Ramrod: What end to ram with?

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Ramrod: What end to ram with?

Eddie
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Eddie
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Joined: September 4th, 2010, 11:49 am

April 8th, 2013, 2:17 pm #1

OK - I am putting this on for a shy retiring fellow 2 /95 member an (ex Naval engineer - no names no pack drill ) - who is wary of becoming embroiled in discussion with the re-enacting intelligencia ! ( Huh! Some hopes!) So - its not really my subject as I tend to break guns or lose bits off them and I nowadays I stick to making noise in other ways!

So here goes :

It is the practice in 2/95 (Re-enactment) - as part of the Rifle loading procedure - to ram down using the threaded end of the ram rod to push down the paper/wadding - instead of the "flared" end of the ram rod.

The question is Why? Isn't the flared end designed to push the ball down the barrel?? That's the way its done in the Line as per the NCOs Dundas abstract :
" Seize the top of the ramrod with the fore finger and thumb
8. Draw Ram Rods
1st. Force the ramrod half out; and seize it backhanded exactly in the middle.
2nd. Draw it entirely out, and turning it with the whole hand and arm extended from you, put one inch into the barrel. " etc etc.

Why should it be different with a Rifle? The reasoning for this is usually claimed to be the tightness of the ball inside a leather patch which made it necessary to use a mallet to force it down the barrel. By wacking the wider flared end of the ram rod?? Seems a protracted and awkward process.

So is there a historically based reason for such a departure from the norm? Or is this just a local "re enactorism" which grew up because early badly made repros had a ramrod which wouldn't fit down the barrel !!!

There - I've started it off - now kick it around.
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Ben Townsend
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Ben Townsend
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Joined: November 19th, 2007, 9:35 pm

April 8th, 2013, 4:01 pm #2

Eddie,
Thank you for posting the extract from Dundas detailing the standard procedure for fusils on behalf of our shy friend. DeRottenburgh's Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen and Light Infantry etc has a slightly different version omitting the reversal of the ram-rod.

From chapter 2 'Of priming and Loading...' p.9

"The ramrod is drawn quite out by the right hand, the left quits the rifle and grasps the ramrod the breadth of a hand from the bottom, which is sunk one inch into the barrel."

Its not just re-enactors who have ramrods with a flare too wide to fit down the barrel,
Take a look at this period Infantry Rifle (Baker)





The question as to why this change developed is another question..

Rifleman LaLa
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Paul Durrant
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Joined: June 4th, 2007, 8:42 pm

April 8th, 2013, 10:03 pm #3

I think this was one of the very first questions I asked of the 2nd/95th - even before joining them!

I think we need to look first at the loading stance of the rifle - gripping by knees and heels - which frees up both hands of the Rifleman so they can be used in the ramming process. If both hands need to be used, then perhaps we can surmise that the ramming process (with loose ball at least) wasn't necessarily and easy one?

A small wooden mallet was introduced in the beginning (discontinued later) to 'start' the ball off into the barrel (just a whack to get the patch in to the groves), I'm guessing the rest of the ball's journey down the barrel was one that would require a certain amount of exertion, something where two hands would benefit from a flat ended rod (think also of the kneeling positions of a rifleman...)

From The Rifle Manual and Firing,illustrated by Plates,J. Brettell, Printer 1804



"A rifleman should not be in too great a hurry in loading and firing; I have found one shot in one minute as much as I could fire to keep myself steady."

The 'pointy end' of the Baker rod was not the 'male' screw version that is common to the Indian-made re-enactors weapons we get imported in. It was a wider 'female' end, likely wide enough to push a ball down without it jamming between the barrel and the ball - something the 'pointy-end' male screw type are likely to do.

I think Dundas describes the reversing of the rod for the Bess because it needs to be said (if not, then likely as not soldiers would use the 'thin' end?). If this was the case for the Baker, surely, in such a detailed description of ramming written in the manual of arms for the Rifles etc, such a movement would also be mentioned?

Here's a rather strange print courtesy of the Vinjhuizen Collection from our archive;
Last edited by Paul Durrant on August 16th, 2016, 9:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Eddie
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Eddie
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Joined: September 4th, 2010, 11:49 am

April 8th, 2013, 11:03 pm #4

Great images there Paul - especially the last one as the "button" of the flared end is visible.
I guess as you say it took some effort to push a patched ball down the rifling  - so a two handed job - with sweaty hands it must have been difficult to have kept a grip on the ramrod so one hand may have had to push down on the end?

