Did the guns of this area seem awkward to you?

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by primalclaws1974, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. I don't know a great deal about guns, modern or antique, but the weapons of this era seemed gaudy. That may not be the best word, as some of the ornate work was quite beautiful. What I mean to say, what purpose did a six foot barrel serve on a rifle? It would be incredibly hard to use in a hurry. The pistols would have been equally bad. The flintlock seems like the fuse would have taken considerable time to burn down and fire. In the meantime a sword could make short work of the pistol-bearer. What do you think?
  2. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    I have fired and mis-fired smooth bore flintlocks of the American Revolutionary War era many times one summer (1973?) as a tourguide. There is even a picture of me fireing my weapon (1793?) (with only a blank charge). The trigger was pulled, the flint struck the frizzen (the cover to the pan with its gunpowder), and a cloud of gunpowder smoke is in evidence, but the charge had yet to leave the weapon's mussle. In other words, there was a noticable lag between trigger and weapon discharge, a fraction or a second.

    Friends of mine had a cometition with some rifled weapons verses smoothbore (4 to 4) to see which could first knock down ten clay target pidgeons. In the opening volley the rifles broke 4, but the larger caliber smoothbores (4 shooters) knocked down 5. The open volley had that much shock power. But though the rifles were slower they won the competition.

    The rifles were hunting weapons, the flintlock smooth-bores were military weapons. It makes the battlefield tactics of Fredrick the Great of Prussia understandable. During the American Revolution most British/Hessian soldiers had a brown-bess, a smooth-bore flintlock military weapon. Many Americans had rifles. This limited British tactics and allowed for the Americans to skirmish.
  3. Alexander

    Alexander Member

    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
  4. mac266

    mac266 New Member

    As an avid competitive shooter and firearms enthusiast, I have to disagree with you. The guns of the era balance very well, and, given the lower pressures of the black powder, allow a standing stance not seen by modern shooters anymore. It is more stable, but modern guns would wrench the lower back and throw the shooter off balance. So it has been forgotten. The Kentucky and Pennsylvania rifles of the day, however, do quite nicely from a standing position.

    They are more difficult to shoot from any other position, but the method of loading from the muzzle necessitated loading from a standing position anyway. Thus, shooting was usually done from the standing position, as well. So tactics developed around shooting from a standing position.

    So, it worked rather well for the time, and they are still fun to shoot today. In fact, at 100 yards, I'm just as accurate with a rifled flintlock as I am a modern rifle with a scope. Of course, I shoot much farther with modern scoped guns, but it's a function of being able to see as opposed to inherent accuracy / inaccuracy.
  5. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Mac, I have a few immediate questions.

    You say you shoot a RIFLED Flintlock. I presume it is a mussle-loading fowling piece rather than a military weapon. Is that accurate? What caliber?

    Do you use creamic "flints" or actual stone flints?

    Is/was your rifle a period weapon or a reproduction?
  6. mac266

    mac266 New Member

    Interrogator, your understanding of firearms is somewhat flawed, as evidenced by your questions. Let me clear up some foundational things you must understand before I get to your questions:

    1- A fowling piece is a shotgun, NOT a rifle. They are diametrically opposed. A shotgun is designed to shoot "shot," or small pellets in a cluster. These are intended for airborne targets, such as waterfowl, hence the 18th century term "fowling piece." You will not find the term in use today, but a fowling piece was just an 18th century shotgun, and thus, by definition NOT rifled.

    2- Military arms of the period were almost always smoothbore, but they fired one projectile like a rifle. They were NOT shotguns firing a cluster of small shot; they were smoothbores firing one bullet to do maximum damage. People *usually* refer to these smoothbore military weapons as "muskets," although the term "rifled musket" gets thrown out to describe a military firearm that was rifled. The term "musket" to describe a smoothbore military arm is not a hard and fast rule, just a common use for that term. Smoothbore arms are inherently inaccurate, but accuracy was not really a concern then (see #3).

