On April 19th, 1775, Colonists and British soldiers used the same type of gun - a flintlock musket that fired a one ounce solid lead ball. The effective range was one hundred yards (the length of a modern football field). These weapons were smooth bore - there were no groves in the barrel to put a spin on the ball to make it fly straight. Also, the ball was undersized to facilitate quick loading. Because muskets were not very accurate, they were most effective when fired by lines of soldiers, in volleys. The Colonists firing individually along the Battle Road did not hit their mark very often. However, they were effective at keeping up a steady, harassing gunfire.
Well-drilled soldiers using prepared cartridges could load and fire three or more times a minute. Soldiers tore open the paper cartridge with their teeth and sprinkled a small amount of gunpowder into the priming pan of the weapon. The remainder of the cartridge (powder, ball and paper wrapping) was placed into the muzzle and rammed down with the ramrod. When the trigger was pulled, the flint was forced forward, striking the steel frizzen and making sparks. The powder ignited, causing the gun to fire. However, flints often failed to spark, damp powder failed to ignite and powder fouling caused difficulties in loading. Colonists carried swords, axes or bayonets as back-up.