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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

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PostPosted: Sat 07 Feb, 2009 11:42 pm    Post subject: Smoothbore musket accuracy         Reply with quote

Hello All,

I know this subject was here disscused before, but i would like to ask you about smothbore musket balistics. i came into a disscusion with a guy, who dont believe anything what was posted here by several people like Gordon Frye etc... and states that there is no chance 16.century weapons were anyhow accurate and were useless at distances below 50m.

can you point me in the right direction where could i find any test done by 16.century muskets that can proove him wrong?

thank you
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Jason Mather




PostPosted: Sat 07 Feb, 2009 11:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All I can tell you is my friends and I hunt with matchlocks and regularly harvest game. In addition, hitting a pie plate (20cm circle) at 50m 5 out of 5 shots is not really hard if you know what you are doing.
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 1:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

have a wee look at this

http://www.scotwars.com/html/equip_smoothbore_musketry.htm

the trials section has the results of actul contemporary experiments with smoothbore muskets.

A friend of mine competes (very successfully) in black powder competitions, she gave me a similar idea of accuracy as Mr Mather. I told her of the results of these trials and she was not really suprised thinking them reflective of her (thankfully non-military) experience of flintlocks.

hop it helps
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 2:26 am    Post subject: Re: Smoothbore musket accuracy         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
Hello All,

I know this subject was here disscused before, but i would like to ask you about smothbore musket balistics. i came into a disscusion with a guy, who dont believe anything what was posted here by several people like Gordon Frye etc... and states that there is no chance 16.century weapons were anyhow accurate and were useless at distances below 50m.

can you point me in the right direction where could i find any test done by 16.century muskets that can proove him wrong?

thank you


The guy can believe what he wants to believe but Gordon has actual experience firing at targets with matchlock and flintlock muskets and I tend to believe what his real life experience has shown him to be true about accuracy of early muskets.

The 17th and 18th century examples of lack of accuracy are true enough since the windage between ball and barrel was made large to accelerate the rate of fire but a musket using a tight fitting ball can have decent accuracy at 100 yards against a single target and be still dangerous if fired at a mass target at longer ranges: From what Gordon has written in the past, there was more emphasis on the accuracy of each musket or archebuse in the early 16th century than later on.

Oh, and the accuracy tests done in the 18th century where using that period's muskets that often didn't even have sights on them or very rudimentary ones like a front sight only. The shooters for those tests where probably untrained in accurate shooting using the general issue musket of the day: They were testing the performance of average soldier of the day if asked to aim in comparison to their standard method of not aiming to see if it improved the number of shots on target.

There is a difference between the accuracy potential of an optimized musket having good sights and a tight fitting ball fired by an expert marksman and what the average soldier could do.

Now Gordon has real life experience plus his speciality is 16th century cavalry warfare and general infantry tactics and manoeuvres and has studied the subject extensively ! So who do you think has the most credibility ? Gordon or some random guy ?

Maybe Gordon can give you period references as evidence and documented modern accuracy tests with sizes of groups and at what ranges ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 3:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

yes, any "period references as evidence and documented modern accuracy tests with sizes of groups and at what ranges" would be absolutly perfect! Thank you Jean for responce
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David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Joined: 25 Jan 2004

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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello All,

Like Gordon, I too have shot a number of black powder weapons live fire over the last 36 years.

My best group is 3/4 of a inch, five shots off hand with a flintlock smoothbore at 25 meters.

Up to 50 meters a smoothbore can match a rifle, after that the smoothbore starts to lose out to a rifled firearm.

In period, the balls could be very undersized for combat shooting. In that case the smoothbore could be wildly inaccurate.

Cheers,

David
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 3:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here is a post he mentioned to proove me wrong:
The battle of the Boyne (1690) was fought between Protestant British, Dutch and German troops (fighting for King William) using the flintlock and Catholic Irish and French troops (fighting for King James II) using pikes and matchlocks.

The former won the battle. In his book '1690 Battle of the Boyne', Padraig Lenihan wrote that 17th Century firepower was surprisingly ineffectual.

At 50 yards range, the matchlocks could hit their targets less than half the time. Also a lengthy re-loading process meant they could fire only once a minute. The flintlocks, while not any more accurate, were less prone to misfiring and had a simpler re-loading process, so had double the rate of fire.

Lenihan's conclusion was that "the battle of the Boyne was fought on the cusp of a transition from one tactical and technological package, that of the matchlock/pike, to another, the bayoneted flintlock. 18th Century infantrymen met and, predictably, beat back, 17th Century infantrymen".

However it sounds that, by modern standards, both weapons were very poor indeed, more useful for making loud noises than for their accuracy.


