French Army Arms and Ammunition Supply

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Description

Unlike the other fields of logistics in the French army, muskets, bayonets and other small arms were plentifully supplied, as was the powder and shot with which to use the weaponry. The state did not directly produce the weapons, it rather contracted several companies for the production of weapons. Centres of production existed mostly in Saint-Étienne and Charleville. The production and quality of the weapons was also overseen, mostly by artillery officers, in order to maintain a supply of good quality weapons.

By the 1760’s, two of the major installations produced 23,000 muskets annually. As a result, France had no need to import foreign arms from other countries during the war. The typical model of production was the model 1754 musket, also known as a “Saint-Etienne” musket, after one of the major installations. The parts of the musket were not interchangeable however, so gunsmiths were regularly called upon to repair the weapons when damaged. Bayonets and swords (sabres for grenadiers) were also issued by the government, but were often not used by the soldiers; one general recounted that he only saw one bayonet encounter. Spontoons and halberds were issued to officers and NCO’s, but were often quickly thrown away in favour of a musket.

Cavalry were issued a sabre/sword, a carbine, and a pair of pistols. An iron skullcap and a plastron, or frontplate, were issued to the light cavalry (i.e heavy cavalry outside the Maison du Roi or Gendarmerie), but the regulation was often not met. Sabres were occasionally viewed as too short compared to enemy models and often of poorly tempered steel.

Powder was difficult to obtain, mostly due to the difficulty of obtaining saltpeter, as the French did not have saltpetre factories, but in fact obtained the material from the houses of people, where saltpetre was often accumulated by the concessionaires. That said, there is no evidence of shortages of powder in the French army.

References

Kennett, Lee; The French Armies in the Seven Year's War: A Study in Military Organisation and Administration, N.C., 1967

Acknowledgment

User:Ibrahim90 for the initial version of this article.