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Old 12-22-2010, 02:52 PM   #1
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Default Found 22mm musket ball

I found an approx 22mm steel (iron) ball in my yard using my sons toy metal detector. There was alot of Revolutionary and Indian activity in SC, but not sure if they made such a large caliber?

Can anyone help me figure out if this is a musket ball or just a farming implement?



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Old 12-22-2010, 04:56 PM   #2
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.79 caliber (about 20mm) was fairly common in the 1600-1700 era. Steel would not be likely to be used for a musket ball. Perhaps a small cannon projectile?

Pictures, please.



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Old 12-22-2010, 09:24 PM   #3
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Could be one of the counterweights for a steam engine governor or a ball bearing from farm equipment or a piece of grapeshot.

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Old 12-22-2010, 09:48 PM   #4
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Sounds like it came from the Barret Musket company, the precursor to the .50 BMG...

Nice find!

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Old 12-22-2010, 10:33 PM   #5
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Iron or steel was generally not used as a musket or rifle bullet- too hard, not dense enough to retain energy. However, dring the Civil War (or as WE call it, War of Northern Agression) there WAS God's Own Shotgun- better known as Cannister or Grapeshot. Cannister was a thin metal can, fired from a cannon- filled with iron or lead balls, and some had a bursting charge. Grapeshot was similar- wooden base, cloth bag of large shot wrapped with string (giving the appearance of a bunch of grapes)

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Old 12-26-2010, 03:31 PM   #6
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While they had an inferior form of, and very small quantities of Wootz, generally speaking what they did not have in those days was Steel. They had variants of iron, but not steel as we know it today.

Although it is remotely possible you have an early air rifle projectile, it is much more probable you found an old discarded or dropped ball bearing from a farm implement. Steel (or iron) ball bearings are much harder to fabricate than lead shot. The first patent on them was in France in 1869. This completely rules out involvement of the item you found in the Revolutionary, or even the US Civil war almost a hundred years later.

Lead shot was initially made by pouring molten lead off the edge of a tall tower (called a 'shot tower') into a pan of cooling water way down there. The air would disperse the lead into droplets of varying sizes and they would for the most part be cooled enough to hold their shape when they hit the water. Because steel cools so quickly that method doesn't work well for steel. There is also the issue of needing to melt the steel with much greater heat at the top of the tower. While a simple flame can melt lead, a much hotter flame is needed to melt steel. The normal method of making a steel ball bearing involves milling and grinding. Wood and bronze were the most commonly type of bearing found in items from before the age of industrialization. Steel and iron bearings were ridiculously expensive to make in pre-industrial age. It wasn't until the 1880s that steel bearings emerged in Europe in numbers usable for machinery production.

That being said, hardly anyone, except in really desperate emergency would waste iron (or steel) on the manufacture of small projectiles. Even back then Lead as already in place as the most preferred source of ammunition for anything involving hand carry and gunpowder. Iron cannon balls are an obvious exception, but that isn't what you found.

The next possibility is a discarded piece of iron grapeshot from the Civil War. Personally I am much more inclined to go with an old bearing from a piece of farm or other early industrial age equipment. Researching who owned that land and what they did there for a living a 100 years ago would possibly provide more clues.

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:00 AM   #7
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Default Iron balls

Its possible the ball is brough back home from a industrial job, seem 55gal drums full of different sized iron balls, used in ball mills to break down ore.
Seen some drums of 2" balls down In NOME Alaska.
Mabe not it but its an idea
I think thye used iron balls in cansiter shot outta cannon.
I dont have the historical background to tell what a 6# er would have used.



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