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History of the War of 1812

U.S. Musket used during the War of 1812

The United States forces in the War of 1812 employed a number of different muskets, of both foreign and domestic manufacture. The standard American-made weapon used during the war was the Model 1795 Musket, which was manufactured at the federal arsenals at Springfield, Massachusetts and Harper's Ferry, Virginia. This weapon was a close copy of the French "light Model 1763" musket, many of which had been in American service since the Revolution. Approximately 155,000 of these muskets were manufactured at the two abovementioned facilities between 1795 and 1815, with thousands more being manufactured by private contractors.

Like the French musket on which it was based, the U.S. Model 1795 Musket was a smoothbore weapon with a .69 calibre barrel. It was approximately five feet in length and weighed between eight and ten pounds. While the calibre was slightly smaller than the British .75 calibre muskets, the U.S. weapon had a number of advantages. One of these was the fact that the barrel was secured to the wooden stock by three steel barrel bands. It was a simple matter to remove these bands and a single screw in order to remove the barrel for cleaning or repair. The barrels of the British muskets were attached with a series of pins through the stock, which made disassembly much more tedious.

Being a musket (a smoothbore weapon with no rifling grooves to spin its ball projectile), the U.S. Model 1795 Musket had a limited accurate range; about 100 yards under ideal conditions, and only about sixty yards under the stress of combat. It was loaded by means of a paper cartridge; a tube which contained both the gunpowder charge and the ball, and which allowed a trained soldier to fire three to four unaimed shots in a minute. Like most weapons of the period, it was fired by means of a flintlock mechanism. A piece of flint held in the jaws of the cock would strike the hardened steel hammer (or frizzen), thus creating sparks which ignited the gunpowder. The musket also had a matching socket bayonet; a three-sided short spearpoint which slid over the end of the barrel and provided the soldier with a weapon for close combat.

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