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Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk Grand Turk(36).jpg
Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk

A musket is a muzzle-loaded long gun that appeared as a smoothbore weapon in the early 16th century, at first as a heavier variant of the arquebus, capable of penetrating heavy armor. [1] By the mid-16th century, this type of musket went out of use as heavy armor declined, but as the matchlock became standard, the term musket continued as the name given for any long gun with a flintlock, and then its successors, all the way through the mid-1800s. [2] This style of musket was retired in the 19th century when rifled muskets (simply called rifles in modern terminology) became common as a result of cartridged breech-loading firearms introduced by Casimir Lefaucheux in 1835, [3] the invention of the Minié ball by Claude-Étienne Minié in 1849, [4] and the first reliable repeating rifle produced by Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1854. [4] By the time that repeating rifles became common, they were known as simply "rifles", ending the era of the musket.



According to the Etymology Dictionary, firearms were often named after animals, and the word musket derived from the French word mousquette, which is a male sparrowhawk. [5] An alternative theory is that derives from the 16th century French mousquet, -ette, from the Italian moschetto, -etta, meaning the bolt of a crossbow. The Italian moschetto is a diminutive of mosca, a fly. [6]


The first recorded usage of the term "musket" or moschetto appeared in Europe in the year 1499. [7] Evidence of the musket as a type of firearm does not appear until 1521 when it was used to describe a heavy arquebus capable of penetrating heavy armor. [1] This version of the musket fell out of use after the mid-16th century with the decline of heavy armor; [8] however, the term itself stuck around as a general descriptor for 'shoulder arms' fireweapons into the 1800s. The differences between the arquebus and musket post-16th century are therefore not entirely clear, and the two have been used interchangeably on several occasions. [9]


Heavy muskets, image produced 1664. Fotothek df tg 0004653 Kriegskunde ^ Militar ^ Waffe ^ Drill ^ Kavallerie ^ Muskete.jpg
Heavy muskets, image produced 1664.

Heavy arquebus

The heavy arquebus known as the musket appeared in Europe by 1521. [1] In response to firearms, thicker armor was produced, from 15 kg in the 15th century to 25 kg in the late 16th century. [10] Armour that was 2 mm thick required 2.9 times as much energy to penetrate as armour that was 1 mm thick. [11] During the siege of Parma in 1521, many Spanish soldiers reportedly used an "arquebus with rest", a weapon much larger and more powerful than the regular arquebus. However, at this point, long-barreled, musket-caliber weapons had been in use as wall-defence weapons in Europe for almost a century. [12] The musketeers were the first infantry to give up armour entirely. Musketeers began to take cover behind walls or in sunken lanes and sometimes acted as skirmishers to take advantage of their ranged weapons. In England, the musket barrel was cut down from 4 feet to 3 feet around 1630. [13]

Muskets of the 16th–19th centuries were accurate enough to hit a target of 20x20 inches at a distance of 100 meters. The maximum range of the bullet was 1100 meters. At 100 metres, the musket bullets penetrated a steel bib about 4 millimetres thick or a wooden shield about 5 inches thick. The speed of the bullets was between 450–540 m/s, and the kinetic energy was 3000–4000 J. [14] [15]

Flintlock Musket

Flintlock mechanism FlintlockMechanism.jpg
Flintlock mechanism

The heavy musket went out of favor around the same time the snaphance flintlock was invented in Europe, in 1550. [16] After the arrival of the snaphance, and then the "true" flintlock in the late 17th century, the arquebus died out as a term for firearms and flintlocks are not usually associated with arquebuses. [17] The term "musket" itself however, stuck around as a general term for 'shoulder arms' fireweapons into the 1800s. The differences between the arquebus and musket post-16th century are therefore not entirely clear, and the two have been used interchangeably on several occasions. [9]

The number of musketeers relative to pikemen increased partly because they were now more mobile than pikemen. [18]

An intermediate between the arquebus and the musket was the caliver, [19] a standardized arquebus deriving from the English corruption of "calibre" (spelled "caliber" in the US), which appeared in Europe around 1567-9. [7]


