Why is it necessary to swab the bore with a cannon but not a musket?

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You answered your own question. ☺

Patched round ball is different than loosely fitting paper cartridges in a musket speed drill.
No the paper does not remain, but the build up of ash will hold an ember... something like a patch being rammed down scrubs the barrel walls a bit. Not completely..., for as you know after enough patched rounds the barrel must be swabbed..., while with military ammo a musket was expected to fire as many as 24 rounds without any swabbing.

LD
A couple of years ago I bought some lead from rotometals, and just for giggles got a box of .575 ball. Made up some cartridge for my .62.
They shot great. But it was a humid day, and even .05 smaller then the bore they still tight after fifteen shots, at twenty they were near as tight as a PRB
I’ve fired lots of multi rounds down guns with out a swab, but normal shooting I run a lightly damp patch down bore between shots
 

OhioHawkeye

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swabbing cools any embers from last shot. wouldn't want to chunk a charge of cannon size onto a hot coal. though someone sometime and somewhere discovered this the hard way!
many use different techniques to cool any embers in muskets. stand by for a lengthy discussion!
This is the correct answer.
I am on a cannon crew and have commanded our second cannon. To someone else mentioning hand position....yes, you are correct, and the tools are not grasped but the palm on the hand is used without the thumb surrounding to manipulate the tools.
 

mzzldr

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I can be added to that list as of 11 months ago. I missed some remnants then wet swabbed before loading powder packet. It tore as using rammer to push in and ignited launching rammer out and breaking my thumb in 15 places. I'm lucky, I still have a usable thumb reduced to 1/3 of previous flexibility.
Aargh! Sorry to learn about your thumb. Hope it gets better for you.
 

Robby

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Some years ago there was a video on youtube of a civil war reenactment with a fellow reloading a cannon after it was fired, apparently he was shoving home a load of powder and it cooked off. He must have had quite a grip on the ramrod because when it launched it took his arm with it.
I cannot find the video, but I watched it several times just because I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
Robby
 

toot

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sorry, for my senior moment- CAPT. HOOK is JIM DESOTTI. not DAVID. I THINK, it has been 30+ yrs. sense I have seen him.
 
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I don't do cannons but I do spit patch between every shot in my rifles. More to clear fouling, I never thought about an ember remaining in the barrel. Just food for thought. I think I'll keep spit patching.
 

smoothshooter

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swabbing cools any embers from last shot. wouldn't want to chunk a charge of cannon size onto a hot coal. though someone sometime and somewhere discovered this the hard way!
many use different techniques to cool any embers in muskets. stand by for a lengthy discussion!

My great grandfather knew and worked around many Civil War veterans when he was a younger man.
He said there was one who was missing parts of both arms below the elbows, and lost them when loading a cannon in a hurry. He was ramming down a load and a spark set the powder off and everything, ( burning powder charge, projectile, and rammer ) blasted out and took his arms off.
 

dave951

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In thinking this question through a couple things do not match up between the two. First off, most cannon had cloth/silk powder bags, muskets do not. Cannon use a much coarser grade of powder, not so much with muskets. Those two combine to make a ember or smoldering chunk a distinct possibility. Reenactors are another thing, they often use tinfoil around a powder charge and I can absolutely see how a tiny piece of powder could be smoldering.

Next up, the thumbstall. Why do cannoneers cover the vent during loading while there is a contingent in percussion shooters who remove the cap?

I've had precisely one cookoff in hundreds of thousands of rounds during live fire and reenactments and I traced it back to poor cleaning of the breech area by a person I loaned the gun to just prior.
 

Red Owl

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I was wondering about a tin encased powder bag, it seems it would eliminate the swab and speed up reloading , in case it was canister to stop an infantry charge, etc.
 

maillemaker

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The reason for swabbing a cannon is to extinguish any burning embers that might be left from the previous shot. Obviously if you try and load the cannot with such embers you are in for a bad time if it goes off while you are trying to load it.

As a matter of fact, the NRA Muzzleloading Instructor Course teaches us to teach muzzle loading by "wet patch, dry patch", so that you are in effect swabbing the bore in between each shot. This is not strictly necessary as experienced shooters will tell you but it is the way it is taught to teach by the NRA, likely for safety reasons.

