During Living background Week at Alamance Battleground, reenactor bill Thompson explains late eighteenth-century tiny arms, including how a flintlock works and the differences between rifles and muskets, and demonstrates the loading and firing of one English “Brown Bess” musket.

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The 18th century firing a musket

“Firing a musket: 18th-century little arms.” released by discover NC, march 9, 2015, top top YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVoyzv0ctV4. 


Fire in the hole!

Firing a musket: tiny arms in the 18th centuryWith bill ThompsonAlamance Battleground, October 15, 2008What I have actually in my hand is a 75 caliber Brown Bess musket. This is in reality a world-famous instrument. 75 caliber way that hole is 3 quarters of an inch in diameter. Brown Bess is type of choose a brand name: Ford, GM, Chrysler. This is what the British called their musket.

In all these countries of Europe, their militaries supplied muskets in the eighteenth century. The Spanish had actually a musket, the Dutch had actually a musket. The French referred to as their musket a Charleville. My, what a lovely surname for something made to kill somebody with. The difference in between a brothers Brown Bess and a French Charleville is around the difference in between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, not enough to argue about.

“A very simple weapon”They were all loaded and fired the same. It’s in reality a very an easy weapon. The musket was made for the military. You would certainly literally starve to fatality if friend tried to hunt with this thing. It’s no accurate; it is not made to shoot at a details target. It’s made to shoot in ~ mass troops, straight tactics. We get human being that come out right here all the moment that think, just how stupid; gain out in an open field, wake up shoulder come shoulder, and shoot at every other! What you need to understand…this point is do to be loaded and also fired as quickly as possible. You don’t aim it, friend just suggest it. The adversary is end there; a blind man might use this, just allude towards the noise. Trained soldiers in the British army were intended to be able to fire this thing four times a minute, that’s fairly a the majority of fire power. And also the object was to proceed to breakthrough upon the enemy, until it was time to it is in able to connect the bayonets.

In the eighteenth century, battles finished in hand-to-hand combat. So, the bayonet, as you deserve to see, basically turns the musket into a spear. If you might just imagine gift stabbed through that, or your brains dashed out v the various other end, it it s okay pretty nasty. That’s around as gruesome as we gain with a bunch of tiny kids.

“The many savage hand-to-hand combat”There were almost three thousands of the Regulators camped on that hill behind me. Photo in her mind every the horses and tents and also fires. Branch Tryon had about a thousand males in his militia, and also he carried eight cannons, similar to our three-pound ar piece down there. Us don’t think that any type of hand-to-hand combat took place here at the fight of Alamance. These were every amateurs; there to be no skilled soldiers here. But surrounding Guilford Courthouse, National army Park, about sixteen miles from here, that was said to be some of the many savage hand-to-hand combat the the entire American Revolution, therefore you might want to walk over over there someday.

“Not lot use on a farm”The musket, together I said, is quite simple. It’s heavy; this weighs ten pounds. If you drop it, there are no breakable sights to knock out of alignment, prefer a rifle. If girlfriend hit someone upside the head through it, the just thing that’s going come hurt friend is the head. The rough, it’s tough.

They did have actually rifles in the eighteenth century, and also I’m betting many of the Regulators, gift farmers, coming from home, had rifles, because a musket is not much use on a farm. A rifle is made to hit a certain target. I’m not aiming at y’all, ns aiming in ~ you. It’s gained rifling reduced into the barrel that provides the bullet spin together it flies with the air, favor a quarterback cram a touchdown pass. The spin provides the bullet fly straight.

A rifle likewise has sights, one in the front, one in the back. And also the gunsmith who made it invested hours carefully lining increase those sights so the you’ve acquired something to in reality aim at the target. That takes ability to hit something with a rifle. You don’t just suggest it; you’ve got to literally aim at the target. You’ve acquired to line up the target, the prior sight, the rear sight, and your pupil.

