Help support TMP

"How Many Rounds In The India Pattern Musket Ammo Box?" Topic

43 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the 18th Century Discussion Message Board

Back to the War of 1812 Message Board

Back to the Wargaming in Spain Message Board

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

Back to the American Revolution Message Board

Back to the 19th Century Discussion Message Board

Back to the Historical Wargaming Message Board

2,966 hits since 21 Oct 2014
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Oct 2014 9:42 p.m. PST

That's what I need to know, Folks!

Specifically, this is a question related to the Mexican Army of the era of the War of 1846-47.

The India Pattern Musket was almost universally used by Britain in the Napoleonic Period, and without much difference with other "Brown Bess" weapons from the Seven Years War through to the advent of the Snider.

When thousands of worn out surplus pieces went to Mexico in the 1830's, the cartridge boxes may have gone with them, and/or Spanish Napoleonic Era boxes may have been used.

Likely, the difference in the number of rounds between those models is minimal to nil, but I do need a number that represents how many cartridges would have accompanied a Mexican Soldier (or anyone, actually) carrying the India Pattern Musket into action.

Should be an easy enough number to find, but I'm striking out and throw myself on the mercy of the experts.


Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2014 10:42 p.m. PST

Regarding British Equipment, the 1784 Royal Warrant stipulates the Pouch should hold 32 cartridges. On active service an additional Magazine was carried, attached to the bayonet belt and holding 24 cartridges.

The Royal Warrant of 1798 stipulated 36 cartridges for the Pouch and reiterated the 24-round Magazine for active service.

Variations inevitably existed, this being the British Army. For example, the 1784 Warrant described the cartridge box inside the Pouch to be of tin construction, with five divisions holding 4 rounds apiece and the remaining 12 rounds underneath. So of course one finds wooden blocks drilled for 27, 30, or 36 rounds. The 1798 Warrant officially returned to the drilled blocks and we then encounter Pouches which only hold 27 or 30 rounds. There's no pleasing some people.

The Magazines were, it seems, far more consistent and kept to the Warrant; a tin box in a thin leather case holding 24 rounds.

Sorry if this isn't more helpful.

Major Bloodnok22 Oct 2014 3:07 a.m. PST

Why should the cartridge boxes have gone with the muskets? The muskets are being sold off because they are surplus to requirements, especially with the adoption of the P39 and P42 percussion muskets. The cartdridge boxes are still usuable. Did the Mexican Gov't. buy just muskets, muskets & bayonets or "stands of arms"? A stand of arms wound be musket, sling, cartridge boxe, bayonet and belts. The common cartridge box of the later Napoleonic Wars had two tin trays to hold, I believe, 40 rounds.

xxxxxxx Inactive Member22 Oct 2014 6:24 a.m. PST

I agree with Major Bloodnok …. and here are more examples:

Over several years 1805-1812 the Russians bought well over 100,000 Brown Bess muskets, really as many as they were offered. This included new ones, lightly used ones from storage and even "past useful life" old ones – the last two categories having to go through Russian arms factories to be re-built.

In no case did they buy "stands of arms". Usually they bought musket+bayonet, sometimes just musket.

They also bought a few Baker Rifles, essentially for evaluation, and these were purchased as "stands of arms".

Russian cartridge boxes after about 1805 held 60 rounds. Each company had an ammunition caisson that carried another 120 rounds per man.

The Russians really liked the Brown Bess. They fully equipped 32 front-line regiments with them before 1812, and some "special" units raised in 1812 – such as the 1st Cohort of the Saint-Petersburg Opolchenie. Known as the "Philistines" or the "Mechanics" – the unit was composed of that rarest of rare birds in Imperial Russia : free, middle-class skilled tradesmen and businessmen.

- Sasha

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Oct 2014 9:20 a.m. PST

Gentlemen Scholars All!

Thank you for all the information!

My understanding is that Mexico bought muskets AND bayonets, but not necessarily the original ammo cartouches.

While Mexico did produce their own uniforms, and had leather making factories (shoes, shakos, etc), it's unclear if they had any original designs for the usual soldier's kit. Spain was the source of all things military otherwise, and there is no reason to believe that in this one accoutrement they used anything exotic (e.g. 90 round ammo boxes, etc).

Interestingly, the U.S. Model 1839/40 Musket, the most commonly carried in Mexico, was supplied with 32 rounds, the same as indicated in the Royal Warrant of 1784, as cited above.

