PDA

View Full Version : Musketry Standards w/Single-Shot Rifles



Taylor Harbin
04-29-2014, 06:27 AM
For my next project, I will need to know about how an infantry unit would have been trained with single-shot rifles. It's not a historical book, but the faction is equipped with guns like the Martini-Henry or the Springfield Trapdoor; single-shot rifles that loaded from the breech.

I've tried Googling the subject. Can't find period manuals from any government.

Everyone knows about the 3-shots-per-minute drill from the Civil War, and more attention is given to the Mad Minute during WWI. The interim period, like the Indian Wars and colonial conflicts, seems to be largely ignored.

Were mass formations still preferred versus small unit tactics? Volley fire? How would they deal with an enemy that had repeating weapons?

Again, it's a fantasy novel, so I'll be combining whatever resources you might be able to provide.

Thanks!

Trebor1415
04-29-2014, 09:29 AM
For my next project, I will need to know about how an infantry unit would have been trained with single-shot rifles. It's not a historical book, but the faction is equipped with guns like the Martini-Henry or the Springfield Trapdoor; single-shot rifles that loaded from the breech.

I've tried Googling the subject. Can't find period manuals from any government.

Everyone knows about the 3-shots-per-minute drill from the Civil War, and more attention is given to the Mad Minute during WWI. The interim period, like the Indian Wars and colonial conflicts, seems to be largely ignored.

Were mass formations still preferred versus small unit tactics? Volley fire? How would they deal with an enemy that had repeating weapons?

Again, it's a fantasy novel, so I'll be combining whatever resources you might be able to provide.

Thanks!

It sounds like the side armed with single shot rifles is on the wrong end of the tech curve fighting an opponent with repeating rifles.

With that in mind, their tactics would also likely be outdated and they would face a challenge updating their tactics to work against an opponent with superior tech.

The sweet spot is typically around 100 meters or less where the mass effect of a concentrated volley has the most effect. They can also fire by rank where the first rank kneels and loads while the second rank fires, then the second rank moves forward, kneels, and loads while the (previous) first rank fires, etc. This can be done forward or with movement to the rear.

Of course, all this requires well trained troops with close supervision by NCO's and officers.

The advantage of a mass formation is that it allows this type of coordinated fire. It is also easier for command and control as the men are in direct sight of their leaders and vice versa. It also provides protection from close assualts, charges or enemy cavalry.

A large body of men would also likely have skirmishers out in front as well.

Small unit tactics might come into play in rough or wooded areas where the larger formations can't be formed.

A LOT also depends on the training and "traditions" of the army. Do they place a high value on individual marksmanship? Do they value individual initiative? Are the troops volunteers and well trained?

Or, are the troops largely conscripts that have to be more closely controlled by their officers and NCO's? In that case, often marksmanship training was poor to non-existiant and they would rely on volley fire to produce enemy casualties.

Look at the Boer War as a good example. The Boers were farmers and ranchers and some city folk with a traditional of marksmanship, horesemanship, and individual initiative.

They relied on their superior marksmanship skills to out range the British and inflect casualties at ranges where the Brits could not effectively respond. The Boers also had better rifles, but they would have still outranged the Brits had they had Martini Henrys instead of Mauser repeaters. The Boer Commandos (the name of the units, not the men) operated in small groups.

The Brits, on the other hand, had a largely conscript army with a salting of vet NCO's. They did not value marksmanship and operated in large units.


One last thought: The tech disadvantage of a Martini Henry .vs an early repeating rifle might not be as significant as you think. The M-H is actually quite quick to load and fire. The actions are: Pull the lever down to open the breech (this ejects the spent casing too), then manually load a cartridge into the chamber and push the lever up to close the breech and cock the weapon. Then aim and fire. You'll pull down the lever and open the breech as you lower the rifle from your shoulder. That's it. If the ammo is handy (as it should be in a pouch or bandolier) you can perform this pretty quickly and keep up a decent rate of fire. Someone armed with a repeating rifle might have a slightly higher rate of fire, but they will also have more "pauses" in their fire as they have to stop every five rounds (typically) to load new cartridges in the magazine. (If they load single rounds, like with a Krag, the pause is longer than if they use stripper clips, like a 1893 Mauser).

The Trapdoor Spingfield has a more involved process. You have to open the trapdoor at the breech, insert a cartridge, close the trapdoor, and cock the rifle manually. It's just a bit slower.

JoeHill
04-29-2014, 10:38 AM
I would recommend finding some Osprey Military History books on conflicts which took place when such weapons were the norm, such as the Franco-Prussian War or the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. In the former, the two forces had single shot rifles which still used paper cartridges, the French Chassepot and the Dreyse Needle gun. In the latter, metal cartridges were in use. The Russians at first used something called the Krnka, then they got the bolt-action(though single round at a time) Berdan rifle. The Turkish side used Martini-Peabody, but they also had Winchester 1873 lever action carbines for their artillerymen and cavalry. Obviously this occasionally gave them a huge advantage in some fire fights.

