Flintlocks: Why Choose A Flintlock ?

Why Choose A Flintlock ?

by Earl Matsuoka

There are so many advantages to a caplock or cartridge gun, why would anyone choose to shoot or hunt with a flintlock?  Let me extend that argument by asking, with all the advantages in an AR-15 or a FAL, why would most of you choose vintage guns like Garands, Springfield 03s or Krags as your favorites?  I guess the easiest answer is tradition, but I think it goes a little deeper for all of us.  Replica or original, a flintlock rifle or a musket gives you no advantage over the same gun used 150 – 200 years ago.  The round ball is the same and the powder is similar or the same and if you are a hunter who has been fortunate enough to harvest game with a flintlock, then by gum you’re as good as Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone.  A reference and appreciation for history is strong in a club like ours and I hope we are open enough to understand that our narrow fields of interest are not the only areas worthy of celebrating.  I type this to remind myself of the importance of this statement as I am as guilty of sometimes looking too narrowly as anyone else.

The knowledge that somehow early Americans had made a flintlock fire reliably when their very existence depended on it kept me trying to find answers to the many problems I’ve encountered for years.  The solutions which I will present here are presented with the full knowledge that they are not the only answers or the best answers, just the way I solved my difficulties.  I hoped to learn more from those I can encourage to try and enjoy shooting this unique style of firearm.

From the 25,000 French muskets presented to this new country and the many contract copies and the famous “Brown Bess” musket of our tormentors to the rifled Jagers brought by earlier settlers from the Old World, to the resulting development of the unique American “Kentucky” long rifle which evolved from the Jager into the finest military rifle of the time which then became the heavy bored “plains rifle” that led our western expansion of America, the flintlock had a long and distinguished history in our maturing country.

All this from a gun that depended on a flint stone striking steel to create a spark which ignites a charge of crude blackpowder.  A gun that won our nation, fed a country and protected its explorers and settlers from harm’s way.  A gun that had to be not only reliable but which could be easily mended and supplied, far from sophisticated machine centers or specialty shops.  A gun that the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they penned the line, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed…”.

A flintlock rifle was sometimes ornamented into a high art form, although it was more often a very utilitarian example of stark practicality.  Each was a prized possession of its owner and was handed down to the next custodian as the years pass.

Why choose a flintlock?  Because it represents the best reasons this club appeals to me.  In the next several months, I will present my thoughts on learning how to shoot this type of gun.  Because good replicas are now common and available, I hope you will not attempt to shoot an original piece of history, but will pass it on to the next lucky custodian.

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