1840.] CORRESPONDENCE. 547
Calibre of the Infantry-Musket
MR. EDITOR. ---- I cannot but think our authorities, in continuing the use of muskets so wide in their calibre as those of the present regulation have overlooked the obvious fact, that heavy as are those muskets, they will not, without an intolerable recoil, beat the charge of powder requisite to give highest velocity and greatest range to the bullet. The point-blank range of the infantry musket 3 feet 6 inches in the barrel, weighing with sling , 13 lbs., carrying a ball of 1 to the pound , and loaded with 6 drachms of powder, is but 140 yards; that of a 30-inch rifle , weighing 10 lbs. 8 oz., loaded with drachms, and carrying a ball of 20 , is 250 yards at least . Now , we all know that a smooth bore caeteris paribus, according to Robins --- gives greater range than a rifled barrel, because the rifling retards the motion of the lead; and from my own experience I should say, that a piece 25 to the lb., having its cartridge made nearly to fit, would do execution at a far greater distance than the present unwieldly weapon, with its loose charge.
2 N 2
548 CORRESPONDENCE. [AUG
Much of the inaccuracy complained of in musket-fire arises from the excessive recoil. Now we know that the recoil depends on the relation between the weight of the weapon , the powder, lead. Whatever increases the first, or diminishes either the second or third , is therefore , desirable. So well are the Americans aware of this , that their smooth bores, -- perhaps the most deadly of fire-arms, --- although constructed but to receive a bullet of 30, weigh nearly as much as our muskets taking a ball of 14; yet at 100 yards, the American smooth bore would lodge 3 shots for 1 from the English line-musket.
The sole objection to reducing the calibre is the apprehension of thereby decreasing the range ; but if the same weight of fusil and of powder be retained, the reverse ensues. No one can dispute that a 12-lb. smooth bore, of 20 or 25 , will, with 6 drachms, throw its lead farther and truer, because with less recoil than an ordinary musket of the same weight. Now, I believe the experience of the Peninsular War pretty well showed that balls of 20 to the lb., fired by the Rifles, gave death as often as those of 14, sent by ordinary Foot. Nay, the rifle-carbines served out to the Hussar skirmishers proved little, if at all, inferior to the long, heavy infantry-fusil.
What I would propose, then is , that the new-regulation musket should differ from the present rifle* only in its percussion-lock and the smoothness of its fbore, which should be polished perpendicularly instead of horizontally, and the the sword-bayonet 2 feet in the blade, to fix underneath like that of the Cape Corps. The light company might have their pieces scratch-rifled, for greater accuracy, but the trap in both stock and sword-hilt to be browned. One-fourth the total weight of ammunition might thus be saved and consequently the number of carts and horses required to convey it on a campaign by so much decreased, as also the weight which on a march presses so grievously on the soldiers ' loins. Abolish also the chaco , stiff stocks, and pipe-clay, substituting a crimson or white varnished-leather girdle for the accursed cross-belts, and you will find the men fresher after thirty miles' march than after five-and twenty now.
*Of course, I do not allude to the new two-grooved rifle, which, I must confess, for its peculiar service, to be a splendid weapon. Top-heaviness, when the sword is fixed , is its sole fault. This might be avoided by alltering the position of the right hand. If this be done by the way of experiment, the piece will at once be felt to poise perfectly , for a weapon hand to hand, especially if a half-a-dozen loose balls be left in the trap. Held , however in the present way , no man could feel any confidence in it against a musket and bayonet; but grasped as I propose, the relative power of the two weapons would be exactly reversed. The Rifles at the night attack before New Orleans, were closed with; and they should always be prepared against a recurrence of what can never be entirely guarded against nocturnal affairs. I may also add , that by seizing the weapon in the proposed manner, and raising it perpendicularly, an isolated Rifleman may at once throw off the thrust of an assailing Lancer , and by continuing the semi-circular sweep, discharge a slashing cut on the horse's nose, and pierce either the animal or its rider in the act of turning away.