- And now for the really big punchup - size of cartridges...
1) it is very confusing for the public to be watching an event, & some guns are noticeably louder than others. So this should be avoided.
2) just how big should cartridges ideally be standardised at for BROWN BESS & Charleville muskets? (not speaking of rifles here!) (and not that everyone agreeing on a size is ever likely to happen) - should the prime considerations be safety, or authenticity, and are these mutually exclusive considerations?
3) the 8th Regt, I am told, did some testing and discovered that 100 grains of double-f down the barrel burned clean. Anything over that, while producing a proportionately louder bang, also produced some unburnt powder coming out the end of the muzzle. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I accept this finding as a basis for what follows.
4) authenticity would dictate that our muskets should sound as loud as muskets firing real rounds do. Neither louder, nor quieter, is good.
So how many grains does it take to achieve this? I don't know: I've only fired live a few times and I wasn't listening very carefully 'cause I didn't know I'd be writing this a few years later...
5) I'm assuming that authentic sound requires more than 100 grains. If just a little bit more, then there's really little choice to be made in terms of authenticity versus safety.
But if it requires a lot more, then a safety issue would appear to be raised, and it becomes very important (ok, at least a little important...) to have good rules governing how close you can be to the people you're firing at before you start having to elevate, point to the side (which, by the way, I think is much better: if the crowd is positioned correctly their viewing angle might not even notice that you're not aiming at "the enemy"...) or whatever, or even cease firing altogether. As long as the rules adequately address the safety issue - which I assume everyone agrees is always paramount - then there shouldn't be any difficulty.
6) other considerations: 41st used to make 120 grain charges. Since shifting to 100 grain, we obviously get 6 shots where before we only got 5. Could be N.B. in Scottish units in particular...(sorry Benton - couldn't resist!)
7) wadding increases sound, which decreases the size of the charge necessary to reach the desired decibel level. But we don't always ram. I'm not sure I understood Sean Hirst totally on this point: does the RNR just stuff the paper down the tube in every load, without ramming it down on the charge? If so, does this increase the noise factor?
8) under certain weather conditions, and when musket is dirty from last use, with gooey paste down barrel (and we all don't clean musket after each use at a reenactment, tho' that would undoubtedly be desirable) I personally have found that loading too far in advance of opening fire (i.e. ramming first round down before entering the battlefield) increases the misfire rate.
9) True Confessions: when I have a misfire and have to re-prime, it sure seems a waste to just dump the rest of the load...