Was a Fowler sometimes a Musket?

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I'm interested in this because I'm working on a Fowler build and very interested in the history.

In my my mind a Musket is a military gun like a Brown Bess, made for military not for hunting. But when men picked up their Smoothbore Fowling pieces and headed off to join up with a Militia was the Fowler called a "Musket" in that setting?

Did people refer to Fowling pieces as muskets on the Colonial homestead?
What is the definition of a Musket? What's the difference between a Musket and a Fowler?

I added a pic of my Fowler I'm building just for fun!
PXL_20220311_001005016.jpg
 

OkieDougie

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My understanding is it is a general term. Smooth bore guns, elegant and easily wielded, smaller smooth bores , designed for hunting were fowlers. Larger bore, heavier built, destined for military use were muskets.
 

dave_person

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Hi Hatchet Jack,
First, before discussing muskets and fowlers I urge you to greatly thin those flats around the lock. If you want the gun to look at all authentic and not a modern fantasy piece, you need to do that. They should be no wider than 1/16-3/32". Here are examples.
vMLAxTd.jpg

I3UeaZJ.jpg

H9rfAIq.jpg


They don't have to be even all around so they can be wider around the nose of the lock but always very thin elsewhere. This is not a matter of personal preference rather one of if you want the gun to look authentic or not.

Fowlers sometimes were adapted to take bayonets as a make shift effort to turn them into military fusils (light arms) but they were not considered muskets. They were not usually acceptable as muskets in militia units because they did not have a standard large bore (to accept government ammunition) and could not mount bayonets. Moreover, their light build made them fragile during hard service. A musket is a large bored gun made for military purposes and during the 18th century, that also meant capable of mounting a bayonet and having sling swivels. In reverse, muskets were not considered fowlers. One of the problems that British ordnance had selling off old surplus Brown Besses is that nobody wanted them except for scrap. The African slave traders ( a major customer for British guns) wanted smaller, lighter guns, so did the Hudson's Bay Company. The East India Company had their own ordnance supply so didn't need the surplus guns. They made lousy hunting guns compared with lighter and smaller bored fowlers. The lighter and smaller caliber French muskets served better in both civilian and military roles but the Bess did not.

dave
 
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Hi Hatchet Jack,
First, before discussing muskets and fowlers I urge you to greatly thin those flats around the lock. If you want the gun to look at all authentic and not a modern fantasy piece, you need to do that. They should be no wider than 1/16-3/32". Here are examples.

They don't have to be even all around so they can be wider around the nose of the lock but always very thin elsewhere. This is not a matter of personal preference rather one of if you want the gun to look authentic or not.

Fowlers sometimes were adapted to take bayonets as a make shift effort to turn them into military fusils (light arms) but they were not considered muskets. They were not usually acceptable as muskets in militia units because they did not have a standard large bore (to accept government ammunition) and could not mount bayonets. Moreover, their light build made them fragile during hard service. A musket is a large bored gun made for military purposes and during the 18th century, that also meant capable of mounting a bayonet and having sling swivels. In reverse, muskets were not considered fowlers. One of the problems that British ordnance had selling off old surplus Brown Besses is that nobody wanted them except for scrap. The African slave traders ( a major customer for British guns) wanted smaller, lighter guns, so did the Hudson's Bay Company. The East India Company had their own ordnance supply so didn't need the surplus guns. They made lousy hunting guns compared with lighter and smaller bored fowlers. The lighter and smaller caliber French muskets served better in both civilian and military roles but the Bess did not.

dave
Thanks Dave I will work on thinning those flats out. As always I appreciate your feedback!

Also thanks your explanation of the differences between a Fowler and a Musket.
 

dave_person

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Hi HJ,
The distinctions between fowler and musket get even more complicated when you add "fusils" to the mix. Fusil is just a French word for "gun". In the latter half of the 17th century, when flintlocks were being introduced to the French military, they formed units called "fusiliers" which were soldiers issued flintlock guns and used to guard artillery. The match lock musket was still the dominant firearm but they found that matchlock musketeers with their burning matches were dangerous around powder magazines and artillery positions. Hence, when flintlocks because available, the French quickly issued flintlock guns they called fusils to troops assigned to guard artillery and powder magazines. Fusil did not refer to bore and barrel length at that time rather that the gun was a flintlock. Later, the term fusil came to be associated with lighter and smaller caliber guns usually carried by officers and NCOs. Eventually, "carbine" and fusil came to mean just about the same thing.

dave
 

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I'm interested in this because I'm working on a Fowler build and very interested in the history.

In my my mind a Musket is a military gun like a Brown Bess, made for military not for hunting. But when men picked up their Smoothbore Fowling pieces and headed off to join up with a Militia was the Fowler called a "Musket" in that setting?

