Brown Bess Musket "Were the British nuts?"

Brown Bess Musket

The Brown Bess was the most popular musket of all time, it saw service as your everyday British laymans gun from early 1700's to mid 1800's. These smoothbore muskets were very, extremely, inaccurate. Have you ever wondered why the British armies stood toe to toe with their enemies and shot each other down like cows? This musket is the reason why! The Brown Bess, just like most other smoothbore guns, was designed long before rifling was discovered. Rifling is a fundamental part of accuracy that if done without will leave you with a group of 1 foot at 15 feet!
The Brown Bess musket was a flintlock musket. The flintlock musket was a much smarter design than the previous models such as the matchlock musket, and far easier to make than the wheel lock musket. The flintlock carried a piece of flint (a kind of stone) in the place of a where a hammer would be on a more modern rifle. When you pulled the trigger the flint would descend, striking a piece of steel on the way down and sparking the powder in the priming pan, which discharged the gun.
Even after rifles were invented (called rifles because of the rifling found in the barrel) some generals proffered the faster loading smothbore Brown Bess muskets. The newer muzzle loading rifles, like the Kentucky Long Rifle, took a much longer time to load because the shot had the fit in the barrel much tighter for the rifling to be effective, and underneath the ball would be the patch. So altogether it was a very tight squeeze to get that ball down the barrel. But the effect was well worth it. Kentucky Long Rifles were able to hit targets at 350 yards! And certain records show even better shots! Kentucky Rifles were made in both flintlock design and later, cap and ball.
So the British were not exactly "nuts" during Revolutionary War time period, they just lacked technology. And by the way many of the Americans at that time had smoothbore muskets too. But it is true that the British held to their mode of volleys longer than any other country.

Check if you are interested in finding one of these historical collectible guns.

Lynden, WA


Anonymous said...

Rifling was first used at least going back to the mid-1400's for cannon. It was too costly at the time to make it viable for infantry weapons, but hunting rifles were in use at least by the mid-1600's (English Civil War).

Rifles were not standard issue for infantry due to cost, ease of manufacture and the fact that training would be more extensive for your average infantryman.

The Long Land and Short Land muskets, known generally as "Brown Bess," were not as inaccurate as people often claim. A well-trained soldier could reliably hit targets out to 50-75 yards. Rifles could be used to hit targets to 100-150 yards for your average user. Someone well acquainted with a rifle could hit targets out to 300 yards w/ claims going up to 500 yards.

The primary difference between Colonial and Royal forces was training and by extension the tactics used. Rifles were not inherently better than muskets to the point that they "won the war." Colonial forces were often forced to fight using guerilla tactics, and the English did not adapt much, if at all, to the situation.

One does not need 300+ yard accuracy to win a battle when you ambush soldiers that cannot deal with the scenario. This is why the English so often referred to the Colonial soldiers as little more than criminals and murderers.

The smoothbore muskets were much more adept at killing people than they are given credit for. A rifle may have better range if the user has a good eye, but the average person will likely be only slightly better than a trained soldier using a smoothbore.

Anonymous said...

Plus, adding to the historical inaccuracy of the initial statement. The British army was not the "shoulder to shoulder" army of modern myth. In reality the British were more adaptaive to the new theatre oin North America than even the rebels were in open combat. The Britishuse of rifles, open order, Light Infantry and the dissolution of even marking in tight formations and lock step all indicate that the smootbore Brown Bess was an effective shock weapon adapting to a new style of fast warfare in the American Revolution.

Enjoy this great weapon!