Muskets- 17th century

#1
Howdy,

I'm hoping somebody can help me. I'm working as a tour guide on a certain 17th century battle site. We have replica weapons on display- eg a siege mortar, several cannon, and muskets, both matchlock and flintlock. As part of our tour we show the vusitors how the weapons were used, loaded and so on. One of the questions we do be asked frequently relates to the range of the muskets. We have read several boos in an attempt to find the answer but we're getting all sorts of different answers. So can anybody tell me the effective and maximum range of matchlock and flintlock muskets? Any questions, I'll answer as best I can.

Regards s_s
 
#3
CLC,

Thanks for your reply. Yes, we've seen details on maximum and effective range, they seem to be in and around 25m for effective, 100m for maximum, just want to get it right.
Would a flintlock have had a greater range than a matchlock, considering its improved accuracy?
 
#4
I don't have the book to hand, but I seem to remember this being discussed in the splendid 'Redcoat' by Professor Richard Holmes.

Sorry I can't be more specific at this late hour but it might be of some help.
 
#6
Isn't there a black powder shooting club or suchlike ?. If not, try contacting the Pikemen & Musketeers (clue) of the HAC - I'm sure they've fired their replicas at Bisley &/or Guards Depot.

They may also have reserched the question over the years.
 
#7
stameen_s said:
CLC,

Thanks for your reply. Yes, we've seen details on maximum and effective range, they seem to be in and around 25m for effective, 100m for maximum, just want to get it right.
Would a flintlock have had a greater range than a matchlock, considering its improved accuracy?
I don't think the flintlock was inherently much more accurate than matchlock - both smoothbores after all. Faster to reload and much more reliable, yes. More to do with the longer pause between pulling the trigger and the ball leaving the muzzle with a m/lock giving you more time to flinch at the priming flashing up your nose. IIRC matchlocks were often shot off rests to give a vague attempt at accuracy. It also depends if the individual was casting his own ball or if it was issued as you get variation there, and also it depends on the powder charge - C17th was before the era of wrapped cartridge I think so you'd be using a powder horn. I can't remember for the life of me when regulating stopper thingies came into use on powder horns either. Although you did get mini powder horns (called the twelve apostles by the Spanish Arquebus carrying soldiers when they were being beastly to foreigners I believe) which were worn across the chest and held a measured charge.

So to sum up - a reasonable chance of getting hit by the bloke aiming at you up to 30 yards. Lethal 75 yards ish but aiming optional. After that, you'd have to wearing your unlucky pants.
 
#9
Lucky_Jim said:
I don't have the book to hand, but I seem to remember this being discussed in the splendid 'Redcoat' by Professor Richard Holmes.

Sorry I can't be more specific at this late hour but it might be of some help.
I don't have the book myself, must check it out- thanks for the tip.

Brettarider, matchlock-armed musketeers had, as civvy_shot mentioned, a belt of mini powder horns carried across their chests which contained the powder needed. Flintlock-armed soldiers (or "fusiliers") had a bag at their side with cartridges inside, containing the ball, priming charge and main charge- the cartridge paper acted as the wadding. So everybody would presumably have had a generally equal amount of powder.

whiffler, interesting lead, will mention it at work.

Civvy_Shot...I presume if we have a flintlock on display they must have been there at the battle (late 1600s- should narrow it down nicely!) :) Thanks for your reply

And you're all welcome to come along- PM for details
 
#10
there are muzzle loaders(17th cent), and then there are muzzle loaders from later times like Mr Whitworths amazing rifle.

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dista-" SLAP!!
- Union General John Sedgwick spoke these words just moments before being shot dead by a confederate sniper using a manchester rifle (whitworth) at a claimed 500 yds.

charcoal burning is fun.
 
#11
The early muskets were smooth bore so would never be a high accuracy weapon at longer range, compared to a rifled barrel on the Baker or Whitworth.
 
#12
I thought the idea was to get three volleys off in a minute... one a 75 meters, 50 meters, 25 meters, then present bayonets.
 
#13
RMA1 said:
The early muskets were smooth bore so would never be a high accuracy weapon at longer range, compared to a rifled barrel on the Baker or Whitworth.
Plus IIRC by the time of the US Civil War they would be using Minie bullets rather than spherical ball. I may be wrong - I'm at work and can actually feel brain cells giving up.
 
