7 Interesting Facts About Muskets

In this article, we will cover 7 interesting facts about muskets. Learn interesting facts about this firearm that helped shape human history. Now, before we go into each factoid in detail I will list them out for you first.

7 Interesting musket facts are:

  1. They occasionally injured the person using it
  2. Initially required two people per firearm
  3. They were very inaccurate
  4. Most later muskets had bayonets that were used for melee purposes
  5. Early muskets used chemicals for their trigger mechanism
  6. Muskets could not always pierce armor
  7. Muskets shaped how modern guns were created

Muskets were some of the original firearms used on the battlefield. Throughout this article, I’ll show you some of the coolest and most interesting facts about muskets. I’ll also explain why they’re still so popular after so many years and countless firearm advancements.

1. Muskets Could Cause Self-Injuries

As militaries slowly learned how to harness the power of gunpowder, there were countless mistakes that cost lives and long-lasting injuries. In fact, the Earl of Manchesters claims muskets used to explode due to having too much gunpowder. Excessive amounts of this propellant caused massive outbursts, injuring the user.

Another reason muskets could injure the person firing the weapon is that they often jammed. When the musket ball jammed in the chamber, it had a chance to misfire. Any time gunpowder got in front of the ball, it exploded and sent the ball toward the person pulling the trigger.

Explosions and jamming incidents were fairly rare, but they’re worth mentioning since these types of problems are virtually non-existent with modern firearms.

2. Muskets Had To Be Operated by Multiple People

Most people think of muskets as the same size as regular long-range rifles. While most common muskets could be used by one soldier, Britannica explains that some of the first muskets ever made were up to 5.5 feet (1.68 meters) long. This means operating them required two people: one to hold the back and fire while the other aimed the front of the musket.

This created obvious issues on the battlefield. Not only did it half the number of soldiers that could fire weaponry on the field, but it also slowed every pair. Once muskets were reduced to the size of a single-person firearm, they were mass-produced and useable by one person per gun.

3. Most Muskets Were Relatively Inaccurate

Guns are often thought of as extremely accurate. However, the first muskets ever made were typically less accurate than crossbows and bows. They fired a ball-shaped projectile powered by an explosion. Everything from minor dings in the ammunition to slight barrel damage could change the musket’s trajectory.

Battlefields.org claims muskets were only accurate up to 100 yards (91 meters), though most military tactics had them used as close as 25 yards (23 meters) to ensure optimal accuracy. Machines didn’t produce musket balls, so making them the same shape every time was nearly impossible. These slight variations changed the weapon’s accuracy until pointed tips were added.

4. Muskets Were Also Used in Melee Combat

Almost every musket had a blade attached to the end, known as a bayonet. Due to the inaccuracy of muskets, most battlefields ended up resulting in melee fights. Bayonets were some of the most brutal weapon attachments in history. They were specifically designed to cause massive gashes that were very difficult to mend.

That said, muskets were often known as long-range weapons, although they’re actually mid-range compared to modern weaponry. Many musketeers carried pistols in case the battle got slightly closer, though there were plenty of circumstances in which they charged at their opponents with their bayonets.

5. Early Muskets Used Hemp, Flax, and Nitrate To Fire

Early muskets operated with the Matchlock trigger. This basically means there was a long cord that was burning next to the musket. And every time a musketeer wanted to fire they pressed the trigger which lowered the burning cord to the exposed gunpowder next to the barrel which ignited it.

Battles in that era could last several hours which meant that the cord was of vital importance and had to keep burning for a long time. That is why they were doused in potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate. These chemicals allowed the cord to burn slower, which enabled the musketeer to use his weapon for longer. He did not have to change the burning cord so often.

Complications with the cord material made matchlock muskets a bit less reliable compared to the flintlock design that came after it. As you can imagine keeping the burning cord lit in a damp or wet environment was tricky, to say the least.

Now on to the next interesting tidbit you probably were not expecting.

6. Muskets Could Not Always Pierce Armor

As funny as it might seem, muskets had a problem in the beginning. And the problem was they could not always pierce the armor the soldier was wearing. I go into detail right here but the short version is, the heavy-duty armor worn by the elites could withstand a musket shot from a great distance. The problem was that type of armor was expensive so armies could not provide quality armor to every soldier.

Which ultimately lead to armor becoming useless, since it stopped playing a role in the outcome of the battle. It was cheaper to just get rid of it.

7. Muskets Shaped How Modern Guns Are Created

Muskets are the main precursors to modern firearms. Below, you’ll find a list of reasons muskets set up the tee for modern-day rifles.

  • They used mass-produced gunpowder. Modern weapons have propellant packed into the shell in appropriate amounts.
  • Rifled barrels greatly improved weapon accuracy at longer ranges. This technique is still being used hundreds of years later.
  • Muskets had iron sights mounted on them. This was one of the first times firearms used any type of sight. Modern guns use iron sights and scopes, much like muskets had.
  • Muskets used small ammunition, unlike bows, crossbows, and other long-range weapons in history. This set up the idea for coned and pointed ammunition that shooters could carry in mass amounts.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully, you gained a new understanding of this wonderful piece of history.

Take care!