Skip to comments.The Firearms of the American Founders' Era
Posted on 09/04/2019 7:36:15 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution lived in a generation that saw more advancements for firearms than any other, arguably even more than the era of WWII. They understood the importance of a well armed civilian population being "necessary to the free state," often pointing out themselves that a tyrant has never been able to take over an armed population. Their Pennsylvania rifles were supreme to the British Brown Bess muskets, and that is what secured our independence and the birth of America.
Pretending that these very intelligent men could never foresee the invention of the AR-15 (or similar weaponry) is ignorant.
These five weapon types held the technology and laid the foundation for the modern firearms we see today. Each was conceived and used before the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.
From the Dutch word "Dunderbus," which translates to "Thunder Pipe" in English, these handheld firearms were developed in the early 16th century. These were nasty weapons with widespread uses but were meant for close-range shooting and were essentially the first-generation shotgun. These crowd-controlling weapons shot whatever shrapnel could be stuffed into the barrel. One shot fired into a crowded area could easily kill and maim multiple people instantly. Blunderbuss-type pistols were standard weapons of naval personnel to protect their private ships during the "Golden Age of Piracy" after the Spanish wars. They varied in size, and production information is incomplete since they were custom manufactured by local gunsmiths, and of course, no national registry existed. Thomas Jefferson owned (and loved) several.
Photo: Three Blunderbuss pistols, Diocesan museum, Sandomierz, Poland (source: Wikipedia).
The Puckle gun was one of the first machine guns, with the first prototype revealed in 1717,
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...
People owned cannon.
People owned war ships.
Great article. Thanks for posting.
Seems like an excellent argument.
At the time of the constitution, civilian Americans had rifles and the enemy and our own military had muskets. Clearly the 2nd Amendment never intended that the civil population should be armed with weapons inferior to the military.
Paper cartridge breech-loading rifles were also used in small numbers by both the British and the Americans during the revolutionary war.
This is so emphatically wrong.
Very few: the only rifle like that I am aware of is the Ferguson Rifle and there were only 100 of the available during our Revolution.
I built a replica of one and just like advertised, it fires 6 rounds a minute and is nicely accurate. Messy to clean, though.
I actually don’t know about that, but I can tell you this sentence is as backwards as it can be:
“They understood the importance of a well armed civilian population being “necessary to the free state,”
I don’t know how the author could butcher the 2nd amendment this much.
The British also had some German rifles that came with their mercenaries, as part of the usual German-state force structure.
And the American loyalists doubtless had some riflemen as well.
Rifles had some use on the battlefields, but the vast majority on either side used muskets, including the American militias. The musket was much more convenient and faster to reload. Indeed, on numerous battlefields the decisive weapon was the bayonet. The American revolutionary armies were often defeated by the British infantry advancing firing vollies, followed by the bayonet. For the first few years of the war the Americans were defeated, on the battlefield, with depressing regularity.
“I built a replica of one and just like advertised, it fires 6 rounds a minute and is nicely accurate. Messy to clean, though.”
The problem I see with both the original Ferguson rifles and your replica is that powder fouling in the chamber would quickly build up, making it harder and harder to load the weapon until it couldn’t be loaded until there was a really difficult cleaning. Do you clean yours from the muzzle down or go around the right angle turn directly into the chamber?
“The British also had some German rifles that came with their mercenaries, as part of the usual German-state force structure.”
The big differences between the Jager rifles of the Germans and the American rifles were the longer barrels of the American weapons and the use of patched balls in the American rifles. The greased patch would hold the ball and occlude the grooves of the barrel, enabling the ball to be loaded much more quickly and giving the ball the necessary spin. I have a replica Kentucky rifle; it takes me about a minute to load and prime it, a lot slower than with a smooth bore.
I always completely disassemble my Fergie so I can thoroughly wash the barrel and breech screw using hot, soapy water first and then break out the bore brush (12 Ga) and the Hoppes No 9. Disassembly is a pain because I have to remove the upper tang screw, the lock, and the three wedges - but it's worth it.
If you come out to DC and the range is open, we can shoot it.