As for tactics, it seems that fighting in linear formations was still pretty much the norm. As for firing I'm pretty sure it was individually, but they might have fired their first shots as a volley. In any case, marching around in linear formations was still quite common in WWI, so it shouldn't have been radically different prior to that.

JoeHill
04-29-2014, 10:57 AM
This article doesn't go into great details, but it does talk a little about later Victorian-era British infantry tactics involving single shot breech loading rifles. http://www.savageandsoldier.com/articles/Misc/TacticalNotesOnBrits.html

Nivarion
04-29-2014, 02:20 PM
You might also be interested in studying the Japanese military in WWII. They had a mainly single fire weapon (arisaka) and were fabulous with their bayonets. Their tactics served them well against Russia and China. But when they went against Americans with the M1 Garand their tactics lost them a lot of guys. Could study how they evolved.

JoeHill
04-29-2014, 02:50 PM
You might also be interested in studying the Japanese military in WWII. They had a mainly single fire weapon (arisaka) and were fabulous with their bayonets. Their tactics served them well against Russia and China. But when they went against Americans with the M1 Garand their tactics lost them a lot of guys. Could study how they evolved.

Arisakas have a five-round magazine though. OP was asking about rifles in which you must reload after each shot- it was the stop-gap between the muzzle-loading rifled musket and the repeating bolt action rifle.

Taylor Harbin
04-29-2014, 06:24 PM
With that in mind, their tactics would also likely be outdated and they would face a challenge updating their tactics to work against an opponent with superior tech.

A LOT also depends on the training and "traditions" of the army. Do they place a high value on individual marksmanship? Do they value individual initiative? Are the troops volunteers and well trained?
One last thought: The tech disadvantage of a Martini Henry .vs an early repeating rifle might not be as significant as you think.

Yes, training is valued because they know they are behind the curve. Because of religious stipulations and the fact that they aren't a conquering people, they have put their money elsewhere until now.

The "repeating" rifle I had envisioned for the enemy was more in line with the Gewehr M71, with an 8 round tubular magazine.

Trebor1415
04-29-2014, 10:12 PM
Yes, training is valued because they know they are behind the curve. Because of religious stipulations and the fact that they aren't a conquering people, they have put their money elsewhere until now.

The "repeating" rifle I had envisioned for the enemy was more in line with the Gewehr M71, with an 8 round tubular magazine.

In that case the difference between the Martini Henry and the M71 with the tubular magazine is not really going to be that significant. The cartridges are about equal, ballistically, so that's a wash.

The tube magazine is not the most efficient magazine system as it does require cartridges to be inserted one at a time. The later Mauser stripper clip system is much faster.

Like I mentioned before, the tube-fed M71 will offer a slight advantage in rate of fire, at least initially, but the RoF will be slowed as the magazines are emptied and the soldiers have to pause and reload all 8 rounds. Meanwhile, the Martini Henry equipped shooters will keep up a more steady "load one/shoot one" pace that, while a bit slower, lacks the intermitent pauses of the M71.

In other words, I wouldn't feel undergunned with the M H in that situation so the advantage will go to the side with better training, better discipline, better tactics, and (possibly) superior numbers.

Trebor1415
04-29-2014, 10:16 PM
Yes, training is valued because they know they are behind the curve. Because of religious stipulations and the fact that they aren't a conquering people, they have put their money elsewhere until now.


Btw, the ideas that "training is valued" and "they have put their money elsewhere until now" are actually kinda incompatable.

The biggest expense for a military organization isn't really the cost of the equipment or rifles, but the costs to train the troops.

So, "high standard of training" and "low military budget" are a contradiction.

One way around that problem though is if they, like the Boer's, have a traditional cultural emphasis on marksmanship. That only takes you so far though as they still need large unit training if they want to function as a field army with the appropriate tactics.

Taylor Harbin
04-30-2014, 02:04 AM
So, "high standard of training" and "low military budget" are a contradiction.

Doh. You're right. I'll come up with an alternate explanation for the tech difference.

badwolf.usmc
04-30-2014, 04:50 AM
Doh. You're right. I'll come up with an alternate explanation for the tech difference.

A difference could be just the general philosophy in regard to the rifle. For example, during WW II, German squads were based around the machine gun so the bolt action rifle was enough to support it. In contrast, U.S. squads were based around the rifle, and the machine gun used to support it, so an semiautomatic/automatic rifle is better.

One side could value marksmanship while the other side values volume of fire.

JoeHill
04-30-2014, 09:48 AM
A low military budget doesn't always mean poor military skills, depending on the society you're talking about and the time period. I don't believe the Boers had much of a military budget to speak of, but they had knowledge of the land, survival skills, and they knew how to use their weapons. Ditto for the peoples of the North Caucasus in the 19th century.