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General discussion => Black Powder Shooting => Topic started by: northmn on August 04, 2008, 03:15:37 PM

Title: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 04, 2008, 03:15:37 PM
I got into a little discussion concerning the making of smaller shot, and its characteristics.  As my memory could use improvement I started looking up early methods. 
1769 William Watts of England patented the shot tower.  He was a roofer that used lead for sealing leaks and noticed that drops got round the further they fell.  Primary use and reason for development was the manufacture of MUSKET ball.  By the war of 1812 almost all musket ball were tower dropped instead of cast.  Smaller shot like birdshot was also manufactured in this manner.
Previous methods were using a screen like in the tower over a barrel of water which lead to tear dropped shaped shot.  Tear drop shape is due to the way the lead (or water) reacts to surface tension.  This was the fastest way to produce small shot.  There was casting, but it was considered very tedious, even out of a gang mold.  Many preferred to use the tear dropped shot even though less round.
There were also mentioned some primitive methods for mountain men.  One mentioned cutting cubes and rounding the buckshot with his teeth.  Another used his frying pan to melt cubes and then with an ash combination rolled them round.  No mention of whether the gentlemen became kind of funny in later years. 
1807 An English immigrant named Jackson built a shot tower in the US.  Again primarily for military use in manufacture of round ball. 
1830's a shot tower built in St. Louis to meet fur trade demand.  Shot and roundball. 
Shot towers were also used to supply shot for trade to natives.
I was surprised by the amount of rifle and musket shot they could turn out and the fact that they were used for musket ball.  May explain why many ball were also undersized.  The barrel method was also used but there were claims of problems with the tear dropped shape ball, hence a lot of casting. 
Note the US did not have a shot tower until 1807.  Likely the barrel method or other methods I had read of being used for volume was used up to this time.
FYI.  I thought it was interesting.

DP 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: James Rogers on August 04, 2008, 03:35:11 PM
I copied this from my post on the .54 smoothbore accuracy thread.

Even Rupert's (1619-1682) detailing of the shot making process of drip shot contains details of keeping the shot round and avoiding tails. "so long as you observe the right temper of the heat,  the lead will constantly drop in to very round shot, without so much as one with a tail in many pounds."

I have seen more historical references on the efforts to get shot round but none on the acceptable or preferred use of tailed shot.

There are references to molded shot in gang molds, cutting cubes then tumbling, etc. 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 04, 2008, 04:19:32 PM
Looked up Rupert's method.  He added arsenic trisulfate to the lead to get it round. Today they add arsenic, tin and antimony.  They sell his copper plates with holes now for that method.  I never meant to imply that tear dropped shaped shot was preferred, it was at best tolerated if volume was needed.  The references to it are for home made stuff not anything nearing commercial. Getting round shot was why the towers were made.
My biggest thing is that shotgun shooting. especially in the earlier days could be a high volume exercise.  There were market hunters back then that needed that volume. They may have had time to cast the bigger sizes of shot but no way the smaller.  Smaller birds like ducks require smaller shot.  We are talking about pounds of usage.  Most of the alternate ways were good for creating a couple of loads but not any volume. 
May have to try making some now.

DP
 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: James Rogers on August 04, 2008, 05:03:15 PM
DP,

Can you point me to some of those home made references to tailed shot? I am trying to get as much info. as I can.

What time frame are you referring to when you are talking about early market hunters using shot? I assume in America?

