British Line Infantry Weapons
- 1 Firearms
- 1.1 Long Land Pattern Brown Bess musket
- 1.1.1 Introduction
- 1.1.2 General features
- 1.1.3 Ammunition
- 1.1.4 Bayonet
- 1.1.5 Ballistic Performance of the Brown Bess
- 1.1.6 Models of the Long Land Pattern
- 1.1.7 Initial version (1715-1720)
- 1.1.8 Long Land pattern M1730
- 1.1.9 Long Land pattern M1742
- 1.1.10 Long land pattern M1756
- 1.2 Dutch infantry musket
- 1.1 Long Land Pattern Brown Bess musket
- 2 References
Long Land Pattern Brown Bess musket
This weapon was introduced into British Army service from 1718, being first made by William Wilson. The weapon was the eventual result of a contract signed in 1714, for the purpose of standardizing arms and equipment. This was to remedy the confusion caused by the presence of multiple musket models in the British army at the close of the War of Spanish Succession. The fittings were originally of iron, but brass was used since 1725.
The weapon was produced in two major centres: the iron fittings and the barrels were mostly produced in Birmingham, while the brass and wooden furniture was produced in London. The parts were then assembled and inspected for quality, with a stamp of approval and year of production engraved on the lockplate and stock. The earlier lock plates were much more curved than the later models. By 1750 the wooden ramrod was replaced by one of iron.
Besides its original version, the weapon was made in three major models; that of 1730, 1742, and 1756. Each new version of the long land pattern incorporated various improvements to the design of the musket, with the aim of simplifying production, and increasing effectiveness.
At some point before 1760, the short pattern land service musket was introduced (initially for dragoons, militia and the marines) the barrel was only 42 inches (1066 mm) long. In June 1768 this weapon was officially termed the 'Short Land Service Musket (New Pattern)'. The old, longer weapon continued in service throughout the War of American Independence and no muskets with brass nosebands were used in that conflict.
All Long Land Pattern muskets possessed a tapering, 46-inch barrel, secured in place by four barrel pins, which held the musket barrel in place by passing through hoops soldered onto the barrel. The barrel was also fastened at the breech via a screw, mounted on the tongue of the breech-plug. the lock was held in place by two additional screws, and one more screw for the trigger-guard plate. The sling was mounted on the musket via two smaller screws: one just in front of the second ramrod pipette, the other just in front of the trigger guard. All other decorations were fastened by an elaborate series of pins, which hold the components in place via loops soldered on to the components. The stocks were ideally made of walnut.
Maintenance was very time-consuming, and difficult, the pins are easy to bend (which makes it difficult to re-insert them) and lack of proper equipment to re-instert (or at least, straighten) the pins would cause them to damage the stock. However, it appears regular soldiers were not entrusted with stripping the weapon down completely: only the removal of the lock (via two screws). Anything more involved was left to the artificers. Cleaning would have been done with hot water, soap, rags, and the rammer. Weapons were generally polished to a mirror-smoothness.
All Long Land Pattern muskets possessed a block-shaped front sight, which also served double-duty as a bayonet lug; the weapon did not come with a rear sight, but it is common to see muskets modified by the carving of a crude notch at the breech plug, which served to line that with the sight, and so acting as a crude rear sight. To aim the weapon, one simply need line up the rear of the barrel with the sight (a notch would aid this). As the musket barrel is tapered (as a measure to mitigate fowling at the muzzle), the musket will naturally shoot slightly high (5" at ~30 yards)
The earliest Brown Besses (i.e. produced before c. 1750) had wooden rammers, capped with a brass nose. These were thicker than later metal rammers; as a result, muskets with metal rammers had smaller pipettes than those with wooden rammers.
The musket sling was universal by the time of the Seven Years War, and was generally made of buff or natural leather. The exact means it was secured on the musket, and its width, varied according to the taste of the colonel in charge of a given regiment. This was because the sling was not issued by the government itself. Generally however, the sling was 1-1.5" across, and fastened by a leather thong at the rear sling swivel, and by a brass buckle at the front swing swivel.
The hammer was protected from the elements by way of a hammerstall, which was a tongue-shaped strip of leather, with the cover on one side, and a means of securing the hammerstall to the trigger guard or rear sling swivel on the other (this can be seen in David Morier's paintings). As with the sling, the hammerstall was made of natural or buff leather.
Ball size was highly variable, but officially 0.69 caliber (~17.5mm), or 14 shots to the pound. In practice, balls ranged from 16.8-17.5mm.
