Flintlock vs Percussion rifle


February 12, 2014, 04:37 PM
I am thinking of getting a new rifle but can't decide between a flintlock or percussion rifle. I will not be buying anything black and plastic. I want an authentic look for sure. I am looking for pro's and con's of each. I will use the rifle for plinking and the occasional deer hunt. Also looking for pros and cons of 50 cal vs 54 cal. Thanks in advance.

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February 12, 2014, 04:46 PM
A flintlock can be made fairly reliable, but it seems a caplock is more so, and without any concern about the powder in the pan or the need to carry 2 powders/flasks.

But a flintlock will keep shooting when caps aren't available or are scarce such as now.

A .50 cal shooting PRB is all you need for medium game out to 125 yds if you are able, and depending on the wind and how well you can adjust for it. Some have shot game further.

Were you to choose to shoot large game (elk) you could still use the ball if you can get close enough <50 yds. If not you can always switch to a conical.

Some people hunt elk with a .54 cal PRB (and some with a .50), but many still prefer larger.

To me it would come down to the game hunted.

I chose a .50 cal as I noticed much more available for the caliber. I also figured I could switch to conicals or sabots were I to get to hunt something larger. Though I don't need one I still want a .54 cal barrel for my Lyman's Deerstalker. Maybe shortened to 20" for thick brush hunting or tracking wounded dangerous game (hogs or blk bears).

A .54 cal holds it's energy better and bucks the wind a little better. Might be a thought were you hunting past 75 yds and/or in windy areas.

A .54 cal anything uses more lead and often powder too.

February 12, 2014, 04:58 PM

An "entrance-level" percussion rifle will be a better introduction to the world of muzzle loading than an entrance-level flintlock. Flintlocks (the lock part) really need to be good quality to work well. While the Cabellas, Lyman, and T/C flint locks are OK, they are only that. A crummy flintlock is a major vexation. A cap lock goes bang, pretty much regardless. .50 caliber offers the widest range of store-bought projectiles.

February 12, 2014, 05:10 PM
Also,check the twist rate.My 1 in 66 twist is a slow twist and will only stabilize patched round balls.I can't shoot conicals with any accuracy.

February 12, 2014, 05:24 PM
Is there a twist rate which can accurately shoot round balls as well as conicals?

February 12, 2014, 05:32 PM
3212: Try the Hornady PA conicals if you have a .50 cal. Maybe even the light weight REALs?

ldlfh7: A 1:48" twist is thought to be a compromise twist that will be both, both neither will be exemplary. Others scoff at this an shown great groups. It's really hard to say. And others have even shown that some of the original Hawkens rifles were 1:48".

A slow twist is certainly a RB barrel, though there are some short, light conicals that should work OK.

Some fast twist barrels can be made to shoot PRB's OK with (IIRC) light powder charges.

My .50 cal 1:48" twist shoots PRB's fairly well, and I tried a couple 320 grn REALs. The plain REAL hit waaaay left and keyholes. I placed a wad between it and the powder and the next two were a little low but center, and close to one another.

All of my shots have been in the break-in period and at 50 yds. It shows promise, but doesn't look like it'll win medals, but who knows? But my eyes are failing me, and have shown me that I really need to go get glasses… 50 yds is a little blurry, and glasses alone will shrink those groups.

Steel Horse Rider
February 12, 2014, 06:43 PM
I have all of the above as far as .50, .54, Flint, and percussion. For a starter I would definitely go with percussion for the reasons already mentioned. It is tough enough to learn to shoot consistently with a muzzle loader without throwing in the ignition delay of a flinter. I think it is best to master the art of proper loading (powder first, patched ball second) without dealing with the flint, pan priming, and the lock issues that will have to sorted out.

As for caliber, I think for hunting the .54 would be my choice just because you would have a larger projectile. I only use conicals in my 1861 Springfield as it was intended for them. You should be able to find a good percussion .54 caliber Hawken or Plains rifle for under $500 that will allow you to master the art of black powder rifles with the ease of percussion caps and then if you wish to move back to flint you will only have to master one variable.

