Historical question regarding combat with muzzleloading rifles

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Riverbravo

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Something I have been pondering is how it they fought with rifles back in the day. I know from experience with my rifle I can get two maybe three shots without cleaning. One time I did an experiment to see how many shots I could fire without cleaning. By shot number three the barrel was so fouled the bullet stuck halfway down the barrel and refused to move. Ended up having to use the ball puller.

With my personal experience I can't fathom how they fought with rifles effectively after the first shot. I doubt they had the luxury of cleaning the barrel In the heat of battle. How were they able to effectively use their rifles back in the day? I was using a gun ment for hunting. Could it be that a rifle meant for combat had looser tolerances inside the bore allowing for more fouling? We're Rifleman deployed in cover to allow them to service their weapons? I have many questions. I'm sure someone here has the answers and then some.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
With the right ball, patch, and lube combination you should not need to clean between shots. I use Balistol and water, 0.595 caliber balls and 0.020" thick patches in my 62 caliber guns. I shoot all day without cleaning or needing to hammer a ball down. During the 18th century, rifles used by American soldiers were not specially built for military use. They were civilian hunting guns. There were British and German military rifles in use but they loaded just like the civilian versions.

dave
 

Riverbravo

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Thank for the insight Dave. I am still a newbie. Where might I find patches with a selection of different thicknesses? Normally I'm lucky if I can find them at all. Do you Lube your patches? If so with what?
 

kje54

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Something I have been pondering is how it they fought with rifles back in the day. I know from experience with my rifle I can get two maybe three shots without cleaning. One time I did an experiment to see how many shots I could fire without cleaning. By shot number three the barrel was so fouled the bullet stuck halfway down the barrel and refused to move. Ended up having to use the ball puller.

With my personal experience I can't fathom how they fought with rifles effectively after the first shot. I doubt they had the luxury of cleaning the barrel In the heat of battle. How were they able to effectively use their rifles back in the day? I was using a gun ment for hunting. Could it be that a rifle meant for combat had looser tolerances inside the bore allowing for more fouling? We're Rifleman deployed in cover to allow them to service their weapons? I have many questions. I'm sure someone here has the answers and then some.
While rifles and grooved muskets were used during the AWI they were primarily used by light infantry and sharpshooters, The vast majority of longarms used were smoothbore muskets, the Brown Bess and the Charleville. Smoothbores could fire 3 - 4 rounds a minute, rifles could fire 1 - 2 aimed, accurate rounds per minute.
 
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OLUT

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Something I have been pondering is how it they fought with rifles back in the day. I know from experience with my rifle I can get two maybe three shots without cleaning. One time I did an experiment to see how many shots I could fire without cleaning. By shot number three the barrel was so fouled the bullet stuck halfway down the barrel and refused to move. Ended up having to use the ball puller.

With my personal experience I can't fathom how they fought with rifles effectively after the first shot. I doubt they had the luxury of cleaning the barrel In the heat of battle. How were they able to effectively use their rifles back in the day? I was using a gun ment for hunting. Could it be that a rifle meant for combat had looser tolerances inside the bore allowing for more fouling? We're Rifleman deployed in cover to allow them to service their weapons? I have many questions. I'm sure someone here has the answers and then some.
In the Civil War, the Williams clean-out bullet was standard i
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ssue
 

Josephg

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I believe the OP is referring to the American War for Independence not the Civil War.
No, not that I see.

I know I can shoot all day without cleaning using a spit patch and light loads in most of my muzzleloaders. 50-60 grains in my 45, 50 grains in my 58. Might not be able to make spit in a battle.
 

Sam squanch

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I think besides formal line of battle, warfare was like hunting to a certain degree. Ambush, cover and camouflage. Shoot and run. Slowly wear down the enemy. With a big knife for backup!
 

Phil Coffins

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Yesterday I shot a match at our local club. I use 80 grains of two f and pillow ticking bought at a fabric store in this 54 calibre rifle. The targets were at 25 and 50 yards. When we moved to 100 yards I load 110 grains because that’s what the rifle is sighted in with. My patch lube is spit and no wiping was done. I got second place in the aggregate and was done shooting before most of the other fellows.
 

dave_person

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Thank for the insight Dave. I am still a newbie. Where might I find patches with a selection of different thicknesses? Normally I'm lucky if I can find them at all. Do you Lube your patches? If so with what?
Hi Riverbravo,
I thoroughly lubricate my patches and patch material with a mix of 1 part Balistol and 6 parts water by volume. In the old days patches greased with tallow or possibly bear grease would be typical. You can get linen, canvas, and denim fabrics at fabric stores. Just go in with a calipers and measure thickness but pinch the fabric a bit with the calipers before reading the measurement. Also, keep in mind that riflemen during the AWI and other 18th century wars were not considered the supermen our myths make them out to be. They were dangerous as snipers, pickets, and scouts but professional troops like the British learned quickly how to deal with them. After the battles on Long Island and Manhattan Island in 1776, the British no longer considered riflemen a serious threat. They simply charged the riflemen and bayonetted them after they fired. The Americans eventually learned to protect riflemen with musket wielding infantry so they could go about their sniping without being hunted down and skewered to a tree.


dave
 

kje54

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No, not that I see.

