Review of Volumes III and IV
from Classic Arms and Militaria, Vol.6 No.3, pp38-39.

We reviewed the long and eagerly awaited third and fourth volumes of David Harding's monumental work on East India Company arms with some considerable enjoyment, and readers who still recall our review of volumes one and two a little over a year ago will I hope forgive some reference to these first two parts in this review. For too long East India Company arms and ammunition have been seen as the poor relations of the arms issued to Imperial troops. That this was entirely wrong was shown in detail in the first two volumes, as was the care the Company took in maintaining the quality of its arms and the fastidiousness with which patterns were tested and makers selected.

While Volume I concentrated on the procurement and design of the Company's arms and the lengthy Catalogue of Patterns (superbly illustrated) comprise volume II, the final parts of the set examine the performance of those arms and the training of those who used them. This work offers collectors and black powder shooters a unique reference source and this reviewer is right, he thinks, in noting that no comparable records have so far been uncovered for the Crown forces. This study of the East India Company's arms is quite unique, and more than justifies its price by the depth and breadth of material contained within it.

Volume III of the set concentrates upon the ammunition used by the EIC, and its performance in the Company's firearms. No detail of the EIC records unearthed by the author has been neglected and the chapters on ball, gunpowder, cartridges, flints, flint and percussion missfire rates, accuracy of fire and training external ballistics, the Company's use of the Baker and then Brunswick rifles, show a depth of research and degree of knowledge that is quite simply outstanding.

High quality acid-free paper has been used in the book and quality is excellent, indexing is about perfect and quality of the black & white photographs and line drawings, many of them taken from the original documents, is first class. Quality costs, but it is well worth paying for, and anyone with a serious interest in the military firearms of the 1600 to 1850's will find David Harding's work of inestimable value. What then, is to be found within these 1,288 superbly produced pages with their 221 illustrations?

The majority of the text is concerned with the military smoothbore in its flintlock and percussion guises, but this is simply because the smoothbore was so much more widely used rather than any ignoring of the roles played by the Baker and Brunswick - each of which has also been carefully researched and written up. In addition to the arms themselves, there is much in the book on their performance and the manufacture of ammunition for them. It becomes clear from this work that the military smoothbore was not the ineffective "gas-pipe" it has regularly been condemned as by writers from the late Victorians onwards. Neither was it so short ranged as might be thought, or so inaccurate when loaded with the paper cartridge, as is commonly held. Each component, ball, powder and cartridge paper was the result of much careful research and manufactured to the highest standards possible at the time. Considerable space in Volume III is devoted to the cartridge paper itself and its manufacture, testing and the difference between the English and Indian produced cartridge papers.

The Company's manufactories produced items of as high a quality as those goods produced at home, and in the case of the gunpowder required, that produced at the powder mills at the Company's mills in Bombay, Madras and Bengal was to a carefully controlled standard and comparable to that produced at Waltham Abbey. Waltham Abbey powder was excellent, but there was always the difficulty of shipping it to India without deterioration occurring.

Flints receive their fair share of coverage and the practical student will find Volume III particularly useful. The mining and napping of flints has become shrouded in mystery since the days of the "golden age" of gunmaking, and the coverage of flintlocks and their use will open many eyes. There is nothing about the flintlock that today's shooter cannot manage, if only he or she will adjust their thinking. Cartridge manufacture for the round-ball arms is discussed in detail, indeed an entire chapter is devoted to the subject and explores how they were manufactured at the Company's plants. Missfire rates, flintlock and percussion compared, accuracy of fire, the implications of Robins' pioneering ballistics work and the inclusion of an account of the Chatham trials of the musket in 1846, will fascinate the practical minded collector. There's more: velocity, penetration achieved, elevation for different ranges and chapters each on the Baker and two-grooved Brunswick.