Cartridges were twisted off at the ends, and tied with linen or hemp cords (a method inferior to the French folding and tying method, since it allows powder to get around the ball more easily). The paper was quite thin, and classified as a rag paper.
No official powder charge is known for the musket prior to 1775 but seems never to have exceeded 220 grains (14 grams); by 1775, this had been regulated to 165 grains (11 grams), though in practice the cartridges from this time forward were 110-125 grains, to account for better-quality powder. The powder quality prior to 1792 (or ~1775) was often unpredictable. the powder used was at least equivalent to modern G12 powder, though typically it would have been stronger--closer to Geox FFg powder, as per the ballistics tests described above. The barrels were supposed to be proofed with ~642 grains of powder, or approximately four times the powder found in a cartridge.
All Long Land Pattern muskets had a bayonet with a total length of ~53.3 cm (21 inches), with the blade ~47.5 cm (18 inches) in length. The bayonet was triangular in cross-section, with two fullers running the last 16" of either side of the rib, which was on the outer side of the bayonet. The base of the blade had a somewhat semi-elliptical cross-section. The bayonet was mounted via a socket, meant to turn counter-clockwise in order to secure it in place; this was so that the blade is on the lock side of the musket, and away from the user when loading the weapon. the side of the socket that goes in first is thickened, to strengthen that area. The bayonet weight a little over 0.45 kg (~1 pound).
Ballistic Performance of the Brown Bess
|Note: The data is for the M1730 musket, converted to use a metal rammer. However, the data from this test should be applicable to all Long Land Pattern Muskets. Shots in the test were fired as quickly as possible, using military methods from the time. Of course our tests have not been conducted in battle conditions, And therefore, accuracy and firing rate were optimal; the battlefield performance was likely half as effective or thereabouts (as per Duffy's Military Experience in the Age of Reason).|
Based on empirical tests conducted from 2018 onward, the following muzzle velocities have been measured:
- 940 feet per second (287 meter per second) with a powder charge of 120 grains (Goex FFg powder)
- 1,100 feet per second (335 meter per second) with a powder charge of 165 grains Goex FFg powder, or 125 grains 1.5F Swiss powder.
With better powder quality, a velocity between 400 and 450 meter per second is theoretically possible; however, it appears that the British Army tended to reduce the charge to as low as 125 grains, when such powder was available. This is likely due to the much more savage recoil beyond 335 m/s, which could potentially discomfort or injure the soldiers.
However, the above tests by themselves cannot tell us the muzzle velocity of the weapons, as they operated in the 18th century. For this to be discovered, we must turn to period accounts, to glean clues into the expected muzzle velocity. In this case, a treatise by Lewis Lochee, entitled "Elements of Field Fortification", provides just such clues. This was a work published in 1783, nine years before the reforms were implemented, which improved on gunpowder quality. Thus while this postdates the Seven Years' War, the technical data contained within this treatise should still be reasonably applicable.
In this treatise, Lochee specifically states that the ideal point-blank range of a musket is 300 yards; however, he also noted that in practice, the actual point-blank range is between 200 and 240 yards. With these values, and assuming the soldier was either firing on level ground in the standing position using the correct aiming technique (discussed earlier), these point-blank ranges are indeed possible:
to reach 200 yards (182m), a minimum muzzle velocity of ~335 m/s is required, provided a regulation-sized ball (~17.5 mm, ~32-gram ball); the maximum muzzle velocity with this ball, necessary to reach 240 yards, is calculated to be 400 m/s. This gives us a window of possible muzzle velocities in practice--in this case, between 335-400 m/s.
However, in practice, even a point-blank range of 240 yards was likely generous, as it appears not all musket balls were made to specification: rounds as small as 0.66 calibre have been found, associated with the British Army; due to their lower impetus, these smaller balls would not have carried as far as the standard ball, even if the velocity were higher (the gain in velocity was minimal). This, combined with the irregular quality of the powder, likely meant that most musket shots rarely exceeded the lower value given above. Therefore, it's likely the mean muzzle velocity was indeed close to 335 m/s.
