Sunday, June 26, 2011

The last flintlocks

The Prussian Jager rifle and the Mississippi rifle were examples of weapons built by countries that did not have a large industrial base. The British, by contrast, who were entering the Industrial Revolution, embarked on more systematic weapons production and design rationalization with their Short Land Pattern and India Pattern muskets.

The Prussian Jager rifle
The German states built their own weapons for their armed forces, and the compact 14.7mm calibre Prussian rifle was widely copied in the 18th century. The Swiss, with a long tradition of marksmanship, produced a longer-barrelled .72 Jager rifle with two triggers. One was set for accurate shooting and required only the lightest pressure to operate.

The Mississippi rifle
In 1846-48, before the American Civil War, the United States was at war with Mexico. American forces under Zachary Taylor campaigned against substantial Mexican forces, using the Mississippi rifle. Produced around 1841, it would later see service with the Southern armies. It was distinctive as the first rifle, as opposed to musket, to be adopted by the US Army.
A group of Charleston Zouave cadets of the Confederate Army photographed in 1861, armed with the Model 1841 Mississippi rifle. The rifles had already seen service against the Mexicans before it became one of the many weapons fielded in the American Civil War.

The first formation to go into action with the rifle was composed of men from Mississippi and so it became known as the Mississippi rifle. One example that came up for sale in 2006 showed that it had enjoyed a varied military career. The lock plate was marked "Tryon U.S." and rear of the lock"Philada PA 1847". The gun was in good condition with excellent plum-brown wood with two cartouches, one to indicate it had seen action in the Mexican war, the other the Civil War, as il was altered to a .58in calibre. It had its original sites, and despite some pitting, it had strong rifling.

Short land and India pattern muskets
In 1768, the Clothing Warrant was introduced to lighten the load that infantrymen had to carry. As a result a new musket called the Short Land Pattern Flintlock was issued to the British Army, which had a shorter overall length of 107cm/42in. In addition, swords were abolished for private soldiers (the exception being the Highland and Grenadier regiments^ and uniforms were made less bulky.
The India Pattern musket was a remarkable survivor. Developed in the mid-1790s, it was a good weapon that remained in service with some regiments of the British Army - particularly with the volunteer militia based on the British mainland - as late as the 1850s.

The Short Land musket was widely used during the American Revolution and its popularity was such that a number of these black-powder muzzle loaders continued to be used by some regiments until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Captured weapons were also added to the stocks of the American Continental Army. In addition, it was the most common rifle in th British Army until the 1790s, when it was replaced by the 3rd Model, or India Pattern.
The British Short Land Pattern musket was developed as part of a programme of rationalization for kit and clothing for the British Army in the mid-18th century.

Introduced during the mid-1790s, the India Pattern was a new pattern of flintlock musket that was slightly lighter than the Short Land, at under 4kg/9lb, and slightly shorter at lm/39in. It had no thumb plate, and only three pipes for the ramrod. Developed and adopted by the East India Company in 1795, two years later the India Pattern was accepted by the Board of Ordnance of the British Army. The only modification to the three million or more muskets that were eventually made was the replacement in 1809 of the swan-necked cock by a more robust version. By 1839 the British had adopted a .75-calibre percussion musket, a transitional weapon built mostly from flintlock musket components. However, with so many Short Land and India Pattern muskets having been made, they were still in use by the British Army and the militia as late as 1850.

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