Just learned original Brown Bess Steel Rammers were made from two pieces of metal

Discussion in 'Smoothbore' started by Artificer, Sep 17, 2019.

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  1. Sep 17, 2019 #1

    Artificer

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    I was looking up something else in "The Brown Bess" by Goldstein and Mowbray when I finally noticed a picture and caption that I had completely missed, even having gone through this book numerous times. The upper left picture on page 96 shows the Steel Rammers were not made completely from steel. Rather, the Buttons were made from Malleable Iron and the rest of the Rammer was made from flexible steel. The authors pointed out they noticed it because the Iron buttons corrode differently and in a different pattern than the flexible steel part.

    When the Steel Rammers were new and polished frequently, I bet it was very hard to tell they were made from two different materials, as it seems the Iron Buttons were forge welded to the flexible steel shaft and no joint is visible.

    Though I cannot document this, I bet they used Malleable Iron Buttons for two reasons. First, Iron was far less expensive than steel in the 18th century and second, the Malleable Iron would not have caused as much wear/tear muzzle damage to the Iron Barrels, as Steel Buttons would have done.

    I mention this because most (if not all) modern Steel Rammers are made from two pieces of steel. Not sure, but I think on Modern Rammers that the buttons are held on only by an "interference/friction fit," and that explains why the Buttons can and do come loose in use. Had they been welded, they would not come loose.

    So when/if your modern Steel Rammer comes apart into two pieces, you can silver braze them back together, imitating the brass brazing they most likely did if/when the original Rammers separated.

    Gus
     
  2. Sep 18, 2019 #2

    Britsmoothy

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    I often pondered how they would of made the original ones. As in if by turning ( which I very much doubted) it would be very wasteful.
    The soft iron makes perfect sense from a forging and or casting sense too.
    Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. Sep 18, 2019 #3

    FlinterNick

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    The original Brown Bess ramrod were two pieces of iron welded together, the tip being tougher wrought Iron and the rod being spring steel. Some rods were threaded with the tip screwed on, this is seen on some carbines and fusiles.

    Some muskets used heavier rods that didn’t need to be turned over to load; some British, Germanic muskets, Prussian guns and some Dutch guns adopted this, consequently the rods were large.

    Kit Ravensheer’s books talk a good number on steel ramrods and how they were forged, and crafted for older guns that were retrofitted from wood to steel rods.
     
  4. Sep 18, 2019 #4

    Loyalist Dave

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    On the other hand I can't help but to wonder if it was solely to save money and the rest was a bit more like this.....,
    BLACKADDER.jpg




    :ghostly:


    LD
     
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  5. Sep 19, 2019 #5

    Artificer

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    Grin, yes Iron would have saved money as well. :p:)

    Gus
     
  6. Sep 20, 2019 #6

    Enfield1

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    I, too, have that book. I think that it is the most comprehensive publication on the Brown Bess musket ever written. What I was surprised to learn was that steel ram rods were being arsenal produced as early as for the 1748 long land pattern.
     
  7. Sep 21, 2019 #7

    Artificer

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    Indeed Bailey notes about 5,000 to 6,000 P 1748 Muskets were made with Steel Rammers until they shut down production at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession.

    However, in the late 1740's/early 1750's, Benjamin Huntsman began making better and cheaper "Crucible or Cast Steel." With that advancement, British Ordnance went with all Steel Rammers in the Pattern 1756 Land Pattern Muskets and Carbines, though they didn't get the temper quite right on all the Steel Rammers.
    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benjamin-Huntsman

    Fortunately the British Government Contractor, William Grice, figured out how to harden/temper the Steel Rammers correctly by the late 1750's.

    Gus
     
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  8. Sep 22, 2019 #8

    FlinterNick

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    The Dublin Castle armory were producing Steel Rammers as early as 1724, however the quality of those guns at the time was negligible compared to the other armories, most of those Irish made Brown Bess muskets were only used for local national guard units.

    The P-1748 had such a limited production, it is essentially a pattern 1740 musket with a steel rammer, the only major difference being the rod pipes and foreshock being trimmed down. The major difference between the 1748 and 56 pattern being the amount of wood in the wrist, lock area and forestock being reduced to accommodate the steel rammer (more wood need for a 5/16 diameter wood rod) and thus the reason for straightening the lock plate and raising the butt drop and comb enabled the production of more stocks with less wood.

    The New York Wilson contract muskets were originally designed with a wood rod, changed over to steel, very similar design to the p-1748.
     
  9. Sep 23, 2019 #9

    Artificer

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    Also during the FIW as Bailey notes, British Units that had steel rammer muskets, had to turn them in for Wood Ramrod Muskets before coming over here. Some of those units were rearmed from Dublin Castle, as I remember?

