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Um, not quite, there soldier.

One of Her Majesty's finest re-enactors, going at it, hammer and tongs, showing just how fast a trained soldier could handle a flintlock - firing 3 shots in 46 seconds,  though in fact he probably wouldn't be firing that way much.  The true weapon of the era was the mass of troops and their bayoneted firearms, vice the individual soldier fighting as a distinct individual - at least not until the forces had closed to hand-to-hand.

And he's also demonstrating some other things, if not by intent.  Note he's not loading a ball - this is a safety issue for the demonstration - but it's also an example of what happened on real battlefields with real soldiers, especially poorly trained ones. 

One of the purposes of the seemingly mindless drill was to make *all* the motions automatic, so you could do them by rote even when scared out of your mind.  In our Civil War it was not uncommon (not to imply it was common, either) to find rifles, especially where newer, or less trained units were located (such as Pennsylvania militia units at Gettysburg) that were loaded with multiple shots - because the soldiers forgot the priming caps.  Standing in the mass of troops, blinded by the smoke, deafened by the din of battle, jostled in the ranks, they just never noticed that their weapons weren't actually firing.  And further failed to note that the ramrod didn't go down as far as the load before.  Then there's the stories about the ramrods being fired away...

So, you open to half-cock, you open the pan (the first shot, subsequent shots your pan will already be open, having been knocked open the previous shot), you take your paper cartridge out, tear it open with your teeth, pour a bit of the powder into the pan, close the pan (else you lose your priming powder), drop the butt, pour the powder in, drop the ball, extract the rammer, ram, pull the rammer out, replace the rammer, go to full cock, present the musket, and fire.  Now do it all in the rain, or with cold fingers, or both.  One of the hardest things for me to get right was replacing the ramrod - it's a relatively small opening, and once things get dirty, it can bind and the rod bend.  Which just makes things worse.
Secondly - note how the third shot goes - pull the trigger, don't get the shot you expected when you expected it and then start to check the weapon  - and whammo!  A not unusual occurrence with flintlocks, the slow-fire.

As an aside - note the smoke and flame back at the pan, near the shooters face - there is the origin of the term "a flash in the pan."  Meaning you pulled the trigger, and all you got was a flash from the priming, but no shot or otherwise useful result.  Your little lesson in vocabulary for today.

Lastly - look at the smoke from his shooting. Multiply that by thousands of men.  Now you know why those weapons (especially) the smoothbore muskets) didn't have much in the way of sights.  After a few volleys, there wasn't any point.  Time to fix bayonets and charge!



H/t, JMH.

17 Comments

Note that he does NOT have the bayonet fixed. 

Thankfully, otherwise he might challenge our host's Google ranking for bayoneting oneself.
 
Several things,

From the Richard Stark Videos:  The best method to load and fire three times a minute is to skip the ramrod altogether and slam the butt into the ground a couple of times -- good enough for volley fire. 

The lad in the video is not following the King's regulations, at all.

When I was at Jamestown, VA I learned a matchlock can fired and reloaded faster than the later flintlock musket and it was more accurate as it had a rudimentary front site because the socket bayonet was not yet invented. 

Finally, Gunpowder Tea is an aquired taste from this period.  The lads kept their tea leaves in their ammo pouch and the leaves got mixed with gunpowder and the army learned to really like the flavor and thus Gunpowder Tea was born.



 
 You think shot #3 is bad, you should see an AGM-65 slow-fire...
 
"pour the powder in, drop the ball, extract the rammer,"

I'm sure *that* happened a lot, too... ; )
 
Ooo - unintended double-entendre, I gots da skillz!
 
This is why you do not go toe to toe with recoats in the open. Napoleons guard couldn't stand against them.

This is why a third of the globe used to be colured pink... and your white house got a little crispy a while back. all for the bargin basement price of sixpence a day.
 
Oh, we handled them at Yorktown, when they were behind walls.  And we handled them at New Orleans, when we were behind walls.

Of course, in the end,  we were them... with better marksmanship and a more flexible tactical approach.
 
The real galling thing is that we've never handled the frackin' Canuckistanis - at least not without a dam'd Sassenach leading the show, which really means... the French.
 
And that's where "lock and load" comes from!
 
Ah the heady days of wearing the the Royal Blue of King George III army. I was a member of the Kings 8th Army.

