One of my hobbies is re-enacting battles of the Civil wars. I am a musketeer fighting for the Earl of Manchester’s Parliament regiment against the troops of King Charles. As I prepare for the Siege of Chester, our August Bank holiday muster, checking the lock, stock and barrel of my musket, I have been thinking how things have changed over the last 3 centuries.  

chester musket
Here is a picture of my musket block from a previous event in Chester.

Loading a 17th century musket via the barrel takes tens of seconds.  Even the best musketeers might only have been able to fire off 3 shots in a minute. Compare that to modern weapons, from which tens of rounds can be fired in seconds. Early weapons were fired off using a lit match and it is easy to imagine (especially if you have ever attended a re-enactment) that in the heat of battle accidental, early discharge shots could be let off. Such events would have led to injuries or fatalities of fellow soldiers fighting on the same side, something that might be termed ‘friendly fire’ nowadays.  While little, if any, investigation could have been done back in those times, when accidents occur today with modern day guns, or if guns are used in a criminal context, all information that helps us understand what actually happened is crucial.

During the forensicsfocused web seminar we presented earlier this year, Brooke Kammrath spoke of the possibilities Morphologically Directed Raman Spectroscopy (MDRS) offers in the study of Gun Shot Residue (GSR).  Forensic analysis by Raman Spectroscopy is being assessed generally for chemically identifying particles generated when firing lead-free, environmentallyfriendly ammunition. MDRS enables the particle size distribution (PSD) of components such as nitrocellulose to be determined, and preliminary research carried out by Andrew Koutakos suggested the PSD of nitrocellulose appears to increase with distance between the muzzle and a target.

Find out more by watching our webinar “Forensic Analyses by Morphologically-Directed Raman Spectroscopy” which also covers other forensic topics such as hoax powders, illicit and counterfeit drugs, and soil analysis.

My hobby is such a big part of my life I was even found firing my musket on my wedding day, I wonder if you can spot the bride in the first picture below.  The bride and groom are a little more obvious in the second picture.

wedding musket fire
wedding musket fire 2


 As I head off to battle this weekend I’ll be sure to keep my spare match under my hat and I hope the weather will be kind so I don’t have to worry about keeping my powder dry! It is surprising how many people don’t realise that many of the phases we use today come from the civil wars, so I hope you enjoyed putting a few into  their 17th century context!