HOW TO BE A MUSKETEER
This is based upon the requirements to be a Musketeer
within the Sealed Knot and is based around UK gun laws, but may be of use to Musketeers taking part in re-enactment anywhere. Please feel free to copy this article freely as long you bear in mind that the author reserves all reproduction and other rights to this article.
For Sealed Knot members this is a little out of date now and I will update it sometime to cover latest rules and best practice.
If you want to reproduce this for commercial gain please contact us and I’m sure we can arrive at a mutually agreeable deal.
The Musketeer – A New Breed of Hero
- What do I need?
- Lastly (Nearly!)
- Code of Practice for Musketeers
Whatever your reasons may be for wanting to become a musketeer there is a place for anyone within the musket block – provided that you are able to demonstrate to the Police, your Musket Officer and the Sealed Knot Musket
Inspectorate that you are competent to be let loose with a large gun, some gunpowder and a burning piece of rope on to an unsuspecting public.
A daunting prospect that may seem; it is, in fact, quite easy provided that you go about it in the correct manner.
The British Legal System introduced new firearm laws in 1988 with a view to tightening up and rationalising the then sometimes lax but usually competent gun laws following certain events that happened in Hungerford.
This has resulted in different Police forces and different Policemen within the same Police force coming up with different interpretations of the law.
DO NOT, however, be disheartened by this. We (the members of the Sealed Knot) probably know more about the Law relating to muskets and Black Powder between us than the bobby who will come and visit you when you apply for your licence. This means that if you’re having any problems getting your
licence we are there to help you.
As getting a licence does usually take some time APPLY NOW. By the time it comes through you’ll have had the opportunity to be trained and hopefully you’ll be ready to take your Musket Test as soon as the paperwork plops
through your letterbox.
You will also need a Certificate to Acquire Black Powder. It doesn’t cost anything (yet!) but without it you won’t be able to be issued with Black Powder at Battles. You should apply for this at the same time as you apply for your Shotgun Certificate.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been naughty and got done for things such as GBH, Drunken Driving, International Terrorism, etc. you may find that the Police will be loath to give you a licence. If in doubt, apply anyway as
they may say Yes if the misdemeanour was committed some years ago.
What do I need to be a Musketeer?
A shirt (of mid 17th Century pattern).
Hose (socks) of whatever colour or colours takes your fancy
(as long as they are awfentik to the period).
Shoes of the variety worn by Pikemen. Sorry but no Bucket Tops, Firemen’s Boots, Sandals or Plastic Bags. Bare Feet however, are OK if you’re feeling really brave.
Either a wide-brimmed felt Hat or a Morion Helmet (Not a Lobster
Gauntlets. Whilst you might find them rather awkward when loading and firing the Musket, a good fitting pair of Gauntlets will give some protection to your fingers from Sword Blows, Singes and Burns and, should the worst happen, go some way to protecting your hands should the Musket go off prematurely (it can happen if you don’t take are).
A current Shotgun Certificate.
A current Licence to Acquire Black Powder.
A card showing that you have passed your Musket Test.
A copy of the Code of Practice for Musketeers –
read and memorise.
Some cash in case we stop off at the Beer Tent on the way back from the Battle (Musketeers don’t drink before battles – do we)
A Musket. Matchlock or Flintlock with a barrel of not less than 29″ in length. As time goes on you will hopefully find that you enjoy Musketeering so much that you will buy your own so that you can spend those cold winter evenings when there aren’t any battles polishing and rubbing down your barrel, lubricating your ramrod and waxing your butt.
A Powder Flask or Bandoliers. These can also be borrowed at first. Bandoliers are a collection of small wooden bottles hung from a leather strap which is worn over the shoulder, (sometimes known as Apostles
‘cos there’s 12 of them, this is not however, a 17th Century term). These items are used to hold the Black Powder after you get issued with it and before you pour it down your Gun.
A Pouch. This is to hold your Wadding, without which your Gun will not go BANG but PHUTT. Going BANG is one of the main aims of the Musket Block.
Wadding. For this you will require a roll of soft Toilet Paper. One sheet is to be used per shot. It may also come in useful for blowing noses, staunching flows of blood and dealing with some other emergencies
that may arise when on the Battlefield. Any tissue that has been used for these secondary purposes should not however, then be used as Wadding.
