Would 'magic' muskets be a significant advantage over actual muskets?

dsollen 08/13/2017. 19 answers, 9.400 views
reality-check magic warfare weapons

In my world I have one side armed with 'muskets' which utilize a simple form of magitek. Their 'bullet' is actually a magical 'blast' of condensed magic from the air. Despite being magical in theory, I am modeling them off of early muskets (at approximately the effectiveness of muskets present when Americas were being colonized by Europe). I intend for these magical rifles to be as close as possible to muskets in their combat effectiveness and logistics.

Some of the logistics of these magical rifles have been decided by the presence of other, rarer but stronger and closer range, magical guns. I want all magical guns to have the same rough feel when fired and I need the much rarer guns to function in a certain way, this affects how the rifles must function. However, I have plenty of room to adjust properties like range, accuracy, and reload time of rifles and am trying to adjust these to stay in keeping with the lethality of real muskets.

After these muskets are fired it takes some time for them to recharge before they have the power to fire again, roughly equivalent to the time it takes to reload old muskets. However, unlike real muskets that had to be manually loaded, these magical guns will recharge on their own without further action from the gunman.

When someone is struck with a blast from these magic-muskets, instead of suffering a gunshot wound they suffer an effect somewhere near that of a very localized blast of fire at the contact point and an electrical shock through the body. Generally I want these muskets to be roughly as fatal as real muskets when fired at normal military. Basically, I want how damage is done by a 'magic shot' to be ambiguous enough to leave room for things stronger than normal humans to easily survive getting hit once, but also believable be taken down by enough shots even if they are large enough that it seems they be able to mostly ignore the damage of a normal rifle.

I'm generally trying to stay close to the approximate effective range and accuracy of real muskets. However, the damage of a 'magic shot' has to function slightly differently. The rifles have a much longer range at which they can do damage, but once the shot passes a certain threshold the damage done by the shot will start to diminish rapidly (as the condensed energy blast starts to dissipate over time). Thus one can be shot from much farther, but at maximum range the shot will be only a minor pain, with shots only building up to lethal damage as one closes in to normal musket effective ranges, or possibly slightly shorter range. The idea is the overall effectiveness against charging soldiers should be the same as with normal muskets, with rare kills at larger range being counteracted by slightly lower effective ranges.

I expect the magical muskets, as I described them, will still be stronger than actual muskets I'm targeting. At minimum a non-gunman can presumably be trained to militia standard faster if they don't need to learn how to reload their gun, and the logistics of these guns is simplified since they can't run out of ammo.

I'm trying to figure out how much of an advantage these guns have over their real life counterparts, and what simple changes I may be able to make to keep them in line with their counterparts while keeping a similar feel to the weapon as described above.

I'm okay with it being easier to train militia with these guns, in fact I sort of want that. However, in combat would they have any obvious advantages or disadvantages? How much of an advantage is the fact that one doesn't have to be manually reloading while waiting for the gun to recharge between shots? Keep in mind the majority of users of these guns will be quickly trained militia or conscripts, only a few will be fully trained standing military.


Multiple people have already pointed out that muskets recharging on their own would allow one to constantly swap out guns to always have one ready to shoot. It's a good point, but I don't want it in my world. So I'm officially changing all guns such that they recharge much faster if (or don't recharge at all unless) a human is channeling magic into the gun, which requires only a minor mental focus and is easily learned. There is also a limit to rate that these guns can be mass produced, so it's best to have a gun in someone's hands so it's actively charging at all times.

