Saturday, September 4, 2010

A question of ammunition.

Musket Balls various.

While Mrs. Kinch returns to the kitchen to the strains of Flanders & Swann and the Comedian Harmonists - I ponder a question that has been taxing me for a while.

Donogh and I had been thinking about the problem of modelling ammunition consumption in a wargame, particularly 20th century wargames, where morale is often inextricably linked to the supply of the ammunition, as Cooper put in in Dog Soldiers "...high spirits are just no substitute for eight hundred rounds a minute." The discussion came about because we were talking about the possibility of adapting Memoir '44 to the rather smashing Very British Civil War. This is of course, the very kind of conflict where ammunition supply is key, due to the ramshackle logistical tail and the brittle morale of the militias and other enthusiastic amateurs that make up the majority of the fighters.

The idea was to have each side be given a certain number of fire units which are consumed when units shoot. There was also the possibility of assigning special fire units to particular weapons, e.g. artillery and mortars. If a player intended to shoot, he must hand over a fire unit to his opponent.

As I am a great believer in gimmicks, the plan was to use spent brass as fire units, with larger calibres representing special weapons. An additional wrinkle would be to give the player a look at how many fire units he has and then place them in a box from which he must draw blindly, keeps a rough mental cost of how much ammunition he has remaining.

While it is unlikely that the Very British Civil War project will ever get off the ground, I would like to give this idea a go with my Horse & Musket forces.

Which begs the question, where does one get musket balls in this day and age? Bearing in mind that I live in a state where firearms are strictly controlled and black powder firearms are virtually unheard of.

Any advice my American and Canadian chums?


  1. Hmm some idea's...

    Go to your local gunsmith and buy shotgun pellets - the serious shooters make their own cartidges so you can buy the pellets by weight. They come in various grades so could be used to depict various ammunition supplies? No licence required - it's just lead...

    Go to your local fishing shop and buy split weights - I think they come in various sizes as well??

    Invest here.. ;o))

  2. Another idea is to use dried peas . . . they are cheap and easily available . . . and you can call the green color "lead rot" if you like . . . *grin*.

    My other suggestion was to get some BBs . . . if BB guns are allowed in your area . . . but Steve's "split shot" for fishing is a great idea too

    -- Jeff

  3. If all else fails, you could use marbles or ball bearings. A "arts & crafts" shop would also have wooden beads of various sizes, as well.

  4. I'm amazed by the variety in size of those musket shots (I presume some must be pistol and others small cannon or maybe grapeshot. I saw some from the English Civil War in a museum recently and they were all similar-ish in size.

    Do you know where the pictured ones come from and why they are so various is radius ?

    Your blog is a very interesting read, I'll be returning. Keep it up,

    my WFB Gallery
    my WFB Battle Reports blog

  5. Hey Conrad,

    If you're determined to have "the real deal", here's a couple of websites:

    His address is: Jeff Tanner
    23 Passingham Ave.
    Essex CM11 2TD
    United Kingdom

    If you don't want to cast your own try:

    Andy Allwoods Cast Balls and Bullets at

    Either one should be able to fix you up with what you're looking for.


  6. Steve - I was looking at that option, but I think you can buy the real (albeit reproduction) deal cheaper.

    Jeff - I have found that gamers are not to be trusted with edible playing pieces, we are a hungry and untrustworthy breed.

    Martin - I had looked at wooden balls and had almost made my mind up, when you showed me the way. Thank you very much.

    Sigmar - They are from a metal detecting site called and are of English Civil War vintage. Days prior to standardisation of calibre I would assume.