Daniel

Drawing the charge

10 posts in this topic

A simple question, I think: how, historically, did people draw the charge from a flintlock or other muzzle-loader if it misfired? If only the priming powder was wet or spoiled, re-priming would seem relatively easy, but if the actual main charge in the gun barrel proved to be wet or otherwise faulty, how did you get it and the ball and the wadding out?

In the novel Treasure Island, Stevenson has Jim Hawkins draw the charge on one of his pistols and then reload it in the time it takes Israel Hands to climb to the Hispaniola's mizzen top. That sounds impossible; is it?

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you will need a ram rod that is thread on one end to fit a ball screw or a worm. first ensure the weapon is not going to fire while you work on it. then attach the ball screw to the end of the ram rod and put it into the barrel. put pressure on it to screw it in to the ball then slowly pull it out, the ball should be on the end of it. next remove the ball screw then attach the worm to the ram rod push it into the barrel with pressure while spinning it around, the prongs on the worm will twist the wad into them and also break up the compressed powder. pull out the wad flip the barrel down tap it and the powder should pour out. check it one more time with the worm to enure you haven't missed anything (powder/wad)if time premits

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Thanks! Two followup questions. 1) How do you make sure the gun is not going to fire while you're working on it? 2) How long does it take an experienced person to do these things?

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Thanks! Two followup questions. 1) How do you make sure the gun is not going to fire while you're working on it? 2) How long does it take an experienced person to do these things?

If the frizzen is opened the gun will not fire.

Length of time to do this depends entirely on how tight the fit of the ball is. If the ball is only held in place by a wad on top of it, the process can be quite fast. The wad would be pulled first, and then the ball. Sometimes they will come out together, if the ball is not too tight of a fit. Sometimes they were loaded with an additional wad under the ball to help compress the powder if the ball was a loose fit.

If the ball was "patched" with a tight fitting cloth or paper patch wrapped around it, it could be very time consuming, requiring several attempts to get the screw to bite solidly enough into the ball to pull it out without the screw pulling free of the ball. All of these loading methods were used "in period".

Some ramrods were made with a ball screw already incorporated on the end. The ball screw would also serve to remove a wad, and loosen the compressed powder, but not as efficiently as a proper worm.

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with a flintlock pull the hammer back to half cock or set the dog(doglock) push up the frizzen blow or brush all powder from the pan and check the vent it may need clearing using a vent prick before repriming. time- with all tools and new shot/powder handy and experience to clear and reload a pistol just at a minute, in a pinch you could save seconds using the ball puller instead of the worm to clear wading and powder.

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Awesome! Thanks to both of you!

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Smooth bored guns were normally loaded with an undersized ball so that it could be reloaded without cleaning under the heat of combat. At our club, speed shoot contests the best could hit a gong 7 times in 2 minutes with a musket... a rifle with a tight patched ball, would do very well to fire 2 shots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJMbxZ1k9NQ

Originally rifling was invented as a way to create space to push the black powder fouling into allowing reloading, it was only later that it was thought to twist the rifling to give the projectile spin. Modern reenactors, without the pressure of others shooting at us, tend to use larger balls and patch tighter than would have been the practice. Cannons properly use undersize balls with a specified windage.

If one has not forgotten the powder under the ball... at least once... you have not been shooting long enough. It creates a dangerous situation in that one does not know for sure if the gun has no powder, if you have a misfire, or a hang fire. Consider the possibility that the powder is in there & the vent is obstructed with burned powder. Kind of makes you wish you'd thoroughly picked the vent before loading! Even if there is a dry ball (no powder) if may be possible to work a small amount of fine powder into the vent with a pick (in a safe place away from other shooters). All you need is enough to expel the ball to allow cleaning & reloading.

There are new fangled devised which use CO2 to pressurize the bore to expel the defective load such as it might be. Some shooters use air pressure the same way. If the nipple or if the gun has a vent insert, they can be removed & often a grease zerk installed and a lot of grease used to force the load from the barrel.

It is surprising difficult to get a screw to bite into a soft lead ball without damaging the bore.

Please remember that Treasure Island (as the OP correctly noted) is a Novel. Authors do not have to stick their body parts in front of the muzzle of a gun which has already been attempted to fire.

Edited by flagman1776

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I should add to the previous... you haven't lived until you've gotten your screw to bite into the ball but the ball refuses to budge. You are fairly certain there's a live charge under the ball. The ball is not seated but also can not be withdrawn. Because the ball is not fully seated & an attempt to shoot it out will likely blow the barrel, at the very least bulge it... because of the OBSTRUCTED BORE. Even if you "deactivate" the powder... you really do not want any person's body parts in front of the muzzle. It will require A whole lot of force to pull the ball... The screw may even expand it, making it more difficult to remove. The gun will surely require being secured... possibly in a gun vise. Will you take this loaded gun in doors? What will you use to pull on the ramrod. I do hope you have a metal ramrod because it's unlikely a wooden one will stand the stress. There are clamp like ramrod grippers but frankly, I've yet to see them work.

Adding oil down the bore is a good idea, in the event you might get some around the ball but at least once it starts to come out. I have it in mind to never try this for real.

I'll install a grease zerk & buy a case of grease cartridges first!

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In the above case, in extremis, unship the barrel, remove the breech plug and drive it on back. Wet it all down first to deactivate the powder. Then clean it all up and reassemble. Now go get the next smaller size ball.

This next is personal opinion. I see folks using great force to seat balls or bullets all the time. I think that this is a modern trend. I think that "snug" is good but "gotta use a hammer" is too tight. I think that barrel pressures are routinely too high. Fortunately modern steel used in traditional profiles result in barrels that are way overbuilt. Like I said, personal opinion.

Edit: if you have this problem in a smooth-bore, you have really screwed up, as the ball in a smooth should basically roll out on its own. Also, never drive a ball down a smooth. Seat it, yes. Drive a wad on top, yes, but if you have to drive a ball down the barrel of a smooth-bore it is too big and you are asking for a barrel failure.

Edited by Captain Jim

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One "should" never need to pull a ball. I much agree, if one does, they have seriously screwed up. I would never unbreech a gun, only because it requires tools & skills I do not have available. I would call in a professional before I risked damaging a gun.

A smooth bore musket of often fired with the paper cartridge as patching or possibly wadding over the undersized ball. The most often cause of a stuck ball is failure to clean often enough... every 2-3 shots typically.

I have seen the grease gun used. I have used CO2 ball removers & compressor air pressure for lightly stuck balls. Most recently a flatlander lost a dummy hardwood "cannon ball" in my 1.75" bore bronze swivel gun & there is no breech plug. A friendly air nozzle removed it with surprising velocity.

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