The musket: “Brown Bess”
The British Army’s Land Pattern Musket, nicknamed the “Brown Bess” was a smoothbore muzzle-loader.
Smoothbore refers to the finish of the inside of the barrel of the musket. A smooth bore does not impart any rotational forces to the fired projectile.
Loading a musket was an involved process. First, a measured amount of gunpowder is poured into the muzzle, followed by wadding to hold the gunpowder in place. Then the musket ball is dropped down the barrel. A ramrod is used to ensure the ball, the wadding and the gunpowder are all securely tamped against the base of the barrel.
A well trained soldier could reload a Brown Bess in twenty seconds, after each individual shot.
The Modern Assault Rifle: M16
Firearms manufacture Colt began selling the M16 in 1964. The M16 is a full-automatic assault rifle used by the American military and other forces around the world.
Rifling refers to a helical pattern of grooves cut into the interior of a gun barrel. This rifling of the M16 barrel means that the propellant doesn’t just impart forward energy to the bullet but also rotational energy. Principle 17 – Another Dimension
This spin gives the bullet more stability and therefore better range and accuracy.
Whereas a muzzle loader’s ammunition is assembled on the battlefield, modern rifles like the M16 use a cartridge, which comprises the bullet projectile, the casing, the propellant and the firing pin all in one. Principle 5 – Merging, Principle 10 – Prior Action
This helps improve rate of fire.
Another way that automatic rifles like the M16 is the use of a magazine, which can hold 20 or more rounds. With each round fired, the bolt is cycled and the empty casing is ejected. Another round is then drawn into the chamber as the bolt closes, ready to fire. (Principle 34 – Discarding and Recovering)
Because of this automatic feeding of rounds from the magazine, an entire magazine of twenty rounds or more can be expended at a rate of one per second in semi-automatic mode (one bullet per pull of the trigger) or in two or three seconds in full auto (continuous fire until trigger release).
Once the magazine is expended, it can be replaced quickly with another one. Principle 1 – Segmentation
The bullet points
- A modern assault rifle in semi-auto can fire thirty times as fast as a musket.
- Whether or not you think that is a good thing depends on which side of the barrel you anticipate you and your loved ones are likely to be standing.
- The AR-15 used in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is a civilian, semi-automatic version of the M16. Most jurisdictions outside the United States prohibit private ownership of such weapons.