Projectiles in smoothbore firearms are quite loose in the barrel. The last contact with the barrel gives the ball a spin around an axis at right angles to the direction of flight. The aerodynamics result in the ball veering off in a random direction from the aiming point. The practice of rifling, putting grooves in the barrel of a weapon, causing the projectile to spin on the same axis as the line of flight, prevented this veering off from the aiming point. Initially, rifles were used primarily as sporting weapons and had little presence in warfare. However, by 1611, rifles were already starting to see some use in warfare by Denmark. [7] From around 1750, rifles began to be used by skirmishers (Frederick the Great raised a Jäger unit in 1744 from game-keepers and foresters, armed with rifles), [20] but the very slow rate of fire of muzzle-loading rifles restricted their use until the invention of the Minié ball in 1849, ending the smoothbore musket era. [4] Rifled muskets of the mid-19th century, like the Springfield Model 1861, were significantly more accurate, with the ability to hit a man sized target at a distance of 500 yards (460 m) or more. [21] The smoothbore musket generally allowed no more than 300 yards (270 m) with any accuracy. [22] The advantage of this extended range was demonstrated at the Battle of Four Lakes, where Springfield Model 1855 rifled muskets inflicted heavy casualties among the Indian warriors before they could get their smooth bore muskets into range. [23] However, in the Italian War of 1859, French forces were able to defeat the longer range of Austrian rifle muskets by aggressive skirmishing and rapid bayonet assaults during close quarters combat. [24]


Early matchlocks as illustrated in the Baburnama (16th century) Early matchlocks.jpg
Early matchlocks as illustrated in the Baburnama (16th century)

Matchlock firearms were used in India by 1500, [25] in Đại Việt by 1516, [26] and in Southeast Asia by 1540. [27] According to a Burmese source from the late 15th century, King Meng Khoum II would not dare attack the besieged town of Prome due to the defenders' use of cannon and small arms that were described as muskets, although these were probably early matchlock arquebuses or wall guns. [28]

The Portuguese may have introduced muskets to Sri Lanka during their conquest of the coastline and low lands in 1505, as they regularly used short barreled matchlocks during combat. However, P.E.P.Deraniyagala points out that the Sinhalese term for gun, 'bondikula', matches the Arabic term for gun, 'bunduk'. Also, certain technical aspects of the early Sinhalese matchlock were similar to the matchlocks used in the Middle East, thus forming the generally accepted theory that the musket was not entirely new to the island by the time the Portuguese came. In any case, soon native Sri Lankan kingdoms, most notably the kingdom of Sitawaka and the Kandyan Kingdom, manufactured hundreds of Sinhalese muskets, with a unique bifurcated stock, longer barrel and smaller calibre, which made it more efficient in directing and using the energy of the gunpowder. These were mastered by native soldiers to the point where, according to the Portuguese chronicler, Queirós, they could "fire at night to put out a match" and "by day at 60 paces would sever a knife with four or five bullets" and "send as many on the same spot in the target." [29]

Arquebuses were imported by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) at an uncertain point, but the Ming only began fielding matchlocks in 1548. [30] The Chinese used the term "bird-gun" to refer to arquebuses and Turkish arquebuses may have reached China before Portuguese ones. [31] In Zhao Shizhen's book of 1598 AD, the Shenqipu, there were illustrations of Ottoman Turkish musketmen with detailed illustrations of their muskets, alongside European musketeers with detailed illustrations of their muskets. [32] There was also illustration and description of how the Chinese had adopted the Ottoman kneeling position in firing while using European-made muskets, [33] though Zhao Shizhen described the Turkish muskets as being superior to the European muskets. [34] The Wu Pei Chih (1621) later described Turkish muskets that used a rack-and-pinion mechanism, which was not known to have been used in any European or Chinese firearms at the time. [35]

Despite initial reluctance, the Safavid Empire of Persia rapidly acquired the art of making and using handguns. A Venetian envoy, Vincenzo di Alessandri, in a report presented to the Council of Ten on 24 September 1572, observed:

They used for arms, swords, lances, arquebuses, which all the soldiers carry and use; their arms are also superior and better tempered than those of any other nation. The barrels of the arquebuses are generally six spans long, and carry a ball little less than three ounces in weight. They use them with such facility that it does not hinder them drawing their bows nor handling their swords, keeping the latter hung at their saddle bows till occasion requires them. The arquebus is then put away behind the back so that one weapon does not impede the use of the other. [2]

Various antique Tanegashima. EdoJapaneseArquebuse.jpg
Various antique Tanegashima.

