The Musketoon,

Common in the late 18th century up to the mid 19th century, the musketoon was simply a carbine or short version of a standard infantry musket.  The purpose of the musketoon was to create a lighter and more compact musket for cavalry, artillerymen, engineers, and rear echelon troops.  Later they were commonly issued as the standard arm of dragoons, a type of mounted infantry who rode horses into battle but dismounted and fought as infantry once in the fray.  The musketoon was perfect for dragoons and cavalry, as it could be carried in a saddle scabbard, and due to its shorter size could be reloaded from horseback.  It wasn’t uncommon for musketoons to be loaded with buckshot rather than a solid bullet, making them more like shotguns than muskets.  Large bore musketoons were produced to be used exclusively as shotguns.  Due to their similarity with the older blunderbuss, they are often mistaken as such.

Despite its advantages, the musketoon wasn’t the perfect weapon.  Due to its shorter barrel length, the musketoon had substantially less accuracy, range, and power than the larger service muskets.  This was especially true in the age of rifled muskets, as the bullet had less contact with rifling.  After the American Civil War most musketoons were retired for breachloading or repeating carbines and revolvers.

The Pattern 1861 Enfield Musketoon,

While the 1853 Enfield rifle musket served as the primary arm of the British Army in the 1850’s and 60’s, the British Army saw a need for a carbine version of the Enfield rifle.  Introduced in 1861, the M1861 Enfield Musketoon was significantly shorter and lighter than the standard Enfield service rifle.  While shortening the barrel decreased accuracy, this was made up for by incorporating a faster rifle twist in the barrel (1:48) as well as more grooves (5 groove barrel).  The musketoon also was issued with a sword bayonet.

Originally the Enfield Musketoon was issued to artillery units in the British Army.  However, more were produced for export to the Confederacy during the American Civil War than were actually used by British units.  They were used to arm Confederate artillery units, but were also especially favored by Confederate cavalry units because of their ease of use while mounted on horseback.


The Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine,

Issued to British cavalry units during the Napoleonic Wars up to 1838, the Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine was the shortest, smallest, and lightest musket of the Brown Bess series.  In fact, it would probably fall into the category of “musketoon”.  Overall length was 42.5 inches, while weight was around 7.4 lbs.  By comparison its infantry counterpart, the “India Pattern” Brown Bess was a foot longer and over two pounds heavier.

Because of its compact size and light weight, the Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine was ideal for cavalry units.  They were especially popular among dragoons, a type of unit consisting of mounted infantry who rode to battle on horseback, but dismounted and fought as infantry once in combat.  

By the late 1830’s the flintlock igniting mechanism gave to way to the percussion system.  Many Brown Bess Cavalry carbines were converted into percussion locks.  Production ended in 1838, and was replaced with the more advanced M1842 pattern percussion musket.