Across the extended landscape of the battlefield that was North America during the Revolutionary War period, two well-known shoulder arms faced off against one another. The heavier of the two combatants was the 11-pound British Long Pattern “Brown Bess,” a flintlock musket already established in use throughout the Empire on several continents.
Its pin-fastened 46-inch barrel and stock accommodated a heavy .76-.78 caliber round ball and stout powder charge. But its slender goose-neck hammer was not as heavily constructed as the rest of the gun. The lighter and better-balanced French Charleville M1774 musket weighed nearly eight pounds, but was configured to shoot a smaller .69-.71 caliber ball. In contrast to the bigger-proportioned British gun, the Charleville employed three iron bands to retain the lighter barrel on the stock and had a double throat hammer that provided superior durability.
According to its thumbplate, this First Model British Brown Bess was issued to the 5th company and was the 4th musket in the ranks; the specific regiment to which it was issued is sadly worn beyond recognition on its long barrel. The Charleville musket also shares only part of its heritage with a branded “Maryland” on its stock. The Brown Bess is on loan to NRA's National Firearms Museum from collector Peter Dowd.
Both the NRA National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., and the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., have a fine selection of historically significant arms on display. Admission is free, and donations are gratefully accepted. For information, visit www.nramuseum.com, call (703) 267-1600 or email [email protected].