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Thread: A fantastic essay on the evolution of P1853 ammunition by Brett Gibbons

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Deep South - Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas

    A fantastic essay on the evolution of P1853 ammunition by Brett Gibbons

    Hi all,

    I have just recently discovered this essay written by Brett Gibbons concerning the evolution of the P1853 Enfield ammunition:

    I think this is a spectacular work.

    It really does a great job providing chronological context to the development of the P1853 Enfield ammunition directly from the P1851, providing context and explanation for the changes the ammunition went through.

    Some of the things I find interesting is that we often refer hollow-cavity bullets as "Minié" bullets, but in fact the concept of the hollow-based bullet was proposed by many different people, including Delvigne. Mr. Minié's contribution was the recommendation of adding an iron cup into the bullet cavity, and successfully getting the bullet adopted in France.

    The smooth-sided, hollow cavity bullet we often call a "Pritchett" bullet, was actually designed as a replacement to the Minié bullet that would not require an iron cup to cause expansion of the bullet. True "Pritchett bullets were in use from about 1853 until this bullet was used in combat, where numerous problems were discovered and the bullet was re-designed by Colonel Hay to again accept an iron cup plug in the hollow cavity. So the actual final form of the Enfield bullet should probably more properly be known as a Hay Bullet, which came about in 1855. The return to the iron cup was short-lived - only a few weeks or months. Even as the ink was drying on the order for 50,000,000 iron cups, Hay switched to boxwood plugs, which at the end of the muzzle loading era were switched to clay fired plugs.

    The British ultimately reverted back to internal plugs because when they reduced the diameter of the bullet from .568 to .550 it was felt that the plug was required to provide more immediate expansion of the bullet. The words used to describe this expansion in tests was "infalliable".

    One of the things that I find interesting is the original bullets were essentially target ammunition, with only .001" bore clearance (the same problem they had with the P1851 ammunition and they solved it the same way - a smaller bullet). This worked great during research and development with perfect guns and perfect ammo, but did not survive trial by combat.

    I wonder, though, for target shooting purposes if the original ammunition or the latter ammunition would be superior? The Confederacy, always trying to standardize on the Enfield style of cartridge throughout the war, never adopted the plug.

    I'm currently in the middle of casting up 500 "Hay" bullets to do a continuous, rapid-firing exercise with different patterns of the Enfield cartridge, without cleaning the bore, to replicate the tests done by the British. My intent is to show that paper-patched Enfield style ammunition is not prone to cook-offs. My suspicion is that anything in front of the powder will naturally be blown out the barrel the same way the bullet is.


  2. #2
    hobbler is offline
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    Dec 2008
    Thank you for the link!

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