Weapons for Re-Enactors

Below are some ideas as to what muskets and rifles are commonly used by War of 1812 re-enactors... Not just from the Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group, but often seen used by other groups as well. These are reasonable weapons to look for if you're interested in purchasing a reproduction for this hobby. In October, 2003, I looked around online and ideas of how much a new model may cost you has been posted. The ranges of the prices listed are based on prices of large manufacturers of these items (like Pedersoli) and specialty firearms companies (like Loyalist Arms and Repair)... You may find better "deals" or you may find the musket or rifle you want is going to be a little more expensive. You can check out local sporting goods stores (for example, in Ontario, stores like LeBaron in Markham and Mississauga, Williams Arms in Port Perry or Elwood Epps on Highway 11 in Orillia) also sell flintlocks or can order them.

To quote Bruce Whittaker...

 "In the hobby of historical re-enactment documentation is important. Do not take someone's word that what they have for sale is period correct. Remember they are trying to make a sale. You wouldn't want to spend big bucks on something that isn't correct. Most units strive to be as accurate as possible.

Owning a pre-1814 firearm is better than a later period because conceivably a militia member may have had just that. Showing up with a post 1814 firearm just isn't right unless you are attending a Rendezvous. These events tend to encompass the fur trade era up to about 1840. A Hawken rifle will not be out of place there but for 1812 a Hawken isn't correct."


For The Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group Line Troops

The good ol' standard Brown Bess was definitely the weapon of choice and the one that the government of Great Britain distributed to it's troops. Although it was not unusual to find the first edition of the Bess in and around battlefields, the second and third were far more prevalent and with good reason... They were cheaper to manufacture for the crown!


Brown Bess (Second Model)
Prices for a functional/safe new "Bess - 2nd Model" range from $1000 - $2500 Canadian
This is the prefered weapon for re-enacting with the Norfolk Militia Heritage Regiment.




Brown Bess (Third Model)
Prices for functional/safe a new "Bess - 3rd Model" range from $1500 - $2500 Canadian



For The Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group Rifle Company

Please note: The rifle coy. is a militia rifle grouping. It would be more likely for "citizen soldiers" to possibly bring their own weapon into the field in this sort of group as opposed to being "issued" weapons... The only thing that would have made them somewhat uniform would be the ammunition to make distribution easier. Hence, in our coy., the ever well known Baker Rifle is not as common as one may think.


Baker Rifle - English
Prices for a functional/safe Baker will run you between $1200 - $3000 Canadian




Harper's Ferry Rifle - U.S.
Prices for a functional/safe Harper's will run you between $1000 - $3000 Canadian




Kentucky Rifle - U.S.
Prices for a functional/safe Kentuckian will run you between $1000 - $3000 Canadian




Jaeger Rifle - Prussian/German
Prices for a functional/safe Jaeger will run you between $1000 - $6000 Canadian
Jaeger's are a little older than most 1812 Rifles for the most part, but they were still a familiar site within the settlers of North America. The price variance is based on the amount of ornamentation on the rifle... Some that I came across are quite "dressed up" with inlaid metal work and fine finishing.




For The "Canadian Volunteers" and general militia use...

The Canadian Volunteers were/are a group that we occasionally re-enact. They were bands of Canadian settlers who fought on the side of the United States during the War of 1812. The Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group occasionally "turn coat" and act as these folks to fill out the American lines during some of the battle re-enactments. These flintlocks would also be acceptable for "militia" use in the line and for other duties as well although, the British troops pretty much stuck with the Brown Bess as the standard firearm for all forces.


1795 Springfield Musket
Prices for a functional/safe Springfield will run you between $1000 - $2500 Canadian




Charleville Musket
Prices for a functional/safe Charleville will run you between $1200 - $2700 Canadian




As stated, the price range above is based on "online catalogues" that were based out of or could legally sell to Canadians. Please, don't e-mail me asking to find where I, y'r humble webmaster, found the "best price" as I literally did a "Google" search for "flintlocks reproduction sale Canada shipping" and then sifted for the appropriate models from companies in Canada or that had shipping available to Canada. I didn't stop to take down URLs or phone numbers... sorry.

Used weapons do come up on the market from time to time but to quote Bruce Whittaker about purchasing a flintlock...
-- --
"...buying a used flintlock it is a matter of buyer beware if you aren't familiar with flintlocks or any guns for that matter. A reputable dealer is best and private sales from a friends recommendation should be fine."
-- -- Used weapons, if you're willing to look, usually are found in the "mail list" such as the Yahoo! War of 1812 Mail List, Buy and Sell Bargain Hunter newspapers (Triad and Super Shopper for other examples) and may also appear through the online classifieds.