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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 4:34 am    Post subject: Re: Smoothbore musket accuracy         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
The 17th and 18th century examples of lack of accuracy


Late 17th century; Suhl workshops were still producing muskets with sights (and presumably fairly tight-fitting balls) at least as late as the 1630s, and probably even later if my memory serves me well. Wink


Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
At 50 yards range, the matchlocks could hit their targets less than half the time. Also a lengthy re-loading process meant they could fire only once a minute. The flintlocks, while not any more accurate, were less prone to misfiring and had a simpler re-loading process, so had double the rate of fire.


I'm really surprised by this conclusion because, as far as my meager knowledge of early firearms goes, the matchlock is actually a more reliable firing mechanism than the flintlock and that a proficient soldier would have been able to fire the relatively light 1690s matchlock at a sustained rate of two or even three shots per minute. Moreover, the loading process of the flintlock was not perfected until well into the 18th century, and if I remember correctly before the 1720s (or even the 1740s?) flintlock drills still included matchlock-based movements like casting the gun around the body. These superfluous movements would have prevented the flintlock-armed soldiers from utilizing their weapons' maximum rate of fire until finally eliminated by new drills introduced by the Dutch or the Prussians (or both).
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Jason Mather




PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matchlocks are indeed more reliable than flintlocks under average circumstances. The advancement of the firing mechanism is largely due to safety and loading speed, not reliability. Also, while a rear sight helps, an experienced shooter doesn't need it to make meat.

Another funny historical misunderstanding is that rear sights are more common on flintlock rifles. More than half of the 16th/17th muskets(and rifles) I have examined have rear sights.

The best way to convince naysayers is to take them to a shooting range and show them. If its worth it anyway. In this case most likely not.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to reinforce, as others have mentioned there is a BIG difference between target shooting as an individual and firing volleys in combat. In fact, from what I've heard that estimate of hitting the target "less than half the time" is wildly over-inflated--soldiers generally felt they had to fire their body weight in lead to hit an enemy (not necessarily kill him!). So, much like a modern machine gun, the vast majority of rounds fired in combat don't hit anyone. The smoke from a volley often completely obscures the rest of the battlefield, so soldiers simply pointed forward, more or less level, and fired. At Jamestown we learned to lower our heads so our hat brims protected our eyes from pan flash. Soldiers in the 18th century often turned their heads to the right as they fired for the same reason. Forget aiming!

Yes, the ball is made to fit loosely so that loading can be fast even as powder fouling builds up in the barrel. Physicists tell me that this should have no influence on accuracy, as the forces on a spherical ball are equal so it will not "chatter" or bounce down the bore on its way out. But that assumes a good bore that is clean, AND a ball that is spherical, and you can't count on any of that. Plus, if you are reloading quickly, it's easy to spill more powder than you get down the bore, so your shot may simply fall short.

Even untrained reenactors can fire matchlock volleys a lot faster than once per minute. But remember that you can only carry so much ammunition! A health 24 rounds will only last 8 minutes if you can really achieve a steady 3 rounds per minute. Then what will you do for the rest of the hours-long battle?

And finally, yes, the noise is important! Frederick the Great experimented with having his troops fire in controlled volleys by platoon or company, versus full battalion or brigade volleys. He found that his troops could kill a lot more of the enemy with smaller units firing carefully, but the psychological advantage of a huge brigade volley more than made up for that! You only have to get the enemy moving away, you don't actually have to kill them to win.

Matthew
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Battle of Muehlberg 24 april 1547
http://www.geocities.com/aow1617/MuehlbergUK.html
Early the morning of the 24 of April a group of 1000 Spanish harquebusiers and musketeers (some men were equipped with the long musket) under the commanded of Rodrigo de Arce (MdC of the Tercio of Lombardia) approach the south bank of the Elbe river and started to skirmish with the Saxon pickets. The fact that the harquebusiers were inside their legs in the water and long range of the musket give the fire superiority for the Spanish. The Saxons resists some time before retiring from their positions....


Elbe in that area is about 200-300m wide, so i guess if their muskets were inefective at distances greater than 50m, whole skirmish would be a joke and saxons would not retreated....
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since my name has been bandied about, I guess I should weigh in here with my two cents of opinion. Cool

There are several things to keep in mind concerning 16th Century Warfare and 18th Century Warfare, and that is that during the 17th Century, the State became more and more involved in the outfitting and upkeep of their individual soldiers, and thus things not only became more regimented in regards to training and drill, but also the weapons that were now to be issued, rather than individually purchased by the soldiers.