If there is any reason to believe that the Spanish Muskets of the Peninsular War carried a significant greater--or smaller--number than 32 rounds, that might be interesting to know.

Regarding the "additional magazine" of 24 extra rounds alluded to above, the poverty of the Mexican Army (which was so extreme, most recruits never fired their muskets even once in training!) would seem to make such a useful item highly unlikely. Nor are such items a feature of Mexican uniforms and kit generally.

At this point, I feel I can go with either the 32 or 36 round cartouche and still be in the ballpark.

NOW… Same questions about the Baker Rifle and Paget Carbine ammunition!

Any takers?


Major Snort22 Oct 2014 10:18 a.m. PST

Apart from the combination of the 36 round cartridge box and 24 round magazine mentioned above, the British army adopted a single cartridge box that carried their entire quota of 60 rounds in 1804. Most British units were using this 60-round box by the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Regarding the firearms themselves, were they actually worn out Ordnance-issue pieces? I have seen several examples from South and Central America (including Mexico) that are commercial copies of India Pattern Muskets, Paget carbines and Baker Rifles which were certainly manufactured in Britain after the Napoleonic Wars.

von Winterfeldt22 Oct 2014 12:34 p.m. PST

@Major Snort

Do you have any dimensions of the 60 catridges carrying box?
It must be quite big. The French had 35 catridges in their pouch and thats quite big already, those 60 catridge carrying pouches of the Old Prussian army were huge.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2014 12:57 p.m. PST

Patrick, I found another nugget to further muddy the waters!

I neglected the above mentioned 60 round "1804 Pattern" because I thought these had remained in service late enough (ca.1840) that they wouldn't have reached the surplus market in time to potentially equip the Mexican Army. It turns out there was a revised pattern in 1817 that kept the 60 round capacity but with a different arrangement of internal storage. As they were gradually withdrawn from British service, the 1804 Pattern were sold as surplus, notably to the Mexican Army. This occurred during the 1830s; prior to that it appears that the Mexicans did import the previous obsolete patterns.

Of course, you bring up a key point regarding the supply of Mexican units. A pouch may be designed to hold 60 rounds, but the QM may only be able to issue 24.

Major Snort22 Oct 2014 1:14 p.m. PST

Von W,

I do not have the dimensions of the 60-round box to hand.

There were apparently two different styles:

One had a drilled wooden block holding 36 rounds above a tin compartment containing 24 rounds stored horizontally.

The other had 40 rounds stored vertically in an upper tin tray divided into four sections, above a lower tin tray divided into two sections with 20 rounds stored horizontally.

von Winterfeldt22 Oct 2014 1:55 p.m. PST

another question – how would the soldier have access to those tin compartments below those 36 respectivley 40 cartridges?

Throw out the trays above? Or withdraw from the line of fire, and refill??

Major Bloodnok22 Oct 2014 3:26 p.m. PST

You would either pull out the top tin / drilled block, and refill it from the tin below, or possibly just reserse their positions.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2014 8:04 p.m. PST

For the 1804 Pattern, the tin trays were approximately 6 " x 3 ⅛" with the top tray having a depth of of 2 " and the bottom tray a depth of 1 ". Allowing for the leather of the pouch proper, this is roughly the same size as previous patterns, and smaller than some. Note that these tins do not have dividers for the individual rounds as in some previous patterns, thus allowing more cartridges to be carried without increasing the size of the pouch.

When the top tray was empty, the two packs from the lower tray were moved to the top. This could be fiddly, and sometimes required a file mate to help. Hence the revised pattern of 1817 had a single tin with all 60 rounds stored vertically.

von Winterfeldt23 Oct 2014 5:21 a.m. PST

Thanks a lot – very interesting

JeffsaysHi Inactive Member23 Oct 2014 5:28 a.m. PST

Just wondering if any re-enactor has ever tried loading & firing off 32+ rounds of black powder in a shortish time ?
Thinking it hurt a bit.

Major Snort23 Oct 2014 9:12 a.m. PST


I have not done any re-enacting, but have done quite a bit of live firing with original muskets and rifles, including sustained fire experiments with up to 60 rounds.

If the musket is held properly then generally it will cause no pain at all although the recoil with military style ammunition and powder charges is significant. That would be, for example, 165 grains of powder including priming and a 0.69" ball for an India Pattern.

What can be a problem is the shape of the butt and especially the comb of the butt. On some muskets this can strike the cheek on recoil which is not pleasant.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2014 11:31 a.m. PST


This has become a remarkable thread--thank you!

