them had three or four.
In the excitement, men were observed to load, make a motion mechanically as if to fire the piece, fail to notice that it had not been discharged, and then hasten to put another load on top of the first.
The state of the arts required the first breech-loading ammunition to be in a paper or cloth package.
However, as it was impossible to prevent the escape of the gas, the joint required for rapid loading was generally placed in front of the chamber, from which position the soldier suffered least from the discharge.
To facilitate loading, the mechanism of the gun was so arranged that, the paper or cloth cartridge having been broken or bitten open, the bullet acted as a stopper to hold the powder in place until the piece was closed.
The next improvement in ammunition was the introduction of the metallic cartridge-case.
This was invented in France
, and was first used by troops in our Civil War. It contained all the components of the ammunition in a case that protected them from the weather, and thus prevented the deterioration of the powder.
The principal purpose of the case, however, has been to act as a gas-check, to prevent the escape of the gases to the rear and to permit the use of an easily operated breech-mechanism.
Being rigid and of fixed dimensions, the metallic cartridge was first used extensively in magazine rifles.
There was, at first, a great objection, however, limiting the use of these rifles for military purposes, and that was the rapid consumption of ammunition, which soon exhausted the supply on the person of the soldier.
The caliber of the guns was large and the ammunition heavy; hence only a small amount could be carried.
A fulminate, or firing-composition, has always been required for the ignition of the powder, in whatever form it has been used.
For loose powder and for paper or cloth cartridges, a percussion-cap, fitted over a vent communicating with the powder in the breech of the gun, served the