Thanks,
 James 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Daryl on August 04, 2008, 05:07:38 PM
The book on American Rifles I have states the military was using swaged ball for the muskets by about 1840 as they were more consistant. Also, they increased the size from .64 to .65. The .64 were listed as 'cast' shot. The swaged variety was noted as not having sprues.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 04, 2008, 06:59:12 PM
The one source, I cannot remember whether it was out of Muzzle Blasts or Muzzle Loader back when.  One of the reasons I started searching was that I was not that sure that that particular source was all that reliable.  Sounds like he heard about Rupert's method and maybe tried it without the Arsenic addition.  As to the time frames.  I am talking about what may have been used in early fowlers from the beginning.  Fowlers date back to before 1700 even in this country.  I am in essence doing the research also and picked up my sources off the web by looking up shot making history.   The shot tower history came from I think the American Trap Association.  There were different dates for William Watts, ranging from 1769 to 1782 for instance.  As to the homemade methods, the barrel method was referred to in the history of shot towers.  As I say Capt. I am doing the same research you want to do to see if I can separate the B.S. from the fact.   For instance in casting shot.  It may not be as bad as one thinks as a pound of swan shot would give about 12-16 shots out of a fowler, which may be within reason for the times.
 In the history, they mentioned various towers supplying musket shot up to the Civil War.  Watts saw the military market when he got into the manufacturing of shot as did Jackson.  The tower dropped shot would not have had sprues.  What was the term swaged in 1840 as compared to today? 

DP
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 04, 2008, 07:20:57 PM
I copied this from my post on the .54 smoothbore accuracy thread.

Even Rupert's (1619-1682) detailing of the shot making process of drip shot contains details of keeping the shot round and avoiding tails. "so long as you observe the right temper of the heat,  the lead will constantly drop in to very round shot, without so much as one with a tail in many pounds."

I have seen more historical references on the efforts to get shot round but none on the acceptable or preferred use of tailed shot.

There are references to molded shot in gang molds, cutting cubes then tumbling, etc. 

While tailless recovered examples of Rupert are not  "round" and according to Hamilton are easily identifiable by shape. Hamilton, pg 132 "Colonial Frontier Guns" describes it thusly: "The result was shot, not perfectly round, but ovoid, almost heart shaped, in cross section, with a a small dimple on the more flattened side". Rupert shot became the standard since it patterned better than cut and tumbled shot which was pretty odd shaped. The shot tower made better shot so Rupert shot fell from use in the years after 1769. But we must recall that until the patent expired that only the patent holders had a monopoly on bird shot in England . This is from George in "English Guns & Rifles". George also describes "shot mills" for making shot from sheet lead and casting with gang moulds but does not mention Rupert shot.
Rupert shot was named after Prince Rupert who apparently developed the process.
George writes the following descriptions of large cast shot: "..."large buck shot" of five to the ounce; "small buckshot" of seven to the ounce; "musket grape shot" of nine to the ounce; "swan drops" of fifteen to the ounce; "goose drops" of 24 to the ounce; and "duck shot" of thirty-four to the ounce. The last three (as their names implied) were used chiefly in water fowling, whilst the buckshot and "grape" served as loading for muskets and boat guns." The shot sizes are based on Ezekial Bakers descriptions.

According to Beartooth Bullets round ball weight calculator the large buckshot was about 38 caliber (bigger than 000 buck of today), small buck was about 34 caliber, musket grape would be about like 0 buck of today, swan "drops" would be about 27 caliber, goose about 23 caliber. The smallest "duck shot" would have been .2" in diameter. The weights based on pure lead. Since these were described as cast shot I would assume they were pure lead.

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: James Rogers on August 04, 2008, 07:46:55 PM
Dan,
I agree with what you have there. I have George's book and it's pretty good. I think his sizes of shot were from the late 18th or early 19th century. I came up with sizes pretty close to those you posted using hillbilly math.

I agree Rupert style is not true "round" but I used that term to distinguish between what has surfaced in "reenactorville"  as "swan shot"  having an elongated tail. There are now even molds being sold to cast these things.

Rupert used the term "round" as well. ;)
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 04, 2008, 07:59:33 PM
 I have found 1769, 1775, 1782 and 1783 so far as alternative dates for the Watts shot tower patent. However, Google has online "The Repertory of Arts and Manufactures..." Vol. III, 1795 and it gives a date of December 10, 1782 on pg 313. It also gives the description of the process.
From this we can assume that George (and by extension Hamilton) and some others have the wrong date.

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 04, 2008, 08:21:03 PM
Dan,
I agree with what you have there. I have George's book and it's pretty good. I think his sizes of shot were from the late 18th or early 19th century. I came up with sizes pretty close to those you posted using hillbilly math.