26 AlexP 08/07/2017
Real muskets at the end of the 16th - beginning of the 17th century had no accuracy to speak of. Musketeers of that time were not trained to aim at anything in particular; muskets were used as area weapons, fired in a volley by massed musketeers in the general direction of the enemy. And, by the way, a musket is not a rifle.
9 Aaron 08/07/2017
@dsollen You could add to your list of "advantages to consider" that the magic guns can still be used in adverse conditions. With conventional gunpowder, you cannot shoot when your gunpowder gets wet. Attacking during a rainstorm could be a tactic of magic-gun-wielding soldiers; attack when your enemies' guns are useless to them but yours still work.
5 Aaron 08/07/2017
What about wielding multiple of these magic guns? Can answers assume that a soldier has two of these and can fire one while the other is recharging, thus making the firing rate twice as fast? Further, can they be trained to rapidly switch between a large number of guns to fire very fast (not practical while in motion, but doable for an entrenched/bunkered soldier)?
12 G0BLiN 08/07/2017
If the magic-musket recharges on its own, it sounds like you could bundle a dozen of them to get a magic Gatling/machine gun, or achieve the effect of a firing squad with a single operator...
7 MozerShmozer 08/07/2017
By changing the reload of a weapon from an active to a passive action, a number of small advantages begin to appear. Firstly, infantry could reposition while their weapons recharged. They could also fix bayonets during the recharge phase, and have an extra volley waiting while still presenting a pike-line. This is a tremendous advantage to mounted troops as well, who would usually have to close to melee range after discharging their one or two carbine shots. If this recharge also applies to artillery it would greatly increase the mobility of an artillery line (fewer required gunners).

19 Answers

Fhnuzoag 08/07/2017.

A difference people haven't mentioned yet but which is huge - your magic musket can be reloaded lying down without any difficulty.

With ordinary muskets, most of the process is a lot easier standing up, because you use the benefit of gravity to drop in the powder and the shot, and besides you have to get yourself into the position where you can reach the muzzle of the gun. With your magic muskets, a shooter can quite happily lie on the ground and charge their gun without compromising on rate of fire.

This can change the battlefield a lot. Instead of having rows standing around, your musketteer would make much better use of battlefield cover, and be basically much harder to shoot. In a shooting duel a magic musket unit would thus easily outshoot normal muskets, forcing the other side to try and charge them in melee.

2 G0BLiN 08/08/2017
Good point - this also may suggest that a magi-musketeer's gear will include a shield - as in addition to being able to lie down, he doesn't need both hands while recharging.
dsollen 08/08/2017
I was torn between picking this and dayton's answer. He gave far more detail, but ultimately most of what he mentioned I was aware of. He still gave some additional factors I hadn't considered, but ultimately this one 'minor' detail seems a massive game-changer which I hadn't considered. I have to give credit to the answer that brings my attention to the biggest advantages I wasn't previously aware of.
Dan Neely 08/08/2017
Depending on the era equivalency that advantage isn't as big as it seems. It's a definite win for skirmishers, but the slow reload rates of muskets over most of the period of their use means that it took massed volley fire to stand off troops armed with blades. The slow rate of fire possible from having to hammer round shot down the barrel meant that a unit dispersed like modern infantry would be overrun and cut down by cavalry or pikemen/etc.
Grimm The Opiner 08/09/2017
To expand on your point, the magic musket can be reloaded while doing absolutely anything - and at the same time as doing that thing. The trad musket will only reload while the wielder stays basically still and reloads it. The tactical advantages are enormous.

CM_Dayton 08/08/2017.

Magic over powder

A couple of points I see here, that give magic muskets a major combat effectiveness edge over black powder muskets.

Range You mention a longer range. This means more shots can be delivered against an opposing force before it can close to melee range or even to counter-fire range. Meaning the enemy dies faster before your people begin to die (assuming they don't have your muskets, too). So this makes them more combat-effective than real-life muskets.

Weather Black powder Muzzle-loading weapons cannot be fired in rain. Period. Your weapons don't appear to face this restriction. Likewise, black powder must be stored very carefully to prevent moisture from ruining the powder. Point again to magic-muskets.

Ammo Your soldiers don't have to pack lead balls and powder. That's a tremendous advantage over powder. Their marching kit is lighter. They don't have to worry about dropping a powder horn in the fight or running out of shot. Their supply train doesn't have to include kegs of powder or blocks of lead and bullet molds. Campfires can't turn their supply wagon into a devastating bomb. Major points to magi-muskets.

Stance As mentioned by Fhnuzoag, your magimusket can be fired prone. Unlike a standard musket, which requires that you stand at least while reloading. Granted, if your musket forces (I hesitate to call them musketeers for obvious reasons) are based on standard European forces of the time, they will be used to working from a standing position and not used to fighting prone. I mean, how can you advance on an enemy line if your line is lying down on the job? But this is a huge difference. Your gunners can take up prone positions behind hills or in ditches, providing them cover. This is a radical departure from tactics of the era you're emulating.