#14
I used to be a Musketeer as well as a Pikeman in the "Sealed Knot English Civil war society", the musket were not accurate at all, so they tend to fire in blocks and aim slightly to the right or the left so that, when fired the rounds will hit somebody opposite you, either the first , second or third rank, if you fired straight on, the chance are it can pass straight through the ranks and out without hitting anybody.

considering the distances fired, you had to have balls of steel to stand there and take it, as well as firing back at the same time, the battle were generally decided by the "push of the pikes", where the two armies regiments and units bunch up in formations and crossing the pike across their chests and then rush at the enemy oppsoite you till you push them off the field and tread enough of them down under you feet that there is not enough men left to fight against the advance.

it was bloody brutal, we however always back off and regroup, when we get the "man down" shout along with the drum beats to warn us.

I enjoyed those days as student with plenty of spare time and money.
 
#15
As the owner of a smoothbore musket, a Prussian M1809 (I've an M1861 Springfield rifled musket as well) I'll say there is a difference between effective range and maximum range!

Unfortunatly I don't have the book to hand but I'm thinking of a test the Prussian army conducted in about 1815 when they hung a sheet up and had a company fire at it. I think the results were something like at 75 yards 60% hit the target. At 150 yards the hits were down to 40%. At 200 yards only 25% hit the target. But this was a test and not battlefield conditions. (and this is from memory but I'm sure the information is about somewhere!) The ball from a smoothbore will still travel a considerable distance, in fact I think both Wellington and Napoleon were at different times hit by spent musket balls at extreme range (although I'm not certain) For a smoothbore matchlock or flintlock an effective range of 75 yards or so would be normal while a maximum range would be about 200 yards.

The story of Gen. Sedgwick already mentioned is true - but the range is given as 800 yards. Sgt. E. R Grace of the 4th Georgia Infantry (although others names are also often credited such as Benjamin Medicus Powell) scored a head shot on the General. Although the Whitworth was an exceptional rifle and often fitted with a simple brass telescopic sight! (a brief google search produced those names and the range of the shot along with a bit of information on the Whitworth)
 
#16
Much of the information can be found on Wikipedia.
For example,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Bess

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rifleman_Thomas_Plunkett

The former cites; "Accuracy of the Brown Bess was, as with most other muskets, low, primarily due to the lack of sights and the use of undersized military ammunition meant for ease of loading. The effective range is often quoted as 100 yards (meters) but was often fired en masse at 50 m to inflict the greatest damage upon the enemy."

Muskets didn't usually have sights and were used mainly to fire on a body of men. I believe that Gettysburg was one example of classic Napoleonic-era musketry tactics being deployed against the new-fangled rifle (Springfield in that case), to the great cost of the Confedracy.
 
#17
The battle of the Boyne (1690) was fought between Protestant British, Dutch and German troops (fighting for King William) using the flintlock and Catholic Irish and French troops (fighting for King James II) using pikes and matchlocks.

The former won the battle. In his book '1690 Battle of the Boyne', Padraig Lenihan wrote that 17th Century firepower was surprisingly ineffectual.

At 50 yards range, the matchlocks could hit their targets less than half the time. Also a lengthy re-loading process meant they could fire only once a minute. The flintlocks, while not any more accurate, were less prone to misfiring and had a simpler re-loading process, so had double the rate of fire.

Lenihan's conclusion was that "the battle of the Boyne was fought on the cusp of a transition from one tactical and technological package, that of the matchlock/pike, to another, the bayoneted flintlock. 18th Century infantrymen met and, predictably, beat back, 17th Century infantrymen".

However it sounds that, by modern standards, both weapons were very poor indeed, more useful for making loud noises than for their accuracy.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#18
Methinks that as a guide you should be well armed with information. The Royal armouries at Leeds have all the interactive with players dressed up stuff, a visit there may help or you could look it up!
 
#20
For a gun with no sights the 17th Century matchlock musket was surprisingly good. I have a replica of an English Civil War fish-tail stocked matchlock. With a little practice I would hope to hit a beer can at 25 yards 4 times out of 5 shots. At 50 yards it will consistently hit a dinner plate sized target. I have yet to really try it out any further than this but intend to carry out some extensive tests during the summer on Figure 11's or probably their fluffy liberal swirly cousins. The balls I use are a little loose so I do wonder just what results can be achieved with a better fit. Maybe I will treat myself to a new mould. :D

Loading time is not much different to a flintlock, again practice is the key. The main difference in the time factor between loading a flinter and a matchlock is that a flinter is recocked whilst a matchlock has the match deftly removed during priming then pushed back into the serpent to hold it in place. It takes a few seconds more that is all. The seventeenth century drillbooks make loading a matchlock appear painfully slow, but the reality in action would be that the loading motions can be condensed.

Training (or lack of) and the 'brown trouser' factor during battle can change everything of course. These balls flatten out horrendously on impact and standing up and taking careful aim would take serious gonads with these things flying about.
 

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