by Joe Wagner
Only slightly less popular than reenactor Question #1 – “Aren’t those clothes hot?” is Question #2 – “What kind of gun is that?” While rifle persons can provide an infinity of answers, those of the Line persuasion have mostly two popular options – British Brown Bess or French Charleville.
Saving the French for another day, the following information largely comes from an article in the National Rifle Association American Rifleman magazine, April 2001 issue. It provides some basic facts to use when next you face Question #2. To answer the first subset of the question – there’s still no definitive answer to the origin of the nickname “Brown Bess”.
Excerpts from “Patriot Battles – How the War of Independence was Fought” By Michael Stephenson
By Joe Wagner
This piece discusses some relevant excerpts from a thought-provoking book on the hardware and tactics of the American Revolution, and takes a look at the three way relationship between the military musket, its bayonet, and the hand-crafted rifle as seen by the participants of the 18th century.
The musket was the linchpin in defining the effectiveness and functionality of the 18th century army. We are aware how the inaccurate and short ranged musket determined the infantry tactics of the time. Volley fire, linear alignments, constant repetition of a rigid drill, the en masse movement of formations, all reflect the nature of the musket as the infantry weapon of choice. Its performance was key in dealing with the other two members of this triad in battle.
The musket of the 1770’s as an instrument for battle drove the tactics, as noted above. Using 600-800 FPS of muzzle velocity (25-30% that of a modern rifle) in sending off a round ball that could drop 5 feet in elevation over the first 150 yards of flight, and diverge by just as much in any direction from the point of aim, it did not represent an individual weapon so much as a part of a mass shooting machine – the infantry line.