Since purchasing a 1777 Charleville in November of last year, I’ve scoured the intertubes for any and all information on the function and maintenance of my firearm. YouTube has turned out to be a reliable source for both knowledge and inspiration. One channel I continually return to is Matthew Murphey over at Murphey’s Muskets. The self proclaimed “King of Black Powder” makes a pretty serious case for royal lineage with a whole catalog of excellent videos.
Matt’s enthusiasm is contagious and his knowledge is extensive. On top of this, the King is a dang good shot. A really good shot.
Muskets not accurate you say? Watch some of his videos:
80 yards? You kiddin’ me? I’m still struggling at 25 ugh.
Matt generously taken the time to answer a few questions for Twistification
What got you into black powder rifles and muskets?
I can’t remember the first time I saw a musket, but I can tell you it had an effect on me. When I was barely 8 years old I would spray WD-40 down the barrel of my Red Rider BB-gun so I could pretend that it would smoke like a musket. So, I’ve been hooked for a long time.
What are the most common misconceptions about muskets?
That they are inaccurate. Are they capable of 1 MOA at 100 yards? No. However, hitting a man at 80-100 yards with a smoothbore is no problem if you are using a period cartridge and use proper trigger pull and resist the impulse to twitch. Rifled muskets have an effective accuracy of up to 300 yards.
What are some basic guidelines you have for people interested in taking up black powder firearms as a hobby?
Don’t go cheap. If you do you will just pay for it later down the line. Any flintlock worth having is going to be expensive; accept it and save and get a quality piece. You will be much happier. Period BP guns and accoutrements are expensive, but after you have acquired those items it’s cheap shooting and a lot of fun! Oh, and huge gun/ammo scares do not affect your supply. 🙂
In your opinion what was the most effective 18th/early 19th century musket/rifle?
During the 18th Century the Brown Bess* was undisputedly the most effective musket the world over. Its quality and effectiveness were put to the test in different climates and battlefield conditions world-wide, creating the British Empire. Even if you don’t like the Brown Bess its effectiveness cannot be denied.
What was the finest made 18th/ early 19th century black powder firearm?
Here again the Brown Bess was the finest musket available from 1730 to about 1800. By that point U.S. weapons started catching up with the Tower of London in quality of arms. By the time the M1812 came around, British and US muskets were neck and neck.
What is the most frustrating rifle/musket you’ve ever shot?
Reproduction muskets from India are by far and away the most frustrating pieces available to the black powder community today.
What is the finest rifle/musket you’ve ever shot?
I would say that it’s an even tie between the Brown Bess* and the M1812
What is the most shocking thing you have discovered about weapons of this era?
How effective they can be when married together with 18th century tactics!
What is the hardest thing about black powder weapons?
Cleaning them when you get home.
In your opinion, is there a notable historical event that proved the effectiveness of black powder weapons or were examples of effective deployments of this type of weaponry?
I would say that both the American Revolution and the Civil War are testaments to these weapons and how effective they can be employed. The Civil War especially shows us how devastating these arms can be. At Gettysburg, Union ordnance workers reported that 4.5 million rounds of rifle musket and smoothbore ammunition were issued and not returned. Chamberlain’s official count for the 20th Maine at Gettysburg was 16,000 rounds.
What is the strangest question you ever got about black powder?
I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a really strange question. Most people ask pretty legitimate questions.
Do you have a ‘prized possession’?
I’d say my wife, but she’s not a possession.
What is your proudest accomplishment as a marksmen?
I can’t say I have a proudest moment! Ringing a 12″X12″ steel plate at 1,000 meters with a rifle is a real rush! However, ringing a 12″X12″ steel plate at 100 yards standing up with a smoothbore musket is quite a rush as well!
Matt would of been a good sniper choice for Daniel Morgan at Saratoga. I wonder how adept he is at tree climbing…and time travel.
In hindsight, what is the dumbest thing you tried to do with a black powder firearm? (come on, we’ve all done something!)
I don’t know about “tried” since I did it successfully, but the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done is tap-loading. Don’t try that one at home.
*Note From Matt: Just as an FYI, I would like people to know that the Brown Bess is just a nickname for the King’s Pattern Musket. At the time they were used, they would have been referred to as “[year] pattern musket” or “pattern [year] long land/short land.”
Twistification thanks Matt Murphey!
Be sure to check out Matt’s Videos here or find him on Facebook by searching Murphey’s Muskets.