- Mar 7, 2014
John Winn has it exactly! (he usually does!). Those old muskets and large bored rifles had a very high arc trajectory. Most fights happened at fairly short yardages. Muskets were zeroed at the muzzle and...let's say 150 or 200 yards. Aiming at a man's mid section at 50 or 100 yards would usually send the ball over his head. I'm using these numbers to describe the phenomenon--the exact yardages will probably be different. But we have expert vintage weapon shooters here who can give you precise yardages.Rifled musket rounds have a curved trajectory. At 100 yards, for instance, if one aimed at the belt buckle the ball would pass over the head of the targeted man. Add to this a lot of smoke and the tendency was to shoot too high. There's also problems if shooting up or down hill but that's a somewhat different beast. So, it made sense to advise to shoot low so as to try and avoid missing altogether. A hit in the leg is better than no hit.
In any event, the soldiers that went hunting for Bill Anderson's guerrillas after the Centralia, Missouri massacre, discovered this phenomenon to their own horror. Anderson's men sat astride horse on top of a hill. The soldiers dismounted, lined up, and fired one volley. They never had time to reload. The mounted bushwhackers were on top of them in less than a minute, rapidly firing with their revolvers. They annihilated the soldiers who came out hunting them.