I came across some photos in a book of photo images of re-enactors  entitled "The Fighting man" which has a set of Richard Rutherford Moore loading and firing a patched  ball - can't see the end of the ramrod though . What you can see however is that he is wearing a leather cover over the palm of one hand - which I can only presume meant he needed it to protect his hand when he was pushing down on the end of the ramrod. Can't think that was issue kit.

Anyone actually loaded and fired a patched ball with a proper rifle?
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Eddie
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Eddie
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April 9th, 2013, 8:18 am #5

Paul Durrant:10210 wrote: "The 'pointy end' of the Baker rod was not the 'male' screw version that is common to the Indian-made re-enactors weapons we get imported in. It was a wider 'female' end, likely wide enough to push a ball down without it jamming between the barrel and the ball - something the 'pointy-end' male screw type are likely to do."



For my eddie -fication has anybody got an image of a genuine "Baker" ramrod?

.
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Paul Durrant
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Joined: June 4th, 2007, 8:42 pm

April 9th, 2013, 9:57 am #6

From British Military Flintlock Rifles 1740 -1840 by De Witt Bailey, Ph.D

Page113;
         With reproduction from Peter Dyson alongside
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Ben Townsend
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Ben Townsend
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April 9th, 2013, 10:25 am #7

Paul,
I can't accept your illustration from the Vink. Its post-period. Although it does reference the Atkinson rifleman with queue.

Eddie, In firing patched ball, I have found myself clouting the end of the ramrod with a stone for want of a mallet, although I agree that the apparent purpose was to start the ball, either with or without the aid of a seperate starter tool.
In fact the stated dimensions of the mallet (see dewitt Bailey) would appear to preclude (;) using it as a serious lump hammer. Its quite small and wooden.

Incidentally, DeWitt Bailey is really the bees knees for a student of the early military rifles. No-one else is covering this in the detail he does.

Rifleman LaLa
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OJM
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OJM
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Joined: October 28th, 2010, 1:41 am

April 9th, 2013, 8:07 pm #8

I've fired ball with our military pattern rifles.

Mallets were originally issued, but withdrawn before 1800 to lighten the load over here.

Seen no mention of using anything else than the broad end for ramming down the shot, a trick that works (unsure if it's mentioned in period) is to place the ball and patch on the muzzle, and then lay the ramrod on top, giving it a slight press to get it into the the barrel before starting to force it down with the ramrod.

(According to regulations, the ball should be issued from the arsenal already wrapped in a greased patch)

Rifle being kept between the knees is referenced in period regulations.
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Eddie
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Eddie
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Joined: September 4th, 2010, 11:49 am

April 10th, 2013, 7:28 am #9

Paul Durrant:10213 wrote:From British Military Flintlock Rifles 1740 -1840 by De Witt Bailey, Ph.D

Page113;
With reproduction from Peter Dyson alongside
Paul - can you post images of the flared end/ button - is it too big to go down the barrel? The image Ben posted looks like it is.

Ola
That method of starting the ball loading by initially pushing it down with the side of the ramrod seems very practical to me - speaking as one who has absolutely no affinity with firearms!
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Paul Durrant
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Joined: June 4th, 2007, 8:42 pm

April 14th, 2013, 9:55 pm #10

Eddie:10217 wrote: Paul - can you post images of the flared end/ button - is it too big to go down the barrel? The image Ben posted looks like it is.
I don't know Eddie. The large button on the one Ben posted is from a privately purchased (Ketland) Baker for the Wallsend Rifle Corps (below);

I never thought to note it when I photographed it.

De Witt Bailey describes the rammer as thus:
"The heavy steel rammer has a flared head terminating in a flattened button not much larger than the flared section beneath it. There is a hole through the flared head to take the ;lever' or torque bar used in withdrawing a ball from the barrel. There is a half inch diameter symmetrical swell in the body of the rod about seven inches from the head. The tip of the rod is enlarged in diameter, slightly cupped on its surface (as it is used to seat the ball) and threaded for the tools which are carried in the buttbox."

The 'button' end of the rammer appears in different forms according to De Witt Bailey.
Page 113


This one is from the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester, UK (Tower);
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