Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Bit Of A Bore

By the standards of modern firearms, 18th century muskets were a crude device. The Prussian musket of the Seven Years War had a bore of roughly three quarters of an inch. The outer diameter of the barrel must have been a little less than an inch. Yet despite all this, if you look at an example of a musket, you will find it is elegantly shaped and is quite slender when compared to its length.

Firing A Brown Bess Musket (Image from Wikipedia)

Elegant and slender are not two adjectives that can be applied to typical wargames figure muskets. I recognise that we are limited by having to work with figures that can cope with rough handling. The best painted battalion in the world would still fail in its looks if its muskets were bent into a myriad of shapes or, worse still, broken off at the shoulder. But does this really force us to equip our metal heroes with weapons that look like ancient medieval arquebuses?

A musket correctly scaled would be no more than 1/60th of an inch in diameter. A certain thickening of the barrel is going to be necessary if we are to have muskets cast of ordinary metal that last for longer than a single campaign. But is it really necessary to decorate the barrel with metal hoops that scale up to a thickness of half an inch? These might be appropriate on a fantasy dwarf, but I find it hard to accept on an 18th century musket.

The Stadden figures that I use have relatively thin muskets compared to the common crowd. So slender that I find it difficult to store the figures: even just laying them flat, the barrels are prone to slight bending. Minden figures (which I do not own, but admire greatly) have slightly thicker muskets. Indeed their muskets do look rather ungainly to me, although I suspect this is partly because they accompany a figure that is otherwise very elegant indeed.


johnpreece said...


I am sure you remember when we all used to laugh at mini figs for their telegraph pole spears.

Unfortunately the last laugh is on us, as now muskets are made to match.

At least the figures are pretty well indestructable though one may sometimes wish otherwise.


Andy Mitchell said...

I was always a Hinchliffe follower: their use of steel rods for spears, plus realistically proportioned anatomy, mattered to me far more than completeness of range. I do wonder if the success of the Minifigs range didn't in effect breed a generation of wargamers who do not worry about such things.

John Clements said...

I agree absolutely. Most muskets are too fat and too short. RSM are slim but the bayonets seem too short and they lack detail on the weapon itself. Personally I find the Minden muskets about right as a compromise between scale and durability and wish I could buy them separately to replace the fragile offerings that accompany the Willie figures.