Has ayone been able to find any documentation supporting the use of bullet boards aka loading blocks, during the fur trade era? I've found several on the Tom Wnuck auction years ago, but most folks say they're reproductions meant to be genuine. I know of one from the late 1850's that belonged to Nosworthy and another with no provenance. They're not much different than a cartridge box and I can see someone cutting them down to size, but I have no proof of this. It just seems logical to do so.
None here either Pare - although some info points to them beginning to appear in the 1820's or 1830's, but then again none show up as part of any of the existing sets of shooting gear from that era. The Nosworthy one is the earliest I know of with provenance to the west.
aka Chuck Burrows
Hopefully something will surface.
Here's the link to the Wnuck auction and the picture of the other bag.
I have not seen anything though many feel they were in use by then, some will even argue that they cannot buy that they were not in use in the 18th century 'cause those guys would have thought about it if we can, I would not feel to bad about using one in the 1830 period if not in a high level event but would hesitate to make any historical claims.
I wonder if they were such a common item, that they weren't described by writers of the day? Then again, they do mention even some of the smallest details, like tow worms, etc.
We do have to remember that our tweaking of equipment to increase reloading speed may be based on our experience with 19th-through 21st century repeating (and semi-auto and full-auto) firearms. In 1780, everyone reloaded more-or-less the same way, or at least with the same ingredients. The military had the fastest system, with paper cartridges, but they weren't even particularly interested in accuracy. And you can bet that in the heat of any serious battle, few riflemen worried too much about getting the patch correctly centered under the ball, etc. They loaded with NO patch and sometimes no ramrod when they were truly in a hurry. So I'm of the opinion that the loading board was of later origin, or was used when someone was out hunting, or at the local target match. You can fire a bare ball out of a rifle with good-enough accuracy for combat, and it takes much too long fussing with ramming a patched round-ball. I wonder if our opinions about riflemen taking too long to reload in the 18th-century line of battle are based on fact, or just assuming they would insist on using patches in those conditions. If they were loading powder direct from the horn rather than, say, from a paper cartridge, it would still be too slow for that scenario.
I'm just philosophizing here. But I vote for no bullet boards before at least the 1820s if not later.
"Est Deus in Nobis"
I am by NO means an expert on history or an expert researcher. I would like to know how anyone can say with authority that something was not used or made. How many times have we made or used something to make ours lives easier? For the most part outside our immediate circle of friends or family, these thing will never be documented. Not trying to start an argument, just thinking out loud. Bud
Yeah, that's what always bugged me...how do they know its a reproduction meant to be from the 18th or 19th century? Not everything was made and sold at auctions were faked. So why bullet boards, etc.? Some folks use auctions for documentation, and I'm one of them, but some only choose to believe what they want. There's always been a big debate over bullet boards and with quill work, roaches and neck knife sheaths in the SE.
Lads - Well, this is one of "those subjects" that can raise the ire of your local preacher!! If you posted this over on Frontier Folk you can be assured it would start a firestorm of the first order...totally out of control!
Oddly enough, last weekend at Martins I was part of a three-man conversation on this with Mark Baker and Ted Belue. Our consensus was:
1. It is impossible to prove that something did not exist just because you have no substantive example.
2. The jump from the block in a cartridge box to a loading block is just not that far
3. Mark still maintains that the loading block he shared so long ago in that ML article is genuine - he has many reasons.
4. The practical value is clear.
5. The matter of shooting bare ball (no patch) in a hot fight is quite real, but so also is the scenario of the "sniper" who is picking off those dastardly Brit officers at 100 yards. Ample time to load with patch, especially with a loading block.
So, I figure there are good reasons to say that indeed such devices were known, may have been used, possibly even widely, and it is a question if the one single example claimed to be pre 1800 is genuine...though some maintain that it is.
In the end, it is up to you and your opinion on this...
Yes, I do use a loading block...but, also shoot bare ball in a hot fight... :-)
I do not use loading blocks so have no dog on this hunt. It very much bears stating, and this includes everything from loading blocks to the subject of HC/PC of guns, that ABSENCE OF PROOF IS NOT PROOF OF ABSENCE .
*Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.*
I don't really care how this issue turns out, it's just fun to talk about it. I have and use bullet boards, but only at rendezvous, when it's convenient and faster to use them when you're walking the trail-walk or shooting on the line. Maybe hunting, too.
Another point to consider even though of course the bullet board can be tucked into our bag, is that we rendezvous-goers have way too many things flopping from around our necks compared to long-hunters, for example. Who wants to run for your life with a bullet board, one or two powder horns, a bag, a neck-knife, and a string or three of large chevron beads hanging off our necks? The way Mark A. Baker and friends wear their bullet boards, short and tucked under the strap for the pouch, and with the horn and pouch straps shorter than most of us use, is indeed better, but simply represents their very sensible idea about improving on things. I still say that if speed is of the essence, bare-ball loading is what works the best and fastest. If speed isn't of the essence, then it doesn't matter whether you use a bullet board or not. I'm planning on using mine at a rendezvous on Memorial Weekend, but it's for convenience and I don't know whether or not I'm following Simon Kenton's footsteps! It's fun using our imaginations, but there doesn't seem to be conclusive proof one way or another on this one.
"Est Deus in Nobis"
Very well said, Dick! I doubt this subject will ever see the light some of us hope for. I agree, it is fun using our imaginations on things like this.
Col. Boone- You're right...the jump from a cartridge box to a loading block isn't all that far. A smaller, or modified version of a knife, spy-glass, cup or gun, has made things better.