I agree Rupert style is not true "round" but I used that term to distinguish between what has surfaced in "reenactorville"  as "swan shot"  having an elongated tail. There are now even molds being sold to cast these things.

Rupert used the term "round" as well. ;)

I understand completely. I was simply attempting to assure everyone understood that most "small shot" of even the late 18th century was neither perfectly round or tailed.
I find the modern casting of large shot with tails particularly "interesting" since all the large shot was apparently cast as round shot even after the advent of the shot tower since it takes a very tall tower to make large drop shot, 200 ft plus apparently.
I suppose in desperation that large shot could be made by dripping lead into water but I suspect it would still not have tails on it. ???
.
Ezekiel Baker was of Baker Rifle fame and  thus is late 18th early 19th century so if the large shot sizes are from his writings we can *probably* consider them as representative of English buck, swan, etc. shot in the late 18th at least.
This has been another of those interesting discussions. At least I have some idea as to the size of "swan shot" now.
"Reenactorville" I like that...

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: T*O*F on August 04, 2008, 08:52:23 PM
Quote
I find the modern casting of large shot with tails particularly "interesting" since all the large shot was apparently cast as round shot even after the advent of the shot tower since it takes a very tall tower to make large drop shot, 200 ft plus apparently.

Many years ago, I found a reference that listed the sizes of shot that were dropped at the St. Louis shot tower.  The largest was .53 caliber.  It was postulated that since St. Louis was the jumping off place to outfit for the fur trade, that this was the reason why the Hawkens and others made many of their rifles in .52 or .53 cailiber.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 04, 2008, 10:11:48 PM
Quote
I find the modern casting of large shot with tails particularly "interesting" since all the large shot was apparently cast as round shot even after the advent of the shot tower since it takes a very tall tower to make large drop shot, 200 ft plus apparently.

Many years ago, I found a reference that listed the sizes of shot that were dropped at the St. Louis shot tower.  The largest was .53 caliber.  It was postulated that since St. Louis was the jumping off place to outfit for the fur trade, that this was the reason why the Hawkens and others made many of their rifles in .52 or .53 cailiber.


How large the dropped shot was is interesting.
From what I can learn the Dubuque IA tower was not tall enough to make really large shot, 122 ft.
I cannot find a height for the St Louis tower. If it would make 53 caliber balls by dropping is hard to say.
I suppose that in cold weather they could have made larger shot than in hot summer months??
The 1/2 ounce trade ball, about 53 caliber, as a standard trade before the St Louis tower was built if the 1830 date I found is correct. This ball was the proper size for use in the common 58 caliber trade gun.
Dan

Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Daryl on August 04, 2008, 11:32:23 PM
.53's were the proper size for the 1803 rifles as well.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: George Sutton on August 05, 2008, 12:45:37 AM
Tailed shot or swan shot can be easily made by pouring molten lead through a screen with a bucket of water underneath it.  Shot size depends on screen size.

CAUTION; Lead may be poured into water through a screen.

Under no circumstances should water ever be poured ito lead. This creates a horrific reaction. A small amount of water dropped into molten lead will empty the pot in a milli-second spraying it everywhere.

Centershot
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: J.D. on August 05, 2008, 01:47:33 AM
I have made "tailed" shot, I hesitate to call it "swan shot," by dripping lead through a sieve suspended about 6 inches off the water. Roughly half of it was usable. More usable "tailed" shot was made by suspending the sieve higher off of the water, but only a small percentage of more usable shot was produced.

"Tailed" shot is devastating on small game, but patterns are somewhat spotty.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: tg on August 05, 2008, 04:07:01 AM
"Tailed shot or swan shot can be easily made by pouring molten lead through a screen with a bucket of water underneath it."

