Tap loading is a technique that involves firing a musket without the use of a ramrod and wadding. Drop powder and ball down the barrel (smoothbore of course) then ‘tap’ the butt of the musket in the ground two or three times to set the ball before firing.
Spitting is involved too (see video clip and photo caption). I wonder how effective this can be at lubricating the barrel during a battle where dry mouth would be common for most men.
The danger of tap loading must increase as the musket fouls. When a ball is not seated at the bottom of the barrel, bad things can happen.
The result of this technique? Up to six shots in two minutes. Impressive. Accuracy is not bad either.
Patrick O’Kelly, seen above, notes that this technique was used during the revolution. An eye witness account:
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.