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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Mel Gibson's excellent movie centered around the Revolutionary War potrays wounds inflicted during the battle scenes. Like so many other movies of that period, they are enjoyable, but what really happened when a musket ball struck.

Muskets of various forms were a primary weapon in land and sea battles for over 300 years. Military muskets were commonly of .60 to .75 caliber, with .69 and .75 being the most popular. Musket balls used by militaries were typically 0.050 inches undersized to allow rapid loading despite powder fouling. Although a tight fitting, patched ball can be rather accurate from a smoothbore, these undersized balls litterally rattled out of the barrel in a zig-zag fashion. Military muskets were effective to about 50 yards individually, longer if fired en masse.

The fouling problem constrained muskets to low pressure. Low pressure resulted in low muzzle velocities. In order to maintain a minimum level of kinetic energy, a heavy bullet (ball) was needed and that meant a large caliber. Soldiers having to fire many shots would load only about half of the powder in their paper cartridges. All of these factors combined to yield muzzle velocities of 580-750 feet per second.

When the ball struck, it crushed and tore the tissue in its path. The tearing resulted when the tissue was forced to stretch beyond its limit by the passing ball. When the ball struck bone it was sometimes deflected due to its shape and low velocity. Other times the large, heavy musket ball impacted bone and stopped, which must have resulted in a horrible jarring.

If the musket seems ineffective, recall Robert Rogers' advisement not to march too close, "...lest one musket ball pass through two men."
 

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I'm not sure what we're talking about (I'm a <font color=red>*</font><font color=red>*</font><font color=red>*</font><font color=red>*</font><font color=red>*</font>). Aside from instant death from a hit to a vital body part or death from bleedout there was always slow painful death from infection. The guns did their jobs though totally different from what we know today. It was as effective as the time period would allow. A musket or civil war cap and ball revolver is as effective as it was way back then if it allows a person to get a superior weapon. Besides, the rifled barrel flintlock or cap rifle is still used for hunting. Some may even use smooth bores for short range.

RIKA
 

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Darn it! The nasty word editor blanked out my word "dvmmy". AAARGH!

RIKA
 

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Probably due to overuse by the real dum-my.

GBullet: Interesting how a heavy projectile at low velocities (and very low FPe numbers) was still effective when it hit hmm? Unlike what some would have you believe. Of course it is an entirely different wounding mechanism. The real problem with the old muskets was loading. But man, once it was loaded, you don't want to stand in front of one! I've always been impressed by what people have done with equipment many would consider unsuitable to the job.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Reading medical analyses of the wounds caused by musket balls and the cylidro-conoidal Minie's (named after the inventor, Captain Claude-Etienne Minie') shows the dramatically different wounding mechanisms of these two projectiles.

Musket ball wounds were generally far less severe than Minie' ball wounds, especially at ranges beyond 100 yards. Musket balls did produce more severe lung wounds than did Minie's.

Wounds to bones caused by Minie's were more severe than those caused by most modern bullets.
 

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I've seen pics(don't ask where I don't recall)of both hip & thigh bones from Civil War soldiers that still had the lead bullets embedded in them.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
41mag said:
I've seen pics...of both hip & thigh bones from Civil War soldiers that still had the lead bullets embedded in them.
I've seen these, too, as well as other similar pictures.

Musket balls (spheres) slow down quickly as they fly. By the time that they struck a soldier at 100 or 200 yards, their large diameters and slow velocities made them unlikely to pass through the unfortunate soldier. At this point their wounds began to resemble mace (the medieval weapon, not the spray) wounds.

Minie' bullets retained much more energy over long distances. Unlike FMJ's, Minie's were soft enough to yaw and deform, sharply increasing their wound potential.

In the Civil War, Minie' ball bullet wounds to the arms and legs usually resulted in amputation. Minie' ball bullet wounds to the head, chest, and abdomen were usually fatal. Sure, the state of medical care then was far below today, but still, Minie's were very damaging.
 

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As an English officer wrote around 1550

"Muskets are better than all other shot for the spoileh horse and man alike at 5 score paces,"
 

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Very intersting Thread. :) . I have got a new question: Was there a difference in terminal performance between the larger caliber round balls fired form muskets and the smaller diameter balls fired at higher velocity form an kentucky rilfe?
 

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There is a passage in J.P. Martin's diary of a man killed at a distance of 250 yards with one aimed shot from a Charleville musket. The man who took the shot seemed content that it would be successful, the men who watched it were equally convinced that there was no way in hell he was going to make it. That one passage tells me that there were men who could shoot and knew their weapons. It also tells me that they were rare and most would not engage past 100 yards with a smoothbore.

I watched a show once on the history channel (AE? I dunno) that talked about the medical problems with a roundball compared to a modern bullet. Modern bullets heat up when fired and move at such a fast pace that they tend to zip right through people "cleanly". I'm not talking wound channels.....I'm talking about passing through without picking up debris. A musket ball, on the other hand, picks up pieces of flesh and uniform as it passes through the body. If it enters another person coming out, all of that debris is then deposited into the wound channel of man #2. The same would happend to #3 or more. Chances of infection was much, much higher.

In case of infection, you may need an amputation. In order for that to happen, you had to be able to endure a physician ringing the skin of your limb with a spalpel, pulling it back, then sawing through the bone with a bonesaw, then having the affected limb smeard with hot tar to prevent further infection and stop the bleeding.

I'd prefer one through the heart.

A lot of the reason why muskets weren't typically engaged over 100 yards is because soldiers were intentionally taught not to aim. Most muskets had no sights. The "front sight" You see on a Brown Bess was actually the bayonet lug. It was never intended to be used as a sight. Pin point accuracy didin't win battles in the 18th century.....volume of fire did. Anything that sped up loading/firing increased your chances of survival.