Powder over magic

..finally, a point that maybe works against magic is production cost and time.

Even if your magic weapons are literally just "take a musket and enchant it," your total production cost will be higher. Because you've got to pay your wizards in addition to your gunsmiths. I hope you're paying your wizards. Please pay your wizards. And that's if there are no material costs or complexities to your magic guns above and beyond standard guns. Plus however long the enchantment process takes.

Compare that to ammo. My father has a tool for making bullets for his muzzle loading rifles. The process was about as close to idiot proof as it gets. Get a fire. Heat lead in an iron pot. Pour lead into mold to make bullets. This is the sort of task soldiers could do on their own, if situations required it. Wizards aren't going to be quite as plentiful, I suspect, as people who can operate a simple die-cast tool. (Powder isn't so simple, of course.) But those costs are paid on a per-shot basis, sort of and are independent of the manufacturing costs that are due up front.

Could go either way?

...and a couple of points that may be neutral depending on your weapons?

Armor It sounds like magic-muskets fire some sort of plasma-like effect. If so, how does that work against metal armor? One of the primary advantages of the black powder musket over archery was that steel armor was useless against the musket, but effective against arrows. Do your blasts penetrate armor as well as high velocity lead balls do?

Reliability How reliable are the magic weapons compared to real muskets? Do they misfire? Are they laser-accurate or pre-rifled-barrel gunpowder accurate? Do they require cleaning on a regular basis to maintain reliability and accuracy (even a few firings can foul the accuracy of a musket)? Are they subject to failure due to moisture, heat, cold, etc.? These kinds of questions may impact your "equations," as well.

Noise You haven't stated, but the noise level from a magi-musket could be none or a soft wooshing sound or some other extremely quiet level. This could have drastic impacts on warfare in several ways, if that's how it works. Imagine how much more effective snipers become if their weapons are silent? How different the battlefield will be if that field isn't inundated with the crash of musket-fire explosions?

Some argue that the noise of modern weapons contributes to PTSD. It definitely contributes to hearing loss. It also means your army's element of surprise lasts for exactly one volley of fire. Then everyone knows exactly where you fired from. Remove that sound and now you might get off several volleys of fire before the enemy can triangulate your position and return fire. The tactics of combat would be radically different, if this is the case.

Kick Muskets kick hard. But do magi-muskets kick like standard muskets? If not... You make it easier to keep your weapon trained on the enemy. You can fire longer before your shoulder looks like you've been kicked by a mule. You make it easier you build mobile weapon platforms (imagine scaling up to cannon that don't have to roll back and then be brought back onto target).

Weight If your magi-musket isn't quite as heavy, because it doesn't have use enough iron to contain the explosive force of black powder, then your weapon is now lighter, easier to carry. Marches aren't as tiring. Production costs might be slightly reduced, if less iron is needed (though that's offset by the cost to enchant, see above, Please pay your wizards).

4 CM_Dayton 08/07/2017
Even if effective range < max range, your may still want to "fire for effect." Meaning they won't reliably hit targets, but if even 10% of your shots land... If the enemy is in close formation, even 5% hit rate would cause their lines to falter. Tripping up the men behind them... so it might be useful to try a few shots from some men at extreme range.
4 Perkins 08/07/2017
Flintlock muskets and rifles work fine in all but the heaviest of rainstorms. It simply takes more care in the loading process and a piece of oilcloth to wrap the lock in to keep it dry when not in use. In a pitched battle the gun will actually become warm enough to dry itself out again, even if an occasional raindrop does sneak into the pan.
27 Adeptus 08/08/2017
Please pay your wizards
9 Paul TIKI 08/08/2017
Something to ponder, since you covered everything else (nicely done) I would bring up: Powder may have the advantage in infections! It's hard to quantify, but how many poor sods who got shot with muskets survived the battle to die in a tent 3 days later as a result of Sepsis! The proposed magic projectile may not leave an open wound to get infected.
3 CM_Dayton 08/08/2017
@PaulTIKI and now I am imagining some dark, evil, wizards purposefully enchanting their magi-muskets to fire plague-bolts instead of fire-bolts.

Kargathia 08/07/2017.

Apart from all points already mentioned, the lack of powder smoke will be significant.

