Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 63

Thread: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

  1. #1

    Default Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    There's always this thought that muskets were really inaccurate and slow. I looked at some vids of re-enactments that showed a) musket aren't really that inaccurate when firing into a row of men, and b) reloading the baker rifle wasn't that slow. The lethality at range is also tested. Bearing in mind that these re-enactors are hobbyists, and thus don't practice every day (or probably even every week) so their quality was comparable to soldiers of the time: sorry if these have already been posted

    (below clip are reenactors trying out sharpes technique of spit loading muskets)


    (below clip is renactors loading and firing aimed shots with the baker rifle, 13 shots in 5 minutes)


    So the musket and rifle are fairly accurate, and deadly against flesh: then you get commentary like this, in the battle of North Point near Baltimore, where 4000 american militia, and 3200 veteran British line infantry faced off, and at stages were exchanging volley fire at 20 yards:

    (below clip is part of documentary on the war of 1812 - watch 9.45 for a British lieutants comment on the battle)


    Yet the casualty report for the whole battle is 46 americans killed, 295 wounded, 24 British killed, 139 wounded, including casulties from artillery and sniper fire (inc General Ross). And there are accounts of grapeshot being used against British lines, and several regiments involved directly in fighting. These accounts always make me wonder what on earth went on back then.
    Last edited by squatlover; July 13, 2010 at 06:10 PM. Reason: added links

  2. #2
    Icewolf's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,438

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    keep in mind that back then, being wounded was almost a death sentence, or losing a limb, and rarely making a full recovery

  3. #3
    Prince of Darkness's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Taipei, ROC
    Posts
    1,957

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    If you look at the Battle of Borodino in 1812, you will see how bloody a typical Napoleonic battle is. The war of 1812's casualities are nothing compared to Nappy's wars. The Battle of North Point pitted 3200 Brits vs. 4000 Yanks, while Borodino have 130,000 vs. 120,000!!! And the stress of a heating battle a panicked soldier will often not aim and shoot immediately after loading. According to Christian Strumb's Battle of Jena-Auerstadt video (see my Reloading while Marching thread), even well-trained Prussian soldiers will fire and load automatically without time for aiming. And soldiers tend to fire slightly upwards (fear of hitting himself) in panic. No wonder American farmers and British colonials inflict such small casualities.
    And remember, this is not a TW game, enemy WILL retreat if they start losing the battle. You have no chance of slaughtering their whole army.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    First you have to say that smoothbore-muskets have no sights for aiming. Even with a modern rifled weapon you will have problems hitting a target at a distance beyond 20 metres when you are not able to aim properly, of course I'm just talking of my own experience, maybe I'm just a bad shot...
    But then again many soldiers of the Napoleonic times would have been too. Especially because they had a limited number of rounds for training. Try to become a crack at dart when you are only able to throw a maximum of thirty times!

    Here a quote from Wiki, whose content I allready heard from other sources:
    "British infantry were far better trained in musketry than most armies on the continent (30 rounds per man in training for example, compared with only 10 in the Austrian Army) and their volleys were notably steady and effective."

    So if you are austrian you only get 10 throws in dart.

    I also found an article with some numbers that are interesting for this thread, it even states the info was taken in the days of the Napoleonic wars.

    http://www.historynet.com/weaponry-t...-mini-ball.htm

    And for the reading-idle the most informative paragraphs:
    "
    The ease of loading the smoothbore musket allowed soldiers to fire quickly, but the shots were not likely to hit their targets. Accuracy and range were not the weapon's strengths. In fact, firing one of these guns would be similar to shooting a marble from a modern shotgun. The weapon did not even have a rear sight for precise aiming because aiming was a fruitless effort. The statistics boil down to this: at 40 yards, the flintlock smoothbore could usually hit a target measuring 1 square foot, but at 300 yards, only 1 shot in 20 would hit a target of 18 square feet. As Colonel George Hanger, a British officer who fought in the American Revolution, wrote in 1814:
    A soldier's musket if not exceedingly ill-bored (as many are), will strike the figure of a man at 80 yards, perhaps even at 100; but a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be wounded by a common musket at 150 yards, providing his antagonist aims at him; and as for firing at a man at 200 yards with a common musket, you might just as well fire at the moon and have the same hope of hitting your object. I do maintain and will prove, whenever called on, that no man was ever killed at 200 yards by a common soldier's musket by the person who aimed at him."


