The Musket Drill - Shooting Sports Forum

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Old 05-05-2004, 23:37   #1
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 433
The musket drill was developed around 1597 by Jacob de Gheyn, with the assistance and instruction of Mauritz van Nassau. Prior to this time, the battlefield was more chaotic, and guys were often accidentally shot in the back of the head by their comrades behind them. The drill developed by de Gheyn brought order and control to battles, and utilized firearms more effectively. It consisted of 48 steps to load, fire, and reload your matchlock musket. This also enabled the development of the 'countermarch', which was a series of maneuvers to bring the guys that had just fired around to the back of the formation, exposing the next rank that would fire. They would go through the drill so that they were ready to fire again by the time they got back up to the 'front line'. The result was that armies could lay down wall after wall of flying lead at the enemy, making the primitive firearms much more effective.

As you can imagine, this was a powerful new tool for any military. That's why it was kept secret at first. Mauritz van Nassau implemented the musket drill when he was restructuring the Dutch army at the turn of the century. He didn't want the drill to be used by potential enemies, so it was kept secret for ten years. But it was finally published in 1607, and it quickly spread. Within twenty years or so, most major armies in Europe implemented the musket drill into their tactics, although slight modifications were made here and there, depending on variations in the firearms used. There were two other drills also developed by de Gheyn, for the caliver (a shorter, lighter musket that didn't require a rest) and the pike. The pike was a major factor in battles, because formations of pikemen provided the musketeers protection from charging cavalry. But as the military continued to rely more and more on muskets, the pike saw less and less use, until it finally disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Another factor in the abandoning of the pike was that the musket could be fitted with a bayonet, so it could be used like a pike when the action got too close to continue firing. So eventually the pike was no longer needed.

So how is this ancient history relevant to us today? The musket drill (in various modified forms) was eventually adopted by most militaries of the world, although it took some time to reach far away places like Asia. As time went on, the drill slowly evolved to fit the development of new firearms. The drill for the matchlock couldn't be used in it's original form when the flintlock musket finally took over, so it was modified to fit the new weapons. Armies in different parts of the world made their own changes and modifications to it depending on the peculiarities of the specific type of firearms they were using. The drill continued to evolve with advancing technology, with the adoption of the flintlock musket (1600's-1700's), the percussion musket and later the rifled-musket (1800's), the bolt-action rifle (late 1800's), and so on. See where this is going...? For those of you who served in the military, do you remember all that drill & ceremony you learned in boot camp? Function check, present arms, procedure for clearing a jam and resume firing, etc. Guess what all that is originally descended from...

Last year I was lucky enough to come across a book that shows all the indiviual steps of the original matchlock musket drill (as well as the other two drills for the caliver and pike), illustrated with de Gheyn's original woodcut illustrations developed in the late 1500's (if you're interested, let me know and I'll give you the book info so you can order a copy). Below is a link for the musket drill. This one doesn't utilize de Gheyn's original illustrations, but those of another artist. But the steps are the same, and you'll get a feel for how those poor guys back then had to practice it over and over until it became habit. Give it a minute to load and it will automatically scroll through the steps:

Musket Drill
Squirrelsaurus Rex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2004, 06:53   #2
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 887
Think about keeping your cool and going through that procedure while under fire.

Thanks for sharing.

And here I thought my DI came up with all that repetitious stuff on his own.

Metaldoc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2004, 20:04   #3
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 2,183

one simple invention trashed the concept too, overnight almost. machine guns!

i have and old friend who is a civil war reenactor. they practice parts of the same old drill. it's a bitch just playing.
swill269 is offline   Reply With Quote


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