Author Topic: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?  (Read 11670 times)

Offline Model19

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What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« on: February 12, 2010, 03:50:44 PM »
This question just came to me as I was thinking of how to explain the difference between the two.  What differentiates a 1690 (for example) fowler from a musket of the same period?
Stock configuration?
Barrel length?
Bore size?

How could you explain the difference other than "one's a shotgun that could fire ball and one just fired ball" when you know that in a pinch anything you could ram down the bore of either would work and was done?

Geoff
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Offline Bill of the 45th

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2010, 04:01:09 PM »
In simplest terms, Musket refers to a military smoothbore, and Fowler refers to a civilian hunting gun, also smoothbore.  The Muskets were generally heavier built, and simpler in build to handle the rigors of military use.  Much later (19th century) muskets became rifled, but the name Musket still stuck.

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Offline James Rogers

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2010, 04:23:44 PM »
A lot of similar designs and hardware in the time frame you mention. Although architecture was similar, fowling pieces were not held to contract specs and much more freedom of decoration could be had with bore size, stock configuration, decoration, etc.. In many instances, some fowling pieces were of lighter construction than muskets with the heavier duck guns being more like their musket cousins. The time frame you give is a transitional time for English pieces in particular as that was a time where very heavy French and Dutch influence was being adopted into English design due to many of the best gunmakers in England being from those areas. For English pieces from late 1600's thru first quarter of the 18th I see heavy Dutch characteristics as a whole and as time progresses forward the French influence gets more prominent in my opinion.

In America, the fowling piece saw musket service in many militia type situations.



« Last Edit: February 12, 2010, 04:43:58 PM by James Rogers »

Offline rich pierce

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2010, 06:36:25 PM »
Muskets had a bayonet lug.  Thus a fowler becomes a militia musket when it is modified to pass muster for militia use.

But in general, a very high percentage of muskets were standardized, govt.-issued arms and fewer were "custom" arms.
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northmn

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2010, 06:38:54 PM »
Depending on the time frame but commonly a musket had bayonet attachments if military.  Steel ramrods became common before the Revolution in muskets.  Barrels were commonly round all the way and possibly heavier at the breech.  Muskets will weigh more and were often very large bore.  Muskets like the Brown Bess had very large locks where a fowler may have a smaller quicker lock, with some using rifle locks.  More delicate wrists on fowlers and lighter fancier hardware.  Also there was a matter of terminology for the military and for civilians.  A musket was a main line infantry weapon, etc where they may have had an officers fusil or a smaller bored weapon.  I remember an article once explaining the difference between a short rifle and a carbine.  Really nitpicking.  

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Offline Model19

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2010, 10:22:38 PM »
Thanks everybody. 
So what made a fowler more of a multi purpose piece as we tend to think of it from a purely mechanical standpoint?   I know on the surface this looks like a dumb question, but just what made it more suited to firing shot?  Bore size alone? 
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Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2010, 10:31:44 PM »
Lighter, easier to point at birds on the wing......??
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Offline Artificer

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2010, 10:33:32 PM »
As others have mentioned, it is pretty easy to distinguish the fancier fowlers from the period muskets by the engraving, type of barrel, carving, etc, etc.  Where it gets sticky is in the more common or less expensive fowlers compared to the late 17th century muskets and even some of the Pre Land Pattern Brown Bess muskets for example.  A lot of good info has already been brought up, but here's a little more.

1.  I would suggest the most telling feature is whether or not it is made for use with a socket bayonet.  Socket bayonets were pretty much standardized in Europen armies in the 1660's.  If you have a rectangular stud instead of a front sight and the stock ends three to four inches form the muzzle, that's a darn good indicator of having been fitted with a socket bayonet and that pretty much rules out a civilian fowler.  (However some fowlers here were retro fitted for bayonets and used as muskets and that get's confusing.  Grin.)

2.  Someone already mentioned most civilian locks weren't dated,  but some musket locks in the early and late flint periods were also not dated.  However, if there is an engraved crown on the lock of an English gun, that almost certainly  means it was a musket because it denoted Crown property.  American made contract muskets may have U.S. on the locks during the Rev War period.

3. Another quickly distinguishable feature would be whether or not there were military style sling swivels on the gun.  I learned long ago to "never say never," but it would have been extremely rare to have seen military style sling swivels (especially the front sling swivel) on a fowler.  These sling swivels were seen on Pre Land Pattern Brown Besses for example and some of them could otherwise be mistaken for fowlers by some people.

4.  Where it really gets confusing is when you find military parts on what is most likely a fowler.  These came from muskets that were considered too old or too damaged for repair and return as a musket.  In England, outdated/unserviceable muskets were "broken up" and the brass parts usually melted down and recast in the current style.  If the barrels could be reused, they were,but if not they would have been sold as scrap and some few of them found their way on civilian arms.  If the locks were of an outdated style, they would also be sold and could wind up for use in East India or muskets purchased by civilian ship owners for example.  Same thing would happen here in America.  "Surplus" guns and parts in the hands of civilians goes back further than many of us think.  Grin.

Gus
« Last Edit: February 12, 2010, 10:51:12 PM by Artificer »

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2010, 10:44:46 PM »
my English style fowler has a Brown Bess trigger in it......just for conversation's sake ;) ;D
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Offline Artificer

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2010, 10:53:22 PM »
Oops forgot to mention that Government military proof marks on the barrel  also will tell you the barrel was at least first made for a musket, even if it is found today on a fowler.

Gus

Offline debnal

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2010, 12:27:02 AM »
Scooter has gotten is right on. Those of us who primarily collect fowlers just know what they are although there are some which are difficult to distinguish. Case in point: The gun NE25 on page 59 in Tom Grinslade's book on fowlers. I currently own it. He lists it as a fowler but it is a musket.
Additionally it is marked Barrett inside the lock so the gun might even be a Mass. Committee of Safety musket.
Al

Joe S

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Re: What makes an early fowler a fowler and not a musket?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2010, 03:52:08 AM »
Quote
So what made a fowler more of a multi purpose piece as we tend to think of it from a purely mechanical standpoint?   I know on the surface this looks like a dumb question, but just what made it more suited to firing shot?  Bore size alone?

A rifled barrel can shoot only patched balls.  A smoothbore can fire shot, and it can also fire a patched round ball with good enough accuracy to kill deer sized game out to 75 yards or so, which is adequate for hunting in eastern forests.  So if you only can have one gun and want to use it on both birds and mammals, a smoothbore is the way to go.

Bore size is an interesting question.  Hudson Valley and British fowlers were apparently used primarily for waterfowl, probably mostly sitting birds.  Hence, these guns tend to have large bores in the .70 - .80 caliber ranges (12-9 gauge).  These are long, heavy guns, with barrels often over five feet long, so they are not really suited for being carried for a long day in the woods.  I doubt they shot a lot of balls with these guns.

New England fowler calibers tend to run in the .60s for the most part, so mostly in 20-16 gauge range.  These calibers would be reasonably effective on birds, and more fun to shoot round balls out of than the above fowlers.  A New England fowler is also a shorter, lighter gun, and would be practical for carrying in the woods.

Kentucky fowlers tend to have very small bores, in the .50 to .60 caliber range, so now were talking about 32 20 gauge guns.  Im curious about how these guns were actually used.  The smaller bores are getting to the range where they are not very effective on birds.  I think they may have been used primarily as smooth rifles shooting patched balls, with only very occasional shot loads, perhaps for squirrels or maybe the odd passenger pigeon.