Testing the Old School cast bullets
Yesterday I wrote about casting bullets from a soapstone mold I had recently acquired that potentially had been made in the late 1700’s or around that time frame. Today I decided to put these cast bullets to the test to see how they’d fire in my flintlock musket. I started out by making a form to cut my papers and a rod to roll them around to form the paper cartridges as true to the original English military specifications as I could get.
After rolling the paper around the dowel I tied the newly cast ball into the ends of each tube. Sorry I didn’t get photos or video of how I did this as it’s difficult to work on something and film it at the same time. If you research the cartridge regs of the time period I’m sure you’ll see how these are made.
I filled the cartridge tubes with the standard British service load of 125 grains of powder. In my case… it was a good quality grade of powder in 1FG granulation. Powder quality these days is superior to what it was then but for the sake of this “experiment” I stuck with what regs called for.
I used 1FG for the main charge, but I’m kind of particular about the priming. Sure, I could pour a bit from the tail of the cartridge as they did originally, but I really like the fact that Swiss Null B priming powder seems to instantly light the gun with no hesitation even on a humid or rainy day. Null B might as well be flammable dust – it’s that good in a flintlock.
No rhyme or reason… some of the cartridge tails I twisted, others I folded in the traditional manner. I made and fire approximately 20 of these as I had read combat reports that prior to an engagement that 20 rounds were issued to the front line troops.
I get my Brown Bess out to the gravel pit for a bit of range time. The target is a large white 55 gallon plastic barrel at 100 yards. Sure this is a smooth bore gun, and perhaps 100 yards might be a bit of a stretch as many battles in the 1700’s America occurred at ranges as close as 20 yards. But I’m one of those odd ducks who want to see what a firearm can do further than arm’s reach as it goes.
The Null B Swiss powder flashes the pan every time with no hangups or hesitation.
How did the musket do using rounds made from a potentially 200 plus year old bullet mold ? Not too bad actually all things considering. Here I am squatting next to the barrel. Yes, I’m a bit “rusty” with the old flintlock as my Winchester leverguns and bolt action rifles have me spoiled. Not to mention that Cadillac of a rifle, my M-14. But this test is about a flintlock firing bullets cast from a crude stone mold that may be over 200 years old. After 3 “practice shots” to get my bearings with the flintlock once again, the Bess drilled the Heck out of the 100 yard target very consistently.
Oh… hard to see the musket ball holes in the plastic barrel ? How about a different angle ?
While several of the bullet holes near the top of the barrel showed a deep perforation and a complete pass through, quite a number of these balls slammed into the mid section and lower ends — and while they too passed all the way through the plastic barrel, they also blew a massive chunk completely out of the barrel in the form of small “discs”. I’ve never had a target react this way, but I’m sure it may have been something due to the nature of the plastic and not necessarily the power of the bullets.
I certainly would NOT want to be on the receiving end of a firearm of this nature. The sheer crushing power of such a heavy slow moving projectile smashing it’s way through ranks and files of soldiers must have taken incredible bravery to stand up to. I’ve also seen a few original projectiles from that time period that had been slightly “modified” by the owner shooting these projectiles. Some had been cross hatch cut, others had small nails or tacks driven into them in the hopes of making them expand and create a much worse wound than the awesome punch from the heavy round ball. Often an injury from a musket ball in those days meant certain death eventually. The lousy sanitation practices and lack of understanding of hygiene and proper wound care… plus the massive trauma from a lead ball of this size pretty lethal even without instant death. I suppose for me this concludes the end of my part in this experiment. I’ll send a number of these bullets to Texas and have a friend of mine fire them from his original .69 musket to see if they perform any better for him. I can’t complain with the way they worked for me.