With my Charleville lock at the gunsmith for maintenance, I got a chance to spend some good one on one time with the sea service pistol. I set up a target with a large surface area in order to identify where I was missing (post firing remarks often end with “where in the world did I miss THAT time?”) Today I managed to squeeze a little bit more accuracy out of this fun flintlock. The trick is to bend the wrist down a little and aim low. Oh and any more than ten paces and you begin to understand why duels were often not as deadly as advertised (apologies of course to Mr. Hamilton).
After a few shots, I experimented with using a Civil War era bullet from a 1853 Enfield. The suggestion was met with some hesitation from me, but I tend to forget that we are just talking about essentially a metal pipe, black powder and a spark. This weapon could fire out skittles if I wanted (a rainbow of fruit projectiles!!) The Enfield bullet fit just fine in there and gave me a pretty good kick to boot.
British Sea Service Pistol with 1853 Enfield minie ball
Looks as if the bullet actually rolled through the air and left a nice profile in the paper:
As with all niche hobbies, black powder firearms come with a particular set of requirements. A proper outdoor venue is a must. If you don’t have access to land that is free of firearms restrictions then an outdoor range is your next best option. Don’t even think about an indoor range unless the range in question doubles as a smokehouse for BBQ (no luck in finding that YET).
The closest outdoor range to my home in Marietta is Creekside firing range in Taylorsville GA. The range manager is Fred, and aside from a few good natured rate of fire jabs, Fred has been nothing but friendly and accommodating to us old school firelock folks.
Naturally, people are curious when they see the muzzle loaders. We happily answer all questions and we even promise that some of those answers are actually factually true. Here are some of the common answers to questions about the Charleville (whether they specifically ask them or not).
Its a 1777 Charleville smoothbore musket. It is not a rifle. Rifles have grooved bores.
This is a late Revolutionary War/Napoleonic era firearm. A few Americans as well as the French soldiers used this musket at Yorktown.
French support was essential in winning the Revolutionary war. They also used this musket to conquer all of Europe (too bad it didn’t double as a space heater in Russia eh?).
.69 caliber. Here is the lead ball. It’s hand made by my buddy Wesley. He used lead from wheel weights to make them.
The inaccuracy of a musket is overstated. No issue hitting a target at 50 yards.
It doesn’t kick as much as it shakes.
Of course you can fire it. Let me load it for you.
Want to load it yourself? Ok. Don’t put too much powder in the pan. Remind me to tell you a story about that…
If the spark ignites the pan but does not discharge the musket, this is called a “flash in the pan”. This is where the phrase originated from.
Its heavy for a reason. This weapon also serves as a pike for defense against cavalry and other infantrymen. Thinner and lighter weapons don’t hold together well when used as a club. This is a soldiers weapon–not a hunters.
Washington insisted that he Continentals be equipped with muskets because they were faster loading, sturdier, and could be fitted with bayonets. It was superior to any rifle technology at the time and was the preferred weapon of war.
The flint strikes the frizzen which creates a spark that ignites the powder in the pan. The resulting fire travels through the touchhole to ignite the powder in the barrel. There is VERY little delay in this series of events.
Out shooting today. ‘The Pit’ was open, so we had a chance to avoid the post Christmas rush (“hey I got a new gun!!”) and shoot in the members only section. Wesley and I prefer this area because we can load and fire without the annoyance of hitting the ramrod on the ceiling and being forced to sit when firing from the 50 or 100 yard areas. Range rules stipulate that you have to sit in order to fire from these areas. This rule came to be because inexperienced people were not handling their weapons properly. I understand this, but sitting and firing a musket completely defeats the purpose of firing an antiquated weapon. Why bother if you use it in a way that it was not designed for?
This shot is from about 25 yards. Next time I will get even closer for full effect. We shot at around 40 yards for most of the afternoon. The picture at the end of the clip shows the average grouping (after adjusting for the slight uphill shot).
“Rapid Fire” and “Musket” are words that you do not normally see together. For the sake of a challenge, I’ve been working into my Saturday shoots a “speed round”, where I see how many shots I can get off in a minute. So far only two I am sad to say, but I am creeping closer to three the more I practice.
The rate of fire for muskets is generally believed to be two to maybe four shots a minute. The best rapid fire I’ve seen to date is this guy:
One primary thing to point out here. He does NOT have bullets in the cartridge. My experience its that you can’t throw a ball in the cartridge THAT fast down the barrel. The ramrod is called a ramrod because there is ramming involved. It takes a little more than just gravity to work to get a ball down the barrel.
I’m the tall guy here…
Keeping this in mind, I’ve reduced the ball size so I can more rapidly seat the bullet in the barrel. This means that I can leave the bullet in the cartridge without fear of jamming. I’ve moved from my standard .69 cal to my pistol cal of .57. This reduces my accuracy but increases my rate of fire.
Now back to the video. I am IMPRESSED with his ability to rapidly return the ramrod back into the musket. This by far is my most challenging aspect of rapid fire. The hole is small, and if you rush it, you just burn seconds. Why return the ramrod you ask? If you leave it behind during a battle, then all you are left with is a fancy Pike. 18th Century soldiers were trained to return the ramrod.
Tomorrow I will try my hand at rapid fire once again.
Some other notes:
I start with an unloaded musket. I am not sure if the first shot of a pre-loaded musket would count toward the rate of fire. Please comment below if you know.
I am leaving the bayonet off for this exercise. I have left it on in the past. The blade actually does help guide my loading, but inevitably I end up cutting my hand. Its just not worth it. I use a mouse for a living–I know, First World Problems.
I’ll try to get some video tomorrow.
Improving my rate of fire will take time. Like any sport, it is really all about muscle memory and focus. Eventually I want to be able to make a video with proof of three shots a minute. Maybe I’ll actually hit the target, but lets just focus on one thing at a time shall we?
Here is a clip of me fidgeting around a bit. Obviously still work to be done here:
Shot four times. Hit paper twice at 50 yards. Again, this was with a smaller calibre, so accuracy was not the goal.
This was my grouping at 50 yards after taking my time and using .69 calibre bullets.