I know I can shoot all day without cleaning using a spit patch and light loads in most of my muzzleloaders. 50-60 grains in my 45, 50 grains in my 58. Might not be able to make spit in a battle.
What keyed my guess was his phrase "gun used for hunting". This would have been much more common during the AWI than the CW. Yes privately owned firearms were used at the very beginning of the CW but were replaced very quickly with military arms. During the AWI privately owned rifles were used throughout the war, even then many privately owned hunting guns were smoothbore.
 

oldwood

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There are several accounts of actual dust ups between frontiersmen and Indians. When these happened a common thread was , one fellow would keep his gun loaded for security while others reloaded. Then whoever got loaded first , reserved fire while the previous security guy was told to fire. Any enemy combatant had respect for a well sighted , loaded flint rifle. Indians had a fairly predictable and often used ambush tactic of giving first fire , and a fast rush in with knives , tomahakin , war club and spear. Everyone used " ambush and shoot" , when applicable , and escape as rapidly as practical. There are many written about instances , where militia serving with Regular Army left the Regulars to stand their ground , and be killed in a hard fight and the militia folks shot one round and ran away. The militia ran because that was the normal indian frontier way of war. Hit and run and live to fight another day. If you want to see how a toe to toe militia vs Indian fight was , read about the first battle of the American Revolution , the battle of Point Pleasant W.Va. , located just north of the modern city of Charleston W.Va.. That one was toe to toe between Va. militia and a 600 to 1000+ Shawanee/Deleware coalition , with British support. Some say it was a draw , and many say the Indians sued for peace shortly after , because they lost a couple important chiefs , and many warriors. There's enough information on this subject to fill several books...................oldwood
 

Cpt Flint

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Hi Riverbravo,
I thoroughly lubricate my patches and patch material with a mix of 1 part Balistol and 6 parts water by volume. In the old days patches greased with tallow or possibly bear grease would be typical. You can get linen, canvas, and denim fabrics at fabric stores. Just go in with a calipers and measure thickness but pinch the fabric a bit with the calipers before reading the measurement. Also, keep in mind that riflemen during the AWI and other 18th century wars were not considered the supermen our myths make them out to be. They were dangerous as snipers, pickets, and scouts but professional troops like the British learned quickly how to deal with them. After the battles on Long Island and Manhattan Island in 1776, the British no longer considered riflemen a serious threat. They simply charged the riflemen and bayonetted them after they fired. The Americans eventually learned to protect riflemen with musket wielding infantry so they could go about their sniping without being hunted down and skewered to a tree.


dave
 

nkbj

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Try quick shooting a rifle without the patches. :)
 

Grenadier1758

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Let's get a few basic situations identified first, @Riverbravo. Which of the many wars fought on the American continent are you asking about. Up until the American Civil War, the firearm of choice was the smooth bore musket not rifles. In a line of battle, infantry would fire 3 to 4 loads using undersized ball before closing in a bayonet charge. The accumulated fouling from 4 rounds wouldn't be enough to hamper loading. Only rangers, light infantry and grenadiers would use woods cover as a tactic.
 

hanshi

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Many of us buy our material and cut our own patches; cheaper than buying flimsy patches already lubed. Liquid lubes do the best job of keeping the bore cleaned and allowing many shots without cleaning. Hoppes #9 BP Lube is one of the best and is my favorite. Spit does a great job as well. Mink oil is my hunting lube as it doesn't rust the bore. The remainder of the shooting I do is with Hoppes more often than not.

Riflemen in AWI likely used spit in battle and may have kept a supply of smaller diameter balls in case the bore became overly fouled. They were the snipers and sharpshooters and learned their skills from the Indians. Concealment and movement was the key to survival for them.
 

N.Y. Yankee

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Whenever my father would go shooting with me and the BP rifle, he would always say the same thing, "Imagine trying to fight a war with a gun like that, so slow to load you'd be dead after the first shot!" So then I would repeat the history lesson on the difference between the rifle and the smooth bore gun and how they formed ranks and fired volleys of shots etc. Kinda seemed to go in one ear and out the other. He was a very smart man though, just not a "gun guy". Miss ya Pop.
 

Eterry

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I think we load our rifles much tighter than they did 200 years ago. I started using pillow case material, not ticking, cause I was 14 and that's what mom brought home. I shot a whole yard of it in my 45, and I didn't miss hardly anything. I tried crisco for lube, but spit was much easier, cheaper, and i never ran out of it. I've shot over 20 rounds in one setting like that.

If someone was shooting back i might forgo the patch and just run ball on top of powder. I'd also have a sharp knife.
 

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