You can make tailed shot of various sizes this way but not Swan shot, it is.was a round cast shot. ther has been several references on this thread about ths fact.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 05, 2008, 05:11:29 PM
TG I have seen references to swan shot as being the size of shot, no matter how it was made just like buckshot, and references to it being made in tear drop form as other shot was made.  Molded shot was one way to make it.  Molds were not real practical for making shot as was pointed out in the research I have done so far due to the technology of the time.  First of all to do so with any reasonable production levels requires gang molds.  Gang molds can be made today with our technology to work fairly well, however the primary problems with the gang molds of the day was that of alignment.  Several pellets would come out with "rings" where the molds did not come together or with off center variations.  There was also the issue of sprue removal. A mold was mentioned that would cast 100 pellets, it still may exist because it really wasn't all that practical due to the limitations stated.   Sometimes some one will make a find and assume that that find is how it was universally done. These people if considered knowledgeable will write an article and get taken for literal truth.  Baird wrote a book called the Hawken Rifle the Mountains Man's Choice, that was later proven to be full of half truths. Some even take Toby Bridges seriously. Finding shot molds proves that some shot was made in molds by some people, nothing more.  There is a lot of evidence that shows that shot used for all varieties of critters was made by various methods and that swan shot is nothing more than what we now call the smaller sized buckshot.  I would imagine when swans became protected it became somewhat out of vogue to use the term "swan shot".
The size of the shot Dpharsis also supports the findings of local trade guns being loaded with shot.  Even duck shot at .20 caliber would kill a deer at close range and would not require a head shot.  Swan shot at 23 caliber definitely would take out a deer.  BB shot is now 50 to an ounce and .17 caliber and is considered, and is a very effective goose load.  One thing I also expect is that muzzle velocities of the time were low enough such that the larger sizes worked better as well as the effort to make them was such that making smaller sizes also limited in practicality.

DP   
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: James Rogers on August 05, 2008, 05:39:22 PM
TG I have seen references to swan shot being made in tear drop form

DP,

Can you please post those reference sources? That would clear up a lot of the muddy water.

Thanks,
James
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 05, 2008, 06:58:22 PM
"Tailed shot or swan shot can be easily made by pouring molten lead through a screen with a bucket of water underneath it."

You can make tailed shot of various sizes this way but not Swan shot, it is.was a round cast shot. ther has been several references on this thread about ths fact.

In making such shot the alloy is important, arsenic (poisoned lead) was used. Getting the alloy correct and the temperature right apparently makes "Rupert shot" with a short drop. Done incorrectly produces tailed shot (??). But my reading on this is limited.
Would be interesting to see if alloying the lead with tin and/or antimony would effect the shot shape.
This is an excerpt from Watts' patent on shot towers. How germane it is to tailed shot and how "round" the stuff was I could not say but this was a test of the metal before dropping it in the tower.

(http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i199/DPhariss/ML%20Guns/Wattspatentexcerpt.jpg)

This from
 http://books.google.com/books?id=tvM0AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA313-IA4&lpg=PA313-IA4&dq=William+Watts+patent&source=web&ots=nxP0NFboZU&sig=UncfUxHZcw5otpUflL6wEAAGsqk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA315,M1

Obviously someone making shot at home is unlikely to have "poisoned lead" to alloy his metal with since the description of making it requires a lot of time and heat. But this is interesting just the same.

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 05, 2008, 07:13:53 PM
A quote from Rupert from the Ships Store concerning the shot maker.  "Long as you observe the right temper of the heat the lead will constantly drop into very round shot without tail.  There is Auripigmentum enough put in and temper of the heat is right."  Auripigmentum as mentioned is Arsenic Trisulfate. Likely quite piousness, hence poison lead.
Bob Hinton in his book the Golden Age of Shotgunning made reference to the original swan shot being cut form sheet lead into cubes 200-300 per pound.  Mentioned that it later became known a Hayel shot.  While at one time that may have been a way to make it, Hayel shot is now sold in small sizes as a scatter shot for close range work.  Somewhere some connections got lost.  Hinton also mentioned the Germans would make cubes and roll them between two flat rocks to round them.  That is similar to how steel shot is made today.  The English seemed to be big on molding.   My research time is limited by other needs so I appreciate the other researched comments. 
Again if one looks at quantities needed, a large quantity needed quickly seemed to require pouring through a screen.  Rupert's mention of shot without tails seems to refer to others doing so and getting the tear drop stuff.  How many shots were needed in the days of flintlock fowlers?  It may be that the slower methods that yielded only a few shots were adequate.   Wing shooting was for the wealthy.  A normal use of the fowler was likely pot shooting. 

