I write this at the risk of being corrected by my Revolutionary Re-enactor friends. But here goes.
In the early 1700s, as the British Empire was expanding around the world, the prevailing battlefield tactic was to gather a large number of men, march them onto a field and get them as close to the enemy as possible, and let fly with a volley of musket fire. Now, muskets weren’t very accurate, they were prone to failure, and they were hard to load. So, In essence, soldiers weren’t really shooting AT the enemy, they were shooting TOWARD the enemy en masse, and just hoping for the best
With the Empire engaged in so many places around the world at the same time, it made sense for someone to design a standardized musket that was easy to construct and deploy, and easy to repair in the field with standard-sized parts. The design that they came up with was technically known as the British Land Pattern Musket, but it was universally known and feared as the “Brown Bess.” The barrel was 46 inches long, and made of iron (along with the lockwork) to bear the stress of firing. The less-stressed parts like the butt plate and ramrod could be made of brass. The overall length was 62.5 inches. The thing weighed about 10 pounds. You could attach a bayonet to it. It had no sight, but none was really needed since it was so inaccurate.
The musket ball was a soft metal projectile which would inflict enormous damage to anything it hit. One could improve the accuracy of the weapon by using a ball that fit quite tightly in the barrel, but this often resulted in the black powder residue fouling the barrel, so soldiers usually opted for smaller, loose-fitting musket balls and accuracy be damned. A unit of Brown Bess musketeers were relatively accurate at 50-100 yards, and they might be able to load and fire about 3 volleys in a minute.
As with most standards that the British created, the Brown Bess conquered the world. It was the standard infantry weapon throughout the Empire from 1722 to 1793, and later variations were in use until the 1850’s. Throughout this time, all British men of fighting age around the world were subject to being called up into the militia at any time, so every man would own or at least be familiar with how to use a Brown Bess.
During the American Revolution, the Brown Bess was ubiquitous on both sides. In essence, it was British regulars versus American militia, both lobbing volleys of Brown Bess musket fire at each other, in as close and efficient a fashion as possible
When America won its independence, Americans all put their Brown Bess back in the closet, ready for the next militia call-up. And unless the militia were called, the Brown Bess would stay in the closet. Because, frankly, as a individual targeting weapon, the legendary Brown Bess is useless.
Weighs 10 pounds, can’t really be aimed, wildly inaccurate, gets off maybe 3 shots a minute, jams and breaks constantly.
The Founding Fathers were right: everybody should have a weapon like this.