Waterloo Weapons In Slow Motion, By Royal Armouries

This past weekend was the bicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated by the combined armies of the British and Prussians, and which marked the transition of Europe into a four-decade-long peace that would only be interrupted by the Crimean War in 1853.

Waterloo occurred in an era of flintlock primed blackpowder weapons, two examples being the India Pattern Musket (a variant of the famous Brown Bess) and the Model 1805 Baker Rifle. Royal Armouries released slow-motion footage of both weapons being fired in time for the anniversary:

Either video clearly shows how the flintlock priming mechanism works, and how dramatic the delay between pulling the trigger and ignition is. The priming mechanism obscures the sight picture and irritates the shooter – a good reason for many of these early weapons to not have particularly good sights, and the ball meanders lazily out the bore, followed by ejecta that resembles a rocket or jet engine’s exhaust.

However, all this pain and anguish had a major payoff: The terminal effectiveness of the unjacketed lead ball when it hit the target is undeniable, with the embedded bone being shattered into tiny pieces and a major temporary wound cavity being made in the path of the projectile.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Phil Hsueh

    I liked that Baker rifle, when it fired the flash from the priming pan seemed to blow out to the side and away from the face of the shooter, unlike the India pattern musket which I would be very scared to fire without eye pro.

    • Anton Gray Basson

      Ever wondered why pirates had eye patches? Well Ive been told thats why.

      • Tassiebush

        “Arrr! My eye captain!”

      • Canadian Vet

        Also a reason why mutton chops were so popular in the British army of the day. Singed hair might stink but it is a lot less unpleasant than having your face showered with bits of still-burning powder.

      • Phil Hsueh

        I’ve also seen it suggested (on Mythbusters) that it was for the purpose of night vision. One eye is kept in the dark under the patch so when you go to a dark environment from a light one or just when it gets dark in general you have one eye that’s already primed for night vision. When they tested it there seemed to be some validity to the myth, but whether or not it was the real reason or because they were simply missing an eye I don’t think anyone can say for certain.

        • Anton Gray Basson

          I think its more likely that they were missing an eye. But then again I dont know it was just an interesting “fact” that I was told a black powder shoot.

  • Ken

    Not to mention that the slow moving lead ball also did a good job of dragging pieces of dirt cover clothing deep into the body. If the bullet didn’t kill the target, the infection certainly did.

    It’s actually not that bad to shoot a flintlock. The flash hole is on the right, so it vents away from a right handed shooter. You really just notice a puff of warm gas on your forehead. The trick is also to not put too much powder in the pan and to have the pile of powder on the far side of the pan. You want the flash to jump into the barrel, not for a trail of powder to burn in like a fuse. Of course, soldiers primed by spilling a little bit of powder from a paper cartridge, so they often put more than was necessary while under stress.

    • Canadian Vet

      When I first fired my Pedersoli flintlock Kentucky Rifle, I thought I was prepared for the first ignition a few inches from my nose. Turns out I wasn’t and I now completely understand the term “flinch-lock”. After a side effect of shooting a flintlock with its slow ignition is that my follow-through with more modern firearms has dramatically improved.

  • ItalianAmerican

    Fantastic videos. As a black powder, flintlock shooter and I have always been fascinated by all of this.