A Cap-Fired Breech Loading Musket Whose Bayonet is a Sword
Russ Chastain 07.06.20
In the 1850s, the French military (stop laughing) experimented with a number of breech-loading guns, in hopes of improving their rate of fire over muzzleloading arms — especially for their cavalry, because loading a front-stuffer while on horseback isn’t exactly easy. Oddly enough, this attempt to make life easier for mounted troops also included a humongous bayonet!
A fellow named Arcelin came up with the Arcelin Mousqueton, which is more or less a bolt-action single-shot musket — which still requires a musket cap for ignition, as would a muzzleloader. You essentially open the bolt, insert a cartridge (paper containing powder & bullet), close the bolt, cock the hammer, cap the nipple, and you are ready to shoot.
In describing the process, Ian misspeaks when he says the plunger on the front of the bolt creates an air space between bolt and cartridge. It does nothing of the kind; it simply shoves the cartridge up into the chamber. An air space with black powder could be quite dangerous.
Unfortunately, this design lacks a proper gas seal at the rear, which is one reason turnbolt muzzleloaders never quite caught on back then; the metallic cartridge’s brass case does most of the job of gas sealing in a cartridge gun, and that case is of course absent from this design. For that reason, fouling — black powder fouling, which is particularly heavy and nasty — would eventually clog up the works, making the bolt difficult to turn. This led to broken bolt handles, which is never good.
This gun is quite interesting, but sadly the camera work is less than stellar this time… though it does improve once we start looking closely at the gun’s workings.
When we get to the bayonet, you start to realize just how nuts those guys must have been. It’s just about as long as the gun! And mounting it on the rifle makes the entire setup amazingly long.
It was mostly used for ceremonial stuff anyhow, since the only real use these muskets received was with the emperor’s personal guard.
And I used to think those old Japanese Arisaka bayonets were long!
Enjoy the video.