DP
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: James Rogers on August 05, 2008, 08:37:17 PM
I guess I will make a summary of my findings to date.

Swan shot is not the shape but the size of shot. I believe it can have a small variance in size according to who and when in history.

The tailed stuff people call "swan shot" today is actually termed Rupert or drip shot.  The tails occur from a poor operation of the Rupert process and seem to be considered undesirable by historic standards according to documentation and of course by modern standards of performance. A dimple that makes each shot more round is more preferred than a tail in this process.

True swan shot from a historical standpoint seems to be listed with other shot we know were cast molded.  It could also be made by the Rupert process or by cutting into sheets and cubes and places in large production tumblers for rounding.

For the average to poor man in the colonies desiring to shoot shot from his smoothe gun, it would appear to me he would have had access to buy the shot pre-made or cut from pounded lead rather than use the Rupert process.

I have yet to see any primary documentation of swan shot being made by the Rupert process in America in the 18th century.

Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: tg on August 06, 2008, 02:42:32 AM
I can but the fact that swan shot or small buck shot could be made by the drop method, but antyhing with a tail  should be called something else as it appears that round was achieved if done correctly, and as for dropped shot the size of Sawn or buckshot how high of a tower would be needed to get a shot that size to form properly? how large of shot was made with the Rupert method? judging from archeological digs I would have to say that Swan or the various buckshot sizes would have been round regardless of the manufacturing process, the different sized shot for the game it was matched to is most likley something those with the means for sport hunting would have purchased the average frontiersman would likely have  used whatever size of shot he could produce be it Rupert, or dropped in any of the primitive methods he could muster to cover a wide range of quarry, few if any of these folks would likley have even seen or known the size of the various bird shot. There were barrels full of different shot shiped here as early as 1700 by the French and likley the English did the same in their sphere of influence. I still contend that the term Swan shot should be reserved for a round shot of the size within the acceptable size range, anything else in that size range with shape oddities would be better called homemade shot,  or something other than Swan shot, the tear drop shape has become a modern way of making shot and calling it Swan shot because the tail looks like a Swans neck, it is just something that can lead a newcommer down a slippery path if left to grow and gain momentum, I have not seen anyone making medium sized buckshot with a tail, or something equal to BB shot with a tail, this tadpole Swan shot thing has gotten out of hand as I see it, this is a matter of trying hard o get a product that was originaly achieved as a result of improper manufacturing process. in the past most folks may well have thrown the tadpoles back in the melting pot and saved the round ones whether dropped from a tower or mad thru a Rupert screen.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 06, 2008, 07:21:34 AM
I can but the fact that swan shot or small buck shot could be made by the drop method, but antyhing with a tail  should be called something else as it appears that round was achieved if done correctly, and as for dropped shot the size of Sawn or buckshot how high of a tower would be needed to get a shot that size to form properly? how large of shot was made with the Rupert method? judging from archeological digs I would have to say that Swan or the various buckshot sizes would have been round regardless of the manufacturing process, the different sized shot for the game it was matched to is most likley something those with the means for sport hunting would have purchased the average frontiersman would likely have  used whatever size of shot he could produce be it Rupert, or dropped in any of the primitive methods he could muster to cover a wide range of quarry, few if any of these folks would likley have even seen or known the size of the various bird shot. There were barrels full of different shot shiped here as early as 1700 by the French and likley the English did the same in their sphere of influence. I still contend that the term Swan shot should be reserved for a round shot of the size within the acceptable size range, anything else in that size range with shape oddities would be better called homemade shot,  or something other than Swan shot, the tear drop shape has become a modern way of making shot and calling it Swan shot because the tail looks like a Swans neck, it is just something that can lead a newcommer down a slippery path if left to grow and gain momentum, I have not seen anyone making medium sized buckshot with a tail, or something equal to BB shot with a tail, this tadpole Swan shot thing has gotten out of hand as I see it, this is a matter of trying hard o get a product that was originaly achieved as a result of improper manufacturing process. in the past most folks may well have thrown the tadpoles back in the melting pot and saved the round ones whether dropped from a tower or mad thru a Rupert screen.

