Artifact of the Month: Lead Shot Part Deux May 1, 2021 Author: Terry Williams, Conservator Last month you met Prince Rupert and his shot making method. This month we will take a look at molded shot. Lead ammunition made from molds has been around for thousands of years. Cast lead shot was used by ancient Greeks and Romans in their slings; reports indicate slings could send slingshot farther than archers could shoot arrows. Not only was a thump on the head painful from this sling shot, but they were often inscribed with units, symbols, names, and taunts. One example of a Greek sling shot from the British Museum reads “take that.” Molded lead shot, one from an offset moldAs weaponry advanced through the ages, darts, like those used in cross bows, were used in firearms. These proved to be unsuccessful, and by the mid-14th-century bullets made of stone, iron, bronze, or lead were in use. Eventually due to cost, density, and concern for the iron barrel, lead became the predominant ammunition. We divide molded shot into two categories: shot that could be used as a single bullet and shot that would have been fired in a cluster, perhaps combined with Rupert shot. After the English Civil War, antiquated lead shot was slowly removed from the armory and mostly sold on the open market. It is possible that some of the two-part mold shot found on the wreck site was purchased as langrage for the cannons. Many of the shot are poorly cast and would not fly true from a musket, such as one where the two halves of the mold were so terribly off kilter it would have made aiming, as precarious as it already was, almost pointless. While we have hundreds of thousands of shot, so far there has only been one shot mold found, and the diameters are on this mold are not uniform in size. Precision was not particularly key during this time and in effect, one would just select a ball that would fit down a bore. Lead becomes liquid around 620 degrees Fahrenheit – a cooking fire would work – so if someone had the appropriate mold, ill-fitting or mis-cast shot could be re-engineered. See the channels running up from the shot? These served as spouts for the molten lead to be poured into the mold. The lead in this spout would also harden and this extra spur, called a casting sprue, would have been clipped before use. Ammunition was not always haphazard. According to some historical records, handguns were sometimes sold with a mold for the appropriate gauge shot. Bullet mold for varying sizes of shotSuccessfully arming and firing a handgun took much practice. In 1607, de Ghyen wrote a manual listing 28 steps needed to load and fire a musket, all done within one minute. Though the advice from a recent TV series, “Sharpe,” may be the most important: "The trick is to keep the muzzle up to stop the bloody bullet falling out.” References: -Pulsifer, William. 1888. Notes for a History of Lead and an inquiry into the development of the manufacture of white lead and lead Oxide. New York, D. Van Nostrand. -de Gheyn, Jacob. 1607. The Exercise of Armes for Calivres, Muskettes, and Pikes. The Netherlands. Ackowledgement: Myron Rolston, Firearms and Ammunition Consultant Images: -Two-part molded shot from site 31CR314 (La Concorde/Queen Anne's Revenge) with one at top center from a misaligned mold. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. -Bullet mold from site 31CR314. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.