    For those really into it, there is a PDF with a really scientific approach to this case. It states that bullets deviated up to 56 inches on a distance of 200 yards.

    http://www.willegal.net/iron_brigade/musket.pdf
    Last edited by Taploader; July 08, 2010 at 04:56 AM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    They may deviate and be inaccurate when firing at a single man sized target, but the targets in those days were ranks of men, elbow to elbow, who were 2-4 ranks deep. As in those videos I posted, the hit ratio when firing at a rank of men is high.
    I think without any evidence, that battlefield smoke had a lot to do with it, as there are a lot of descriptions of men emerging out of musket smoke, and Alfred Nobles non smoke producing explosive was meant to make war too deadly to fight. I guess that after a couple of volleys, you were hidden by smoke, and your opponent was hidden by smoke, and essentially you were firing blind. Smoke isn't well represented on NTW, perhaps it would halve accuracy when firing out of smoke, and halve it again when firing into smoke, hence the far lower casulties.

  6. #6
    Prince of Darkness's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Taipei, ROC
    Posts
    1,957

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Another thing is that a bullet MAY hit, but the chance of being wounded are much higher than being killed, because the penetration power of a musket ball is not as good as AK47s. (Hence the higher wounded men than dead in North Point)

  7. #7
    Oafe101's Avatar Foederatus
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    I got a bunch o info on this, but a)dont wanna type so much and b) way too much that people wouldn't read.

    Anyway, an example of how little of shots hit is that at the battle of Vitoria, the allied infantry used some 3,675,000 rounds to cause some 8,000 casualties (or one hit per 459 shots) not including the 6,800 rounds used by the artillery. And this wasn't extraordinary.

    Here's a quote from Napoleonic Weapons and Warfare: Napoleonic Infantry by Philip J. Haythornthwaite, and this is just one such quote from his book of such tests:
    "...the Prussian General and reformer Gerhard von Scharnhorst published comaprative details of the effectiveness of different national patters, fired against a target 100x6 feet by ten men firing in their own time (i.e. not by volley). Some of the results were as follows, expressed as percentages of the total rounds fired (since I can't figure out how to make a table, these are for 100, 200, 300, and 400 paces respectably):

    • New Prussian: 72.5, 48.5, 28, 33.5
    • French: 74.5, 52.5, 29, 16
    • British: 47, 58, 37.5, 27.5
    • Russian: 52, 37, 25.5, 29

    End Quote"


    K, so typed a bit more than I thought I would

  8. #8

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    The general observation at the time was that most shots were too high. One possible conclusion being that when fired in trials at a visible target the firer was reasonably calm, unstressed and able to take the time to consider the range and size of the target being fired at. However, when firing in battle the emphasis changed to firing as rapidly as possible and the firer was not only distracted by the events around him but by the need to keep closing ranks and listening for commands. He was also unlikely after a few rounds to be able to see what he was firing at, and so the result was what was generally termed 'firing into the brown'. In other words pumping as many shots as possible in the general direction of an enemy, sometimes only visible due to the mussel flashes of his return fire. Under such circumstances its likely that the musket was not properly levelled or allowed to buck when fired, reducng the overall hit rate.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Someone must have been messing with the British in that table. They are the only army that are more accurate at 200 yards than 100 yards. Also, you have to remember the shot would not just deviate from side to side but also up and down. There is then the fact that there are actually few places a man can be shot that will result in instant death. The head, neck, heart and possibly lungs. Even these are possible to survive for a while so you are coutned as injured rather than killed. Given then inaccuracy as well, the chance of getting a straight kill is drastically reduced.
    http://www.twcenter.net/wiki/Infantry_tactics
    My TWC wiki page in the making

