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tenngun

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Did they know that?
We’re mostly gun nuts on this forum. We read, and fiddle with our stuff. Next time I go out shooting I’m going to try this or go back and try. I have a trekking kit but never actually go in to the woods with the same kit I had last time.
I never go to an event with last events equipment.
The old timers were not gun nuts.
They bought a gun, got a mold used some patching stuff they preferred or they could get.
As Clint Eastwood said ‘a man has to know his limitations’. These old boys learned their guns and what one could do with them.
Now most of us Use some sort of range rod. Mine are just 7/16 ramrods at four feet long.
Ramrods can break, so it’s no wonder guys would have a spare.
You can use this spare as a shooting rest, and should you need a spare you got one.
But where to carry it?
In your bore is a good spot. Maybe a wad of cleaning tow on the end to keep it in place, oiled or greased so it doesn’t rust your gun.
So....
Bob, Joe and Pete are all together. Pete’s broke his ramrod. So he just scraped his wiping stick down to to fit his pipes. Then one day he loaded but didn’t get the ball all the way down. Later he took a shot and boom his gun blew.
This never happened to Bob and Joe. His ball must have slipped forward on the ride.
While that’s not what happen it could look that way.
Everyone knew that a pile of rags made mice, swampy stinky air caused malaria, rotting meat turned in to maggots.
Cause and effect ‘prove an idea. I never ‘blew a gun’. But Bob and Joe never blew a gun either, and always had a whipping stick down the bore.
I blow down my barrel tween shots, and in forty plus years never had a charge light off. That just proves blowing down the barrel works.... right?
 

Notchy Bob

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@Notchy Bob
As you are no doubt aware, a loose PRB isn't accurate at all, at all.
A properly fitting PRB isn't going to move until the arm is fired, or they maually pull it.
They didn't carry enough lead (or powder) to waste any shots by using a loose PRB, no matter what the range.
In the "Statement on Bibliography" in his book, The Year of Decision: 1846, the historian Bernard DeVoto wrote, "My preference is for the eyewitness, for an intelligent eyewitness if he can be found but for any kind of eyewitness if intelligent ones are lacking." Lieutenant Walpole was an intelligent eyewitness. He wrote about what he saw.

One concept to keep in mind in the study of history is this: "Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis" (from Science Daily).

I agree completely with ugly old guy, a tight-fitting ball and patch combination makes for best accuracy. This is not disputed. However, there are some things to consider. Nowadays, most of us have micrometers, and rifle bore sizes are pretty well standardized. We know the caliber of our rifles, the diameter of the lead balls we shoot, and the thickness of the patch material, all in thousandths of an inch. People now usually start with a ball 0.005" to 0.010" under bore size (land to land), and calculate the appropriate patch thickness to get a good, tight fit. However, the military standard for rifles in the early 19th century was more on the order of 0.015" under bore size. See Berkeley Lewis, Small Arms and Ammunition in the United States Service, "...the ball selected...for the rifle, of 32 balls per pound, or caliber 0.525 for use in the caliber 0.54 rifle, ...these were enclosed in a patch" (pp.48-49).

I don't know what the civilian standard was, if there was one. I think we can accept the fact that it was the general practice back in the day to speak in terms of "balls to the pound" rather than caliber. John G. W. Dillin, in The Kentucky Rifle, indicated the ball size was selected "...depending on the thickness of the patch used with it" (p.83). Much of what Captain Dillin wrote is criticized by today's experts, but his life spanned the years 1860 to 1957. If he was not an eyewitness to the loading procedures of the first half of the 19th century, he could have certainly known people who were. In any event, I'm suggesting the possibility that Fremont's trappers (from the Walpole quote) might have been willing to sacrifice some accuracy for ease of loading.

Another thing to consider is that I believe most muzzle-loading rifle barrels now have a bore of uniform diameter, end to end. Some people back in the old days, and now, would "relieve" or "cone" the muzzle slightly to make it easier to get the patched ball started. However, many riflemakers in the 19th century would also put some "choke" in the bore, a little way down from the muzzle. The Hawken brothers were known to have done this (see John Baird, Hawken Rifles). Some riflemakers tapered the bore, so it was slightly larger at the breech. Ned Roberts discussed this at some length in his book, The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle, so the practice was known and used pretty far back. The now defunct Green River Rifle Works was the only production barrel maker I know of in modern times to put any choke in the barrel. Bobby Hoyt and Charles Burton, however, can provide a barrel with a tapered bore, 0.003" larger at the breech. Mike Nesbitt wrote a review of a .52 caliber Burton barrel with a tapered bore for The American Shooting Journal, right here: Crackerjack Barrels Anyway, the net result of a tapered bore or a bore with "choke" was a tight fitting ball near the muzzle, but one easily seated on the powder charge because it was not as tight that near the breech.

