Shotguns vs. Muskets


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dovedescending
May 31, 2011, 08:43 PM
I was idly musing on the interstate today about smoothbore accuracy, and wondered: how does a modern shotgun firing slugs (NOT a rifled slug gun, just a plain ol' shotty) compare to a Brown Bess, or some such weapon of yore? What kind of groups off a bench could one expect from each at 25 yards? 50 yards? 74.6344 yards?

Any thoughts? Does a modern shotgun have much advantage over a musket, ammunition wise? (I realize that breechloading, cartridges, pump mechanisms, etc all have a distinct advantage over muzzleloading. I'm interested in a "shot by shot" analysis.)

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tyeo098
May 31, 2011, 08:50 PM
musketballs bounced around in the barrel alot, reducing accuracy.
shotguns firing slugs shouldnt have this problem, they should be tight.

Mike OTDP
May 31, 2011, 09:17 PM
Tyeo is pretty close. A modern shotgun with good slugs will shoot around 3 inches at 50 yards, IIRC. A smoothbore musket will do the same - IF you use a bullet that fits. Bullets during the Napoleonic era didn't. They were deliberately undersized to speed loading. The thinking was that the average soldier could not hit much, and was better off spraying bullets quickly instead of trying to aim.

DougW
May 31, 2011, 09:21 PM
Black powder fowling of the musket reduces accuracy with each shot.

My Benelli M1 Super 90 shoots 1oz Reduced Recoil slugs in a 4" group at 100 yards. Shooting over 10 to 15 slugs will cause the accuracy to decrease to 6" to 8" as the barrel lead's up. Shotgun is far more accurate than a musket.

AlexanderA
May 31, 2011, 10:24 PM
This question can't be answered without considering the tactics under which the muskets were meant to be used. Line up a regiment of several hundred men 2 to 4 ranks deep and fire three volleys a minute with buck and ball (followed by a bayonet charge) and see what damage is done to the enemy before them. This can't be compared to some hunters with shotguns. (Of course, the "enemy" would be doing likewise. That's why 18th-19th century warfare was such a godawful bloody mess.)

Jim Watson
June 1, 2011, 08:07 AM
As said, a shotgun and good slugs will do considerably better than a musket with standard army issue ball cartridge.

But before the Foster rifled slug came out, the shotgun "punkin ball" was the national standard for inaccuracy. The ball had to be made small enough to pass through a choke which meant it was undersize for most of its travel. No better than a musket, shot for shot.

Carl N. Brown
June 1, 2011, 08:18 AM
Brown Bess loaded powder and .69 ball in a.72 bore, rapid volley fire style, and Brown Bess loaded powder and patched ball fitting the bore, are two different things accuracy wise. With patched ball it is more like 12 ga punkin' ball accuracy, nowhere near muzzleloading rifle with patched ball but better than the loose smoothbore musket style load "rattle" fit.

goon
June 1, 2011, 07:02 PM
Yep - a PRB out of a smoothbore that takes up the "windage" in the bore is likely to be more accurate than just a load with powder, wad, and ball.

My Bess has shot about 4" groups at 25 yards with an unpatched ball - just powder, ball, and wadding to hold it in. But it is harder to hold steady because of the flash in the pan - that takes getting used to.

My 20 gauge with modern slugs at the same distance from the bench will put most slugs into the same nasty looking hole. It was accurate enough that I filed the bead down to adjust for both elevation and windage and felt it was worth the effort.

SlamFire1
June 1, 2011, 07:07 PM
This is offhand at 100 yards with a 58 caliber rifled musket. The plate is 12 inches in diameter.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Targets/Reduced460575100yard26feb06DSCN1818.jpg

I don't remember what a 12 Ga smoothbore slug will do at 100 yards. Don't think it will do as well.

However based on historic documents, it should do better than a smooth bore musket at 100 yards.

goon
June 1, 2011, 10:04 PM
I had a 12 gauge Mossberg 500 that could make clay pigeons on the backstop dance at 100 yards and occasionally even break one. All it had was a bead sight, 18" cylinder bore barrel. Never shot the Bess that far out yet - and now that I'm selling it to fund another muzzleloader, it's not looking like I will.

mr.trooper
June 1, 2011, 10:23 PM
Two inches at fifty, or four inches at one hundred, is about as good as it gets for a smooth bore shotgun. Brenneke style slugs tend to do better in most guns than Fosters.

DougW
June 1, 2011, 10:37 PM
Slamfire1, I am sure the modern incarnation of a "musket" rifle with current generation powder and bullets are more accurate than a vintage Brown Bess. But, if we are going to travel down that path, then my Remington 700VTR shooting <2" groups at 200 yards will have to be considered in the mix.

The OP was comparing "musket" smoothbore rifles to current smoothbore shotguns. If a more accurate peroid "rifle" is to be considered, then I would offer up the British Baker Rifle. Much more accurate than a Brown Bess, but even the Baker had it's issues with fowling.

YMMV though.......

Patriotme
June 2, 2011, 12:52 AM
Tyeo is pretty close. A modern shotgun with good slugs will shoot around 3 inches at 50 yards, IIRC. A smoothbore musket will do the same - IF you use a bullet that fits. Bullets during the Napoleonic era didn't. They were deliberately undersized to speed loading. The thinking was that the average soldier could not hit much, and was better off spraying bullets quickly instead of trying to aim.
They were probably right about being better off just spraying 3-4 rnds per minute vs well aimed fire. After the first volley I doubt that most soldiers could see much in the days before smokeless powder.

dagger dog
June 2, 2011, 06:02 AM
I owned a Winchester Ranger pump gun with a smooth bore rifle sighted 21 inch slug barrel, it would shoot rifled slugs into a 4" group at 60 yds, and would shoot non rifled sabot slugs tighter ,it was possible to keep the sabots into a 9" plate at 100 off the rest, that is if you were man enough to sit there and take the recoil.

Jim Watson
June 2, 2011, 07:52 AM
Opinions from the period:

A British officer with experience in the revolution of the Colonies said:

"A soldier's musket…will strike the figure of a man at 80 yards,
perhaps even at 100; but as for firing at a man at 200 yards
with a common musket, you might just as well fire at the moon
and have the same hope of hitting your object. I do maintain
and will prove, whenever called on, that no man was ever killed
at 200 yards by a common soldier's musket by the person who
aimed at him.

Gen. U.S. Grant wrote of the smoothbores still in service in the War Between the States:

"You might fire at a man all day from a distance of 125 yards
without him ever finding it out."

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