February 12, 2014, 07:24 PM
I chose the flint option for my first. But I went into it knowing that the uphill learning curve would be far steeper. I only shoot for fun so I didn't mind. And it IS a helluva lot of fun... .:D

For a combination of hunting and plinking you may want to consider a bit of a long term plan. Perhaps hedge your bets with a .54 caplock that you KNOW will be enough or more than enough for the local hunting. And later when you want to plink with a gun that many consider to be more fun and a bigger challenge get a flintlock in .50. Then as you learn what it takes to get a higher level of reliability out of the flinter you can begin using it for selected hunts..... like as in when it's not going to be soggy all day long and raining.... :D

February 12, 2014, 07:37 PM
If it's your 1st black powder gun, go percussion. If not, then you might as well give the dark side a fling. If you are shooting a flinter, you probably want to be historically correct and I think a Pennsylvania or Kentucky full stock would satisfy that big time. Of course, you have to have access to REAL black powder since subs are difficult to ignite with a flintlock. You could get by with just 3F in both the pan and barrel but most use a 4F charge in the pan.
For deer hunting I would go with a .54 since a patched round ball from a .54 would have a longer effective killing range.

Let us know what you decide.

February 12, 2014, 07:51 PM
My advise is to save and buy a quality flintlock. Two main reasons, flintlocks are lots more fun and secondly, I don't think those new caplocks are going to catch on and you'll be stuck with it. But then again you'll probably get bit and end up with 10 or so like most of us. Using real black in a flint could be a issue and may need to be ordered. Percussion will be a good start and give you something to look forward to.

February 12, 2014, 07:53 PM
I fired a flintlock once. It was as if someone took a teaspoon of hot sand and flipped it in my eye. :mad:

Been very happy with the cap locks. Reliable ignition and no need to flinch when the thing goes off.

February 12, 2014, 08:03 PM
I simply can't get #10 caps in my neck of the woods, and don't feel like paying a HAZMAT (extortion) fee. So the flintlock has an advantage in this regard.

February 12, 2014, 09:38 PM
With a flintlock you get what you pay for. A high quality lock will get more shots with minimal damage to your flints. The dark English flints are a little higher in cost, but are well worth the investment. Then you need to read - most novice shooters overcharge the pan. A quality flintlock properly primed and loaded is every bit as dependable as a percussion rifle.

I started with a percussion rifle, in fact I still own one. Then I went to a custom made flintlock Tennessee Rifle and never regretted the decision. They are both fun, and similar - but, the flintlock is my favorite.

Buy a cheap flintlock and you will probably regret it. The lock makes all the difference. Percussion rifles are more forgiving.

4v50 Gary
February 12, 2014, 09:57 PM
Flint. No percussion caps to worry about.

February 12, 2014, 10:29 PM
Most of what I read above is true. Since your original post does not say if you already shoot black powder, and since we are going with opinions here...

If you are new to black powder, go with the percussion cap first and learn, learn, learn, until you are comfortable and know a little about shooting BP. Mostly for safety reasons and partly because a knowledgeable BP shooter sure has more fun that someone who just bought a gun and tried to run out and shoot it without doing a little research.

1. Read about the differences between black powder and smokeless powder and most importantly WHY! There is a good reason why new BP guns have warnings about using the right gun powder etc.

2. Shoot your rifle enough to find out how many grains of BP your gun likes and is most accurate shooting. More powder is not always better.

3. I can shoot balls or conicals in my .50 caliber T/C Hawkin. I like the .50 cal because I seem to find that caliber supplies really easy.

4. I like the T/C Hawken because it is indeed nice wood and brass. A used one can be bought nowadays for a pittance because of the popularity of the newer style BP choices.

