For today's researcher into Enfield ammunition, the definitive reference is "Rifle Ammunition. Being Notes on the Manufactures connected therewith as conducted in The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich" by Arthur B. Hawes, Captain (r.h.p.), Bengal Army and published in London, 1859. Hawes writes in his introduction: "These notes, intended at first only for myself, were, I am happy so say, useful to others; and from that reason more than any other, I am induced now to offer them, imperfect as they are, for the perusal of all who feel interested in the preparation of ammunition of different descriptions, with the exterior of which all soldiers are so familiar."
What Hawes produced in his 100 page document is a comprehensive guide to the manufacture of small arms ammunition. Each element is discussed in considerable detail and there are chapters on:
- The Bullet
- The Plug
- The Cartridge
- Metallic Tubes (for preserving cartridges from damp)
- The Cap
- Ammunition Barrels
together with additional comment on the following:
- Rifle-Practice Targets
- Experimental Targets
- Rifle Rests
- The Micrometer
- Penetration of Rifle-Bullets
- Experimental Practice
- The Vernier
Before considering some of this information in more detail, Hawes observations on "What Small-Arms Ammunition Consists Of" are worthy of review.
The ammunition, as at present used for Small Arms in the British service, consists, in the first place, of the Bullet, with, in some cases, a plug of wood in its base, and in others an iron cup; the charge of Powder; and the Containing Paper. The greater part of the ammunition used in the British service is made up in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, although for Indian service a large portion has been, and is at present, made up on the spot where required, the necessary appliances for so doing having been despatched to the several presidencies.
Opinions vary on several important points connected with the ammunition for rifled arms; viz., as to the shape of the projectile, proportions of the hollow at its base, its weight, as to whether an advantage is gained by a plug or cup proportionate to the expense of its manufacture, and whether or no cannelures (or grooves round the cylindrical part of the bullet) are the best means of procuring that hold for the bullet in the grooves of the rifle sufficient to impart to it the required amount of rotation.
Some, again, strongly maintain that the bullet should be used naked, i.e. without the paper that serves to hold it in the cartridge; and in that case we should in all probability have to revert to the powder-flask for loading.
All seem, however, to agree that pure lead and correct manufacture of the projectile assist greatly in obtaining a good result.
But in studying these results, so many different points have to be considered and eliminated, as to what are really the moving causes, and what are the merits and demerits of any particular component of the ammunition, that unless a series of most careful and elaborate experiments under every different circumstance have been carried out, no decided opinion can be entirely depended upon.
Lastly, the lubrication, or anti-fouling agent, as it ought to be correctly named, is a point upon which many different opinions have been freely expressed.
At the time when loading was performed by force, some (then properly called) lubricating agent was required to enable this operation to be performed at all; but on the introduction of the expansive or groove-taking-after-explosion systems, bullets of less diameter than that of the bore of the piece were used; and except where the windage (or difference between these two diameters) was very small, no lubrication was required to assist in the operation of loading, its real duty being to prevent the fouling, or the residue or ash of the powder after ignition from adhering to the sides of the barrel, and so, by combining with the residue, enabling the gases of the powder to expel it on ignition.
The description and texture of the paper used for the cartridge is another point requiring close attention; and, indeed, so many and various are the questions that have to be considered in the production of a perfect cartridge for a rifled arm, that the greatest care, patience, and no small amount of scientific knowledge are required on the part of those intrusted with this duty.
Arthur B. Hawes, Captain (r.h.p.), Bengal Army
We are informed by Hawes that pure lead was procured, usually arriving from the broker in pigs weighing 1cwt. This lead was subject to chemical testing, details of which are provided, with just one-tenth per cent of antimony for instance being sufficient to condemn the consignment. Having cleared the chemical testing the lead was melted and passed though a Weem's Lead-Squirting Machine (pictured below) to produce rods of lead which are wound onto a reel.
Weem's Lead-Squirting Machine
These reels were then conveyed to the bullet-machine which completed several operations:
- Unwinding the lead-rod, and passing it up to the cutting-off lever and nippers.
- Cutting off the lead from the rod, and delivering this pellet to the die.
- Compressing the bullet into the die.
- Ejecting the bullet from the die.
- Cutting off the ring of superfluous lead that remains round the base of the bullet after compression.
Hawes gives each of these stages detailed consideration and observes that from 25 to 35 Enfield bullets can be turned out of the machine in a minute. Including steam power, repair of the machines, and in fact, all contingent expenses, the price of bullets was stated to be 16s. per 1,000, or "a little more than five for a penny."