Some stores, like Elwood Epps in Ontario occasionally have used flintlocks as well and are worth looking into for the bargain hunter.

The average Canadian price on a used Brown Bess in good condition is about $700 to $900 which does make it fairly cost efficient, but new is always a better idea... or at least, caveat emptor.

Certain muskets and rifles are shipped without the touch-hole drilled from the pan through into the barrel. It is vitally important that, if you choose to buy a firearm like this, that you take it to a respectable gun smith in your area and have it proofed.

Also, in Canada (and in many places in the United States), it's important to make sure your flintlock is fitted with a flash guard (a metal 'cover/shield' that blocks sparks from the pan "shooting" out to the side) and a hammer stall (a leather sheath or cover that fits over the frizzen to prevent accidental "sparking") which are both very inexpensive to purchase... Usually less than $20 per item.

Next, you'll want some tools... a screwdriver (period ones are available) and a whisk and pick. Again, these are very inexpensive and worthwhile purchases. These items are around the $20.00 Canadian mark.

For your musket and rifle, you will also want a cartridge box to carry your powder. Cartridge boxes can either be fitted to a cross-belt or as a "hunter" style on a waist belt. The prices for cartridge boxes range from $70 to $200 Canadian depending on what style and how "fancy" you wish it to be.

At the time of this writing a "Possession and Acquisition License" is legally necessary to purchase black powder in Canada. 

The "Good News" is that, in order to own a replica flintlock, no license or special permission is needed from the government as it's considered an "antique replica".

Nota Bella: Your re-enacting regiment should help you learn how to use your weapon safely and efficiently. The Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group does ensure it's members learn how to operate their weapons safely at events and during our drills.

You should also consider purchasing a bayonet for your firearm. Replica bayonets range in price from about $80 to $200 Canadian depending on the type of weapon you have. For example, the Brown Bess "triangular" bayonet with a sheath for a crossbelt is usually not terribly expensive (but note: New Pedersoli Brown Bess muskets have a new "lug" for this bayonet and it's not rare to find that these new muskets must have their lug filed a bit to fit the standard Bess bayonet!) but a Baker Rifle Sword Bayonet is more expensive and sometimes, difficult to acquire...

As far as "edged weapons" in terms of swords, please note that only some non-commissioned officers (corporals, sergeants, sergeant majors - called NCOs) and officers carried them. The most common swords to see are the standard NCO sword and the light-calvary sabre. Before you purchase one of these for re-enacting, you should contact your commanding officer (in the Norfolk Militia (Heritage Regiment) Re-Enactment Group, contact us, and ensure it's something you can use and the correct type of sword for your rank. Swords like these range in price from $150 to $400 Canadian and you'll need a sword-belt of appropriate sort (sometimes, a cross-belt and other times, a waist belt) which will likely set you back about $100 Canadian.



It is important to remember that antique edged weapons (like those found on eBay and antique stores) or any military antiques make great keepsakes and collectors items, but I'd remind the re-enactor that spending up to and over $1,000.00 for something that will be "in the field", used, and quite possibly, abused, is probably not a good idea. Try to find swords and sabres that are inexpensive, accurate, built tough, and you're willing to use in the field if it's for re-enactment purposes.

Of course, you're not "obligated" only to purchase what's listed above... You can acquire "kit" as a collector (ie: not for re-enactment)... I have  a few swords and items that will not be brought out to events that have places of honour on his walls as decorations... Again, to avoid too many "dust collectors", it's best to contact your commanding officers and ask for advice.

As far as knives, axes/tomahawks, daggers, dirks and the like, this again is up to the person that wants them, but again to be very repetitive, if you wish to use them while re-enacting, it's vital you contact your commanding officer before blowing a whack of cash on something that may not see the outside of your tent!

I hope this article has been helpful in terms of picking up weapons for re-enacting. The key points again are...

 

  • New is better - used is Caveat Emptor!
  • Contact your commander before purchasing for re-enactment use!
  • Look and ask about sutlers and other merchants before outlaying a lot of money on a weapon.


You may have heard the term "It's a great life... if you don't weaken!" or "It's a great life... if you stay alive!" well, with re-enactment, "It's a great hobby... if you shop smart!"

October 7th, 2003 - Thanks to Bruce Whittaker for assisting in this article.

By Matthew Didier - 2003