It is stated that large shot requires a 150 ft tower at least. Some were 200 some even higher and thus could produce larger shot. The problem is getting the larger shot cooled sufficiently to not deform when striking the water. How large would a 150 ft tower make. Unknown. 
In some reading it is stated that the Dubuque, IA tower was meant to drop musket balls but I find this unlikely since its under 150 ft. But this tower saw very little use since the St. Louis shot maker set about forcing them out of business as soon as they started.
I see making ones own small shot as an exercise in futility, done only when absolutely necessary. No way to control pellet size without a screen/colander and if you are too poor to buy shot how can you afford a screen/colander? Assuming you knew where to get one that would make the right sized shot. Would be easier to cast shot the size of "swan", in the .2-.25"  range. Could do a couple hundred in a night and this would give 10 shots or more with most loadings.

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 06, 2008, 05:07:15 PM
I do know where you have read about the issue of larger ball not being produced at the height of the shot towers but Watts claimed 10 feet was all that was needed for small shot and 150 feet for musket ball.  It was Thomas Sparks who built the shot tower in Virginia at 150 foot drop and supplied the military with musket ball.  The Baltimore Tower had a 235 foot drop and started in 1828.  The histories all claim that the towers supplied pistol and rifle ball and some cast cannon ball.  There must have been a good market for premade shot as several towers were erected.  In some ways it kind of makes sense as a purchase of a pound of lead will not yield one pound of ball as there will always be a a loss in dross and sprues.  Also it is ready to shoot.
The importation of shot ended with Jefferson's trade embargo in 1807.  With the development of Watts tower in 1782, the manufacture of shot went from labor intensive to practical.  Molds were not like what we have today, and were far more labor intensive to use.  Some were wood.  The Rupert screen is not all that difficult to make, it is a 3" copper or brass cup with holes punched in for pouring shot.
Homemade shot was just that and would be a PITA if one had to make it.   J.D. commented on making it and using it.  Tails and all.  That was the most common reference I had heard of making shot in the colonial times.  Others have reported that it is deadlier than we think on game.  "Patterns can be spotty"  I doubt if we would argue over that.  There is something catchy about that term swan shot.  I have heard other descriptions alluded to including one that the drop shot looked like a swan's neck.  Swan shot was nothing more than shot of a large enough size to shoot and harvest swans.  They were a popular game bird until protected, although some reference claimed they could be about as tender as boiled owl.

DP
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 06, 2008, 05:27:26 PM
I never found a specification for how large "large shot" was but looking at Watts' tower it was not all that high. Since everything was "shot" large shot could mean anything from Swans shot to musket balls.
There is conflicting information apparently. Since I find statements that shorter towers using forced air could be shorter and that shot towers were abandoned for swages in modern times etc etc. I suspect that someplace in Winchester's/Remington/UMC etc. archives, those that survive, about what shot was made how.
This is the value of having more than one person searching.
The fact that many towers exceeded 200 ft. lead me to believe that it took more than 150 ft to drop really large stuff.
How long it would take a 1 ounce ball to cool in an air stream was my concern. I suspect that fall time would be 3-4 seconds in a 150 ft tower. But the ball would be falling pretty fast by 60 ft and thus would have pretty high airflow so cooling would be much greater than in still air.

Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 07, 2008, 05:53:09 PM
The Sparks shot towere built in 1808 that gave a 150 foot drop was said to have supplied ball for the war of 1812.  Bishop a co owner had to sell out his interests because he was a Quaker and did not believe in manufacturing war goods. 
What fascinates me the most about these towers is not the fact that they made shot shell shot but the amount of production in general.  One tower sold over 400,000 25 pound bags of shot to the US Government a year.  Each could put out at least 2 ton a day.  The market was much larger than I had thought.
My original ideas about colonial shooting was that they bought a rifle, a mold was made with the rifle, and they casted what was needed.  Looking at the figures for output on the shot towers and the fact that the British and French were exporting shot and ball to the country before this time I am speculating that shooters liked to purchase as close to a "box of ammo" as they could.   There is more than one thing leading to this speculation.  I am sure a fair amount of shot and ball was exported for the fur trade to the Indians.  It makes a great deal of sense to me that they would buy ready made shot and ball.  The NW Trade Gun remained basically a 24 gauge for at least 70 years.  While there are many explanations for this, a uniformity of ammunition availability could play in.
We have all seen these small bag molds that no modern caster really wants to use and carries more for decor, because they are a real PITA to use produce any amount of ball.  They make a lot of sense if carried as a supplement to the supply.  It was stated that they would resuse ball dug out of game.  For casting a very few ball by a campfire, they make sense.  Looking at original rifles, one does notice a commonality in caliber selections.   Be fun to have the KRA look into this. 
Ball molds of the time were not nearly as convenient as we have today.  There were claims of some being made out of wood even.  I doubt if the machining tolerances, especially in the Revolutionary times could produce molds within .001 round as done today. 
As stated a desire to purchase ready to shoot ammunition may have been a very central factor.  It was stated that the Sparks tower was built because Sparks and Bishop got tired of paying high prices for hunting shot and built the tower.  Jefferson's embargo also played in.  Most people today and back to the start of the cartridge era bought loaded ammo.  Handloaders were of course people like the buffalo hunters, but typical rifle and pistol owners bought loaded ammo.
Almost all reference to guns was by gauge.  Did they sell ball by count to get a pound?  IE 24 ball to equal a pound for the tradegun?  At the reenactment Fort William in Thunder Bay, they had a bin of musket balls on display as an example of sale items.
A lot of shooters likely did cast their own, and there are references to the homemade shot for shotguns, but there must have been a very large market for ready to load ball and shot.  French and British imports would have been very costly, and it seems the shot towers made ball and shot more affordable. 

DP
The air draft systems were invented in 1849 as a means to eliminate the need for higher towers, but I think it was  to try to make them under the 150 feet.  Another interesting aside is that some used other means for gaining heights like mine shafts. 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 11, 2008, 08:29:43 PM
Popular Science Magazine has a 1 pager on a guy trying to make drop shot.
Sept 08 page 77
Might be on their web site at popsci.com. But it keeps freezing up my browser.
It would appear that dropping pure lead does not work. At least from as high as 40ft.
Dan
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 12, 2008, 12:35:05 AM
I looked on the website and found a lot of interesting articles but not that one.  Likely he did not use "poisened" shot like Rupert and Watts recommended. 
I am still interested in shot manufacture before the towers.  I suspect the towers enabled a practical manufacture of smaller shot.  If duck shot was 20 caliber then I would think casting shot would have been one way of manufacture.  All indications are that shot was quite expensive before the towers.  Still, 20 caliber would take a lot of casting as one load could be as much as 35 -50 pellets.