And while I still wish I could get the number of rounds carried in the ammunition cartouche for the Baker Rifle, and Paget Carbine, all answers have been helpful and broadened my horizons on the original topic.

To Major Snort, there is, I'm afraid, no question that the India Land Pattern Muskets bought in the 1830's by Mexico were not only heavily used War Surplus, but of the 10,000-plus sold, as many as 3,000 were actually stamped as condemned. The Baker's and Paget's were just as worn--and so affordable.

So small was Mexico's military budget in all the years after Independence that they not only knowingly bought worn out pieces, but they could not even keep open the one factory that previously produced muskets and replacement parts. Ditto their one cannon foundry, including the machines for fabricating/repairing gun carriages, musket stocks, etc.

Nothing new was being built, or getting more than jury-rig field repairs. Many Mexican Muskets recovered after battles by U.S. forces were visibly broken and unserviceable from original issue.

Famously, at Churubusco, one Mexican Infantry Battalion was issued musket balls that were too large for the bores of their weapons. There is, apparently, actual evidence to this day of musket muzzles pounded against the floors in efforts to get the rounds to go into the barrels.

Oh, and to make for the perfect storm, Mexican black powder was particularly coarse and weak. Conscious efforts to compensate by increasing the standard powder charges for musket cartridges (as well as artillery charges) resulted in stronger recoils, higher angles of fire, reduced predictability, and generally greater wear on already exhausted equipment. In the case of musketry, the largely untrained soldiers frequently fired from the hip or at waist level to avoid the kick and flashes to the face!

In the light of all this, I just don't see the already overloaded for his size Mexican Soldier being issued anything more than the "standard" number of rounds to fit his ammunition cartouche, and the previously suggested 32 to 36 number seems reasonable.

But I'll bet there were no were near as many rounds for the Paget carried by a rider, and I suspect fewer rounds for the Baker, as well.

Please, prove me right or wrong!


von Winterfeldt23 Oct 2014 11:38 a.m. PST

"Just wondering if any re-enactor has ever tried loading & firing off 32+ rounds of black powder in a shortish time ?
Thinking it hurt a bit."

I did – but what is shortish? I tell you no 2 shots per minute, after the initial 2 shots ber minute for about 5 minutes, misfires, fiddling with the flint position,knapping the edge of the flint, using the pick to clean the touch hole, even changing flints, the only thing you have to take care of – is the hot barrel, but its your own fault puting your fingers on it.
The rate of fire is dropping the longer you shot.
It is not hurting at all there you fire a quite undersized ball.

At going over 50 shots – at least I had my difficulties with a clogging barrel – it is getting hard to remove the ramrod out of the barrel.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2014 12:48 p.m. PST

Sorry, I missed the query about the Paget. The cavalry pouch held 30 rounds and stayed essentially unchanged from 1796 until well into the Victorian Era.

Major Snort23 Oct 2014 1:22 p.m. PST

Early in the Peninsular War, riflemen were issued with both ball cartridge and loose balls and patches. As an example of how many rounds were carried, William Green wrote that his battalion were ordered to throw away their knapsacks during the retreat to Corunna:

But we then had enough to carry; fifty rounds ball cartridge; thirty loose balls in our waist belt; and a flask, and a horn of powder…

It is probably safe to assume that the cartridge box held at least fifty rounds.

Later in the Peninsular War the riflemen carried ball cartridge only because of the danger of loading loose powder out of a flask and no doubt their quota would have exceeded fifty rounds.

Were the Mexicans using ball cartridge or loose balls and patches with their Bakers?

Major Snort23 Oct 2014 1:29 p.m. PST


I would be interested to learn more about the muskets and rifles that the Mexicans purchased from the British government. Are their any publications available?

Undoubtedly privately commissioned weapons were also sent. For a published example there is a Birmingham-proofed privately commissioned Paget Carbine from Mexico illustrated in Barry Chisnall's "British Non-Ordnance Carbines".

Major Snort23 Oct 2014 3:41 p.m. PST

The ammunition pouch for riflemen was also described by Colonel Norcott, quoted in DeWitt Bailey's British Military Flintlock Rifles, who wrote that the pouch:

cannot contain, without the risk of bruising the cartridges in the paper parcels as now made up, more than four parcels of ten each; and the wooden holes, twelve, this making the whole, fifty-two rounds, a number infinitely too small for Riflemen to have in their possession

This was apparently a second pattern which must have been in service in 1808 according to Green's account above.

firstvarty1979 Inactive Member23 Oct 2014 6:41 p.m. PST

I've fired my repro Bess a few times in timed competition where we had to fire 10 aimed shots in 10 minutes. That may sound easy, but with fouling, flints breaking, and a hot barrel, it's not easily done. An interesting phenomenon is that when the barrel gets hot (usually only 4-5 shots in quick succession) there is an "aura" or distortion caused by the heat, which makes aiming your musket kind of hard. If you can go through 10 rounds without a misfire, you're doing well.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Oct 2014 10:20 a.m. PST

This thread just keeps getting better and better!

