Flintlock Fun! – Shooting the French Fusil de Chasse

Editor’s note: Sometimes the internet fails us. It is supposed to be easy to access and even easier to find the right information. But there are still practical language barriers. “Fusil de Chasse” translates to “gun of the hunt.” That’s a bit ambiguous. In modern French, it refers to a shotgun. But we’re talking about a different type of gun, one that has much more historical significance.
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What is a Fusil de Chasse?

Through the 1600s, France expanded its North American possessions from the snows of Canada to the swamps of Louisiana and down to the sugar islands of the Caribbean. The fact that these colonies, collectively known as New France, existed more for trade than actual colonization, combined with the presence of few French troops in this vast area, meant that there was a need for guns.

The Fusil epitomizes the long gun. The length aided in accuracy, but also kept loading up front and easy to see chest high.

The Fusil epitomizes the long gun. The length aided in accuracy, but also kept loading up front and easy to see chest high. This is a Type C Fusil from Track of the Wolf.

In 1696, the Tulle arsenal was established in France to fulfill royal contracts for muskets and pistols. They made a number of types meant for the colonies including ordinary muskets and buccaneer muskets. They also started production on a light musket meant for those who hunted for a living, the Fusil de Chasse. The state arsenal at St. Etienne was brought in to meet the demand and the new muskets were shipped to New France.

The Author's Fusil. Everything about the gun is historically accurate, except the left handed lock.

The Author’s Fusil. Everything about the gun is historically accurate, except the left handed lock.

After several wars with the English, France’s forces in North America were defeated by their better supplied British rivals in the French & Indian War. The end of New France also meant the end of civilian musket production. But French muskets of all varieties in former New France continued in use through the American Revolution and beyond.

Features

The Fusil de Chasse’s basic design was largely unchanged through its production and is little more than a lightweight version of the infantry muskets of the day. Like the originals, mine has a full length walnut stock with a distinctly shaped buttstock that resembles a cow’s hoof.

I made most of this gun from scratch, though there are a variety of kits available for this model from places like Track of the Wolf, as well as complete guns. My gun is only inaccurate historically because of the left handed lock. According the factory records of the time, Left handed muskets like this were exceedingly rare.

Tulle muskets were stocked in either brass or iron depending on the ultimate destination and mine is stocked in iron and wears a thirty-six inch 62 caliber smoothbore barrel that is a bit handier than the original forty-four inch of the original factory models. It is also equipped with a left handed flintlock mechanism instead of one that sits on the right side. The gun is also only equipped with a front blade sight.

Shooting

The Fusil is not a rifle, but a smoothbore musket. With a proper patched round ball loading (or a similar close-to-bore sized ball like seen in the video) one could get pie plate like accuracy at 100 yards. I am primarily a maker, and I’m more interested in the history than the accuracy.

A sample of ammunition that may be used in the Fusil de Chasse. One large round ball for large game (top) or shot of varying sizes (bottom).

A sample of ammunition that may be used in the Fusil de Chasse. One large round ball for large game or shot of varying sizes.

Since the Fusil is a smoothbore, most treated it like we treat shotguns and used a variety of ammunition, which was great as most people could only afford one gun anyway. And supply-lines were scarce in the frontier.

For testing, I selected a load that I hoped would give me best accuracy while maintaining authenticity to the 18th century. My standby powder, Graf and Son’s 2F black powder, was in my horn for propellant. Unlike 18th century rifles, smoothbores were usually shot with a bare ball cushioned with wads. I chose cut paper wads 1 x 1 ½ inch and folded in half. For projectiles, I chose a.610 inch 342 grain lead balls that are very close to bore size but still easy to load.

How accurate is it? It depends on what you shoot. While I chose to stick to round ball loadings, smoothbores like the Fusil have the option of using birdshot and buckshot like today’s shotguns. Imagine what you can do with modern smoothbores. Most prefer rifled barrels for dedicated slug guns–and most slugs have well designed projectiles that aid in accuracy. A smoothbore musket would can rival the accuracy of slugs from non-rifled barrels.

