Smoothbore Musket and Paper Cartridge

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Author: Øyvind Flatnes
Category: Muzzleloading
Published: 11.24. 2007
Edited: Saturday 24 Nov. 2007, at 23:02 (GMT +1)
Views: 24125

Brown Bess

A picture of a target which I shot from the standing position with my Pedersoli .75 cal. Brown Bess carbine loaded with paper cartridges from a distance of 35 yds. The cartridge consisted of a .735" ball dipped in a mixture of deer tallow and bees wax and 90 grs. of 1F powder. You would probably get better results with a patched roundball, but what the heck, I'm satisfied anyway!

Sometime during the 17th century the armies of the time began to use the paper cartridge for their muskets. Before, the musketeers had used a bandoleer with the desired amount of gunpowder measured beforehand which was kept in a tubular wooden container. This was an inconvenient way to carry the ammunition because the ball had to be kept in a pouch separately from the powder. Loading a musket was by then a time consuming process.

Find out more!
You can learn more about the history and use smooth-bore muskets and paper cartridges in the brand new book From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms.

Loading a Musket with Paper Cartridge


.75 cal. musket cartridge.

The first thing you do is to take a paper cartridge that contains a round ball wrapped in paper, black powder and bullet lube. Back then, the bullet end of the cartridge was dipped in melted tallow before the powder was poured into the cartridge. The soldiers used to bite or tear a hole in the cartridge and pour a small amount of powder on the flash pan. This is not recommended to day, obviously because you do not want to load a primed weapon. The weapon was primed first in the old days because you saved time during the operation of loading the musket. Today we don't have enemies charging us when we load. We do as follows: We pour all the powder down the barrel. Then the cartridge is reversed and placed with the bullet end down it is rammed down the barrel.

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The greased paper around the ball will work as some sort of crude patching. I have experienced that if the excess paper is torn away (all the paper that isn't greased) accuracy will be best.

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Now we can prime our musket. I normally use 4F for this, but I have also tried 3F, 2F and even 1F powder. The musket will ignite with all of them, but the coarser the priming powder is, the slower the ignition time will be.

Brown Bess


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