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Thread: Round Ball-Age?

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  1. #1
    us
    Apr 2013
    Maryland
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    Round Ball-Age?

    Ok, how do you age a round ball? There's been round balls around forever, so how do you know from what time period a particular round ball came from?
    It was 9 degrees out today with out a wind chill but, I was bored so I went on about an hour hunt where we found all our big coppers and flat buttons.
    The area we'd been looking wasn't freezing due to a good layer of leaves, today most that same ground was rock solid.
    I did manage to dig a single small round ball. Any thoughts on how old this round ball could be?
    It's a 44 cal. and weighs 8.7 grams.

    The dime in pic is only for size reference.
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    david680 likes this.

  2. #2

    Jan 2015
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    Others will know a lot more than i do but here goes. Caliber helps, different calibers for different time frames. Does it have rifling marks? Does it look "crude" I've got a couple from England that I've been told are "Tudor" era, they're crude indeed! How much white oxidation does it have on it, maybe compare the oxidation (dangerous stuff by the way) to levels found on lead objects of known age.
    deershed likes this.

  3. #3
    us
    Dec 2012
    lower hudson valley, N.Y.
    safari, ATPro, infinium, old Garrett BFO, Excal, Nox 800
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    Plainly put, there is NO accurate way to date a round ball. As you say they have been around for a long time, and are still used today. Your .44 could have been intended for a pistol or a rifle, no way to tell. Besides the more common calibers used in this country there were may foreign firearms brought over here by immigrants and these used a plethora of different size balls. Shotguns or "fowling pieces" also were used with balls, and a .69 caliber ball fits a 14 guage shotgun perfectly, so not all .69s were from muskets or rifles. (Yes, there were 14 ga shotguns, I own one) The amount of white lead oxide cannot be used as a dating criteria either since it will grow faster or slower depending on soil conditions. A ball 250 years old can easily display the same oxidation as an 80 year old ball. The lead oxide actually seals the lead, and after a while it no longer grows, but this is still contingent on soil conditions. There were many more balls fired in hunting and target practice than in all the wars in this country put together, and all battle sites were hunted on before and after the battles, so even finding one on a known battle site doesn't provide a proof positive date all the time. Muzzle loading firearms were used well up to the late 1800s and into the early 1900s in more rural areas, they were much cheaper to shoot than cartridge guns. Lots of folks seem to find finding old bullets exciting, but there are so many around I just toss them in the lead pot to make sinkers for fishing.
    deershed and Old Dude like this.
    Ya won't find nuthin' if ya don't hunt

  4. #4
    us
    When the going gets wierd, the wierd turn pro...I am a wealth of mostly trivial information.....

    Jan 2011
    Formerly New Orleans.. Now Pueblo Co
    Garrett Ace 350 and Propointer
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    There are a couple ways to get an idea of the age of a round ball, but an accurate date is near impossible in most cases....

    Assuming it's not buck-shot, if there are traces of rifling on the ball that will that will place it later than a ball fired from a smoothbore in most cases, it's far from definitive though, since smoothbores didn't just go away once rifled barrels became common. Also look for differences between antique and modern rifling...

    The history of the site helps too, it can't date before the place was first visited by people with guns, and since muzzle loaders fell out of favor after cartridge loads came out it probably won't date much after the 1860's. (of course it always could, but ask yourself if it's a place where modern muzzle loader shooters might have been....)

    Other datable relics found close to it can also give you some idea of the time frame for usage of the site, but aren't really reliable

    The only sure way to date a ball that I know of is basically for battlefield finds, where you know the date of the battle, and it's a military caliber, you can safely assume it's from that date.
    Last edited by NOLA_Ken; Feb 17, 2015 at 01:32 AM.
    deershed likes this.
    "That's me, on the beach side combing the sand, metal meter in my hand, sporting a pocket full of change"...... NOFX

    I collect military relics, mainly German and American, but interested in others as well, pre 1945 .. Always interested in adding to my collection

    some of my antique photo collection : http://forgottonimages.tumblr.com/



  5. #5
    us
    Apr 2013
    Maryland
    AT Pro, Whites Coin Master Pro, Bounty Hunter Lonestar, Minelab CTX
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    Thank You gunsil

    I didn't think there was anyway to know...
    gunsil likes this.

 

 

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