Bite, pour, spit, tap, aim...

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Croque_Monsieur, Mar 25, 2010.

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  1. I'm sure we have all seen THE episode of Sharpe where he teaches a bunch of wasters how to shoot 4 rounds a minute with a Bess. Works fine on film of course but here we have a bunch of Aussie reenactors having a go for real:

    Speed loading a Bess

    Can't comment whether it is historically done, but it works. If the fella hadn't dithered during the first minute I think 7-8 shots in 2min could have been fired.
  2. Quite interesting.

    Think they got the wrong assumption for the expression "bite the bullet" - I'm sure thats actually derived from the practice of a wounded man being given a piece of lead to bite on prior to operation without anaesthetic?

    I thought the usual practice - even in "speedloading" - was to bite off the powder end of the cartridge, not the actual bullet? That way, the powder is poured into the bore, the bullet rolls in afterwards, then the remaining empty paper shell was simply pushed in as well and rammed as a patch (or discarded, and the rifle tapped, in this speedloading situation).

    Maybe having the bullet in the mouth coated it with saliva, which helps stop it rolling forward in the bore when the rifle is presented. Would have thought that saliva would be hard to come by on a battlefield, especially on the dry plains of Spain...
  3. I wouldn't say that they are trying to reproduce a period method. It is more of a Mythbusters style experiment to see if the technique used in the Sharpe episode would work.

    It wouldn't work as well in a Baker rifle, they crud up much quicker.
  4. The purpose of biting the bullet off rather than loading it conventionally is so that the firer can get the bullet out of its waxed paper in his mouth and fire it unpatched.

    The ball is twisted into the end of the paper tube. It does not roll out following the powder.
    I've made up cartridges in this manner.

    Have a look at this:

    It's for the capping muzzle loader but the only real difference is that some of the powder would have been poured into the pan before pouring the rest down the muzzle.

    I'm probably not making this very clear! :)
  5. Are you not mixing up rifle and musket cartridges? The Enfield cart is most certainly greased, but I don't think the musket cartridge was..

    There are a number of versions of the musket cartridge, from a simple paper tube to versions where the ball is choked off at one end with twine. I tend to use the latter...

    The loading sequence is to bite/tear the tail of the cart, prime and pour the powder down the barrel. You then just shove the ball and paper cart down the barrel and ram. If you use a fineish grade of powder, you can prime the lock just by banging the stock on the deck. It is scarily reliable!

    The sequence is:

    Butt on the deck, 1/2 c0ck, pan closed...
    Bite/tear tail of cart
    Ball + crushed paper down barrel
    Draw - ram - replace
    Bang stock on deck
    Full c0ck
    1/2 c0ck
    Frizzen down
  6. I'm quite possibly mixing everything up! I have followed the notes on the link and found them to work.

    In your method above, do you push the bullet in with the remains of the cartridge following it or force the cartridge paper in with the bullet on top?
  7. I used a choked cartridge in which the bullet is effectively tied into the paper... generally I put the powder end in first and ram the whole lot down, but frankly is does not seem to make much of a difference...
  8. Didn't vents run larger on original muskets? Either by design or erosion?

    I know if you did it by the book around here, the range Nazis would have a fit. God forbid you should prime before you load the main charge.

    We won't even get into starting a grass fire with the cartridge paper....

  9. Another version of "bite the bullet" is trimming the spurs off a poorly moulded ball to get a better fit.
  10. I was told by a " Sealed knot " bloke that you are right and that during the civil war they sometimes used clay moulds in the field, and chewed bullets of larger calibre down to size, must have been great for oral hygene
  11. The vents on military muskets were larger than say on a sporting gun, and are subject to erosion just like the bore, however good care of both will extend the life of the barrel, as is evident by the large amount of perfectly good original muskets with a healthy vent and bore still around today.

    Some muskets had an internally coned vent to a) encourage a trickle of the main charge to spill into the pan, and b) place the charge closer to the pan for a faster ignition. I believe the Scandawegians used it for their infantry muskets.
  12. Thanks for the link CM. Fascinating those videos. To think that I manage a whole 25 shots in one hour with my Charles Moore pistols. Must get my act together.
  13. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    Thank feck for Breech loaders!
  14. . . . . and lead poisoning - if they lived that long !
  15. This biting the bullet thing.

    IIRC during the 1850's the gunpowder for the Lee Enfield was wrapped in greasy paper, which had to be bitten off before loading.

    The Indian Muslims thought it was Pork Fat and the Hindus thought it may have been Beef Fat, and so both sorts were offended and refused to bite the bullet.

    Thus causing (or sparking off at least) the Indian Mutiny.