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Royal Navy Sea Service Musket (1778 Model)

American Revolution - Nelson's Navy - War of 1812

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Historical Background

As early as 1738, Britain's Admiralty had muskets made specifically for its sailors and Marines. Throughout the next 100 years the sea service musket went through a slow evolution in lock styles, but three elements remained the same: (1) a short barrel, (2) a two ramrod pipes, and (3) a distinctly flat butt plate with a square-cornered butt. This butt shape was completely unique to the sea service musket (see original butt plate).

From 1757, this musket was produced in both a bright finish (shown here) and a blackened or japanned finish. It is likely the bright finish was the distinguishing element of the arms of the Marines (after 1802 "Royal Marines") from that issued to the sailors. Bright arms were a source of pride for Infantry Regiments and considering the infantry-like duties of the Marines, it is likely they possessed the time to maintain the bright finish both at sea and while on service ashore.

Not so for the seamen whose time was better spent in seafaring than polishing. Blackening the barrels of their muskets to protect them from salty sea water was the better option. On some original this blackening was even extended to the brass as well.

Boarding party of sailors and marines, 1801

By the time of Nelson, a portion of the crew (example: 150 sailors on a 1st Rate ship) was expected to be well-versed in the musket firing exercise and took turns on board to become efficient in the proper handling of their musket. The Captain only needed to dispatch this portion of the crew to repel enemy boarders. A small well-trained, volley-firing detachment was much more effective than a large mob of sailors firing indiscriminately. In addition, when part of a ship's crew was called upon to fight on shore, they could perform their duty like trained Infantry.

That said all of the crew received basic training in the use of a musket. The ship's Master at Arms was specifically ordered when training the crew "to direct their attention to the pointing of their muskets well before they fire them". (see Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea (1808) for further information)

Royal Navy Seaman to the left using this Sea Service musket in the Defeat of the Ashantis, 1824 by Dennis Dighton



Reproduced here is the 1778 model of the Sea Service musket. It adopted the 1777 style straight lock at this time. In addition a steel ramrod became standard and a small spring catch as added to the first pipe to keep the rammer from falling out. As you can see no brass nose cap was used on this nor any other model of sea service musket.

After the study of a number of originals, (see an original in Canadian War Museum collection) the presence of a trigger plate seems to be more common then not (see original trigger plate with remnants of blacking on it). The tang screw ends in a small square nut in front of the trigger. This element was adopted into the 3rd model brown bess. The trigger guard is short and quite simple in design and the musket itself was one of manufacturing efficiency than elegance.

The 37 inch .75 calibre barrel is made of tempered seamless modern carbon steel (type:BS970 no.080M40) with a tight breech plug. Blackened barrels were rough filed to improve bonding of the blackening. The one offered here is the bright steel model but can be easily blackened by the customer.

The lock is made with strong durable springs and has a case-hardened frizzen (hammer) that throws good sparks (our new process of industrial hardening has made this even more durable). The ramrod has a tight end and when in the barrel has 1 inch of length past the muzzle for easy handling. We use a industrial case-hardening factory process that makes sparking both more reliable and longer lasting. Presently no other musket provider uses this technique.

As with all our other flintlocks, the vent is not drilled (read details below) so we can ship easily to your door throughout North America and to Europe and the UK. Aside from that they are exactly like the originals. A fine addition to any collection.

*What our Customers said*

Sea Service Brown Bess Musket: 559.00 699.00 (MTS-022)

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Add BAY-002 Brown Bess Socket Bayonet 68.000US 75.00CAN 

For shipping costs and other details see bottom of our Muskets section

Our Guarantee

If upon receiving your musket you are not completely happy with your purchase, you may return it for a refund. All we ask is you cover the shipping costs. It has to be returned in two weeks of receipt and be in its original state (unaltered and unmodified).

Non-Firing State

We sell historically accurate muskets and pistols in a non-firing state. This allows us to comply with various local, state, national and international firearms regulations, along with shipping company policy restrictions. A certified gunsmith may decide to alter a musket or pistol to a firing state by drilling the vent hole and test firing it. We are not legally responsible for any changes from its present state.     Please read our Conditions of Use and Legal Disclaimer.  The customer is expected to be aware of the laws of their locality that govern products of this nature.


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