When volley firing muskets, smoke would cloud the immediate area, and hinder aimed fire. This was one of the reasons muskets were deployed en masse.

A smokeless musket will encourage aimed fire, and surprise tactis - a shooter's position will not immediately be given away by a black cloud.

The biggest impact by far will be on the logistic side, but smokeless guns certainly will (and have!) influence on tactical usage.

1 Shane 08/09/2017
Gave a +1 but you have it backwards, no? The people firing with powder will have the cover of smoke. The magical side will be in the open.
2 Nova 08/09/2017
@Shane: Muskets were not fired on particular persons, but just in the general direction of the enemy, so it doesn't matter if you aim at a cloud or at the enemy itself.
Kargathia 08/10/2017
@Shane There's a big difference between firing at, or out of a cloud of smoke. Being aware of your immediate surroundings helps with orientation. Not being directly in the smoke also allows better observation of what else is happening on the battlefield.

Jammin4CO 08/07/2017.

Even if you prevent the advantage of rifle swap between shots, that time is still a gift to the warrior over a muzzle loading rifle. They can maintain situational alertness and even reposition all while the recharging is taking place.

This is even more pronounced at short range. Attempting to load muzzle loader when under stress can easily double your reload time with shaking hands and loss of focus. There are several historical exhibits of blown breaches possibly due to the users loading multiple charges before firing. Alternatively, in the heat of battle not realizing "your" gun didn't fire. These issues would be solved by a magical gun that can't double load.

So to answer the question, YES a significant advantage that with even numbers would be insurmountable.

Perkins 08/07/2017.

So your magic musket gives a few, obvious advantages. Less practice time devoted to loading since it's a mental skill rather than a physical one, no ammunition to carry, can be reloaded from any position, no huge cloud of smoke obscuring the target after the first shot...

At the same time, depending on how magic works in your system, you may have inadvertently removed the single big advantage a musket had over a longbow. Prior to the invention of gunpowder all weapons were powered by human and animal muscle. Your archers had to be in peak physical condition not just so they could sprint around the battlefield, but also to be able to shoot more than a few arrows before having to stop and rest. Quivers rarely held more than twenty shafts since after that the archer was too tired to shoot anyway. Once gunpowder became easily available, soldiers could shoot projectiles with far more energy, and do it all day long, because the power to run the weapon was stored in the ammunition, not in the body of the wielder.

Now, with your system, the user of the weapon has to channel magic back into it in order to recharge for the next shot. Where does that energy come from? If you make magical energy too cheap, then the important question becomes, "Why don't we have flying juggernauts raining down death from above?" If you make it too expensive, then your soldiers will become exhausted from channelling power into their weapons after ten or twenty shots, just like an archer, and the folks using black powder will clean their clocks.

Something else to consider: Loading times for muskets vary greatly with the skill of the user. A rank novice will manage about one shot a minute. A day or two's worth of training can easily up it to two/minute. A well-drilled soldier can reasonably be expected to manage three, and a savant can do four under ideal conditions. Is there going to be the same kind of progression with your magic guns? If there's not, then that shifts the advantage more toward the side with the better generals rather than the side with the faster shooters.

Also, as the technology progresses, expect someone to develop a version capable of storing energy for multiple shots and releasing them either all at once or in quick succession. See the volley gun, the puckle gun, and many examples of revolving pistols and rifles for examples. Yes, there were revolving flintlock pistols, Sam Colt's idea wasn't new, he just made one that was practical to mass-produce. Such things would likely only be in the hands of the aristocracy and wealthy merchants in the time period you're targeting though as the manufacture would be considerably more expensive and most people don't really need it.

ShadowRanger 08/09/2017
I was looking for someone to make the point about training. The difference between victory and defeat often came down to which army could reload and fire fastest; the difference between even 2 and 3 shots a minute in a firing line of 1000 men is huge, and a magic musket that removes the skill requirements, providing a fixed rate of fire could be a benefit or handicap depending on where it falls on the rate of fire.
Perkins 08/09/2017
@ShadowRanger Could also shift the location where the advantage is generated if fire rate is dependent primarily on manufacturing quality.

Agent_L 08/08/2017.

I'm trying to figure out how much of an advantage these guns have over their real life counterparts, and what simple changes I may be able to make to keep them in line with their counterparts while keeping a similar feel to the weapon as described above.

