English Civil Wars Muskets

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YouTube link to English Civil War Musket loading The musket was used by infantry and dragoons. It usually had a barrel four feet long with a diameter that was 12 bore or big enough to tale a lead ball weighing one twelfth of a pound. Most muskets used by the infantry were matchlocks. The muskets used by dragoons were usually more expensive flintlocks because of the dangers of riding a horse with burning slowmatch. At the beginning of the 17th century muskets were very heavy and were fired using a rest to support the weight of the barrel. By the English Civil Wars muskets had become lighter and the rest was rarely used.

To load a matchlock musket the burning slowmatch was held in the left hand, which also held the musket at the point of balance. Then a small quantity of powder was put in the priming pan and the pan-cover closed. The main charge was then poured down the barrel, followed by a musket ball and some paper wadding. This was then firmly rammed down to the bottom of the barrel with the rammer, or scouring stick as it was sometimes called.

To fire the musket one end of the burning match was placed in the jaws of the serpent, the pan was opened and the trigger pulled. This would lower the match into the pan, ignite the priming powder and then the main charge.

Gunpowder produces large clouds of white smoke and when a lot of guns were firing it was often difficult to see.

Musketeers made up about two thirds of the infantry and, unlike the pikemen, they wore no armour. The muskets, which cost about 10/- each, weighed about 7kg and were muzzle loading, which means that the gunpowder and the lead musket ball had to be loaded down the barrel from the muzzle end. The gunpowder was carried in small wooden cylindrical boxes that hung from a bandoleer or crossbelt. One box held enough powder for one shot and there were usually twelve on a bandoleer. During the early years of the seventeenth century many musketeers carried a forked rest to rest the musket on to fire it. By the time of the civil wars had got lighter and the rest was soon abandoned.

The musket was fired by using a length of burning slow match. This made it very difficult to use in the rain and night the glow of the match and the rattle of the bandoleer boxes would give away the position of musketeers. It took about half a minute to load a musket and its effective range was less than a hundred meters.

In battle musketeers were drawn up six ranks deep. They would either fire by ranks, on, tow or three at a time, or small groups were marched forwards to fire and then marched back to reload.

Musketeers also carried swords, but in battle preferred to use their muskets as clubs.


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