Hawes notes that the bullet making machinery described was obviously far too complex and cumbersome to be carried into the field; the only other means of making the bullets was by casting. The luxury of the bullet making machinery described is also likely to elude readers, so Hawes observations on casting will no doubt be of interest, and follow:
The appliances required, are the melting pot, ladles, moulds with plugs for forming the hollow in the bullet, nippers, and the rectifying machine. This is a small hand-worked machine, worked by means of a lever with a handle at the end. To this lever is attached a spindle, working horizontally in a socket; to the end of this is fixed a punch of the same form as the hollow in the bullet; in front of this is a die, funnel shaped, the smaller end being of precisely the same diameter as the bullet; it is open at both ends, with its base towards the punch, the punch is driven forwards into the hollow by means of the lever handle, and the bullet pushed smartly through the die; the superfluous lead being thus cut off, and the bullet at the same time gauged or pared down to the required size. To preserve this die correct, of course requires constant attention, gauging, and repair.
In casting bullets, the lead should be poured in rather slowly, after having taken it out from the melting-pot carefully with a ladle.
Care must be taken to get a freedom from air-holes, and the moulds should not be closed too tightly, but so that the air escapes easily; for, unless it is allowed to do so, an uneven surface to the bullet will invariably ensue. The moulds also should be of a proper temperature. Practice alone can regulate the requisite speed in pouring the lead in. When the lead has cooled slightly, the bullet must be taken out with the pliers, holding it by the piece of superfluous lead, and placed point first, as before described, in the die of the rectifying-machine. The punch must then be forced forwards with a smart but firm pressure; thus cutting off the superfluous lead and regulating the size of the bullet.
The plugs of the bullet-moulds require occasional examining and gauging. The following precautions, taken in America for casting bullets, are recommended in the United States Ordnance Manual, and also in the French "Aide-Mémoire d'Officiers d'Artillerie:
"Weigh the lead, fill the kettle (or melting-pot), and cover it; as the lead melts add more, until within three inches of the edges of the kettle. Cover with a layer of powdered charcoal one inch thick, push the heat until paper in contact with the lead is inflamed by it: this requires from one to two hours.
"Immerse the ladle and fill it about three-quarters full of the lead, covered with the charcoal, which is kept back by a piece of wood. The first castings are thrown back into the kettle, being imperfect, from the moulds being cold.
"The diameter of some of the bullets should be verified from time to time with gauges. The moulds must be carefully cleaned when it is perceived that the lead sticks to them.
"With proper care, 100lb. of lead will give 96lb. to 98lb. of bullets."
The bases of the finished bullet were fitted with a plug, the purpose of which was to insure the expansion of the bullet into the grooves of the rifling. Those plugs described by Hawes are wooden. He goes into considerable detail describing the machinery used in their manufacture, which could turn out 10,000 plugs in a working day.
On completion the plugs were dipped into a composition of beeswax and a very small quantity of spirits, "to prevent alteration of size and shape." The plugs were inserted by the simple operation of pressing the base of the bullet upon the small end of the plug as it lay on a table, taking care to ensure that the plug was flush with the sides of the bullet, i.e., placed evenly into the cavity. The bullets were then gauged by passing them through a steel ring gauge .001 of an inch larger in diameter than that of the bullet.
The paper used in the manufacture of the cartridges is given coverage by Hawes, and it is interesting to note that two different grade papers are employed. The "wrapping," or cartridge paper used in making the cylinder which contains the powder, is a thicker paper than the outside forming paper. The papers are machine cut although they can also be cut to size using tin patterns.
Two tools are used in the rolling of the cartridges, the "former" and the "plug". The "former" is a cylindrical piece of wood or metal, upon which to roll the cartridge paper. It has a hollow or cup at one end, into which some of the paper is pressed by means of the "plug," to form the hollow for the point of the bullet. The tools are made pierced with an air-hole; this prevents the paper from collapsing in withdrawing it after rolling. Once rolled and the bullet secured all that remained was for the cartridge to be filled, twisted, and greased or lubricated.
The empty cartridges were conveyed in boxes by means of wagons to the cartridge-sheds, which were small isolated buildings. Machines were used to fill the cartridges after which they were inspected. Having passed inspection the box containing the cartridges was marked and passed on to the next process.
The superfluous paper at the top of the cartridges was twisted from left to right and pressed down upon the powder at the same time. This done, the cartridges were taken to be lubricated, or dipped. They were fixed in trays which left just that portion alone projecting from the bottom which it was necessary to lubricate. Hawes writes that wax alone was used for the lubrication, or anti-fouling composition, and that is was heated by steam at a temperature of 230° Fahrenheit. The trays of cartridges were placed besides the dipping-pans on metal plates heated by steam until they were thoroughly dry and acquired some slight degree of heat. Each tray was then successively dipped, removed and left to cool thoroughly before packing. For field use or other situations when the cumbersome dipping apparatus was not available, a copper lubrication kettle was available.
