Muskets- 17th century

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by stameen_s, Jun 27, 2007.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  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
  2. I suspect the different ranges are to do with the maximum range (how far the ball will travel) and the effective range (how far the ball will travel and stop someone). Additionally the accuracy (or lack thereof) is a factor. Volley fire means at least some of the balls will hit.
  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.
  5. would you not have to take into account quality of powder/shot and even the amount used by individual firers?
  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. 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.
    They know. Join them and try shooting your muzzle loaders then you will know too!
  9. 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. 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)