British Soldier's Firearm, From Smoothbore to Smallbore 1850-1864, The
Dr. C.H. Roads
Manufacturer part number: 1-884849-13-X
The British military used a very large, smoothbore musket from about 1710 until the middle of the 19th century. Although there existed several patterns and slightly different types, the standard shoulder arm of the British army during this period was a .75 caliber, smoothbore military flintlock musket. It was called the 'Brown Bess' by the soldiers who used it as well as by the generations of collectors who followed. This firearm sported a 46' or a 42' barrel, depending on the pattern, and fired a paper cartridge containing 70 grains of gunpowder (black powder) and anywhere from a .69' to a .71' diameter lead ball. The muzzle velocity was slow, especially by today's standards, averaging about 1,100 to 1,300 feet per second. The energy delivered by the projectile on impact, however, was great. These old style muskets could roll charging cavalry horses, and deal with the 'men who rode in on them,' too. The firelocks were big and easy to manipulate, even by green troops in the heat of battle, they came with an 18' socket bayonet for close-in work, and contrary to modern misconceptions, they seldom misfired. They were inaccurate beyond 40 - 50 yards, but in the smoke of battle or in the woods of North America one couldn't see a foe farther away than that anyway. Even so, a soldier could point his piece in the general direction of the enemy and fire, and be confident that it would travel at least two hundred yards to destroy anyone unlucky enough to step in front of the slow moving ball. The traditional Brown Bess musket served well as a club when there wasn't time to reload or when the bayonet was broken or lost. On top of it all, many generations of British soldiers from all social classes had served with the traditional military smooth bore musket, so it had become somewhat of an institution in and of itself. Given all of this, the decision to abandon the old model arm for a more modern weapon did not happen on a whim. For anyone interested in the history of technical change, especially within the ranks of highly conservative military officers with an in-born adversion to change, this book will prove very interesting. The history of arms from 1850 - 1864 is in fact the story of the transition of the Old Army into the modern machine that it has become. It was precisely this period that marked the beginning of the modern military/technical age. 332pp.