Of rifles and muskets

Huckabee’s latest:

“What we’ve got is basically the farmers with muskets versus the guys with red coats and long rifles, and we understand that, but our folks have heart.”

C’mon. For a pro-gun candidate, Huckabee doesn’t know much about guns. Even I know standard-issue rifled muskets didn’t appear until the 1840’s or so. The British army circa 1775 – I assume he’s referring to Lexington and Concord – would have been armed with smoothbore flintlocks, like any other major European power of the time, and the local American militias would have had similiar weaponry, if not the exact same Brown Bess musket.

I love quoting Wikipedia when it’s right. “Nobody at Lexington or Concord—indeed, anywhere along the Battle Road or later at Bunker Hill—had a rifle, according to the historical records.”

Wikipedia also notes the British had a limited-edition rifle in 1776, but that’s well too late for Lexington and Concord, and the weapon was experimental. According to a British re-enactment group, it appears to have been used successfully at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, but not after. From this I think it’s safe to conclude that the vast majority of British troops would have carried roughly the same weapons as the revolutionaries.

The Baker Rifle that Bernard Cromwell’s Sharpe famously uses first appears in 1800, and had a range double or triple of a standard infantry musket. But they were given only to special units, as the British Army considered rifles an experiment during the Napoleonic Wars, and the Brown Bess was still the standard issue in the 1830’s – so they didn’t even have an effect during the War of 1812.

If the British had widespread rifled muskets in 1775, we’d have lost that one, cold. Then again, as the American militias were armed with British weaponry, we’d have had them too.

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