“Brown Bess” is a nickname of uncertain origin for the British Army‘s muzzle-loading smoothbore flintlock Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. The musket design remained in use for over a hundred years with many incremental changes in its design. These versions include the Long Land Pattern, the Short Land Pattern, the India Pattern, the New Land Pattern Musket and the Sea Service Musket.
The Long Land Pattern musket and its derivatives, all 0.75 inch calibre flintlock muskets, were the standard long guns of the British Empire‘s land forces from 1722 until 1838, when they were superseded by a percussion cap smoothbore musket. The British Ordnance System converted many flintlocks into the new percussion system known as the Pattern 1839 Musket. A fire in 1841 at the Tower of London destroyed many muskets before they could be converted. Still, the Brown Bess saw service until the middle of the nineteenth century.
Most male citizens of the thirteen colonies of British America were required by law to own arms and ammunition for militia duty. The Long Land Pattern was a common firearm in use by both sides in the American War of Independence.
In 1808 during the Napoleonic Wars, the United Kingdom subsidised Sweden (during the Sweden–Finland period) in various ways as the British government wished to keep an ally in the Baltic Sea region. These included deliveries of significant numbers of Brown Bess muskets for use in the Finnish War of 1808 to 1809.
During the Musket Wars (1820s—1830s), Māori warriors used Brown Bess’es purchased from European traders at the time. Some muskets were sold to the Mexican Army, which used them during the Texas Revolution of 1836 and the Mexican–American War of 1846 to 1848. Brown Besses saw service in the First Opium War and during the Indian rebellion of 1857. Zulu warriors, who had also purchased them from European traders, used them during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. One was even used in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, during the American Civil War.