Flintlock Reliability in Hunting Guns

E-mail Detail of small Ossabaw hog and RMC flintlock

Although this modern flintlock took this hog it failed to fire when another shot opportunity on a larger animal occurred less than an hour later.

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  A few post back I discuss using a newly designed Rightnour  flintlock rifle on a hog-deer hunt on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island. On this hunt I had a flint dull sufficiently to fail to fire the gun. When I attempted to change the flint in the dark I lost the upper jaw on the cock and the jaw screw in tall grass. I had to rely on sticking a lit match to the pan powder to discharge the gun before taking it back to camp.

  This event brought home why the military powers changed from flint to percussion ignition in the 1840s. It was not that percussion guns were any more accurate or powerful, but they were significantly MORE RELIABLE. Guns with percussion locks were less likely to be disabled because nine external lock parts were replaced by a hammer and nipple.  Percussion locks were also less expensive to make and required less in-field servicing.

 Shooting flintlock guns with acceptable game-killing accuracy requires both physical and mental training to master the gun. The shooter must learn to hold the gun steady when an explosion is occurring inches from his nose. All instincts are telling him to push this source of noise and flame away from him as soon as possible, and it is difficult to learn to hold these “flinchlocks” still enough for accurate off-hand shooting.  

  I accept this challenge, and I often hunt with flintlock guns. In doing so I realize that I will not take as much game with them as with their percussion equivalents. I am now hunting with an original 1842 British .75-caliber musket that was the percussion equivalent of the Brown Bess flintlock used during the American Revolutionary  and Napoleonic wars. It shoots no more accurately than the flintlock, but is more reliable. In a later post I will let you know how it did on this year’s deer hunt.

  I always advise against a hunter choosing a flintlock as his first muzzleloading gun. It is always best to learn how to shoot percussion guns first and then take up the added challenges of the flintlock and matchlock once basic black-powder shooting techniques have been mastered using the more reliable percussion guns.

  In the 2011 issue of Gun Digest, I will be discussing shooting smoothbore guns. This issue will be out in August, 2010. I will also be discussing this subject in a new book ,  X-Treme Muzzleloading: Taking Fur, Fowl and Dangerous Game with Muzzleloading Rifles, Smoothbores and Pistols,  that will be published  in the first quarter of  2010.

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2 thoughts on “Flintlock Reliability in Hunting Guns

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