The Charleville muskets were .69 caliber French smoothbore flintlock muskets used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Charleville was used during the American Revolutionary War by the Americans and was later copied and manufactured in the US as the Springfield Model 1795 Musket.[a]
|Place of origin||Kingdom of France|
|Used by||France, various native Canadian tribes and other tribes throughout New France, United States|
|Wars||Indian wars, Austrian War of Succession, Karnatic Wars, Seven Years' War, American Revolutionary war, French Revolutionary Wars, Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812|
|No. built||> 150,000 (Modèle 1766)|
|Mass||10 pounds (4.5 kg)|
|Length||60 inches (150 cm)|
|Barrel length||45 inches (110 cm)|
|Rate of fire||User dependent; usually 2 to 3 rounds a minute, an expert 4|
|Effective firing range||100 to 200 yards, max 50 to 75 in reality|
About 1630, Frenchman Marin le Bourgeoys (c.1550–1634) created the first "true" flintlock, also called the "French lock". Bourgeoys was in the service of King Louis XIII of France for whom he created the flintlock mechanism. Throughout the 17th century, flintlock muskets were produced in a wide variety of models.
In 1717, the original "Charleville" flintlock musket was made for the French military. This became the first standard flintlock musket to be issued to all troops. While it is more correctly called a French infantry musket or a French pattern musket, these muskets later became known as "Charleville muskets". They were named after the armory in Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France. The standard French infantry musket was also produced at Tulle, St. Etienne, Maubeuge Arsenal, and other sites. While technically not the correct name for these muskets, the use of the name Charleville dates back to the U.S. Revolutionary War, when Americans tended to refer to all of the musket models as Charlevilles. It should be noted that the naming of these muskets is not consistent. Some references only refer to Model 1763 and later versions as Charleville flint lock muskets, while other references refer to all models as the Charleville. The Charleville musket's design was refined several times during its service life. Later models of Charleville muskets remained in service until 1840. This was when percussion lock systems made the flintlock mechanism obsolete.
Charleville muskets had a smoothbore barrel. Rifles were more accurate than muskets because of their rifling, but military commanders favored smoothbores on the battlefield. Both types used black powder which caused fouling. Because the bullet was a tighter fit in the barrel (weapons), Rifles became very difficult to load after a few shots. Early on, the longer range and better accuracy of the rifle was also considered to be of little value on a battlefield that was quickly obscured by black powder smoke. Like all smooth bore muskets, the Charleville flintlock musket was only accurate to about 110 yd (100 m) against a column of men, or 40 to 50 yd (37 to 46 m) against a single man-sized target.
The Charleville's .69" (17.5mm) caliber barrel was slightly smaller than its main competitor, the .75 caliber Brown Bess produced by the British. The smaller round was intentionally chosen to reduce weight in the field.[b] But the .69 caliber ball round still had enough mass to be effective against enemy soldiers. The Charleville's stock was usually made out of walnut.
Charleville muskets were not used in battle like a modern rifle. Instead, Charleville muskets, like the Brown Bess muskets, were fired in mass formations. In modern warfare, bayonets are considered to be last-ditch weapons. But in the 18th century firing muskets only paved the way for a bayonet charge. Muskets with bayonets attached were used as a pike type weapon in close Hand-to-hand combat. This use as a pike dictated the Charleville's general length and weight. A shorter weapon could not be used as a pike, and its weight was a balance between being heavy enough to be used as a pike or club, but light enough to be carried and used by general infantrymen.
The rate of fire depended on the skill of the soldier, but was typically about three shots per minute. After 1728, the Charleville's 46.5 inches (1,180 mm) barrel was held into place by three barrel bands making it much sturdier. In 1743 the wooden ramrod was replaced with a steel one. Additional improvements were made in the 1750s and 1760s. The 1763 model was determined to be too heavy. In 1766 it was replaced by a lighter version.
- The Model 1795 Springfield musket was based on the French Model 1763 Charleville musket. Like the French design, the Springfield was a .69 caliber musket. The Charleville musket had been the primary musket used by Americans during the American Revolutionary War. But unlike the Charleville M1763 design, the American musket used the concept of interchangeable parts.
- A pound of lead could produce 13 musket balls of .75 caliber whereas the same pound of lead could produce 15 musket balls in .69 caliber. The .69 caliber ball also required less powder to fire the same distance. This quickly added up to a disadvantage in weight for British soldiers who carried the same number of rounds for the .75 caliber Brown Bess.
- "U.S. Springfield Model 1795 Flintlock Musket Type I". NRA National Firearms Museum. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- Spencer Tucker, Almanac of American Military History, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013), p. 416
- George Mouradian, The Quality Revolution (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002), p. 83
- Diagram Group, Weapons: An International Encyclopedia From 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), p. 319
- Jeff Kinard, Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), p. 24
- "Charleville Musket Muzzle-Loading Musket (1717)". Military Factory. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- Carl Parcher Russell, Guns on the Early Frontiers(Lincoln, NE; London: University of Nebraska Press, 1980), p. 151
- Frank McLynn, "Napoleon: a Biography" (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2011), ch. 8
- "Lead ball, per pound". The Red River Brigade. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- Hugh T. Harrington (15 July 2013). "The Inaccuracy of Muskets". Journal of the American Revolution. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- Michael Pitzer, Native Re-Enacting Made Easy: How to Portray an Eastern Woodland Warrior (Louisville, KY: Axehead Publishing, 2009), p. 104
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