I'd say the advantage is still ground-breaking.

Battles are won with guns, but wars are won with logistics. And you've created a gun which require no logistics at all. Now, your only endurance-limiting factor is the operator's human needs.

A regular army can advance only as much as their supply lines can stretch. Then they're cut off, run out of ammo and can't fire any more, ceasing to be a combat unit. Your army can advance as long as they keep finding food. A weapon that's never used in defense, because it really shines in offensive applications. You've basically created human equivalent of army ants that can keep pushing as long as they keep pushing. The only way they can be stopped is by larger force. But one force has to be the largest in the world - and they would be unstoppable.

What you need at strategic level is some limit. Eg make the musket being able to fire X shots and then stop, the only option left being remanufacturing. Or a time limit, like the polonium-210 laser rifle, which will lose it's juice whenever fired or not. This effect can be gradual, with newest weapons being the strongest and the oldest ones being little more than a distraction. This also opens new options, eg adding spent gunners to swell your ranks and appear bigger, also explains situations when a character is hit and incapacitated but not killed.

Gnudiff 08/08/2017
A very good point as well.

Haha TTpro 08/08/2017.

Mobility (cavalry)

However, unlike real muskets that had to be manually loaded, these magical guns will recharge on their own without further action from the gunman.

A soldier with a magic musket can move after shooting, instead of reloading his musket. It is good for cavalry who adapt hit-and-run tactics. Also, it fixes the decay-over-distance of the magic projectile as cavalry can hit at close range and run away.


A normal musket has very poor accuracy due to its smooth barrel (a rifle fixes that). How about the magic musket? (You did not mention in the question.) However, I can assume that the magic projectile flies straight. So a soldier would not care about projectile ballistics.

SZCZERZO KŁY 08/07/2017.

Musketeers usually had a person that reloaded them the rifle. So they could use two. If you don't need to waste somebody times to reload that what stop you from having 4 rifles and shoot them one after another after another?

And you don't have problem with depleting your ammo pouch.

So, what you do? You create volley gun. You mother' flippin, frigin wall of barrels. Polish have created a 20-barrel gun. But somebeody had to spend time to load and reload them.
With your magic they don't need to do that.

So no need to worry about accuracy. If you fire 100 times you will probably hit the target at least once.

1 dsollen 08/07/2017
A good point. Though I did neglect to point out that I intended to limit the rate at which these muskets could be built, the intent was to limit how many recruits could be armed at once but it would go a good ways to preventing one soldier from using 4 rifles at once I imagine. Still, I may consider making it harder to swap out rifles, I may even design the rifles such that the soldier is effectively channeling mana into them when the recharge, so a rifle without anyone touching it either doesn't recharge or recharges at a slower rate, just to prevent someone using multuple rifles.
1 Pieter Geerkens 08/07/2017
Musketeers reloaded their own muskets. Just as they cleaned their own muskets, and toted them around the battlefield and the campaign trail. If someone else hands you a musket you are instantly asking yourself Is it Loaded? Was it cleaned today? Was the flint sharpened this week? Is the ramming rod present? Where is the bayonet? All of these thoughts in a soldier's mind slow down his ability to react to the battlefield before him; reduce firing rate; and reduce morale. Although this idea crops up repeatedly during the black-powder era amongst those who have not seen ...
1 Pieter Geerkens 08/07/2017
... actual combat, it was never successfully implemented any unit, at any time during the era, for all the reason above.
1 SZCZERZO KŁY 08/08/2017
There was no bayonets in the early age of muskets. They were added in the XVII century. A loader was a person who loaded the gun for you during the battle. You fired, passed the empty musket to your left, taken loaded rifle handed to you from your right fired and so on. Usually loader was like a squire. Working for one or just few musketeers.
Gnudiff 08/08/2017
That would have been my point. Either a volley gun or just order your magical musketmen in x lines, where x is the number of seconds a musket is recharging. If one line shoots after another, and there is enough of them, they can keep a small/large area completely saturated in magical gunfire indefinitely, denying critical passages, for example, or something like that. Or used as short-range saturated artillery strike basically. The possibilities are endless. Wow.

Phil M 08/08/2017.

Accuracy might be a major difference... muskets were notoriously inaccurate, so a magically guided projectile could make a major difference (and if not the base model, someone will figure it out for the high end models).

Another difference might be in favor of the gunpowder musket. How long can a magic bullet remain in the chamber unfired? If the soldier has to concentrate for 30+ seconds while the magic charge is loaded, that would give advantage to a gunpowder musket soldier that is already loaded.

Another advantage for the magic bullets is the light discharged during firing at night would be smaller than a musket which has a bright flash and lots of smoke. I would think the magic bullet would produce less light (more like a pulse) but its also possible to make them about the same. Again this really only matters in nighttime battles, but that could be used to a major strategic advantage.

You should also consider different calibers of bullets. A sniper rifle has larger bullets and requires the greater mass in order for it to travel further. As you mentioned in your question, a magic rifle would degrade force and be more of an annoyance than deadly, but eventually some mage will figure out how to make a larger magic bullet that retains more force at a further distance. Of course this requires more magic (fewer shots per hour), but would be worth it.

Also consider the possibility of the magical equivalent of a cannon. It might require a team to supply all of the magic, but could have results just as devastating as gunpowder cannons. They would be possibly more accurate and certainly the materials would be lighter and easier to transport than a traditional cannon.

Philipp 08/08/2017.

The advantage of the magically self-loading musket is that the operator can do something else while the musket is recharging. This allows some interesting tactics:

  • A soldier can carry more than one musket into battle and use them alternating (or alternatively, use multi-barreled muskets). Note that this only makes sense if you consider a soldiers to be more valuable than a muskets. When soldiers are an expendable resource, that doesn't make sense (you could do it like the Soviets in World War 2 who in some battles only handed a rifle to every other soldier and had the unarmed soldiers pick it up as soon as the carrier dies).
  • Hit-and-run tactics. You can't reload a musket and sprint at the same time. Well, you can try, but you won't be as fast. But your magical musketeers can do that. Exchange the first volley, then run away. When the enemy chases after you, your muskets will have recharged before the enemy had the opportunity to reload. When they stay where they are to reload, they are an easy target for your artillery.
  • The soldier can observe the enemy and take aim while the musket is recharging. That should give them a slightly higher firing frequency and more battlefield awareness resulting in more efficient shots.
  • Using the musket firing function in melee combat. When a musketeer regiment is locked in melee combat, the musket with bayonet becomes a spear. Reloading it under that circumstances is impossible. But when the musket recharges even while the soldier is fighting, they can kill opponents with point-blank range shot. That will make them more efficient in melee combat. You might want to train them to focus on dodging and parrying until their musket has recharged and then try to shoot the opponent.

Lance2017 08/08/2017.

Another difference I haven't seen mentioned yet is that troops armed with magical muskets wouldn't be blinding themselves with clouds of gunpowder smoke. That becomes an even bigger advantage in this world than it would be in the real world since your magical rifles are more accurate and longer ranged.

Also, in reference to soldiers loading weapons multiple times between shots.. here's a bit of trivia I found interesting ( and kind of sad when you realize the stress and terror that caused it ):

After the battle of Gettysburg 27,514 rifles were found dropped or discarded. Of those, 12000 had been loaded multiple times.. with 6 thousand being loaded 3 or more times. 1 rifle was found to have been loaded 23 times.

1 Vylix 08/08/2017
How they can know if a rifle has been loaded x times, except by approximation?
1 ShadowRanger 08/09/2017
@Vylix: I think they mean that there were X layers of powder, wadding and bullet, all stacked on top of each other, because the people in question neglected (or failed) to fire the first bullet before loading the second (or third, or fourth...).
Jammin4CO 08/09/2017
I made the point about a stress causing a person to load more than once. But in retrospect, it is probably a person who had a bad 1st load or faulty flash pan. After that, no subsequent load will fire. I can imagine 2 scenarios. With all the shooting, the gunner can't hear if their weapon fired, or they are amongst brothers, and are unwilling to admit their predicament and failure and so continue to go through the motions. Sad indeed.

TBP 08/10/2017.

Not a medically trained person here, but the effect being a localized fire blast should mean the wounds are always cauterized, shouldn't it? Which, as already mentioned, affects death by sepsis, but also reduces the chance to bleed out.