Accuracy and rate of fire:
the Brown Bess was about average for the period; French muskets were a little more accurate, Prussian ones a little less so, though overall there was relatively little difference. With proper time to aim, the probability of striking the target is almost 100% at 40 yards (37 meters); the group size was approximately 4 inches at this distance. It could reliably strike a man’s torso at 50 yards (46 meters), and a man’s figure at 75 yards (69 meters). It is still possible to hit target at 100 yards (91 meters) with a hit ratio of at least 25% (as per tests conducted in 2018). between 150 and 200 yards it is useless to aim at anything more precise than a general formation of men; and, as a British officer stated around 1814, at 200 yards (182 meters) "you may as well fire at the moon and have the same hope of hitting your object."
On average, approximately one in six shots will misfire, using military loads and equipment. The most common cause is a “flash in the pan”. English flints were of very unpredictable quality.
Rate of fire was ideally between two and three shots per minute, though generally closer to the former. Any number significantly greater can be dismissed as fiction. This rate of fire will rapidly decrease, as the increase in barrel temperature, coupled with fouling and exhaustion of the user. If the musket was still using the older wooden rammers (as many in the British Army still did), then the rate of fire will decline even more rapidly, and will rarely exceed 2 rounds a minute; this is due to the less durable nature of the rammer, which could become brittle and snap with age and use. Even if the rammer were new, such rammers could still break if used too violently.
Models of the Long Land Pattern
Initial version (1715-1720)
The initial version of the musket was produced following the specifications arrived at by the department of the Ordinance. Its wooden furniture was made of walnut, and fittings made of iron, later brass. The regiment's name was engraved on the lockplate, usually the name of the colonel being used, as well as the maker of the weapon. The lockplate itself was banana shaped. The initials of the maker were also engraved on the breech of the barrel. The ramrod, made of wood, was held in place by 4 iron, later brass, fittings. The butt placed was waived. The trigger guard showed Dutch influence, with lobed finials at the ends of the trigger guard.
Long Land pattern M1730
Even though the long land pattern was supposed to have been produced in large quantities beginning in 1718, production really began in 1722, and no modifications or improvements introduced till 1728. These modification were standardized in 1730, creating the long land pattern M1730 musket. The musket was characterized by the predominance of heavy brass fittings, raised brass stock fittings, and raised brass side plates. The older waived butt plate was replaced by a stepped version, 6" in length. The ramrod was still made of wood.
Long Land pattern M1742
When the War of Austrian Succession broke out, the army found itself short on ordinance. As a result, a new model was introduced in 1742. This model differed from the 1730 model in having a reduced raised stock carving, the addition of a bridle to a shallower flashpan, and a split read trigger guard strut. Some versions of this model and the 1730 version were also equipped with a brass nosecap to the front of the wooden furniture, but most came without. The front end of the trigger guard became a hazelnut shape, rather than the older Dutch shape.
Initial versions of this weapon had wooden ramrods, but starting in the late 1740's-1750, iron ramrods were gradually introduced. This musket was in fact the main model used in the Seven Years' War, with the 1730 model being sent over to America to arm the Provincial soldiers who didn't receive this new model.
|Overall length||1590 mm (62.5 inches)|
|Length of barrel||1170 mm (46 inches)|
|Calibre||officially 19 mm (0,75 inches); actual bore ranges from 0,75-0,775"|
|Bore diameters at breech||~3,6 mm (1,40 inches)|
|Ball size||16,8-17,5 mm (0,66-0,69 inches); officially 0,69 inches|
|Length of the flintlock plate||177 mm (7 inches)|
|Weight||4500 grams (without the bayonet)|
|Trigger Pressure||~5,5 kg (~12 pounds)|
|Legend||aaa – barrel|
bbb – stock
Long land pattern M1756
When the Seven Years War itself broke out in 1756, a new model was introduced. This model, the M1756, was the final weapon in the long land pattern series. It differed from the previous model in that it was exclusively issued with an iron ramrod, the addition of 4 inches to the length of the front pipe holding the ramrod, and modification to the brass furniture and locks. These included the replacement of the banana shape with a straight shaped lockplate, the engraving of the Royal Cypher on the plate, the addition of the crown or royal arrow mark under the flashpan, and further wooden carving.
The model also saw the establishment of fully developed beaver carvings on the stock, and a thinned version of the shape of trigger guard plate used in the 1742 model.
Even though this musket was produced in quantity during the war, the musket almost never saw service: the army commander had already agreed to continue using the M1742, until the stock wore out, in which case they could be replaced with the M1756.
All models of the musket were stamped or etched with the letters BO (board of ordnance) beneath the flashpan, and before 1764, the maker of the musket was engraved to the rear of the same plate. Makers included Gage, Grice, Edge, Galton, Jordan, Vernon, Dublin Castle, etc.
