Brown Bess


March 31, 2010, 11:35 AM
Im toying with the idea of spending my tax return on a pedersoli Brown Bess. I think its an awesome piece of history and would make for a great conversation piece at the range.

But I had some questions...

1. How bad is the recoil? I know the roundball weighs something like 545 grains so im assuming its got a substantial kick. Im a bit recoil sensitive due to a past injury and a 20 gauge field load is about the edge of my comfort level. How would a Brown Bess compare?

2. Is it hard to find roundballs and patches for a .75 cal? I never really see them anywhere.

3. Does the gun have any degree of accuracy? Or do you just point and shoot?


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March 31, 2010, 12:09 PM
Recoil on my Brown Bess to me is tolerable and you can down load black powder. That's a pretty big ball and too much down loading will really cause it to drop. I generally shoot about 85 grains of 2FF and get good results. To me the accuracy is about the same as shooting a slug through a 12 gauge shotgun - out to about 75 yards, it's respectable, and I would not hesitate to take shots 50 yards or less.

I also load and use mine as a shot gun to hunt small game (squirrels, rabbits).

Balls are fairly easy to find, but like a lot of shooters, I cast my own to cut cost. I buy pillow ticking by the yard and cut my on patches.

To be honest with your recoil concern - if a 20 gauge field load is close to your limit, you probably won't like a Brown Bess. I would shoot one, before I bought one.

March 31, 2010, 01:19 PM
If you like the idea of a smoothbore flintlock you can maybe build one of your own or start watching Track of the Wolf. There are smaller bores available for flintlocks - I think there are smoothbores available down to .54. Personally, I want to have something like a Committee of Safety musket built in .62 caliber. The .75 of the Bess is just excessive for my purposes - mine will never see a real battlefield or stop a charging horse. The 20 gauge (.62 caliber) would do fine for deer and squirrels. It's on my wishlist.

March 31, 2010, 08:49 PM
Goon has a good point. Think in terms of a Charleville, or a fusil. Take a look at what Track of the Wolf has available.

Al LaVodka
March 31, 2010, 09:37 PM
Yeah, I was just gonna suggest a beautiful Pedersoli 1777 Charleville. At the very tail end of our revolution, but, what a stunning .69!

March 31, 2010, 10:52 PM
FYI - if you keep checking on Track's guns they seem to have a lot of used ones moving through. I can't afford one now but I still like to look.
Also, check out the traditional muzzloading forum. There are guys on there who have experiemented with boring out .50 and .54 caliber guns to the next size up in smoothbore. One has a T/C Pa hunter in .54 smoothbore that looks like a neat little gun to me. I could see maybe doing something like that with a Lyman trade rifle or Deerstalker eventually. Ought to be at least as good as a .410, which is fine for small game if you work with the limitations. Just a thought.

4v50 Gary
March 31, 2010, 10:56 PM
Big bore, but 10 lb of gun. Not bad at all.

Loyalist Dave
April 1, 2010, 07:31 PM
70 grains of 2Fg is 2.5 drams, and a .715 ball will be about a 1 1/4 oz. load, which is equivalent to a heavy 20 gauge load. The problem you have with the Bess is the brass butt plate, not a recoil pad.


April 2, 2010, 05:50 PM
Contemporary to the later years of the Bess and in a smaller caliber...

Just in case you're considering alternatives. BTW - I have no affiliation with the sellers, just found that on the muzzleloading forum.

And a used Bess -

April 2, 2010, 09:10 PM

here a copy of the article "Guns of Empire" I did for Guns Magazine. The Bess may have been pedersoli but was defarbed and I am not certain. It was a much friendlier arm than the contemporary Charlieville. Recoil was not bad and I particularly liked it with two ounces of number six shot. It would quite overwhelm small game

April 2, 2010, 09:40 PM
Two ounces of shot?!!!

April 2, 2010, 10:36 PM
as you can see, recoil with this full charge and round ball is nothing special:

At 25 yards, this squirrel and any others sitting in a four foot radius would have been in about the same amount of trouble:

April 3, 2010, 02:36 PM
Mec - that pic looks like it's before the main charge went off though. No smoke at the end of the bore.

And again...

That's like two 12 gauge loads at once!

April 3, 2010, 03:13 PM
So it is. That musket had extremely slow lag time. Here it is at full ignite. Still not much kick:

April 3, 2010, 05:55 PM
Wow! I bet it roars! :D
Is the long lock time because of being primed with the same grain of powder as the main charge? Would priming with 4Fg take care of that? Just wondering because although I think I'd like a smaller bore, I also think it may be more economical to pick up a used Brown Bess when I can afford it some day.

(and I'm still caught up on the payload that thing carries!)

