This is a carbine (short musket) carried by the ordinary soldiers (other ranks) of the British light cavalry such as light dragoons or hussars. This gun was used at Waterloo by a cavalryman of the 6th (Inniskillings) Heavy Dragoon regiment.
The carbine was intended to be used as a defensive weapon when the soldier was dismounted, guarding the horses for example. It was very inaccurate when fired from the saddle because its barrel was only 20 inches (51cm) long.
It is fitted with a captive or swivel rammer to make sure that the loading rod could never be lost. A carbine without a rod was no more uses than a club. The carbine was attached by a swivel to a broad white leather belt slung over the soldier’s left shoulder. It was called the Paget carbine after Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge who was Wellington’s cavalry commander at Waterloo, and it was introduced in 1812.
It was fired by a flintlock mechanism that mimicked the human hands striking a flint and steel. This was a standard method of making fire. A sharp piece of flint was gripped in the jaws of a little vice called a cock, which was connected to a powerful spring. When the cock was pulled back it eventually locked against the trigger and the gun was ‘cocked’.
The cover for the priming powder (the small amount of gunpowder that set off the main charge) was fitted with hardened steel ‘ear’ called a frizzen, that sat in front of the flint. When the trigger was pressed, the cock flew forward, and the flint struck the face of the frizzen, showering red-hot sparks onto the priming powder. The flash then travelled to the main charge in the barrel and the gases from its subsequent explosion expelled the ball from the barrel.
To load the gun the soldier first bit open a paper cartridge which held the gunpowder charge and the lead carbine bullet. He poured a little bit of the gunpowder into the priming pan and snapped the frizzen shut. He poured the rest of the powder down the barrel and followed it with the bullet still wrapped in its paper. He then pulled the rammer out from under the barrel and used it to ram the ball and gunpowder down the barrel. The carbine was now ready to fire. A well-trained man could load and fire three shots a minute.
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This object is in the collection of Royal Armouries