Revolutionary War Brown Bess Flintlock Musket – ca. 1750 – 1760
Original Revolutionary War Brown Bess Long Gun | 18th century English Brown Bess flintlock musket | Stamped WB with the British crown | ca 1710 – 1760 | .75 Cal. | Dimensions: 46 inch barrel, 62.5 in overall length | This is an authentic Revolutionary War Brown Bess, and is NOT a replica.
Original Revolutionary War Brown Bess Long Gun | Authentic 18th century English Brown Bess flintlock musket | Stamped WB with the British crown | ca 1710 – 1760 | .75 Cal. | Dimensions: 46 inch barrel, 62.5 in overall length | This is an authentic Revolutionary War Brown Bess, and is NOT a replica | Provenance: From a long time and well known Boston, Mass. Private Collection.
The Brown Bess was one of the most common and effective muskets of the American Revolution. Used by both the American and British and could be loaded with a single shot or grape shot (multiple balls). This weapon had a short range and was inaccurate (as most muskets were). The British used this musket throughout the American Revolution, The War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars.
This Brown Bess is the Long Land Pattern, the preferred version by most of the Americans during the war due to its enhanced accuracy. The other primary version was known as the Short Land Pattern which was shorter, lighter and not as bulky.
History of the “Brown Bess” (Wikipedia)
Brown Bess is a nickname of uncertain origin for the British Army’s muzzle-loading smoothbore Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. This musket was used in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired symbolic importance at least as significant as its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred years with many incremental changes in its design. These versions include the Long Land Pattern, the Short Land Pattern, the India Pattern, the New Land Pattern Musket and the Sea Service Musket.
The Long Land Pattern musket and its derivatives, all .75 caliber flintlock muskets, were the standard long guns of the British Empire’s land forces from 1722 until 1838, when they were superseded by a percussion cap smoothbore musket. The British Ordnance System converted many flintlocks into the new percussion system known as the Pattern 1839 Musket. A fire in 1841 at the Tower of London destroyed many muskets before they could be converted. Still, the Brown Bess saw service until the middle of the nineteenth century.
Most male citizens of the American Colonies were required by law to own arms and ammunition for militia duty. The Long Land Pattern was a common firearm in use by both sides in the American War of Independence.
In 1808 during the age of Napoleon, the United Kingdom subsidized Sweden in various ways as the British anxiously wanted to keep an ally in the Baltic Sea area, among other things deliverances of war material and with those, significant numbers of Brown Bess muskets for use in the Finnish War.
During the Musket Wars (1820s–1830s), Māori warriors used Brown Besses, having purchased them from European traders at the time. Some muskets were sold to the Mexican Army, which used them during the Texas Revolution of 1836 and the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848. Brown Besses saw service during the Indian rebellion of 1857. Zulu warriors, who had also purchased them from European traders, used them during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. One was even used in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.
From the 17th century to the early years of the 18th century, most nations did not specify standards for military firearms. Firearms were individually procured by officers or regiments as late as 1745, and were often custom-made to the tastes of the purchaser. As the firearm gained ascendancy on the battlefield, this lack of standardization led to increasing difficulties in the supply of ammunition and repair materials. To address these difficulties, armies began to adopt standardized “patterns”. A military service selected a “pattern musket” to be stored in a “pattern room”. There it served as a reference for arms makers, who could make comparisons and take measurements to ensure that their products matched the standard.
Stress-bearing parts of the Brown Bess, such as the barrel, lockwork, and sling-swivels, were customarily made of iron, while other furniture pieces such as the butt plate, trigger guard and ramrod pipe were found in both iron and brass. It weighed around 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and it could be fitted with a 17 inches (430 mm) triangular cross-section bayonet. The weapon did not have sights, though it could be aimed using the bayonet lug as a crude sight.
The earliest models had iron fittings, but these were replaced by brass in models built after 1736. Wooden ramrods were used with the first guns but were replaced by iron ones, although guns with wooden ramrods were still issued to troops on American service until 1765 and later to loyalist units in the American Revolution. Wooden ramrods were also used in the Dragoon version produced from 1744 to 1771 and for Navy and Marine use.
The accuracy of the Brown Bess was fair, as with most other muskets. The effective range is often quoted as 175 yards (160 m), but the Brown Bess was often fired en masse at 50 yards (46 m) to inflict the greatest damage upon the enemy. Military tactics of the period stressed mass volleys and massed bayonet charges, instead of individual marksmanship. The large soft projectile could inflict a great deal of damage when it hit and the great length of the weapon allowed longer reach in bayonet engagements.
As with all similar smooth bore muskets, it is possible to improve the accuracy of the weapon by using musket balls that fit more tightly into the barrel. The black powder would quickly foul the barrel, making it more and more difficult to reload a tighter-fitting round after each shot and increasing the risk of the round jamming in the barrel during loading. Since tactics at the time favored close range battles and speed over accuracy, smaller and more loosely fitting musket balls were much more commonly used. The Brown Bess had a barrel bore of .75 caliber, and the typical round used was around .69 caliber.
While the looser-fitting musket ball reduced the effective range of a single musketeer firing at a single man-sized target to around 50 yards (46 m) to 75 yards (69 m), the Brown Bess was rarely used in single combat. Since individual soldiers are not aimed for en masse volleys, the effective range of the Brown Bess when fired en masse was easily 100 yards (91 m) or more.
Standard European targets included strips of cloth 50 yards long to represent an opposing line of infantry, with the target height being six feet for infantry and eight feet, three inches for cavalry. Estimations of hit probability at 175 yards could be as high as 75% in volley fire. This, however, was without allowances for the gaps between the soldiers in an opposing line, for overly tall targets or the confusing and distracting realities of the battlefield. Modern testers shooting from rigid rests, using optimum loads and fast priming powder, report groups of circa five inches at fifty yards.
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