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

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The 18th century shooting a musket

“Firing a musket: 18th-century small arms.” published 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 in my hand is a 75 caliber Brown Bess musket. This is in reality a world-famous instrument. 75 caliber means that feet is three quarters of an inch in diameter. Brown Bess is sort of prefer a brand name: Ford, GM, Chrysler. This is what the British called their musket.

In every these nations of Europe, your militaries supplied muskets in the eighteenth century. The Spanish had a musket, the Dutch had a musket. The French dubbed their musket a Charleville. My, what a lovely surname for something make to death somebody with. The difference between a brother Brown Bess and also a French Charleville is around the difference in between Coca-Cola and also Pepsi, not enough to argue about.

“A very simple weapon”They were every loaded and also fired the same. It’s in reality a very straightforward weapon. The musket was made for the military. You would literally starve to death if you tried come hunt through this thing. It’s no accurate; the is not made come shoot in ~ a particular target. The made come shoot in ~ mass troops, linear tactics. Us get civilization that come out below all the time that think, just how stupid; acquire out in an open up field, wake up shoulder come shoulder, and shoot at each other! What you need to understand…this thing is made to it is in loaded and fired as promptly as possible. You don’t aim it, you just suggest it. The foe is end there; a blind man can use this, just allude towards the noise. Trained soldiers in the British army were intended to be able to fire this thing 4 times a minute, that’s quite a many fire power. And the object to be to continue to breakthrough upon the enemy, till it to be time to it is in able to affix the bayonets.

In the eighteenth century, battles finished in hand-to-hand combat. So, the bayonet, as you can see, basically transforms the musket into a spear. If you can just imagine being stabbed with that, or her brains dashed out through the various other end, it gets pretty nasty. That’s about as gruesome as we get with a bunch of tiny kids.

“The most savage hand-to-hand combat”There were almost three thousand of the Regulators camped on the hill behind me. Photo in your mind every the horses and also tents and fires. Governor Tryon had about a thousand males in his militia, and also he carried eight cannons, similar to our three-pound ar piece under there. Us don’t think that any kind of hand-to-hand combat took place below at the battle of Alamance. This were all amateurs; there were no skilled soldiers here. But surrounding Guilford Courthouse, National military Park, about sixteen miles from here, the was said to be few of the many savage hand-to-hand combat the the entire American Revolution, for this reason you may want to walk over over there someday.

“Not much use on a farm”The musket, together I said, is fairly simple. The heavy; this weighs ten pounds. If girlfriend drop it, there are no fragile sights come knock the end of alignment, favor a rifle. If you hit someone upside the head through it, the only thing it is going to hurt you is the head. That rough, it’s tough.

They did have actually rifles in the eighteenth century, and I’m betting most of the Regulators, being farmers, comes from home, had rifles, since a musket is not much use on a farm. A rifle is made come hit a specific target. I’m not aiming at y’all, i’m aiming at you. It’s got rifling cut into the barrel that provides the cartridge spin as it flies through the air, like a quarterback throwing a touchdown pass. That spin renders the cartridge fly straight.

A rifle likewise has sights, one in the front, one in the back. And the gunsmith who made it invested hours closely lining up those sights so that you’ve gained something to in reality aim at the target. That takes skill to struggle something v a rifle. You don’t just suggest it; you’ve obtained to literally target at the target. You’ve got to line up the target, the former sight, the rear sight, and your pupil.

“Any man captured with a rifle would be hung”As huge as the hole is, the musket actually shoots a bullet that’s smaller than the barrel. I have the right to load this thing literally this quickly; wham, bam. Yes no resistance. However, however if you’ve got, say, a 50-caliber rifle, the bullet and also the boring are specifically the exact same size. That’s a chop fit, no it? someone say yeah. Alright. You’ve gained to put grease on it and also shove that from there to there. It is a long ways.

It takes 2 or three minutes to fill a flintlock rifle, as opposed to, say, eight seconds for a musket. If she trying to shoot a squirrel out of the tree, you’ve got all the time in the world. If you out here in a wild battle, 2 or 3 minutes is a lengthy time. For this reason the rifle was for hunting, the musket to be for fighting.

However, during this battle, and during the American Revolution, as I’ve stated earlier, a lot of these farmers were bringing their searching rifles through them. If you can’t get yet one shot off in 2 minutes, you’re walk to make it count. Friend shoot in ~ the officer, girlfriend shoot at the medic. Therefore the British obtained pretty mad about this. They placed out the word that any kind of man recorded with a rifle would certainly be hung.

“How a flintlock works”All the guns in the eighteenth century to be flintlocks. You see that flint right there? That’s usually a kind of rock. It is the most important component on the gun. If this flint breaks, if it falls out, if it gets dull, the gun can not be fired till the flint is replaced. Yes sir a flashpan here. In the instance of the musket, you’re acquiring ready come fire it, you reach right into the cartridge box, and also if you went v that numerous rounds, you were in one heck of a battle. That’s twenty-seven that them. This record tube to be made by the soldiers they were sitting roughly at camp. The bullet would be in ~ the bottom. I don’t have actually a bullet in here. They don’t let me play with live ammunition. And also then it’s got 125 grains of black powder in there. What shade is black color powder? You children are sharp. And also it’s all rolled increase in this rather challenging paper.

Now, I’ve acquired this ten-pound gun in one hand, how am ns going come rip this open? Right, v your teeth, she going to bite that open and prime it. View this flashpan here? Alright. Young lady, come forward. Look down in there and tell the course that there is a hole down there called the bin, drilled right into the side of the barrel. The connects what’s going on out here in the flashpan with 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, closeup of the door the pan. This is called a muzzle-loader. You load it down the muzzle. The remainder of the powder is poured down the barrel, adhered to by the bullet. And don’t get that backwards. If you placed the cartridge in first and intake the powder on optimal of it, you’ve obtained a mess. And also the document acts together a form of wadding. You put it in, traction the rammer out, and also again, shove it right into the bottom of the barrel.

Don’t forget to placed your rammer ago in. If friend shoot her rammer out, you’re out of business. Giggles. Currently you think it is funny. You would carry out the same thing, if you to be scared come death, if this to be your an initial battle. If you ever before go to a battle reenacment, like they perform at Guilford Court House, you’ll notice we make them take the rammers out. They’re just shooting, dumping powder. That’s to save somebody native getting lugged away and killing somebody. The rammer would certainly be a bullet, flying under the range.

“Fire in the hole!”What ns going come do currently is load and also fire this. As you deserve to see, black powder is very dirty stuff. This musket has been fired several times. You may obtain to watch a misfire. In fact, friend may acquire to see several misfires. The various other day, I practically busted this thing on that tree right there, I gained so aggravated. The dirtier that gets, the harder that is to get it to fire. We desire you to recognize that your enemy was having actually misfires at the same price you were. The was another good reason for having actually a bayonet, a tomahawk, a knife, some type of backup. Alright, cross her fingers. Fire in the hole! say thanks to you.

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“…But I’m not a experienced soldier.”Okay, together you saw, i did that in about five seconds. Ns probably could have done it a small faster if I’d want to, but I’m not a experienced soldier. The british Redcoats (and there to be no Redcoats here), yet during the revolution, to be literally robots that had been trained and also trained and also trained to perform this. They could get off a tremendous price of firepower.