Object Title

Model 1805 New Land Pattern Light Infantry Musket

Development

With the 1803 proposal for the adoption of a new musket - the New Land Pattern - it was inevitable that other new arms would be considered to accompany it. With the conversion of the 43rd and 52nd Regiments into light infantry in 1803, the Adjutant General sent the Secretary of the Board of Ordnance a pattern of gun which the king had decided should be adopted and produced to arm these specialist troops. Accordingly, orders were issued for a modified version of the New Land Pattern, specifying that 'The barrel shall be browned, [and] a grooved sight shall be fixed at the Breech end of the barrel and a canvas cover similar to that used by the Austrian troops shall be provided for the purpose of covering and protecting the butt and lock of each piece.' It was the desire that the light regiments had an arm suitable for their new role.

Although several hundred were delivered for trial in 1804, their quality was poor, and consequently their use was limited. Moreover, the resumption of war with Napoleonic France that year curtailed the production of both variants of the New Land Pattern in favour of the cheaper and more readily available India Pattern. In August 1804 the Master General informed the Commander-in-Chief 'that the extreme pressure of business at present in every branch of the Ordnance Dept. precludes the possibility of the sort of Fuzee [musket] you propose being furnished for the Light Infantry Regiments.'

By 1810 the experience of the British Army in the Peninsular War, and the resulting demand for additional light troops, led to renewed interest in the light infantry musket. The Ordnance issued preliminary tenders for production, while at the same time improving its design. Firstly, the barrel was maintained at 39 in (the length first tried in 1804) to render the musket lighter and more manageable. More importantly, authorities now added a scrolled brass 'pistol' grip to facilitate accurate shooting, a smaller lock of 6 in, and a rudimentary post back sight at the breech of the barrel to assist with aiming.  Also, for the first time the barrels were to be routinely browned, as it was understood that having the sun reflect off bright barrels was not a good thing for light infantrymen. By 1812 production of the initial 20,000 weapons was under way, and the muskets soon saw hard service in the hands of the light infantry regiments fighting under Wellington in Spain and Portugal, including the most of the light battalions of the King's German Legion. Other light regiments receiving this musket included the 43rd, 51st, 52nd, 60th, 68th, 71st, and 85th.

The light infantry muskets also saw use in the hands of British light infantry regiments dispatched to North America in 1814, such as the 7th Battalion, 60th Regiment, as well as the 43rd and 85th Light Infantry in the Washington and New Orleans campaigns.

Use and Effect

In terms of use, the Model 1805 New Land Pattern Light Infantry musket was little different from the earlier India Pattern muskets, especially as it had the same barrel length. The key thing about this model was that it was lighter than the standard infantry musket.

In terms of performance, tests show that the musket is most accurate at about 50 yards. The light infantry variant was no different. Analysis of the use of muskets in 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 1834-5, using a Board of Ordnance musket, showed that it could penetrate three 1-inch-thick deal planks set 12 inches apart at 60 yards, and then penetrate 1 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

Statistics

Barrel length 99.5 cm (39 in)
Calibre 19 mm (0.75 in)
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1812
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 140.6 cm (55.3 in)
Weight 4 kg (9.6 lb)

Author

Mark Murray-Flutter