Slow Match. This, when lit, is used to ignite the Black Powder you have put in the Gun thus causing the aforementioned BANG. If used incorrectly along with the Powder Flask or Bandoliers it may also cause them to go BANG which may ruin your weekend/life/sexlife or all three. BE CAREFUL.
A Pricker. During the Battle the touch hole of the Musket may become clogged up with powder residue and other nasty things which will stop it from going BANG when you want it to. The Pricker is to be used to clear the hole – NOT to stab the opposition.
A Sword. This is optional but worth it. You will be required to convince the Sword Inspectorate that you are competent to use one of these but fortunately the Police do not need to get involved this time. When meeting your opponents in hand-to-hand combat it may save your more
valuable musket from getting damaged.
All of the above items, apart from the sword, must also be carried when you go for your Musket Test. Failure to do so may well result in an unnecessary failure.
This is, of course, the most important aspect of this article. Without training you will not pass your Musket Test and therefore will not be able to go BANG on the battlefield. You should make sure that you have read
and understood the Code of Practice for Black Powder Users in the Sealed Knot. Here’s a picture of a Musket and it’s associated equipment showing the names of the parts:
The training is split into three areas:
1. DRILL – The postures and commands.
– Note that the Gun may be called either the “Musket” or “Piece” during the commands.
“Order your Musket” Stand with the right foot forward and at right-angles to the left foot. The Musket should be held upright with the Butt placed on the outside of the right foot and held at just above waist height by the right hand. The left hand should be placed either on the hilt of your sword or the left hip.
“Shoulder your Musket” Again standing with the right foot forward and at right angles to the left foot. The Musket should be balanced on the left shoulder held at the Butt with the left hand. Care
must be taken not to poke the person standing behind you with the muzzle. This is the usual way of carrying the Musket when on the march.
“Port (or High Port) your Musket” Again with the right foot forward and at right angles to the left foot. The Musket should be held across the body with muzzle pointing upwards at 45o to the left hand
side. This is the posture you will use when loaded. The Muzzle is pointing up so if the Gun does fire prematurely it is less likely to cause damage to others.
“Present upon your Piece” Stand with the left foot forward and at right angles to the right foot. The Musket should be held with the Butt to the right shoulder and balanced in the left hand, this will leave your right hand free to carry out the remaining parts of the firing procedure. NOTE whilst in real life you would aim at your target in the hope of hitting it, in re-enactments we aim high. Even toilet paper hurts when propelled by sufficient force at close range.
“Prepare to march” You should be at the Shoulder or Port position, if not gently remind your Officer! Bring the feet together. “March on” At the first beat of the drum start off on your left foot, try to keep in step with those all around you. The main beat of the drum is always on the left foot.
“Turning on the March, to your Left (or Right) Hand Face” This is very useful for turning a long column into a wide front ready to go into attack.
“Turning on the March, to your Left (or Right) Hand Wheel” This command is given when we wish to turn the block as a column, it will mean that those on the inside of the turn will have to take very short
steps and those on the outside may have to almost run to keep the line straight.
“Prepare to Stand” As it says, watch out we’re going to stop marching very soon.
“Stand” Stop marching. Try not to crash into the person in front of you or fall over.
There are other commands such as Counter March, Form a Hedgehog, Assume a Lazy Posture, Lay down your Arms and, of course, Fall Out. These are best covered at drill practice.
2. Loading and Firing procedures.
When given the order to fire remember that you are firing a gun. If you feel that it is not safe to do so then don’t. If a law is broken, e.g. you shoot someone, it is you who will be held responsible. The safe firing distances within the Society are 20 yards at Infantry and about 30 yards at Cavalry. THINK SAFETY.
a. “Make Ready” When this order is given follow the procedures as far as section b. If the Musket has just been fired you must first make sure that any burning embers are extinguished. Do this by blowing
into the touch hole and NOT down the barrel. If it is the first shot of the day, and you have not already done so, light your Match before continuing.
“Prime your Piece” Holding the musket in the Port position, balance it in your left hand. You should also hold the Match in this hand making sure that the lit end is well away from the Pan, your hand and anywhere else that it may damage. With your right hand, open the Pan Cover and pour powder from your Flask or Bandolier into the pan filling it to the brim. Then CLOSE the Pan. Blow off any loose powder and turn the musket upside down and bang your hand against the side of the Pan to ensure that all loose powder has been removed.
