The Charleville Musket was a French designed, French built flintlock musket from 1717, where upon it became the first firearm to become a pattern or standard for an army, being used by the Kingdom of France from 1717.
The Charleville Musket used a smoothbore barrel which was not as susceptible to fouling and blockage caused by the gunpowder which prevent the weapon being loaded after sustained shooting. Although rifling had existed since the 16th century, the high cost and higher likelihood of blockages occuring in a rifled barrel made the smoothbore barrel a more reliable solution.
The barrel was bored to 0.69in, which became the standard calibre of muskets at that time (despite the Brown Bess, using .71 caliber musket balls, and produced on a larger scale). The smaller round was cheaper to produce as well as being lighter. The barrel was fitted by three barrel bands which made the Charleville stronger than the Brown Bess (whose barrel was fitted to the frame by pins) and measured 44in (1.12m).
The bayonet was 15in (381mm) in length, 2 inches shorter than that of the Brown Bess, and fitted to the underside of the barrel via a lug. The use of bayonets (it is estimated) accounted for one third of the Charleville's kills.
The flintlock mechanism used on the Charleville originated from the early 17th century, designed by Frenchman Marin le Bourgeoys in 1610.
The Charleville Musket was chambered in 0.69 calibre for 0.69in (17.5mm) musket balls and loaded via the muzzle. The cartridge (effectively a paper envelope containing the ball and black powder) would be ramed down the barrel using a ramrod. An infantryman would be expected to fire 3 shots in a minute.
Other ammunition to be used in the Charleville was buck shot and later percussion caps, when the age of the percussion rifle dawned in the 1820s (although very few Charlevilles would be converted having been almost entirely removed from service by that time).
The Charleville would be developed during its usage, with different stock shapes, powders and shots being used for the Charleville as France and Britain entered an arms race and the two muskets, the Charleville and the Brown Bess, were developed and refined.
The original Charleville Musket and the standard for the subsequent models of the Charleville muskets. Similar to the Brown Bess the barrel was fitted to the stock by pins, unlike later models which would use three barrel bands. Though the later Charleville Muskets had a barrel length of 44in (1.12m) the Model 1717s used 46in (1.17m) barrels. Around 48,000 Model 1717s are thought to have been produced.
The Model 1728 Charleville Musket replaced the pinned barrel with three barrel bands, allowing for easier disassembly and maintainence, as well as making the bayonet fit more securely and improve bayonet combat. A steel ramrod, for forcing the shot down the barrel, was issued with the Model 1728 from 1843.
Further refinements were to the lock mechanism, with a modified cocking mechanism and longer frizzen spring improving the reliability of the Charleville Model 1728. An estimated 375,000 Model 1728s are believed to have been produced.
A redesign of the Charleville followed the Seven Years War, with the 44in (1.12m) barrel officially becoming the standard barrel length. Other changes included a rounded breech plug, straightened stock (from the original 'cow's foot' butt) and ramrod given a trumpet shaped end. Around 88,000 Model 1763s were produced.
The Charleville Model 1766 aimed to lighten the Model 1763 in a variety of ways; thinning the barrel, shortened lock and thinner stock. The ramrod was replaced by a lighter button ended ramrod and the ramrod cover, originally made from iron, replaced by a spring under the breech.
A total of 144,000 Model 1766s were produced, proving to be more reliable and usable than the Model 1763.
Model 1770 - 1776Edit
The Charleville Model 1770 had stronger barrel bands, a modified lock plate and modified ramrod retaining spring. From 1771 the bayonet lug was moved and barrel strengthened. The Model 1773 is occassionaly considered to be a seperate version from the Model 1770, although the only major difference is a modified ramrod retaining spring.
The Model 1774 was designed with a square cut frizzen, pear shape ended ramrod and shorter trigger guard. Across this time the stock was inconsistently modified, some produced with a pronounced comb (a shaped feature on the topside of the stock) and others no comb at all. Through this period an estimated 70,000 Charleville Muskets were produced.
Model 1777EditThe Charleville Model 1777 was the final major revision to the Charleville Musket before it was replaced by the Modèle 1777 Musket in the same year. It featured a slanted flash pan, bridle and modified trigger guard all manufactured in brass.
The Model 1777 would be issued in different versions for different sections of the army:
- Model 1777 Artillery - 36in (0.91m) barrel and most features made in brass
- Model 1777 Dragoons - 42in (1.07m) barrel with majority of aesthetic components made in brass
- Model 1777 Navy - 42in (1.07m) barrel and all aesthetic features made in brass
In Russia the Tula Musket was the name for the Charleville Model 1808, sold to the Russians. The Charleville would be copied in Austria, Prussia, Russia and Belgium. From the 1830s the Charleville would be modified and produced with a percussion lock replacing the usual flintlock design.The Charleville would form the basis for several other muskets of the era: The Modele 1777 Musket of France and the American Model 1795 Musket, built by the Springfield Armory in 1795 and the Harper Ferry US Armory in 1800.
The Charleville Musket was the first firearm to become standard issue for any armed force, being used by the Kingdom of France from 1717. Like its British counterpart the Brown Bess, the Charleville would become one of the longest serving firearms in history, serving for 123 years from 1717 until 1840, although from 1777 the Charleville would be only in partial service, having been replaced by the Modèle 1777 Musket.
Nations to use the Charleville Musket were:
- Kingdom of France
- First French Empire
- Austria - Copied
- Belgium - Copied
- Prussia - Copied
- Russia - Imported from 1808 / Copied
- USA - Imported during American Revolutionary War