View Full Version : live firing

08-17-2006, 10:20 AM
does anyone here live fire thier muskets?

and if so, is there a way to fire more than 15 rounds without having to clean the thing?

i was even greasing the bullets and after the tenth shot or so it would get really stiff.

how did they use these things to fight with?

let me know any tricks you have.

im on my way to RQ to buy a ball screw :(

08-17-2006, 10:29 AM
i've never live fired my musket, I should start with that.

Remember that these barrels would have been hot. If the musket became too fouled, the men would take water from their canteens and swash it out. Because the barrel was hot, the water would dry quickly, and allowed to let the water run out holding it barrel down.

Also, as you did, the bullet's grooves would have been greased up prior to being wrapped in the cartridge. This aided in getting the bullet down the barrel when clean, or fouled.

Hope this helps.


08-17-2006, 12:51 PM
how did they use these things to fight with?

Kinda points out the silliness of firing 30-40 rounds in a 30 minute "battle" don't it. :?

Tom Scoufalos
08-17-2006, 01:23 PM
Awhile back on the old forum, and/or perhaps the AC as well, John Tobey of the CRs wrote up a good little article about this very issue. I have live fired my peices not infrequently, and found the same thing- after 10 rounds or less, my '61 (the only longarm I have fired live "at length") becomes virtually unloadable.

John has a large collection of artifacts, among which are not a few origional cartridges. He burned the powder from one compaired to a like amount of modern black powder on an open surface, and the diffenece in reside/fouling between the two was amazing, the origional powder bruning to a fine gray ash, the new stuff leaving a messy, greasy black smudge.

Now, one may argue with merit that the vast difference in the age of the powders may explain this, and I myself do not have the wherewithal to contest that; however, he did some pretty convincing accounting for that with the differences in the way black powder is made, then and now.

I wish I could find the origional thread...it really opened my eyes, explained a lot, and made good sense; before that, I don't know how anybody could empty a cartirdge-box.


08-17-2006, 01:51 PM
Kinda points out the silliness of firing 30-40 rounds in a 30 minute "battle" don't it. :?

What's wrong with being AUTHENTIC Troy? Bill Cross was talking the same malarkey on another thread earlier (he pointed out that exhorations to pour on the fire, or fire faster were 'reenactorisms').

Tell you what. I'll bet that we can find period quotes on running out of ammo, scrounging rounds from dead/wounded/friend/foe.....firing as fast as they could, firing on their own crook, tremendous noise from firing, torrents of lead, ranks of men being mown dawn....from battles such as Franklin, 2nd Manassas, Fredricksburg, Corinth, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Brawner's Farm, Sunken Road, Piper Farm, CornField, Wilderness, Crater, Chickamauga, Pickett's Mill.... you name it. The estimates are that they had to fire a man's weight in lead to kill one opponent.....yupp, sounds like just about pretty near 3 rounds an hour to me.

I read on the AC where reenactors fired volley's on command the whole time to slow down their firing rate and keep ammo consumption down low. Please find me a quote somewhere that this is authentic period practice. I'll find you a couple of dozen quotes where they fired one volley and then fired by file.....which meant everyone firing at their own pace as fast as they could.

How many rounds did the average Federal rifleman fire on Snodgrass Hill? Don't bother, by your previous post I'll guess they didn't trying pounding on their ramrods with rocks, exchanging rifles with a dead comrades, urinating down the barrel, borrowing their Sergeants rifle, or using a Williams round every once in awhile.
And you can rest assured they were looking for their 2nd or third complete reissue of ammo as it became darker.

Withering ambuscades indeed.

Here's the bet. You pay $10 to preservation for each quote we can find where they 'poured it on', fired 'sheets' of bullets, and ran out of ammo for a different part of a battlefield (like Pardee's Field, Iverson's deadfall, triangular stone fence field, Willoughby Run, Pender's Assault, LRT, Wheatfield, Pettigrew's assault).

Or simply do some reading on the American Civil War and stop posting farbisms.