  10. #10

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    The figures of casualties taken after a battle mostly sum up the dead, wounded and missing. And these will not only be caused through firepower but also bayonet and cavalry charges.
    I once read a study of the prussian army around the seven years war. They placed a target the height of the average man (of that time!) and 50 metres wide. They let civilians and soldiers fire at it from different distances. The result was that an untrained civilian hit with the probality of around 40 percent and even a trained soldier (we are talking of prussians, so pretty well trained) made only 55 percent of the shots to hits on a target of this size!
    I couldn't find this study on the web again so you sadly just have to believe me... sorry.
    The problem you have with deviation is that it doesn't only go horizontal but vertical or both directions together too.
    It's just not only moving on a line but in a circle around the intended target. So there are only two of the possible deviating directions still causing hits. Even less when you think of human heads in the line not standing ear to ear and feet and legs having a distance between each other too, where the bullet will just pass through, especially when the units movements are as synchronised as in the warfare of these days. Maybe setting up a huge line of cardboard cutouts would give a better impression of the realitys of napoleonic warfare and would decrease the results of the prussian study I mentioned above.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    I know the last few posts have been where people have been posting up stats that show how inaccurate muskets were. Did no-one watch the videos I posted up - it shows these re-enactors getting 80%-90% accuracy on their hits at 100 meter ranges with good penetration with tap loading brown bess muskets. The guy who did 3 rounds in a minute got all 3 on target at 100 meters. I have no idea why soldiers back then should be getting 50% of shots on target when people today with the same equipment get close to 100%.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Allright talking about the Video the results really don't match any statistics we mentioned. But, there is a huge BUT, the guys themselves called the results of their shooting "astonishing" so maybe its not their everyday performance. They managed to hit a target the size of a platoon three or four ranks deep and the fact that they used a blanket should resemble that. Again can you imagine that on this distance three shots out of twenty didn't hit a target of that size!?! This can only be caused by the muskets huge deviation.
    Another problem when they tested the Taploading the reenactor had someone telling him the placing of his hits and he began to adjust his fire according to them. At the very first shot when showing the Taploading technique he aims straight forward, for sure letting the bullet hit the ground in front of the target. Which is why he starts aiming slightly upwards when testing the 6 shots in 2 minutes trick. Soldiers of the time we talk about mostly couldn't follow the results of their shots when in battle and I doubt sergeants looked at every shot a recruit fired during training. Which is the only way you really can learn shooting, by looking at where you actually fired compared to where you aimed. By the way I would love to know that from someone who actually has a copied training manual of that period.
    In battle as allready mentioned soldiers don't and didn't perform as well as in training because of the surrounding battle and at that time smoke, where you didn't have a target you could aim at. Had they placed a smoke machine in front of that blanket or the reenactor in the video the results would for sure be different and less astonishing.
    In my reenacting times I never actually got to shoot for real, I would love to test the accuracy of muskets myself one day.
    I really don't know why taploading wasn't encouraged more during that time because it shouldn't lower the accuracy of a musket much and would impressively improve the rate of fire. We'll never know...

  13. #13

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    I agree, with Taploader. I would be more impressed with the validity of the test if the firers were not using modern cartridges and powder, were firing through a dense fog of battle smoke, were required to move randomly between each shot and were being occassionally thumped round the head with a pillow to represent nearby concussions and other ditractions.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Quote Originally Posted by Didz View Post
    I agree, with Taploader. I would be more impressed with the validity of the test if the firers were not using modern cartridges and powder, were firing through a dense fog of battle smoke, were required to move randomly between each shot and were being occassionally thumped round the head with a pillow to represent nearby concussions and other ditractions.

    Not to mention at the time the focus was more on rate of fire rather than accuracy. Going further than that, weapons training with live ammunition was far less common during this time period than it is today, where soldiers go out to the range once a week or so and fire hundreds of rounds to perfect their aim.

    The fact that light infantry were better at hitting people without rifles is a confirmation of both the accuracy of the individual musket and also how it could be counteracted by massed volley fire where you can't tell if it was even you that hit your target or the fella next to you.