Hawes gives much detail on all the operations and continues with discussion of packing and labelling the cartridges, the manufacture of blank and Sharps' cartridges, consideration of lubrication, the manufacture of percussion caps and more. For those of you with a thirst for more detail but who do not have access to Hawes scarce work, it has been reprinted in the USA. The original text has been reset for this soft back book which also includes copies, at reduced size, of the original line drawings. The reprint includes a photographic supplement showing bullets, cartridges, original packaging, moulds and an Anderson bullet machine. [ISBN 1-57747-100-8 - Thomas Publications, P.O. Box 3031, Gettysburg, Pa. 17325, USA - www.thomaspublications.com].
Mindful that soldiers may find themselves in the position of having to manufacture their own cartridges, recruits were instructed on their method of manufacture. The following extract from a Musketry Instructors manual of 1853 explains the process. Note that the accompanying illustrations have been extracted from Hans Busk's "Handbook for Hythe," (London, 1860 and reprinted by Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd., Surrey, England 1971- SBN 85546 156 X), as those from the manual will not reproduce well. The two sources are however essentially the same in detail.
Manufacture of Cartridges
Having cut the paper according to the size and patterns shown, for cartridges for the rifle-musket or carbine,-
- Form the powder case. Roll the "stiff paper" pattern, tightly about 2½ times round the "mandrel," which is to be laid on the side opposite the acute angle, or AB, with its base coincident with the broader side, or AD; then place the "inner envelope" paper pattern No.2, on the top of the stiff paper with the side opposite the acute angle, or AB, of the former about ¾ of an inch from the acute angle, of CD of the latter, and role said envelope tightly on the stiff paper and mandrel; after which slightly twist the end that overlaps about 7/8 of an inch, or AC, and fold it into the hollow at the base of the mandrel, making use of the point of the "former," to close the folds and adapt the paper to the cavity, which is to receive the point of the bullet, being careful to secure the bottom of powder-case, so that no powder can escape therefrom.
- Unite the bullet with the powder-case. Put the point of the bullet well into the cavity of the powder-case, and place both so fixed on the side of the "outer envelope" paper opposite the acute angle, AB, and about ½ an inch from the broader, or AC; roll the "outer envelope" tightly round the bullet and powder-case, with the mandrel still in it, the twist or fold the paper that overlaps, and tie it as close as possible to the base of the bullet; after which place the base of the cartridge on the table, and withdraw the mandrel with care, by pressing the powder-case with one hand while raising the mandrel with the other, so as not to separate the powder-case from the bullet, both of which must be kept as close as possible to prevent any play at the juncture, which would soon render the cartridge unserviceable.
- Charge the powder-case. Place a funnel into the mouth of the powder-case and pour 2½ drams of powder or a less quantity, according to the arm used, into it; remove the funnel, being careful that none of the powder escapes between the inner and outer envelopes; and secure the charge by squeezing the tops of the two envelopes close to the stiff paper of powder-case, and giving them a slight twist with a pressure inwards, laying the ends on the side of the cartridge. The slits in the outer envelope are made to facilitate its detachment when fired.
- Lubricate the cartridge. The cartridge being complete, dip the base up to the shoulder of the bullet, in a mixture composed of 5 parts of bees-wax and 1 part of tallow.
The Enfield Cartridge
Cartridges were packed in bundles of ten. And each packet labelled as below.
The word "wax" signifies that the lubrication is composed of wax unmixed, and the three lines represent that the outer forming paper has received the three cuts illustrated in the 'outer pattern' paper diagram.
The packets were fastened with strong twine, and carefully packed in barrels, by being built round the sides; a cylinder of caps being placed in the centre, in the proportion of 75 caps for every 60 rounds.
Having assembled all the component parts, how were the cartridges loaded? An interesting step-by-step set of instructions was published in "Rules to be observed in the Laboratories of C.S. Arsenals and Ordnance Depots" (ISBN 1-57747-095-8. Thomas Publications, USA, 2002. www.thomaspublications.com). These rules are a rare Confederate document, and the publishers have kindly given permission to reprint the following instructions for loading the English pattern of Enfield cartridges.
C.S. Central Laboratory, (Ordn.)
Macon, Ga., Feb. 9, 1864.
It has been recently ordered by the Chief of Ordnance that the only patters of cartridge to be hereafter used with muzzle loading rifled small arms shall be that known as the English pattern of Enfield cartridge.
In case of the gun becoming excessively foul, so as to prevent easy loading in the proper way, as above detailed, the paper of the cartridge may be torn off from the bullet, and the latter loaded naked. As the lubricant is upon the outside of the paper and not upon the bullet this practice is not to be recommended unless it be rendered necessary by the cause mentioned.
J. W. Mallet, Maj.