Did people refer to Fowling pieces as muskets on the Colonial homestead?
What is the definition of a Musket? What's the difference between a Musket and a Fowler?

So you already have an excellent definition of what makes a "musket" a musket.

As for terminology...,

Often "muskets" were also called "firelocks", though you don't see that term much in inventories; you would've heard it in a verbal setting.
Muskets of smaller caliber could be called carbines, and they could also be shorter in length with the term "carbine". The "shorter" though may not be very dramatic, it could be as little as 3" less than a full sized musket, or it could be much more, and very obvious to the eye.

As pointed out, a smaller, lighter version smoothbore that mounted a bayonet, was often called a "fusil". That could be few-zee or few-zil, depending on the person speaking the word in English. However, sometime folks referred to and listed in inventories and called a light, hunting, smoothbore gun a "fusil". George Morgan sold "fusils neat" at his trading post in Kaskaskia in the 1760's for example.

"Fowler" appears to be a word applied to longer barreled pieces, often large bore (12 bore to 10 bore perhaps bigger), that were used for waterfowl hunting. So simply having a light, smoothbore, with a smaller bore than a musket, which you intend to use for birding, doesn't necessarily make it a "fowler".

Why is this important to know ....?
Well the militia laws varied a great deal from colony to colony.

Some of the New England Militia were at first, armed with their fowlers, BUT as Dave pointed out, those would accept the military ammo. They accepted the ammo because they were for waterfowling, and thus had a large bore. No bayonets though.

Some of the colonies merely had arms and ammo requirements, so the man of proper age had to either have a proper musket and bayonet, OR a "firelock" and a tomahawk, AND had to provide his own ammunition.

Maryland actually had an arsenal and issued out muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, BUT also allowed men to serve with their own rifles and tomahawks.

Pennsylvania had NO militia law, and it was up to the citizens to form "associations" and arm themselves as they chose. This is why you may find references to units such as "The Philadelphia Associators" or something similar to that.

As the Archbishop of Cantebury said with much sarcasm in Shakespear's Henry V, ... "So 'tis clear as the summer sun!"


LD
 
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So you already have an excellent definition of what makes a "musket" a musket.

As for terminology...,

Often "muskets" were also called "firelocks", though you don't see that term much in inventories; you would've heard it in a verbal setting.
Muskets of smaller caliber could be called carbines, and they could also be shorter in length with the term "carbine". The "shorter" though may not be very dramatic, it could be as little as 3" less than a full sized musket, or it could be much more, and very obvious to the eye.

As pointed out, a smaller, lighter version smoothbore that mounted a bayonet, was often called a "fusil". That could be few-zee or few-zil, depending on the person speaking the word in English. However, sometime folks referred to and listed in inventories and called a light, hunting, smoothbore gun a "fusil". George Morgan sold "fusils neat" at his trading post in Kaskaskia in the 1760's for example.

"Fowler" appears to be a word applied to longer barreled pieces, often large bore (12 bore to 10 bore perhaps bigger), that were used for waterfowl hunting. So simply having a light, smoothbore, with a smaller bore than a musket, which you intend to use for birding, doesn't necessarily make it a "fowler".

Why is this important to know ....?
Well the militia laws varied a great deal from colony to colony.

Some of the New England Militia were at first, armed with their fowlers, BUT as Dave pointed out, those would accept the military ammo. They accepted the ammo because they were for waterfowling, and thus had a large bore. No bayonets though.

Some of the colonies merely had arms and ammo requirements, so the man of proper age had to either have a proper musket and bayonet, OR a "firelock" and a tomahawk, AND had to provide his own ammunition.

Maryland actually had an arsenal and issued out muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, BUT also allowed men to serve with their own rifles and tomahawks.

Pennsylvania had NO militia law, and it was up to the citizens to form "associations" and arm themselves as they chose. This is why you may find references to units such as "The Philadelphia Associators" or something similar to that.

As the Archbishop of Cantebury said with much sarcasm in Shakespear's Henry V, ... "So 'tis clear as the summer sun!"


LD
Fascinating Loyalist Dave! Thank you!
 
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Hi HJ,
The distinctions between fowler and musket get even more complicated when you add "fusils" to the mix. Fusil is just a French word for "gun". In the latter half of the 17th century, when flintlocks were being introduced to the French military, they formed units called "fusiliers" which were soldiers issued flintlock guns and used to guard artillery. The match lock musket was still the dominant firearm but they found that matchlock musketeers with their burning matches were dangerous around powder magazines and artillery positions. Hence, when flintlocks because available, the French quickly issued flintlock guns they called fusils to troops assigned to guard artillery and powder magazines. Fusil did not refer to bore and barrel length at that time rather that the gun was a flintlock. Later, the term fusil came to be associated with lighter and smaller caliber guns usually carried by officers and NCOs. Eventually, "carbine" and fusil came to mean just about the same thing.

dave
Thank you Dave! This has turned out to be a very interesting post. I'm learning a lot.
 