“Cast about your Piece” The Musket should again be
held in the left hand along with the match, with the Butt placed on the
ground on the outside of your left foot. You must ensure that the muzzle
is pointing away from yourself or anyone else. The Pan should be pointing
“Place the Charge” With the musket held in the Cast
About position pour the charge from the Flask or Bandolier down the barrel.
If you are using a flask it must have a measured spout on it so that you
can be sure of using the correct amount of powder. When the charge is placed
tap the Butt of the Musket sharply (but not too hard) on the ground, this
will compact the powder.
“Place your Wadding” Still with the musket held in
the Cast About position take one sheet of soft toilet paper from your pouch
and put it in the end of the barrel. Make sure that you do not screw the
wad into a tight ball as it could be just as fatal as a real musket ball.
“Ram your Wadding” Still in the Cast About position
remove the ramrod, or “Scouring Stick”, from its housing beneath
the barrel turn it round and push it slowly down the barrel until the wad
is on top of the charge. DO NOT place your hand over the end of the ramrod,
instead hold the end between thumb and forefinger. If the musket should
inadvertently go off then you’ll only end up loosing the skin off your
fingers and not your whole hand. Now ram home the wad and charge with two
or three firm thrusts.
Replace the Ramrod to its housing below the barrel.
Return the musket to the Port position.
b. “Prepare to Give Fire” The Officer will normally
give these orders in turn. If, in the heat of the battle, some of them
are not given, still carry them out. REMEMBER SAFETY.
“Blow upon your Coals” Take the match in your right
hand, blow upon the lit end to ensure that it is glowing brightly. Any
loose bits on the end should be knocked off – NOT on your Powder Flask!
“Cock your Match” With the musket still in the Port
position, and the match still in your right hand, place the match between
the jaws of the serpent with the lit end nearest the pan. MAKE SURE THE
PAN IS CLOSED. Check that the lit end of the match will enter the pan by
pulling back the trigger, adjust the match accordingly.
“Present upon your Piece” Stand with the left foot
forward and at right angles to the right foot. The Musket should be held
with the Butt to the right shoulder and balanced in the left hand, this
will leave your right hand free to carry out the remaining parts of the
firing procedure. NOTE whilst in real life you would aim at your target
in the hope of hitting it, in re-enactments we aim high. Even toilet paper
hurts when propelled by sufficient force at close range.
“Secure your Scouring Stick” Use your left hand to
check that the ramrod is in place. By tilting the musket sideways you can
also check visually. This is vitally important so as to ensure that the
ramrod is not fired.
“Open your Pan” With your right hand, open the pan
“GIVE FIRE” Pull back the trigger with your right
forefinger, the match will ignite the priming powder which will, in turn,
ignite the main charge – the musket will go BANG!
Well done your musket has gone off, the enemy has hopefully fallen
down “dead” and you can start off all over again once the order
to make ready has been given. What’s that? Your musket didn’t go off? Then
shout “MISFIRE”, return to the Port position and tell your Officer
who will either instruct you to stay in the Ranks or retire to the rear
of the block. The saying “A Flash in the Pan” originates from
this commonly occuring mishap.
After a misfire the musket should be left for a couple of minutes just
in case the charge is smouldering. During this time don’t put your hands
over the end, look down it or point it at someone else. Keep it in the
Port position and stay out of the way. If someone attacks you, say “Loaded
Gun” or “Misfire”, they should go away, if they won’t, then
you should go away – DO NOT stay and fight.
When this time has passed, use the pricker to clean out the touch hole.
Take care as there is always a possibility that the musket will go off.
Reprime the pan and then repeat the firing procedure, if you are still
in the Block then wait for the next volley, if not make sure that you are
within the Safe Firing Distance. If the musket misfires again, repeat the
process (including shouting “MISFIRE”). If it misfires yet again
then pour water down the barrel and in to the pan. You should then either
worm out the musket using the cleaning kit that the block will possibly
have with it or, more likely, go club musket.
You will notice that some people hold the match in their fingers when
firing, this is much less fiddly but it will result in singed fingers.
Sometimes, when all the muskets in a volley are fired simultaneously you
may be unsure as to whether yours actually fired. If there is smoke coming
out of the touch hole AND the muzzle then it has fired. If you are not
sure treat it as a misfire just to be safe.
