Did they carry two types of powder back in the day?


July 31, 2003, 10:37 PM
My dad used to have a Flintlock that he shot alot. He ended up wearing out the frizzen, and was unable to find a replacement for it.
From talking with him and other guys I know who own them, I have gathered that you use FFFFg for the priming pan, and FFg for the main charge.
Did they carry two types of powder back in the early days of this country?
Would it be possible to use a powder between the two in size (FFFg), thus allowing you to simplify things by only having to carry one type of powder while hunting?
These may seem like amateur questions, but I have often wondered about that.

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Old Fuff
July 31, 2003, 10:50 PM
No, a single powder doesn't work well in flintlocks, although it has been done. During the original flintlock period that ranged from the late 1600's through the middle 1800's shooters carried two flasks - a large one with powder to charge the barrel (usually FF or FFG grades, except for muskets and shotguns) and a very small flask filled with FFFFG to prime the pan with.

On you're dad's flintlock. Dixie Gun Works - that I mentioned in another post - has parts, but usually all you have too do is case-harden the frizzen again. After awhile the sharp flint wears through the hardened "skin" and after that you can't get a spark. Doing all of this costs very little money so have at it.

Mike Irwin
July 31, 2003, 11:40 PM
On the contrary, I've used FFFg powder in my Thompson/Center Renegade for years with no complaints...

4v50 Gary
July 31, 2003, 11:56 PM
Here's what Wallace Gusler (Head of Conservation & Master Gunsmith @ Colonial Williamsburg) & Gary Brumfield (another Master Gunsmith now occupying a dangerous clerical position @ Colonial Williamsburg) told us: Our early Colonial forefathers carried only one horn and used only one type of powder. The same powder that supplied the charge for the barrel was used to prime the pan. Even soldiers on both sides of the French-Indian War and the American Revolution used only one grade of powder. If you have any doubts, read Francis Parkman's book, Pontiac's Conspiracy. In it he tells of the Siege of Wheeling (now in WV) where a "squaw" ran from the blockhouse to retrieve powder in her apron. Intiially the Indians didn't shoot at her when she ran to the fort. When she dashed back, they realized she was running supplies and shot at her. She came back with only one grade of powder. Look at surviving horns that can be dated from the French-Indian Wars. They were predominantly large horns and only large horns. No small priming powder horns. While the caliber decreased as did the horns of the Revolution, still there's only one horn.

It wasn't until the later period (perhaps 1790) and definitely by the War of 1812 that two horns were carried. By then even the British riflemen carried two powder horns - one for priming and one for charging (as well as a cartridge box if they were pressed for time).

Nobody is going to question you if you use one or two horns. I use a small priming device myself. Wait for Wallace Gusler's book to come out and provided he doesn't fall off another cliff from rock climbing (actually it was a good thing b/c they found a tumor and removed it - funny how something bad can be something good) and it will be the definitive book on the early Virginia rifle. A lot of original research is going into it including reading of court records, ledgers, newspapers. Well worth the wait.

I should add that Williamsburg is trying (and one my classmates is offering the loan of the camera) to get a high speed camera to film the flintlock in action. Earlier studies by them suggests that the larger grain powder actually captures the sparks better. The sparks strike from the frizzen and shower down into the pan. Sometimes the strike down and bounce right back up (slow motion photography shows this). But, they're waiting for more tests to confirm it. Studying this ancient technology is quite exciting.

BTW, you can send that frizzen to a gunsmith who will dip it into casenite and reharden it. Or if you have a big enough torch, do it yourself. Afterwards, polish it (the non-strike side) with emery paper or steel wool to restore the white metal look. Leave the dark side dark. It'll get torn up soon enough.

August 1, 2003, 09:45 AM
I did a search last night on trade guns.
I found a site about Indian (from India) trade guns.
Read that they had large touch holes so they could just load the gun. Then they would smack the side of the stock to knock some of the powder into the pan and they were ready to go.

Let me ask another question.
When you prime the gun, you are only trying to catch and amplify the spark, right? My understanding is that you are not trying to make a fuse, just more flash.
Dad's flintlock was a cheap kit gun. He tried to have the frizzen rehardened after it went bad but the temper didn't take. I will look around on DGW and see if I can find something similiar enough to what I need to get it up again.
First, I have to find all the parts.
Seems that after it quit working, he disassembled it and left it that way.
Not sure what the logic behind that one was.

Mike Irwin
August 1, 2003, 10:25 AM

Did the person rehardening the frizzen attempt to caseharden it, or just reheat it?

4v50 Gary
August 1, 2003, 11:44 AM
Did Dad use casenite? He has to introduce carbon back into the steel.

BTW, where did you read that info about the Indian trade guns? I'm curious. I know some of our frontiersman would have enlargened touch holes so as to speed loading - especially on the run.

August 1, 2003, 02:50 PM
He didn't use anything IIRC. He just tried reheating it, then tempering it in oil. It didn't work.

The sight I found that information about Indian flintlocks was


I don't know about how true that is, but it would have made sense.

August 2, 2003, 06:12 AM
You don't even need a torch to use Kasenit. Use your charcoal grill, heat the part on a thin piece of bar stock or scrap, and fan with a piece of cardboard to heat up the coals. This is a real good thing to know if you want to be a flinter. Make sure, by the way, that the bar stock is not galvanized or plated. Dixie has kasenit.:D

August 2, 2003, 06:33 AM
Forgot to ask this earlier. I have been trying to contact either Gary Brumfield or Wallace Gusler. They have information about rifles made by my family that I sure would love to talk about. There is a moderator by the name of Gary around here, and I just wondered?

4v50 Gary
August 2, 2003, 11:59 AM
Different Gary. Brumfield is the tall blond hair & beared Teuton (and it reflects in the rifles he makes). I'm the short beardless guy w/salt & pepper hair. Wallace is kinda busy with the book project but you can write Gary Brumfield c/o Colonial Williamsburg.

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