In Japan, arquebuses were introduced by Portuguese merchantmen from the region of Alentejo in 1543 and by the 1560s were being mass-produced locally. [27]

Large Korean Jochong(Matchlock Musket) in Unhyeon Palace with Korean cannon Hongyipao(Culverin). Matchlock and Culverin displayed in Unhyeon Palace.jpg
Large Korean Jochong(Matchlock Musket) in Unhyeon Palace with Korean cannon Hongyipao(Culverin).

In Korea, the Joseon dynasty underwent a devastating war with newly unified Japan that lasted from 1592 to 1598. The shock of this encounter spurred the court to undergo a process of military strengthening. One of the core elements of military strengthening was to adopt the musket. According to reformers, "In recent times in China they did not have muskets; they first learned about them from the Wokou pirates in Zhejiang Province. Qi Jiguang trained troops in their use for several years until they [muskets] became one of the skills of the Chinese, who subsequently used them to defeat the Japanese." [36] By 1607 Korean musketeers had been trained in the fashion which Qi Jiguang prescribed, and a drill manual had been produced based on the Chinese leader's Jixiao Xinshu. Of the volley fire, the manual says that "every musketeer squad should either divide into two musketeers per layer or one and deliver fire in five volleys or in ten." [36] Another Korean manual produced in 1649 describes a similar process: "When the enemy approaches to within a hundred paces, a signal gun is fired and a conch is blown, at which the soldiers stand. Then a gong is sounded, the conch stops blowing, and the heavenly swan [a double-reed horn] is sounded, at which the musketeers fire in concert, either all at once or in five volleys (齊放一次盡擧或分五擧)." [36] This training method proved to be quite formidable in the 1619 Battle of Sarhu, in which 10,000 Korean musketeers managed to kill many Manchus before their allies surrendered. While Korea went on to lose both wars against the Manchu invasions of 1627 and 1636, their musketeers were well respected by Manchu leaders. It was the first Qing emperor Hong Taiji who wrote: "The Koreans are incapable on horseback but do not transgress the principles of the military arts. They excel at infantry fighting, especially in musketeer tactics." [37]

Afterwards, the Qing dynasty requested Joseon to aid in their border conflict with Russia. In 1654, 370 Russians engaged a 1,000-man Qing-Joseon force at the mouth of the Songhua River and were defeated by Joseon musketeers. [38] In 1658, 500 Russians engaged a 1,400-strong Qing-Joseon force and were defeated again by Joseon musketeers. [39] Under the Three Branch System, similar to the Spanish Tercio, Joseon organized their army under firearm troops (artillery and musketeers), archers, and pikemen or swordsmen. The percentage of firearms in the Joseon army rose dramatically as a result of the shorter training period for firearms. In addition, the sulfur mines discovered in Jinsan reduced the expense of producing gunpowder. Under the reign of Sukjong of Joseon (1700s), 76.4% of the local standing army in Chungcheong were musketeers. [40] Under the reign of King Yeongjo, Yoon Pil-Un, Commander of the Sua-chung, improved on firearms with the Chunbochong (천보총), which had a greater range of fire than the existing ones. Its usage is thought to have been similar to the Afghanistani Jezail or American Kentucky Rifle. [41] [42]


An English Civil War manual of the New Model Army showing a part of the steps required to load and fire an earlier musket. The need to complete this difficult and potentially dangerous process as quickly as possible led to the creation of the military drill. Manual of the Musketeer, 17th Century.jpg
An English Civil War manual of the New Model Army showing a part of the steps required to load and fire an earlier musket. The need to complete this difficult and potentially dangerous process as quickly as possible led to the creation of the military drill.