"My great great grandfather was at the Crater and they fired only 1 round per hour"


Cannon Fodder
08-17-2006, 02:39 PM
In every pack of ten rounds there was issued one cleaning round. It consisted of a minie that had a modification on it that would scrape the barrel clean. I don't know if it was marked any different from the regular rounds, but it was assumed that for every ten shots one would help clean the barrel.

08-17-2006, 02:43 PM
Would you be refering to the Williams cleaner bullet? I've seen several of that kind wrapped in blue paper not the traditional white.

Wanna Be Cav But No Horse
08-17-2006, 03:07 PM
I found a reference to the cartridge as having a green wrapper originally.

Williams cleaner bullet that is complete and in the original green paper wrapped cartridge with tie string. Paper has aged to a darker blueish look but would still rate as excellent solid condition. These are getting extremely hard to find. Much rarer than the standard .58 caliber brown paper wrapped cartridge.

union cavalryman.com (http://www.unioncavalryman.com/cgi-bin/Display_Items_Main.asp?135)

08-17-2006, 03:27 PM
In every pack of ten rounds there was issued one cleaning round. It consisted of a minie that had a modification on it that would scrape the barrel clean. I don't know if it was marked any different from the regular rounds, but it was assumed that for every ten shots one would help clean the barrel.

Yeah, a blue colored paper was most common, while buff was also in use. The Williams Cleaner, had a round zinc disc in between a washer and the top of the projectile, which was, in theory, supposed to expand with the heat of the powder and scrape the fouling out.

And a little tip for live firing (just got back form range with '62 Richmond monday)--DO NOT forget to put the powder in FIRST. I am suffering from that problem as of current. :(

08-17-2006, 04:40 PM
I wouldnt go as far as saying the green/blue cartridges were the most common among Williams Cleaner bullets. I've only seen a couple of them but the white/brown ones are seen regularly.

08-17-2006, 07:22 PM
I live fire mine regurally 2-3 times per year. I have had little problem with fowling and if memory serves me right, I have at one time fired a straight 32 rounds without trouble, at which point I headed for the nearby creek and ran a wet cloth through it with a slotted jag, after which I proceeded to continue firing.

Jurgitem Valetem

08-17-2006, 07:58 PM
What caliber where you using?

I've read that the issued minie was about .575. You might have been firing a .577 or .578. It does make a difference. Unfourtunatly I've only live fired once and only fired a few times, so this is just from what i've heard.

08-17-2006, 09:52 PM
i was using a .577 round.

i figured that was the right size for an enfield but i could be wrong. next time im going to try the .575s or the .573s that they had at the gun shop.

i appreciate all the advice and i hope to go shoot live rounds again soon.

Dave Myrick
08-17-2006, 10:44 PM
Ok, I'll add my 2 cents here. There are alot of things that differ from today's reproduction weapons and ammunition to what was used during the time in question. Someone already mentioned differences in powder. This was a problem then as well. There is documentation regarding the better quality of English supplied powder over American powder. As the war progressed, the powder load in the standard musket cartridge was increased from 60 to 65 grains if memory serves due to poor quality powders. I'll have to go look that one up to be sure though.
Another difference was bore diameter. Shoot a properly lubed, tight fitting bullet and much less fouling develops than shooting a bullet that is too loose in the bore (windage). Nearly all mass produced reproductions have bores of differing diameters and rifling depths due to the fact that the manufacturers don't maintain the same tolerances as the arsenals that produced the originals.
Speaking of lube, what you use, how much you use and how it is applied all play a large roll in the rate of fouling.
The rounds themselves can be a problem. During the time, they were swaged not cast as today's bullet's are.
Lastly consider the lead itself. What alloy are you shooting? It mush be PURE soft lead. Many times commercial bullet castings are found to have small amounts of tin in them. This makes good bullets easier to cast but hardens them some. The harder lead does not expand as well, leading to more windage and more fouling.

