Muskets - a brief history


From the Civil War period, there were generally two types of muskets in existence - the flintlock and the matchlock.

A matchlock works by using a lit match (slow burning fuse) which, when touched to the power in the flashpan, flames through the flash hole to ignite the internal powder.

A flintlock is more akin to a cigarette lighter as instead it uses a flint to strike against steel to spark the powder ignition. The flintlock is quicker and more user-friendly and fast became the foote's musket of choice. 

To fire a musket, a portion of powder is inserted into the barrel from a powder flask or set of bandoliers (individual wooden barrels containing one shot apiece suspended on a strap across the chest) before the musket ball is added and the ramrod used to pack down the two into the muzzle ready for firing.

Neither weapon however was particularly accurate, as the riffling of the barrel necessary to permit true accuracy - although invented in 1498 - did not become commonplace until the nineteenth century.  Indeed prior to then, if you aimed a musket at a target the size of a garage door from 20 foot away, you could not necessarily guarantee to hit it!  For this reason, muskets were far more effective when utilised within a block (a unit comprising of multiple armed soldiers) which could weald devastating results en masse.

Nor were the weapons especially quick; a good musketeer could only fire off 3 rounds in a minute but most were much slower.  This gave rise to the  manoeuvre whereby a line of musketeers would fire simultaneously, then as soon as their weapons were

discharged, promptly remove to behind a pre-loaded line-up waiting behind them who stepped forward to take up the front position allowing the previous line to reload.    This meant that the enemy could be subjected to a continuous bombardment of ceaseless gunfire – another highly effective strategy.

When all the gunpowder was gone, musketeers also had the added advantage of turning their weapon around and using the solid butt of it as club with which to bludgeon their foe.

Special skills or training required:

No person is permitted to use a musket on or off the field without specialist training and they must be in possession of a valid black powder licence to handle a musket at all.  Newcomers interested in becoming a musketeer are provided with a wooden 'dummy' musket until they have satisfactorily passed the safety training.  Whilst the Sealed Knot only fires blanks, it is to be remembered that the musket is still classed as a weapon and therefore safety standards and practices are paramount at all times. 

Musket blocks undertake regular training known as 'drill'.  Instructions may be given by drum or vocally from the officers so it is important for musketeers to have familiarity with the commands and range of manoeuvres expected of them.

A musketeer will also have to learn how to thoroughly clean their weapon to ensure it stays in top combat condition and safe to use.


Cost of kit (excluding standard clothing):

Please note that the following costs are approximate for basic level kit.  Costs vary dependant upon supplier so the ones quoted below are intended as a guideline only.

  • Flintlock: £350-400    or  Matchlock: £250-300

  • Bandolieers: £80-120

  • Powder flask: around £50

  • Flint: £5 for 5

  • Match: £10-15  Only needed for a matchlock. Bought in lengths of 5-6m. Allow approx 1m per battle.

  • Gloves: £15-25

  • Cleaning materials:  allow £80-90 for a starter kit for all materials

  • Shotgun licence: around £50

  • Black power licence - renewed annually, same time as shotgun licence.


No of musketeers in Scots Brigade:

This is by far the largest group of combatants that the Scots Brigade can field and is made up of both men and women (in men's kit only). 

With a full turn out, the Scots can typically muster in the region of  2-3 musket blocks, comprising 6-9 bodies per block (including the 2 Corporals) plus one Sergeant each and an Officer to oversee the Division.


Where Found:
i) In troop line-up: Behind the drummers and/or pike depending on numbers and procession formation.  Many blocks of musket may often line up in unison one behind the other.
ii) On field: Performing manoeuvres and firing at the enemy as directed by the Officers.  When under attack by horse, the musket block form a protective circle around the drummers, ensign, officers and water carriers.

An important note about Musketeers

in Gordon's Regiment

As Gordon’s is a highland unit, we are the only regiment in the Sealed Knot permitted to fight with swords, in place of a primary weapon.  In addition to the sword, each Gordon’s musketeer is expected to also carry a staple accoutrement of the highlander – the targe; a round shield used for protection as well as a mode of weaponry in its own right. 

There are often times in a battle where the muskets will be put aside, allowing the Gordon’s musketeer to fight with sword and targe in the traditional highland way.  It is to be noted however, that Braveheart-esque behaviour and attitude is not what Gordon’s aspire too and such-like conduct is actively discouraged.