Research Press

Historical Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Military History

Military Marksmanship

For the soldier to take advantage of the advances in firearms technology, so musketry instruction needed to evolve to meet changing military tactics and capabilities. The following articles cover accounts of military marksmanship and informationon musketry instruction. A School of Musketry was established at Hythe, in Kent, in 1853; see Hythe School of Musketry for related articles.

  • British Musketry Manuals - A guide to British musketry instruction manuals.
  • Life in a Crimea Rifle Pit - First hand account of life in a rifle pit during the Crimean War [1855].
  • Chalons - The Camp - A brief comparative overview of the arming and training of the French and British soldier [1856].
  • 'Pickets' versus Bullets - Musketry instruction evolving to follow small arms development [1859].
  • Indian Mutiny Long Shots - Comment on the effect of shooting a fouled muzzle loading Enfield rifle, and on the effectiveness of long range volley fire on artillery crews [1859].
  • Rifle Instruction in the USA - Military rifle instruction manuals in the US Army and National Guard.
  • Long-Range Rifle Fire - An overview of the development of the rifle in British military service from 1680 to 1885, and the impact on long-range shooting [1885].

British Musketry Manuals

The year 1859 was a remarkable one in the annals of Rifle Shooting. It marked the sudden flowering of the Volunteer Movement and the foundation of the National Rifle Association. A new and enlarged 2nd Edition of the Infantry Manual entitled "Field Exercices and Evolutions of Infantry 1859" was prepared with many of the lessons of the Crimea absorbed. The 1st February 1859 saw the beginning of the new series of smaller format Musketry Instructions now more grandly entitled "Regulations For Conducting The Musketry Instruction Of The Army." Popular at the time are the Official Pocket Editions of some of these manuals. Bound in red leather and secured by a hinged brass clasp they are attractively embossed with the full Royal Arms and the title. 

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Life in a Crimea Rifle Pit

The following letter extract is reprinted from the Morning Chronicle (London), Monday 14 May 1855. It provides an interesting first hand account of life in a rifle pit during the Crimean War. Of particular note is the long range marksmanship with the newly issued Enfield rifle, together with comment on shooting in conjunction with a spotter whilst firing upon gunners.

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Chalons - The Camp

At present, in respect of arms and riflemen, England is in advance of the armies of the world. The Enfield rifle, in accuracy, workmanship, and general efficiency, is the best weapon carried by any soldier. Other arms are looming in the distance which will be to it what it was to Brown Bess. Indeed there seems no definite limit to projectile power. Whether the powers of man to use it will keep pace with its progress, will be the next problem. At present, man is up to the mark of the weapon - in fact, trained marksmen show an ability to shoot and hit at distances where, as a rule, the Enfield begins to fail in accuracy.

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'Pickets' versus Bullets

THE old regulation-musket, known in the army by the affectionate sobriquet of 'Brown Bess,' would sometimes, though not always, carry a bullet with a certain degree of precision about a hundred yards; but beyond that very moderate distance, no one, however expert, could make sure of hitting even a barn-door; the aim of the individual who pulled the trigger having very little to do with the direction taken by the projectile. We have lately had an opportunity of seeing a great many men trained to the use of the new arm; and it may interest the reader to learn something of the process by which the lad who has perhaps never fired a shot in his life, is converted into a more or less skilful rifleman.

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Rifle Instruction in the USA

In the immediate post-Civil War years in America, there was understandably little interest in marksmanship or military matters from the general public. Whilst the US National Guard received plenty of drill and marching instruction there was scant, if any, marksmanship training. The impetus for the development of marksmanship skills within America’s National Guard units came from the pages of the Army and Navy Journal. 

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