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Muzzle-loading shoulder firearm developed in 16th-century Spain. Designed as a larger version of the harquebus, muskets were fired with matchlocks until flintlocks were developed in the 17th century; flintlocks were replaced by percussion locks in the early 19th century. Early muskets were often handled by two persons and fired from a portable rest. Typically 5.5 ft (1.7 m) long and weighing about 20 lbs (9 kg), they fired a ball about 175 yards (160 m) with little accuracy. Later types were smaller, lighter, and accurate enough to hit a person at 80–100 yards (75–90 m). The musket was replaced in the mid-19th century by the breech-loading rifle.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on musket, visit Britannica.com.