    Also, British Units were normally re-armed from Dublin Castle before coming here in the AWI, though it seems those were Steel Rammer Muskets.

    Valley Forge has an example of a Wilson Wood Rammer Contract Musket and is displayed so the right side can be seen very clearly.

    Do you know when the Wilson Contract Muskets were changed over to Steel Rammer? I have been trying to find documentation for that.

    Gus
     
  10. Sep 23, 2019 #10

    FlinterNick

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    Many of the older Dublin Castle muskets from the 1720’s and 1730’s did make they’re way to British colonies in colonial wars, OR at least parts left over from them did, the British policy of selling off usable parts to its colonies was a common practice. The Long Land Dublin Castle Locks have been found on militia muskets, doubtful the rammers were kept; as most were considered junky due to them being made of low quality iron.

    The Wilson Muskets are just one of many contract muskets that were supplied to colonial militias in the FIW and other British colonies in the Caribbean and East India. They generally were produced as Long Land Patterns with wooden rods and 46 inch barrels. Most were converted to steel rods sometime after the FIW and had their barrels shortened (Neuman). George Neuman’s musket on display at Valley Forge I believe is a cut down Contract musket from 46 to 43 or 42 with an elongated front rammer pipe. The New York and New Jersey Wilson muskets omitted the wrist escution (although) later generations added them and the brass furniture was cheaper and lighter than the traditional long land 1742 and 1756.

    However, some surviving contract muskets in New York State were set up as long lands and changed over from wood to steel rods (at West Point curator P.Ackerman). The steel rods were made in the Colonies and designed to fit directly into the stock that supported an original 5/16 wood rod, I’ve never seen one but I’d guess they were heavier to fit the bigger pipes, bushings were added to provide friction. During the revolution these guns were carried with the Northern army that invaded Quebec in 1775 and were used at Saratoga.

    The pattern 1756 Long Land musket more or less corrected all the flaws of the previous 1742, 48 and contract muskets that were using steel rammers.

    The Rifle Shoppe’s New York Contract musket is set up as a 1742 musket with a steel rammer, updated pipes and a banana shaped lock. I’ve seen a few of these guns, very nice pieces. Kind of a hybrid of the 1740 musket and 1756 musket with some unique features to the butt plate and tigger guard.
     
  11. Sep 25, 2019 #11

    Artificer

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    OK, so unless I mistake what you wrote, there were no Wilson or other contract muskets that originally came with Steel Rammers during the FIW, that have been documented? IOW, I'm not talking about Wood Rammer Muskets that were later converted, but contract muskets that were ordered and came from the contractors with Steel Rammers?

    In at least one list of Artificer's Tools and Supplies sent here during the FIW by British Ordnance and documented by Bailey; it lists Steel Rammers, springs for the Entry Pipes and materials to solder bushings into and reduce the diameter of at least the Front Pipe. However, there are quite a few documented quotes of the Pipe Springs broke way too frequently and this modification was generally considered a failure, at least during the FIW.

    Gus
     
  12. Sep 25, 2019 #12

    Grenadier1758

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    Ordnance records for the First Royal Regiment of Foot 2nd Battalion, which was part of the Irish Establishment when they were deployed to the colonies in 1758, had muskets with wooden ramrods. A few steel (iron) ramrods were in the records with a large number of wooden ramrods for replacement. During the F&I war the wooden ramrods were replaced by the improved steel ramrods and by the time they went to Cuba in 1761 (IIRC) the wooden ramrods were replaced by steel based on inventory count of steel ramrods being the majority in inventory and wooden ramrods being a much smaller count. Being a unit from the Irish Establishment, they may have been issued Dublin Castle Land Pattern Muskets, unfortunately the records don't identify the source of the issued muskets.
     
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  13. Sep 25, 2019 #13

    FlinterNick

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    Gus

    those entry pipe rammer springs were so small it’s no surprise they often broke. I’ve seen a repro one.
     
  14. Sep 26, 2019 #14

    FlinterNick

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    Something else to consider, the earlier pattern 'English Infantry Muskets' of the George 1st era began assuming the Long Land Brown Bess Form, many were made with Steel Rammers according to Neuman. With a heavier stock and a steel rammer the guns weighed nearly 10 lbs, in the same generation the same gun was produced with a wooden rod and the gun weighed about 1.5 less.

    The 1756 Long Land Brown Bess was contrasted through 1790 with efforts to make its initial production lighter in weight, the addition of the steel rammer enabled them to increase the stock forestock (the area the barrel lugs cut into) and reduce the width of the forearm. However those modifications made the 1756 weight nearly 11 lbs and even heavier with the bayonet, the 1742 bess with a wooden rod more graceful stock weighed just 9 lbs.

    So the point I'm making is that the Early Bess muskets with Steel Rammers might have been considered too heavy.
     

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