In the 18th century, as typified by the English Brown Bess musket, loading and firing was done in the following way:

(At no time did the soldier place the musket on the ground to load)

This process was drilled into troops until they could complete the procedure upon hearing a single command of "prime and load". No additional verbal orders were given until the musket was loaded, and the option was either to give the soldiers the command "Make Ready", or to hold the musket for movement with the command of "Shoulder your firelock". The main advantage of the British Army was that the infantry soldier trained at this procedure almost every day. A properly trained group of regular infantry soldiers was able to load and fire four rounds per minute. A crack infantry company could load and fire five rounds in a minute.

Many soldiers preferred to reduce the standard musket reloading procedures in order to increase the speed of fire. This statement is from Thomas Anburey who served as a Lt in Burgoyne's army: "Here I cannot help observing to you, whether it proceeded from an idea of self-preservation, or natural instinct, but the soldiers greatly improved the mode they were taught in, as to expedition. For as soon as they had primed their pieces and put the cartridge into the barrel, instead of ramming it down with their rods, they struck the butt end of the piece upon the ground, and bringing it to the present, fired it off". [44] [45] [46]


Diagram of a 1594 Dutch musketry volley formation. 1594 Dutch musketry volley technique.jpg
Diagram of a 1594 Dutch musketry volley formation.
Illustration of a 1639 Ming musketry volley formation. From Bi Maokang Bi Mao Kang , Jun qi tu shuo Jun Qi Tu Shuo , ca. 1639. 1639 Ming musketry volley formation.jpg
Illustration of a 1639 Ming musketry volley formation. From Bi Maokang 畢懋康, Jun qi tu shuo軍器圖說, ca. 1639.


As muskets became the default weapon of armies, the slow reloading time became an increasing problem. The difficulty of reloading—and thus the time needed to do it—was diminished by making the musket ball much smaller than the internal diameter of the barrel, so as the interior of the barrel became dirty from soot from previously fired rounds, the musket ball from the next shot could still be easily rammed. In order to keep the ball in place once the weapon was loaded, it would be partially wrapped in a small piece of cloth. [47] However, the smaller ball could move within the barrel as the musket was fired, decreasing the accuracy of musket fire [48] (it was complained that it took a man's weight in lead musket balls to kill him). [49] The only way to make musket fire effective was to mass large numbers of musketmen and have them fire at the same time. The tradeoff between reloading speed and accuracy of fire continued until the invention of the Minié ball.

The development of volley fire – by the Ottomans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Dutch – made muskets more feasible for widespread adoption by the military. The volley fire technique transformed soldiers carrying firearms into organized firing squads with each row of soldiers firing in turn and reloading in a systematic fashion. Volley fire was implemented with cannons as early as 1388 by Ming artillerists, [50] but volley fire with matchlocks was not implemented until 1526 when the Ottoman Janissaries utilized it during the Battle of Mohács. [51] The matchlock volley fire technique was next seen in mid 16th century China as pioneered by Qi Jiguang and in late 16th century Japan. [52] [27] Qi Jiguang elaborates on his volley fire technique in the Jixiao Xinshu :

All the musketeers, when they get near the enemy are not allowed to fire early, and they're not allowed to just fire everything off in one go, [because] whenever the enemy then approaches close, there won't be enough time to load the guns (銃裝不及), and frequently this mismanagement costs the lives of many people. Thus, whenever the enemy gets to within a hundred paces' distance, they [the musketeers] are to wait until they hear a blast on the bamboo flute, at which they deploy themselves in front of the troops, with each platoon (哨) putting in front one team (隊). They [the musketeer team members] wait until they hear their own leader fire a shot, and only then are they allowed to give fire. Each time the trumpet gives a blast, they fire one time, spread out in battle array according to the drilling patterns. If the trumpet keeps blasting without stopping, then they are allowed to fire all together until their fire is exhausted, and it's not necessary [in this case] to divide into layers. [52]

