Aiming a Brown Bess?

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

Griz44Mag

58 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2017
Messages
2,205
Reaction score
1,171
Location
Republic of Texas, District of Krum
So the Brown Bess I got from Shamm66 showed up today and a fine looking piece it is indeed!
BUT - I am left with a question about aiming the beast.
Holding cheek and looking down the barrel, the check is so tall that alignment with the barrel is a tall order, taller than the barrel breech for sure.
If I move my line of sight down the barrel to a point I believe to be a good aim, the stock is nearly off my shoulder.
So someone who has successfully mastered this monster, please educate me on the proper way to hold and aim, especially given that there is no rear sight????
 

Nessmuck56

40 Cal.
Joined
Nov 5, 2011
Messages
440
Reaction score
194
Location
New Hampshire
With only a front sight....you cannot sight down the barrel....your groups will be way low. Your rear sight is your eye....put your eye up higher and your group follows.
 

Juice Jaws

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jun 24, 2006
Messages
1,813
Reaction score
713
Location
Near Yosemite Park
Don't seen to have that problem with mine. I use the bayonet lug as a front sight. If I want to shoot a little higher show more barrel. Shoot low least barrel. You will have fun with it.
 

Griz44Mag

58 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2017
Messages
2,205
Reaction score
1,171
Location
Republic of Texas, District of Krum
OK, I get it. I know they are not renowned for accuracy.
I will indeed work it out. The mold and extra flints are on the way so I will be ready to give it a run when the weekend gets here.
Another question of more historical intent.
Were the British bayonets for these guns sharpened all the way down all three sides?
The one I got with it, as yet unfitted, has a fairly sharp point, but the rest is not.
So when in battle, was it used just for stabbing or for slicing as well?
20190401_195146.jpg
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
Hi Griz,

As others have mentioned, when there is no mechanical rear sight, your eye is the rear sight. However, what has not been mentioned is how important it is your eye is in the same spot each and every time you fire the Bess, BECAUSE your eye is the rear sight.

Correct Marksmanship Technique calls for you to place your cheek on the stock in the same exact position each time, even when you have a rear sight. (This is usually called your "Spot Weld" of your cheek to the stock.) Otherwise even if you think you are aligning the front and rear sight correctly and exactly the same, changing cheek to stock positioning means you are aligning the sights on a different spot on the target and you won't know it. IOW it is not much different than when using adjustable sights where you move the windage (move the rear sight towards one side or the other) a bit, look through the sights and align them, and the bullet strikes a different spot on the target.

What I did when competing with my Brown Bess Carbine back in the mid/late 1970's was find the spot on the stock where it caused the bullet to strike as close as possible to my point of aim and then did my best to get my "Spot Weld" or cheek position in that exact same position for each shot. Then when aiming, I "held off" or put the front sight right/left or up/down on the target to make up for how far off the point of impact is from the point of aim. It is the same thing you have to do even with a rear sight when wind gusts from left or right and you have to aim right or left to make up for the amount of side wind. Many folks call this using "Kentucky Windage." It is also the same thing you have to do according to the position of the sun during the day is different and you have to hold a little up/down to make up for how the light strikes the sight.

Gus
 
Last edited:

Griz44Mag

58 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2017
Messages
2,205
Reaction score
1,171
Location
Republic of Texas, District of Krum
Well Art, that one made sense. Having competed in bench rest and PRS in the past, using sights of every nature, I can understand that. Maybe that's why the narrow riser on the top of the Bess stock is there. So it seems from what I am hearing, the POI on these is not one that closely follows the elevations of the front and rear of the barrel too closely like I am used to seeing on my other long guns. But, like I think, once on the range I will get it worked out. This just something new to me and since my supplies are not here yet, I am more or less "pacing" til they do. I did put 5 grains down the barrel with a wad of minked patch and set it off in the garage to see how she sparked. My wife says that sometimes she thinks she hates me. You would think after 47 years she would get used to things like this, but she hasn't. I don't want to grow up, I'm a "toys-r-us" kid at heart!
 

