Object Title

Model 1793 India Pattern (Type 1) Musket

Development

The musket was the standard weapon issued to the British soldier throughout the 18th and early-19th centuries. It would be the India Pattern musket that would play a central and pivotal role in the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

By the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, the British Army was armed with the Pattern 1777 and Pattern 1779(S) Short Land Pattern musket. This was a musket made to the strict quality guidelines of the Board of Ordnance, and was characterised by its 42 in barrel. After the war the expectation was for a period of peace, a time when the need for Ordnance materials would be low, so the standing contracts for the Pattern 1777 and the Pattern 1779(S) musket were cancelled. Parliament was not prepared to fund equipment it deemed unnecessary, so financial retrenchment was the order of the day.

The world changed in 1793, a mere 10 years after the loss of the American colonies. Britain found itself once again at war, this time with Revolutionary France. An army now reduced in size to an authorized strength of only 44,432 men had to be expanded rapidly, along with the local militia and volunteer forces. The call for muskets was huge. Indeed, in 1793 the total stock of muskets in armouries around Britain, including the central arsenal at the Tower of London, was around 60,000. The stocks held in French arsenals amounted to over 700,000.

Something needed to be done. At first the Board of Ordnance tried to ramp up production of the Short Land Pattern muskets by engaging new contractors. Yet despite producing over 31,000 muskets in 1793 the numbers were still woefully inadequate for the expanding forces.

The Board of Ordnance had to fill the gap. They did this by ordering 10,000 muskets from the Birmingham gun trade and 10,000 from their usual emergency suppliers in Liege, Belgium. However this was still not enough, especially as the private contractors in both Birmingham and London were hard at work fulfilling orders for the private trade and for the East India Company, one of the biggest private purchasers of military arms. To begin to solve this lack of supply the Master General of the Ordnance, the Duke of Richmond, suggested to the government that they persuade the East India Company to sell their stocks of muskets to the government and also to agree not to place any further orders until the Ordnance's requirements were met.

The duke wrote to the Home Secretary, Henry Dundas, on the matter. As Chairman of the Board of Control of the East India Company Dundas had earlier been instrumental in securing parliamentary approval for the renewal of the East India Company's monopoly. The duke stated that he was: 'aware how unpleasant it must be to take such a step, and to deliver out to our troops these East India Arms, which are considered of somewhat an inferior quality to ours, but ... the least important must give way to the most; and you will be best able to judge whether the East India Company can admit of a delay in respect of theses arms. And altho' they might not be quite so perfect as ours, they undoubtedly must be serviceable ones, and such as the new Raised Corps must put up with on the current Emergency.'

This suggestion was met with agreement, and the idea of introducing the East India Company's arms into British Army service was conceived. By the end of 1794 the East India Company had delivered 29,920 muskets into government stores, all that they could spare. Indeed transactions for East India Company muskets would continue throughout the duration of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. By 1815, the East India Company had sold the Board of Ordnance at least 142,970 small arms.

The musket that the East India Company supplied was one originally designed by General Lawrence for East India Company service, altered and simplified by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Windus in 1771. The musket in Company service became known as the 'Windus' pattern. In 1795, the Board of Ordnance began to order 'India Pattern' muskets on its own account and by 1797 it officially adopted the musket as the Model 1793 and began to place substantial orders for it with the Birmingham gun trade.

The Model 1793 India Pattern musket was standardized by the Board of Ordnance in 1797, taking account of its cheapness, simplicity of design and ease of manufacture. By the end of 1797, the Birmingham gun trade was able to deliver some 72,000 muskets to the government proof house at Bagot Street.  The success of this model, along with its slightly modified successor the Model 1809 India Pattern, can be gauged by the fact that between 1795 and 1815 nearly 3 million were produced at an average price of 18 shillings and 5 pence (roughly £3,000 in today's money).