Frederick Lewis Taylor claims that a kneeling volley fire may have been employed by Prospero Colonna's arquebusiers as early as the Battle of Bicocca (1522). [53] However this has been called into question by Tonio Andrade who believes this is an over interpretation as well as mis-citation of a passage by Charles Oman suggesting that the Spanish arquebusiers kneeled to reload, when in fact Oman never made such a claim. [54] European gunners might have implemented the volley fire to some extent since at least 1579 when the Englishman Thomas Digges suggested that musketeers should, "after the old Romane manner make three or four several fronts, with convenient spaces for the first to retire and unite himselfe with the second, and both these if occasion so require, with the third; the shot [musketeers] having their convenient lanes continually during the fight to discharge their peces." [55] The Spanish too displayed some awareness of the volley technique. Martín de Eguiluz described it in the military manual, Milicia, Discurso y Regla Militar, dating to 1586: "Start with three files of five soldiers each, separated one from the other by fifteen paces, and they should comport themselves not with fury but with calm skillfulness [con reposo diestramente] such that when the first file has finished shooting they make space for the next (which is coming up to shoot) without turning face, countermarching [contrapassando] to the left but showing the enemy only the side of their bodies, which is the narrowest of the body, and [taking their place at the rear] about one to three steps behind, with five or six pellets in their mouths, and two lighted matchlock fuses … and they load [their pieces] promptly … and return to shoot when it's their turn again." [56] Most historians, including Geoffrey Parker, have ignored Eguiluz, and have erroneously attributed the invention of the countermarch to Maurice of Nassau, although the publication of the Milicia, Discurso y Regla Militar antedates Maurice's first letter on the subject by two years. [57] Regardless, it is clear that the concept of volley fire had existed in Europe for quite some time during the 16th century, but it was in the Netherlands during the 1590s that the musketry volley really took off. The key to this development was William Louis, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg who in 1594 described the technique in a letter to his cousin:

I have discovered … a method of getting the musketeers and soldiers armed with arquebuses not only to keep firing very well but to do it effectively in battle order … in the following manner: as soon as the first rank has fired together, then by the drill [they have learned] they will march to the back. The second rank, either marching forward or standing still, [will next] fire together [and] then march to the back. After that, the third and following ranks will do the same. Thus before the last ranks have fired, the first will have reloaded. [58]

Letter from Louis to Maurice

Attack column

In the 19th century, a new tactic was devised by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars. This was the colonne d'attaque, or attack column, consisting of one regiment up to two brigades of infantry. Instead of advancing slowly all across the battlefield in line formations, the French infantry were brought forward in such columns, preceded by masses of skirmishers to cover and mask their advance. The column would then normally deploy into line right before engaging the enemy with either fire or bayonet. This allowed the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic infantry a much greater degree of mobility compared to their Ancien Régime opponents, and also allowed much closer cooperation of infantry with cavalry and artillery, which were free to move in between the infantry columns of the former rather than being trapped in between the linear formation of the latter. The 'colonne d'attaque' was henceforth adopted by all European armies during and after the Napoleonic Wars. While some British historians, such as Sir Charles Oman, have postulated that it was the standard French tactic to charge enemy lines of infantry head on with their columns, relying on the morale effect of the huge column, and hence were often beaten off by the devastating firepower of the redcoats, more current research into the subject has revealed that such occasions were far from the norm, and that the French normally tried deploying into lines before combat as well. [59]

Replacement by the rifle

Minie balls T3- d491 - Fig. 356 et 357. -- Balle a culot et coupe verticale de cette balle.png
Minié balls

The musket had a smoothbore barrel and lacked rifling grooves in the barrel that spun the bullet, contributing to its accuracy. By modern standards, muskets are extremely inaccurate. Owing to this lack of accuracy, officers did not expect musketeers to aim at specific targets. Rather, their objective was to deliver massed fire into the enemy line.

Although rifling as a practice preceded the musket, it was primarily secluded to specialist weapons and limited in number. [1] The disadvantage of the early rifle for military use was its long reloading time and the tendency for powder fouling to accumulate in the rifling, making the piece more difficult to load with each shot. Eventually, the weapon could not be loaded until the bore was wiped clean. For this reason, smoothbore muskets remained the primary firearm of most armies until the mid-19th century. However, as early as 1611, rifles were already seeing limited usage in some parts of Europe such as Denmark. [7]

