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The most popular action has a barrel which was unscrewed from the rest of the gun. Obviously this is more practical on pistols because of the shorter barrel length. This type is known as a Queen Anne pistol because it was during her reign that it became popular although it was actually introduced in the reign of King William III.

Another type has a removable screw plug set into the side or top or bottom of the barrel. A large number of sporting rifles were made with this system, as it allowed easier loading compared with muzzle loading with a tight fitting bullet and patch. One of the more successful was the system built by Isaac de la Chaumette starting in The barrel could be opened by 3 revolutions of the triggerguard, to which it was attached. The plug stayed attached to the barrel and the ball and powder were loaded from the top.

This system was improved in the s by Colonel Patrick Ferguson and experimental rifles used in the American Revolutionary War. The only two flintlock breechloaders to be produced in quantity were the Hall and the Crespi. The first was invented by John Hall and patented c. The Hall rifles and carbines were loaded using a combustible paper cartridge inserted into the upward tilting breechblock.

Hall rifles leaked gas from the often poorly fitted action. The same problem affected the muskets produced by Giuseppe Crespi and adopted by the Austrian Army in Flintlock weapons were commonly used until the mid 19th century, when they were replaced by percussion lock systems. Even though they have long been considered obsolete, flintlock weapons continue to be produced today by manufacturers such as Pedersoli, Euroarms, and Armi Sport.

Not only are these weapons used by modern re-enactors, but they are also used for hunting, as many U. Flintlocks may be any type of small arm : long gun or pistol , smoothbore or rifle , muzzleloader or breechloader. Flintlock pistols were used as self-defense weapons and as a military arm. Their effective range was short, and they were frequently used as an adjunct to a sword or cutlass.

How Flintlock Guns Work

Pistols were usually smoothbore although some rifled pistols were produced. Flintlock pistols came in a variety of sizes and styles which often overlap and are not well defined, many of the names we use having been applied by collectors and dealers long after the pistols were obsolete. The smallest would fit into a typical pocket or a hand warming muff and could easily be carried by women.

The largest sizes would be carried in holsters across a horse's back just ahead of the saddle.

Flintlock Pistol | Atlas Wiki

In-between sizes included the coat pocket pistol, or coat pistol, which would fit into a large pocket, the coach pistol, meant to be carried on or under the seat of a coach in a bag or box, and belt pistols, sometimes equipped with a hook designed to slip over a belt or waistband. Larger pistols were called horse pistols. Arguably the most elegant of the pistol designs was the Queen Anne pistol , which was made in all sizes. Probably the high point of the mechanical development of the flintlock pistol was the British duelling pistol ; it was highly reliable, water resistant and accurate. External decoration was minimal but craftsmanship was evident, and the internal works were often finished to a higher degree of craftsmanship than the exterior.

Flintlock muskets were the mainstay of European armies between and A musket was a muzzle-loading smoothbore long gun that was loaded with a round lead ball, but it could also be loaded with shot for hunting. For military purposes, the weapon was loaded with ball, or a mixture of ball with several large shot called buck and ball , and had an effective range of about 75 to metres.

Smoothbore weapons that were designed for hunting birds were called "fowlers.

How a Flintlock Works

Military flintlock muskets tended to weigh approximately ten pounds, as heavier weapons were found to be too cumbersome, and lighter weapons were not rugged or heavy enough to be used in hand-to-hand combat. They were usually designed to be fitted with a bayonet.


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On flintlocks, the bayonet played a much more significant role, often accounting for a third or more of all battlefield casualties. Antoine-Henri Jomini , a celebrated military author of the Napoleonic period who served in numerous armies during that period, stated that the majority of bayonet charges in the open resulted with one side fleeing before any contacts were made. They tended to be fired in mass volleys, followed by bayonet charges in which the weapons were used much like the pikes that they replaced.

Some flintlocks were rifled. The spiral grooves of rifling make rifles more accurate and give a longer effective range — but on a muzzle-loading firearm they take more time to load due to the tight-fitting ball, and after repeated shots black powder tended to foul the barrels.

Inside the lock

Military musketeers couldn't afford to take the time to clean the rifles' barrels in between shots and the rifle's greater accuracy was unnecessary when tactics were based on mass volleys. Most military flintlocks were therefore smoothbore. Rifled flintlocks did see some military use by sharpshooters, skirmishers, and other support units; but most rifled flintlocks were used for hunting. On the morning of September 16, , Clark's gun misfired seven times in succession as he tried to shoot a deer. That may have been because, as he soon discovered, the flint was loose, but also, snow was falling, and the lock could have been wet.

Army regulations, as well as common sense, required every soldier to carry a plug for the end of the gun barrel to keep out rain, snow, mud, and dirt. A hunter closing in for the kill with his rifle loaded and ready to fire had to remember to remove the plug before firing. Back at Travelers' Rest in early July , Clark noted that two of the rifles had burst near the muzzle.

Flintlock Pistol

Either a couple of men forgot to remove their barrel plugs, or else they failed to use them at all and got mud or other debris in their barrels. In either case the mistake was inexcusable. Another essential accessory for every soldier or hunter was a piece of leather to cover the lock in wet or snowy conditions. Often cut from the knee of a cow, and thus pre-shaped to suit the purpose, it was called—what else? Either Fields was uncharacteristically careless, or else the safeguards weren't failsafe.

Despite numerous "improvements" in firearm manufacture since the time of Lewis and Clark, the same old problems have continued to plague soldiers periodically. In Vietnam the new and purportedly self-cleaning M16 rifles instead quickly jammed with hardened carbon deposits and became useless. The whole thing led to a Congressional Inquiry. The Model Harpers Ferry flintlock rifle might have been more reliable than the M Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Sit back and enjoy some reading. Whether it's a jaunt or a junket, remember sunblock.


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How Flintlock Firearms Work

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