Musket

Musket

Overview


A musket is a muzzle
Muzzle (firearm)
The muzzle of a firearm is the end of the barrel from which the projectile will exit.Precise machining of the muzzle is crucial to accuracy, because it is the last point of contact between the barrel and the projectile...

-loaded, smooth bore long gun
Long gun
The term long gun is used to describe classes of firearm and cannon with longer barrels than other classes. In small arms, a long gun is designed to be fired braced against the shoulder, in contrast to a handgun, while in artillery a long gun would be contrasted with a howitzer or carronade.-Small...

, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer
Musketeer
A musketeer was an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe. They sometimes could fight on horseback, like a dragoon or a cavalryman...

.

The musket replaced the arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

, and was in turn replaced by the rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. The term "musket" is applied to a variety of weapons, including the long, heavy guns with matchlock
Matchlock
The matchlock was the first mechanism, or "lock" invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. This design removed the need to lower by hand a lit match into the weapon's flash pan and made it possible to have both hands free to keep a firm grip on the weapon at the moment of firing,...

 or wheel lock and loose powder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 fired with the gun barrel
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

 resting on a stand, and also lighter weapons with Snaphance
Snaphance
A Snaphance or Snaphaunce is a particular type of mechanism for firing a gun . The name is Dutch in origin but the mechanism can not be attributed to the Netherlands with certainty. It is the mechanical progression of the wheel-lock firing mechanism and the predecessor of the flintlock firing...

, flintlock
Flintlock
Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. The term may also apply to the mechanism itself. Introduced at the beginning of the 17th century, the flintlock rapidly replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the doglock, matchlock and wheellock...

 or caplock and bullets using a stabilizing spin (Minié ball
Minié ball
The Minié ball is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilising rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle...

), affixed with a bayonet.

16th-century troops armed with a heavy version of the arquebus called a musket were specialists supporting the arquebusiers and pikemen formations.
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Encyclopedia


A musket is a muzzle
Muzzle (firearm)
The muzzle of a firearm is the end of the barrel from which the projectile will exit.Precise machining of the muzzle is crucial to accuracy, because it is the last point of contact between the barrel and the projectile...

-loaded, smooth bore long gun
Long gun
The term long gun is used to describe classes of firearm and cannon with longer barrels than other classes. In small arms, a long gun is designed to be fired braced against the shoulder, in contrast to a handgun, while in artillery a long gun would be contrasted with a howitzer or carronade.-Small...

, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer
Musketeer
A musketeer was an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe. They sometimes could fight on horseback, like a dragoon or a cavalryman...

.

The musket replaced the arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

, and was in turn replaced by the rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. The term "musket" is applied to a variety of weapons, including the long, heavy guns with matchlock
Matchlock
The matchlock was the first mechanism, or "lock" invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. This design removed the need to lower by hand a lit match into the weapon's flash pan and made it possible to have both hands free to keep a firm grip on the weapon at the moment of firing,...

 or wheel lock and loose powder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 fired with the gun barrel
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

 resting on a stand, and also lighter weapons with Snaphance
Snaphance
A Snaphance or Snaphaunce is a particular type of mechanism for firing a gun . The name is Dutch in origin but the mechanism can not be attributed to the Netherlands with certainty. It is the mechanical progression of the wheel-lock firing mechanism and the predecessor of the flintlock firing...

, flintlock
Flintlock
Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. The term may also apply to the mechanism itself. Introduced at the beginning of the 17th century, the flintlock rapidly replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the doglock, matchlock and wheellock...

 or caplock and bullets using a stabilizing spin (Minié ball
Minié ball
The Minié ball is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilising rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle...

), affixed with a bayonet.

16th-century troops armed with a heavy version of the arquebus called a musket were specialists supporting the arquebusiers and pikemen formations. By the start of the 18th century, a lighter version of the musket had edged out the arquebus, and the addition of the bayonet edged out the pike, and almost all infantry became musketeers.

In the 18th century, improvements in ammunition and firing methods allowed rifling to be practical for military use, and the term "rifled gun" gave way to "rifle". In the 19th century, rifled musket
Rifled musket
The term rifled musket or rifle musket refers to a specific type of weapon made in the mid-19th century. Originally the term referred only to muskets that had been produced as a smoothbore weapon and later had their barrels rifled...

s (which were technically rifles, but were referred to as muskets) became common which combined the advantages of rifles and muskets. About the time of the introduction of cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

, breechloading, and multiple rounds of ammunition
Repeating rifle
A repeating rifle is a single barreled rifle containing multiple rounds of ammunition. These rounds are loaded from a magazine by means of a manual or automatic mechanism, and the action that reloads the rifle also typically recocks the firing action...

 just a few years later, muskets fell out of fashion.

Musket caliber
Caliber
In guns including firearms, caliber or calibre is the approximate internal diameter of the barrel in relation to the diameter of the projectile used in it....

s ranged from 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) to 0.8 inches (20.3 mm). A typical smooth bore musket firing at a single target was only accurate to about 50 yards (45.7 m) to 70 yards (64 m) using the military ammunition of the day, which used a much smaller bullet than the musket bore to compensate for accumulation of ash in the barrel under battlefield conditions. Rifled muskets of the mid-19th century were significantly more accurate, with the ability to hit a man sized target at up to 500 yards (457.2 m). The advantage of this extended range was demonstrated at the Battle of Four Lakes
Battle of Four Lakes
The Battle of Four Lakes was a battle during a US Army expedition against a confederation of Indian tribes in Washington and Idaho. Indian resistance to U.S. troops in the area had continued as part of the Yakima War. Commander of the Department of the Pacific, General Newman S. Clarke sent a...