For myself, I'll continue to use one... along with my non-forged NW trade gun.
Unfortunately for historical accuracy in the re-enacting community that is not how the game is played, use them if you wish but one cannot justify their use in the 18th century at least by the use of any period resources and that IS how the game is played. If one does not play the game then it really should not matter to that individual when it is pointed out that they are not supported by any evidence thus not considered proper for thse who are in the re-enactment hoby, I cannot understand why so many people argue about the standards a hoby is goverend by when they do not participate in the hoby. The complete lack of any mention of them in the numerous loading descriptions that survive is a strong clue, the simple Fact of the mater is that we do not have any solid surviving dated examples with provenace (usually three is considered a god number to be considerd valid) it is just the way that responsible folks who are truely interested in the historical aspect have set the bar and it is by the vast majority of the re-enactmnet community trhat lives by this standard, someday more information may come to light and the thoughts on this and other items will change with valid data, untill than folks can do whatever they like to justify stuff that they find handy or kewl. Untell then such items just are not correct for the re-enactor and this is based on the re-enactors own standards, only the outsiders find issue with that way the game is played.
TRG1 summed it up quite well.
Different hobby with different standards. I like both skinning and reenacting, but what I wear, carry and what I do at the respective events are not the same.
As to the bullet board that Mark wrote about, yes it is in a museum, part of a personal collection of objects that was donated to the museum, and has a very thin provenance. There is also evidence of modern manufacture and aging so it is not the rosetta stone that some think it is.
Is it the bullet board with 1757 carved in it?
I thought it was 67, but yes that is the one in question
that's the only one I've ever heard about which may possibly date from the time. But people do make fakes, and even in the period in question, people dated their possessions by their own standards. Maybe the board was made in 1820, but the maker's father was born in 1757, for example, or there's another reason for the date. A single item with a date carved in it is (or may be) "evidence", but it is not "proof." There has to be more than one citation or object to be "proof" of something.
The standards for re-enactors are indeed stricter than for rendezvous, as they should be.
"Est Deus in Nobis"
As many of you probably have, I've wondered about somebody possibly sitting around 100-200 years from now having similar discussions about Flintlocks we currently use that by then were found in an attic, barn, etc.
Have had the thought a couple times that it would be simple to laminate a small piece of paper with owner's/builder's names, addresses, dates typed on it...and put it under the butt plate
Flintlock Rifles & Smoothbores
Hunt Like The Settlers
Leaving crucial info safe with the gun; now that's an idea I never thought of and it sounds pretty good to me. I wish our forebears had done such. But outside carbon dating there's probably no way to tell for sure.
As I said before, I don't use ball boards; I just don't like them. They do get in the way and I'm a serious nonbeliever in anything to do with speed as far as flintlocks are concerned. Once I fire the piece, game is over and a new one starts. Flintlock hunting is a one shot deal as far as I'm concerned. For trail walks & other shoots there's plenty of time, and if there isn't, I'll just bow out.
As far as absence/proof goes, in 1594 there was no evidence in Europe that the Yellowstone cauldron existed. Well, the rest is history.
*Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.*
"If the court will allow," I'd like to offer my opinion, relating to Pare's first question about the use of loading blocks during the fur trade era. Let me admit, I have nothing to go on with this opinion other than our own human nature. So, let me "step into it" by suggesting that use of loading blocks was very much the same in those earlier days as it is today. What I mean is, a few shooters might have used them but most did not. This opinion is based on the fact that in those earlier days they certainly had the basics for using loading blocks. Those basics being; wood, drills, and perhaps the desire to carry round balls that were pre-patched for more rapid reloading. We can use loading blocks today to reply to those very same desires. Let me speak for myself because I do use loading blocks but only on very few occasions. I will use a loading block on a hunt where my pouch and horn stay in camp while I make a short trip into the wood. With me I'll carry a few pre-measured powder charges, a priming horn or a capper, a loading block plus a starter in my pocket and that's all I need. I do know shooters who use a loading block generally at all times, for all of their shooting. What I'm saying is that back in the fur trade era the trappers, hunters, scouts, and all shooters were just as much a group of individuals as we are today. If one of those shooters in our earlier days believed that a loading block had advantages, he'd carry and probably use the loading block. Even if that earlier shooter did use a loading block, there would still be times when dropping an unpatched ball down the bore was done, when greater speed was necessary. I don't think that use of loading blocks in those earlier days needs to be documented even though it actually is. Some of the early loading blocks have survived, such as those photographed in Grant's book The Kentucky Rifle Hunting Pouch. In Dillin's book The Kentucky Rifle only a couple of loading blocks are shown that those could actually be the same loading block shown twice, on different pages and that book is from 1922. Some folks might say those loading blocks shown are from a later era than the Western fur trade, or the rendezvous era but to me that doesn't mean anything. I say that because human nature hasn't changed and if a shooter wanted a loading block he would have had a loading block. There is no way we can suggest that loading blocks were used in 1850, just as an example, but not in 1849. The use of a loading block didn't begin on a specific day, like the invention of the light bulb. I'll suggest that loading blocks have been known or with us for a long time, almost as long as the use of the patched round ball. We have all heard the suggestion that some of the loading block shown with old pouches were actually made much later than the pouches they are shown with. That is a real possibility. It is also a real possibility and perhaps more probable that some of the old loading blocks were thrown away because they were broken or just soiled with lube even though the pouch and powder horns were kept. Again, this is just my opinion, loading blocks could have been used by some shooters or trappers during the rendezvous era but not as a general way of doing things. Shoot sharp, MikeThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Mike Nesbitt,
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