Flintlocks: Making Your Flintlock Work

Tribute to Earl –

Making Your Flintlock Work

by Earl Matsuoka

The first question that I often hear is why would anyone want to shoot a gun that is so unreliable?  After years of experience at the range and hunting, I can honestly say that I feel no extra handicap shooting a flintlock over a percussion rifle.  There are a number of techniques and precautions that you must take to insure your gun goes bang and hitting any target within range; provided you do your part.

Although this applies to any muzzleloader, the first consideration is to fire only at targets within the effective range of your gun.  Any muzzleloader can reach quite a distance.  In hunting I’ve learned to keep my shots within a limit of 125 yds.  If the target is judged to be within 100, I shoot “point of aim.”  Since I use patched round balls, my gun is zeroed at 100 yds, placing the ball at 50 yds about 2 1/2” high.  Beyond 100 yds, I aim for the spine which will give me a kill.  Even if I misjudge the range, I’m actually shooting up to 150 yds as the extra drop will still fall within a vital area.  With more than 20 years of hunting experiences, judging the exact range at unknown distances in the field is very difficult.  I feel we all owe our animals the respect of a quick clean kill and should avoid the long range guess, pray and shoot methods.

In selecting a quality flintlock, we are limited to a selection of production guns that have a slow barrel rate of twist which are best suited to using a round ball.  Do not even bother to try using modern conical or the sabot type projectiles as they will not be accurate.  I suggest using a round ball caliber not smaller than .54 for hunting big game with at least 90 grains blackpowder behind it.  Smaller bullets have taken game here and on the Mainland, but also increases wounding the animal as a result.  During the flintlock era, there was a rich tradition to respect and enjoy a round ball projectile used in hunting.

One of the things that prevents shooters in Hawaii from using a flintlock is the supply of blackpowder.  Pyrodex by itself does not work in a flintlock unless you are able to endure long and comical hangfires where the priming in the pan flashes and the main charge ignites in the barrel 2 full seconds later.  But Pyrodex can be made to work well with the assist of small amounts of fine grain blackpowder (4F granulation).  One pound of powder will last for about 700 shots.  First you make a measure from a modern pistol .380 ACP cartridge case.  Load the case full of blackpowder and pour down the barrel before loading the Pyrodex.  Prime the pan with the same 4F blackpowder and your gun will perform like the whole charge was blackpowder.  The blackpowder is used as an ignition aid and will correct the hangfire problem.

For bullet patching, use only tightly woven cotton or linen such as pillow ticking.  Do not use synthetic or blends as they will melt and tend to fuse to your barrel walls; a real mess.  Lightly lubricate your patches with Wonder Lube or T.C. Natural Lube to cut the fouling and make additional loading easier.  I patch tightly.  If time allows, I run a patch to remove most of the heavy fouling between each shot.  It aids accuracy by making consistent shots and removes most of the fouling that attracts moisture that may damage the powder charge which reduces velocity.  I never count on a quick reload because I’ve never seen an animal stand patiently waiting for me to shoot again.

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