Page 1 of 1

15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:09 am
by Foxe
This isn't really my period, so I hope someone here can answer what is probably a fairly simple pair of questions:

Was lead used for small-arms ammunition in the 15th century?

If so, what was the usual method(s) of manufacturing lead shot?

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:50 pm
by Dave B
Well from memory, the first part is definitely yes, because the word 'plomee' or various corruptions of it turn up in account books from pretty much the earliest days of firearms, 1350's or so. Plomee seems to mean lead ball.

They weren't making them with shot towers, because thats about 1780, so I'd guess casting or the water barrel method and hand finishing, I'll have a look for you when I get time.

I do remember that some of the larger lead shot was cast with a stone in the middle - either to save cost or to deliberately reduce the shot density.

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:13 pm
by Foxe
Thanks Dave, that's part one answered.

I'm really looking for info on the manufacture of small-shot, specifically round lead shot of about 13mm diameter.

A friend of a friend is excavating a 15th century shipwreck and has found some lead spheres which they reckon are shot and would like more info. I reckon they're later fishing weights lost by wreck anglers, but I haven't seen a picture yet.

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:21 pm
by Dave B
You may want to try comparison with other finds already dated to the medieval period - the ones I can see at a quick glance look like they are cast in a 2 part mould.

http://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/objecttype/Shot/broadperiod/MEDIEVAL/

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:22 pm
by Chris T
From my fishing memories you need a lot larger lump of lead for wreck fishing than that!
The small, spherical fishing weights have a hole, which is a bit of a givaway.

I am not an expert in C15th firearms, but lead shot makes sense: it was obviously the norm in later periods, as it combines a number of virtues.

The material was available, both in terms of initial supply ( being widely produced as a by-product of silver production, as well as mined in its own right), and also for recycling (window lead and water tanks /pipes etc).

The low melting point makes casting easy, and mould making less critical: plaster, stone, cuttlefish and unfired clay all make reasonable moulds for lead.

The softness of the material make it more forgiving in use, both as it reduces barrel wear, gas pressure and the chance of jamming in the barrel, wheras its density gives it better balistic properties than lighter materials.

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:09 pm
by Foxe
Chris T wrote:From my fishing memories you need a lot larger lump of lead for wreck fishing than that!
The small, spherical fishing weights have a hole, which is a bit of a givaway.


I'm told that one of the examples found "shows signs of having been attached with wire to something".

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:34 pm
by Dave B
My further research suggests that lead ball were very common, were used on ships, and the size is right - the common range is half inch to inch. They would be cast, as brass moulds and iron ladles are found inventoried with handguns in the medieval period, and because the water butt method has not yet been devised.

But if they had a wire though then they do sound more like sinkers / weights I suppose.

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:02 pm
by Langley
I also recall from my youth that you could get fishing weights which were just round shot split half way through which you then crimped onto the line. If you find they have such splits that would suggest fishing weights as well as finding wire mouded in.

Re: 15th century small shot manufacture

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:50 pm
by Chris T
It is true that split shot is used in freshwater fishing, but it is very small, and much too light for wreck fishing.

I have a lead shot of (from memory c3cm) which has the remains of some form of iron loop in a groove around it, recovered from a possible ECW skirmish site: I believe this to be some form of chain shot.

The 'exotic' shots seem to have developed early...partly because in the early days they were not really sure what they should be putting down the barrel: the first known illustration in an English source of a cannon is actually shooting an arrow.