How Accurate Were Revolutionary War Muskets?

And how guns became far more accurate almost overnight

Grant Piper
5 min readJun 7, 2023
(Wikimedia Commons)

Many people read about 18th and early 19th century warfare and wonder how soldiers could march shoulder to shoulder in a line toward the enemy when the enemy was armed with muskets. From a modern viewpoint, marching calmly into the face of enemy fire feels foolish. Take the famous Battle of Bunker Hill, for example. The British confidently marched up a hill into the teeth of enemy defenses. This type of warfare was common for more than a century. So what gives?

One major reason why soldiers could safely march toward one another, even when brandishing firearms, is because the muskets at the time were horribly inaccurate. People today say that someone couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when they want to describe something inaccurate. During the Revolutionary War, that was not an exaggeration. Even a trained soldier would have a hard time hitting the broad side of a barn with a smooth bore musket.

So how inaccurate were Revolutionary era muskets? Way more inaccurate than you think.

Revolutionary War Musket Accuracy

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.