One of the things that this led to was a looser fit for the projectile in the bore of the firearm, because no longer was the individual soldier responsible for casting his own bullets (though they would be of at least the same approximate size as the rest of his company's firearms), but instead the State in the form of an Ordnance Department was now responsible for issuing ammunition of a common size. What with the rather poor quality control exercised for the most part on military arms of the early 18th Century (cheaper is better when it's the Colonel paying for it!), smaller balls were more likely to be issued than oversized ones. At least you know that the smaller size works, if not optimally.

(Another thing to always remember when discussing bore vs ball diameters is that in the 16th and most of the 17th Centuries, the balls were loaded "naked", that is just dropped into the bore. In the latter-years of the 17th and the whole of the 18th and first half of the 19th, the balls were wrapped in several folds of paper of varying thicknesses (depending upon who rolled them and what the paper supply was), thus there was always a "patch" on the ball to increase the diameter, thus reducing the "windage" between ball and bore. Benjamin Robins, BTW, did a fair amount of study of the phenomenon of "chattering", where in the ball bounces down the barrel, to be flung off in the direction that it was last in contact with the bore.)

There were also philosophical debates as to which was more important, accuracy or firepower (same debate rages as we speak, BTW. Not much has changed.) Some countries in the 18th Century like Prussia were devoted to speed of fire, while others, such as France, were more interested in accuracy. Thus there was a greater "windage" between the ball and the bore in a Prussian musket and it's cartridge than with a French musket and it's cartridge. The British at first were more interested in accuracy (for example, the same targets used for long-bow practice in the 16th Century were used for caliver practice as well: a 4X4 "wand" at approximately 200 yards. And the men were expected to hit it, at least some of the time), but later fell under the sway of the Prussians and opted for firepower.

Another issue to consider wasn't simply the ability of the firearm to hit, it was the ability (and interest) of the soldier to hit what he was shooting at. Many officers complained during the various European Wars of the 18th Century that soldiers would routinely fire over their opponents heads. (Dr. Micheal Grossman in On Killing discusses this phenomenon in depth. Much of the reason behind it was as a form of passive resistance to the brutal treatment that the soldiers received at the hands of their officers. In the moment where it most counted, they could, and did, refuse to do more than go through the motions of their service, and avoid actually killing their opponents.) Furthermore, seldom were soldiers supplied more than a few rounds per year for practice. They got a fair amount of BLANK ammunition, so they could load and fire rapidly with it, but when it (again) came down to the serious work of war, they were usually woefully under-trained. If they were desirous of NOT hitting their opponents, it was pretty easy. If they DID want to inflict harm, it was a lot more difficult.

For a good scientific study of the arms of the period and exactly what they will do, I would strongly recommend tracking down a copy of Von Alten Handfeuerwaffen: Entwicklung, Technik, Leistung by the staff of the Landzeughauses, Graz, Austria, 1989. The staff took a broad selection of firearms from the late-16th through the mid-19th Century which had been stored in the Landzeughaus (armoury) in Graz since they had been put there during it's working life (16th-18th Century, with some later additions) and tested them under fairly tight scientific controls. The "control" weapons used to test against were the issue Austrian Army's issue weapons, the Steyr AUG and the Glock 17. Interestingly enough, one of the 16th Century wheellock pistols tested had the same accuracy potential as the Glock... Eek! And the WORST shooting of them all was a Rifled-Musket manufactured in the 1850's! At any rate, definitely a good read, and a fine piece of evidence showing that indeed, period firearms were capable of quite good accuracy. Whether they were used to their potential or not is, of course, a different matter entirely.

Another fine book, and somewhat more accessible, is Dr. Bert Hall's Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe. Within it is a fine (and long!) chapter entitled "Smoothbore Ballistics", which is excellent. He does a fair amount of quoting from both Robbins and from the Graz tests, as well as using data from Captain Rodman of the US Army's Ordnance Department. I heartily recommend the book for many reasons, but this is a major one.

I hope that this gives you sufficient ammunition to knock down your opponent in your next engagement of words with him, Jaroslav!

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav,

I think this need be rethought some regarding your interpretation of the Battle of Muehlberg. Clearly some of these men were in the river up fairly high in the water. So even if bank to bank it is 200-300m they could have been much closer depending on the river at this area. Some also appear to have been mounted and others in some types of boats before the enemy fled which could further close the gap. One needs also to see if the battle really took place on this location. As usually with large forces you pass where it is shallowest and narrowest not deepest and widest this would be very odd but not impossible, people break the norms all the time. You also have several other actions by other forces in the army at work as well that push the enemy to retreat. Giving a victory to any one weapon on the field is somewhat unrealistic for 90-99% of warfare.

