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Brown Bess Accuracy Part II

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  • Bill Sharrette
    More on the accuracy of a smooth bore flint lock, I am jumping from Brown Bess to the French Napoleonic Service weapon of the same period, since scientific
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2005
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      More on the accuracy of a smooth bore flint lock, I am jumping from Brown Bess to the French Napoleonic Service weapon of the same period, since "scientific" tests were conducted by the French and recorded. Again from my shooting experience a smooth bore tube is a smooth bore tube using that as a constant we can likely strike a comparison with the bess to a certain degree. Here is the information on French Napoleonic weapons.(Berkeley R. Lewis "Small Arms and ammunition in the United States Service, 1776-1865, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1968)

      "The French conducted the first consistent program of research and development and operations research on small arms. They made numerous experiments to determine the characteristics of their firearms and to point out possible lines of development. On the basis of many wars they estimated that out of 10,000 cartridges supplied only one reached the enemy. The French musket of about 1800 was sighted for 120 meters (131) yards. The official instructions for aiming were as follows:

      'To strike a man in the center of his body, up to 100 meters aim at his chest; 100-140 meters at the height of his shoulders; 140-180 meters at the height of his head; 190-200 meters at the top of the head-dress; over 200 meters arm over the head-dress.

      Four to five degrees of elevation reaches 600 meters, and to 1,000 meters at higher angles. But beyound 400 meters, the velocity is too low to make a dangerous wound, and the effect of fire is uncertain beyond 200 meters. The cavalry musketoon is sighted for 200 meters, but is untertain at this range. Sightning for the cavalry musketoon is as follows; Aim direct up to 70 meters, from 70-160 aim at the height of the knees. As the pistol has a very short effective range, the cavalryman aims directly at the point he expects (hopes BS) to hit.

      The number of shots reaching the target, directly or by ricochet, varies with the nature of the ground before the target. If the ball encounters hard and uniform soil, it will ricochet, preserving a large part of its velocity. If the soil is soft and irregular, but a small part of the balls will preserve either velocity or direction. Against a target two meters high, it may be expected that from infantry fire, the balls striking by richochet on uniform soil will equal 1/7 fo those hitting direct.

      A table show the result obtained by firing 100 shorts at each of several ranges at a target representing a rank of infantrys 1.9 meters high by 32 meters long.

      Regimental Target/Volley firing
      1777 model musket .69 calaiber
      .65 ball in cartridge paper, 110 grains powder (10 for priming)

      Direct hits plus ricochets 75 at 78.5 m., 50 at 157m., 27 at 235.5m., 20 at 314m., 14 at 392m., 7 at 471m.,

      Direct hits only uneven ground 67 at 78.5m., 38 at 157m., 16 at 314 m., 3 at 392 m., 5 at 471m.

      Passing through 1" pine board 75 at 78.5m., 50 at 157m., 25 at 235.5m, 11 at 314m., 5 at 392m., 1 at 471m.

      It is seen the to the third distance, nearly all the balls passed through the pine boards of the target, both direct hits anc ricochets. The second distance, near the point-blank range, is a good effect for the (French) musket. At 400 m the fire is not effective. A rank of men does not cover half the area of such a target as the above, so that the effect of fire against a firing line should be reduced accordingly. (Balls will pass over, under, and around a man, through his clothing and equipment and miss the human body accordingly).

      The following table shows the probability of fire with smooth-bore French arms, in terms of the number of balls per hundred fired which strike target, this is more of individual competition firing on a smaller target of about 6'x6'.

      Infantry musket, .69 caliber 1777 pattern
      size of target 2 meters x 2 meters.
      .65 caliber ball in cartridge paper/110 gr powder (10 for priming).

      100 at 100m., 31.8 at150m., 15 at 200m., 5 at 250m.,1.75 at 300m., .37 at 400m

      Thus the French recognized two types of fire: Regimental volley and individual. Indeed in the Imperial Guards billets weekly target competition was a looked forwardward to event, with large wagers and bets wagered on unit sharpshooter competition. And we are speaking of smoothbore competition, not rifle.

      Yes, smooth bore weapons French or British were accurate within the context of their usage.
      But only as accurate as the man behind the weapon, a man who knew his weapon and fired accordingly given the circumstances he was conditioned to and experiencing.

      Thanks for your attention, I will leave the forum open now. I have much more material but will call it a day on this topic for now.

      Best regards,

      Bill Sharrette

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