, where Springfield Model 1855
Springfield Model 1855
The Model 1855 Springfield was a rifled musket used in the mid 19th century. It was produced by the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts.Earlier muskets had mostly been smooth bore flintlocks. In the 1840s, the unreliable flintlocks had been replaced by much more reliable and weather resistant...

 rifled muskets inflicted heavy casualties among the Indian warriors before they could get their smooth bore muskets into range. However, in the Italian War of 1859, French forces were able to defeat the longer range of Austrian rifle muskets by aggressive skirmishing and rapid bayonet assaults at close quarters combat.

Etymology


According to the Etymology Dictionary, firearms were often named after animals, and the word musket derived from the French word mousquette, which is a male sparrowhawk. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=musket&searchmode=none An alternative theory is that as French mousquet, from Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 moschetto, means "little fly" – from the shape of the crossbolt – and that the English word is actually a diminutive of 'fly' with the proto-Indo European root *mu.

Asia



The hand cannon was first used in China in the 13th century. While the exact origins are unknown, it is known that hand cannons were used in the Battle of Ain Jalut
Battle of Ain Jalut
The Battle of Ain Jalut took place on 3 September 1260 between Mamluks and the Mongols in eastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, not far from Ein Harod....

 in 1260. The hand cannon was a very simple weapon, consisting of a metal tube enclosed on one end, with a touch hole drilled into the side of it. Gunpowder and ammunition were placed in the tube, and a match (a short piece of burning rope) was touched to the touch hole, causing the powder to explode and the ammunition to be discharged.

Over time, the hand cannon evolved into the matchlock musket. Hand cannons had a crude handle, or no handle at all. A wooden stock was added, allowing the weapon to be more easily held and fired. Early musketeers just held on to the rope match, or attached it to their belt, which was dangerous since the match could accidentally contact the touch hole as the musketeer moved around while loading the weapon in battle. The matchlock mechanism was a simple solution to this problem, and placed the match in a clamp on the end of a lever. When a trigger was pulled, the lever would rotate and allowed the match to come in contact with the touch hole, discharging the weapon.

Musketeers were utilized in the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 (1368–1644) and Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (1644–1911) and the 14th century Chinese military treatise Huolongjing
Huolongjing
The Huolongjing is a 14th century military treatise that was compiled and edited by Jiao Yu and Liu Ji of the early Ming Dynasty in China...

describes a s-shaped serpetine matchlock
Matchlock
The matchlock was the first mechanism, or "lock" invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. This design removed the need to lower by hand a lit match into the weapon's flash pan and made it possible to have both hands free to keep a firm grip on the weapon at the moment of firing,...

. In Zhao Shizhen's book of 1598 AD, the Shenqipu, there were illustrations of Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Turkish
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

 musketmen with detailed illustrations of their muskets, alongside European musketeers with detailed illustrations of their muskets. There was also illustration and description of how the Chinese had adopted the Ottoman kneeling position in firing while favoring European-made rifles.

As musket technology rapidly improved in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, China often imported muskets, eventually losing the arms race to the West by 1750. When the rifle was invented in the West, the musket lost its status as the dominant weapon.

The Mughals
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 introduced muskets to India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 in 1519. The guns came into wide use by not only the Indian Mughal Empires but also by Rival South India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

n kingdoms. The muskets that the Mughals and the rest of India used were often made of the high quality wootz steel. These Indian muskets were manufactured by the thousands and could even use stones instead of balls if needed. The superior strength of the steel allowed Mughals the ability to use more gunpowder than their European counterparts.

Despite initial reluctance, the Safavid Empire of Persia very rapidly acquired the art of making and using handguns. A Venetian envoy, Vincenzo di Alessandri, in a report presented to the Council of Ten on 24 September 1572, observes:
In Japan, muskets were introduced in 1543 by Portuguese merchantmen and by the 1560s were being mass-produced locally. Japan then was in the midst of civil war. Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

 revolutionized musket tactics in Japan by splitting loaders and shooters and assigning three guns to a shooter at the Battle of Nagashino
Battle of Nagashino
The ' took place in 1575 near Nagashino Castle on the plain of Shitaragahara in the Mikawa province of Japan. Forces under Takeda Katsuyori had besieged the castle since the 17th of June; Okudaira Sadamasa , a Tokugawa vassal, commanded the defending force...

 in 1575. (Popular records stating he used a Maurice-style three-line formation are incorrect according to onsite evidence.) The total victory he won at this battle led other daimyo
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 to acquire muskets in large quantities, and they proved highly effective during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 1590s ordered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

. At the Battle of Sekigahara
Battle of Sekigahara
The , popularly known as the , was a decisive battle on October 21, 1600 which cleared the path to the Shogunate for Tokugawa Ieyasu...

 in 1600, nearly 20,000 muskets were used, comparable to if not greater than the numbers employed on contemporary European battlefields. While many believe that during the Sakoku the political power of the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 led to muskets being banned in Japan, this is a misconception brought on by romantic views. In actuality, the Japanese were fully capable of manufacturing their own muskets, and the shogunate even created several political positions to oversee their manufacture and inventory. However, it is indeed true that the feudal Daimyo, other than the Shogun himself, were forbidden from manufacturing or stockpiling firearms.

As booty from the Japanese invaders, muskets were introduced to Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 (Joseon dynasty
Joseon Dynasty
Joseon , was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul...