April 3, 2010, 06:25 PM
1. How bad is the recoil? I know the roundball weighs something like 545 grains so im assuming its got a substantial kick. Im a bit recoil sensitive due to a past injury and a 20 gauge field load is about the edge of my comfort level. How would a Brown Bess compare?

The nice thing with muzzleloaders is you don't have to stick more powder down the barrel than you're comfortable with. You could easily work up a light-kicking load that develops about 800-1000 fps.

April 3, 2010, 07:16 PM
very likely going to ffffg would speed the locktime considerably. Also probably that this was a particularly slow musket. The charleville with the same powder was a bit faster. The original loading sequence called for the shooter to bite off the rear of the ctg, put some of the powder in the pan then pour the bulk of the powder down the barrel and ram the linen/paper and ball down the bore. = same powder all around.
Priming the pan before loading is a safety hazard and everybody now saves that step until last.
The 75 caliber holes the bess makes in varios things is very pleasant and the bayonet lug sticks up on the barrel just like front sight. It is much easier to shoot than the Charlevi9lle as that one is stocked in such a way that it is almost impossib le to lower your face enough to sight down the barrel and when you do, you get a face full of burning powder from the pan

Loyalist Dave
April 6, 2010, 07:35 AM
Actually, no. The 4Fg is so fine that it tends to spill out of the pan, as the locks are well know not to have a tight seal, and the granulation absorbs water fast as well because of the lack of a tight seal. 3Fg is fine for a prime. If you are serious about hunting with one, you may want to have the frizzen looked at. Even Italian frizzens can benefit from a rehardening, if not an application of kasenit. I have read on other forums of folks making a crude crucible by wrapping a frizzen in leather, and placing it striking side down in a steel can, and heating the can until the leather is burned off then quenching the frizzen. Well it doesn't get near enough hot for the carbon from the leather to go into the frizzen..., they are simply hardening the frizzen, but many folks swear by this.


Al LaVodka
April 6, 2010, 08:06 PM
I think the ffffg will be an improvement -- it has much more surface area and lights easier as well as burns faster. This is a given. Make sure you keep the touchole uncovered by powder -- it is the red-hot gas jet of the burning pan that touches the main charge off, not a trail of powder into the hole. This is a given. Even fffg is an improvement over ffffg in the pan. This I'll pretend is only my opinion.

April 6, 2010, 11:38 PM
If the pan isn't securely closing though, why not just remedy that issue with the lock and have a gun that works the way it should?

April 7, 2010, 01:02 AM
I agree with goon--there's no reason to stick with some ill-fitting lock.

I think you should go for the Bess. An eleven bore shoulder cannon designed to drop a 1,500 lb. charging battle horse with an angry lancer atop! What's not to love?

Al LaVodka
April 7, 2010, 09:02 PM
A well made gun is SUPPOSED to have a frizzen/pan cover that securely tops the pan. Ensuring this is something gunsmiths often do. The only really bad ones i've ever seen (even use) are "India"-made. You won't experience that w/the average Pedersoli.

Loyalist Dave
April 8, 2010, 07:40 AM
<heavy sigh>
First, the Bess lock does not have to be "improperly fit" to have problems, otherwise the flintlock would not have had several improvements AFTER the Bess was designed, let alone improvements to the Bess lock itself over time.

The frizzen to pan fit on the Bess lock (or other military flintlock muskets) is flat metal to metal. A few grains of powder on the rim, or at the hinge, will cause a very minor gap to remain. So too will fouling following discharge which will coat the frizzen as well as the hinge. Many Pedersoli locks when held up to the light, will show a small gap, when the frizzen is closed, as the lock is not designed to work with 4Fg. This gap will allow moisture, especially on a humid day, to contact the priming powder. 4Fg is well noted due to same reasons it lights so well, to absorb moisture faster than 2Fg or 3Fg. THUS, with a small gap, it may spill, or absorb moisture and actually foul when hunting.

Later designs, such as the Durs Egg lock, had pans to frizzens fitted with a seal, which did much better at preventing the problem of the military muskets.


Al LaVodka
April 8, 2010, 08:58 PM
Oh no, a gap allows moisture to contact priming powder!?

Where'd the rain on the parade come from? Yeah, we got it -- powder is hygrosopic. Like many an instigator it'll pull moisture out of thin air too (regardless so long as it is humid out), but better guns still have better fit especially on either side of the lock plate and finer powder still ignites and burns faster.

If it had been expedient, soldiers would still have been priming with finer powder than they put down the bore after the advent of paper cartridges.

I did fail to say "don't lick your powder," "don't spit into the wind or your pan" and, oh, "keep you powder dry."



PS: Wanna name this one for everyone?

April 8, 2010, 11:41 PM
Well i'll be a suck egged mule...looks like a navy peice to me with the hatch cover and all.

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