MANUFACTURER(S): State Factories - UK
OPERATORS: Austria; Canada; Mexico; Nepal; Russia; Spain; United Kingdom; United States
ACTION: Flintlock; Single-Shot
CALIBER(S)*: .62, .653, or .75 Ball (Model Dependent)
LENGTH (OVERALL): 1,162 millimeters (45.75 inches)
LENGTH (BARREL): 762 millimeters (30.00 inches)
WEIGHT (UNLOADED): 8.99 pounds (4.08 kilograms)
RATE-OF-FIRE: 2 rounds-per-minute
RANGE (EFFECTIVE): 200 feet (61 meters; 67 yards)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Baker Rifle (Baker Infantry Rifle) Muzzle-Loading Service Rifle.
Entry last updated on 11/21/2014.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
British Army authorities garnered much experience from its battles in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), particularly in the value of rifled long-barrel designs over the British reliance on smoothbore muskets. British "Brown Bess" muskets faced off against the famous "Kentucky Rifles" of the Americans in the war to which the American guns proved more accurate at range allowing smaller, more independent units to be fielded against the British collections of massed troops due to inherently more inaccurate fire from their guns.
Heading into the new century and already engulfed in another period of war with neighboring France as part of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802), work had begun on modernizing the British Army with issuance of a standardized rifle pattern form. With work brought along primarily by gunmaker Ezekiel Baker, the "Baker Rifle" became the first standardized, British-designed and developed rifle to see official service. Adopted and first produced during 1800, the Baker Rifle was in service from 1801 to 1837 before being replaced by more modern types. Some 22,000 of the rifle were produced in that span and the guns coming from no fewer than twenty British assemblers. The design was influenced by close examination of the German "Jager Rifle".
The 32-inch barrel form became the "Infantry Rifle" of .75 caliber and this was followed by a slightly shortened model with a 30-inch long barrel sized for a .653 shot. The classic Baker Rifle design was sized for a smaller .615 lead ball (.62 caliber). All versions of the gun held the typical wooden body with integral grip and shoulder stock as well as support for a 24-inch under-barrel sword bayonet. Brass was featured at the trigger guard under the action and a brass patchbox was seated at the butt. As a flintlock weapon, the gun relied on a hinged hammer to hold the required piece of flint rock which, when brought down at the frizzen, caused sparks used to actuate the ignition process of the powder in the awaiting chamber. Flintlock remained an accepted firearms action for some 200 years before being replaced by the percussion cap during the latter part of the 1800s. In time, a more compact version of the gun - intended for horse-mounted infantry - was issued as a "Cavalry Carbine". Other forms saw a 33-inch barrel manufactured upon request.
Several patterns of the base design ultimately emerged as the years went along and as practical use of the weapon ensued. A safety catch was eventually requested (and added) as was as a swiveling ramrod to help better attack the rod to the gun underside. Some guns lacked the patchbox in the stock for simplicity and other variants changed the bayonet mounting hardware.
Baker Rifles were in play during the Napoleonic Wars which spanned from 1803 to 1815 but their issuance was limited at this time within the British Army ranks - the famous Brown Bess continuing in great numbers in frontline service. What Baker Rifles were used in combat (usually issued to specialized troops) gave good reports of accuracy at range while being able to take general battlefield abuse in stride though their reloading process was considered lengthier than that of competing muskets. Some guns were issued to sharpshooters for the sniper role due to their ranged effectiveness - up to 200 yards - with successful hits having been recorded as far out as 600 yards though this was not commonplace.
The Baker Rifle led a healthy and long service life considering the period of firearms advancement it resided in. Examples were eventually procured by Canada, Mexico, Nepal, and the United States and further combat service beyond the Napoleonic Wars included the British-American War of 1812, the American Indian Wars (ending in 1924), and during the Texas Revolution (1835-1836) which resulted in the U.S. creation of the Republic of Texas from neighboring Mexico. Some Baker Rifles were passed on to coalition allies during the Napoleonic Wars as well.
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