The invention of the Minié ball in 1849 solved both major problems of muzzle-loading rifles. [4] The Crimean War (1853–1856) saw the first widespread use of the rifled musket for the common infantryman and by the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865) most infantry were equipped with the rifled musket. These were far more accurate than smoothbore muskets and had a far longer range, while preserving the musket's comparatively faster reloading rate. Their use led to a decline in the use of massed attacking formations, as these formations were too vulnerable to the accurate, long-range fire a rifle could produce. In particular, attacking troops were within range of the defenders for a longer period of time, and the defenders could also fire at them more quickly than before. As a result, while 18th century attackers would only be within range of the defenders' weapons for the time it would take to fire a few shots, late 19th century attackers might suffer dozens of volleys before they drew close to the defenders, with correspondingly high casualty rates. However, the use of massed attacks on fortified positions did not vanish overnight, and as a result, major wars of the late 19th century and early 20th century tended to produce very high casualty figures. [4] Although they were more accurate than a smoothbore musket, the problem of training soldiers was still unresolved. Ordinary soldiers had the same training as in the early 19th century, so they could not unlock the potential of the rifles. This led to the fact that the tactics did not change until the last quarter of the 19th century. Most surprisingly, the losses were much lower than during the Napoleonic Wars or the Seven Years' War. In most of the battles of the American Civil War, the casualties were only 2% (and about 10% of the wounded).

In the late 19th century, the rifle took another major step forward with the introduction of breech-loading rifles. These rifles also used brass cartridges. The brass cartridge had been introduced earlier; however, it was not widely adopted for various reasons. In the U.S. Army, generals thought their soldiers would waste ammunition, so they kept muzzle-loading black powder rifles until after the American Civil War. The introduction of breech loaders meant that the rifling of a weapon was no longer damaged when it was loaded, and reloading was a much faster process. Shortly afterwards, magazine loading rifles were introduced, which further increased the weapons' rate of fire. From this period (c. 1870) on, the musket was obsolete in modern warfare. [3]

Outside Eurasia

During the Musket Wars period in New Zealand, between 1805 and 1843, at least 500 conflicts took place between various Maori groups – often using trade muskets in addition to traditional Maori weapons. The muskets were initially cheap Birmingham muskets designed for the use of coarse grain black powder. Maori favoured the shorter barrel versions. Some Maori groups took advantage of runaway sailors and escaped convicts to expand their understanding of muskets. Early missionaries – one of whom was a trained gunsmith – refused to help Maori repair muskets. Later, common practice was to enlarge the percussion hole and to hold progressively smaller lead balls between the fingers so that muskets could fire several shots without having to remove fouling. Likewise, Maori resorted to thumping the butt of the musket on the ground to settle the ball instead of using a ramrod. Maori favoured the use of the double barrel shot gun (Tuparra – two barrel) during fighting often using women to reload the weapons when fighting from a (fortified village or hillfort). They often resorted to using nails, stones or anything convenient as "shot". From the 1850s, Maori were able to obtain superior military style muskets with greater range. One of the authors[ clarification needed ] was a Pakeha (European) who lived amongst Maori, spoke the language fluently, had a Maori wife and took part in many intertribal conflicts as a warrior. [60] [61]

Parts of a musket


The phrase "lock, stock, and barrel" refers to the three main parts of a musket. [62]

Trigger guards began appearing in 1575. [8]

Bayonets were attached to muskets in several parts of the world from the late 16th to 17th centuries. [34] [63] [34]

Locks came in many different varieties. Early matchlock and wheel lock mechanisms were replaced by later flintlock mechanisms and finally percussion locks. In some parts of the world, such as China and Japan, the flintlock mechanism never caught on and they continued using matchlocks until the 19th century when percussion locks were introduced. [64]

In the latter half of the 18th century, several improvements were added to the musket. In 1750, a detent was added to prevent the sear from catching in the half-cock notch. [7] A roller bearing was introduced in 1770 to reduce friction and increase sparks. [7] In 1780, waterproof pans were added. [7]


Iron ball mould Gussform verso.JPG
Iron ball mould

The Minié ball, which despite its name was actually bullet shaped and not ball shaped, was developed in the 1840s. [65] The Minié ball had an expanding skirt which was intended to be used with rifled barrels, leading to what was called the rifled musket, which came into widespread use in the mid-19th century. The Minié ball was small enough in diameter that it could be loaded as quickly as a round ball, even with a barrel that had been fouled with black powder residue after firing many shots, and the expanding skirt of the Minié ball meant that it would still form a tight fit with the barrel and impart a good spin into the round when fired. This gave the rifled musket an effective range of several hundred yards, which was a significant improvement over the smooth bore musket. For example, combat ranges of 300 yards were achievable using the rifled muskets of the American Civil War. [66]