). In the Manchu invasion of Korea (both in 1627
First Manchu invasion of Korea
The First Manchu invasion of Korea occurred in 1627, when Hong Taiji led the Manchu army against Korea's Joseon dynasty. It was followed by the Second Manchu invasion of Korea.-Background:...

 and in 1636
Second Manchu invasion of Korea
The second Manchu invasion of Korea occurred in 1636, when the Manchu Qing Empire brought Korea's Joseon dynasty into submission. It followed the first Manchu invasion of Korea of 1627.-Background:...

) the musket troop of Joseon dynasty army impressed the Manchu army which consisted mostly of cavalry, despite the eventual total defeat of Joseon. Afterwards, the Manchu Qing dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 asked the Joseon dynasty for its musket troop when there was a border conflict with Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. In 1654 and 1658, hundreds of Joseon musket troops were dispatched by the request of the Qing Dynasty engaged Russians near Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

 (Battle of Hutong).

Europe


Hand cannons were first used in Europe sometime in the early 14th century. They were more commonly used by the early 15th century, particularly in the Hussite wars
Hussite Wars
The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars involved the military actions against and amongst the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia in the period 1419 to circa 1434. The Hussite Wars were notable for the extensive use of early hand-held gunpowder weapons such as hand cannons...

. It is possible that the noise was at least as important as the missile, for the effect on the horses of the enemy knights. These were very short ranged, inaccurate and difficult to load and fire. The first European usage of the arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

 in large ratios was in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 under king Matthias Corvinus (r. 1458–1490). Every third soldier in the Black Army of Hungary
Black Army of Hungary
The Black Army , "Black Legion" or "Regiment"—possibly named after their black armor panoply, see below) is, in historiography, the common name given to the military forces serving under the reign of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary...

 had an arquebus, which was an unusually high ratio in its era. Gradual advances in the empirical understanding of the corning of gunpowder made possible a more powerful explosive (dating is still uncertain from c. 1420 – c. 1550 and probably varied by country). The cost of gunpowder also gradually fell. By the 16th century the handheld firearm became commonplace, replacing the crossbow and longbow in all advanced armies, and known as the arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

. Most infantry were pike
Pike (weapon)
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the...

men who normally wore some armour, especially the front ranks, and gave protection against cavalry to the arquebusiers. The rise of firearms led to thicker and heavier armour, from 15 kg in the 15th century to 25 kg in the late 16th century. Armour 2 mm thick required 2.9 times as much energy to defeat it as armour 1 mm thick. The need to defeat armour gave rise to the musket proper referring to a heavier weapon, firing a heavier shot, which had to balance on a rest. The initial role of the musket was as a specialist armour piercing weapon; it therefore coexisted with the arquebus over the period c. 1550 – c. 1650. For example, from 1636 the complement of the Spanish infantry company, in Flanders, was 200 men, 11 officers, 30 musketeers, 60 arqubusiers, 65 pikemen with body armour, 34 pikemen without armour. The musketeers received double pay. The musketeers were the first infantry to give up armour entirely. As their heavy shot had a longer range, and without armour, musketeers began to take cover behind walls or in sunken lanes and sometimes acted as skirmishers. Sometime around 1630–60, at least in England, the musket barrel was cut down from 4 feet to 3 feet at about the same time the rest was given up. The arquebus seems to disappear as the musket got lighter. The number of musketeers relative to pikemen grew, partly because they were now more mobile than pikemen.

A lighter alternative to either the arquebus or the musket was the caliver, which was often used at sea, or by irregular troops
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

. Almost all muskets in this period were fired by the matchlock mechanism, where a length of smouldering rope ignited the gunpowder in the weapon's pan, causing the musket ball to be fired out of the barrel. An alternative to the matchlock in the earlier period was the wheellock
Wheellock
A wheellock, wheel-lock or wheel lock, is a friction-wheel mechanism to cause a spark for firing a firearm. It was the next major development in firearms technology after the matchlock and the first self-igniting firearm. The mechanism is so-called because it uses a rotating steel wheel to provide...

 mechanism. The matchlock had several disadvantages – it was inaccurate at over 50–m, slow to reload, and often caused accidental ignition of gunpowder stores. The paper powder charge was first introduced in Europe by the King of Poland, Stefan Batory
Stefan Batory
Stephen Báthory was a Hungarian noble Prince of Transylvania , then King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania . He was a member of the Somlyó branch of the noble Hungarian Báthory family...

. Often muskets were unreliable, and sometimes (such as in the English Civil War) were found to be of more use as clubs. The widespread use of muskets nevertheless changed the face of warfare (see gunpowder warfare
Gunpowder warfare
Early modern warfare is associated with the start of the widespread use of gunpowder and the development of suitable weapons to use the explosive, including artillery and handguns such as the arquebus and later the musket, and for this reason the era is also summarized as the age of gunpowder...

).


The arquebus and caliver were phased out in the 17th century as the musket became lighter and more portable, and "musket" thereafter became the generic name for long-barrelled, handheld firearms. The musket went through further evolution in the 17th century, the most important of these changes being the introduction of the flintlock
Flintlock
Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. The term may also apply to the mechanism itself. Introduced at the beginning of the 17th century, the flintlock rapidly replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the doglock, matchlock and wheellock...

 firing mechanism, where the gunpowder in a musket's pan was ignited by a flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 suspended on hammer, which struck the pan on pulling the trigger. Sven Åderman
Sven Åderman
Sven Åderman was a Swedish inventor and officer who created a musket capable of firing more rapidly than conventional weaponry of the late 17th century. This new musket was first used in the wars of King Karl XII. For his efforts King Frederick I of Sweden bestowed upon him the estate of Halltorp...

 is credited with advancing the rapidity of firing and was awarded Halltorps estate by the King of Sweden. The flintlock (which succeeded the similar but more complicated snaphance
Snaphance
A Snaphance or Snaphaunce is a particular type of mechanism for firing a gun . The name is Dutch in origin but the mechanism can not be attributed to the Netherlands with certainty. It is the mechanical progression of the wheel-lock firing mechanism and the predecessor of the flintlock firing...

