Antique Charleville Muskets



2015-06-26 11:15:35

Antique Charleville Muskets are .69 caliber French muskets used in the 18th century.

Background & history of production

The first flintlock firearm was created by Marin le Bourgeoys for King Louis XIII, shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610.

The model of Flintlock muskets was then developed throughout the 17th century. This lead to, in 1717, a standardised flintlock musket for the French infantry, the first to be issued to all infantry troops.

These French infantry muskets, or French pattern muskets, came to be known as the Charleville musket due to their manufacture at the Charleville-Mezieres armoury in Ardennes, despite the fact that they were also produced at other armouries around France. The nickname dates back to the U.S. Revolutionary War, as Americans referred to all musket models as Charlevilles.

The design was modified several times over the years. Later models remained in use until 1840, when flintlocks were superseded by the percussion lock system.

Charleville muskets were smoothbore firearms, accurate to around 50 to 100 metres. The stock was generally walnut. They were designed to be fired in mass formations, and used as a pike in closer combat situations. This additional use dictated the length and weight of the Charleville.

Model 1717 was the first standardised infantry musket. It had a .69 caliber barrel, was 60 inches long, and weighed 9-10 pounds. 48,000 of these were produced.

Model 1728 replaced the pinned barrel with one held in place by three barrel bands, which made it much sturdier. The lock gained a longer frizzen spring and the cock was modified. 375,000 of these were produced.

Throughout 1740 some minor changes were made to the Model 1728, but not enough to be considered a different model.

The musket was redesigned after the French and Indian war, and thus model 1763 came about. The barrel was shortened but the weight heavier. 88,000 of these were produced.

Shortly afterwards in 1766, this heavier design was thought to be too heavy, so various modifications were made to lighten it once more. Though the 1766 is considered a separate model, it was often referred to as a ‘light model 1763’ musket. 140,000 were produced. These models were used by the French during the American revolution, and the model 1777 was used throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Model 1777 is often thought to have been used in large numbers by American troops during the U.S. Revolutionary war. However, it was used not by Americans, but by French troops serving on American soil. American troops were generally issued with models 1763 and 1766.

Several changes were made through models 1770 to 1776, which could be separate models or simply variations. 70,000 models were produced over this period.

Almost all of the models were also produced in shorter Dragoon (cavalry) versions known as carbines.

In the 1830s and 1840s, many old Charleville muskets were converted to percussion lock.

Did you know?

The Charleville musket was the inspiration for the Springfield musket, as well as the Russian M1808 musket.

Collecting guide

The Charleville musket is a firearm of much historical significance, and is therefore very popular among collectors.

There have been numerous small modifications to the Charleville models, some of them so small as to not constitute a whole new model. Therefore differences within the time span of one model are common.

As with other firearms, the muskets become more valuable if they have an interesting provenance.

Be warned: modern Charleville replicas are produced by several manufacturers for use in historical re-enactments.

Price guide and notable auction sales

Charleville muskets are usually sold for between $300-$3,000. However, if an item has a particular provenance, the value goes up.

  • Model 1777 Charleville musket, used in the War of 1812, sold for $2,400 by Cowan’s Auctions in May 2012.
  • Model 1774 Charleville musket, sold for $2,629 by Heritage Auctions in June 2010.
  • Model 1766 Charleville musket, attributed to the Battle of Bennington, sold for $2,875 by Bonhams in December 2005.
  • Model 1771 Charleville musket with 1774 modification, sold for $13,500 by Cowan’s Auctions in May 2012.
  • Model 1763 Charleville musket owned by Narragansett chief, King Tom Ninigret, sold for $17,000 by Bonhams in October 2006.
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