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Original U.S. Civil War Era Musket Paper Cartridge Set With Inert Primers - 8 Items

Regular price $995.00

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Compare at $1,195.00

Item Description

Original Items: Only One Lot of 8 Available. A paper cartridge is one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent. Combustible cartridges are paper cartridges that use paper treated with oxidizers to allow them to burn completely upon ignition.

There are a total of 5 paper cartridges which are still wrapped and secured with the original packaging and 2 packages of empty percussion caps. The waxed paper package is dated 1861 and retains almost perfect markings:

Rifle Musket /53
Bullet .55 Dia
Powder 2 ½ Drs

The condition of everything is absolutely fantastic, especially with them being paper.

Comes more than ready for display.

With the advent of the rifle-musket and the widespread adoption of rifled barrels by military forces, the spherical projectile eventually died out – though the new elongated bullets were still called balls in the military (indeed, full metal jacket ammunition is called ball ammunition to this day). While both conical bullets and balls were used with rifles, both in cartridge and loose form for several hundred years, the mid 19th century Minié ball contained a number of important innovations that allowed rifled weapons to be adopted by the main infantry units, rather than being the preserve of elite skirmisher and rifle units as had been the case before.

Minie balls were manufactured in a smaller diameter than the bore of the weapon it was to be used in, just like a normal musket ball; this allowed for easy loading, even when the gun was fouled, while a rifle ball had to be forced down the tight-fitting barrel by force, even using a mallet. When fired, the pressure of the gases would force the skirt of the bullet to expand, fitting tightly into the rifling grooves, unlike the loose-fitting and inaccurate musket ball. This was achieved by including a deep cavity in the rear, into which fitted (initially) an iron hemispherical cup, later a conical clay or timber plug, which caused the base of the projectile to expand upon firing, sealing the skirt to the bore, allowing an undersized projectile to be used for ease of loading without a patch. (Eventually it was found that the pressure of the powder gases expanded the base to fit the bore, without any plug or filler.) Another was a number of grooves around the projectile, the leading edges of which are intended to scrape out the fouling but were found better used making the projectile more accurate when filled with a lubricant (traditionally made of beeswax and rendered animal fat.) As noted before, this lubricant also serves to keep soft the black powder fouling, thus making the fouled barrel much easier to reload.

As the speed of the projectile increased with better and more consistent black powders, loading and firing techniques, it was found that a lead projectile, in close fit, would leave lead streaking behind adding to the fouling of the bore. Lubrication aided somewhat, but that too had its problems picking up grit and other hard detritus which damaged the bore of the firearm. The solution was to encase the bearing surface of the projectile in paper, with a lubricated wad or waxed cotton disc placed behind the projectile. With a grooved projectile, lubrication is available directly, often negating the need for further lubricated wads behind the projectile.

With a rifled barrel, the projectile needs to engage the rifling for it to impart the spin which improves accuracy dramatically. The Minié ball allowed easy loading of a slightly undersized skirted projectile that would expand to seal; or a loose-fitting round ball would use the paper of the cartridge as wad and sealant. Accuracy went from 50 to 100 yards for the smoothbore out to some 400 to 600 yards with repeatable accuracy for rifled barrels. At the longest of ranges a rifled barrel could accomplish 2000 to 2500 yards. While lacking pinpoint accuracy, effective harassing fire at an enemy some distance away became possible with units of disciplined riflemen firing in alternating volleys aimed at a common target.

A solid lead projectile used in a rifled barrel requires the paper around the bullet to be much thinner than in a smoothbore, to fill in the space between bullet and bore achieving a gas-tight fit. To meet this requirement, while still ensuring a rugged cartridge, the cartridges were made in multiple parts. The following describes the construction of a cartridge for a British Enfield musket, from the inside out:

A short tube of stiff paper, which provides the strength for the cartridge
A longer tube of thin paper, pushed inwards at one end, which serves to separate the powder from the bullet
A long tube of thin paper, which holds the bullet at one end, and the stiffened powder container at the other

The bullet end of the cartridge was crimped shut, and the powder end was filled and folded closed. The bullet end of the completed cartridge was then dipped in a mixture of melted beeswax and tallow to lubricate the bullet.

To load the rifle, the powder end was opened up by unfolding or tearing, and the powder was poured down the barrel. The bullet end was then inserted up to the level of the thick paper tube, which was then torn off and discarded. The bullet was then seated with the ramrod, and the nipple primed with a percussion cap.

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