The detectorist on the forum asked, “Is this an old writing pen? I’ve Googled it and still can’t work it out. Can anyone help me and explain where it went and what it does?” That’s how I started a blog post in 2012, which was lost, but was worth trying to resurrect. Unfortunately, I am left with only the pictures and few notes. If there’s a major error – in attribution for example – then please let me know.
The late Old Yellowbelly in a Searcher article of 2008 stated – with tongue in cheek I reckon – that he didn’t often ‘take on’ something that has baffled the FLOs as he had implicit faith that “they, despite youth and inexperience do a good job.”
When he was shown the item opposite, which had been through the system and and remained unidentified, he challenged readers to solve the riddle as to what the ‘thing’ actually was. He said, “Think early hypodermic needle for animals or a metal pen.” At a length of about 9 cm it was a large nib! He had a lot of feedback from experienced detectorists with a correct identification.
In an earlier edition of the same magazine when looking at a similar item, the spokesman for the ID and Valuation Desk said:
… obviously the nib from a pen and looks to be rather old. The lug on the underside probably had a chain or something similar added to it, so no one could run off with the pen … if any readers have knowledge of old writing instruments, then we’d be pleased to hear from them.
Two months later he was informed by a reader that the find had nothing to do with writing, but was actually part of a pistol, musket or rifle. It fitted into the wooden stock under the barrel and supported the end of the ramrod. A pin passed through the pierced lug (there was sometimes two) and held it in position. The reader also sent a drawing showing the position where the ramrod support was fixed.
GpSnoopy, an administrator on the CMD forum has done some extra research and found a video showing the loading of a musket, using a ramrod. Thanks for that!
Scottish detectorist Rodger Shearer sent me pictures of a ram rod holder he had found, but initially didn’t know what it was until ‘Dusty’, a member of the Rogers Relics detecting forum, informed him.
A ramrod is a metal or wooden device used with early firearms to push the projectile up against the propellant (mainly gunpowder). It is also commonly referred to as a “scouring stick”. The ramrod was used with muzzle-loading weapons such as muskets and cannons, and was usually held in a notch underneath the barrel.
Bullets that did not fit snugly in the barrel were often secured in place by a wad of paper, but either way, ramming was necessary to place the bullet securely at the rear of the barrel. Ramming was also needed to tamp the powder so that it would explode properly instead of fizzle (this was a leading cause of misfires).
The ramrod could also be fitted with tools for various tasks such as cleaning the weapon, or retrieving a stuck bullet. Wikipedia
Even the tiniest objects, seen in the proper context, can tell you a lot. Those kind people at International Military Antiques have allowed me to show pictures of the holder in situ.
SEEN on a DETECTING FORUM: “Is this an old writing pen? I’ve Googled it and still can’t work out what it does?? Can anyone help me/explain where it went, what it does?”
NOW YOU KNOW!
Originally posted in 2012. Now updated with new material.