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So you already have an excellent definition of what makes a "musket" a musket.

As for terminology...,

Often "muskets" were also called "firelocks", though you don't see that term much in inventories; you would've heard it in a verbal setting.
Muskets of smaller caliber could be called carbines, and they could also be shorter in length with the term "carbine". The "shorter" though may not be very dramatic, it could be as little as 3" less than a full sized musket, or it could be much more, and very obvious to the eye.

As pointed out, a smaller, lighter version smoothbore that mounted a bayonet, was often called a "fusil". That could be few-zee or few-zil, depending on the person speaking the word in English. However, sometime folks referred to and listed in inventories and called a light, hunting, smoothbore gun a "fusil". George Morgan sold "fusils neat" at his trading post in Kaskaskia in the 1760's for example.

"Fowler" appears to be a word applied to longer barreled pieces, often large bore (12 bore to 10 bore perhaps bigger), that were used for waterfowl hunting. So simply having a light, smoothbore, with a smaller bore than a musket, which you intend to use for birding, doesn't necessarily make it a "fowler".

Why is this important to know ....?
Well the militia laws varied a great deal from colony to colony.

Some of the New England Militia were at first, armed with their fowlers, BUT as Dave pointed out, those would accept the military ammo. They accepted the ammo because they were for waterfowling, and thus had a large bore. No bayonets though.

Some of the colonies merely had arms and ammo requirements, so the man of proper age had to either have a proper musket and bayonet, OR a "firelock" and a tomahawk, AND had to provide his own ammunition.

Maryland actually had an arsenal and issued out muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, BUT also allowed men to serve with their own rifles and tomahawks.

Pennsylvania had NO militia law, and it was up to the citizens to form "associations" and arm themselves as they chose. This is why you may find references to units such as "The Philadelphia Associators" or something similar to that.

As the Archbishop of Cantebury said with much sarcasm in Shakespear's Henry V, ... "So 'tis clear as the summer sun!"


LD

I have read that since many of the Colonists were required to bring a firearm with them by the Brits they were sometimes relics that were very questionable at best. I think some of the distinctions at least between the French "Fusil's" were similar to Musket and Fowling Piece. As pointed out the Musket was generally beefier in build i.e. the Brown Bess where a Fowling Piece was more along the lines of what you purchased from your local gun smith that would be used primarily for hunting and play the role of protecting the home. A Fowler certainly would not have a bayonet as that would be a silly accoutrement. When the militias were called up they could solve this with a plug bayonet but they were certainly not very practical. Same thing goes for the French with the Fusil-gun or Fusil De Chasse- Gun for hunting using their direct pronunciation in an English translation.

It would be interesting to be able to have some of those folks read our discussions today and get their take on it. I believe many would view us as something of a comedy show wondering why we are concerned with such matters. I do still find all of this very interesting.
 
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I have read that since many of the Colonists were required to bring a firearm with them by the Brits they were sometimes relics that were very questionable at best. I think some of the distinctions at least between the French "Fusil's" were similar to Musket and Fowling Piece. As pointed out the Musket was generally beefier in build i.e. the Brown Bess where a Fowling Piece was more along the lines of what you purchased from your local gun smith that would be used primarily for hunting and play the role of protecting the home. A Fowler certainly would not have a bayonet as that would be a silly accoutrement. When the militias were called up they could solve this with a plug bayonet but they were certainly not very practical. Same thing goes for the French with the Fusil-gun or Fusil De Chasse- Gun for hunting using their direct pronunciation in an English translation.

It would be interesting to be able to have some of those folks read our discussions today and get their take on it. I believe many would view us as something of a comedy show wondering why we are concerned with such matters. I do still find all of this very interesting.
Good point Celt5494. They would probably think we were drunk on spirits! Good stuff thanks!
 
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A lot of good answers. But still confusing. Terminology has changed many times over the years. I say, don't fret over it. e.g. if you pick up a Brown Bess and go bird hunting with it (I have) does it then become a fowler? Conversely, if you use a fowler for defense does it suddenly become a musket?
 

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I have read that since many of the Colonists were required to bring a firearm with them by the Brits they were sometimes relics that were very questionable at best. I think some of the distinctions at least between the French "Fusil's" were similar to Musket and Fowling Piece. As pointed out the Musket was generally beefier in build i.e. the Brown Bess where a Fowling Piece was more along the lines of what you purchased from your local gun smith that would be used primarily for hunting and play the role of protecting the home. A Fowler certainly would not have a bayonet as that would be a silly accoutrement. When the militias were called up they could solve this with a plug bayonet but they were certainly not very practical. Same thing goes for the French with the Fusil-gun or Fusil De Chasse- Gun for hunting using their direct pronunciation in an English translation.