5. Have fun man! Life is too short not to enjoy your old front stuffer firearm in whatever configuration you choose. It just takes a little more time and who knows? Some kid might just walk up and want to watch and see what you are doing. Teaching a kid about black powder and how it used to be done can be a rewarding experience.

Good Luck!

February 12, 2014, 11:01 PM
Hmmm, how to help a newbie get into muzzleloading without scaring him off.
I was first bit in the early 60's with Disney's tv shows about Davy Crockett. I can remember the episode about Davy and Mike Fink comparing flint Vs. percussion.....My first ML was a percussion and I was never sorry. Muzzleloading gives one almost compete freedom and too may choices as to what one can stuff into a gun and shoot it. Eliminating a variable but being able to add that variable later is what I'd suggest.
In other words buy a percussion rifle test yourself and the gun and determine if you're happy with Load..BANG........................................................................................................................Load...BANG..........................etc. If you become bitten by the BP bug you can always enrich your experience by buying a flintlock.
If history is your liking shooting either at night will give you an appreciation of why battles weren't fought at night. The flash of a pan or a percussion cap will night blind you for awhile.

Loyalist Dave
February 13, 2014, 04:28 PM
I have both flintlocks and caplocks. I love them all, but all of my deer for the past decade have been taken with flintlocks. My dedicated upland bird hunting is done with a 20 gauge caplock SxS, but when I go for birds and rabbits, I take a flint 20 gauge.

OK so pros and cons....

PRO... better in bad weather. Rarely a slow ignition (though a hang-fire is still possible). Better quality in the low cost varieties. Easier for some to learn on; simpler system so less variables for the beginner. Will shoot any of the substitute powders as well as black powder. Easier to maintain in good shooting order. Highly durable in some lock designs. 1:48 twist rate is found in many many old roundball rifles in caplock or flintlock, and will also shoot some conical bullets.

CON..., needs caps and if they are in short supply you are S.O.L. Caps are also prone to damage from the environment...even simply high humidity when stored over time.

Flintlock ...
PRO..., bragging rights are better when you take a deer with a flinter, especially in damp weather. Properly working locks are so close to caplock speed that a human cannot tell the difference. A cap shortage has zero impact, and flints NEVER go bad in storage. You need to shoot them often to learn their quirks so it's an excuse to go to the range more often.

CON..., You can't skimp on lock quality as it a more complicated system than the caplock, so prices for good ones are higher. It is possible to get a slower than normal ignition, and a misfire can be more common. NO substitute powders for the ignition in the lock... black powder only, though you can use a substitute powder for the main charge. Damp weather will mean special attention to the lock. You need to shoot them often to learn their quirks and if you can't go to the range several times a year, you might have difficulty in the field. They are HIGHLY ADDICTIVE and you have a tendency when you fall in love with a flintlock rifle or gun, you rarely if ever go back to any other form of taking game, caplock, modern, or archery...wait maybe that's a "pro"?


February 13, 2014, 04:37 PM
I'm with Loyalist Dave, go flintlock.
Percussion is great, no arguments there.
But there's something about a flinter.

http://i466.photobucket.com/albums/rr26/jimmytheshank/IMGP0505_zps6443dfdf.jpg (http://s466.photobucket.com/user/jimmytheshank/media/IMGP0505_zps6443dfdf.jpg.html)

http://i466.photobucket.com/albums/rr26/jimmytheshank/IMGP0506_zps52fce7aa.jpg (http://s466.photobucket.com/user/jimmytheshank/media/IMGP0506_zps52fce7aa.jpg.html)

February 13, 2014, 09:10 PM
I have both, but usually hunt with the cap, because of an incident after an entire summer of tuning the flinter to go bang consistently and upon taking it out for deer; seeing a nice buck and squeezed the trigger and, pfssst, no bang, the deer was even nice enough to wait til I refilled the pan, but ran at the click of the frizzen back in place. The reload fired great that evening upon leaving the woods for the night???

