A French man named Marin le Bourgeoys made the first ever flintlock weapons for the King Louis XIII shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610. Throughout the 17th century, the flintlock muskets were produced in a wide range of models.
In the year 1717, a flintlock musket for the French infantry was standardized. This became the very first standard flintlock to be issued to all infantry regiments.
Although it was more correctly called a French infantry musket or French pattern musket, these flintlock muskets later became known as “Charleville muskets”, named after the armoury Charleville-Mezieres in the Ardennes, France. The musket was also in production at Tulle, St Etienne, Maubeuge Arsenal and many other sites.
The Charleville musket’s design was changed several times during its service in the army from 1717-1839 some 150,000 muskets were made until the percussion lock system made the flintlock obsolete.
The Charleville muskets had a smooth bore barrel some 60 inches in length. Rifles were more accurate than the smooth bore muskets, but the Military commanders favoured the smooth bores on the battlefield, since the round from a rifle had to fit tightly into the barrel, and became very difficult to load after a few shots had been fired because the black powder used at the time quickly blocked the barrel.
The longer range and better accuracy of the rifle was also considered to be of little use on the battlefield that was quickly obscured by the black powder smoke. Like all smooth bore muskets, the Charleville was only accurate to about 50 to 100 meters.
The Charleville’s .69 caliber barrel was a little smaller than its main competitor, the .75 caliber Brown Bess produced by the British. The smaller round as intentionally chosen to reduce weight in the field, but still had enough mass to be effective as a military round. The French muskets were not used in battle like the modern rifle. Instead, the Charleville muskets were fired in mass formations.
The muskets barrel was held together by three barrel bands made of iron. This made the Charleville sturdier than the British Brown Bess musket, which used pins to hold the barrel in place. It also had a single barrel band at the bottom of the barrel which held the wooden ramrod. The butt of the musket was sometimes referred to as the “Patte de vache” (French for “cow’s foot”), as its shape was designed to be used as a club in hand to hand combat. The Stock was usually made out of Walnut. The musket was 60 inches in length and weighed about nine to ten pounds.
Charleville muskets were muzzle loaded, and used a flintlock firing mechanism. They fired a round lead ball, but could also fire other ammunition such as buck and ball or shot. The rate of fire would depend on the skill of the soldier this was about 3 shots per minute.
Changes to the musket in the 1740’s included the standardized use of a steel ramrod in 1743 and, after 1746, newly manufactured muskets had the pan/frizzen bridle removed.
In 1777 the musket went through another modification, with a cheek rest cut into the inboard side of the butt. The Model 1777 also featured a slanted brass flash pan and bridle, and a modified trigger guard with two rear finger ridges.