Known affectionately as the “Brown Bess”, this ubiquitous weapon of the British infantry was in reality called the Land Service Musket. Called the Land Service musket to differentiate it from the Sea Service weapons, this flintlock smoothbore weapon was the result of the Ordinance Boards decision to standardize weapons of all branches of service in the first quarter of the 18th century. Prior to the formation of the Board of Ordinance, weapons were acquired at the regimental level on the whims of the Colonel who purchased his commission. As can be expected, the resultant variety of weapons that often varied in design and bore diameter caused logistical problems in the supply system.
The earliest incarnation of the Land Service Musket was adopted in 1718 and is known today as the “Pattern of 10,000”. In essence, it is what we would recognize as the embryonic form of the Brown Bess musket. Built in the typical Dutch style, with barrel and furniture pinned to the walnut stock, it differed to later infantry muskets in that the furniture was iron instead of brass. It's interesting to think Great Britain would adopt a weapon with origins in the Dutch school of gunsmithing, but it must be remembered that Britain relied heavily on Dutch imports going back to the English Civil War! 1728 saw the adoption of brass hardware and the nominally .80 caliber, 46-inch barrel that in several subsequent improvements over the next 40 years, was known as the Long Land Pattern Musket. While this long-barreled infantry musket was considered a successful design for typical European conflicts, experiences in far flung colonial possessions, most notably North America and India, deemed a handier infantry arm was needed.
Land Service weapons were categorized into two groups: Infantry, and Horse. Land service muskets in Horse service, were of shorter and handier design. The Dragoons in particular, who were in essence mounted infantry, carried a 42-inch barreled weapon that was easier to handle on horseback. The Royal Marines adopted a 42-inch barreled musket as well in 1757. The eventual adoption of a shorter infantry musket was accepted on paper in 1769 and was called the Short Land Musket to differentiate from earlier Long Land muskets.
What Does this mean for the Recreated 7th?
The 7th foot arrived in North America in April of 1773. This is four years after the adoption of the Short Land musket for infantry. Does this mean the 7th was issued new muskets of the latest pattern prior to embarkation? DeWitt Bailey’s research shows the 7th being issued a complete set of Arms and accoutrements on August 24th,1764 which is without a doubt the Long Land muskets. The doctrine of the Ordnance Board was to use up older weapons before new ones were issued. It was also standard practice to issue older pattern weapons to units destined for foreign service as a matter of thrift. That being so it was likely the 7th arrived in North America with Long Land pattern arms. Bailey's research shows the 7th being augmented 282 muskets and bayonets and 1 sergeants fusil 30 August 1775. Obviously, these are for losses and weapons put out of order through hard use. The numbers of Shortland Muskets being produced by this time theoretically meant that as older weapons became worn or lost, they were replaced by the latest model. May 21, 1777 shows another major issue of 390 muskets and bayonets and the following month, 32 fusils to replace Sergeants Halberds. 180 more were issued Christmas eve 1778! Short of more documentation, it can be theorized that the 7th carried the Shortland musket exclusively from late 1775 till leaving New York harbor and as such, is the approved model for the recreated 7th.
There are several options for a new recruit in acquiring a Short Land Musket for reenacting purposes. The majority of people in the hobby carry the Italian made Pedersoli Brown Bess. These are readily available, and parts are easy to find in case of a broken spring or screw. While prices are over a thousand dollars for a new one, a used musket can often be found from folks leaving the hobby at a great discount.
Occasionally, one can find the excellent Japanese made Miroku Bess for sale! These have not been produced since the 1980’s, but they can be found second hand. They are very similar to their Italian counterparts and are much lighter in weight.
Additional options are the muskets produced in India. While these pass the 20-foot test, they are made using stock wood of native teak which needs to be refinished to resemble European walnut. The locks are rough and need to be tuned. Overall, they are generally more of a character of a Land Pattern musket but are adequate for reenacting. There are several vendors in the US and Canada who import and sell these muskets. On the plus side, these reproductions are half the price of a new Pedersoli.
For those who have deep pockets and a penchant for self-abuse, a custom-made musket made from castings produced at The Rifle Shoppe is the top tier option. One must endure at least a year wait for the component parts. Assembling one of these “kits” is not for the faint of heart! A knowledge of heat-treating springs and basic metallurgy is helpful. Not trying to discourage anyone, but any of the above options is more realistic! However, if one wants a highly accurate weapon in terms of stock shape, metal furniture details, and overall accurate appearance, this is the obsessive-compulsive man's option……. don’t ask me how I know!