February 13, 2014, 09:49 PM
robhof...just for future information and I hope it never happens again...When you close the frizzen do it ever so slowly and don't let it slam the pan ( been there) then, pull the trigger back and hold it while you cock the hammer. When the hammer is as far as it will go, keep pressure on the hammer and release the trigger. Voila! reprimed and cocked silently. I learned the same lesson you did on getting rid of the "clicks"!

February 14, 2014, 10:17 AM
Several have already said but I feel it should be emphasized that the lock on a flintlock is the most important item on the gun.*Plan on spending about what you pay for the gun for a GOOD lock.
Whithout a good lock you are looking at a lot of frustration and heartache.

And probably, like me, get completely out of the flintlock game.

February 14, 2014, 08:56 PM
I currently own 2 flinters and will most probably hunt with them again, but for pure fun shooting at the range and drawing a crowd; the flints are in a league of their own. Not many at our outdoor range, in fact I've only seen one other and that was a few years back, his was a hand made masterpiece and a thing of beauty, mine are an Italian and a Thompson, but they both usually go bang, if I do my part, except as mentioned above!

February 15, 2014, 12:14 AM
FiremanJim: Gorgeous piece, do you mind giving a little info on it?

Oh and to address the OP's comment, get both!


February 15, 2014, 12:44 AM
I must also state that a flintlock is something I want to own, preferably a historically correct model (American Revolution), though I'd certainly accept a modern version as well.

1911 guy
February 15, 2014, 01:53 AM
I agree with the others. If it's your first muzzleloader, go with the percussion. Flintlocks are fun to shoot after you've figured out the basics and got some black powder shooting under your belt. And when you do finally buy a flinter, spend the money to get a good one. A cheap one will give you headaches.

February 15, 2014, 06:21 AM
While I prefer flintlocks, there are a lot of good deals in percussion muskets these days. Lots of the Civil War re-enactors are aging and calling it quits now that the 150th Anniverary of Gettysburg is over. A search of the Civil War fora will find some good buys. Also, visit gun shops and pawn shops. The musket doesn't catch the eye of the shooting public so stays on the rack.

I tend to look at caliber in the English style. 45-50 is around right for deer, 54-58 is better for larger game and 62 is about perfection. That said, a 58 musket of any flavor will do the job for most hunters. An advantage to the musket is the sling swivels allow you to sling it over your back after a successful hunt when you need both hands for the drag.

Pete D.
February 15, 2014, 07:15 AM
A flintlock can be made fairly reliable, but it seems a caplock is more so, and without any concern about the powder in the pan or the need to carry 2 powders/flasks.

Fairly reliable?
Two powders and flasks?
and someone mentioned ignition delay....
what delay?

I use a flintlock fowler for my Upland game hunting.
It and my GPR flinter are as reliable as any guns that I own. They go bang when they are supposed to.
I carry one flask when hunting - the powder is FFFg which lights just fine in the pan.
A properly loaded flint gun is as fast as a percussion gun. If one shoots a flint gun and gets something like "snap..flaaassh...bang" the gun was loaded wrong. Don't mean to criticize but the sequence is "snfzbang"..the snap of the lock and the bang happen virtually together. no detectable delay.
That being said,,,,yes, there is a learning curve that is a bit longer than for a caplock.
Nowadays, however, when we have to scramble to get supplies and percussion caps are in short supply, I am real happy to be using flintlocks.

February 15, 2014, 09:09 AM
And get a pistol in the same caliber. Same supplies...twice the fun!

February 16, 2014, 10:51 PM
In my oponion, the safest bet, would be to buy a caplock, and learn on it. Then find someone with a flinter, and try his a few times. One of the problems with novices and flinters is what I always did. Squeeze trigger, PUFFF, I turn my head, and then bang. I would repeat out loud " don't look, don't look" and still I would. I had a .54 Cabelas. Wish I wouldn't have sold it. But I don't think I would make a good flint shooter. Still it was fun;

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