Grenadier1758

58 Cal.
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
4,795
Reaction score
1,463
Location
St. Louis, MO
As Gus says, sighting is all about the cheek weld.

Griz, just holding the Bess to your shoulder and thinking you are getting a good sight picture will likely result in the gun shooting low. This is a go to the range and put some holes in a very large target. The front sight is the bayonet lug. Once you have a cheek weld and have a bench based group on paper. With the Bess on the bench rest, ,modify your cheek weld and sight picture to align the holes on the paper and shoot another group. Eventually you will come up with a consistent cheek weld and sight picture and have a good feel for what may have to be adjusted to move the group as needed.
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
OK, I get it. I know they are not renowned for accuracy.
I will indeed work it out. The mold and extra flints are on the way so I will be ready to give it a run when the weekend gets here.
Another question of more historical intent.
Were the British bayonets for these guns sharpened all the way down all three sides?
The one I got with it, as yet unfitted, has a fairly sharp point, but the rest is not.
So when in battle, was it used just for stabbing or for slicing as well?
View attachment 7635
Actually, the Brown Bess is surprisingly accurate, but at shorter range than rifles with rear sights, of course. When I competed with my Bess Carbine in the "Northwest Trade Gun Match" and similar events, one common target was splitting the ball on a double bit axe blade and each half of the bullet had to hit a clay pigeon hung on each side of axe blade edge. Common range shooting Offhand for a smoothbore without a rear sight was 15 or 20 yards for this, while it was only five yards further for Rifles with rear sights. It may have been because one really has to have an exact "Spot Weld" or cheek position more for a smoothbore or it may have been because competition smoothbore shooters have to concentrate more for good shooting, but I found quite a few smooth bore shooters who out shot Rifle Shooters in this event and others, again within the accurate range of the smoothbore.

As to Bayonets, I have never run across original documentation describing how Soldiers in the 18th or 19th century up through the UnCivil War, sharpened their Socket Bayonets, other than perhaps as a result of damage and that grinding/sharpening was done by Artificers/Armorers. Consistent or frequent sharpening would have worn the bayonets too much and they didn't need "knife edges" on the edges of the Socket Bayonet.

However, Soldiers were required to use brick dust, emory and other abrasives to keep the bayonets "Bright." While making the surface of the bayonet smooth, it does allow the blade to go into an enemy's body more easily.

Gus
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
Well Art, that one made sense. Having competed in bench rest and PRS in the past, using sights of every nature, I can understand that. Maybe that's why the narrow riser on the top of the Bess stock is there. So it seems from what I am hearing, the POI on these is not one that closely follows the elevations of the front and rear of the barrel too closely like I am used to seeing on my other long guns. But, like I think, once on the range I will get it worked out. This just something new to me and since my supplies are not here yet, I am more or less "pacing" til they do. I did put 5 grains down the barrel with a wad of minked patch and set it off in the garage to see how she sparked. My wife says that sometimes she thinks she hates me. You would think after 47 years she would get used to things like this, but she hasn't. I don't want to grow up, I'm a "toys-r-us" kid at heart!
Yes indeed, as I'm sure you have found from other shooting disciplines; it doesn't matter if one is shooting a modern or ML gun, or a BB or Pellet Gun, the principles of marksmanship remain the same.

I was privileged to be on THE Marine Corps Rifle Team as the Junior Armorer for the first time in 1975, when I was only 21 years old. I asked many of those shooters what was the key to good and consistently accurate shooting. The answer was then to me surprisingly succinct, use the basics of marksmanship and do everything you can to shoot the rifle [or gun in this case] exactly the same for each and every shot.

Gus
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
Bayonets are for stabbing, not slicing. They do need to be bright and shiny for the psychological effect of seeing all that glittering steel from an opposing line of battle.
There is also a huge positive psychological effect when one "fixes" his bayonet in or for battle.

Right up to the time I retired from the Marine Corps in 1997, I taught Marines there were still some excellent ways to use the bayonet, even with full auto capable military rifles.