Use and Effect

The Model 1793 India pattern was stocked to 4.5 in (11.43 cm) of the muzzle, the 39in barrel (99 cm) being retained by three pins and the upper swivel screw. There are three brass ramrod pipes, as opposed to the four for the Short Land Pattern musket. All the brass is simpler in design, thus aiding the mass production of cast parts for the setter uppers (i.e. the assemblers), as was the lock. The stock is plain, and the walnut of an inferior heart and sap quality (supplies of which were still obtained from Italy, despite Napoleon trying to throttle British trade with Europe). The calibre was nominally .76 in (19.3 mm) or 11 bore, but the size of the ball was in fact .693 in (17.6 mm). The amount of powder to be used for a charge was recommended as 6 drams.  The overall length of this musket is 55 in (139 cm) and with its attached bayonet 73 in (185.5 cm). The weight is measured at 9lb 11oz (4.4 kg), almost a pound less that the earlier Short Land Pattern musket.

During the India Pattern's service there were many in the army and the Ordnance Department who were aware that the India Pattern had shortcomings. Hans Busk (1815-1882), the author of The Rifle and How to Use It, wrote in 1859 that the British service musket was:

'..The very clumsiest and worst contrived of any firelock in the world. It required the largest charge of powder and the heaviest ball of any; yet owing to the absence of every scientific principle in its construction, its weight and windage were the greatest, its range the shortest, and its accuracy the least; at the same time it was the most costly of any similar arm in use, either France, Belgium, Prussia or Austria.'

This was somewhat unfair criticism, written some 30 years later with the benefit of hindsight. Test results then and now show that the India Pattern was in fact no worse than many of its foreign competitors and in some cases considerably better. It should also be noted that the quality of British gunpowder was by far the best in Europe and indeed the most widely available. Britain supplied much to its allies on the continent during the Napoleonic wars.

Engagements for the infantry were traditionally at relatively close distances, often the result of closely controlled battlefield management. In 1811 an anonymous soldier of the 71st Regiment of Foot, writing of his experiences of fighting the French at Fuentes de Onõro, recorded:

'During our first advance a bayonet went through between my side and clothes, to my knapsack, which stopped its progress. The Frenchman to whom the bayonet belonged fell, pierced by a musket ball from my rear-rank man. Whilst freeing myself from the bayonet, a ball took off part of my right shoulder wing and killed the rear-rank man, who fell upon me. We kept up our fire until long after dark. My shoulder was black as coal from the recoil of my musket; for this day I had fired 107 round of ball cartridge.'

This was not an uncommon account, and would have been just as true at the Battle of Waterloo. If we assume an average of 80 cartridges fired by about 50,000 allied infantry at Waterloo then the expenditure of ammunition would have amounted to over 4 million cartridges. Although not scientific, it does give a flavour of the ferocity of battle on the 18th June 1815.

In terms of performance, tests show that the musket's is most accurate at about 50 yards. Analysis of 19 battles between 1750 and 1830 show that the average engagement distance for infantry was 64 yards and that closing fire, when infantry was advancing and firing, was delivered at a mere 30 yards. In terms of rate of fire, a British infantryman was expected to manage three rounds a minute when in combat.  Effect tests carried out by the East India Company in 1834-35, using a Board of Ordnance India Pattern musket, showed that it could penetrate three 1-inch-thick deal planks set 12 in apart at 60 yards, and then penetrate one inch into the third three-layer set of planks. This set of results was with the service charge of 6 drams of good-quality British powder, and when you observe the slow motion footage of a musket ball penetrating a gel block and shattering a simulated bone you can well understand the damage that musket ball wrought on the field of Waterloo.

Videos

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edited sequence of the slow motion footage taken of Jonathan Ferguson firing an India Pattern Musket

Statistics

Barrel length 99 cm (39 in)
Calibre 19.3 mm (0.76 inch), nominal 11 bore
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1793
Loading muzzle loading
Overall length 139 cm (55 in)
Rate of fire 3 rounds per minute
Weight 4.39 kg (9 lb 11 oz)

Author

Mark Murray-Flutter