“Any man caught with a rifle would certainly be hung”As huge as the hole is, the musket in reality shoots a cartridge that’s smaller sized than the barrel. I have the right to load this thing literally this quickly; wham, bam. Yes no resistance. However, but if you’ve got, say, a 50-caliber rifle, the bullet and the bore are precisely the same size. It is a chop fit, isn’t it? somebody say yeah. Alright. You’ve obtained to put grease top top it and shove the from over there to there. It is a long ways.

It takes two or three minutes to load a flintlock rifle, together opposed to, say, eight secs for a musket. If you’re trying to shoot a squirrel out of the tree, you’ve acquired all the time in the world. If you out right here in a wild battle, two or 3 minutes is a lengthy time. Therefore the rifle was for hunting, the musket was for fighting.

However, during this battle, and during the American Revolution, as I’ve claimed earlier, a many these farmers were bringing their hunting rifles through them. If you can’t get yet one shot off in two minutes, you’re walking to make it count. Friend shoot in ~ the officer, friend shoot at the medic. For this reason the British obtained pretty mad about this. They placed out words that any type of man captured with a rifle would be hung.

“How a flintlock works”All the firearms in the eighteenth century to be flintlocks. You check out that flint appropriate there? That’s basically a form of rock. It is the most important component on the gun. If this flint breaks, if it drops out, if it it s okay dull, the gun can’t be fired till the flint is replaced. There’s a flashpan here. In the situation of the musket, you’re getting ready come fire it, girlfriend reach into the cartridge box, and if girlfriend went with that numerous rounds, you were in one heck of a battle. That’s twenty-seven that them. This record tube to be made through the soldiers they were sitting approximately at camp. The bullet would certainly be at the bottom. I don’t have actually a bullet in here. They nothing let me play through live ammunition. And also then it’s obtained 125 grains of black color powder in there. What shade is black color powder? You children are sharp. And it’s all rolled increase in this rather hard paper.

Now, I’ve acquired this ten-pound total in one hand, how am ns going to rip this open? Right, with your teeth, you going to bite the open and prime it. Watch this flashpan here? Alright. Young lady, come forward. Look under in there and also tell the course that over there is a hole under there called the bin, drilled into the next of the barrel. That connects those going on out below in the flashpan v what’s going on inside the barrel. I’m going come tear this open and pour a tiny amount the the black powder in the flashpan, close up door the pan. This is called a muzzle-loader. You fill it down the muzzle. The rest of the powder is poured down the barrel, followed by the bullet. And also don’t gain that backwards. If you placed the cartridge in very first and recording the powder on top of it, you’ve gained a mess. And the document acts as a form of wadding. You put it in, pull the rammer out, and again, shove it into the bottom the the barrel.

Don’t forget to put your rammer ago in. If girlfriend shoot your rammer out, you’re the end of business. Giggles. Now you think it is funny. Friend would carry out the very same thing, if you to be scared come death, if this to be your first battle. If you ever go come a battle reenacment, like they execute at Guilford Court House, you’ll an alert we do them take the rammers out. They’re just shooting, dumping powder. That’s to save somebody indigenous getting lugged away and killing somebody. The rammer would certainly be a bullet, flying down the range.

“Fire in the hole!”What ns going come do currently is load and fire this. Together you can see, black color powder is an extremely dirty stuff. This musket has been fired numerous times. Girlfriend may gain to check out a misfire. In fact, friend may get to see number of misfires. The various other day, I practically busted this point on the tree ideal there, I got so aggravated. The dirtier that gets, the harder it is to get it to fire. We desire you to recognize that your adversary was having actually misfires in ~ the same rate you were. The was another good reason for having actually a bayonet, a tomahawk, a knife, some type of backup. Alright, cross your fingers. Fire in the hole! say thanks to you.

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“…But I’m not a skilled soldier.”Okay, together you saw, ns did that in about five seconds. I probably might have excellent it a tiny faster if I’d want to, yet I’m no a expert soldier. The british Redcoats (and there were no Redcoats here), yet during the revolution, were literally robots that had actually been trained and trained and also trained to do this. They can get off a tremendous rate of firepower.