I spent seven summers doing that, my best three shot scenario was 50 seconds. With a shot it was a tad longer. Still got a marksmen medal at the gun range when we did the live firing. Five targets from the 50 and 75 yeard range, I couldn't hit the marks beyond that.

For the live shots we used smaller caliber balls as the soldiers did back then.

In watching the video, there were several things the Private did that I was taught was a big no no.

I also think he was using a smaller charge than I used.

Shooting off 6 times a day then 4 cannon (Grasshopper and Napolean) firings always made for fun days. Especially when we would load some extra zing into the cannons and fired out in to Lake Ontario. Old Ft. Niagara in Youngstown, NY is where I did my soldiering!
 
That third shot is a lot like my first shot during one TCQC.  The driver hit the breaks a little too hard, so naturally I grabbed on reeaall hard to what I was already holding onto.  Unfortunatly that included the trigger.  One round downrange about 100 feet while the tank was still kneeling.
 
Years ago there was a series on the History Channel called "Conquest!", hosted by Peter Woodward.  It featured him, and sometimes a team of sturdy young lads, learning to use different weapons.  One episode they looked at Roman legionary weapons, tactics, and armor; another was gladiatorial games; still another was aerial combat. 

And one was about weapons of the Civil War, including the standard issue Springfield rifled musket.  In that episode, Woodward said that the accepted standard for a trained Union infantryman was three rounds a minute.  Which is actually pretty impressive, when you consider the largish number of steps it took to load properly, all of which had to be done standing up, and the number of things that could go wrong, all when, er, well, ah, ZOMG THOSE GUYS ARE SHOOTING BACK AT ME! 
 

 2 points;

  1.) The whole "3 shots in a minute" is BS. That was the maximum and done under ideal condirions, on a range, by the Ordnance folks when looking to adopt the M1855 series weapons and the expanding ball cartridge.  In the field, the best possible on average was two rounds/minute, and after 20 rounds that lessened considerably. 

  2.) The "gunpowder tea" bit is also not true. The nomenclature is "gunpowder pearl tea" and it takes it's name from the shape of the tea, being rolled into small "pearls" or balls, resembling the larger "pearls" of gunpowder used for artillery ammunition.  The soldiers barely had room in the cartridge boxes for the rounds issued, much less the tea ration, and in any case, the men were issued with paper cartridges produced at the arsenals, and not with bulk powder and ball. If they had loose powder in their boxes, it meant that one or more cartridges had broken open, and that was a safety issue for all concerned. It just didn't happen, basically. 

  Respects,
 

1.)  Gunpowder Tea actually is named for it's shape. It's full name is "Gunpowder Pearl Tea" amd that derives because the tea leaves are rolled into small balls that look like the large grains or "pearls" of gunpowder used for artillery.  There wasn't any room, I assure you, of storing tea rations in cartridge boxes, once the basic load of cartridges was issued, and there wouldn't have been any loose grains of powder floating around to flavor the tea.

2.) The "3 rounds a minute" is a myth that historians brought about by misreading (surprising, eh?) originakl reports.  Maximum rate of fire in the field was no more than 2 rounds per minute, and often only one due to fouling build up in the bore.  That whole "tap-loading" bit from the Sharpe series is bogus as well. That would only serve to get maybe one round part way down the bore of a clean musket. After that first round, forget about it.  Fouling, again, would stop that.
      The whole "3 rounds/minute" came from the US Ordnance Department's acceptance trials of the 1855 rifle & rifle Musket. These were done under ideal conditions on a range. The one thing which helped speed the process was that this system used the Maynard Tape Primer, rather than individual percussion caps, which saved expenses in manufacturing, as well as a few seconds in loading. The Maynard Tape primer was the forerunner of the roll of paper caps that kids used in their cap guns, looked almost identical, and worked in exactly the same way. They were fed from an articulated system in the reciver and when the hammer was pulled back, the roll was advanced to place a "cap" over the cone. No need for the soldier to fish around in his cap pouch for a single copper percussion cap and place it on the cone. Ultimately, the system was cancelled as too unreliable in damp/wet weather, and normal copper percussion caps were issued with the ammunition bundles.

   V/R
 
I can hear the sargeant yelling "Aim Low!" as the private readies to fire his first, rather high, shot.
 
Gunpowder tea gets its name, not from where it may have been stored, but from its resemblence to black powder grains.  The smaller the pellets, the higher quality the tea.
 
Tim wanders in, stirs the fire with his d**k, whizzes in it, and then wanders out.

;^)