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How Did They Determine Optimum Barrel Length?

2068 Views 8 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  FordTruck
Back in the day when cartridge firearms were loaded with black powder, how did the gun manufacturers determine the proper barrel length for maximum efficiency of their known boolit (calibre and weight) and their known powder charge?

Did they have a formula or was it a "hit and miss" (pun intended) proposition? There were centuries of experience with black powder prior to cartridge ammunition. In my best guess, there must have been some reference material written down somewhere. The Davenport Formula doesn't apply as it's to determine powder charge for a known ball and a known barrel.

If one was going to build a rifle for a new black powder cartridge, how would they determine the optimum barrel length?
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Assuming it's a serious question, I would venture a guess that it had to do with getting the maximum efficiency and velocity from a (then) fairly slow burning powder charge. I would assume that they did a bunch of testing and found it would take a certain length of barrel to get to that velocity for accuracy at any longer range.
Today, I would assume most black powder rifles are built more period correct, than trying to get a shorter barrel.
Of course they did have black powder pistols also.
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