I recently ran across this interesting article on the accuracy of the American shooter during the Revolutionary War.
Some historians have perpetuated myths about the men and guns of the American Revolution, taking aim at American marksmanship. But recent scholarship shows that the citizen soldiers who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill were far better shots than the “professional” British soldiers who faced them. Just how good were they? A now forgotten Prussian artillerist of the 19th century, one Col. Schlimmbach, devoted many beetle-browed hours to calculating precisely that during the Napoleonic Wars (c.1799-1815) the enemy needed to fire “a man’s own weight” in bullets before scoring a hit. Assuming, then, that he survived both disease and cannon shot, the typical soldier who fought in just a few battles could be fairly certain of enjoying a peaceful, pensioned retirement.
Let us assume that there were, as the most authoritative estimates have it, 3,500 Americans at Bunker Hill, each of whom began the battle with his official allotment of 15 rounds. As we know that the powder and ball more-or-less ran out near the end, we can posit that the militiamen expended 52,500 shots (3,500 men multiplied by 15 rounds each).
The British totaled up their casualties as 228 killed and 826 wounded, or 1,054 in total. Dividing the number of casualties by the number of shots needed to inflict them gives us a ratio of one for every 50 rounds. Expressed differently, two percent of the Americans’ shots hit the enemy. On the face of it, that may not sound too impressive, let alone provide evidence of superior marksmanship, but comparatively speaking, it was a truly remarkable performance. If we take the average estimate of seven 18th- and 19th-century European military experts of how many balls hit their targets in battles during this period, we arrive at a figure of 0.17 percent, or fewer than one out of every 500 fired. Sir Richard Henegan, for instance, a senior officer serving under the Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars, calculated that just one out of every 459 British bullets hit an enemy soldier at the 1813 Battle of Vittoria.
America has always been a nation of riflemen. The core of our Armies in WWII were riflemen, just as the core of our Army in Iraq, today, is made up of riflemen. And the key to this ability in arms is, in the end, those wide stretches of country where people shoot game for food, or targets for fun and competition. One thing we must realize is that destroying the private ownership of guns would also have a huge impact on our Country’s ability to defend itself.
For many, this would be an unintended consequence. The frightening truth is that for others, this is the intended consequence.