The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The North Corral > Black Powder and Cowboy Action Shooting

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old April 26, 2012, 07:58 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: January 29, 2012
Location: Devon England
Posts: 177
Smoothbore Vs Rifle

The effective range of a Military musket is generally accepted to be 100yds. This may be due to a combination of pointing rather than aiming, a lack of proper sights, and poor quality barrels. Dueling pistols of decent quality can punch playing cards at around 25yds. Kentucky/yeager type rifles can be good out to 300yds if the shooter is an expert.
Due to the requirement for proper shot placement and the fact that a round ball slows down very quickly the articles I've read on the subject don't recommend taking game beyond about 150yds.
My question is if what I just printed is correct why bother with a rifle. You might be better with a double barreled flintlock in 62cal. (which is available from middlesex Village trading company) I assume these guns are just as happy firing round balls.
When I looked at the pictures of this gun I thought it might shoot good enough to hit a man sized target at perhaps 125yds. If the ball was patched tight, if its sighs are as good as they look, and the barrels are of good quality.
Before the advent of percussion caps the musket was the most common long arm.
I thought someone who shoots BP rifles and muskets might be able to tell me what I could expect from a 29" barrel in terms of accuracy. Perhaps I'm getting my fantasies mixed up with my realities again.
mikthestick is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 08:37 AM   #2
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,383
100 yards was pushing it for a musket. Try 75 yards for a patched round ball. The main difficulty with muskets is that most soldiers drilled with their guns. Shooting was rarely practiced as it was felt volume of fire would break the enemy so the shock weapon, the bayonet, could be brought to play. There are instances where soldiers were allowed some marksmanship practice, but it wasn't common.

The average rifleman could hit a man at 200 yards. The better shots at 300 and the exceptional shots at 400 yds. The longest shot here in America was at about 600 yards and supposedly the longest ever with a flintlock was at 700 between two Corsicans.

Why the rifle? Placed shots with greater certainty of hits. This was better than the (three) buck (shots) and (musket) ball which could or could not hit.

Hunters using smooth bores had to have good woodcraft skills. Stalking, camouflage and knowledge of the game (bedding areas, lay spots, feeding areas, watering holes, trails and runs) to harvest. Good Indians could touch an animal and if they wanted to kill one with a bow, the arrow would do its work before the fletching passed the bowstring's position of rest.

Wallace Gusler (the gunsmith who started the gunsmith shop at Colonial Williamsburg) told me the Germans got it right the first time with their 32" or so j├Ąger rifle.

For real distance, get a minie rifle. they reach out to 500 yards.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
4V50 Gary is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 10:23 AM   #3
Doc Hoy
Senior Member
Join Date: October 24, 2008
Location: Chesapeake, VA
Posts: 5,105

I recall some years ago reading of a test initiated by your countrymen toward the end of the eighteenth century in which they stretched a length of cloth large enough to simulate the frontage of a batallion of continental (Meaning the European continent) infantry drawn up in line.

Then a battalion of British Line fired their muskets in volley at the wall of cloth as a way of determining how many hits might be scored on the enemy infantry.

I don't remember the numbers but I do recall that one of the findings was that at 200 yards an infantryman could "stand with impunity" against a volley of musketry.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Thomas Jefferson
Doc Hoy is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 04:41 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: September 3, 2011
Location: Poteet, Texas
Posts: 959
The Military objective of that day with a shoulder fired weapon was to hit anywhere on a enemy soldier. The object of a hunter, then and now, is to cleanly hit a targeted animal in a vital area so as to bring down or kill that animal as quickly as possible. IMO if you can hold a 4" group at a given range then you can take big game at that range assuming that the gun is heavy enough for the intended game. When you reach the range at which your group opens up larger than 4" then you're likely shooting at game to far away.
Shotgun693 is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 05:28 PM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: April 25, 2010
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 3,309
As an avid and active traditional muzzle loading shooter for well over 40 years, I see a lot of stuff and nonsense in the previous posts. Way too much to reply to.
My best advice to the original poster is to find a traditional muzzle loading club near you and visit. The members will help you make your choices wisely. And, do visit the website of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Associatio a/k/a NMLRA. And look for a good muzzle loading forum for more advice.
Rifleman1776 is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 09:18 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: October 8, 2006
Location: Northern Michigan
Posts: 2,772
Well, now. That's helpful.
mykeal is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 09:44 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: December 20, 2008
Location: Somewhere on the Southern shore of Lake Travis, TX
Posts: 2,479
On the other hand, a smoothbore loaded for maximum accuracy, tightly patched roundball etc., is just as slow loading as a rifle, so why not the extra accuracy of a rifled barrel?