DP 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Daryl on August 12, 2008, 02:23:57 AM
DP- BB size, in lead, works well on geese, but only to between 50 and 55 yards due to loss of pattern density - using 2 ounce loads and from a gun that will patern them about 85%(40 yards), ie; extremely tight full choke patterns.  Even though the percentage was high, the few nunger of pellets let the load fall down on pellet density past 55yds.  #2 lead however patterned 94% and worked well to about 85/90 yards.
; BB's used on geese past 55 yards resulted in a few feathers and fly-offs, or gentle glide-downs that landed up to 1/2 mile away. They just weren't good. Inside 55yards, they'd fold geese, but then, #2's did that to 85/90yards. You would not believe how far you have to lead a goose on a pass shoot at 90 yards.   
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 12, 2008, 03:11:50 PM
Daryl, they have had the same sort of problem with F steel.  There just are not enough pellets.  Wing shooting is a game of probability in that you need so many pellets to hit a bird with the hopes that one or two hit the vitals.  The Olin study stated a five pellet hit average for mallards.  Jack O'Connor claimed 3 in the body but also liked to see a wing broken.  I quit using 7 1/2 on grouse and went to 7's and 6's because I saw a lot of feathers fly on straight aways and no grouse.  I personally think that early fowling was more decoying or getting close to swimming birds and then pot shooting them.  I am positive that the Natives did that.  For that, finer shot works best, but if all they had was heavier shot, then they still may get more than one per shot.  Wing shooting was popular with the wealthy in Europe and thus would have had adherents in the US.  Market hunting is a matter of getting the most for the least and became popular as citys popped up.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Daryl on August 12, 2008, 05:12:26 PM
I agree, David - multiple hits are necessary to increase the odds of a couple fatal pellets.  A big flurry of feathers usually means a butt-hit bird, and it's a long way forward through the guts ot find a vital spot, hense heavier shot needed.  I've used 7 1/2's very effectively on decoyed ducks, mallards, teal and gadwall, but always used 4's or 5's for pass shooting, and 6's for 'ruffled' grouse on the wing.   
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 14, 2008, 02:34:13 AM
Still pursuing the history angle, I picked up comments that the flintlock development in the 1600's made wingshooting practical for even some of the "common' men in England.  One historian claimed that shot was said to be made by shaving off lead and rounding it between steel plates. This form of  "hobbing" keeps coming up as a method.  It would take a lot of shaving for a normal days shooting.  Shot sizes must have been larger.  There are 135 4's to an ounce and 90 2's, such that making shot even this fine would take some time.   The shot towers were given credit for making the sport more practical and affordable. 

DP
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: TPH on August 14, 2008, 05:59:37 PM
There is still one left, maybe it is time for a trip? Shot Tower Historical State Park here in Virginia:

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/shottowr.shtml

150 feet from the sieve to the kettle at the bottom of the shaft.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 14, 2008, 07:27:42 PM
TP, Virginia would be a great visit.  Right after the first one, shot towers seemed to grow up all over the country close to lead deposits. Part of the reason was due to patents running out.  Most were about 150 drop as in Virginias.  They all made shot of varying sizes including rifle ball and musket ball. 

DP 
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: TPH on August 14, 2008, 10:16:00 PM
northmn, it is a great place, not just to visit but to live, come on down.  ;D  The lead mines in Wythe (pronounced "with") County were used from before the Revolution until well after the Civil War so lead was very handy to this shot tower and were the reason for its location there.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: TPH on August 14, 2008, 10:59:58 PM
Sorry to wonder slightly off topic, but here is more information on the history of the lead mines with mention of the shot tower:

http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/cwc/inter-aspects/geol(mines).htm
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Robert Wolfe on August 15, 2008, 12:12:36 AM
TPH - very interesting, thanks. I've been to the shot tower several times but never knew about the nearby lead mines.
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: northmn on August 15, 2008, 01:37:31 AM
I posted a question on the Antique board concerning shotguns, as I feel they may have evolved with the availability of finer shot.  Be interesting to see if there is a correlation.  I should have visited the East more on vacations.  I took a trip out to the Black Hills before all the towns went to casinos.  Trouble with visiting the west is that there is a lot of space in between historical sites.  Northern Minnesota is not a bad place to visit either.  A lot of people do every summer.
I am getting a lot of second hand info about early shot making, escept for the Rupert method where one finds writings.  Like to find more original sources.

DP
Title: Re: Shot Making
Post by: Dphariss on August 15, 2008, 05:34:38 AM
northmn, it is a great place, not just to visit but to live, come on down.  ;D  The lead mines in Wythe (pronounced "with") County were used from before the Revolution until well after the Civil War so lead was very handy to this shot tower and were the reason for its location there.
The lead mines at Galena, Ill were the reason the ill fated Dubuque, IA tower was built I am sure.
Dan