Gus
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
326
Reaction score
84
Location
Dark Side of the Moon
Every smooth bored gun I have ever owned I sighted down the top of the barrel putting the front sight on what I wanted to hit. All of this cheek weld stuff is from people who have little experience with high end nationals type competition. If your gun doesn't hit were you want it to you bend the barrel till it hits where it's supposed to. It needs to hit where you aim. If you're shooting shot you'll never hit a bird with the aiming procedure some folks here recommend.
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
Every smooth bored gun I have ever owned I sighted down the top of the barrel putting the front sight on what I wanted to hit. All of this cheek weld stuff is from people who have little experience with high end nationals type competition. If your gun doesn't hit were you want it to you bend the barrel till it hits where it's supposed to. It needs to hit where you aim. If you're shooting shot you'll never hit a bird with the aiming procedure some folks here recommend.
I don't mean to argue, but rather politely disagree.

I was repairing and working on Krieghoff Shotguns we used for International Skeet shooting in the mid 1970's and those guns cost $ 12,000.00 EACH when we bought a batch for the Marine Corps in 1967.

High End Shotguns used for International Trap or Skeet are a completely different animal compared to a Brown Bess Carbine, because High End shotgun stocks are very precisely and finely fitted to a shooter to hit point of aim desired for the shooting discipline they use OR there are a number of adjustable features in the stocks to accomplish basically the same thing. When we went to replace them in the 1980's, Perazzi offered us two positions for two of our Armorers to attend a three month apprenticeship at their facility in (I think) New York, if we bought their guns and to learn how to adjust the stocks for individual shooters, though that would only be an introduction into fitting those stocks. ALSO, one is not using a single bullet with those guns and are not trying to shoot them more like a rifle.

When the World Championships of the International Muzzle Loading Committee were held at Marine Corps Base Quantico in 1980, Holland and Holland sent two representatives to attend and report on the shoot to their company on the Matches. One of the Working Volunteers heard they were coming, so he brought one of their modern guns he had recently purchased (used). Before he met with them, he said that was the best fitting gun he had ever had and he was used to High End Shotguns. However, we got it set up for him to shoot his gun in front of those representatives in between the World Champion Matches. After he got done shooting, the Senior Representative commented "That gun was not made for you, was it?" He said he had bought it used. They offered to adjust it for a reasonable price, if he would send it back to the factory, which he wound up doing. I spoke with him again after he got it back and he said the changes were very tiny and even though he had measured the stock precisely before he sent it to them, he had a very hard time measuring the differences. However, he also said those tiny changes made a huge difference in how much better the gun shot for him then.

Now to be sure that is the ultimate in fitting a stock to a shooter, but even close to that standard of fitting stocks to muzzle loading shooters is a rare thing today.

Gus
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
326
Reaction score
84
Location
Dark Side of the Moon
You might as well give up. Sooner or later you'll come to find I'm right about everything. It's my way or the highway.

I tied a national record at Friendship with a 20 bore flintlock in '86. I'm not just blowing a bunch of hot air up your dress. I've been building flintlock smooth bores for 39 years, I know how to set up and shoot a fowling gun, I have literally made hundreds of them. One of my flint doubles has won "Top Gun" at Friendship for many years...probably decades by now. I didn't fall of the tatter wagon yesterday.;)
 
Last edited:

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
9,791
Reaction score
1,138
You might as well give up. Sooner or later you'll come to find I'm right about everything. It's my way or the highway.

I tied a national record at Friendship with a 20 bore flintlock in '86. I'm not just blowing a bunch of hot air up your dress. I've been building flintlock smooth bores for 39 years, I know how to set up and shoot a fowling gun, I have literally made hundreds of them. One of my flint doubles has won "Top Gun" at Friendship for many years...probably decades by now. I didn't fall of the tatter wagon yesterday.;)
Again, I'm not trying to argue with you, but you are writing about a completely different type of gun than the Brown Bess Military Carbine. I honor the fact you know how to set up a good fowling gun, but the Pedersoli Brown Bess Carbine stock is not set up that way. So unless one gets a replacement stock made that does fit one in the manner of a good fowler, one has to conform oneself to the stock, rather than the stock conforming to the individual.

Gus
 
2

Latest posts

Top