Enfant Perdus: Thanks for the Paget ammo box numbers! I was indeed too low in my estimate.

Major Snort: And thank you for the info on the Baker Rifle ammo. Again, I cannot be sure that when these rifles were bought by Mexico that these were included. Indeed, just as a educated guess, I'd say not, and that a basic box was provided from local resources. In that light, it would not be surprising if it was essentially the same as that for the musket, and hold as many rounds. According to Hefter (whose research is apparently that which most other comments are based), the Bakers were provided with ready made cartridges rather than loose powder and ball, so a limited number of ready rounds seems probable.

If there were "privately commissioned" examples of Bakers or other weapons, these were strictly one-off's, and not in any way an attempt to arm the Light Infantry who carried these pieces. Mexico was simply far too poor for such extravagances!

And, yes, simply knowing the number of rounds carried on a soldier, and the "book" rates of fire, is not the way to determine how long it would take to exhaust that ammunition. The inherent limitations of black powder, and the fiddly nature of musket loading and ignition means that a potentially rapid initial rate will trail off dramatically even after a few minutes, and only get slower, with increasing misfires, as the process goes on.

And it's worth remembering that, except perhaps in a Skirmisher's usage, fire was not delivered "At Will," but on command. Thus it could be said that by the platoon, the company, or even the battalion, their rates of fire were determined by the SLOWEST loading men. Only when EVERYONE had raised his weapon at the command "Present!" could it followed by "Fire!"

Helluva mess, what?


Parzival25 Oct 2014 6:04 p.m. PST

This thread is why TMP is awesome. Gentlemen, I have very much enjoyed learning from you all. Please continue!

Major Snort07 Nov 2014 9:01 a.m. PST

Here is a nice example of a Mexican Brown Bess. This has never been in the hands of the British Board of Ordnance and was made as a commercial weapon in Birmingham, probably intended for export and sent to Mexico newly-built. It is built in a more plain and simple style than the standard military issue India Pattern and is almost certainly post-Napoleonic.


Virginia Tory11 Nov 2014 1:08 p.m. PST

What von Winterfeldt said. I took part in a live firing of 60 rounds with a Bess and the rate of fire, with fouling, etc. definitely slows down.

You certainly notice the recoil after awhile.

spontoon21 Mar 2015 7:47 a.m. PST

I've managed 22 shots with a Charleville repro musket with no misfires. Ball cartridge. The ball tends to carry a lot of the crap out of the barrel so I found the fouling less than with blanks. Recoil effect, minimal; if you're wearing several layers of wool and leather straps!

Major Bloodnok21 Mar 2015 9:29 a.m. PST

Out of curiosity are there period descriptions of the British pattern boxes actually holding 60 rounds. There was an assumption during the bicentenary that the British rev. war boxes held 60 rounds. Some folks I know designed a box to hold 60 rounds. No Revwar 60 round box has ever been found. While the campaign issue of ammo was 60 rounds, the surviving boxes have been found to hold 36-40 rouinds. The 1784 pattern held 32 rounds, with an additional "magazinne" that would hold another 24 rounds. I am not familiar with the napwar boxes, but I wouldn't be surprised that they didn't hold 60 rounds either. That would be 5lbs +/- of lead before you add powder etc. The Duke of Wellington is qouted as saying that his troops would fire off all 60 rounds in a hour if one did not keep control of the men.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2015 1:38 p.m. PST

Okay, just a off-topic question, sourced from ACW practice. If rounds were packaged in a paper twisted and slightly varished package, did they ever just grab a couple of handfuls and throw them in a pocket? Or did the smoothbore roundball muskets foul so quickly that there was no need to pack in additional rounds?

Major Snort25 Mar 2015 3:47 p.m. PST

The 60 round 1804 pattern box did actually exist.

Regarding soldiers putting loose rounds in their pockets; In 1802 experiments took place in Hyde Park to determine how many rounds infantry could fire per minute. Several soldiers from the Coldstream Guards, who were watching these events, claimed that they had fired more quickly in action and one of them was allowed to show how it should be done.