3. Hitting the Opposition
You may have heard the term Club Musket mentioned, this isn’t some sort
of holiday jaunt full of Union Jack tee-shirts and lager, instead it’s
when the enemy have got too close to be able to shoot at them we turn our
muskets around and use the blunt end to lay into them. Simple though this
may sound the following points should be remembered in order to avoid actually
If you are carrying Slow-Match this must be dropped or passed to the
Matross or water carrier who will be accompanying the Musket Block. Imagine
the catastrophe if your lit match got entangled with someone elses Bandoliers
during a hand-to-hand tussle. DO NOT CARRY LIT MATCH IN HAND-TO-HAND
Hold the musket by the barrel so that the Pan is inward i.e. between
you and the other side of the musket, this will help to stop the Serpent
becoming entangled with your opposition. When “Clubbing” your
opponent remember to pull the blow. Don’t aim for the head. A musket is
very heavy and the Butt is usually metal clad. You could cause someone
some serious damage.
You can also “Prod” your opponent (With the Butt), again pull
the blows but also avoid the head, groin and appendages. If you recognise
your opponent as being female she will also no doubt be appreciative of
not being hit in the upper torso. This actually only really leaves the
stomach as a viable target so don’t prod too hard ‘cos stomachs aren’t
very tough. As some people can be a little prone to coming in rather harder
than they should it is not recommended to go in hand-to-hand if you suffering
from the after effects of surgery or if you have come over pregnant.
On the subject of opponents coming in hard, if you feel that you are
risk either run away or fall down “dead”. Do not hit him or her
back harder. There are proper grievance procedures if you feel that an
opponent is deliberately out to cause physical harm – see your Officer.
If you are not enamoured with the idea of Hand-to-Hand fighting, don’t
worry as it can be very fortuitous to leave behind a rank of Musketeers
as a reforming point. They can reload whilst the mele is going on so as
to provide cover should, by some chance, the enemy break through.
If you get hurt badly enough to get carted
off by the medics, they are not very keen to take away your musket and
powder, which may then present a safety hazard, or just clutter up the
medic tent. Get the Camp Followers or Matross to take charge of your weapon
and powder. On no account is a Gun or Powder to be left unattended. A NOTE
TO THE PERSON TAKING CHARGE OF THE WEAPON: Whilst you have taken charge
of the means to go BANG, you are not allowed to use this equipment to do
so. Sorry. Notify the Musket Officer that you have taken charge of the
Gun etc. and at the end of the battle make sure that any unused powder
is returned to the Firemaster and the Musket given into the safe keeping
of someone with a Shotgun licence (and who knows the injured party!).
Important information on the subject of powder, in order for
the Sealed Knot to keep in with the Home Office, Health & Safety Executive,
Local Authorities etc. the following points are to be strictly adhered
to: Unless by prior arrangement with the event Firemaster you must not
bring Black Powder on to a Sealed Knot Campsite/Battlefield. You must also
not take any away with you. If you do and you get caught you’ll get thrown
out of the Sealed Knot and cause your Officers to get severely disciplined.
If you want to do some “live” training elsewhere there are ways
of arranging it.
The making or filling of charges, cartridges or powder flasks is only to take place in the area designated by the event powder master, immediately following issue of black powder. No powder is to be held overnight in anywhere but the designated magazine (store).
All unused powder is to be returned to the magazine immediately after the display or battle.
- STOP PRESS – 9 December 1998
The Health & Safety Executive(HSE) have issued new guidance called ‘Acquisition and use of explosives by historical societies’ ISBN 0-7176-1622-3, price £3.50, (or £7 for three copies) It’s available from the HSE at PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS, tel: 01787-881165 or fax: 01787-313995.
It has been prepared by them with the assistance of representatives from historical societies, the police and local authorities and has been produced to advise on good practice in acquiring and controlling the use of explosives.
There are 13 separate pieces of legislation relevant to historical societies involved with explosives.
I believe that this help file meets the guidelines laid out in that document.
Well, we’ve gone through the processes involved with being a Musketeer.
Obviously no amount of carefully written instructions will replace good
old fashioned drill practice – sorry. An hour or so’s practice every so
often can make all the difference between getting the stuffing beaten out
of us and out manoeuvring, out gunning and out doing the opposition.
Please make sure that you also read the following Code of Practice.