Musketeers often used paper cartridges, which served a purpose similar to that of modern metallic cartridges in combining bullet and powder charge. A musket cartridge consisted of a pre-measured amount of black powder and ammunition such as a round ball, Nessler ball or Minié ball all wrapped up in paper. Cartridges would then be placed in a cartridge box, which would typically be worn on the musketeer's belt during a battle. Unlike a modern cartridge, this paper cartridge was not simply loaded into the weapon and fired. Instead, the musketeer would tear open the paper (usually with his teeth), pour some of the powder into the pan and the rest into the barrel, follow it with the ammunition (and the paper as wadding if not using a Minié ball), then use the ramrod as normal to push it all into the barrel. While not as fast as loading a modern cartridge, this method did significantly speed up the loading process since the pre-measured charges meant that the musketeer did not have to carefully measure out the black powder with every shot. [67]



Some ramrods were equipped with threaded ends, allowing different attachments to be used. One of the more common attachments was a ball screw or ball puller, which was literally just a screw that could be screwed into the lead ball to remove it if it had become jammed in the barrel, similar to the way that a corkscrew is used to remove a wine cork. Another attachment was called a worm, which was used to clear debris from the barrel, such as paper wadding that had not been expelled. Some worm designs were sturdy enough that they could be used to remove stuck ammunition. The worm could also be used with a small piece of cloth for cleaning. A variation on the worm called the "screw and wiper" combined the typical design of a worm with a ball puller's screw. [68]

See also

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The arquebus, derived from the German word Hakenbüchse, was a form of long gun that appeared in Europe and the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. Although the term arquebus was applied to many different forms of firearms from the 15th to 17th centuries, it originally referred to "a hand-gun with a hook-like projection or lug on its under surface, useful for steadying it against battlements or other objects when firing". These "hook guns" were in their earliest forms defensive weapons mounted on German city walls in the early 1400s. The addition of a shoulder stock, priming pan, and matchlock mechanism in the late 15th century turned the arquebus into a handheld firearm and also the first firearm equipped with a trigger. The exact dating of the matchlock's appearance is disputed. It could have appeared in the Ottoman Empire as early as 1465 and in Europe a little before 1475.

Matchlock Firearm mechanism

The matchlock was the first mechanism invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. Before this, firearms had to be fired by applying a lit match to the priming powder in the flash pan by hand; this had to be done carefully, taking most of the soldier's concentration at the moment of firing, or in some cases required a second soldier to fire the weapon while the first held the weapon steady. Adding a matchlock made the firing action simple and reliable by a single soldier, allowing them to keep both hands steadying the gun and eyes on the target while firing.

Breechloader Class of gun

A breechloader is a firearm in which the user loads the ammunition via the rear (breech) end of its barrel, as opposed to a muzzleloader, which loads ammunition via the front (muzzle) end.

Minié ball A type of conical projectile for mid 19th century rifles.

The Minié ball, or Minni ball, is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilized bullet for rifled muskets named after its developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the French Minié rifle. It came to prominence in the Crimean War and American Civil War.

Dreyse needle gun bolt action

The Dreyse needle-gun was a military breechloading rifle. It is famous for having been the main infantry weapon of the Prussians, who accepted it for service in 1841 as the "leichtes Perkussionsgewehr Model 1841", with the name chosen to hide the revolutionary nature of the new weapon. The name "Zündnadelgewehr"/"needle-gun" comes from its needle-like firing pin, which passed through the paper cartridge case to strike a percussion cap at the bullet base. The Dreyse rifle was also the first breech-loading rifle to use the bolt action to open and close the chamber, executed by turning and pulling a bolt handle. It has a rate of fire of about 6 rounds per minute.

