Musket, the smooth-bored firearm with which the infantry of all civilized nations lias been armed from the beginning of the 18th century until nearly the present time. The best authorities give the derivation of the name from the French mouchet or the Latin muscetus, a male sparrow hawk. This is not so improbable a derivation as would at first sight appear, for other firearms have been named after animals, as for instance the falcon and the dragon; and the probable reason of its use will be found further on. The first portable firearm of which we have any representation is exhibited in a French translation of Quintus Curtius, written in 1468. It was called the bombard or bom-bardelle, and was a heavy weapon made in the shape of a blunderbuss, and fired from the shoulder, or from a wooden frame or rampart, with a live coal or match. There is some evidence that these weapons were used as early as 1346 by the English at the battle of Crecy, but it is not definite. They were certainly used before the beginning of the 16th century. When gunpowder was first applied to warlike purposes, the cannon were hooped, and externally were not unlike boxes.
In Germany they were therefore called Biiclise, and an artillerist was a Biiclisenmeister. When guns were transported on wheels they were called Kanonenbuchse. The portable arm which followed the bombardelle was called in German Hakenb'uchse, because it had attached to the forward part of the stock a hook (Haken) which received the shock of the recoil. This name was corrupted in other languages to arquebus, arquebuse, archibuso, etc. The arm was also used with a forked stick upon which to rest the forward end in the act of firing, and was, if not the earliest, certainly one of the earliest portable firearms. About the same time the hammer and pan for priming were applied to the arm, and they or their equivalents have been used on portable firearms ever since. When the hammer was first used, it was merely a piece of iron bent in the shape of the letter S, and called the serpent, one end of which carried the live coal or match, and the other acted as a trigger. It was fastened to the piece at its centre, about which it could move; when the piece was to be fired the trigger end was pulled, and the match end was brought down on the priming. Springs were soon attached to it, causing it to go back to its original position after it had done its work; and this arrangement was the first gunlock.
Muskets with the serpent attachment were captured from the Chinese at the Peiho forts in 1860, and were in use in Japan until within a few years. During the 15th and 16th centuries the use of the arquebus became general in the continental nations of Europe; but the English still retained the crossbow, believing that it was more rapid and accurate in its action, and that its range was greater. - In 1517 the wheel gunlock was invented at Nuremberg, and at this time the portable arm took the name of musket. This lock consisted of a heavy iron plate to which the parts were fastened. The parts were a steel wheel about an inch and a half in diameter and a quarter of an inch thick, the circumference of which was channelled. To the arbor of the wheel was attached one end of a short iron chain, the other end of which was fastened to a heavy spring. By means of a key, about three fourths of a turn could be given to the wheel, compressing the spring. When the wheel was turned sufficiently, a dog engaged in a corresponding hole in the wheel, fastening it. This dog could be lifted out of its hole by the action of a lever corresponding to the trigger in the modern lock, and when the dog was so lifted the wheel moved round with some rapidity.
Above the wheel was fastened the pan, a piece of iron, pan-shaped, in the bottom of which was cut a hole through which a small part of the circumference of the wheel projected, filling the hole. The cock or hammer was a piece of iron or steel so arranged that one of its ends held a flint or piece of iron pyrites between jaws, and the other end was fastened to the lock plate, the hammer being free to move around the fastening. A spring acted upon the fastened end, so that when the flint end of the hammer rested upon that part of the wheel projecting through the pan, the spring pressed it hard on the wheel. To discharge the piece with this lock, supposing the priming to be in the pan, the wheel was turned until it engaged the dog; the cock was then turned so that the flint pressed on the wheel; then by pushing the trigger or lever, the wheel turned quickly, and sparks were thrown off, igniting the priming. This was an exceedingly ingenious piece of mechanism, and all flint locks made since its date are modifications of it. Many locks of the present day contain the same ideas in an improved form. The flint was held in the cock or hammer by jaws moved by a screw. In some specimens of this lock these jaws are engraved to represent the head of a bird of prey holding the flint in its beak.
