash fires over 200+ years of military use of muzzleloading weapons, but I'm sure it occurred. If it was a rampant issue there would be tons of documentation of soldiers having frequent flash fires in battles.

An old, seasoned "Buffalo Match" shooter at my gun club told me he was taught years and years ago to drop the ramrod down the pipe after firing to "tamp out" any sparks before reloading. Does it work? I don't know. Probably. If you want old school advice talk to guys who have been shooting old guns for 70 years.

In combat you wouldn't bother, you just reload. The least of your concern is a flash up. In the woods or the range we have time to mitigate it. If anyone has used a muzzleloader in combat we need to hear about it :) otherwise, just take your time if you're not in a Skirmish match or something.
 

shorthair

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Soldiers Back in The Day did many things that we would never do — like priming the pan BEFORE pouring the rest of the powder down the bore — AND pouring the powder from a horn.

I have seen videos showing the rapid fire technique of priming FIRST and then pouring powder down a hot bore and spitting the ball in after it, without any cook-offs. So it CAN be done, but WHY would you want to take the risk?

The old-timers did it because they were in danger of being killed by an enemy. The only danger we are in is being careless or just foolish.
I can easily understand the rush to reload when in battle you cut a few corners because if you don't you won't survive long.
 

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