    PS
    Very much enjoying this discussion
    Last edited by SMIDSY; July 14, 2010 at 03:46 PM.
    "Either the wallpaper goes, or I do."
    -Last words of Oscar Wilde

  15. #15

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    One other very valid point made in an earlier discussion was that the battlefield accuracy figures are mostly based upon 'Casualties Inflicted' for 'Ammunition Expended' which is about the best information available after a battle. Whereas, range accuracy calculations are based upon monitored shots hitting a fixed target.

    Given that in battle considerable amounts of ammunition is wasted just firing volleys in the general direction of a suspected enemy the hit percentage is bound to be much lower. For example, one battalion might expend 600 rounds firing at the sound of advancing cavalry heard through the smoke of battle, or firing into a wood where a few shots were thought to have originated. That sort of expenditure would not happen on a range.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Quote Originally Posted by SMIDSY View Post
    weapons training with live ammunition was far less common during this time period than it is today, where soldiers go out to the range once a week or so and fire hundreds of rounds to perfect their aim.

    Very much enjoying this discussion
    As I allready wrote, try to become a crack at shooting with only 10 to 30 tries as was common these days.

    Dito!!!

  17. #17

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    I wonder if regular line infantry had any sort of individual accuracy requirements? Surely light infantry did, but what of his more stationary counterparts?
    "Either the wallpaper goes, or I do."
    -Last words of Oscar Wilde

  18. #18

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    Quote Originally Posted by SMIDSY View Post
    I wonder if regular line infantry had any sort of individual accuracy requirements? Surely light infantry did, but what of his more stationary counterparts?
    I think the general attitude was that it was a waste of time. The focus was much more on the importance of tactial manouvre and obedience to command. Standing your ground and firing three rounds a minute was just a matter of point and shoot. The law of averages taking care of the rest.

    It was actually this attitude which the rifles had to combat in order to earn their acceptance as a valuable battlefield asset. The general concensus being that at best they were a novelty, and at worst an expensive waste of manpower and a bunch of misfits.
    Last edited by Didz; July 18, 2010 at 04:48 PM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    When I thought of the Video again, concerning the rifles I think I found another hint towards the underestimated accuracy of smoothbore muskets. Napoleon never introduced rifles into his light units, but assumed that the training and talent of his Voltigeurs and Chasseurs was making up the accuracy issues of muskets compared to rifles. Maybe they weren't really that inaccurate and the focus on drill instead of combat training is responsible for that myth, or pretty much of it.
    I know Napoleon wasn't one for technical innovations but things that had proven itself in other nations armies would have caught his interest if they really were worth the effort. Aleksanders armies rejected the rifles some time into the Napoleonic wars too. Of course this was linked to the production capacities, imports and worn out weapons, but there may be a point that these weapons didn't prove themselves as expected compared to the smoothbore ones.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Muskets not that inaccurate... rifle loading not that slow.. so why were casulties so low?

    I actually think that Napoleon made a sound decision in not introducing rifles into his army. The French tactical doctrine really didn't lend itself to the use of rifles, nor was the training regime for new conscripts into the French Army geared towards the rigorous training in weapon skills necessary to use a rifled weapon effectively.

    The French tactical doctrine really relied very heavily upon the personal elan of the individual soldier and the pressure that could be exerted on the enemy simply by the imposition of their will. Tolstoi summed it up perfectly when he said that the French soldier believes himself to be an irresistable force, and that usually meant rapid movement to close range with the emphasis on the threat of close quarters fighting rather than a long range musketry duel to present your opponet with the stark choice of giving ground or having to face that irresistable force.

    Its actually difficult to see how a unit of riflemen would fit into that doctrine, and there are descriptions of battalions advancing with empty muskets simply to discourage soldiers from stopping to shoot. Indeed even the use of the musket was given minimal attention when training new recruits, and many had never fired a live round before they joined their units.

    I also have to add that having read Mark Urban's book, I'm not that convinced that the greater range and accuracy of the Baker Rifle really made that much difference on the battlefield. From what I understand it seems that much of the fighting was done at such close range and with so little visibility that shots of more than 50-100 paces were pretty rare anyway, and it seems that their superior understanding of how to aim and hit moving targets was far more important than the rifling in the barrel of the weapon.

Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •