BROWN BESS, a name given in the British army to the flintlock musket with which the infantry were formerly armed. The term is applied generally to the weapon of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and became obsolete on the introduction of the rifle. The first part of the name derives from the colour of the wooden stock, for the name is found much earlier than the introduction of "browning" the barrel of muskets; "Bess" may be either a humorous feminine equivalent of the "brown-bill," the old weapon of the British infantry, or a corruption of the "buss," i.e. box, in "blunderbuss."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)