Shooting shot has two additional challenges. The first is containing the shot effectively. Modern shot-shells do a fine job of that. The other is a slight pause between the trigger pull and the bang as the spark ignites the powder. It is minuscule, but can be enough to throw off the timing of someone used to the immediacy of modern shotguns.

Accuracy isn't stellar. The design makes compromises. The gun will shoot just about anything, which was damn useful at the time.

Accuracy isn’t stellar. The design makes compromises. The gun will shoot just about anything, which was damn useful at the time.

Since I am not a flintlock shooter by trade, I set up my target at twenty five yards for testing. The load was not as quick as paper cartridge shooting but was relatively easy to load and rather accurate with little felt recoil thanks to the Fusil’s handling characteristics.

The group measured about five inches. Not very impressive for an experienced smoothbore shooter, but I was happy and did not feel the need to push my limits to 50 or 100 yards, though the Fusil and its 340 grain lead ball could easily reach out to those distances with energy to spare.

Final Thoughts

The Fusil de Chasse is perhaps more popular today than in colonial times. Why would anyone with access to a good 870 care about a Fusil? Flintlocks like the Fusil de Chasse have a small but devoted following because of special muzzleloading seasons and hunts in areas off limits to modern guns.

But it is really the appeal of shooting a historical weapon. The Fusil is a plain, yet elegant and reliable musket that served to put food on the table. These muskets also gave George Washington and other future commanders of the American Revolution a tragic baptism of fire.

The Fusil also has a following as a survival tool because of the versatility factor and the ability to control powder charges and loads, as well as the simplicity of the lock mechanism. The Fusil as prepper’s tool may seem strange to some, but it has potential–especially if the world were to descend into the regressive dystopian wasteland so popular with novelists.

In my experience, the Fusil de Chasse is a natural pointing and natural shooting long gun that weighs less than many modern hunting rifles, yet offers versatility today’s guns cannot match.

Even though the history of America would be written from the English perspective, the history and use of the Fusil de Chasse and its cousins has continued. That just may be the true testament to a simple hunting gun that still does the job.

About the Author:

Terril Hebert, better known as Mark3smle on the Web, is a lifelong outdoorsman from Louisiana. When he is not at his bench making flintlock firearms he is making firearm videos for the Mark3smle YouTube channel with an emphasis on historic firearms.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • mike October 18, 2017, 9:25 pm

    hiking in the catskills with my metal detector up on huckleberry point, platte clove, NY, , deep in the woods where several old indian forts were during the revolution, and prior to that, in the 1600s, theyed hike down to kingston, ny , burn everything, take hostages, and hide back up here,, i found a 340 grain, lead ball slightly squashed, 5 inch in the dirt, so searching 340 grain lead musket ball, i found this sight, that day i also found a few pennys, a few old modern bullets, just trying to figure out if this ball of lead is really old [seems the fusil is the only 340 grain lead ball i can find listed, ] or maybe a modern muzzle loader uses a 340 conical sabet,, and this is one of them, can send a picture,, i figured an old piece of lead would be black, oxidized, but this cleaned up pretty easy,,

  • Jim Callihan August 11, 2015, 12:06 pm

    Why are you still whispering after the shot and the bull ran off almost half a mile? Hearing that good? If he’s down, how is he going to hear ya?

