Where did the rifle called the "Brown Bess" get its name?

Expert Answers
ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reality is that the origin of the term "Brown Bess" is disputed.  People have differing ideas.  Here are some of them:

  1. "Brown" came from the brown color of the rifle stock.
  2. "Brown" came from an anti-rusting agent put on the metal that turned it a brown color.
  3. "Bess" came from either the word "Blunderbuss" or "arquebus," both early types of rifles.
  4. "Bess" came from the nickname for Elizabeth I.
  5. The "Brown Bess" is just a counterpart to an earlier rifle that was called "Brown Bill."

Personally, I prefer the explanation that the name comes from the German words "brawn buss" or "braun buss", meaning "strong gun" or "brown gun".  That's just my 2 cents, but it seems to me most probable.