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Starter Flintlock - Brown Bess kit?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by dougiefreshhh, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. dougiefreshhh

    dougiefreshhh Active Member

    Hi All:
    After much soul searching, I've decided to dive into the world of muzzleloaders.

    Wanting to start at "the beginning", I want to get a manageable flintlock, but am unsure of starter kit vs. purchase.

    I'm pretty handy, and am willing to take on a Brown Bess type starter kit, but can't seem to find a place to purchase "ready to go kits". I've sound sites that offer ton's of options for their kits, but can't find a place that offers a Brown Bess equivalent to the Kentucky/Hawken starter kits offered at Cabelas.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  2. higene

    higene Well-Known Member


    Methinks you may be confusing kits as used by vendors. Kits in one sense refers to guns that you assemble. Cabelas starter kits are a rifle and all the stuff that you need it to go off a few times. I have never seen a Brown Bess as a kit to be assembled although there may be some.

    There is lots of experience on this site and people are willing to share. Ask questions about what you are not sure about and you will get honest responses.

    Good Luck and welcome to the sport.



    PS starting at the beginning - Sam Fadala makes some good books that have a lot of information as does the first thread in this section - Blackpowder essentials.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
  3. dougiefreshhh

    dougiefreshhh Active Member

    Sorry for the confusion.

    By kit, I mean all the bits, unassembled, where the wood just needs to be finished, and then assembled.
  4. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

  5. dougiefreshhh

    dougiefreshhh Active Member

    Exactly what I'm looking for.

  6. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    They're not too cheap, but you can get them. Track of the Wolf and some smaller outfits also offer them. They are not what I would consider an entry-level kit. A poor boy, fusil or trade gun would be much easier and less expensive.
  7. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    Never shot a smoothbore, myself.
  8. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    I think a smooth bore is a fine way to start. They don't have the accuracy of a rifle but they're also easier to put together (less fussing about the barrel/stock fit) and easier to keep going at the range.

    The Bess kit at Dixie is Pedersoli's, which have a great rep. But you'll need to have some moderate experience with the chisels to make it look good.
  9. mykeal

    mykeal Well-Known Member

    You are in for a difficult experience. Starting with a flintlock is doing it the hard way. Flinters require some special care and feeding, so starting with a percussion cap gun is highly recommended over a flintlock.
  10. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Might I suggest the kit assembly class at Conner Prairie in Oct. Buy a Chambers kit and take the class.
  11. dougiefreshhh

    dougiefreshhh Active Member

    Starter Muzzleloader - Flint or percussion?

    Thanks all for the great feedback. Much appreciated.

    Someone suggested that I start with a percussion cap muzzleloader vs a flintlock...much easier.

    I'm trying to get "feel" of how much more work is involved in operating/owning a flintlock vs. a percussion cap smoothbore.

    Any advise is greatly appreciated.

  12. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    I really disagree with the idea that caplocks are easier. I've found the opposite to be true. I had a number of caplocks all of which had complex ignition problems with their patent breeches. With a flinter you have a HOLE in the side of the barrel. That's it. So solving an ignition problem involves prodding that hole and putting some fresh 4F in the pan. I've never had a flinter ignition failure I couldn't fix in under a minute. In contrast I've had Pedersoli caplocks with systemic problems that required total reworking of the breech chamber and that STILL didn't give me reliable ignition.

    The flintlock is extremely simple. The rock hits the frizzen, sparks off some very hot steel which then ignites your pan charge. This throws out flames that ignite the main charge. It's a system designed to work within a broad range of conditions and it's very forgiving. They'll even work well in the rain if you take some simple precautionary measures like a cow's knee and a water barrier along the barrel/stock channel. A glob of grease will do the trick.

    A flintlock is also easier to build. You don't bore your flash hole until you've locked down the barrel and the lock. With the caplock you have less wiggle room because the hammer has to hit the existing nipple position precisely.

    I believe the real difference is that caplock firearms are much easier to mass produce. Flintlocks tended (and still tend) to be best if hand made from a lock stock and barrel. Plus it's much easier for an army to supply or a store to ship industrially manufactured caps or primers than to find a reliable supply of fints.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
  13. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

    It's more than just how much more work is involved, it's whether or not you would like one more than the other, that is if you like muzzle loading at all.