    • Steve August 17, 2015, 8:43 am

      I also build and have been since 1983. I build southpaw rifles since I am but build right hand also. I have an original fusal from St. Etienne that I feel is a restock in this country. 69_cal. Iron furniture and a pined 40 inch barrel with the arsenal stamp, also the lock is marked the same. It has a great bore in it and I treasure it. I’m going to try a buck and ball light load and see what it does. Of course I took it all apart and inspected the barrel in and out as you should with any vintage fire arm before you fire them. Most gun smiths can do this to make sure it is safe. Keep building em Terril

  • Kalashnikov Dude August 10, 2015, 8:04 pm

    I think I was about 17 when I found a .50 caliber percussion cap pistol. It was built from a kit presumably. The front sight was very visibly JB welded, though securely in its somewhat distressed dovetail. The rest of the pistol followed this theme, but the owner and proprietor of the sale swore it was a great pistol. $25 bucks including a box of .50 balls, wads, powder, measure, nipple wrench, the whole nine yards. I was given some verbal instructions for loading and firing and off I went. Out to the desert. I set up a silhouette target. I decided to give it the appropriate test. After following the loading instructions verbatim, I stepped up to the target, turned, and walked fifty paces. I counted to ten, turned again aimed and fired. The shot landed dead center, forehead about 1/2 inch above the eyes! Since then I’ve always had one or more of these types of historic rifles and pistols in my gun room at any given time. They share space with handguns and rifles from many era’s and in many shapes and sizes. Not all are historically correct. But every one of em is a gas to shoot and just plain nice to pick up and hold in your hands tangible evidence of the innovation and craftsmanship, the amazing industrial proficiency involved to mass produce them all. I can spend a winters evening warm and content just to hold one and admire it while researching different aspects of it’s existence online. All that said, I don’t call myself Kalashnikov Dude for nothing. Those will always be my favorites, but that cap pistol will always be my first.

  • Gary August 10, 2015, 2:33 pm

    I have several cap n ball six shooters and a .50 rifle. I highly recommend trying the black powder sport, but must warn that it’s addictive. When i take them to a public range, most people get interested and ask questions, wether they own 1911’s, glocks, or ak47’s. I let them try each and explain they are not just shooting a gun now, they just stepped into a time machine and went into the 1800’s. You get a real sense of the old wars and technology that way. Once i mention most states let you order by mail with no red tape, starting under $200, they all say they will check some websites for a deal. Check out cabellas around thanks giving time. But be aware the brass frames should not get max loads full time, else they wear fast.

  • Lowndes August 10, 2015, 1:21 pm

    Mr. HeyBear,
    Thanks for an historical, educational AND fascinating article!! I had always heard the Kentucky rifle evolved from the Jeager, but your info brings that to question, even as an interim step in development/evolution. What is your take on this??
    I’ve always wanted to build and shoot a flintlock. Maybe take it to the skeet range to impress all my buddies!!

    THANKS again for the pics and writetup.

    • Terril Hebert August 10, 2015, 9:13 pm

      Well, the term Kentucky rifle didn’t really come around until after the War of 1812 about some riflemen from Kentucky who showed up at New Orleans in 1815. They are pretty much generically called Pennsylvania longrifles since most of them were made there. They did evolve from the Jager rifles over in Europe. The Jager was short and stout and fired a heavy ball. In America it gets tricky. The guns did get longer for better sighting and shooting characteristics and as the Indian threat and the lack of large dangerous animals passed, calibers got smaller. But in general, most people couldn’t afford a rifle and if they could afford a gun, it had to be able to do everything. So the smoothbored musket, like the one I made here, was the real weapon of choice.

  • UncleNat August 10, 2015, 10:52 am

    Great article. I’ve been contemplating a Type 3 build from Track of he Wolf once I get my shop in order. Thanks for sharing.

  • ejharb August 10, 2015, 3:49 am

    In my opinion to be a thorough student of the gun you should go way back and see what your type of person used 100 and 200 years ago.since I am a handgunner I bought and kept a pedersoli queen Anne pistol.it gave me a great education on tactical pistols in the early 1700s. Also made me understand why swords were a good thing to have and know how to use.if you did everything right you get 1 shot.

    • Terril Hebert August 10, 2015, 10:14 am

      You know what? Thats a great perspective. I am actually working on a true Queen Anne style of pistol in my spare time. The kind that loads from the breech with a screw barrel. Pedersoli does make some great guns, however.

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