Flintlock ignition


April 25, 2011, 12:45 PM
I have a third model Brown Bess repro. the frizen is hardened and sparks just fine. i acquired this recently and used a little triple 7 FFFG in the pan to see how it would work. It ignited after the 4th trigger pull. I did not put a main charge in the barrel as I want to get pan ignition down first and then will work on the main charge. I was hoping for a little bit better reliabiltity on pan ignition. Any thoughts? Should I be using GOEX instead? I am hoping not to have to use FFFFG as a spearate primer. Thanks

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April 25, 2011, 01:03 PM
With a flintlock you only want to use blackpowder, no substitutes. Very few flintlocks will ignite black powder substitutes. Goex is very good powder, for your main charge in a musket, I'd stay with Fg or FFg granulation, in an 80 to 100 grain charge. You can use FFg in the pan too, it will light off the charge. FFFFG is not absolutely necessary for priming. Flintlocks are great fun, enjoy it!

April 25, 2011, 01:05 PM
777 has a much higher ingnition temp than black powder. It just doesn't work well in flintlocks either as a primer or main charge. You need real black for a pan charge either 3F or 4F will worki well. As an aside you can use 777 as a main charge as long as you load 10 to 15 Gr or real black powder first as an ignition charge.

April 25, 2011, 01:37 PM
I'd strongly reccommend against using subs in a big bore like a Brown Bess. Either 2f or 1f in the bore and 4f in the pan. (3fg will work in the pan, but might be too much pressure for in the big bore as a main charge, unless you shoot miniscule loads.) Trip 7 and the others tend to be 10 to 20 % "hotter" in pressure than black powder.

Sure there are folks on line who "claim" they shoot 500 grains of super whupbutt powder in their matchlocks, etc. , but it is your hands and face next to that breech. Shoot wisely.

April 25, 2011, 01:51 PM
When you do get some fff or ffffg, don't cover the touchhole...instead, about a half pan full banked away from the touchhole will give you very fast ignition...we felt that the flame shot into the touchhole rather than having to burn its way down.

Yeah, I know, what is the difference between fast and really fast. I don't know but it seemed faster that way.

Norton Commando
April 25, 2011, 03:46 PM
"...shoot 500 grains of super whupbutt powder..." ;)

April 25, 2011, 05:20 PM
I am not the worlds greatest expert in flints, but I do love them to death, and I have done alot of experimentation on mine.

Like the others said, BP is best for flinters, accept no substitutes. I purchase my powders online, from a source called the Maine Powder House. They carry, Goex, a German Brand, and a Swiss Brand. Goex is a very good, all around powder. However, there is a special, 4Fg, super hot, extra premium version of flintlock priming powder available from The Maine Powder House, That is offered by The Swiss Powder Maker, it's more expensive than Goex, comming in at $27.00/lb as opposed to Goex at $15.00/lb, but, you use so very little of it, the extra cost is nominal.

Here is the URL for the Maine Powder House;


In addition to this, I do a couple of "special" things to increase the speed of the powder ignition, and the speed of the charge ignition. I don't use plain 4Fg powder in my pans, I mix, my 4Fg pan powder, 50/50 by volume with flash powder, which ignites very quickly and flashes with a very large, bright flash. This 50/50 mix works very well for me, I am able to get quick, reliable ignitions even out in the wild, on very damp, even rainy days. In addition to using my special mix of pan powder, I also, put 10 Grains of the flash powder, down inside the barrel, as a charge ignitor for the main charge, and then, I reduce the 2Fg charge amount, for the main charge, by 10 Grains. Now, I don't have a really fancy electronic timer, so, I haven't actually tested my results in an exacting scientific way, but, I can tell you, that type of a load, does indeed ignite faster, how much faster, is beyond my senses, but it is noticeable by human means.

In addition to my modified flash pan powder, and my somewhat modified main charge powder load, on conicals, and mini-balls, where there is no patch being used around the ball, I do two more things to insure a good solid conical firing. I punch out my own cork wads, sized to the caliber of my rifle, and also, punch out a small hole in the center of the wad, that will allow some of the charge flame to vent into the bottom of the conical, sealing the mini ball or conical to the barrel wall by the blast exposure. one side, of the cork wad, is dipped into melted bee's wax, coating the bottom of the wad in wax. The waxed side of the wad, is placed wax down, onto the top of the powder charge. With the wad on top of the powder, I then lube the barrel, prior to loading down the mini or conical. I do this with a small dallop of barrel lube, which I mix myself, 60% melted bee's wax, mixed with 20% lanoline, and 20% Crisco vegitable lard. Sometimes I will add in a couple of tablespoons of orange honey, just to improve the smell of it a bit. When I have the dallop of lubricant pushed into the barrel muzzel, I take a small tuft of gun cotton, (Nitrated Cotton, which ignites and flashes very quickly), and ram the gun cotton, and lube, down on top of the cork wad. In this way, the lube, is not in direct contact with the powder, and will not soak into the powder, and, the small ignition hole in the base of the wad, will ignite the gun cotton, and do two things, A) vaporized the lube in the base of the mini, and B) assist in sealing the bottom edge of the mini-ball against the barrel. Naturally, the mini-ball is loaded down on top of this entire arrangement.

The flash powders, and gun cotton, is available from a pyrotechnical supplier known as Starlight.

The following URL will take you to the page that has those items on it.