Rifled musket 19th Century firearm conversion or redesign from smoothbore musket to include a rifled barrel

A rifled musket, rifle musket, or rifle-musket is a type of firearm made in the mid-19th century. Originally the term referred only to muskets that had been produced as a smoothbore weapon and later had their barrels replaced with rifled barrels. The term later included rifles that directly replaced, and were of the same design overall as, a particular model of smoothbore musket.

Line infantry type of infantry

Line infantry was the type of infantry that composed the basis of European land armies from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century. For both battle and parade drill, it consisted of two to four ranks of foot soldiers drawn up side by side in rigid alignment, and thereby maximizing the effect of their firepower. By extension, the term came to be applied to the regular regiments "of the line" as opposed to light infantry, skirmishers, militia, support personnel, plus some other special categories of infantry not focused on heavy front line combat.

The Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket was a .577 calibre Minié-type muzzle-loading rifled musket, used by the British Empire from 1853 to 1867, after which many Enfield 1853 rifle-muskets were converted to the cartridge-loaded Snider–Enfield rifle.

The Minié rifle was an important infantry rifle of the mid-19th century. A version was adopted in 1849 following the invention of the Minié ball in 1847 by the French Army captain Claude-Étienne Minié of the Chasseurs d'Orléans and Henri-Gustave Delvigne. The bullet was designed to allow rapid muzzle loading of rifles, and was an innovation that brought about the widespread use of the rifle as the main battlefield weapon for individual soldiers. The French adopted it following difficulties encountered by the French army in Northern Africa, where their muskets were outranged by long-barreled weapons which were handcrafted by their Algerian opponents. The Minié rifle belonged to the category of rifled muskets.

History of the firearm aspect of history

After the Chinese invented black powder(or gun powder) during the 9th century, these inventions were later transmitted to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The direct ancestor of the firearm is the fire lance. The prototype of the fire lance was invented in China during the 10th century and is the predecessor of all firearms.

Paper cartridge various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge

A paper cartridge is one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and, in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent. Combustible cartridges are paper cartridges that use paper treated with oxidizers to allow them to burn completely upon ignition.

During the American Civil War, an assortment of small arms found their way onto the battlefield. Though the muzzle-loading percussion cap rifle was the most numerous weapon, being standard issue for the Union and Confederate armies, many other firearms, ranging from the single-shot breech-loading Sharps and Burnside rifles to the Spencer and the Henry rifles, two of the world's first repeating rifles, were issued by the hundreds of thousands, mostly by the Union. The Civil War brought many advancements in firearms technology, most notably the widespread use of rifled barrels.

Volley fire

Volley fire, as a military tactic, is in its simplest form the concept of having soldiers shoot in turns. In practice, it often consists of having a line of soldiers all fire their weapons simultaneously at the enemy forces on command. This is usually to make up for the inaccuracy, slow rate of fire, and limited range of a weapon which requires extensive effort to reload. The volley fire, specifically the musketry volley technique, also known as the countermarch, requires lines of soldiers to fire on command and march back into a column to reload while the next row shoots and, hence, repeat fire. While this tactic is usually associated with Dutch military thinkers in the late 16th century, its principles have been applied to crossbow infantry since at least the Tang dynasty.

<i>Tanegashima</i> (gun) muzzleloader

Tanegashima (種子島), most often called in Japanese and sometimes in English hinawajū, was a type of matchlock configured arquebus firearm introduced to Japan through the Portuguese in 1543. Tanegashima were used by the samurai class and their foot soldiers (ashigaru) and within a few years the introduction of the tanegashima in battle changed the way war was fought in Japan forever.

The Spanish M1752 Musket was a muzzle-loading firearm invented in 1752 and used by the Spanish Army from then until it was widely replaced by the much more effective Minié rifles during the mid-19th century. The M1752 was the first standardized long gun utilized by the Spanish Army and was deployed in the Spanish American Colonies, where it saw action during the British invasion of Cuba. Spain also provided around 10,000 up to 12,000 muskets to the American rebels during their struggle against the British.

This is a timeline of the history of gunpowder and related topics such as weapons, warfare, and industrial applications. The timeline covers the history of gunpowder from the first hints of its origin as a Taoist alchemical product in China until its replacement by smokeless powder in the late 19th century.


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