) was a major advance on the matchlock in safety, accuracy, and loading time. It became standard issue for European infantrymen by 1700. Around the same time came the invention of the bayonet. There was now no need for two types of infantry and the pike disappeared.

The ball in smoothbore firearms was quite loose in the barrel. The last contact with the barrel gave the ball a spin at right angles to the direction of flight. The aerodynamics meant that the ball veered off in a random direction from the aiming point. Rifling
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

, grooves put in the barrel of the weapon which cause the projectile to spin on the same axis as the line of flight, prevented this veering off from the aiming point. Rifles started as sporting weapons and had little use on the battlefield. From around 1750 rifles began to be used by skirmishers (Frederick the Great raised a Jager
Jäger
Jäger is the German word for "hunter", and also a common Jäger is the [[German language|German]] word for "[[hunter]]", and also a common Jäger is the [[German...

 unit in 1744, from game-keepers and foresters, armed with rifles) but the very slow rate of fire of muzzle-loading rifles restricted their use until the invention of the Minié ball
Minié ball
The Minié ball is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilising rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle...

.

Operation


In the 18th century, as typified by the English Brown Bess
Brown Bess
Brown Bess is a nickname of uncertain origin for the British Army's Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. This musket was used in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired symbolic importance at least as significant as its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred...

 musket, loading and firing was done in the following way:
  • Upon the command "prime and load", the soldier would make a quarter turn to the right at the same time bringing the musket to the priming position. The pan would be open following the discharge of the previous shot, meaning that the frizzen
    Frizzen
    The frizzen, historically called the steel, is an "L" shaped piece of steel hinged at the rear used in flintlock firearms. It is positioned over the flash pan so as to enclose a small priming charge of black powder next to the flash hole that is drilled through the barrel into where the main...

     would be tilted forward. If the musket was not being reloaded after a previous shot, the soldiers would be ordered to "Open Pan".
  • Upon the command "Handle cartridge", the soldier would draw a cartridge
    Cartridge (firearms)
    A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

     from the cartridge box worn on the soldier's right hip or on a belt in front of the soldier's belly. Cartridges consisted of a spherical lead ball wrapped in a paper cartridge
    Paper cartridge
    Paper cartridge refers to one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and, in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent...

     which also held the gunpowder propellant. The end of the cartridge opposite from the ball would be sealed by a mere twist of the paper. The soldier then tore off the twisted end of the cartridge with the teeth and spat it out, and continued to hold the now open cartridge in his right hand.
  • Upon the command "prime", the soldier then pulled the hammer back to half-cock, and poured a small amount of powder from the cartridge into the priming pan. He then closed the frizzen so that the priming powder was trapped.
  • Upon the command "about", the butt of the musket was then lowered and moved to a position against the soldier's left calf, and held so that the soldier could then access the muzzle of the musket barrel. The soldier then poured the rest of the powder from the cartridge down the muzzle. The cartridge was then reversed, and the end of the cartridge holding the musket ball was inserted into the muzzle, with the remaining paper shoved into the muzzle above the musket ball. This paper acted as wadding to stop the ball and powder from falling out if the muzzle was lowered.
  • Upon the command "draw ramrods", the soldier drew the ramrod
    Ramrod
    A ramrod is a device used with early firearms to push the projectile up against the propellant . It is also commonly referred to as a "scouring stick"...

     from the musket. The ramrod was grasped and reversed when removed, and the large end was inserted about one inch into the muzzle.
  • Upon the command "ram down cartridge", the soldier then used the ramrod to firmly ram the wadding, bullet, and powder down to the breech of the barrel. The ramrod was then removed, reversed, and returned to half way in the musket by inserting it into the first and second ramrod pipes. The soldier's hand then grasped the top of the ramrod.
  • Upon the command "return rammers", the soldier would quickly push the rammer the remaining amount to completely return it to its normal position. Once the ramrod was properly replaced, the soldier's right arm would be held parallel to the ground at shoulder level, with the right fingertips touching the bayonet lug
    Bayonet lug
    A bayonet lug is a standard feature on most military muskets, rifles, and shotguns, and on some civilian longarms. It is intended for attaching a bayonet, which is typically a long spike or thrusting knife...

    , and lightly pressing the musket to the soldier's left shoulder. The soldier's left hand still supported the musket.

(At no time did the soldier place the musket on the ground to load)
  • Upon the command "Make Ready". The musket was brought straight up, perpendicular to the ground, with the left hand on the swell of the musket stock, the lock turned toward the soldier's face, and the soldier's right hand pulled the lock to full cock, and grasped the wrist of the musket.
  • Upon the command "present", the butt of the musket was brought to the soldier's right shoulder, while at the same time the soldier lowered the muzzle to firing position, parallel to the ground, and sighting (if the soldier had been trained to fire at "marks") along the barrel at the enemy.
  • Upon the command of "fire", the soldier pulled the trigger, and the musket (hopefully) fired. A full second was allowed to pass, and the musket was then quickly lowered to the loading position, butt against the soldier's right hip, muzzle held off center to the left at about a forty-five degree angle, and the soldier would look down at his open pan to determine if the prime had been ignited.

