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Was this an early rifled bullet?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: December 04, 2012 
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I read some articles on about the Minié ball and other weaponry and it prompted me to send this to you. I've yet to get a definitive answer about this lead object. One somewhat qualified person thought it might be a primitive "home made" munition. It was found in the vicinity (within 1.5 miles) of a war of 1812 era fort (Ft. Russell, Edwardsville, IL). It's roughly 3/4" in diameter by about 7/8" tall. The lower "ring" below the groove appears to have some markings that could be perceived as rifling (but how early was rifling common?). Note those marks are not really on the base of the cone (above the groove) Anyhow, I'd appreciate your thoughts if you can offer anything.

Mark Sova


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Dear Mr. Sova,  

It is hard to say exactly what that item is. The War of 1812 was primarily a flintlock and ball conflict, even rifles generally using balls. Soldiers were known to carve bullets from available metal during idle down time, but a bullet, or rather partial bullet of that shape was manufactured during the Civil War as the hind part of the Shaler patent "Sectional Bullet," on which three sub-components were seated over each other to form a single round, but when fired would separate into three closely spaced projectiles that would hopefully inflict more casualties to the opposing infantry line. In spite of the inventor's belief that "if makes one man equal to three," the Federal government only purchased 300,000 Shaler rounds before abandoning them in favor of the simple Miniés.  

Theoretically yours,


Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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