Accuracy of Land Pattern/Brown Bess musket

Discussion in 'Blackpowder & Musket' started by CRob, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. CRob

    CRob New Member

    3
    0
    0
    Hello, all, I wanted to know what the actual accuracy of the British Land Pattern musket of the revolutionary/napoleonic era was/is. I've heard and read different figures running from "you can't hit crap at 50 yds" to maximum effective range shooting at a man-sized target was around 100 yds. So can anybody here who has actually fired one, replica or historical, tell me what is actually achievable with this musket?

    Thanks

    CR
     
  2. Boris

    Boris New Member

    441
    0
    0
    It was used 50/60 yards maximun but usually very effective at volley fire. If the British line held firm it could be awsome. Not much good when sneaky Colonials are creeping about ambushing you with rifled muskets....:)
     

  3. 1hole

    1hole New Member

    293
    0
    0
    "Accuracy of Land Pattern/Brown Bess musket"

    "Land pattern" of a Brown Bess musket was lousy. In fact, it didn't exist! Brown Bess muskets were smooth bore arms and the bullets were unpatched. Accuracy was somewhat like what we used to get from our Red Ryder BB carbines. That is, pretty good at 6 feet, pretty poor beyond that. The only way muskets were effective was from mass volley fire into massed targets and rapid reloading to repeat the fussilade, three or four times a minute.

    The British infantry "line" was effective against Napoleans massed French battalions because all the Brits could bring fire on the French but only the first 2-3 ranks of the French could return that fire. The English won with fire power, the French won with masses of men concentrated on a small front. Battles were often a toss up between them.

    Only a fool plays by his enemy's rules, few of our officers attempted mass attacks against the Redcoats and then rarely again! But, the English continued to use European tactics against our irregular tactics and they lost.

    If the Brown Bess had been more accurate, things would likely have worked out differently.

    Some time after the advent of the Minie ball, many muskets were modified with riflling to take advantage of the new ammuniton but, at least in my mind, they were rifles, not muskets any longer. Lethal range was extended to as much as 300 yards, occasionally more, with the new rifling.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2008
  4. Boris

    Boris New Member

    441
    0
    0
    Did pretty good at the Alamo though....Ooooh I bet there will be reponse from the boys from Texas............:)
     
  5. CRob

    CRob New Member

    3
    0
    0
    "Land Pattern" is the actual name of the "Brown Bess" musket, Brown Bess was an informal nickname, not the weapons actual official name. Contrary to popular belief and what is taught in High school history courses, both Americans and British used primarily smooth bore muskets. Only a few specialized units (such as Minutemen,Militia and other irregular forces) were equipped with rifles. The majority of Americans , fought and won the revolution equipped with muskets very similiar to those used by the British. Later in the revolution American troops would increasingly use French muskets as the supply increased . And no we americans did not win with irregular tactics, American forces learned close-order drill and volley fire just like any other 18th century army did (with obviously some supplemental asymetric warfare), as this was the most effective way to use the weapons of the time. I'm looking specifically for people who have actually fired this musket so please respond only if you have some actual experience with it, thanks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2008
  6. Boris

    Boris New Member

    441
    0
    0
    As a matter of fact I have two original 39" Land Pattern Muskets (one has a covering of tar over the woodwork which I believe to be a Royal marine issue) and at one time regulary fired a replica musket from World Wide Arms. At the time smooth bore muskets of modern manufacture where considered a shotgun under the then British Firearms Law..............
     
  7. CRob

    CRob New Member

    3
    0
    0
    Ok thanks Boris.
     
  8. Re-enactor1

    Re-enactor1 New Member

    1
    0
    0
    Dunno if anyone's still looking...

    Only just stumbled across this discussion... I shoot Brown Bess muskets, and as far as accuracy goes it's practice practice practice. Remember, smoothbores were used for hunting, and I'm pretty sure the average deer would not let the hunter close to within 6 feet in order to be sure of a hit. With sufficient experience, 50 yards had a good enough chance of a hit, highly trained individuals would have had a good enough chance up to 100 yards. BUT, as the whole point was to simply throw out a wall of lead the training was geared towards firing as fast as possible without taking the time to properly aim, which is why there is the impression that muskets are terribly inaccurate (then again, compared to modern-day rifles they really are bad). However, the Light Companies (you know, the companies each British reg't had that skirmished along the flanks, in front, sniped from behind trees, etc. and provided a lot of the training the minute + militia companies had... do you really think Britain learned NOTHING from the French & Indian war?) would have had extra training in accuracy as they would have been spread out in a skirmish line and could not rely on the heavy firepower of a compact volley. Hope that helps.
     
  9. historybug

    historybug New Member

    5
    0
    0
    As to the Alamo, don't forget the Kentucky rifle was there, too. I found an interesting item about a British officer who became interested in the "American rifle" (the Kentucky rifle) after he personally witnessed a bugler's horse shot out from under him at a distance he says he measured himself "several times" to be "a full 400 yards."

    The officer, whose name was Col. George Hanger, said he often asked American backswoodsmen what was the best one of their top marksmen could do, and was told that if a man could draw a "good and true sight", he could "hit the head of a man at 200 yards."

    A horse, of course, being considerably larger than the head of a man, might make an easier target. :).

    Many thanks for this info to FrontierFolk.org, where I found it.

    Historybug.
     