I have been shooting rapid-fire competition in the North-South Skirmish Association for 10 years now. I have had 3 cookoffs in this time. I have a black powder "tattoo" in the pad of my right forefinger as a result. This is why, during loading, we always keep our hands and fingers to the side of the muzzle while pouring in the powder and a "pinching" hold on bullets when setting them in the muzzle.

Here is a cookoff I very nearly caught on video. You can hear it go off at the 20 second mark. Cookoffs seem to most usually happen on the second shot of an event. My suspicion is that there are fibers of cleaning patch left from cleaning in between courses of fire, as many people do. I have switched from 100% cotton patches to synthetic. The fibers of cotton will smolder while the fibers of synthetic just melt. Since my switch I have not had any cookoffs. Can't be certain it is related but I believe so.

 

yonderin

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It has been so many years ago, I remember reading that (at least in some armies) the vent was to be covered with gunners thumb to prevent air flowing freely through the bore and minimizing an ember sparking up. At what point in the reloading drill I do not recall.

Seems of limited point if the barrel is swabbed before reloading powder. I've never seen reference to this anywhere else.

Been a looong 45 years or so since I would have read it so I may be very mistaken. As best I recall it was in the book "Artillery" by Ian Hogg.

Call me out on it if I'm mistaken. No offense taken.
 

Rudyard

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Canon I do know a bit about, There is a drill with a proper crew if unfired & clean. Powder up from a box to the rear that has measured charges of powder . We used bore size sifted Loam filling paper with the powder in silver paper placed & so marked to be rammed so the powder (much lessened blank charge of 2,500 grains in our towns 9 pounder 'Gunnade ' original . Powder monkey takes charge from box so contrived that the lid cant fully open , He runs up to give the loader & its rammed so the smaller charge sits just below the vent . It fell to me too be Gunner as Ide learnt the art in fireing canon in the US & UK . ( Some might be in the jeens? My father was 4th Royal Horse Artillery all through WW2. 25 pounders not MLs ) . .
The now in loaded state we await the officer to say' Prepare' So I pierce the cartridge with a long brass wire take a red paper cartridge from my belly box tear open I fill up the vent then cover with a small lead sheet . To remove when I touch off with a lintstock on command ' Boom' ! . So its" Reload " call for the wormer to' search'the piece long corkscrew affair then ."Swab Piece" Spunger runs a wet sheep skin mop down & on retuning order "Search piece" again. all the while Iv'e a leather thumb stall I press over the vent . Wait order pierce. prime & cover to await order , Boom!! again then same again fire with lintstock. ( We tried Quills but found them uncertain ) . Then in this case reload the third round as before . It was to Salute the two sailing ship representing the 150th Anniverary of the founding of Nelson Colony in 1842 (Actually year earlier but just men to create dwelling no families . They followed in 1842) Then its the fun part washing it out with fresh water dry thourghly, All to a hearty rendering of "A Moose, A Mouse, Oh I want a Moose, " ditty . We then oil with linseed as it goes off like a varnish We ommitted any ball or its wadding, the blank charge was 3 pounds of sifted garden loam in the paper case formed round a wine bottle but cant carry any distance . And 'Nota Bene' No encircleing thumb on any rammer ,sponge ,or search rod .

The revised from original 1843' Nelson Battalion of Militia' . (Local Black powder club Mostly to offer the ceromonial ' Challenge' to any Armed forces ' We stop them marching up the main street , With their Colours , Swords drawn, Bayonets fixed & Band playing " It s all the ceromony then they proceed to awards or promotions stuff . Being Regular Army & Territorials . Any other NZ town they have a Policeman on a horse but we are still' Gazetted Militia' . Just Flint Besses no modern version. . Oddly Ime about the last of us. They died , moved ,are working Saturdays So if any in Range Kiwi wants to swell our depleted ranks let me know . .Are recruiting plugs Advertiseing ? Nhaaa don't think so .
I have then the honour to be your most Ob't servant,
Gun Captain Rudyard of the Nelson Battalion of Militia
 
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