It is not unlikely that the name musket originated with this device. So in Germany the hammer is called Ilahn, cock. In England and the United States cock was the name of the hammer so long as flint locks were used. In France the hammer was called chien, dog. As the flint in the wheel lock often missed fire, in some cases the serpent was also attached to one end of the lock plate. In this the match was kept lighted, so that the musketeer was sure that by some means he could fire his piece. During the 16th century muskets with wheel locks were introduced into all the continental armies, but pikes were also used by foot soldiers, and the proportion of muskets to pikes was about one to three. The musket at that period bore the same relation to the infantry that the field piece does in armies of the present day. It was a good attacking weapon, but in close quarters the brunt of the action was borne by the pikemen, for the musketeers had as much as they could do to take care of their unwieldy weapons. In the 16th century the flint lock as it exists at present was also invented in Spain, and it was merely changed in details of construction, and by some subsidiary inventions, until it was in general superseded by the lock for percussion caps in this century.
For a long time the flint lock was regarded with disfavor as too complicated, and likely to fail, and for nearly 100 years its use did not become general. It was adopted in France in 1630. The English were behind continental nations in portable firearms in the 16th and 17th centuries. As late as 1668 "The Com-pleat Body of the Art Military," by Lieut. Col. Richard Elton, which gives a system of infantry tactics and manuals for the pike and musket, recommends that two thirds of each company shall be armed with the musket and one third with the pike. The musket manual is for the arm with the match lock or serpent, and there is nothing in the book to indicate that its author had ever heard of the wheel or flint lock. The latter was introduced into England about the year 1690. - The musketeer in the days of matchlocks was a very unwieldy soldier. He carried his musket and its rest, and a large sword. Over his left shoulder was slung a broad leather belt called a bandolier, the ends of which were fastened on the right side. On this were hung a number of wooden, leather, or tin cylinders, each containing a charge of powder for his musket.
The balls were contained in a leather bag, and the priming powder in a flask or horn, and both were slung by separate slings from the left shoulder to the right side. He was a man of much greater consideration than is the infantry private soldier of the present day, and in some armies was allowed a servant to carry his musket on the march. At the battle of Wit-tenweiler, in 1638, which lasted eight hours, the musketeers of the duke of Weimar fired seven times only. This account shows that the use of the musket at that time did not add greatly to the destructiveness of wars. - The Schweinsfeder (hog's bristle) was the immediate forerunner of the bayonet. It was a long rapier with a thin handle, and its sheath was the musket rest, which was an iron tube forked at the upper end. When the rapier was to be used, the handle was inserted in the muzzle of the musket, which then became an efficient pike. As the arm became lighter, the musket rest gradually went out of use, and in order to keep up the use of the arm as a pike as well as a firearm, some new weapon had to be devised. So in 1640 the bayonet was introduced, taking its name from Bayonne, where it was first made. At first the shank or handle was made of wood, and was inserted in the muzzle of the piece.
Soon afterward it was made of metal in the shape of a hollow cylinder, and was secured to the piece by slipping the cylinder over the end of the barrel, and fixed in place by a stud soldered to the barrel. This arrangement permitted the piece to be fired with the bayonet fixed. The introduction of the bayonet gradually caused the pike to be thrown aside as an infantry weapon, and correspondingly increased the importance of the musket. About this time sights were placed on muskets, and their accuracy of fire was consequently much increased. The flint lock was improved, and the barrel and stock were fastened to each other in a more mechanical manner. Cartridge boxes were introduced, and during the second half of the 17th century the musket was so materially improved that it may be considered as having become the main arm of the infantry from the commencement of the 18th century. The ramrod of the musket, made of wood, was clumsy and easily broken until about 1720-30, when the iron ramrod was introduced into the Prussian army by Frederick William I., father of Frederick the Great; and the consequent improvement in the rapidity of fire of the musket was enormous. At the battle of Mollwitz, in 1741, between the Austrians and Prussians, the Austrians used wooden and the Prussians iron ramrods.
