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Wondering about ramrods

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I have always been intrigued by old photos of ml shooters standing around at a shoot with a ramrod sticking out of the stock or barrel of their long rifles , by a hand length more. And that the rods never seemed to be dead straight.
My first flinter had a steel ramrod. It was a 1803 Harper's Ferry.
My second flinter came with a wooden ramrod, I gave it away.
Since the rifle was new, I have been using a nearly indestructible rod.
Its a hickory rod that had a hole bored thru it, and a piece of all thread glued inside.
It has brass ends, both end have different thread, for attachments.

So Im still u sing a steel ramrod.
If memory serves 😜 me right I read somewhere good ol Daniel Boone used a small stalk of cane when his ramrod was either broken or lost. I'm thinking he was actually hiding in a cane brake from his Shawnee pursuers
I’m curious about how often a person (frontiersman or such) would have had to replace a broken ramrod with something whittled from a tree branch or other piece of wood. No brass ends, basically just a stick.
I don't know how often, but you can bet they had to improvise ramrods from time to time. This was mentioned in James Fenimore Cooper's book The Pioneers (p.123-4). This book was published in 1823, well within the flintlock era:

Cooper - Pioneers, p.123-4.png

As discussed so many time before, this is a work of fiction, but Cooper was a keen sportsman and well acquainted with the firearms of his day, and he knew an old frontiersman named Shipman who told him of life on the frontier. Natty seemed to think that anyone who couldn't figure out how to improvise a ramrod or a flint was a real tenderfoot.

We had a good discussion regarding the use of saplings as ramrods about a year ago. It would be worth reading if you're interested in this sort of thing: Expedient sapling ramrod works fine

The western frontiersmen habitually carried a spare ramrod. I don't recall reading this about the eastern hunters, maybe because suitable hardwoods were more readily available. I think the last groves of hickory available to westering travelers were in Kansas, and it was considered prudent to make and carry along an extra ramrod. Ruxton described the mountaineers doing this:

Ruxton p. 72.png

Note the use of the term, "wiping stick." You might think this would refer just to a cleaning rod, but elsewhere in this book (and others) there is mention of ramming a ball with the wiping stick. It is an old-fashioned term for a ramrod. Later in the book, La Bonté reflected on the wisdom of carrying a spare:

Ruxton p. 122.png

I like to make my own ramrods. I don't pretend to be a gunsmith, but I can handle fitting a rod to my rifle. I usually put a threaded metal fitting on the distal end, but normally make the rod tapered, with a swell at the driving end. No metal fitting is needed:

Ramrod Tips 3.jpg

You don't really need a metal fitting at the other end, either. It's just a convenience. Most of my shooting these days is at one of the local ranges, and I normally have a spare rod with threaded fittings with me. You really need a good range rod if you ever need to pull a ball. However, while I don't have one handy to show, I have made ramrods or wiping sticks that are all wood. As one of the fellows noted previously, you can carve one end in the shape of a jag for wiping with a patch (Ned Roberts described this in The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle), or you can cut a slot in the end to hold a larger patch or a strip of rag for wiping your bore instead. Just bore a series of 3/32" to 1/8" holes close together near the end of your rod, then cut out the webs between the holes with a sharp knife. Clean up the slot with a small file and folded sandpaper. This works very well for wiping your bore. You can also put one of the coiled wire gun worms on a plain wooden rod if you want to wipe the bore with tow.

One other historical detail to consider is how the spare ramrod or wiping stick was carried. Prince Maximilian said the plains Indians of the Upper MIssouri carried the extra rod in their hands:

2023-07-24 (2).png
This was from The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied, Vol. 3, p 204.

The white trappers, on the other hand, carried the extra rod in the rifle bore. This is mentioned in the next quote. from The Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 1969), p. 1, “Fremont’s Trappers.” The original quote is by Lieutenant Frederick Walpole of the Royal Navy, from Four Years in the Pacific, in Her Majesty’s Ship, “Collingwood,” from 1844 to 1848. His comments relate to John Charles Fremont’s visit to Monterey, California in 1846.

During our stay in Monterey, Captain Fremont and his party arrived… Fremont rode ahead… After him came five Delaware Indians… The rest… rode two and two, the rifle held by one hand across the pommel of the saddle…. His original men are principally backwoodsmen, from the state of Tennessee and the banks of the upper waters of the Missouri… The butts of the trappers’ rifles resemble a Turkish musket, therefore fit light to the shoulder; they are long and very heavy, carry ball about thirty-eight to the pound [.497”]. A stick a little longer than the barrel is carried in the bore, in which it fits tightly; this keeps the bullet from moving, and in firing, which they do in a crouching position, they use it as a rest.

If you take a close look at some of the paintings of the period, like this image by Charles Deas, you can see what Walpole meant:

Charles Deas - Long Jack.png

Best regards,

Notchy Bob