It would be interesting to be able to have some of those folks read our discussions today and get their take on it. I believe many would view us as something of a comedy show wondering why we are concerned with such matters. I do still find all of this very interesting.

A lot of folks make the plug bayonet observation, but the plug was long gone by the first quarter of the 18th century. ;)
The French had a very different system for their militia, and if not issued a musket, they didn't worry about a bayonet as the French colonists had no intention of fighting in a European military style in the woods of North America. Their fusil de chase was very well suited to woodland fighting.

LD
 

Capt. Jas.

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The term "fowler" in the period seems to have been used to define the person hunting fowl. It's use today in refering to a fowling piece is modern slang like "flinter", "capper", "Remmie", "tranny" and other similar terms which certainly did not originate in the south ; ) The gun was called a fowling or birding piece. As noted above, there were fowling pieces, fuzees, carbines, muskets, etc. which blurrs some lines. For example, a fowling piece can look similar to a fuzee but the former can have a relieved muzzle and breech interior or a toughened interior breech and a fuzee will always be a straight cylinder bore. Period militia records seem to indicate that a musket was defined as a musket and a fowling piece as a fowling piece.
 

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Hi Frank,
Modifying a fowling or sporting gun to take a bayonet and use as a musket does not technically make it a musket. It is a fowling gun trying to substitute for a musket because you don't have a better option. Muskets have always been regarded as sturdy large caliber smooth bored guns to be used by infantry and originally "musketeers". In the 17th century that name described the gun you were going to carry. Minutemen brought their "fowling pieces" (and they were called that at the time) to the Lexington and Concord fight because that was all they had. The different states quickly were desperate to supply actual muskets to their troops because the fowling pieces had a variety of bores and were too fragile for long service.
 

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I always assumed that a crap load of Brown Bess muskets would have found thier way into civilian hands after the revolution. It seems to me that they would have served fine service on a homestead in smooth bore service for varmints/birds, what have you.
 
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I always assumed that a crap load of Brown Bess muskets would have found thier way into civilian hands after the revolution. It seems to me that they would have served fine service on a homestead in smooth bore service for varmints/birds, what have you.
Archeologists don’t find many parts associated with Indian villages. It doesn’t seem many got traded. As late as the 1850s they are reported in Texas, but these may have come from the Mexican army that bought British muskets.
However there was a large stock from the surrender of the British army at Saratoga and Yorktown. Not to mention many stands of arms taken by privateers
Yet our Army of post revolution times gravitated to out version of the French musket
So what happened to all those guns?
We Know Lisa had a bess, but this may in fact been on officers fusil, as they looked like besses just being lighter and fancier
All over the Muslim world from Africa to Indonesia we see local made guns with bess barrels or bess locks.
After German collapse many German guns, or on the other side of the world Japanese guns were burned, and metal parts sold as scrap.
but it’s hard to imagine colonial/federal America destroying working guns…. But where are they?
 
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I'm interested in this because I'm working on a Fowler build and very interested in the history.

In my my mind a Musket is a military gun like a Brown Bess, made for military not for hunting. But when men picked up their Smoothbore Fowling pieces and headed off to join up with a Militia was the Fowler called a "Musket" in that setting?

Did people refer to Fowling pieces as muskets on the Colonial homestead?
What is the definition of a Musket? What's the difference between a Musket and a Fowler?

I added a pic of my Fowler I'm building just for fun!
View attachment 129269
Yeah, I believe the early militias used smoothbores for mustering, and hunted with them when going about civilian lifestyle duties. Very nice job, there!
 
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Archeologists don’t find many parts associated with Indian villages. It doesn’t seem many got traded. As late as the 1850s they are reported in Texas, but these may have come from the Mexican army that bought British muskets.
However there was a large stock from the surrender of the British army at Saratoga and Yorktown. Not to mention many stands of arms taken by privateers
Yet our Army of post revolution times gravitated to out version of the French musket
So what happened to all those guns?
We Know Lisa had a bess, but this may in fact been on officers fusil, as they looked like besses just being lighter and fancier
All over the Muslim world from Africa to Indonesia we see local made guns with bess barrels or bess locks.
After German collapse many German guns, or on the other side of the world Japanese guns were burned, and metal parts sold as scrap.
but it’s hard to imagine colonial/federal America destroying working guns…. But where are they?
Lost in floods, fires, sold for scrap, plain discarded before anyone thought they were worth saving, etc. After WW2, we piled up hundreds of Zero fighter planes and burned them! Imagine what the value would be today for historians & collectors. As a kid, a pal found a WW1 German helmet in the local dump; bet lots of "rusty, useless old guns" were just abandoned and trashed.
 
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