Jeff Vincent May 1993
amended April 1996 and March 1999
CODE OF PRACTICE FOR MUSKETEERS, DRAGOONS AND CAVALRY
(C) Sealed Knot
It is the responsibility of each individual to follow and to make sure
that he/she has the knowledge to adhere to this Code of Practice. It is
the responsibility of the Commanding Officers and their nominated officers
to provide training and guidance and also to enforce these rules.
1. Musketeers, dragoons and cavalry must have the correct licences
and have been passed by the Musket Inspectorate before firing a weapon
at an S.K. battle or display. The law (Firearms Act, Explosives Act, etc.)
and Sealed Knot rules will be adhered to at all times.
2. It is important that all musketeers have a thorough knowledge of:
(a) The correct loading procedure. (b) What should be done in the event
of a misfire. (c) How to carry a loaded musket. (d) 17th Century musket
or dragoon drill.
3. Powder must be carried in either: (a) Measured cartridges, which
are to be carried in a leather or canvas bag. The bag should be closable
and protected from stray sparks. (b) Powder flasks made from non-sparkable
material, e.g. brass, copper, horn, leather, wood, etc. The flask should
have a measure and a flash proof closure. (c) Bandoliers, being made from
wood with tight fitting tops, must be flash proof.
It is important that all these items are checked before every battle
for damage and are kept clean and in good working order.
4. All musketry weapons must be provided with a working lock, trigger
guard and pan cover.
5. Muskets must be cleaned after each usage.
6. Muskets must be kept in good repair i.e. make sure that the pan
cover is tight fitting, the stock is in good repair, the ramrod the correct
7. Musketeers and their officers are reminded that before giving fire
a check must be made and an order given to “Secure your Scouring Stick
8. A musket must never be aimed at a person or animal and the recommended
safe firing distance of twenty yards should be adhered to.
9. All stocked weapons must be fired from the shoulder, care should
be taken to see where the musket is aiming and that the face is protected
from any flashback.
10. Only soft toilet paper is to be used for wadding and the thickness
of this should not exceed the bore of the gun. If paper cartridges are
used, the paper should not be used as wadding due to danger from powder
grains becoming entrapped in the folds.
11. No weapon shall be loaded off the battlefield except under the
direct order of a responsible officer during organised training. Weapons
will be unloaded before units march off of the battlefield.
12. Musketeers will not engage in hand to hand combat whilst carrying
lit slow match or with a loaded musket. Nor should they enter a pike push
while still carrying powder or match. (Helmets or Secretes must be worn
in pike pushes.)
13. Muskets must be organised to fire by command only. The musket officer
will not fire a musket whilst in command.
14. Musketeers must only use muskets with barrels that are in current
proof. All modifications or alterations, including brazing etc. carried
out on any barrel invalidates proof. The barrel must be submitted for reproofing
in accordance with Gun Barrel Proof Act if any alterations are made.
15. The minimum musket bore permitted is 5/8″, and the charge
for this size must not exceed 2 drams. Muskets of 3/4″ bore must not
exceed a charge of 3 drams. (NB: 1 ounce = 16 drams) The proof load should
never be exceeded.
16. All musketeers and dragoons must be registered with the Musket
Inspectorate and the Board of Ordnance. Each black powder user will draw
his/her own powder from the magazine prior to each battle. The individual
to whom the powder is issued is solely responsible for its safe keeping
and must not transfer possession of any powder to third person. All unused
powder must be returned to the magazine at the end of each battle. Members
must not bring their own powder to S.K. events except by prior arrangement
with the magazine.
17. No propellant other than gunpowder will be used in any weapon .
Projectiles must not be fired.
18. The use of pistols and other class 1 Firearms will be permitted
only for the cavalry and other persons on the specific authority of the
Board of Safety. It should be noted that a Shot Gun Certificate is valid
only for smooth-bore weapons with a barrel length measured internally from
the point of ignition to the muzzle of not less than 24″ and a bore
diameter of not more than 2″.
19. On horseback, loaded carbines will be carried ordered upon the
right thigh preparatory to discharge; they must not be left to hang from
the cross belt.
20. When pistols are carried and used on horseback they will be kept
in holsters secured to the saddle. A loaded pistol will not be returned
to its holster except in the case of a misfire, when care will be taken
to ensure that the pan is empty and the source of ignition removed. Pistols
will not be left in the holsters of an unattended horse.
21. Treat all guns as potentialy loaded and THINK SAFETY.