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Mercian Pete

Spit Loading and three shots a minute

Last year at Spetchley, I was wandering around the site with two of your recruits - I can't remember their names, but I do think I remember they worked at East Anglia University. We were accosted (no other word can describe it!) by a guy who launched into a tirade about spit loading and his opinion that it just couldn't be done and was therefore a figment of Bernard Cornwell's imagination. I think we listened politely and agreed, that as mallets were issued to Riflemen to assist in loading, it was unlikely with a Baker rifle. The loading of the British Infantry musket though, we suggested might be a different kettle of fish, because of the difference in the bore of the musket and the size of the ball, which created significant windage and caused the ball to bounce along the barrel.

I just came across this You Tube piece, featuring your Australian namesakes, and which seems to prove a point. I would just like my two colleagues on the day, if they are still with you, to see it and feel vindicated!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvc86ggLUY4
The Sarge!

Pete,

Spit loading just did not happen and there a number of reasons for this.

One you are biting a lead bullet, the barrel is still hot and discharge can still occur. The Aussies were merely experimenting.

No drill manual or memoir makes mention of this method and yes it is a figment of imagination.

However tape loading occurred, but not in the manner seen in the films, the weapon was still loaded as per manual, however the gun was tapped to encourage powder out of the barrrell into the touch hole, but ius a very rare method.

So the man at event was indeed correct in stating split loading not a practiced method.
Ben Townsend

Besides anything else, there is no need to remove the ball from the cartridge. Since it is integral, you bite the end of the cartridge without the ball in it, and can then ram home the cartridge with ball still inside the paper. This seats the ball better for ramming and the paper gives grip.
Paul Durrant

The the question you need to ask yourself is, how did the ball get in the mouth in the first place?

Now if you were a writer who hadn't done his research properly you might surmise that the ball was dropped on top of the powder when the cartridge was first rolled and filled. And as you bit off the top of the cartridge to prime your pan, you might stupidly assume that the ball must be in your mouth. And as you would have one hand on your weapon and the other holding your cartridge, then as a moron you may just..just, by a long stretch of an idiotic imagination, presume that the only solution would be to spit the ball down the barrel.

But surely Cornwell would have easily found out, when talking with all the 'experts' he must have met along the way, that the paper of a cartridge is rolled with the ball first then the powder poured on top - making the ball at the bottom of the cartridge (and as the cartridge is turned to pour down the barrel - at the top!).

Surely...?
Mercian Pete

Paul Durrant wrote:
The the question you need to ask yourself is, how did the ball get in the mouth in the first place?



It wouldn't go anywhere near my mouth - I have 20th century fillings!  But I do get your point now you've explained it. Great stuff, thanks. I still think the Aussies did a good bit of film there - entertaining if nothing else
Ben Townsend

Yup. A good lot the Aussies. I think this vid was a bit of fun. Some of their other ones are very good.
Paul Durrant

A it happens, Cornwell corrected this, er, bollocks in the last couple of Sharpe's he did.

Anyway, here's the rolling technique;

John Waller

Paul Durrant wrote:
A it happens, Cornwell corrected this, er, bollocks in the last couple of Sharpe's he did.

Anyway, here's the rolling technique;



Where's yer string closing the bottom end?

An experienced boy will form about 1000 ball-cartridges per diem, the paper being first cut to the size; - another will pack 4000, or 400 packages of 10 cartridges in each: - another boy will fill 1000 with powder.  About 1 1/2oz. of twine is used to make and pack 1000."
Mercian Pete

Those photos are very informative Paul. I have found some diagrams elsewhere on the net but it all helps.

What paper do you prefer to use when making the cartridge?

My security was approved by the FLO today and the Baker should be delivered next week when my gun dealer has arranged for me to go and be trained by one of his customers who is an armourer for TV productions and the like - including firing ball on a range. Can't wait!!

(and I promise that I won't be sticking my head over a hot barrel full of powder!)
Paul Durrant

The best stuff is the thermal fax paper rolls - if you can still lay your hands on it.

Staples do a box of 6 rolls (brand name 'e-pa') Code E; 210mm x 15m, 12mm. This is nice and thin and comes closest to original.

You'll enjoy live firing but bear in mind modern H&S will have you loading it exactly the opposite to the drill of the time.

For the period correct procedure for firing with cartridge, consult 'Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen and Light Infantry 1801'. You can by facsimiles.
Mercian Pete

Thanks Paul. Yes I've bought "Regulations". We are using the elements of Chap II: "Of Priming, Loading and of Firing at the Target" as the basis of loading drill and as an integral part of our competence qualification. I saw the Aussies were priming AFTER ramming and have then picked up on lots of US stuff that demands loading in that format.

Following your advice, repeated by others, we will be sticking to the original.

Off to Staples tomorrow!  :-)

Thought you might like this photo of some cartridges, with a rifle made in 1840, that we found in the loft at work. Completely forgotten and never on the inventory since 1847!



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