Personally I have fired 38 cast hollow based bullets without cleaning. I cleaned the bore and then shot 62 bullets based on the Wilkinson design. Again without cleaning. I had sized each bullet to be .002" smaller than my bore and dipped each one in a beeswax/tallow mixed lube before heading to the range. I was using 50 grains of 3 f vice 60 of 2 f. Accuracy did suffer after about 20 rounds and they did more difficult to ram but it was not impossible to do so and no rocks were emplyed.
Take it for what its worth, like I said about 2 cents.

08-18-2006, 07:41 AM
Modern "Sporting" or "Rifle" powder is glazed to keep down dust. That glazing is graphite, which leaves its own residue. Unglazed powder burns much cleaner. Differences in the wood used for charcoal can influence how clean it burns, also as can humidity.

I've always wondered how well the Williams Cleaner Bullets worked, anyone have any experience with them?

As an aside, black powder remains chemically stable over time but modern smokeless powder, despite proper storage, can become unstable, and can be accidently set off by a sharp blow. Shells from WWI and WWII should be handled carefully as dropping them could set them off. If possible, the powder from those ought to be removed. A shell from the Civil War, loaded with black powder can be safely handled, as the powder is as stable as the day it was loaded.

Also, modern smokeless powder burn extremely fast, but it burns. Black powder explodes, grain by grain.


Tom Scoufalos
08-18-2006, 08:16 AM

The explainations you gave in your initial paragraph mirror nicely in what was said in John Toby's little article, and make a lot of sense in explaining a likely profound but under-appreciated element in the differences in firing, then and now.



08-18-2006, 10:10 AM
Speaking of modern barrels, I have measured modern Euro-Arms and Armi-Sport barrles that are as small as .572 and as large as .585. This is a great difference, and varies even within the same maker of the barrel, as mentioned before, due to the tolerances that are allowed (obviously not too tight)

Due to this, if you are going to live fire for accuracy, you need to get a bullet that fits your barrel in the period manner, even though it may not be the period size. A bullet that is between 1 and 2 thousandths of an inch smaller than your barrel is best. More often than not, this requires buying a mold and casting your own bullets. (Not as difficult as it sounds, and cheaper in the long run.)

If you are interested in shooting for accuracy, or have questions you might find luck in asking the N-SSA people. http://www.n-ssa.org/phpbb/

08-18-2006, 12:03 PM
I fire my musket live--a lot...as an N-SSA member for over 11 years. I fire in a speed load (battle) mode, and I don't often clean between relays as some do, and have emptied an entire box with no problem within the space of an hour or two.

The 'secret' is just the sorts of things that have been already pointed out: lubing the minies, a good load, the right sized bullet--not to tight, not too loose, keeping your musket in good shape and so on.

I have fired some Williams Cleaners (type III)--just had to to get the experience. They were originals (years ago--I doubt I'd do it today) that were well cleaned. Frankly I did not notice an appreciable difference in loading after shooting one, but I did notice my accuracy with them was off. I could maybe see why a lot of soldiers just dropped them on the gorund and didn't bother to shoot them--maybe accounting for the number of unfired ones found.

But to answer the question...yes, those muskets worked very well for what they were made for, and if you can't get it to do so, then you're doing something wrong--it's not the original system.

08-18-2006, 01:54 PM
As a member of the N-SSA (9th KY. Orphan Brigade) I have fired as many as 30 rounds without wiping the barrel.
The key to repetitive fire is the size of your minie. Typically 2-3 thousanths of an inch below bore size.
It's best to have the bore diamater measured, for the Italian clones are not the most precise in terms of bore consistency.
I also use 3f gunpowder, it's a little cleaner and fouls less than the 2f.
My smoothie is another story, 4 or 5 .685"or 690" balls down range, and she's done.
Get out there boys and throw some lead.

08-20-2006, 07:29 PM
so, i have this ball lodged about ten inches down the barrel and its not coming out.

first, thisnking the wd-40 i had put down the barrel would loosen it up, i tried using a worm to get it out since i had no ball screw. no dice.

now, the ball screw is tearing up the lead ball.

am i doing something wrong?

is it really this impossible to get a stuck round out?

