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TXnorton 05-29-2009 02:36 PM

What makes a firearm a "Musket"?
My interest in black powder firearms is increasing. I started with a cap and ball Walker-Colt replica and then moved on to BP cartridge loads in my replica (Perdersoli) 45-70 1874 Sharps, and my replica (Uberti) 45 long colt model P. I also just picked up a Pedersoli replica .54 cal Hawken muzzle loader. My next acquisitions will be a single shot percussion muzzle loading pistol and eventually a flintlock Kentucky style rifle.

As I try to learn more about the different types of the old style long guns, I am a bit confused as to what defines a "musket". I had originally thought that this was a generic term for a smooth bore muzzle loading shoulder fired weapon. But I have seen the term "musket" applied to late 1800's to early 1900's bolt and lever action cartridge rifles, and even to a muzzle loding pistol. The only thing that seems "common" to the firearms I have seen with the "musket" description is that they have all had the full stocks (out to within inches of the muzzle).

Then there is the term "rifled musket", I am guessing that the "rifled muskets" were originally smooth bore guns that were either manufactured with, or modified to have, shallow rifling so as to use the minnnie balls in the 1860's era. But that's just my guess. I'd like to have a better understanding of these terms as as to have a better understand of the history and the evolution of the firearms.

Thanks in advance,


caniswalensis 05-29-2009 02:52 PM

Hey, don't forget about "musketoons!" :D

My understanding of this term is much the same as you have described. I suspect that there is a deal of variance in its usage depending on time & place.

I see the same sort of confusing variance in nomenclature surrounding European staff weapons of the Middle Ages & renaissance.

I hope this is helpful, but I am eager to hear what others have to say on this interesting topic.

Regards, Canis

TXnorton 06-01-2009 12:38 PM


I also posted this question on the Muzzleloader's forum.

There were a lot of responses there, and to view this post go to:

Traditional Muzzleloading Forum Flintlock Musket Reenactor under firearms / smoothbore


historybug 06-27-2009 09:03 PM

What makes a firearm a musket?
What makes a firearm a "musket" is the lack of "rifling" (spiral grooves cut into the inside of the barrel to make the bullet spin on exiting the barrel for greater distance and accuracy.)

Muskets were smooth-bore--no rifling. They weren't nearly as accurate, nor would they shoot as far as a rifle, but muskets continued to be the preferred weapon for infantry troops until the late 18th century, because they were faster and easier to load than a muzzle-loading rifle, because the load and wad had to be pushed down the barrel past the rifling grooves, which slowed the process down.

There is a little more info on this subject in an article I wrote on my website. See

Revolutionary and Civil War Muskets

Hope this helps


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