This process was drilled into troops until they could complete the procedure upon hearing a single command of "prime and load". No additional verbal orders were given until the musket was loaded, and the option was either to give the soldiers the command "Make Ready", or to hold the musket for movement with the command of "Shoulder your firelock". The main advantage of the British Army
Red coat (British army)
Red coat or Redcoat is a historical term used to refer to soldiers of the British Army because of the red uniforms formerly worn by the majority of regiments. From the late 17th century to the early 20th century, the uniform of most British soldiers, , included a madder red coat or coatee...

 was that the infantry soldier trained at this procedure almost every day. A properly trained group of regular infantry soldiers was able to load and fire four rounds per minute. A crack infantry company could load and fire five rounds in a minute.

Tactics


Matchlock Muskets took a long time to reload and many were very inaccurate, so army tacticians
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 typically deployed musket-men in formations to maximize firepower.

This tactic was pioneered by Maurice of Nassau, who taught it to Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 troops in the Eighty Years' War. It was originally known as the countermarch, where troops were arranged in lines up to twelve, but more usually eight or six deep. After the front rank fired it would file away to the rear to reload. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden made two important advances in the use of this tactic. First, he simplified and standardized reloading, then drilled his musketeers ceaselessly until they reloaded in action by reflex, without becoming distracted. Second, he pioneered the use of the volley or "salvo" as an offensive tactic for Swedish infantry in the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

.

Because of the musket's slow reloading time it was necessary until 1700 or later to use pikemen to protect them from cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

. After the invention of the bayonet and flintlock musket, infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 were no longer equipped with the pike
Pike (weapon)
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the...

 and their firing formations were reduced to three ranks deep. By having the front rank kneel, all three ranks would be able to fire at the same time. This allowed all the men in the unit to fire at the same time, unleashing a withering volley that would slam into the enemy. However, they had to be fairly close for the fire to be effective.

As muskets became the principal weapon of armies, the slow reloading time became an increasing problem. The difficulty of reloading—and thus the time needed to do it—was diminished by making the musket ball much smaller than the internal diameter of the barrel, so as the interior of the barrel became dirty from soot from previously fired rounds, the musket ball from the next shot could still be easily rammed. In order to keep the ball in place once the weapon was loaded, it would be partially wrapped in a small piece of cloth. However, the smaller ball could move within the barrel as the musket was fired, decreasing the accuracy of musket fire (it was complained that it took a man's weight in lead musket balls to kill him). The only way to make musket fire effective was to mass large numbers of musketmen and have them fire at the same time. The tradeoff between reloading speed and accuracy of fire continued until the invention of the Minié ball.

The main tactic for infantry attacks from 1700 or so was a slow measured advance, with pauses to fire volleys at enemy infantry. The aim was to break the enemy by firepower and leave the pursuit of them to the cavalry. If the defenders did not break and flee, however, a bayonet charge and hand-to-hand combat would be necessary. The French Army was somewhat exceptional in this regard, as many of their officers preferred the a prest attack – a rapid charge using swords or bayonets rather than firepower. However, British General Charles Grey
Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey
Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, KB PC was one of the most important British generals of the 18th century. He was the fourth son of Sir Henry Grey, 1st Baronet, of Howick in Northumberland. He served in the Seven Years' War, American War of Independence and French Revolutionary War...

 became known as "no flint" Grey because of his fondness for bayonet attacks.

The British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 was famous for being the first army that fought in two ranks rather than three. This allowed the infantry soldier to fire his musket without the need for the front rank to kneel. Another famous British tactic was platoon fire. At the time a platoon
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

 was a half-company. The right-hand files of a company would form the first platoon and the left-hand files of that same company would form the second platoon. The platoon fire would begin at one of the flank platoons of the battalion or regiment, and one or two seconds after the platoon beside them fired, the next platoon would fire. The effect would be platoon volley after platoon volley rolling down the face of the battalion or regiment, and the result of such disciplined fire was a constant hail of bullets on the enemy formation.

By the 18th century a very experienced soldier could load and fire at a rate of four shots per minute. Soldiers expecting to face musket fire learned discipline
Discipline
In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

d drills
Parade (military)
A military parade is a formation of soldiers whose movement is restricted by close-order manouevering known as drilling or marching. The American usage is "formation or military review". The military parade is now mostly ceremonial, though soldiers from time immemorial up until the late 19th...

 to move in precise formations and to obey orders unquestioningly. British soldiers in particular acquired a reputation
Reputation
Reputation of a social entity is an opinion about that entity, typically a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria...

 for drilling until they could perform coolly and automatically in the heat of combat
Combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

. Use of musket infantry tactics was utilized to the fullest by King Frederick William I of Prussia
Frederick William I of Prussia
Frederick William I of the House of Hohenzollern, was the King in Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg from 1713 until his death...

 in the early 18th century. Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n troops under his leadership could fire a shot every fifteen seconds with almost unrivaled discipline, and his finest infantry units could fire a shot every ten seconds.