08-20-2006, 08:09 PM
Take it to a good gunsmith and have him remove the breech plug from the barrel and force it back out from that direction. From recent conversations with his associate I know that Zimmerman has removed stuck projectiles. Under no circumstances try to fire the bullet out as it will almost always rupture your barrel. The scientific reason for this is what is called constructive inference. Basically when the pressure waves from the exploding gunpowder bounce back and forth between the end of the barrel and the lodged bullet, they can momently reinforce each other creating "rogue" waves that can exceed the pressure tolerance of the weakest portion of the barrel.

08-20-2006, 09:18 PM
B]Under no circumstances try to fire the bullet out as it will almost always rupture your barrel.[/B]

Also it can ring the barrel, (is this the right situation for said occurrence??) Anyhow, it is when the gap between ball and powder is too great and the pressure will build up between the two and cause the interior of the barrel to bulge up, creating a wider chamber, which is bad

08-21-2006, 07:47 AM
While skirmishing in the N-SSA when we encounter stuck projectiles, we often discharge them from the barrel using compressed air. You can purchase a CO2 discharger fairly cheaply through MidSouth shooting supply, I believe. If you are in the Michigan Area, I would be happy to help you out.

Send me an e-mail if this is possible.

bob 125th nysvi
08-27-2006, 10:02 AM
and others sell a "bullet puller" that goes down the barrel and bores into the bullet to get a good grip.

I have successfully used the Dixie model a couple of times.

Unless you get a really competent gunsmith most of them are just going to do the same thing. They are not going to disassemble the weapon, even though Tom is correct that that is the safest method for getting out a lodged bullet.

If there is powder in the barrel, remove the hammer first to prevent any accidental sparks.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

08-27-2006, 10:55 AM
I fire my musket live all the time and never have a problem with fowling. First my bore size is .577 and I use a ball that is .576. I always start with a clean gun. This is important because if you have been firing blanks than you barrel is probably clogged with hard crusted black powder and loading would be nearly impossible. Also if you have a boar that is a true .580 and you are using a ball that is .575 or smaller the skirt on the ball may not be able to expand large enough to scrape the bore and engage the rifling as it is fired.
Second is the lube you are using. I use MCM lube which I get from North East Trade Co. in Muncy PA (570-546-2061). This will allow me to fire 20 to 30 rounds without cleaning. However the accuracy degrades after about 10 rounds and I usually bottom scrap it and run a patch down it at that point. If you donít want to buy commercial lube than straight Chrisco will work fine. Coat the side of the bullet and fill the cavity with it and you should get very similar results. North East Trade also sells a device called an inside-outside luber and it works great to get lube on the outside of the ball and in the conical all in one effort.
Also if you are just target shooting you donít need a full service load of 60 grains. You can drop it down to 45-50 grains and this way you wonít be beating up you shoulder every time you shoot.
For you stuck bullet problem. We use compressed air to kick out a stuck bullet. There are kits made for this but we have an old fire extinguisher filled with compressed air and a special adaptor on the hose to fit over a musket nipple.
Hope this helps.

08-27-2006, 11:16 AM
And a little tip for live firing (just got back form range with '62 Richmond monday)--DO NOT forget to put the powder in FIRST. I am suffering from that problem as of current. :(

Do not forget, pointy end of the bullet is up, when loading

08-28-2006, 04:42 AM
Do not forget, pointy end of the bullet is up, when loading

Believe it or not, this WAS a real issue during the war. The English Enfield bullets were actually loaded in the opposite direction in the cartridges as were the minnie ball bullets in cartridges made by both side in the U.S. Firing English made rounds actually required slightly modifying the loading procedure to account for this (flipping the cartridge after pouring the powder) and for the fact that the bore grease was on the outside of the cartridge rather than on the bullet itself (you pushed the remaining cartridge with bullet inside rather than removing the bullet from the remaining cartridge).