The defeat of the Austrians was at the time imputed to the superior rapidity of fire of the Prussian muskets, due entirely to the use of iron ramrods. During the remainder of the 18th century the musket gradually, by changes in form, took on the continent of Europe nearly the shape and appearance that it retained until the supersedure of the muzzle-loader by the breechloader. Bands were substituted for the projections on the barrel which fastened it to the stock, the ramrod was lightened, the leather strap for carrying the arm on the march was added, and the weapon was made simpler and more convenient, so that the soldier was sooner instructed. France led in these improvements. Great Britain seems to have retained an earlier model, and bands were not there applied to muskets until the present century. In the early part of the 19th century, on account of the wars of the French republic and empire, the number of muskets manufactured was enormous. In the two years 1809-'10 Birmingham furnished 575,000 musket barrels and 470,000 gun locks.
In 1813 England made 500,000 muskets, and from 1814 to 1816 she furnished for her allies and herself 3,000,000. From 1803 to 1814 there were made in France about 4,000,000 muskets. - In 1818 the percussion cap was invented, and its use gradually superseded that of the flint and steel, so that by 1850 nearly all the armies of the civilized world were armed with muskets using the percussion locks. The advantages of these locks are: 1, the lock is simplified; 2, the operation of firing is shortened; 3, the sureness of fire is increased, the presence of water having no effect upon the explosion of a good percussion cap. The explosive substance in military percussion caps is fulminate of mercury. This salt is mixed with powdered glass, and a small portion of the mixture is placed in the botton of a copper cup. The fulminate is covered with tin foil, and then with lacquer, so that it is impervious to water. With the percussion lock a " nipple " or cone was fastened to the barrel of the musket at the right side of the breech instead of the pan of the flint lock, and a hole through the cone communicated with the rear of the bore.
The percussion cap was placed on the cone, which it fitted closely; the hammer struck the cap, exploded the fulminate, and communicated fire to the gunpowder in the barrel. - The calibres of muskets were until about 1850 '7 in., a little more or less. The old British musket "Brown Bess" had a bore 75 of an inch in diameter. The length of the barrel was 42 in., the weight of the ball 1.06 oz., and the weight of the musket 12-25 lbs. The whole length, including bayonet, was 59 in. About 1853 in Great Britain the Enfield rifle was adopted, the bore of which was '577 in. Until this time British muskets were made without bands, the barrel being fastened to the stock by pins. The Enfield rifle had bands. The weights of all muskets in use in the last century were from 10½ to 12½ lbs. - In the United States the first muskets used were of course of English manufacture. The Indian and French wars had caused the distribution of large numbers of these arms among the colonies, and the war of the revolution was commenced with them. But after the alliance with France was perfected, French muskets were obtained, and it is likely that by the end of the war, in 1783, the troops were generally armed with French arms.
The United States began to manufacture muskets at Springfield, Mass., in 1795, after the French model, and this model with slight variations was used until the adoption of the Springfield rifle, model of 1855. New models were introduced in 1799, 1822, and 1840, all of French style, and of the French calibre, 69 in., and carrying a ball weighing a little less than an ounce.
Fig. 1. - Bombard.
Fig. 2. - Arquebus.
Fig. 8. - Arquebus and Serpent.
Fig. 4 - Wheel Lock with Serpent attached, front view.
Fig. 4 a. - Wheel Lock with Serpent attached, rear view.
Fig. 5. - Chenapan or Snaphaunce Lock.
Fig. 5 a. - Arab Lock of same construction.
Fig. 6. - Musketeer of 16th and 17th centuries, fully-equipped, showing Schweinsfeder and Musket.
Fig. 7. - First Bayonets. 1. Bayonet of 1640, triangular blade, fastening in bore of musket. 2. Spanish Bayonet, fastening in bore. 3. French Bayonet, fastened by ring and spring.
