The "rifles" referred to here, were probably only long barrelled unrifled guns.
"Rifling had been invented, possibly as early as the mid-16th century, and entered British service (albeit in the form of only eight rifled carbines issued to the Life Guards) in 1688. Rifles (true rifles) were common among American settlers, although the overwhelming majority of civilian weapons were fowlers, the equivalent of a modern day smoothbore shotguns.
Military use of rifles by large armies was not common, due to the tactical disadvantage imposed by the slowness of loading a ball against the rifling. Rifles did not come into widespread military use until the invention of the Minie ball, a conical projectile with a hollow base that expanded upon firing to engage the grooves of the rifling.
Although rifle companies existed throughout the Revolution on both sides, they were not tactically effective except in very limited circumstances (from cover, with superior numbers, against an ambushed foe). They did have a decided psychological effect upon troops who were witnesses of the (relative) extreme accuracy of fire from rifles, but this was the not the result of actual kill statistics."
Submitted by Terry Oglesby, THE GEORGIA REFUGEES
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The reference regarding the first issue of rifles to British troops came from an article published back in 1886 that is posted on an English site called the "Research Reference Notes." Its URL is
http://www.rrnotes.co.uk/index.shtml for the main page, and
http://www.rrnotes.co.uk/firearms/english.htm for the article. This site has many old articles about firearms, and some of them may need a bit more scholarly touch as far as checking facts, but the article mentioned appears to be a pretty good source. I managed to find it rather quickly by doing a Google search on "invention of rifling."
Another pretty good article is http://members.tripod.com/~keldic/newsletters/nearmisses0100.html
and part II at http://members.tripod.com/~keldic/newsletters/nearmisses0200.html
Copyright ©2001, Terry Oglesby. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.
Please inform me of errors and corrections, and parts that may be improved.