One common method the Brits had of speeding things up was by not using their ram rods (then called a "wiping stick".......ramrod is an artillery term). They would simply dump the powder down the barrel, drop the ball into the barrel, and finally slam the buttstock on the ground. Slamming the buttstock would typically seat the ball and trickle enough powder into the pan to fire the musket. Of course, sometimes this caused muskets to explode. Obviously not often enough to cause and end to the practice.

agent00 said:
Very intersting Thread. :) . I have got a new question: Was there a difference in terminal performance between the larger caliber round balls fired form muskets and the smaller diameter balls fired at higher velocity form an kentucky rilfe?
From my experience, what a rifle enables a person to do is inflict the same damage as a musket at 50 yards........at 150 yards. I've killed deer with .40's, 45's, 50's, 54's and 62's.........the only difference I ever saw on a deer was that I could do the same ammount of tissue damage at longer ranges with the rifle calibers.

The .40 is a bit light for anything larger than a coyote....I spent 5 years figuring out that it's a 25 yard deer gun. (ramble, Sorry)

One other thing about Kentucky rifles, the men and women of 18th century America could tell whether the person firing the rifle was a white man or an indian. Indians routinely used less powder than the whites in their rifles. The report of an indian firing was more hollow sounding.......a white man's rifle "cracked" louder.

There is a story of some women folk at a pioneer fort who tired of their men drinking all day. So one afternoon they stole several of the men's rifles and snuck out of the fort. Once into the woodline they loaded "in indian manner" and began firing into the air. The men scrambled at once for their rifles...which weren't there. The women came out of the woodsline laughing, the men came out of the fort cursing.

Ain't love grand?
 

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"I'm not talking wound channels.....I'm talking about passing through without picking up debris. A musket ball, on the other hand, picks up pieces of flesh and uniform as it passes through the body. If it enters another person coming out, all of that debris is then deposited into the wound channel of man #2. The same would happend to #3 or more. Chances of infection was much, much higher."

As late as 1943 the Germans still didn't have an effective way to treat infection. When Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated, the bomb fragments passed through a horsehair filled seat and into his body. The German surgeons were able to remove most of the metal but not the foreign material carried with it so Heydrich still died a horrible death from infection.

RIKA
 

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Discussion Starter #12
agent00 said:
... Was there a difference in terminal performance between the larger caliber round balls fired form muskets and the smaller diameter balls fired at higher velocity form an kentucky rilfe?
In general, the Kentucky Rifle produced lesser wounds than did the large caliber musket.

At close ranges, 0-50 yards, the large musket balls typically created a big hole straight through. U.S. Army publications have noted the tendency of these large, soft lead balls to flatten out on impact at close ranges. If it struck an arm or leg bone at close range, the bone was usually shattered and the limb required amputation.

At longer ranges, 100+ yards, large musket balls tended to stop within the "shootee" if bone was struck.

Between the ranges of approximately 50-100 yards, the wound depended on how much powder the firer had loaded. Simply put, the potential for wounding transitioned between the close and long range wounds.

Contrast the wounding of the large musket balls with that of the small, fast Kentucky balls and you will find that the Kentucky was less about wounds than it was shot placement:

1) Large caliber muskets were popular because the effect of fouling was less pronounced relative to their large bores and loose fitting balls. In fact, Washington's men normally loaded their muskets with three buckshot on top of the large ball, thus increasing the chance of a hit.

2) Kentucky Rifles loaded with round balls are seldom used by modern hunters to take a deer beyond 75 yards due to their lesser wounding. Even hunters using super strong and accurate T/C's don't usually try to take deer past 100 yards with round balls. The ball poops out quickly due to air drag.

3) Kentucky rifles loaded with round balls were often used by hunters turned combatants to pick off British officers at 200+ yards with head shots in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Remember, it was Lafitte's superb artillerymen and the dead-eye Kentucky riflemen that won the Battle of New Orleans.
 

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minie ball vs Round ball

Yesterday I have bought the 3rd Editition of the Book Stopping Power, it has got a very intersting Article about Cape and Ball Revolvers. In the introduction the author says, the round ball is no more effectiv in wounding than the minie ball, but I have read in some articles in the internet, that the minie ball made more severe bone fractures. What do you think? What statement is true?


thanks. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
agent00, I have read that chapter, too. The authors used new, modern manufacture revolvers of high quality. What they did was technically fine. However, check out books and internet articles by Civil War re-enactors and you will notice that smaller powder charges were used in the original revolvers during the CW. This gave slightly lower muzzle velocities and lower muzzle energies.

As for the wounding predicted by gelatin:
Don't believe everything that folks conclude by observing gelatin. While we can learn a lot through ballistic media, some "wound tracks" do not occur in real life. Specifically, those giant radial fissures are more pronounced in gelatin than tissue.

Round ball v. conical bullets:
Yes, in battlefield use the Minie' ball (conical bullet) produced more severe wounds when bone was struck than did the round ball, especially as the range increased. This was noted in battles around the world, not just in the American Civil War.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Flinter said:
One other thing about Kentucky rifles, the men and women of 18th century America could tell whether the person firing the rifle was a white man or an indian. Indians routinely used less powder than the whites in their rifles.
Economics played a big role for the indians. Powder was a precious commodity for many indians.
 

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GBullet said:
Economics played a big role for the indians. Powder was a precious commodity for many indians.
I'm not sure it was all economics GBullet. Whites routinely limited the indians powder availability in order to lessen the chances of attack. The most notable example was just prior to Pontiac's rebellion.

This was, of course, just after they hooked the indians on firearms.

Many chiefs warned that once the knowlege of making/using bows was gone, the indian was doomed........they understood that if the redman was dependent on white mans good that the indian would be at their mercy.
 
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