In addition to the gun cotton (Nitrated Cotton) and various types of Flash Powder, Starlight also carries Flash Paper, (Nitrated Paper), which is used widely by BP enthusiasts to make their own paper cartridges, for both pistols and rifles/muskets. It is very handy, to have these paper cartridges made up with pre-measured powder already in them, as opposed to having to field measure, each load, out in the boonies. The flash paper, like the gun cotton, and the flash powder, ignites completely.

All of this may seem a bit excessive to alot of people out there, but, heck, I enjoy making a big fuss over things, trying to find the best possible way to get the most performance I can out of my flinters, and still stay well within the design limits of the barrels and max loads.







ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"

April 25, 2011, 05:49 PM
Elvin how many rounds per minute can you get off with that procedure?

April 25, 2011, 08:01 PM
Awesome replies! Thanks. I thought the 777 wasn't right and will checkout the above suggestions. I likely won't be shooting my flintlock enough to justify buying multiple powders and will try the FFG first and work my way through the above recommendations until I get reasonable ignition. Thanks again.

April 25, 2011, 08:32 PM
Here is that special "Hot" Swiss priming powder "Null B" in action. It's 7 F.


April 25, 2011, 08:48 PM
Mine is, and I shoot a Lyman .715" round ball with a denim patch lubed with Crisco or Bore Butter, 90 gns. Goex FFg. Pan charged with FFFFg Goex. I had my flash hole drilled & lined with a liner that's hollowed out somewhat on the inside. Also had to heat & bend the hammer (cock) down a little to get the geometry just right. Works perfectly, probably as reliable as a percussion (cap) gun. Accurate as heck. Great gun. Flints from Track of the Wolf (Tom Fuller made, grey flint, musket size).

April 26, 2011, 07:06 AM
Some good advice has been given. I would remind you that the Regular British soldier who carreid the Bess also used a paper cartridge. The soldier would tear open the cartridge with his teeth and charge the pan with a bit of powder prior to dumping the rest of the powder down the bore. Not real scientific but my point is the pan and main charge were the same granulation. I usually use 3F for everything but have used 2F in my Charleville. The pan lit well and carried over to the main charge.

Loyalist Dave
April 26, 2011, 08:09 AM
The problem with 4Fg is that it attracts moisture rather well. It was popular back-in-the-day for target shooters, and folks using small locks, but on a military musket, it's really not an advantage.

The "third model" or "India pattern" Bess are all made in India when production guns, though they might be obtained also from a custom maker.

Now as to Flash Powder!

Flash powder is a mixture of aluminum and potassium perchlorate. It is NOT an approved black powder substitute, and use of it in the main charge VOIDS all warranties, and makes the shooter liable for any injury to themselves and to others around them if anybody gets hurt. Since it is not a BP substitute, use of it in many states during muzzle loader season is a violation.

I also, put 10 Grains of the flash powder, down inside the barrel, as a charge ignitor for the main charge, and then, I reduce the 2Fg charge amount, for the main charge, by 10 Grains.

AND you determined this in what manner? I'm not trying to flame anybody, but this is plain dangerous. Black powder deflagrates at 1300 fps, give or take a few fps depending on the granulation. Flash powder on the other hand has a speed of 6500 fps give or take a few fps based on the formula. So it is 5 TIMES faster! :eek:

Flash powder is done by weight, NOT volume, so you may in fact have more than you bargained for even if it was in a 1:1 ratio with BP. As for speed, if the stuff was usable as a propellant, 10 grains of Flash Powder is at least equivalent to 50 grains of BP. So if you use a 100 grain charge, drop out 10 grains of BP and add 10 grains of Flash Powder..., you now have at least the equivalent of a 140 grain charge. :what:

Black powder is pretty much insensitive to the random static discharges one gets from time to time. Flash powder is not. Flash powder is also much more impact sensitive so..., when you snap that frizzen closed, thank your lucky stars you don't get an AD. Flash Powder becomes more sensitive as it sits in contact with acid or sulfur compounds, such as the residue from your previous shot. Some folks decap or unprime, and store their shot in the barrel overnight for hunting the next day, which is not good with Flash powder.

..., and still stay well within the design limits of the barrels and max loads.

Since the barrels are not designed nor tested (when proofed) using black powder and flash powder duplex loads, the above is a total guess. Folks this stuff was around for a long long time, prior to modern nitrate based propellants, and it was never adopted for muzzle loaders, possibly for a good reason. It is the stuff used in many firecrackers today. (IF you have such a problem with a flinter that you think you need this sort of thing instead of plain BP..., you actually have a lock problem. ) So lets stay safe and not put ourselves or others at risk, please.


April 26, 2011, 12:32 PM
I use 3f in the main charge mostly (4f in the pan). Sometimes when I want to use substitutes, I load 10 grains of Real BP and then a charge of a substitute. It has worked well for me. This is really a take off of what is described above. I have also found substitutes far more hygroscopic (moisture attracting) than real black. This makes real black powder more useful in the Pacific Northwest and other marine climates.

April 26, 2011, 03:45 PM
Personally, I would just stay away from the substitutes, except possibly to load in cartridges.

And Swiss Null B is great. It's not special...just ground to 7F fineness.

April 27, 2011, 06:43 PM
flash powder is a bit harder to ignite than BP, but if you mix the two it is rather dangerous. be careful! i have have used flash powder salutes to detonate a small amount of ANFO, it is incredibly explosive stuff and i would classify it as a high explosive, it should never be used as a propellant.

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