    Their ignition systems are different beasts. The flintlock spews a lot more smoke and hot gases out of the vent hole, the pan is flashing near one's face and the flint locks tend to have slightly slower lock time (although not always). Then there's the fine tuning of the lock and the constant adusting of the flint as it wears down. Fitting the flint into the jaws of the cock, the limitation of powder choice to black powder only, and aquiring all of the skills to efficiently shoot a flintlock and solve potential problems is a slightly longer learning curve.
    Percussion caps, musket caps or 209 primers are more easily inserted onto a nipple for fast, reliable ignition.
    Would you rather start a camp fire using a piece of flint and steel or would you rather uses matches or a BIC lighter?
    One way can be more tedious and more work.
    It's up to the individual to choose which they prefer.
    Percussion guns are similar enough in loading and cleaning to determine if one likes muzzle loading enough to dive into it deeper.
    Even the basic inexpensive rifles would allow someone to first get some flint or percussion shooting experience before building an expensive kit.
    Used guns can be bought and resold again without much loss of money.
    If someone had a friend or muzzle loading club in their area, a new shooter should inquire, visit and arrange to try out a few shots to see if they have a preference of guns. See what's involved with cleaning one after every shooting session.
    Without doing that there are only books, videos and dedicated websites loaded with information and helpful tips.
    Many of us are self taught by reading and then doing. There's books at the local library, magazine articles and archives here on THR.
    Percussion is simply easier to do without a mentor and requires less hands on experience to start shooting right away. For instance, forgetting to load powder into a flintlock can be more troublesome than with a percussion gun. Not everyone has a CO2 ball discharger handy or a removable vent liner, and pulling a ball with a ball screw is not very easy. That can ruin someone's day. With a percussion gun, just take off the nipple and dribble a few grains of powder under it and then shoot the ball out, which only takes about 30 seconds to a minute.
    Check out this sticky thread that lists Black Powder Videos 101. There's one about ignition systems:

    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
  14. higene

    higene Well-Known Member


    Comparison implies experience in both platforms. I see nothing wrong with getting the experience with the percussion first. I personally am doing similar experiments.

    I got a deal on a .54 Lyman flintlock and bought it. I shot it a few sessions and decided to go to percussion for my building experience. I bought a Traditions 32 caliber percussion pistol and built it. I made several mistakes which I suspected I would. Next I built a Lyman Plains pistol. Great pistol, less mistakes, and experience gained. Next I built a Percussion Lyman .54. - Great rifle, best build, and a good platform for comparison.

    In My Humble Opinion you would be better off starting with a Lyman kit in flint or percussion and building from there. They are an easy build and there is lots of experience on doing them on this site. You end up with a rock solid (pun intended) weapon which is highly tradeable. Also, consider flintlocks mostly burn real BP. Consider the necessity of getting real BP. I had to send $100 off for 5 lbs. You are also going to need a possibles bag. It is my opinion that they should just give BP guns away because you spend so much money on the little gizmos at $5 - $50 a pop they can make their money on them. The sad part for me is that a lot of the gizmos can be made and I usually make the second one for pennies on the dollar.

    Consider that the total cost of all the kits I have built so far is less than a Brown Bess kit.

    It is not my intent to change your mind or influence the path you take but I have learned that life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself.

    When I get discouraged I remember a story about Davie Crockett. When he was in Congress he was asked if he ever got lost when he was in the woods. Davie replied: No Sir I have never been lost, I did get a might confused one time for a couple of weeks.

    Good Luck and God Bless


    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
  15. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    That's a valid issue. The flinters live off of the real stuff and will choke on the fake stuff. If you don't have access to real black powder and don't want to order in a bunch that does favor the caplocks.

    It's like anything else, you *can* spend a lot of time perfecting your lock, but you really don't have to. Esp. with a musket or trade gun you have a big old lock, you stick a rock in there with some leather pad around it and you're good to go. Nothing has to be perfect. It will work within a broad range of variables with an array of sizes, shapes and rock types. That's what I love about these guns.

    You just feed some 4F through your flashhole and shoot the thing out. No problemo.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
  16. dougiefreshhh

    dougiefreshhh Active Member

    Thanks Gents. Those videos are great.

    There is something about the flintlock that keeps me coming back to it. Maybe it is the early American history buff in me. Caplocks speak "civil war era" to me.

    Since the dixie bbess kit is about $150 less than a completed bbess from cabelas, I kind of like the idea of putting it together myself, and spending the difference on the BP, accessories, etc...

    Maybe I'm simplifying this a bit, but with the dixie kit, it basically looks like I need to finish the wood, and attach all the hardware. What am I missing here?

  17. fyrfyter43

    fyrfyter43 Well-Known Member

    If that's what you're looking for, then your best bet is a kit from Lyman or T/C.

    What most other vendors call a "kit" is really just a parts set, requiring a great deal more work than one of the factory kits. Another option is to buy a rifle "in the white" from vendors like or Tip Curtis.
  18. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Also check gunbroker. A nice Pedersoli BB was up for $600 or so a little bit ago.
  19. JamesKelly

    JamesKelly Well-Known Member

    Lord, just reading how much involved work it is to shoot a flint does surely wear me out.

    All the muzzle loaders I shoot, except revolvers, are flint.

    They all go bang & scare the faint of heart.

    Smoke, fire, sparks--a flintlock puts the FIRE back in firearm.

    Some get nervous about all that smoke & flame in their face. Best quote I've heard on that is "If the thought of your nose hairs catching fire actually bothers you, get a crossbow."

    Pedersoli makes reliable guns with heat treated steel barrels, just like a real gun.

    Dixie is a reliable source. Not a real big difference in price between kit & finished Brown Bess sometimes.

    That Brown Bess is a Man's gun--Go for it!
  20. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

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