That means the Ferguson would have been a first rate combat rifle in the eighteenth century since it would have been a lot quicker to reload than even a musket and could have been reloaded and primed from a prone position.
I did a super stupid the first time I cleaned my flintlock—I didn’t remove the lock from the rifle before I cleaned it. Ended up having to replace all the rusted lock springs—really need to look out for that water based cleaner.
Does your range in the DC area also allow AR type rifles?
Taylor Day needs to go back to school. Urgently. Desperately.
Scarcely anything in this article of his is accurate - not in detail, not in concept, nor interpretation.
Colonials roughly matched the numbers of Loyalists at the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780, thanks to last-minute reinforcement by pioneering “overmountain men” from the back country of Virginia and the Carolinas west. Patrick Ferguson was the only Britisher present. Records concerning the use of his breechloader in action are sparse; military historians and antique ordnance buffs tested a replica in the 1990s, and found it fouled much more quickly than anyone could have guessed, so it could not have done much to author any hoped-for British victory.
The American War of Independence (AWI, as most military historians term it today) did mark the first use of rifles in organized units, by a Euro-style military organization. But there were too few of these to make significant contributions.
Riflemen could not go toe to toe with an opposing force armed with the typical muskets of 1770: they took too long to load (as at least one other poster noted). Equally important: they did not mount bayonets. The socket bayonet was a key weapon of armed forces then, inflicting major shares of the casualties. Any riflemen (or musketeers without bayonets) would succumb to a charge by troops mounting bayonets. Indeed, senior American leadership knew this; George Washington himself went on record about his doubts concerning riflemen. Too skittish, too prone to scampering off the field. Though they could score telling hits at amazingly long ranges, in practice they often had to be protected by detachments of light infantry armed with standard muskets.
Washington wanted “an army who would look the enemy in the face.” American troops were notorious for running away from any British advance mounting bayonets, and it wasn’t lack of courage. Americans (ill supplied the whole time) frequently ran out of ammunition, and without bayonets, they had little in their hands with which to continue to resist. That began to be corrected when the French began supplying used muskets - through dummy corporations at first (by the Battles near Saratoga in early autumn 1777, French muskets were the preferred long arm in the ranks). Training was needed too, supplied at Valley Forge by Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben, who had been a captain on the staff of the Prussian Army. It worked; at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, many British personnel were shocked at the new tenacity and aggressiveness displayed by Continental units.
The blunderbuss was a close-combat arm, more enamored by naval boarding parties. A smoothbore musket would outrange it and (moreover) would be equipped with a bayonet.
James Puckle’s “Defence” gun dates to 1718 but was more of a military curiosity than a usable arm. Only a few were ever made and no record exists of them ever being used in action anywhere, though two were apparently purchased in the 1720s to equip an expedition against Caribbean islands. They appeared on a shipping manifest but no information exists as to whether they made it there.
A good part of Taylor’s paragraph on hand mortars seems incomprehensible.
Hand mortars did exist but - like breechloaders and blunderbusses - played very minor roles. They were more specialized than the impoverished, ill-equipped Americans could bother with. Several in the admittedly lovely illustration belong to the class of “fortification weapons,” which included wall guns, rampart guns, and Puckle’s gun. Most looked a lot like the more-common small arms but were bigger, heavier, and of larger bore. All played minor roles in AWI; there were almost no forts to defend or attack, in the fledgling United States. When American forces could get ahold of artillery, they preferred heavier stuff, like the guns dragged from Ticonderoga to Dorchester heights outside Boston, in early 1776. Two champagne-glass mortars accompanied Aerican forces overland all the way to Quebec in 1775, then all the way back to Ticonderoga, without being fired. When they were test fired, both cracked apart.
Why anyone included a photo of a pepper box is a mystery; they postdate 1807 and the invention of percussion ignition. Taylor did note that revolvers did exist in the 1770s, but they were more curiosities than practical arms, or vanity pieces crafted by master smiths, to showcase their gunmaking talents: complex, costly, fragile, and they might chain-fire. Poor equipage for the battlefield. Single-shot long guns dominated battlefields just about everywhere until the 1880s, surviving both the transition to percussion caps and to metallic cartridges.
Oh yeah - Quantico Marine Base!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.