Civil war rifles and

June 25, 2003

Civil war rifles and muskets

Final random thought. I went and double checked something that I told the kids last night. Yes, the Civil War was mostly fought with muzzle-loading weapons. I told them that most used muzzle-loading rifles firing minie balls, it looks like there were a fair number of muzzle loading smoothbores as well. Repeating rifles did not come into play until the last years of the war.

Due to the low level of training and minimal live-fire practice, most Civil War soldiers were slow shots and not very accurate. They were lucky to get 3 shots a minute, and while the rifles were accurate to 300 yards the men were generally only accurate to 100 yards. Men had a normal load-out of 40 cartridges, sometimes 60 or even 80, and at the end of one all-day battle one regiment averaged 24 shots fired per man; unless you were receiving a charge you did not fire at maximum rate.

In contrast, Bernard Cornwell who does some research suggests that the British regulars practiced with live ammunition and got 4 or 5 shots a minute with Brown Bess muskets in the 1810s. These were accurate to 50 yards, dangerous to 300.

As a final note, I remember reading something about mid 20th-century weapon designers looking into ww1 experience and some ww2 experience and deciding that most weapons were fired at ranges of less than 300 yards. This meant that the 1000 yard effective range of a 30-06 was more power than was necessary, and they could reduce the cartridge, cut weight, and add shots per pound by making a weapon that could only fire as far as it was useful. So the Civil War rifled muskets were accurate at battlefield ranges, although the troops themselves had little practice at firing by volleys and by the numbers.

This is not my dissertation.

Posted by Red Ted at June 25, 2003 10:31 AM | TrackBack