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 Double headed shot - "hot shot" 
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Post Double headed shot - "hot shot"
I recently watched an episode of "Burt Wolf: Travels & Traditions" titled "Boston, Massachusetts". Burt was given a personal guided tour of the USS Constitution by Seaman Jack Sculet (sp?). Part of the tour included some examples of canon shot exhibited on a small table. One was referred to as a "double headed shot". It resembled a small barbell with a solid iron bar connecting two cylinders (both the diameter of the bore). One of the cylinders was thinner than the other. The guide said that one end was heated in the galley stove until it was red hot. He stated that this shot would not only cut rigging but also cause fires.

I do not remember this reference to "hot shot" on the standard guided tour I took. I’m not sure I have ever noticed such a shot design before. It is not exactly any version of bar, chain, or trundle shot with which I am familiar.

Can anybody shed some light on this topic?

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Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:41 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
In the RN double-headed hammered shot, commonly known as bar shot, consisted of two hemispheres of metal joined by a rigid iron bar. It was made of hammered wrought iron as bar shot made of cast iron tendered to fracture on discharge. This was also called dismantling shot. The two ends were identical.
It would be interesting to know when the double-headed shot of the type found in the CONSTITUTION was introduced. I presume that the thinner end was heated and expanded to the diameter of the other end.


Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:24 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
As no-one has yet come up with a definitive answer to the question, I will venture my poorly-informed opinion.
1. I have never seen in any book on ordnance reference to a version of bar shot which has cans at each end rather than something sphrerical.
2. I should have thought that in action at sea there could have nothing more dangerous - if not potentially suicidal - than trying to move a red hot cannon shot out of the galley and through the crowded, pitching and powder-strewn decks of a man of war. And were not all galley fires extinguished as a precaution before any action? So how did it get red hot?
3. On the other hand, William James was bitter in his books about the way the Americans treated 'cheated' in the war of 1812-14 by inventing new weapons and ways of using the old which gave them an advantage (one of which was putting the powder charges in metal cans which disintegrated on firing thus removing the need to sponge out the gun as was necessary when canvas bags were used.) Perhaps this was another short lived experiment?

Brian


Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:45 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
IONIA wrote:
In the RN double-headed hammered shot, commonly known as bar shot, consisted of two hemispheres of metal joined by a rigid iron bar. It was made of hammered wrought iron as bar shot made of cast iron tendered to fracture on discharge. This was also called dismantling shot. The two ends were identical.

Peter and Brian, my apologies. I believe that your description of the shot is correct. My impression of it having cylinders at each end was influenced by the sharp camera angle looking downward toward the table. I recorded the show so I just went back to review the segment. Sorry for the confusion. I can confirm that it has the shape of half a round shot on either end.

I would love to see an image of this in a book especially if the information could confirm a date or the fact that it was ever used as a hot shot by the American Navy. Can either of you (or anyone, an American?) suggest a source?

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Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:09 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
timoneer wrote:

I would love to see an image of this in a book. Can either of you suggest a source?



Falconer's Dictionary; Lavery's "Nelson's Navy". I don't know of a photo of an extant specimen but no doubt there are a few around!


Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:47 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
Brian Vale wrote:
On the other hand, William James was bitter in his books about the way the Americans 'cheated' in the war of 1812-14 by inventing new weapons and ways of using the old which gave them an advantage (one of which was putting the powder charges in metal cans which disintegrated on firing thus removing the need to sponge out the gun as was necessary when canvas bags were used.) Perhaps this was another short lived experiment? Brian
Brian, I find your comment about the use of metal cans as a substitute for canvas bags very interesting. I would like to read more about this and other ways the US Navy tried to gain an advantage. Where should I look?

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Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:48 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
timoneer wrote:
Brian Vale wrote:
On the other hand, William James was bitter in his books about the way the Americans 'cheated' in the war of 1812-14 by inventing new weapons and ways of using the old which gave them an advantage (one of which was putting the powder charges in metal cans which disintegrated on firing thus removing the need to sponge out the gun as was necessary when canvas bags were used.) Perhaps this was another short lived experiment? Brian
Brian, I find your comment about the use of metal cans as a substitute for canvas bags very interesting. I would like to read more about this and other ways the US Navy tried to gain an advantage. Where should I look?



RN cartridges were of treated cartridge paper with flanel bottoms by 1812. The flannel bottoms were allegedly completely consumed on firing but sponging was still nescessary because of possible paper residue. The flannel bottomed cartridge was adopted by the RN because, with an all-paper cartridge, the thick, folded bottom of the cartridge frequently remained unburnt and repeated firing caused an accumulation of paper bottoms which could prevent the gun being fired. The metal case idea is interesting but surely there would be some remnants of the bottom of the can left in the barrel. With a metal case I suppose only one wad would be necessary - after the projectile, contributing to faster drill.


Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:56 pm
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
Don!
This particular reference can be found in William James’ "Naval History of Great Britain....." (1826), vol VI, pp150-1, which reads:
“....We have before remarked upon the great care and expense bestowed by the Americans in equipping their few ships of war. As one important instance may be adduced, the substitution of fine sheet-lead for cartridges, instead of flannel or paper. This gives a decided advantage in action, an advantage almost equal to one gun in three: for, as a sheet-lead cartridge will hardly ever leave a particle of itself behind, ihere is no necessity to sponge the gun, and very seldom any to worm it; operations that, with, paper or flannel cartridges, must be attended to every time the gun is fired. The advantage of quick firing no one can dispute; any more than, from the explanation given, the facility with which it can be practised by means of a sheet-lead cartridge..............
We mention these circumstances not to dwell, for the moment upon their unfairness, but merely to show the extraordinary means to which the Americans resorted, for the purpose to cope with the British at sea.”
There are plenty of others!
This particular extract is sandwiched between a section dealing with the misnaming of the classes of American warships to give the impression they were smaller than they were, their heavier crews, the extravagant size of their scantlings and sides; and another discussing the excessive use of sharp-shooters and guns loaded with glass and nails in the tops.

Brian


Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:33 pm
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
IONIA wrote:
timoneer wrote:
I would love to see an image of this in a book. Can either of you suggest a source?
Falconer's Dictionary; Lavery's "Nelson's Navy". I don't know of a photo of an extant specimen but no doubt there are a few around!

Peter, when I checked under the word SHOT in "An Universal Dictionary of the Marine" by William Falconer, I found the following information which once again raised the specter of fire, at least in the French navy.

The double-headed, or bar-Shot, fig. II. plate VII. are balls cut into two equal parts, and joined together by a kind of iron bar. In the French service the middle is sometimes filled with a composition, and the whole covered with linen dipped in brimstone; the cannon in firing also inflames the combustibles or composition of this ball, which sets fire to the sails of the vessel. One of the heads of this ball has an hole to receive a fuse, which, communicating with the charge of the cannon, sets fire to the bullet (Le Blond's Elements of War.).

BTW: there is a tiny image of the double-headed shot in fig. II. plate VII as noted.

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Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:07 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
Brian Vale wrote:
Don! This particular reference can be found in William James’ "Naval History of Great Britain....." (1826), vol VI, pp150-1, which reads:
“....We have before remarked upon the great care and expense bestowed by the Americans in equipping their few ships of war. As one important instance may be adduced, the substitution of fine sheet-lead for cartridges, instead of flannel or paper. This gives a decided advantage in action, an advantage almost equal to one gun in three: for, as a sheet-lead cartridge will hardly ever leave a particle of itself behind, ihere is no necessity to sponge the gun, and very seldom any to worm it; operations that, with, paper or flannel cartridges, must be attended to every time the gun is fired. The advantage of quick firing no one can dispute; any more than, from the explanation given, the facility with which it can be practised by means of a sheet-lead cartridge..............
We mention these circumstances not to dwell, for the moment upon their unfairness, but merely to show the extraordinary means to which the Americans resorted, for the purpose to cope with the British at sea.”
There are plenty of others!
This particular extract is sandwiched between a section dealing with the misnaming of the classes of American warships to give the impression they were smaller than they were, their heavier crews, the extravagant size of their scantlings and sides; and another discussing the excessive use of sharp-shooters and guns loaded with glass and nails in the tops. Brian

Thanks Brian. Although I was aware of some of this, some of the additional details are thought provoking!

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Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:19 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
With respect to sheet lead cartridges, two questions occur:

1. How were they ignited?

2. Was the bottom or top sealed with some material other than lead? In the RN most cartridges were made up by the Gunner on board.


Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:55 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
It is interesting that there is no mention of lead cased cartridges in this USA 1822 Manual. The materials used seem to be flannel, cartridge paper and paste. Perhaps the lead was found unsuitable for some reason. Double-headed shot do get a mention :mrgreen:

http://books.google.com/books?id=KFtGAA ... &q&f=false


Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:06 am
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Post Re: Double headed shot - "hot shot"
IONIA wrote:
With respect to sheet lead cartridges, two questions occur:
1. How were they ignited?
2. Was the bottom or top sealed with some material other than lead? In the RN most cartridges were made up by the Gunner on board.
Peter, like you, I have a number of questions about sheet lead cartridges. I have been looking unsuccessfully through my reference books. There is no mention of this in the Cartridges section (page 135 - 136) of Lavery's "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815" (especially since this was not an English technique) but the chapter made me put on my thinking cap.

What if the cartridge was not manufactured like a modern day tin can. Maybe it was not sealed by anything requiring heat but was sealed by mechanical means like the bottom of a tube of toothpaste. If a sheet of thin lead was made into a cylinder with the seam rolled or crimped together, one end rolled in the same manner, filled with powder and rolled shut on the other end, you would have a "pouch" of powder. This could safely be made up in the powder room and even stored ahead of time. When the gun was loaded, a priming iron could have been inserted through the touch hole piercing the soft lead wall of the cartridge. Powder could than be poured into the touch hole and ignited.

Pure speculation on my part of course, but interesting to think about. It's possible we may never know for sure. Especially since, as you noted, it does not appear in the US Navy's "Marshall's Practical Marine Gunnery" (1822).

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Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:57 am
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