CapandBall's Ballistic Tests of 19th Century Rifles

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

The terminal effectiveness of modern bullets has been the subject of much study, but less well scrutinized have been the projectiles of rifles before 1900, fired by the blackpowder weapons that armed men throughout the age of empires. Fortunately, the Hungarian channel CapandBall has performed some very interesting terminal ballistic tests of these weapons from the pre-smokeless powder era. The video below shows his gelatin test of the M1867/77 Werndl rifle, compared to tests he has performed previously with the Austro-Hungarian M1842 Augustin 15.9mm and the M1854 Lorenz 13.7mm rifles:

In the video above, he references tests he performed in 2011, shown in those embedded below (the first is in Hungarian with subtitles):

These tests show the value of the higher velocity 11mm Werndl bullet. The vaunted .58 cal Minié ball tested in the last video produces an essentially pistol-like wound channel, albeit a .58 caliber one. The Minié ball got its reputation for being a killer thanks to the poor medical practices of battlefield surgeons during the US Civil War, which led to infections that devastated tissue and bone, not because it was a particularly spectacular ballistic performer. With the 11mm caliber rounds of the late 1860s and 1870s, though, the stopping power of infantry rifles (at least at close range) had hit an all-time high that wouldn’t be improved upon until the deadly high-velocity soft-points and spitzer bullets of the early 1900s.

Nathaniel F
Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at

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  • Matt Matt on Feb 24, 2016

    Capandball is one of the best muzzleloading website.
    This is one of their best video IMHO.

  • Marcus D. Marcus D. on Feb 25, 2016

    The issue I have with the third video is that Civil War engagements were not fought at 100 meters--in fact, most were fought well under 100 yards. For example, at Antietam, the Union soldiers attacking at the Sunken Road, due to terrain, did not fire until they were within 50 feet, when they topped a swale immediately in front of the Confederate lines. I wonder what a full power load of the Springfield (60 or 70 grains of powder) would do to gel block at that range. Moreover, the lower velocity bullet (reported by veterans to make a smacking sound when it struck flesh) would tend to dump more energy into the target than the higher velocity Lorenz which, even at 100 meters would completely penetrate. Finally, much of the horrific effect of the .58 cal. ball or Minie (the Minie having greater accuracy and range) was the result of impact with bone, which typically shattered, resulting in the need for amputations to limbs or shrapnel effects in the thoracic cavity.