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in weaponry, unit of small-arms ammunition, composed of a metal (usually brass) case, a propellant charge, a projectile or bullet, and a primer. The first cartridges, appearing in the second half of the 16th century, consisted merely of charges of powder wrapped in paper; the ball was loaded separately. During the next century, methods of including the ball with the powder were devised. In muzzle-loading a musket, the soldier bit off the end of the paper cartridge, poured a small amount of the powder into the firing pan, poured the rest down the barrel, and rammed the ball and paper down after it.