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Go Primitive, Very Primitive – Flintlocks

          Muzzleloading rifles carry certain mystique. Granted the modern muzzleloader looks exactly like a modern rifle and is capable of similar performance. But true primitive weaponry is built on frames that were mass produced before approximately 1850.

Some have gone further and choose to use firearms that are built on frames and design that predate the nineteenth century. The flintlock is a true classic rifle. Its design is simple, effective and yet difficult to master. This does not take away from the thrill of shooting or hunting with a flintlock.

The firing mechanism gives the flintlock its name. The hammer of the flintlock contains a threaded screw that holds tightly a small piece of flint. When the hammer is cocked, the piece of flint is held under tension prepared to fire towards a pan of loose powder held in the pan. This pan of loose powder is protected by a striker called the frizzen. So in short, once the muzzle is loaded, more powder is placed into the pan, the frizzen is lowered over the pan, the hammer cocked and when the trigger is squeezed the hammer containing the flint moves forward striking the frizzen igniting the powder in the pan which in turn ignites the powder within the barrel sending the bullet down range.

All of this happens very fast, however there is a noticeable delay between the firing of the pan and the powder in the barrel. It takes a lot of practice to learn to hold still through the first ‘flash’ while waiting for the BOOM of the barrel. While the delay is in microseconds, it is still noticeable considering most have never shot a flintlock.

Flintlock rifles were first designed in 78 caliber smoothbores. As technology improved, rifling of barrels and smaller calibers emerged. Today, most flintlocks are manufactured in .50 caliber to accommodate the mass production of powder and bullet offerings. Some companies offer the flintlock in .45 but these are very expensive.

Flintlocks cannot by their nature be adapted to optics very easily. Iron sights are the norm and standard. While the ignition of the gun may be old and primitive by some standards, the flintlock is very reliable under normal conditions. This gun does not suit itself to foul weather. Be it rain, or snow, keeping the powder in the pan dry is essential to firing your charge. If the powder in the pan gets wet, it does not fire. Understanding your conditions is essential to using the flintlock.

Those looking to find a good flintlock need to start with some of the more major brands. Traditions, Lyman, Pendersoli all offer well made replica rifles with flintlock ignition. Most come in the common .50 caliber, with Pendersoli giving the consumer options of .32 caliber and .75 caliber in addition to the .50 caliber.

If you are giving Muzzleloading a try or have been at it for a while now. Shooting a flintlock is just plain fun. It brings back the thoughts of Daniel Boone and the expansion of America. How wars were fought but mostly how the American pioneer provided for his family. You will not be disappointed in shooting a flintlock rifle, and hunting with one will give you a satisfaction that cannot be matched with other Muzzleloading rifles.