Evolution of the projectiles of firearm, the spherical ball to the ball with skirt of the type MINIE.

The history allots to English GREENER the merit to have had the first, in 1835, the idea to use ball of an oblong or ovoid form, bored of a cavity which stopped a kind of nail conical. It opened the way with a long research on the ideal form for great ballistic progress aiming at supplanting the spherical ball.

The result of this research will finish in 1898 with the ball of the type “D” Of DESALEUX – end of work of PIOBERT.

Since the first rifle, the model 1717, the absence of well equipped manufacture and a general standardization, and that until model 1763/66, makes that it will be necessary to wait until the 1777 with the reform of GRIBEAUVAL to see the things evolving. Between its dates, the parts of the French weapons were not interchangeable, and their disparate ammunition on the levels of the gauges, going from 15.5 to 16.8mm. The diameters of the barrels were more than random.

In 1777, under the aegis of GRIBEAUVAL, the controller H. BLANC, defector of the manufacture of CHARLEVILLE, developed celebrates rifle 1777, while innovating with the interchange ability of the parts and new manufacturing methods and techniques of assemblies. GRIBEAUVAL unified in same time also artillery.

It unifies the calibres; rifles will have the gauge of 7 lines 9 points (17.5mm) and will draw the ball from 7lignes 4 points (16.5mm), that is to say a ball of XVIII with the “livre de Paris” (489g).

This calibre will remain standard until 1816 or rifle will pass to the calibre of 18 mm (XVI to “livre de Paris”) and it will draw a ball from 17.5mm the “wind” of 5 tenth of millimetre will be filled by the paper note-book of the cartridge. For more precision I does not make state that long weapons of infantry; certain gauge of cavalry, artillery, gendarmerie, remains faithful to the 17.6 and 17.8mm - it will be also the case of the handguns gauges 17.6 of them.

As the balls will follow the evolution it will be only question of dimension on the level of the diameter of those.

Two boards with the progressive evolution of the balls

Board 1

The spherical primitive balls will have a large record of longevity (shotgun) exceeded with dimensions soldier, or they will leave their places to the new warheads of the Minié type. English GREENER inaugurates, with his research relating to the precision of the shooting, an arms race specific of the military field in the hope to stabilize the balls. Will follow the ball to nail (86), the feather nail (87) and the ball with wood shoe. Created with an aim of removing the wind caused by the difference of calibre of rifle and its ball (96), this technique will not survive, the shoes were split in the barrels during compressing by the rod or the shooting.

There have then the idea to make a lead shoe more adapted is this warhead, (97) manufacture was difficult, the tests did not have a continuation.

Then ball NESSLER (88, 89, 90) derived from the ball comes to nail - it is the first time that one distinguishes an expansive skirt which, at the time of the departure of the blow under the pressure of gases, came to marry the walls of the barrel (such balls were still used in our century as balls of hunting.

The following figures, 91, 92, 93, 94 represent the experimental forms intended by their inventors, to be screwed in the air. Idea which did not solve the problem of the “wind” in the unrifled bores with projectiles under gauged.

95 Cross-section of a rifle with narrowed room.

Note: the ball with shoe was tested in the rifles Model 1837, 1840 and 42, as well as rifles of rampart Model 1838, 40 and 42.

Boards extracted the work of Lt. Colonel J. Capdeviélle, Paris 1871.

Board 2

Come then balls DELVIGNE, the ball with metal shoe MINIE, ball NESSLER, used in the weapons Model 1853.

The studies pass then (research on the effects gyroscopic of FOUCAULT in 1852) by the ball of the guard, then Model 1857, then 1859. To lead to the 1863, the last projectile for French rifle large calibre will be Model 1867 of the rifle called to “tabatière”.

First weapon has loading back by a breech and has central percussion - These balls of large calibres had the experience of a major conflict, that of the American Civil War. Their advantages appeared such as they definitively outclassed the spherical ball and its machine launcher. Such projectiles, all confused calibres, were used in the long firearms of the time, smallest calibres (58) outclassed largest (of 18 with 20mm Minié). At this point in time appeared the concept of calibre to prevail on the concept of weight, and since 1870, one will not speak any more a projectile in term of weight but of gauge.

The experiment of the gyroscope of FOUCAULT had shown that the stabilization of a projectile on its trajectory was given to him by an impulse different from that which was used to propel it, i.e. by the number of revolutions. From where a new study, that of the stripes of the barrels, and the reduction of the step of those 6 m, 2 m, 55cm.

Ovoid balls of GREENER, still in vogue in 1870 with rifle DREYSS - in lower part its competitor that of French Rifle Chassepot of 11mm.


Some photographic illustrations of projectiles of these times of the past.

Spherical balls found on the battle fields of Champagne, largest makes 20mm for rifle Austrian Model 1740, some 18mm English and a set of French of gauge 16.5 and 17.5.

Balls with skirt Model 1857, obviously in triangle, of calibre 17.6mm

Balls with skirt Model 1863 for rifle 1822 T (a) and 1842 T.

Balls Austrian of 20mm MINIE.

Minié balls for rifle Model 1867.

Realized with the assistance of old documents.

Technical support: “@lain of www.littlegun.be”.

Another @lain with the drawings of the projectiles.

For the amateurs of stories and shooting to the old weapon

The Ardennes July 2010-07-29                       @glt08


Realized with the assistance of old documents.

Technical support: “@lain of www.littlegun.be”.

Private credit photographs & drawings @glt08 reserved ww.littlegun.be

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