What change in the construction of rifles helped the Americans during the Revolutionary War?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There was a change in the construction of weapons during the Revolutionary War that helped the Americans. The British were using the flintlock musket. While this musket was not very accurate, it could be loaded within thirty seconds, as opposed to the two minutes it took to load an older musket. Sometimes, the speed of loading a musket was the difference between life and death. Because of its lack of accuracy, the British often used two lines of rotating shooters in battle.

The Americans also began to use the Kentucky Long Rifle. This rifle was more accurate than the older musket. The barrel was longer, which burned the powder better, increasing the effective range of the rifle . It could be accurate up to 200 yards. Because this weapon was slow to load, it was often used in sniper attacks against the British behind their lines. This enabled the Americans to kill British generals, which could impact the outcome of the war.

jeffclark eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important differences in the construction of firearms around the time of the American Revolution is the transition that was taking place between the musket and the rifle. Many people think they are the same thing but there is a world of difference.

The British forces were armed with the traditional musket, typically one called the "Brown Bess." A musket has a smooth bore (or inner barrel) and shoots a ball. The effective range of a musket was around 75 to 100 yards and it was not very accurate. This is why the British troops tended to group the riflemen together and shoot volleys, increasing the likelihood of more hits.

The rifle, which was becoming more and more popular in America, has a "rifled" barrel (with grooves cut into the inside that produce a spin) and shoots a bullet which, because of its shape and spin, is much more accurate at greater ranges. A good rifleman could hit his target at 200 to 300 yards, while experts could shoot accurately up to 400.

The advantage of the musket was that, with training, a musketeer could shoot up to 4 times per minute while a rifleman would probably shoot once per minute. Speed was being sacrificed for distance and accuracy.

This is probably the greatest change in the construction of firearms that was seen during the Revolution.

To learn more about the various military technologies and tactics used in the Revolutionary War, check out this podcast: