Chewed Round Ball For Accuracy; True or False?
Chewed Pistol and Musket Shot
Circa 1640's. Original lead shot or 'musket balls' used by matchlock type muskets and pistols, but chewed to create a 'dumdum bullet'. Reference: Bailey, G. Finds Identified, p. 69-72. Very fine condition. Provenance: found on a Charles I Civil war battle site near Harston, Cambridgeshire.
I have noticed some information of late about chewing lead balls for accuracy in a smoothbore. Shooters are not actually biting these lead balls, but they are rolling them with a rasp to simulate biting. Having fired a .60 ball from a 12 gauge with some accuracy, I had my doubts that anyone would bother chewing on a ball to make it more accurate. To put this in its proper perspective, we must remember that smoothbore ball was not patched in the 18th century, it was wadded. Just like using small shot.
Research done on balls found in the field with teeth marks indicates that many had been bitten by wild boar. Others may have been used to bite on when being surgically operated on, though it is more likely that in most cases a leather belt would be used. I myself finding myself in this situation rolled up my neckerchief and bit down on that whilst gripping the sides of the bed; much preferable to biting on a lead ball. Records from the American Revolution indicate that some soldiers may have chewed on musket balls to make the wound more damaging, but no where in 18th century writings so far, have I found any indication that smoothbore bullets were chewed on to produce more accuracy.
If anyone can produce primary documentation to the contrary, I would be very interested to hear from you. Meanwhile, I will leave my balls smooth and round and accept the reasonable accuracy that I get.
"The leader, on each side, immediately blows the small whistle he carries for the occasion, in imitation of the ancient trumpet, as the last signal of engagement. Now hot work begins -- The guns are firing; the chewed bullets flying; the strong hiccory bows a twanging; the dangerous barbed arrows whizzing as they fly" James Adair
rebellious rascals, who both poisoned and chewed the musket balls, in order to make them the more fatal. Many officers have died of their wounds, and others very ill: ’tis astonishing what a number of officers were hit on this occasion; but the officers were particularly aimed at.
Lt. John Waller of the British Marines 1775.
CIVIL WAR ERA CHEWED BULLETS FROM KENTUCKY: BATTLEFIELD ANESTHESIA OR OTHER ACTIVITIES? Charles D. Hockensmith, Kurt H. Fiegel, and Ronnie H. Freels