British Baker Rifle

1800
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Ignition System: Flintlock
  • Calibre: 15,8mm (.625) Ball

With the exception of the German states, the rifle was very slow to be accepted for general military use in Europe. Even the German states limited their use to specialist troops. The British, though their royal connections to various Germanic states benefited from the trend and experimented quite early with specialist troops armed with rifles although there was no real consistency in rifle pattern or even calibre. Rifles were considered inferior largely due to the tactics of the day which called for rapid fire with muskets into a large mass of men at close range, something that required only the most basic firearms instruction. A rifle on the other hand was capable of being used for aimed shots to target individuals at over twice the range of a musket, but, was much slower to load, since the ball had to fit tightly in the bore, and it required a good level of marksmanship to master. Most military powers decided that the cost of the guns and the training required was just not worth it. Nonetheless, in 1800 the British launched trials for a standard rifle suitable for military use. After extensive trials, the rifle designed by the gunsmith Ezekiel Baker was selected. Generally speaking, it follows the basic pattern of Germanic flintlock rifles including a stock with a cheek piece and patch box, trigger guard with grip extension, a short thick walled barrel and a sturdy bayonet bar on the muzzle for a long sword bayonet.

The barrel is fixed to the stock by a hooked breech and keys, making barrel removal relatively easy. The barrel is 762mm long (30”) and rifled with seven grooves, the bore is 15,8mm calibre (0.625”), which was then the “carbine bore” in use in the British army. The sights consist of a fixed rear sight with an addition flip up sight leaf and a fixed front sight. The patch box would have contained cleaning tools and greased leather patches for when time allowed for precision loading and shooting. If rapid shooting was called for, the riflemenn used paper cartridges. Later in the rifles’ carrier, lead balls covered in a thin greased leather patch were also produced.

The rifle prooved very well suited to harsh military life in the Napoleonic wars and beyond and it remained largely unchanged during its service life bar a few cosmetic changes. The rifle was also popular with volunteer rifle regiments, which had the liberty of purchasing their own rifles with the provision that they could fire service ammunition. As such some private “Baker” rifles can be found with the markers mark of prestigious gunmakers of the day, with various barrel lengths and even fitted for socket bayonets. The Baker was also provided to the Portuguese army during the Peninsula War and was also in Mexico.

This particular rifle is in fact a modern reproduction made by the British gunmaker Peter Dyson. Aside from the use of modern materials, it is strictly made to a later pattern of the rifle, this can be seen by the flat lock and flat ring-necked cock, and a slit in the ramrod channel of the stock. This slit was to prevent the ramrod from getting stuck if the stock swelled due to damp.

The rifle is very nice to shoot, and for someone of average build, it is not too heavy and the balance is good due to the short barrel length. I shoot with a 15,24mm (.600”) ball wrapped in a greased 0.5mm (0.020”) patch. It takes some effort to get the ball down but the results at 50m are very good.

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