Unfortunately this individual didn't manage to shoot any more quickly than those he had criticised and the reason he gave was that he had to take the cartridges from an ammunition pouch. John Russell, who recorded the results of these experiments notes:

this shows the ill construction of the pouch, and the reason why soldiers are apt to have their cartridges in their pockets instead of their pouches, in the firings

The combination of the 0.75 bore, 0.685 ball and good-quality powder ensured that although fouling accumulated in a Brown Bess, it was possible for the soldiers to fire huge amounts of ammunition before it was necessary to clean the bore. There are many accounts of infantry expending large amounts of ammunition in a single action (I can think of accounts that mention 107, 108, 170, 200 and 250 rounds being fired). There are also many accounts of British soldiers being re-supplied with ammunition in order to continue a firefight.

historygamer25 Mar 2015 7:06 p.m. PST

I'm not sure the original question makes sense. There was no specific pouch issued with this musket. This musket was used over a long period of time and there might have been a number of pouches used with it with varying ammo ability.

Most Rev war pouches – this musket was post war – carried anything from 18 to 36 rounds. 60 rounds were the usual issue, but never was no pouch that big.

von Winterfeldt25 Mar 2015 11:53 p.m. PST

in what pockets, I as under the impression that the coat had false pockets.

historygamer26 Mar 2015 3:39 a.m. PST

It is not likely they carried the spare rounds in their pockets as they were rather small. Pockets were often found inside the coat, at the back, just above the center vent (split between the skirts).

Major Snort26 Mar 2015 5:09 a.m. PST

Just to clarify the source of the above information:

John Russell was a serving officer in the 96th Regiment, and the information comes from the book "A Series of Military Experiments". The relevant passage is:

Several serjeants and soldiers of the Coldstream Regiment, who had been on service, and who attended the trials made in Hyde-Park, were surprised that the men in Experiments No. 3, 4, and 5, could not fire quicker; averring, that they had fired much quicker in action: one of the serjeants was allowed a trial, but the effect was the same; they all agreed then, that if they were allowed to have the cartridges in their pocket, or handed to them as required, that they could easily fire four times in the minute at least; this shows the ill construction of the pouch, and the reason why soldiers are apt to have their cartridges in their pockets instead of their pouches, in their firings. To prevent this practice, the great King of Prussia had it in orders, that " the cartridges shall be always taken out of the pouch, in the firings; no man therefore must stick them either under his waist-belt, or elsewhere."

historygamer27 Mar 2015 3:31 a.m. PST

Very odd statement considering the regimental coat pockets were likely fake outlines of lace. The "real" pockets were hidden inside the coat.

historygamer27 Mar 2015 6:50 a.m. PST

I have some on one of my coats and find them very awkward to get to, and this without equipment on.

Major Bloodnok01 Apr 2015 3:06 a.m. PST

There's always the breeches.

von Winterfeldt01 Apr 2015 5:04 a.m. PST

Can you tell me where on breeches in military cut pockets are??

Also in pockets the paper cartridge would be damaged easily, getting unwrapped – bent, loosing poweder etc.

historygamer02 Apr 2015 5:25 a.m. PST

There really aren't any pockets in breeches. Maybe a watch pocket.

von Winterfeldt02 Apr 2015 6:22 a.m. PST

I am sure there fit tons of cartridges into the watch pocket ;-)).

historygamer04 Apr 2015 2:11 p.m. PST

Interesting, but according to the De Witt Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, the first 39 inch muskets were carried by some sergeants in grenadier companies during the AWI period.

Major Snort04 Apr 2015 2:37 p.m. PST

The first mass produced British muskets with 39 inch barrels were made for the East India Company in 1760, although these were not quite the same as the model that is now known as the India Pattern.

The musket that became known as the India Pattern when adopted as standard for the British army in the mid 1790s was a direct copy of the pattern that had been adopted as standard by the East India Company in 1771.

RNSulentic12 Apr 2015 4:37 p.m. PST

"Holding 60 rounds" may not be what you think it is, meaning that the pouch might hold 60 rounds, but that the block had some lesser number immediately available. The Rawl pattern box for example, had a 36 round block, with 18 holes drilled in each side. (Google the name, you'll see what I mean).

The Hessian box (we based it on a Prussian example) had a leather block for 30 rounds. We typically carried another 30 rounds underneath that. So, 60 rounds. Just saying.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.