  10. JCKelly

    JCKelly New Member

    20
    0
    0
    Well, CRob I have two sources of information. For modern made Brown Bess replicas, look over Davide-Pedersoli.com site for the various M.L.A.I.C. Championships won by their Short Land (a.k.a. 2nd model) Brown Bess. I have a kit on order with Dixie, hope to modify the appearance slightly to approximate an American Committee of Safety musket. Have shot .62 cal trade guns, never the .75.
    Data regarding actual 18th century experience is hard to come by. In Small Arms of the British Forces in America 1664 - 1815, by De Witt Bailey there is a quote from a guy in 1759: "A Company of about sixty will in five rounds hit a target of about 2-1/2 feet in diameter at 300 yards eight or ten times (i.e., 8 or 10 hits out of 300 rounds fired) and throw forty or fifty ball close enough about it to do execution if a Platoon was before them . . ."
    In modern competitive matches guys with .75 cal smoothbores can do tolerably well out to 100 yards, so I have read elsewhere.
     
  11. Shade

    Shade New Member

    1,720
    0
    0
    Correct, however many American's did prefer their rifles however, a rifle with
    a patched ball loads much slower than a loose fitting musket. At best you
    might be able to get off 2 shots per minute with a rifle and the standard for
    Armies of the day was 4 volleys per minute.

    Do not forget Roger's Rangers.
     
  12. PRM

    PRM New Member

    69
    0
    0
    I've been shooting Brown Bess muskets for over 25 years now. My first was a Dixie Gun Works (Japanese), and my current one is a Pedersoli Carbine. I have always had good accuracy out to 100 yards. Mine have been fairly close to what you would expect out of any shotgun with slugs.

    What I really like about the big smooth bore muskets is that you can load them for just about any game. You get a big patched round ball as well as the utility of a shotgun.

    Considering most deer, as well as other game are taken with less than a 50 yard shot where I live ~ the Brown Bess is a great all around gun.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  13. Missiledine

    Missiledine New Member

    1
    0
    0
    Regarding Maj George Hanger and the Brown Bess

    Having come into this conversation late I thought I would add some information.

    How effective were muskets? The fact is, they were very effective. They were both powerful and surprisingly accurate within the limits of their range.
    The 'Brown Bess' which first appeared in English arsenals in 1722 is considered by many as the quintessential musket of the 18th century. Its .75 caliber bore fired a .71 caliber ball. At thirty yards the shot could penetrate 3/8” of iron or 5” of oak. The maximum range of the Bess was around 250 yards. The effective range of the Bess (fired individually) was 100 to 150 yards. The weapon's optimum range is 75 to 100 yards.

    Major George Hanger, who fought in the American Revolutionary War wrote that:
    "A soldier’s musket if not exceedingly ill-bored (as many are), will strike the figure of a man at 80 yards, perhaps even at 100; but a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be wounded by a common musket at 150 yards, providing his antagonist aims at him; and as for firing at a man at 200 yards with a common musket, you might just as well fire at the moon and have the same hope of hitting your object. I do maintain and will prove, whenever called on, that no man was ever killed at 200 yards by a common soldier’s musket by the person who aimed at him."

    Field tests of smoothbore muskets in the late 18th and early 19th centuries reported widely variable expectations of accuracy and speed of fire. Estimations of rate of fire ranged from "one shot every fifteen seconds" (4 shots per minute), to "two to two and a half shots per minute" (one shot every 24 seconds). This was with the standard military loading procedure from prepared paper cartridges containing ball and gun powder in an elongated envelope:
    1. Tear cartridge with teeth and prime the pan directly from the cartridge;
    2. Stand the musket and pour the bulk of the powder down the barrel;
    3. Reverse the cartridge and use the ramrod to seat the ball and paper envelop onto the powder charge
    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 100 yards ranged from just over 50 to 75 percent, and over 80 percent for the shorter and taller targets. No allowances were made for overly tall targets, gaps in an opposing line or the realities of the battlefield. Modern testers shooting from rigid rests, using optimum loads and fast priming powder, report groups of circa five inches at 50 yards (Cumpston 2008).
     
  14. Scratchammo

    Scratchammo New Member

    1,490
    0
    0
    You'd usually get better patterns out of a Brown Bess due to the caliber, a .71" ball will fly slower thus tumble less. Hitting a man sized target at 100 yards is probable assuming the ball & patch are perfect.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2011
  15. Durangokid

    Durangokid New Member

    1,799
    0
    0
    I have found the Bess to shoot as well as most smooth bores. They are great at 25 yd paper and 50 yard paper. They are reliable on 80 yard gongs. I shoot the Lyman .765 ball poured from wheel weights. Use a .015 cotton patch.

    DK
     
  16. JCKelly

    JCKelly New Member

    20
    0
    0
    I have a Brown Bess made under some European contract, one of the "Dutch" guns they tended to buy when some war caught them short of arms. Whereas the usual practice was to level the muskets at the enemy and fire, I believe by file, this one is made with a rear sight. Also a bit of cast-off to the stock, so that it sights naturally when held to one's shoulder.
    [​IMG]
    I presume this would have been made for skirmishers who were intended to aim at a particular enemy soldier. But I really don't know much about British army practices.
    This particular musket is more or less in the Marine & Milita pattern. It was found in Sweden, presumably part of the 10,000 weapons given to the Swedes by the British. The story I got was that the Russians placed a large contract with Sweden for arms. In order to fulfill delivery promises to Russia, the Swedes emptied their own arsenals. The Russians did not pay the Swedes. instead, in 1808 they attacked them. Sweden applied to Britian for help, and received 10,000 muskets and 5000 heavy cavalry sabers.