For safety reasons, the NWTA prohibits the use of rammers during our battle scenarios. This is a good policy, as putting ANYTHING down the barrel of a primed and charged weapon is an invitation for disaster. But by not ramming down our blank charges, are we presenting a false impression of 18th-century warfare to the public?
According to Thomas Anburey, the soldiers didn't always ram their cartridges:
"In this action I found all manual exercise is but an ornament, and the only object of importance it can boast of was that of loading, firing, and charging with bayonets: as to the former, the soldiers should be instructed in the best and most expeditious method. Here I cannot help observing to you, whether it proceeded from an idea of self preservation, or natural instinct, but the soldiers greatly improved the mode they were taught in, as to expedition, for as soon as they had primed their pieces, and put the cartridge into the barrel, instead of ramming it down with their rods, they struck the butt end of their pieces upon the ground, and on bringing it to the present, fired it off."
From the loading position, by dropping the musket slightly so that it bounces off the ground, and using this momentum to bring the piece up to the position of recover, we could replicate the procedure described by Anburey. This method of "speed loading" is in strict compliance with the NWTA safety regulations, and at the same time it demonstrates an authentic rammerless loading procedure to the public. Try incorporating it into your normal loading procedure and let us know how it works!
SOURCE: Anburey, Thomas, Travels Through the Interior Parts of America in a Series of Letters by an Officer, New York Times and Arno Press, 1969, (Vol. I, p 333, 12 July 1777, Camp at Skenesborough).