In the 19th century, a new tactic was devised by the French in the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

. This was the colonne d'attaque, or attack column. This tactic involved a large number of troops, from one regiment up to two brigades of infantry. These men packed close together in a tight column which, encouraged by the drums, marched slowly forward. The French Army at the time mostly consisted of conscript troops, who were not heavily trained. The column gave them confidence and a feeling of safety due to the huge number of men in the column. The amount of men in the column also made it more capable of sustaining enemy fire as well. The sight of a huge column slowly and inexorably making its way towards its enemy was often enough to make the enemy break and run. Disciplined troops who could fire fast enough into the column, however, could stop the column with its own fallen soldiers. Another flaw with this formation was the devastation that could be inflicted upon it by an opponent firing into the side(s) of the column, and artillery could also wreak havoc on the massed formation.

Obsolescence and replacement by the rifle


By today's standards, muskets are not accurate due to the gap between the bullet and the internal wall of the barrel. A rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

 bullet will spin, ensuring greater accuracy. Owing to this inaccuracy, officers did not expect musketmen to aim at specific targets. Rather, they had the objective of delivering a mass of musket balls into the enemy line.

The disadvantage of the early rifle for military use was its long reloading time and the tendency for powder fouling to accumulate in the rifling, making the piece more difficult to load with each shot. Eventually, the weapon could not be loaded until the bore was wiped clean. For this reason, regular American units used smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 muskets. However, German regiments from many principalities fielded companies of riflemen known as Jaegers, as early as the beginning of the 18th century. British armies during the Seven Years War, which was called the French & Indian War in America, formed rifle units, and these units were formed again during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, the British created and maintained a rifle regiment.

The invention of the Minié ball solved both major problems of muzzle-loading rifles. The Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 (1853–1856) saw the first widespread use of the rifled musket for the common infantryman and by the time of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 (1860s) most infantry were equipped with the rifled musket. These were far more accurate than smoothbore muskets and had a far longer range, while preserving the musket's fast reloading rate. Their use led to a decline in the use of massed attacking formations, as these formations were too vulnerable to the accurate, long-range fire a rifle could produce. In particular, attacking troops were within range of the defenders for a longer period of time, and the defenders could also fire at them more quickly than before. As a result, while 18th century attackers would only be within range of the defenders' weapons for the time it would take to fire a few shots, late 19th century attackers might suffer dozens of volleys before they drew close to the defenders, with correspondingly high casualty rates. However, the use of massed attacks on fortified positions did not vanish overnight, and as a result, major wars of the late 19th century and early 20th century tended to produce very high casualty figures.

In the late 19th century, the rifle took another major step forward with the introduction of breech-loading
Breech-loading weapon
A breech-loading weapon is a firearm in which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded into a chamber integral to the rear portion of a barrel....

 rifles. These rifles also used brass cartridges. The brass cartridge had been introduced earlier; however, it was not widely adopted for various reasons. In the U.S. Army, generals thought their soldiers would waste ammunition, so they kept muzzle-loading black powder rifles until after the American Civil War. The introduction of breech loaders meant that the rifling of a weapon was no longer damaged when it was loaded, and reloading was a much faster process. Shortly afterwards, magazine
Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable . The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action...

 loading rifles were introduced, which further increased the weapons' rate of fire
Rate of fire
Rate of fire is the frequency at which a specific weapon can fire or launch its projectiles. It is usually measured in rounds per minute , or per second .-Overview:...

. From this period (c. 1870) on, the musket was obsolete in modern warfare.

Outside Eurasia


Muskets were the firearms first used by many non-Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

ns. With the introduction of the rifle to European armies, thousands of muskets were sold or traded to less technologically advanced societies in the 19th century. Inequality in adoption of access to muskets could lead to large changes in political and social structure, for example amongst the Māori of New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 due to the Musket Wars
Musket Wars
The Musket Wars were a series of five hundred or more battles mainly fought between various hapū , sometimes alliances of pan-hapū groups and less often larger iwi of Māori between 1807 and 1842, in New Zealand.Northern tribes such as the rivals Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua were the first to obtain...

.

Parts of a musket


The phrase "lock, stock, and barrel" (which means the whole thing) refers to the three main parts of a musket. The stock is the wooden base. The barrel is the tube where the musket ball (or other ammunition) accelerates and exits the weapon. The lock is the mechanism that causes the weapon to fire.

Most muskets were designed to be used with a bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

, which is a triangular spike or blade designed to fit onto the end of the musket's barrel, allowing the musket to be used as a pike or spear. Bayonets in modern fighting are intended as last-ditch weapons which are only used in emergencies, but in muskets, bayonets played a much more significant role, typically accounting for roughly one third of all casualties on the battlefield.

Locks came in many different varieties. Early matchlock and wheel lock mechanisms were replaced by later flintlock mechanism
Flintlock mechanism
The flintlock mechanism was a firing mechanism used on muskets and rifles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is commonly referred to as a "flintlock" , though that term is also commonly used for the weapons themselves as a whole, and not just the lock mechanism.The flintlock was developed in...

s and finally percussion locks. The lock typically had a hammer of some sort, which was pulled back into position (cocked) and released by pulling a trigger. The hammer was often referred to as a dogshead or a cock due to the fact that it looked somewhat like a dog or chicken's head when viewed from the side. Flintlocks and percussion locks typically had a "half cocked" position, which was a "safe" position from which the weapon could be loaded but not fired. Only when the hammer was pulled back into the "full cocked" position could it be fired. The phrase "don't go off half cocked" has its origins in this type of weapon.

The stock
Stock (firearm)
A stock, also known as a buttstock or shoulder stock, is a part of a rifle or other firearm, to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached, that is held against one's shoulder when firing the gun. Stocks are also found on crossbows though a crossbow stock is more properly referred to as a...

 was made out of wood. The rear end of the stock was called the butt. The stock of a musket was typically heavy enough and sturdy enough that the butt could be used as a blunt force weapon in hand to hand combat. Some muskets had small boxes built into the stock called a patch box, since it was used to carry small cotton patches which were used both for cleaning and for wadding when firing the weapon.

