Revolutionary Arms — Top 5 Guns of 1776

In honor of the recent July 4th holiday, I decided to take a look at some of the coolest and most influential firearms of the American Revolution. Some of these were used by the British, others were used by the Americans, some were used by both. However, all of these firearms paved the road for what we have today.  

A Little Background

Before we get into things, I want to take a moment to cover some specifics in regards to the types of firearms featured — the rifle and the musket. The design differences come down to how the weapons were designed to be used, which primarily relates to volume of fire and engagement distance. 

Paper cartridge
Example paper cartridge often used by muskets.

The musket was designed for close engagements (within 100 yards, which is being generous). Muskets are smooth-bore firearms designed for volley fire. When fired in conjunction with many other muskets, it increased the hit probability. Muskets were heavier and featured a bayonet mount for edged combat. They typically fired a paper cartridge that was preloaded with black powder and a lead ball. This, combined with the smooth bore, made for faster reload speeds. A huge advantage during battle.

The rifle was originally a hunting weapon design, therefore it was lighter weight, as it was meant to be carried longer distances. The rifle gets its name from the spiral grooves cut inside the barrel, or “rifling.” These grooves create a spin on the projectile for increased accuracy out to farther distances. However, rifles were slower to reload, as the patch, powder, and ball were all separate components. 


  • Close engagements
  • Heavier, with bayonet mount 
  • Smooth bore, faster reload, volley fire
  • Typically use a paper cartridge preloaded with powder and ball 


  • Lighter to be carried distance, hunting weapon design
  • More accurate out to longer ranges
  • Spiral grooved “rifled” barrel
  • Slower reloads — patch, powder, ball all separate

American Long Rifle

Let’s kick things off with the classic American Long Rifle. Also known as the “Kentucky Rifle,” this muzzle loading long rifle played the role of a crude sniper rifle during the American Revolution. The Long Rifle was accurate out to 200 yards, twice the typical range of standard muskets. 

The drawback to the American Long Rifle was that it was more difficult to load due to the ammunition design being three separate components. Additionally, the rifling grooves could foul, causing degradation in accuracy. To keep it running smoothly, it required more cleaning and maintenance. Because of this, it was typically used for select targets, rather than volley fire. Soldiers needed to make each shot count…

American Long Rifle
Source: Wikipedia

Pattern 1776 Infantry Rifle 

Up next is one of the most famous Revolutionary War firearms, despite only 1,000 being produced. The Pattern 1776 Infantry Rifle was German made for the British Royal Army to compete with the American Long rifle (both being based on the German Jäger rifle). With a 300-yard range (three times the typical musket) it was accurate out to a good 100 yards more than the American Long Rifle. It featured a hook-breech action and fired a .62 caliber projectile out of a 30-inch octagonal barrel. This is by far the rarest firearm on this list, with less than 10 being known as of today. 

Pattern 1776 Infantry Rifle
Source: Wikipedia

Charleville Musket

Commonly carried among the French Army, the Charleville Musket got its name from the geographic location of the manufacturing armory. The firearm utilized a flintlock clocking action, .69 caliber projectile, and featured a smooth bore barrel that was a little longer than typical, but no more accurate. It had a 100-yard effective range like average musket options. However, the Charleville Musket gained popularity among the American Army due to its availability, size, and adjustable bayonet. Due to the smaller caliber, the rifle was lighter weight and a bit easier to maneuver. Sometimes it’s better to arm more with less, than it is to arm less with more. 

Charleville Musket
Source: The American Revolution Institute

Ferguson Rifle

This next firearm could have changed the outcome of the Revolutionary War. The Ferguson Rifle featured an innovative firing mechanism that allowed the trigger guard to open the breech in one revolution, opposed to the 11 revolutions required by alternatives. This incredible mechanism not only made reloading that much faster, it also made the rifle more accurate. Because of this, it was the first breech-loading design adopted by any military. 

Cost was the limiting factor here. This fancy loading system was expensive and time consuming to produce. Therefore, the rifle primarily made its way into the hands of generals and other high-ranking military officials. If these were in the hands of more troops on the front lines, on either side, they would have likely pushed the effort in one direction or another. 

Ferguson Rifle
Source: Museum of the American Revolution

Brown Bess Bayonet

Finally, the most popular firearm of the Revolutionary War, the Brown Bess. This muzzle-loading, smooth-bore, flintlock musket was the standard issue infantry rifle of the British Royal Army. The Brown Bess was one of the most popular options for the Continental Army as well. The later “Bayonet” version was something akin to an upgraded tactical model. It featured an easily attached bayonet, which was heavily used in combat at the time. The .75 caliber musket was often used with a smaller .6 caliber ball so it would drop in faster, allowing for quicker reload speeds. In all likelihood, if you were on the battlefield at the time and not carrying a Brown Bess, the person next to you was. 

Brown Bess
Source: The American Revolution Institute


So, there you have it, the top five guns of 1776. All of these firearms helped pave the road for our current guns and liberties. It’s important we take a moment to thank the people who stood — and stand — up for what they believed in and defend our rights today. 

What’s your favorite firearm of the Revolutionary War? Share your choice with us in the Comment section.

Source link: by Alex Cole at