Accuracy of arquebus and early muskets

Oct 2010
7,741
#2
Does anybody have more or less relevant data about how accurate were arquebus and pre-Napoleonics muskets?
And related question - what made muskets to become more accurate during time (considering we are not yet talking about rifles).
Training. The Muskets were very inaccurate but we're talking volley fire it's just firing en masse in a direction. The Most common "error" was leveling , the angle relative to the ground the musket was held to hit the target, volleys going over the heads of the target even at quite short range was not uncommon. So training and understanding of leveling.
 
#3
Training. The Muskets were very inaccurate but we're talking volley fire it's just firing en masse in a direction. The Most common "error" was leveling , the angle relative to the ground the musket was held to hit the target, volleys going over the heads of the target even at quite short range was not uncommon. So training and understanding of leveling.
That's interestign, thank you! I was sure there were some tech advancements to on the way (say, 1500-1700) which made firearms more accurate. Maybe barrel length means too? I read somewhere that short barrel gives less accuracy on medium to long range, among other factors of course.
 
Oct 2010
7,741
#4
That's interestign, thank you! I was sure there were some tech advancements to on the way (say, 1500-1700) which made firearms more accurate. Maybe barrel length means too? I read somewhere that short barrel gives less accuracy on medium to long range, among other factors of course.
I think reliability was the focus of much of the technical improvement, and manufacturing. Problems with faulty muskets and the cost of production of the muskets I thought woudl have driven innovation rather than accuracy. But the muskets may have tightened up the bore of shot to barrel as manufacturing got better. Too sloppy a fit and your losing significant force. Napoleonic rildes the ball and wad was hammered in a much tigheter fit than the muskets.

Accuracy is just not that big a deal it;s a 1,000 men shooting that way,. Improved battlefield performance , was drill and discipline. Not making mistakes in the complex drill for firing, (rods being left in, douyble loaded,) misfires. the importance Human factors of drill/discipline dwarfed accuracy.

My understanding ( Napoleonic period has been my focus , before then shaky understanding) 7 Years war increasing emphasis on drill and rate of fire, great emphasis was put on drilling soldiers to fire rounds quickly. 3 rounds a minute was a benchmark IIRC.


on the importance of levelling, musket balls dropped a lot more than bullets, at 125 yards 30 inches of drop has to be allowed for.

"One reason is the aerodynamics of the big roundball itself. When it leaves the muzzle of the musket at a velocity of 1000 fps it immediately begins to drop due to the force of gravity. At 25 yards it drops only one inch but at 50 yards it drops over 4 inches. At 75 yards it drops 10 inches and at 100 yards it drops over 18 inches. For a target at 125 yards the roundball drops 30 inches.[4] "

The Inaccuracy of Muskets - Journal of the American Revolution
 
#5
I think reliability was the focus of much of the technical improvement, and manufacturing. Problems with faulty muskets and the cost of production of the muskets I thought woudl have driven innovation rather than accuracy. But the muskets may have tightened up the bore of shot to barrel as manufacturing got better. Too sloppy a fit and your losing significant force. Napoleonic rildes the ball and wad was hammered in a much tigheter fit than the muskets.

Accuracy is just not that big a deal it;s a 1,000 men shooting that way,. Improved battlefield performance , was drill and discipline. Not making mistakes in the complex drill for firing, (rods being left in, douyble loaded,) misfires. the importance Human factors of drill/discipline dwarfed accuracy.

My understanding ( Napoeonic period has been my focus , before then shaky understanding) 7 Years war increasing emphasis on drill and rate of fire, great emphasis was put on drilling soldiers to fire rounds quickly. 3 rounds a minute was a benchmark IIRC.


,
Sounds reasonably, qualitativa manufacturing together with drill.

I agree that shooting a volley by thousand soldiers in one line is good nough not to care that much abotu individual accuracy; I jsut had particular interest in if there was increase in accuracy too. I think now I have an answer from you, thanks!

And yes, I read about 3 RPM too by early 1800's.
 
Oct 2010
7,741
#7
Sounds reasonably, qualitativa manufacturing together with drill.

I agree that shooting a volley by thousand soldiers in one line is good nough not to care that much abotu individual accuracy; I jsut had particular interest in if there was increase in accuracy too. I think now I have an answer from you, thanks!

And yes, I read about 3 RPM too by early 1800's.
Editing while your replying added the stuff about musket ball drop over distance with the article reference.

Levelling was often poorly understood. The British tended to get this right more often , together with fire discipline (holding fire till point blank range) made British infantry sometimes superior (just tendencies not all tropops in all circumstances and times) coupled with reverse slops, and specialist better trained Light infantry, the British infnatry had some advanatges (they remained slower on maneuver than the French from all accounts)
 
Oct 2010
7,741
#8
As the round was losing power from the moment it left the Aquebus, was it not possible for the "Recipient" not to be injured as the shot had lost so much speed by the time it reached them?
In the Napoleonic period being hit by a spent ball was a pretty frequent occurrence, I'm read numerous instances of Generals being hit by spent balls on many occasions, (generally not being the target just some random musket ball, the battlefields were often quite small, dangerous places, while stray muskets balls were unlikely to hurt at long ranges, cannon balls often did.)
 
#9
in the late 1500s writers like Roger Williams and Humphrey Barwick considered the heavy "spanish" musket which fired a 2 ounce ball able to inflict serious wounds on unarmored men and horses at up to 30 score, or 600 yards. For the smaller arquebuses and calivers this range was considered closer to ~360-440 yards depending on caliber. Spent balls tended to mean either bullets that were improperly loaded, such as having most the powder spilled, or else ricochets which hit the ground or something else first and then bounced back up into the target.

16th century firearms if properly made were capable of pretty much the same accuracy overall as any later smoothbores. However even if most recruits could reliably put their bullet between the head and feet of a man at 160-200 yards on the practice range as Thomas Digges claimed, on the battlefield once those soldiers had to worry about people actually shooting back at them and were surrounded by noise, smoke, and fear, they'd rarely be composed enough to aim properly anyways and would typically end up spending thousands of bullets for every enemy casualty. At 100 yards, even when shooting volleys at an entire enemy battalion it remained rare to achieve a casualty rate of more than 3-5% throughout the muzzleloader period. There occasionally were some men with nerves who could get close to matching the theoretical performance of their weapon even in combat situations, writers from the 80 years war for example mention that it was common for infantry battalions to send forward a handful of their most experienced marksmen to harrass enemy formations of infantry and cavalry from as far as 500-600 yards away, however with such a low rate of fire there wasn't much they could really do on their own.
 
Jul 2013
2,572
USA
#10
. There occasionally were some men with nerves who could get close to matching the theoretical performance of their weapon even in combat situations, writers from the 80 years war for example mention that it was common for infantry battalions to send forward a handful of their most experienced marksmen to harrass enemy formations of infantry and cavalry from as far as 500-600 yards away, however with such a low rate of fire there wasn't much they could really do on their own.
I believe Napoleon's Chief of Staff mentions troops will compete with each other at as far as 400 meters. However real life combat, due to smoke, fatigue, noise, main lines didn't fire at those ranges. Even during the American Civil War rifled muskets didn't have much increased firing ranges compared smoothbores.
 
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