Burst barrels due to unseated or "short-started" balls were known on the frontier, and the idea of a loaded ball coming unseated is not new. In 1840, Inspector-General Croghan submitted a complaint about the Hall carbines issued to the cavalry at that time. He wrote, "...when carried, as it must be, muzzle downwards, the charge is soon so far separated from its proper chamber as to render its ignition a matter of doubt..." (Garavaglia & Worman, Firearms of the American West, 1803-1865, p. 127). The same book tells us that "Breechloaders were much easier for a cavalryman to handle, they would shoot solid, nonexpanding conical bullets, and if properly designed would not 'lose their loads when slung,'" (p.181) referring to the cavalry's practice of carrying their carbines in a "boot" with the muzzle down.

So, the question is, "Can a patched round ball in a muzzle-loading rifle come unseated if the rifle is carried on horseback for extended periods of time?" I don't know. I have a good deal of trail riding experience, and I like to shoot muzzleloaders, but I have never carried a loaded longrifle on horseback. I would daresay few of us have. However, the evidence, based on a review of the literature, suggests the old-timers considered it a real possibility, and Lieutenant Walpole may have been accurate in what he wrote.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

Notchy Bob

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Not to beat the old horse to death, but I found some pictures that may be of interest.

The first one is a portrait painted by Charles Deas (pronounced "daze"), whose short life spanned 1818-1867. He headed west in 1840, and settled in St. Louis the following year. He made frequent trips up the Missouri, looking for subjects to paint. As the caption says, this image is of "Long Jakes" (or "Long Jacques"), a Rocky Mountain trapper. Note the rod protruding from the muzzle of his rifle. It is interesting to me that his rifle is angled down in the picture. If the rod was not a close fit, you would think it would slide out.

2020-06-01.png


The next picture is also by Deas, portraying "A Trapper and His Family."

Deas - Trapper & Family.jpg


A close look at the man in the back shows what appears to be a firearm pointing out over the stern of the canoe. It looks like it might have a rod sticking out the muzzle, but I can't be sure.

Deas - Trapper & Family (2).jpg


The next image was drawn by Rudolph Friedrich Kurz (1818-1871), a Swiss artist who came to America in 1846. He took a job as a clerk with the American Fur Company (AFC) at Fort Berthold in June, 1851, but the local native people blamed him for a cholera epidemic and he high-tailed it downriver to Fort Union in August of that year. He kept a journal and made a tremendous number of sketches. This one shows a man named Bellange on the left. The man on the right is believed to be Kurz himself:

Kurz - Bellange 9.7.1851.jpg

Note the rod protruding from the muzzle of Bellange's rifle

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

Notchy Bob

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Because these were wiping sticks it may have been common to keep tow on the worm to keep them in the barrel.
Quite likely. There must have been something in there to provide a little friction and keep the rod from just sliding out the bore when the muzzle was tipped to a downward angle. If the rod itself was too tight, I expect it might swell when wet, and be difficult to withdraw.

The wiping stick that accompanies this trade musket appears to have a wire coil worm permanently installed on one end, and a jag carved in the other:

Assiniboine (Hollis) Trade Gun .1.jpg


I know this thread is about rifles and not trade muskets, but I hope the photo helps reinforce the point. A bit of tow or something fibrous on the end of the rod that carries the worm would do the trick, and hold the rod in the bore as you suggested. A tight-fitting patch on the jag end would probably serve as an alternative, but would likely fall off when the rod was withdrawn.

A little bit of curvature in a rifle's "wiping stick" might provide enough "spring" to hold the rod in place in a rifle bore, also. This may be a slight digression, but the slight waviness in the rod in the photograph suggests to me that it might have been made by shaving down and straightening a little sapling, rather than a piece split from a larger log.

Notchy Bob
 

Dale Lilly

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Hey guys. This is a very interesting thread for an old guy whose viewpoint prior to now was strictly the Rocky Mountain trappers. In 1978 I left my ranch and traveled about six years. Then, as a pastor/missionary, I spent seven years in Mexico. No guns during that entire period, I am enjoying some 'catchin' up. Thank you all for an education … and please continue. Polecat
 

Dale Lilly

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I have carried a loaded ML rifle on horseback, often. Mine were carried in a fairly stiff, leather case with the muzzle down about 45 degrees. I never suffered a 'separation' of which I am aware. I shot from a horses back a few times. Great memories … and then … maybe I was just lucky. Polecat
 

Dale Lilly

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Yes, my horse never moved a muscle when I shot off his back. I did not do the training but I appreciated it it. Polecat
 

plmeek

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That was a good book when it was first published in 1957. It was the first and most comprehensive book on guns used in the fur trade. Tens years later (1967) his second book, Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men, was published posthumously. Carl P. Russell died on June 19 of that year. It was another good book that came out just before the muzzleloader and mountain man craze of the 1970's and a must read at the time.

Of course, there has been a lot of research conducted since 1957 and much of the information in Guns on the Early Frontiers in dated.

The best book on the subject presently is Volume 1 - Firearms of the Fur Trade by James A. Hanson.

 

azmntman

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I believe horses need to be 'trained' to not over-react to a gunshot? Maybe when they're young?
So I have heard. Buddy and his dad got archery urban elk tags and were hunting on mules, dad drew back and shot a big bull but was not able to enjoy the tracking and recovery as he was in the ER, seems mules do not like folks shooting EVEN ARROWS off there back? Who'd a thunk it?
 

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