I always was under the impression a lot of kills from this era were due to blood loss, sepsis etc and an equally big impact was not due to killing, but disabling soldiers by way of badly set broken bones or other injuries that would not heal properly. Tightly localized fire blasts sound like a more superficial damage, badly scarring, incapacitating short term due to pain and taking time to heal, but if not immediately deadly then having less long time consequences. You might want to consult some medical folks on the different effects of impact vs. burn in injuries.

1 Secespitus 08/10/2017
Welcome to WorldBuilding! Good point you mention there. It would be even better if you had sources where one could read up on this. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun!

Jakub Tustanowski 08/08/2017.


Normal muskets tend to make a lot of noise when fired. One cannot sneak into the place and use it to assassinate guards one by one. A magical musket could allow trained soldiers to be used for surprised attacks, capturing objectives in the night or breaking into highly secure areas.

What's more, with unlimited ammo, it would make perfect survival weapon. An animal, if you would even miss it, won't even run away, as there is no sound nor projectile that can scare it away.

Everybody who would be trained well enough to sneak near a human or animal could kill it with no consequences. It's like an easier to use blowgun with musket range and unlimited ammo. No one is safe with those around!

Dent7777 08/08/2017.

Forewarning: I am not a student of cavalry tactics nor military history.


Cavalry equipped with firearms would often fire once, then stow their weapons and charge, or retreat to reload, or dismount and fight on foot. Cavalry equipped with magic muskets would have the ability to sit just outside of musket effective range and rain fire onto enemy lines. Cavalry could either be organized more loosely to avoid cannon fire or could fire on the run, if accuracy allowed it.

Scouts and Irregulars

Some of the first use of rifles was in the hands of scouts and skirmishers. I believe that these groups would be among the first to get their hands on the magick muskets. Imagine scouts equipped with weapons that required no ammunition, reloaded themselves over time, had longer range, were more accurate, and did not produce any smoke. If you had two of these weapons (and soldiers did carry multiple muskets), you would be able to double your rate of fire with very little sacrifice. Your scouts would be able to move more freely, stay out in the field longer, and remain concealed when firing (including, as previously mentioned, staying prone).

Scouts or skirmishers would immediately be better suited to hiding in the woods, ambushing supply trains, attacking foraging and scouting parties, and sniping officers. If you can engage an enemy without risking significant losses, you stand to gain the upper hand even before battle is met.

Weapon Advancements

How does the enchantment work? Does it create recoil when fired? Is the barrel enchanted, or the gun as a whole? Whatever the details are, I bet you can find a way to create weapons with multiple barrels. This could be anything from a double-barrel musket to a volley weapon to a gattling gun. While these weapons would require more work, it would be difficult to deny their battlefield effectiveness, especially in a time when black powder rifles and tight formations are still in use.

Secondly, how does caliber and grain affect the weapons. Is the barrel of fixed dimensions, or can you have little pea-shooters and huge cannons? Does muzzle velocity affect the damage the bolt does, and does the bolt decelerate with drag and drop with gravity? Can you crank up the 'grains' in your enchantment, and get the equivalent of a high-power rifle as compared to your average, normal 'grain' count rifle? Depending on the answers to these questions, you could end up with completely different weapons.

Jeff Zeitlin 08/09/2017.

You haven't specified whether your "magic bullet" is affected by wind or gravity; on the assumption that they are not so affected, they will have the advantage of not needing to account for distance (beyond the question of dissipation) or weather conditions.

They will also have the disadvantage of not having to account for distance or weather conditions, if the same musketeers may be required to use magic muskets at some times, and powder muskets at others.

If there is any sort of capability for suppressing magic over an area, the magic-musketeers may suddenly find themselves disarmed, when they go into an area where magic is suppressed. Unless there's a similar magical ability to suppress the chemical reaction that black powder uses, the powder musketeers will have the advantage under those conditions.

Bill K 08/07/2017.

If this is the best they can do with magic right now, it will quickly be outclassed because guns have a lot of room for improvement past the musket.

The thing holding back the guns is mechanical evolution/invention, but unless magic was very recently introduced I'd assume they would be able to use it quite effectively already since they had most likely always had access to it.