    3- Rifles are firearms with rifling in the bore. These shoot one projectile that is larger than the bore diameter, and thus takes a little effort in loading. The bullet must be forced down the bore. Combined with a lubricated cloth patch, this shapes and sizes the bullet to perfectly seal the gases from the powder behind the bullet from blowing past it. Loading them is slow, but they are very accurate. This is fine for hunting purposes, but in large formations of men hurling projectiles at one another, speed is more important. Thus, militaries almost always used smoothbore muskets, which loaded much faster and did not require a great deal of accuracy because the target was a wall of men a few hundred yards wide, not the heart/lung area of one deer. Virtually every gun in the period that was not made for military use was a rifle. Men owned them to provide meat for their families, and occasionally to fight off Indians, but hunting was their primary purpose. Thus, the vast majority of today's reproductions are rifles, which is one thing that shocked me about your question. I've only seen one reproduction smoothbore in my entire life; they are an exception, not the rule, and the wording of your question caused me to think you believed otherwise.

    4- Daniel Morgan's men carried rifles, and were thus employed on the battlefield in a vastly different manner than were the formations of Americans armed with French smoothbore muskets. There is no way they could have survived standing shoulder-to-shoulder and walking towards men shooting at them with fast loading smoothbores. They were used more like snipers of today. Most Americans were equipped with their personally owned rifles ONLY close to the beginning of the war. After France got involved, the Continentals and even some militia regiments were equipped with the French Charleville musket, a smoothbore.

    5- A muzzle is the business end of a firearm, and it's spelled with two "Zs," not "Ss."

    6- I have somewhere around 60 guns. Three of them are blackpowder muzzleloaders (plus two more blackpowder handguns). The flintlock is a .50 caliber, reproduction of the type of firearm that most Americans would have owned during the Revolutionary Period and after. Guns of this type were one-of-a-kind back then, but mine is a modern production so there are many like it. Here is a link: http://www.cabelas.com/product/shooting/firearms/black-powder-firearms/traditional-rifles-shotguns|/pc/104792580/c/553829580/sc/571854780/i/104641380/pedersoli-blue-ridge-flintlock-rifles/1608552.uts?destination=/catalog/browse/traditional-rifles-shotguns/_/N-1115738/Ns-CATEGORY_SEQ_104641380

    7- Another rifle I have is a percussion cap lock that is not a reproduction of any historical arm. It's known as the Lyman Deerstalker, in .50 caliber. The third is a modern reproduction of the model 1855 Springfield rifle that would have seen some use in the Civil War; it is a .58 caliber (a discussion of the bullet these used is better left for the Civil War forum, but it essentially made loading a rifle faster, and thus, accurate rifles much more lethal on the battlefield).

    8- I've used several types of flints and haven't settled on one yet.

    9- There is NOTHING inherently inaccurate about a muzzleloading rifle. They are just as accurate as modern firearms. They are slower to load, of course, and one must know a lot beyond a modern shooter to make them fire reliably, but it can be done with work. Accuracy is never the question, however.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
  7. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Recently a couple were in the city for an evening out. The man noticed his watch had stopped. He asked a passing stranger "What time is it?" who then took a hour and a half explaining the book "A Brief History of Time." by Steven Hawkings.

    There were rifled single-slug fowling pieces used in Europe. I believe Anne Oakly used to use one in her younger days in Ohio. Mussle-loading is acceptable alternate spelling. I used to work at a historic site where reproduction smooth-bore muskets are used.

    I currently own no firearms. My father was a Material Engineer (Metalurgist). At some point we got off on the topic of FLINTS for firearms and he remarked that some work was being done with modern ceramics to make man-made stones for muskets. The flints I had to use when I fired period weapons at the historic site were of poor quality and crumbly -- which prompted my question.
  8. GearZ

    GearZ Member

    I am an avid shooter in various disciplines. Most of my training and experience has been on modern arms. Though I have shot various muzzleloaders (e.g., flintlock rifle, caplock rifles, cap'n'ball revolver, etc.). To answer the main question, yes, I found them awkward and, frankly, a PITA to use compared to cartridge arms.

Share This Page