Swedish 1815-38 Flintlock Infantry Musket

  • Country: Sweden
  • Ignition System: Flintlock
  • Calibre: 18mm

Presented here is a Swedish 1815-38 flintlock infantry musket, the last of a family of muskets that spanned 25 years of service. The basic 1815 musket was introduced in a period of relative peace following the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. Sweden was at the time effectively being ruled by the crown prince Charles John who was none other than Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, former Marshal of France. He was officially coronated in 1818 to become Charles XIV John of Sweden. During his reign, he adopted a position of neutrality towards conflicts raging outside Scandinavia and maintained a stable relationship with Norway, of which he was also sovereign by treaty. The upshot for the collector and shooter is that these muskets are very well built and are usually found in excellent condition.

The general layout of the musket is reminiscent of the French Mle1777 musket, which influenced the design of most military muskets across the continent at that time. Common features include the cheek recess in the stock, a separate pan on the lock and spring barrel bands. A few things have been simplified however; for instance, the sling loops have no complicated pivots. The rear loop sits in a slot in the trigger guard, and the front loop pivots about a screw passing through the middle barrel band. The barrel tang screw is also reasonably crude and is inserted up through the trigger guard to screw into the barrel tang, which is the opposite to almost all muskets of the time and is usually associated with 17th century matchlocks. The reason for placing the tang screw upside down may be because of the most surprising feature of the musket, namely the rear sight. The original 1815 rear sight was integral with the tang. The 1838 modification involved fixing a separate rear sight block in the breech tag using a dovetail joint. The dovetail is in line with the tang axis such that you need to unscrew the breech plug to be able to remove the sight block; this also means that you cannot adjust the sight for windage.

I have not found out why the rear sight was included so early, and on a smoothbore infantry musket of all things. At the time sights were the reserve of rifles destined for sharpshooters and were only introduced on muskets with the percussion system.

The other noticeable feature is the dog behind the cock. For reasons unknown to me the Swedes continued to use the dog, long after it had been superseded by the half-cock notch on the tumbler which theoretically performs the same task, namely to block the hammer in a safe position which allows access to the pan for priming. If the half-cock notch has been properly cut into the tumbler, the tip of the sear will sit deep in the notch from which it will not release no matter how hard the trigger is pulled. However if the notch is cut too shallow or is worn, a hard pull on the trigger could cause the sear to slip and release the tumbler, and hence the hammer, potentially causing an accidental discharge. With a dog, the hammer is forced into engagement with the hook of the dog under pressure from the mainspring. Wear to the tumbler or sear will have no impact on it and the only way to release the hammer is to bring it to full cock. This causes the rather stylish spur at the back of the hammer to push the dog out of the notch in the back of the hammer. Having observed many dog locks, I have noticed that those which have the dog missing look like they have sheared off at the pivot screw, so even a dog can fail. Clearly, the Swedes did not fully trust either safety to they decided to integrate both. The lock therefore has a deep half-cock notch on the tumbler and a dog, which can be engaged manually when the hammer is pulled back between the half-cock and full-cock.

I have asked some Swedish collectors about the shape of the cock, they tell me that is was simply a case of following the popular designs at the time.

Another feature is the water resistant pan. It has a convex upper surface, which mates with the concave pan lid of the frizzen. The pan lid is also slightly bigger than the pan and includes a lip around its periphery. These features all contribute to preventing the ingress of water or moisture into the pan, which could then foul the priming and main charge. Notice also the very thick layer of hardened steel on the striking face of the frizzen. There is enough material there to guarantee a good spark for centuries.

The butt plate, barrel bands and trigger guard are made of thick brass. This makes the musket quite heavy but less prone to rust, which was probably very important considering the rain and snow of the long harsh Scandinavian winters.

This musket was produced at the Norrtalje factory in 1835, which means it was modified after 1838 with the new dovetailed sight, something that is apparently unusual since there was no need to modify the older muskets since they already had the integral version of the sight. 1835 might sound late for the production of a flintlock musket but it must be remembered that, with the exception of the French 1833 and 1837 pistols, military percussion guns only really appeared from 1838 onwards. Sweden itself made the transition to percussion in 1840.

Overall, we have here a good solid weather-resistant musket with a well-designed lock that was very well designed and wherein safety was not sacrificed.