Fig. 8. - 1. Old Prussian Musket and Bayonet, with wooden ramrod. 2 and 3. French Musket and Bayonet, model of 1777-1800.
Fig. 9. - 1. Percussion Musket Lock. 2. Military Percussion Cap.
Fig. 10. - English Musket, "Brown Bess".
Fig. 11. - Musket and Bayonet, Model of 1841.
In fact it may be said that until the introduction of the needle gun in Prussia, France gave the model for the musket to all civilized nations. About 1842 percussion-lock muskets were adopted, and when the Mexican war began in 1846 there were enough to have armed the troops; but Gen. Scott preferred the flintlock musket, considering it dangerous to campaign in an enemy's country with so untried a weapon as the percussion musket. After that war its use became general in the army. In 1855 the Springfield rifle was adopted, audit gradually displaced the old musket, until at the commencement of the civil war in 1861 the troops of the regular army were armed with that weapon. Nearly all the infantry arms at that time in store were muskets of -69 in. calibre. The whole number of muskets and rifles manufactured at the Springfield armory from 1795 to 1865, when the manufacture of muzzle-loading arms was stopped, was 1,517,464, and the expenditure during the same period was $25,199,626 30. Over $2,000,000 reckoned as expenditure was the value of the property of the United States in lands, buildings, etc, belonging to the armory, and about $3,000,000 was the value of the parts of arms unassembled when the manufacture was stopped.
The number made at the other United States armory, that at Harper's Ferry, Va., cannot be given. At the commencement of the civil war this armory was dismantled, and all the records and movable property were carried to Richmond by the confederates. Its capacity for turning out arms was then about equal to that of the Springfield armory. - There are other names of muskets besides those given previously. The hand cannon was a tube on a straight piece of wood about 3 ft. long. It had trunnions, cas-cable, and vent on top like a cannon. Afterward the vent was placed at the side and the priming was held in a pan. Its date was nearly the same as that of the bombardelle. The hand gun was longer in barrel than the hand cannon. It had a cover for the pan, and some arrangement for taking sight. The English seem to have used it in 1446. The snap-haunce was a modification of the wheel lock. Instead of the wheel a straight piece of furrowed steel was used. The flint pressed against it, and when the steel was suddenly moved by the spring, fire was struck. It was introduced into England in Queen Elizabeth's time, but did not get into general use until the time of the civil wars. The name is derived from the Dutch. The caliver, lighter and shorter than the musket, had a match lock.
The carbine was simply a horseman's musket, and was shorter and lighter than the infantry musket. The origin of the word is obscure. It was introduced into England from France, but the term came from Spain, and from Calabria, where it was first used. It has been surmised that the Oa-labrians used it on board of small vessels called carabs. The term fusil applied to a musket appears to have been taken from the French, and was brought into England when locks using flints were introduced. It is technically the steel against which the flint is struck in a tin-der box or gun lock. The term fusiliers for part of the infantry is still retained in some armies, particularly the British, and was originally the name given to troops using the flintlock musket, to distinguish them from those who used the match-lock or wheel-lock muskets. The mousquetoon was of French origin, and shorter and not so efficient as the musket. The petronel was a short musket for horsemen's use. The name comes from pedemal, flint, and not, as is generally supposed, from poitrine, as it was supported against the breast when it was fired. The blunderbuss was a short piece with a large bore and funnel-shaped muzzle. It was loaded with slugs, nails, etc.
The word is of German origin, and the arm was introduced into England from Holland. In German Donnerbüchse would be the term, which after corruption by the Dutch becomes blunderbuss in English. The escopette is the Spanish or Mexican name (escopeta) for a carbine. The oldest document that mentions portable firearms is an inventory at Bologna dated 1397, in which they are called scolpos. From this term were derived later sclopeti, esclopettc, escopette. (See Rfle).