Admittedly, the only smoothbores I have fooled with, besides shotguns, are BB guns from when I was a kid, and hitting anything that's more than 20 ft away is mostly a matter of random luck.
B.L.E. is offline  
Old April 26, 2012, 11:37 PM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: September 13, 2005
Posts: 3,923
Another factor limiting accuracy back then was eyesight. Not familiar with the recruiting standards for Crown Forces in say 1776 but I suspect as long as you had two eyes and they both functioned-more or less-you passed, if you were terribly near- or farsighted I think they'd still take you. Likewise the farmer or town dweller couldn't make an appontment with the local eye doctor
for an exam. I suspect many riflemen had eye problems, the better ones just blessed with a naturally strong constitution and good genetics.
IIRC the smoothbore did double duty as a deer gun and a fowling piece, the rifle a little too specialized back then.
SIGSHR is offline  
Old April 27, 2012, 05:21 AM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: December 20, 2008
Location: Somewhere on the Southern shore of Lake Travis, TX
Posts: 2,479
Originally Posted by SIGSHR
Not familiar with the recruiting standards for Crown Forces in say 1776 but I suspect as long as you had two eyes and they both functioned-more or less-you passed,
If I have my facts straight, you had to have good teeth, so you could tear open the paper cartridges that held the premeasured charges and round ball loaded into the muskets.
Yes, and smoothbores can double as shotguns. The Brown Bess was an 11 gauge. The .69 caliber French musket used by the Colonial Army was a 14 gauge.
Also, a smoothbore is a dream to clean compared to a rifle, especially one with deep grooves.

Where rifling really doesn't make sense is short barrel Derringer style pistols. I have a Philadelphia Derringer, no rear sight, but by golly, they did rifle the barrel.
B.L.E. is offline  
Old April 27, 2012, 07:36 AM   #10
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,383
The two teeth standard, an upper and a lower, was still used during the American Civil War. As explained, this was so one could tear open a paper cartridge.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
4V50 Gary is offline  
Old May 14, 2012, 08:16 PM   #11
Senior Member
Join Date: July 1, 2009
Posts: 216
"A soldier's musket, if not exceedingly ill bored, will strike the figure of a man at 80 yards; it may even at 100; but a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be 150 yards, provided his antagonist aims at him; I do man was ever killed at 200 yards, by a common soldier's musket by the person who aimed at him." - British Col. George Hanger, 1814

Ref: Anthony Darling, Redcoat and Brown Bess (Bloomfield, Ontario: Museum Restoration Service, 1971), 19.
NRA Benefactor member; NRA rifle and home firearm safety instructor; NMLRA member; NMLRA instructor for rifle, pistol and shotgun

A government that takes from Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul's vote!
flintlock.50 is offline  
Old May 16, 2012, 04:54 AM   #12
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,383
"To All Sportsmen" was Hanger's book that Darling cited. You can still get reprints of it. Hans Busk, "The Rifle and How to Use It" is another period book (1850 though ) that is also a good read.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
4V50 Gary is offline  
Old May 16, 2012, 06:00 AM   #13
Senior Member
Join Date: September 26, 2005
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 6,141
Oh, the answers are all over the place and coming from all directions. People have different viewpoints, yet some things have yet to be mentioned.

A military musket for military purposes was one thing; a smoothbore musket for hunting was another. There were different things that had to be considered.

With the tactics of the day, the important thing about a musket was speed in firing, although it was terribly slow by our standards. Even with loose fitting unpatched balls, reloading had to be done carefully and a flintlock, or firelock as was the term, often misfired. Military rifles, like the Baker, were not loaded with cartridges. Riflemen carried powder horns and were especially careful with reloading. They did also carry cartridges when they couldn't take their time. The rifle armed unit in British service had it's origin in the 5th Battalion (I think it was the 5th Battalion) of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment. They were the military elite of the period, at least of those who walked to work.

Non-military rifles so romanticised in the United States as the Kentucky or Pennsylvania rifle were typically of smaller bore, more like .45 caliber. They were weaker but were unquestionably accurate, not to mention the fact that their users were well practiced in shooting. Soldiers at the time did not get in a lot of practice with their weapons but no one here thinks they do now either.

Another limiting factor with a black powder musket in battle was the fact that after a couple of volleys, the field would be covered with smoke. There would be no precise aiming possible even with a rifle. Riflemen did not take their place in the line; they were skirmishers trained to operate further apart and to exercise more initiative.

There was also a belief advance that it was pointless to stand in line and fire volley after volley at the enemy. There would be casualties but no decision in the battle. It was claimed that after a couple of volleys, a charge at the enemy with bayonets fixed would actually result in fewer casualties and a decisive end to the engagement.

An experienced musket shooter loading single shots in a flintlock could make it very dangerous for a man to stand in front of him 150 yards away.
Shoot low, sheriff. They're riding Shetlands!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
and return us to our own beloved homes!
Buy War Bonds.
BlueTrain is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:33 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2017 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.08759 seconds with 9 queries