The barrel of a musket was usually smooth bore. Rifled barrels were more accurate, but the black powder used at the time quickly fouled the barrel, making reloading slower and more difficult. This was not a problem for hunters, who often used weapons with rifled barrels, but musketeers could not afford to stop firing and clean their barrels in the middle of a battle. The minie ball, which came into use in the 1840s, allowed the use of rifled musket
Rifled musket
The term rifled musket or rifle musket refers to a specific type of weapon made in the mid-19th century. Originally the term referred only to muskets that had been produced as a smoothbore weapon and later had their barrels rifled...

s. The front of the barrel was called the muzzle, and the rear was called the breech. The term "muzzle loading" therefore indicates that muskets were loaded through the front end of the barrel. A ramrod, made out of wood or metal, was used to push the ball or bullet into the barrel. Most muskets had a groove in the stock under the barrel, allowing the ramrod to be slid into place and stored there. Musketeers were trained to always replace their ramrods after loading so that they would not leave their ramrods on the field if they were forced to hastily retreat.

Barrel bands held the barrel to the stock. These were removable, so that the barrel could be taken off and cleaned. Barrel bands were typically held in place either with springs or screws. A large screw attached to the breech (called the tang screw) also held the barrel in place.

Most smooth bore muskets did not have sights. Rifled muskets, due to their longer range, were usually equipped with sights. The design and placement of these sights varied. For example, the U.S. Springfield Model 1861
Springfield Model 1861
The Springfield Model 1861 was a Minié-type rifled musket shoulder arm used by the United States Army and Marine Corps during the American Civil War. Commonly referred to as the "Springfield" , it was the most widely used U.S...

 musket used two flip up leaf sights, set for 300 and 500 yards, while the British Pattern 1853 Enfield
Pattern 1853 Enfield
The Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket was a .577 calibre Minié-type muzzle-loading rifle-musket, used by the British Empire from 1853 to 1867, after which many Enfield 1853 Rifle-Muskets were converted to the cartridge-loaded Snider-Enfield rifle.-History &...

 used a flip up ladder sight, which was graduated from 100 to 900 yards in 100 yard increments (although realistically, hitting anything beyond 500 yards was mostly a matter of luck).

Ammunition



The simplicity of the musket design allowed it to fire a variety of ammunition. The simplest ammunition for musket was the round ball, which was literally just a round ball of lead. Round balls were intentionally loose fitting in the barrel so that they could quickly be loaded even after the barrel had been fouled by numerous previous shots. This loose fit, combined with the poor aerodynamics of the round ball led to the musket's inaccuracy beyond 50 to 75 yards or so. Muskets could also fire smaller lead pellets called lead shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

 or buckshot, which struck a wider area but with less force than a single lead ball. Round balls could be combined with buckshot to produce buck and ball
Buck and ball
Buck and ball was a common load for muzzle-loading muskets, and was very commonly used into the early days of the American Civil War. The load consisted of a .69 caliber round lead musket ball combined with three buckshot pellets.-Construction:...

 ammunition, which combined the wider area of attack of shot with the large mass of the round ball.

Musket balls were of a diameter considerably larger than today's modern rifles – the Brown Bess fielded a caliber of more than .75". With its soft, all-lead composition, the ball would easily flatten or burst on contact, much like a modern soft-point bullet. Together with its large size, this meant it could cause large wounds. The smooth bore muskets of the Brown Bess period had considerable hitting power and were able to penetrate the armor of the day, but had limited accuracy due to the lack of rifling in the barrel.

The minié ball
Minié ball
The Minié ball is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilising rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle...

, which despite its name was actually bullet shaped and not ball shaped, was invented in the 1840s. The minié ball had an expanding skirt which was intended to be used with rifled barrels, leading to what was called the rifled musket
Rifled musket
The term rifled musket or rifle musket refers to a specific type of weapon made in the mid-19th century. Originally the term referred only to muskets that had been produced as a smoothbore weapon and later had their barrels rifled...

, which came into widespread use in the mid-19th century. The minié ball was small enough in diameter that it could be loaded as quickly as a round ball, even with a barrel that had been fouled with black powder residue after firing many shots, and the expanding skirt of the minié ball meant that it would still form a tight fit with the barrel and impart a good spin into the round when fired. This gave the rifled musket an effective range of several hundred yards, which was a significant improvement over the smooth bore musket. For example, combat ranges of 300 yards were achievable using the rifled muskets of the American Civil War. While rifled muskets can fire other ammunition like round ball or buck and ball without issues, they were generally only issued minié ball ammunition. A rifled musket can also technically fire lead shot, but it does not pattern well due to the rifled bore. A smooth bore musket could also technically fire a minié ball, but without the spin imparted by a rifled barrel the minié ball would tumble and would not be accurate.

Musketeers often used paper cartridge
Paper cartridge
Paper cartridge refers to one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and, in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent...

s which have very little in common with modern rifle cartridges. A musket cartridge consisted of a pre-measured amount of black powder and ammunition such as a round ball or minié ball all wrapped up in paper. Cartridges would then be placed in a cartridge box, which would typically be worn on the musketeer's belt during a battle. Unlike a modern cartridge, this paper cartridge was not simply loaded into the weapon and fired. Instead, the musketeer would tear open the paper (often with his teeth), pour the powder into the barrel, follow it with the ammunition (and possibly the paper as wadding if not using a minié ball), then use the ramrod as normal to push it all into the barrel. While not as fast as loading a modern cartridge, this method did significantly speed up the loading process since the pre-measured charges meant that the musketeer did not have to carefully measure out the black powder with every shot.

