French 1763 Léger (1766) Charleville

     The early 18th century brought a flurry of developments in French musketry. A standardized model was finally established in 1717.  However the abundance of Marine models, and Contract Fusil de Chasse in North America relegated the 1717 musket to a life in France's forces stationed in Europe.  The 1717 was replaced eleven years later in 1728 with a model using three barrel bands to hold its 46 3/4 inch barrel in place.

     The 1728 musket, with modifications made in 1746, was the musket carried by the majority of French troops during the French and Indian War (see images of the Compagnies Franche de la Marine and the Regiment de Bearn).  Changes in the 1740s included the standardized use of a steel ramrod in 1743 and, after 1746, newly manufactured muskets had the pan/frizzen bridle removed.  There were three arsenals making the 1728/1746 models: Charleville, Maubeuge, and St. Etienne.  St. Etienne was the largest producer and because of this the 1728 is often called the St. Etienne musket.  It was St. Etienne that provided the bulk of the arms to the Navy for the Compagnies Franche de la Marine in the late 1740s.

     After 1754 some more changes were done however it is unlikely many of the 1754 muskets made it to the fighting in North America because of the vast quantities of 1728 muskets in the armories of New France.  In 1763, the 46 3/4-inch barreled 1728 musket was abandoned for a shorter new model known commonly as the Charleville Musket.  However this did not end the use of the 1728 model in North America.  A new army had immerged in the 1770s with a dire need for arms.  The Continental Army of the United States was more than happy to purchase the old arms of France to assist them in their struggle against Great Britain.  As well it is possible captured stores in New France were re-issued to Quebec's militia to defend themselves from the invading Americans in 1775-1776, or fell into American hands after the fall of Montreal.

  In 1763 France adopted a new model infantry weapon, much stronger than the previous models, to answer the accelerated fighting during the War of the Seven Years (which ended that same year). The new musket however appeared soon to be too heavy and after only three years it was replaced by its modified version, known as Model 1766, projected by M. de Montbeillard, Inspector of Saint Etienne Manufacture. The new model appeared to be very strong and reliable in spite it was remarkably lightened. The Model 1766 was manufactured in more than 150,000 pieces until 1770. After such date it has been progressively replaced by the Model 1770 & 1777, all the muskets the corps used till then given back to be stored. When the American War of Independence started in 1776, France happened to have plenty of Model 1766 muskets and supplied large quantities to the United States of America Army. The Marquis de Lafayette personally delivered a gift of 25,000 of these muskets from the French Government to General Washington. This helped turn the tide of the American Revolution. As far for North America, this musket was also used (but with some modifications) by parts of Upper Canada's militia at the beginning of the War of 1812.

     The French 1777 Model Infantry Musket was the last in a long line of modifications to the 1728 model French Infantry Musket. Some of the unique elements of this model are the finger ridges on the trigger guard, the brass frizzen, and the cheek piece carved in the stock's butt with a straighten frizzen cover and slightly different front band.  The .66 calibre barrel is 44 3/4 inches long and the musket's total length is 60 inches.  As for North America, it would have seen limited service in the later part of the American Revolution.  This musket (but with an iron frizzen) was used by parts of Upper Canada's militia at the beginning of the War of 1812.  This musket eventually saw service with Napoleon's infantry during the 1st Empire.

     As the United States established its own arsenals at Harper's Ferry and Springfield in the early 1800's, the French design was evident as the ancestor of all American designs through the percussion era and ending with the Civil War 1861 and 1863 models.

Ready to get your own musket?  Several companies make them, but we have found that the Pedersoli 1766 Charleville is one of the best and most faithful reproductions available.

Do you prefer the British variety? Pedersoli also makes the 1762 Brown Bess.

Interested in learning about the Brown Bess?

CLICK HERE to read about the most famous weapon of the British Empire.


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