A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smoothbore firearm, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer. The musket had a smoothbore barrel; meaning that it had no rifling grooves in the barrel that spun the bullet, making the rifle more accurate. By today's standards, muskets are not accurate due to their lack of rifling. Owing to this lack of accuracy, officers did not expect musketeers to aim at specific targets. Rather, their objective was to deliver a mass of musket balls into the enemy line.
The musket replaced the arquebus (an early muzzle-loaded firearm that appeared in late 15th century Europe), and was in turn replaced by the rifle (in both cases, after a long period of coexistence). The term "musket" is applied to a variety of weapons, including the long, heavy guns with matchlock, wheel lock or flint lock and loose powder fired with the gun barrel resting on a stand, and also lighter weapons with a snaphance, flintlock, or caplock and bullets using a stabilizing spin (Minié ball), affixed with a bayonet.
The musket first made its appearance when a specialist class of troops armed with a heavy version of the arquebus called a musketin was introduced to support the arquebusiers and pikemen in the Spanish tercios. By the end of the 17th century, a lighter version of the musket had edged out the arquebus, and the addition of the bayonet edged out the pike, and almost all infantry became musketeers. In the 18th century, improvements in ammunition and firing methods allowed rifling to be practical for military use, and the term "rifled gun" gave way to "rifle". In the 19th century, rifled muskets (which were technically rifles, but were referred to as muskets) became common, combining the advantages of rifles and muskets. About the time of the introduction of cartridge, breechloading, and multiple rounds of ammunition just a few years later, muskets fell out of fashion.
References / notes
- Musket. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 23 April, 2017.
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