I think no one can realistically dispute that firearms, especially by the 17th but even earlier, could kill a person over 50m with decent accuracy. I think you might be pushing it a bit too far though in some respects with such distances in the 100s. Even if they were hitting men at 200-300 yards it would not be a question of aim as they are shooting into a large mass of people, likely little need for targets. If your question is on accuracy the testing seems to be fairly constant and abundant for these types of weapons some of which has been posted above. We also know how battlefield tactics with these weapons tend to start their attacks and where they were ‘ideal’. In the 16th you see right before the pikes meet as a fairly common point of fire and mounted men also advised to be fairly close before firing.

Matthew,

Huh... that is interesting. I actually had a person who teaches applied physics explain how the loose ball in a larger hole could be an issue to accuracy. He is very into ballistics so I thought it sounded good. Maybe something to look more into at a later date, or when I run into a applied science/physics person. Since I had never heard anyone dissent from it I have not thought much more about it.

RPM


Last edited by Randall Moffett on Sun 08 Feb, 2009 11:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thank you very much Gordon for your response, i will try to get some of the books you mentioned, and will try to settle this disscusion for once and for good, and if even that dont help, then i stop trying, sometimes people want believe some things even if they are not correct....
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2009 1:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
thank you very much Gordon for your response, i will try to get some of the books you mentioned, and will try to settle this disscusion for once and for good, and if even that dont help, then i stop trying, sometimes people want believe some things even if they are not correct....


More important that you have confidence in the " accuracy / truth " of the information you have seriously researched for your own sake: If you can convince someone else who has a different opinion is a separate issue and if that person refuses to accept credible information it is their lost. Wink Cool

We should always keep an open mind since what we think is true can always be wrong to a small or great degree, but again one should give more weight to credible research than to unsupported opinions.

Glad if I was of some help although I tend to remember the generalities of what I have read rather than remembering specific sources, but I was sure that Gordon and others could supply these. Wink Big Grin

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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 5:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

does anybody have info about used windage in muskets in 16- 17.century? All i found is that for a light musket used in 1630 was used bullet with windage about 0.6-1mm, and later it was incerased to 0.8-1mm. I also found that Brown Bess used bullet with windage about 1-1.2mm but any more accurate data or sources would be really welcomed.
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A. Tomsinov





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would be glad to know 16-17thc. windages too...

Maybe it will be useful to you: at the beginning of 19th century Prussian army has got an improved musket with windage of 1.5 mm (it was called a compromise between speed and accuracy!), and it is said that in 18th century they had an even greater windage, the bullets could roll out if a soldier pointed the musket too low (Manifestation of Reform: The Rearmament of the Prussian Infantry, 1806-13 by Dennis E. Showalter // The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 364-380)
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here is the link about 1630 Matchlock replica:

http://www.engerisser.de/Bewaffnung/weapons/Matchlockmusket.html
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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav,

In the above posts the point has been well made that most battles was fought eye-to at short range, and the accuracy (or lack of it) was merely an expediant to quick shooting. Something had to be given up, and this was accuracy.
However, your friend's point was that arms of the 16th to the 18th century were terribly inaccurate is not quite right.

Target practice was a common sport, and although this was not warfare, it does show that matchlock and flint guns are Capable of much better accuracy than we sometimes think possible.

many matchlocks for hunting had rather good peep sights, tube sights, or nice open V sights, often with removable apertures in the case of the peep.
Admittedly, many hunting guns for big game were rifled, but smoothbore accuracy was very good as well.

here is an example;
In Basel, Switzerland in 1605, there was a dual target meet.
The dual means the targets were set for rifled arms And seperate targets for smooth-bored guns.

It is recorded that the smoothbores fired at targets at 570 feet (190 yards, or roughly 170 metres)

The target was 30 inches in diameter, or about 76 cm.

For rifled arms, the range was 805 feet. (268 yards, or about 250 metres)

The target was 42 inches in diameter, (or 107 cm)

This shooting was done off-hand, and the guns had cheek-stocks, contact with the shoulder was not allowed.

I present this just to show that in earlier times the Potential was there for more accuracy, but was not taken advantage of in a war setting.

My own home-made matchlock is smooth-bored, but has been a very reliable friend to go deer hunting with, and has proved his worth.

With best wishes,

Richard.
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A. Tomsinov





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.engerisser.de/Bewaffnung/weapons/Caliver.html
Hmm, interesting... It states that Matchlock Caliver- Suhl ca. 1610 had barrel calibre of 16mm, made for shooting a rolling bullet of 14,9 mm, and often Suhl calivers were bored to a calibre of about 15,9 mm and fired a 14,9 mm bullet.
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