By: John Restuccia
Our country is facing incredibly turbulent times. It seems as though everyday on social media one will be bombarded with information overload. Left and right constantly fighting, and neighbors and family bickering on topics they often know nothing about. One topic specifically being discussed is gun control. Everyone has a stance on gun control nowadays. It doesn’t matter whether you have used a firearm or if you have any background on firearms previously, odds are that you have picked a side and dug in.
Walmart’s recent decision to stop selling certain ammo for guns recently has gotten me to think more about this issue. A question popped into my mind. How many people actually know how deeply ingrained firearms are in American history? There have been multiple times throughout American history where a single firearm has been so influential that it has shaped the very nation that we live in today. In this 3 part series, I will be looking at how deeply ingrained firearms are in America, as well as which firearms have shaped this country. What better place to start than the founding of our country, the American Revolution?
Almost everyone knows the story of the American Revolution. The story of our founding fathers bravely standing up to the oppressive British control with their excessive taxation. However many do not know of the firearm that helped win the war – the Brown Bess.
The Brown Bess wasn’t the automatic or semi-automatic weapons of today that can carry multiple rounds in a clip or magazine. The gun was a single shot rifle. At best one can get three to four rounds per minute with the Brown Bess. No one really knows how the rifle got its name, but it is believed to be from the brown wooden stock the gun had, or from the German phrase “Braun Buss,” which means “strong gun.” The bullets the Brown Bess used were not the ones you see today, but were actually round steel balls. The gun was best used at 50-100 feet. The maximum range which you might be able to hit someone? 300 yards. By comparison, a modern high-powered rifle can hit a target at 1,000 feet. That’s quite a difference. After you fired your shots odds are close combat was going to ensue. Thus the bayonet was attached to the Brown Bess. The gun was equipped to have a 17-inch bayonet attachment if needed.
Reloading the Brown Bess was an incredibly long process. You can’t just put in a cartridge with multiple rounds and pull the trigger. Thoughtco.com laid out a list of how to exactly reload the gun. “First you bite the cartridge. Next push the frizzen forward to open the pan and pour a small amount of powder into the flash pan. Snap the frizzen back to position covering the flash pan. Then hold the musket vertically so that the muzzle is up. Afterwards pour the remaining powder down the barrel and insert the bullet in the barrel. Push the cartridge paper into the barrel. Remove the ramrod from pipe under the barrel and used to push the wadding and bullet down the barrel. Replace the ramrod and raise musket to firing position with the butt against the shoulder. Finally pull back the hammer.”
This was how the war was fought. The reason this gun was chosen was simple. The British government distributed the gun themselves. The British forces used the same firearm in the war. Prior to the war, this was the gun that could be found everywhere in the colonies. When the Mayflower came over to form the 13 original colonies as British citizens, this was the gun they would have. That is why it was the choice for American militias at the time, because they already had the gun. Remember that America was just a beginning country at this time. They couldn’t afford to make brand new firearms and give them out to troops. The original Contintental Army was made up of local and state militias. Because the Brown Bess was the most common gun, it was frequently used in the conflict. It was well known how to use and due to its versatility with the bayonet attachment was a clear choice that put the Contintental Army on the same playing field equipment wise as the British Army.
The Brown Bess was used for many years, even after the Revolutionary war. There have been reports of the gun even being used during the civil war, which took place 100 years after the gun was created. When looking back on the Revolutionary War and our founding fathers fighting for independence, this was the tool they used to free themselves. This is what they trusted their lives to and without it, we might still be under British rule. That is why I consider the Brown Bess the very first gun that helped shape America.