The superior accuracy and effective range of the Minié ball and rifled musket led to its rapid and widespread acceptance, while the simple musket ball and smooth bore musket gradually fell out of favor. The later development of the bullet cartridge accelerated the demise of the older technology. Despite this, musket balls continued to be used until well into the late 19th century, as regular armies and militias had accumulated vast stores of them over time.

Accessories



Musketeers carried numerous special tools and accessories, many of which have no modern equivalent. Most musketeers carried some sort of specialized combination tool, usually consisting of one or two screwdriver blades and a small pick. The screwdriver blades were used to change the flint, remove the barrel bands, and otherwise disassemble the musket for cleaning. Later versions of the tool included a small wrench used to remove the percussion lock's nipple. These tools often came in a "private" version and a "sergeant" version, the difference usually being that only the sergeant version contained the necessary parts (like a spring vise) needed to disassemble the lock mechanism. Typically, the entire musket, with the possible exception of the lock mechanism, could be disassembled using only this one combination tool.

A cartridge box holding several pre-made paper cartridges was often worn on a belt. When percussion locks became popular, musketeers also carried another small box on their belt which held the percussion caps.

Some ramrods were equipped with threaded ends, allowing different attachments to be used. One of the more common attachments was a ball screw or ball puller, which was literally just a screw that could be screwed into the lead ball to remove it if it had become jammed in the barrel, similar to the way that a corkscrew is used to remove a wine cork. Another attachment was called a worm, which was used to clear debris from the barrel, such as paper wadding that had not been expelled. Some worm designs were sturdy enough that they could be used to remove stuck ammunition. The worm could also be used with a small piece of cloth for cleaning. A variation on the worm called the "screw and wiper" combined the typical design of a worm with a ball puller's screw.

A fouling scraper was another attachment that could go onto the end of a ramrod. Made out of brass to prevent possible problems with sparks, it was used to scrape powder fouling out of the barrel.

A cleaning jag was another attachment that could go onto the end of a ramrod. Some ramrods were flared, essentially having a cleaning jag built into them. Cotton cleaning patches could be wrapped around the end of the jag, which would then be run through the barrel for cleaning.

A powder flask or powder horn could be used to hold black powder.

Powder measures were small tube-like devices used to measure out exact amounts of powder. Once measured, the powder could be loaded directly into the barrel, or it could be placed in a paper cartridge for later loading.

A tompion was a wooden plug inserted into the end of the barrel. This was used to prevent dirt from getting into the barrel and was removed prior to loading and firing the weapon.

Nipple protectors were used with percussion lock weapons. This was a small cap, usually attached to a short piece of chain, which covered the nipple and protected it from dirt and moisture.

Modern use


Modern replicas of many muskets are available, from manufacturers such as Pedersoli, Armi-sport, and Euroarms. Flintlocks such as the Brown Bess
Brown Bess
Brown Bess is a nickname of uncertain origin for the British Army's Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. This musket was used in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired symbolic importance at least as significant as its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred...

 or Charleville musket
Charleville musket
The Charleville muskets were .69 caliber French muskets used in the 18th century.- History :Marin le Bourgeoys created the first true flintlock weapons for King Louis XIII shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610. Throughout the 17th century, flintlock muskets were produced in a wide...

 are common, as are many of the muskets (both flintlock and percussion lock) used during the U.S. Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. These are used by historical reenactors and hobbyists, and are also sometimes used by hunters. The North-South Skirmish Association
North-South Skirmish Association
The North-South Skirmish Association or N-SSA is an historical and competitive organization whose goal is to maintain the knowledge of the unique firearms used during the American Civil War...

 engages in matches, known as Skirmishes, which are not re-enactments of specific Civil War battles. Instead, N-SSA matches are concerned with promoting the accurate shooting of the firearms of the era.

Modern musket designs are also available, such as those made by Thompson Center, though they are often just called "muzzle loaders" or "black powder rifles" instead of "muskets". These are typically used by hunters during hunting seasons specifically for black powder muzzle loaders. They often use black powder pellets instead of loose black powder, and more modern ammunition such as sabots and maxi-balls.

"Muskets" based on breech-loading cartridge rifles that have been smoothbored and re-chambered for a shotgun-type cartridge have been used in some countries to arm police or security forces. The intent is to provide a military-type weapon that is less powerful and has a shorter range than the standard military rifle. An example is the single-shot conversion of the Lee-Enfield MkIII rifle to a single-shot musket chambering the .410 inch Indian Police cartridge. Many such conversions were performed in India during British colonial rule, some of these muskets remain in Indian and Pakistani police service to this day.

See also


  • Musketoon
    Musketoon
    The musketoon is a shorter barrelled version of the musket, and served in the roles of a shotgun or carbine. Musketoons could be of the same caliber as the issue musket, or of a much larger caliber, 1.0-2.5 inches . The musketoon is most commonly associated with naval use, and pirates in...

  • Pike and shot
    Pike and shot
    Pike and shot is a historical method of infantry combat, and also refers to an era of European warfare generally considered to cover the period from the Italian Wars to the evolution of the bayonet in the late seventeenth century...

  • Grenadier
  • Line infantry
    Line infantry
    Line infantry is a type of infantry which composed the basis of European land armies from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century....


External links