Ballistics of old-time weapons


Oleg Volk
December 26, 2002, 03:08 PM
Does anyone know what a typical musket, arquebus, pistol and so on would launch, and how fast? I am curious about approximate data for 16-18c weapons.

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December 26, 2002, 03:14 PM
I have read the number before but can't remember other than guess about 1,000-1,200 FPS for a long arm; but, They were BIG projectiles. :eek:

As I recall there is a limitation on BP velocities, even with RIFLES, i.e., more powder does not equal more velocity after a certain point.

Jim Watson
December 26, 2002, 08:10 PM
I can't get back that far in time, but the Dixie Gun Works catalog has some data.

"A .45 flintlock of new manufacture has been chronographed. The round ball was shot in a greased patch. Its weight was about 135 grains. Barrel length was 44 inches." Charges of FFFg powder gave velocities from 1180 fps with 30 grains to 2140 fps with 100 grains.

The Army rated the .58 percussion rifle of 1855 to 1863 at 963 fps with a 510 grain Minie and 69 grains of powder.
The official ballistics of the .69 cal smoothbore musket were given as 1500 fps with a 412 grain ball and 110 grains of powder.

There are some others. Overall, it is obvious that black powder will launch a round ball a good deal faster than you might think. It slows down considerably when you go to cylindro-conical bullets.

By all accounts, mid-19th century black powder was good stuff, at least as good as anything you can buy now. I doubt the stuff they loaded arquebuses (arquebusi?) with was as good or velocity as high.

December 26, 2002, 11:18 PM
Remember that the both the physical makeup of black powder, in the proportion of the components, and in the degree of incorporation of these components evolved slowly over a period of some 600 years. There were major milestones along the way that produced significant improvements: the introduction of corning , and attention paid to the purity of the components are two such events. Even today, there is a degree of art in the manufacture of this product.

There were also major improvements in the arms that used the powder, and in the understanding of both the arms and the ammunition by the people who built and shot them.


4v50 Gary
December 27, 2002, 12:08 AM
bfoster raises a good point. The quality of the powder today is superior to the past. Even the British found this out in 1792 when they improved their own powder and reproofed many of their guns. From John George's English Gun and Rifles "Another flaw in some muskets was the faulty workmanship in constructing the barrels. The poor quality of English powder allowed bad barrels to pass proof testing. By 1792, when the English, under the direction of Maj. Congreve, finally improved the performance of their powder, the musket were retested. During the reproofing, faulty barrels which had their flaws concealed by hammering or patching either buldged or had their fissures reopened. It is safe to say tht the quality of the Brown Bess of the Napoleonic era was superior to that of Revolutionary times."

December 27, 2002, 09:56 PM
Billy Dixon, Adobe Walls. The Army folks demonstrated at Aberdeen Proving Grounds much later that the shot was indeed possible. :eek:

Chuck Dye
December 28, 2002, 03:19 AM
The Lyman Black Powder Handbook has many ballistic tables and is a good read even if you don't shoot the stinky guns.

January 9, 2003, 07:06 AM
I am curious about approximate data for 16-18c weapons. I was too a while back so I started checking into it. What it boils down to is that the BP muskets are/were pretty much the ballistic twins of modern foster type shotgun slugs fired from single shot shotguns. BP has it's warts to be sure, but lack of "punch" ain't one of em.

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