If I were some mage inventor I would probably be going down a different road--perhaps enchanting existing musket-balls to seek their target or have them spread some sort of contagion that will infest the enemies. Solutions that take less magic "Power" and use a little more finesse/creativity--maybe ammo that can phase through the first two inches of solid material it comes in contact with or one designed just to distract the troops--for instance creating extremely bright flashes that can blind...

Just flew over the answers and wanted to add another point I didn't see mentioned (might have just missed though)

You say your magic guns do fire and lightning damage. Those effects however change in certain situations and under the influence of the elements. A battle in rain might have a very different outcome than that on a sunny day.

Electricity damage is a tricky thing anyway.

  1. It only causes harm to the human body if the body is part of a closed circuit, otherwise electricity won't even move through the body.
  2. The effects on your body depend on whether it's AC or DC traversing through. The former causes the heart to try to adapt to the oscillation and a frequency of 50Hz may already cause ventricular fibrillation or even cardiac arrest with an increasing chance on higher frequencies. Also it can cause paralyzation on your muscles if the electricity is high enough. The latter may cause electrolysis in your body, which results in a sepsis that causes your death few days later.
  3. The mentioned effects both depend on the amount of electricity as well as the impact duration with both values rising the chance on increase. 50V AC and 120V DC are said to be perilous to the human body.
  4. Both types of electricity cause burns on your skin and your flesh.
  5. The shorter the distance the electricity covers through the body the smaller the resistance and thus the smaller the voltage. As your legs are usually the exit point to the ground hits on your legs are less violative than hits on your arms. It gets worse when your heart or brain are within the path.
  6. The resistance is composed of the resistance of your body and the transition resistances of the entry and exit point. Dry skin has a higher resistance so seemingly unintuitive being wet and sweaty reduces the voltage and thus the damage to the body.
  7. Defending a river might be a much more desirable point of defence. Just shoot in the water when the enemy tries to cross it. Bullets lose acceleration very quickly in water so they become quite harmless. Electricity does have a very high drop-off ratio in water (which is why a lightning hitting a lake doesn't kill all its fish) but on close distance it would be devastating.

People would probably try to find ways to reduce these effects like creating isolating clothes, a Faraday cage as armor or anything along these lines.

There are also some advantages to getting hit by electricity rather than a projectile. You don't have to deal with foreign particles in your body, no surgery needed to cut them out, you don't have to deal with blood loss, shattered bones and internal bleeding killing you hours later.

Fire might enflame the body (look up the wick effect), work less effective in rain, may also cause a sepsis, result in the unclean smoke you got with regular muskets, well ... we do have weapons in our modern arsenal working mainly with fire.

As I'm neither an electrician (I did study technical informatics, though. So we had some subjects closely related to electrical engineering) nor a doctor and mostly looked things up I won't go any deeper but you might want to do so in order to keep it realistic. Or just go with magic damage.

L0j1k 08/12/2017.

Something I'd like to point out here, as an infantry veteran, is the psychological factor of superior weaponry. The job of the infantry is to dominate your enemy physically and psychologically, and the bigger and louder and more efficient your weapons, the more this starts to unnerve the enemy and affect them in combat. If these magic muskets were not commonplace (for example like real muskets back in the day -- flintlocks were illegal to own for civilians for some time), it could be quite psychologically daunting to be a soldier or civilian going up against a unit armed with magic muskets. Especially if they've never seen them before, or haven't handled or fired them personally; they have nothing but legend and reputation to fuel their thinking as they march into battle. This is actually a Very Big Deal in combat, and can definitely sway a battle one way or the other.

Peter 08/12/2017.

The biggest difference is that they reload on their own. Thus troops will carry multiple of these mamuskets and swap them between shots for a higher rate of fire.

So forget about the majority of the users being inadequately trained conscripts - these get the cheaper weapons like bows, knifes, and shields, while the trained marksmen get 5 mamuskets each.

Speaking of shields, your mamusket seems to do rather poorly against shield walls. While the heat and electricity may be useful against worn metal armor, it seems to be pretty much useless against metal shields.

Advantage: High rate of fire.

Disadvantage: High cost (5 muskets for 1 soldier), can be countered by specific equipment and formation (shield wall).

Another advantage is that it's trivial to advance the technology to the point of gatling mamuskets.

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