The lock bears the stamps crowned GR, an arrow and 'BO' (BOARD OF ORDNANCE) and the maker's name 'GRICE' and the date 1756. Other makers at this time were Edge, Galton, Jordan, Vernon and Dublin Castle. From 1764 it became the rule to engrave the lock plate with 'TOWER'.
Dutch infantry musket
While Britain produced weapons on its own, arms supply was not always consistent, particularly in the colonies. As a result, the authorities would often supplement local supply with purchases of surplus or outdated muskets from other countries. One important supplier was the Netherlands.
The Netherlands in turn, while it produced arms locally (notably in Amsterdam and Maastricht), mostly supplied itself with weapons produced outside the country. Notable sources of firearms included Liège, Solingen, Suhl and Zella. Liège in particular was the largest producer of weapons for the Netherlands and, by 1788, counted 60-80 arms workshops. The Dutch on their part used the produced weapons not only to supply the army, but also for trade in the colonies, the Native Americans, and other nation’s armies, supplying all the above since the 17th century.
As a result of the widespread trade in firearms, the caliber and size of the weapons varied, from .75 to .80 calibers, as did the size of the weapons. However, general tendencies existed:
- the barrels were consistently rounded, while the ramrod pipe was faceted;
- the furniture was brass with a heavy buttstock;
- a distinctive lock plate, decorated with teardrops and arrowheads, and similar decorations existed in the trigger guard (similar decorations could be found in early models of the Brown Bess)
- the lock in muskets prior to c. 1720 was rounded and raised, as opposed to the flat/faceted ones introduced afterwards, and in use till the 1770’s.
Muskets supplied from Dutch sources were often purchased prior to the war and were often outdated models. For example, the board of ordinance still possessed in its armory muskets shipped in from the Netherlands in 1715 to Britain, and the colonies continued to import arms directly until at least 1738. Britain also made a large purchase of muskets (18,000) in 1741, and as in the case of the 1715 shipment, that was still in storage with the board of ordinance in 1756.
Many of these weapons in turn were exported to the colonies and were used by provincial soldiers (for example, 4,500 of the muskets purchased in 1741 were sent to the British colonies of North America). As a result, remains of the musket have been found on the battlefield of the Monongahela, and a bayonet (likely from a North Carolina provincial), was found in Fort Ligonier. Old models as well as newer ones were in the shipments.
Dutch infantry musket M1700-1720
A Dutch musket of the 1700-1720 model in the collection at West Point has Dutch/English style iron components, a rampant lion proof mark on breech, its original “Dutch” stock and the mark “SO.CAROLINA” on its barrel. It is most probable that it was part of a purchase made in 1715 and kept in stores until 1754-55 when the Board of Ordinance supplied Dutch muskets to the Southern Colonies.
Dutch infantry musket M1740
N.B.: dimensions slightly varied from musket to musket, the following dimensions should serve as an example.
|Overall length||1556 mm (61.25 inches)|
|Length of barrel||1165 mm (45.875 inches)|
|Calibre||20 mm (0,78 inches)|
|Length of the flintlock plate||162 mm (6.375 inches)|
|Length of the trigger guard||302 mm (11.875 inches)|
|Length of the butt tang||140 mm (5.5 inches)|
|Weight||3992 grams (8.8 lbs)|
Goldstein, Erik; The Socket Bayonet in the British Army 1687-1783, p. 89, 92
Lochee, Lewis: Elements of Field Fortifications, 1783
Mardsen, Joseph R.; The Bayonets of Fort Ligioner, Pennsylvannia,1758-1766, p.7
Miller, David P.: Ballistics of 17th Century Muskets, Cranfield University, May 2010
Neumann, George C.' Dutch Arms in the American Revolution in American Rifleman
Neumann, George C.; The redcoat's brown bess, April 2001, American rifleman magazine, 2008
Scott, Douglas D.; Joel Bohy; Nathan Boor; Charles Haecker; William Rose; and Patrick Severts: Colonial Era Firearm Bullet Performance: A Live Fire Experimental Study for Archaeological Interpretation, April 2017
Digby Smith and Ibrahim90 for the initial version of the section on the Long Land Pattern Brown Bess musket
Ibrahim90 for the common characteristics of the Long Land Pattern musket, as well as him and W.D.Liddell for the ballistic tests
William Jack and Ibrahim90 for the initial version of the section on the Dutch Infantry musket