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Please explain flintlocks to me

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Texan Scott, May 4, 2013.

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  1. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Member

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    I understand (have handled) percussion cap BP firearms. I've never even held a flintlock. I don't understand the firing mechanism.

    I get that the flint strikes the steel thing (frizzen?) and makes a spark... there's a little tray under the sparkler (does that hold flash powder, or very very finely ground BP?) and the spark travels through a flash hole (like the nipple of a caplock?) in the side of the barrel, detonating the main powder charge?

    Am I missing something? If there's an open hole at the back of the barrel, how do you keep the powder in (or humidity out)? Can it be loaded and then carried afield somehow (say, for turkey) without spilling? You would have to carry a separate bottle of primer powder for priming immediately before firing, as it was being held level, or have I got it wrong? How would I effectively *USE* a flintlock? Watching "Pirates of the Caribbean" has not cleared this up at all.
     
  2. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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    Think of it this way, it is no different than a percussion lock. A percussion will have a cap covering the opening and the flint will have a frizzen covering the opening. If your cap is loose or the frizzen is loose then you *can* get nasty down into the main charge. Fortunately it takes something like 10% moisture content (It is 4am and I am not looking that number up at this hour) for it not to ignite. Just because the powder is 'wet' does not mean it wont ignite.

    in this photo you can see the frizzen closed, if the fit is good then that will keep things out, also needs to be sealed up good on the barrel side as well. The #1 failure is the 'seal' is not a good fit and leaks.
    [​IMG]

    Here we can see the same frizzen's open and how deep the pans are. Notice the lip on the outside of the pan.
    [​IMG]

    To clarify the lock and how it works,
    [​IMG]
    This is the inside of the lock in the 3 stages.

    The pan holds any type of power, does not matter if it is 1F or 7F. What does matter is sparks hit the powder and it ignites then runs into the vent hole into the main charge where it goes BOOM because it is under pressure. Having said that the finer the powder the better the ignition, the faster the burn and the less time it takes.

    Serpentine lock:
    [​IMG]

    Wheel lock:
    [​IMG]

    Flintlock:
    [​IMG]

    Percussion lock:
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Member

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    BlackNet, thank you! That clears it up quite nicely. You have a genuine talent for explaining things (not all people do).

    Mods, I think this ought to be a sticky!
     
  4. kwhi43@kc.rr.com

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    [Edited
     
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  5. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    I've understood how a flint lock and a match lock (I actually have one) work for a while but have been a little fuzzy on a wheel lock's mechanism. Is it essentially a spring wound Bic lighter with the hammer tripping a release?
     
  6. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Member

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    Exactamundo. The jaws hold a piece of iron pyrites that is held against a serrated, spring-loaded wheel. As the animation shows above, when the trigger is pulled, the pan is uncovered and allows the chunk of pyrites to fall against the wheel. At the same time, the wheel released, grinding against the pyrites producing the sparks to set the whole thing off.

    I know. Simpler in action than it is to explain.
     
  7. Jaymo

    Jaymo Member

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    Flintlock= rock smack steel and make sparks.

    Wheellock=high powered Zippo lighter.

    In simplified terms, anyway.
     
  8. EljaySL

    EljaySL Member

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    Once they figured out that they could have the same motion create the sparks and uncover the powder - and without a lot of moving parts - that was just huge and is why the flintlock was the dominant technology for so many years.
     
  9. winterhorse290

    winterhorse290 Member

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    the touch hole shouldn,t be any bigger than a 16th. best to aline the hole with the TOP of the pan. this doesn,t make much since, but you don,t want any primer against the hole.counterbored liners help speed the bang part. far as humidity, you can do the old fashion thing and stick a feather in the touch hole. the primer is just going to get wet. we have fired in the rain, but it,s a pain and a really broad brimmed hat helps. black powder just loves water.
     
  10. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Well, at least post #2 should be.

    Thanks BlackNet!
    Very well done!

    rc
     
  11. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

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    Back in the day in Merrie Olde England, the best flintlocks were made with waterproof pans. That was accomplished by making a lip on the pan that the frizzen came down over, effectively providing a "roof" for the pan, while a "ditch" on the outside guided water out and away from the pan. In addition, one test of a best quality flintlock was that it would fire upside down, so fast that ignition took place before the priming powder could fall out of the pan.

    Most American flintlocks were put on rifles where speed was not that important; the traditional English shooting sports with fabulously wealthy shooters and hugely expensive shotguns never really reached the U.S. I know of no modern flintlocks that would come even close to meeting either of the above tests.

    Jim
     
  12. kwhi43@kc.rr.com

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  13. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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    While on a 45 caliber or smaller RIFLE that may be the case but there are many setups where you need a larger hole, besides an old gunsmith said 'The touch hole is too big if the ball rolls out.' In closing it really depends on the build as for things like size, caliber, shape and the like.
     
  14. kwhi43@kc.rr.com

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    You all are probably right . I'm done.
     
  15. Ryden

    Ryden Member

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    Just fanning the flames here :)

    European muskets were usually self-primers, eg. the main charge was supposed to leak into the pan, and hence have large touch holes. These, of course, weren't meant for precision but volume of fire. But it shows there's no universal best practice regarding size of touch hole.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  16. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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    Ryden, correct. You also have many different styles, and intents, of usage. I think for some people here they want ultra precision and large touch holes would degrade velocity and less accurate. Military setups would be more geared towards shear volume and not that concerned with accuracy.

    In kwhi43's case where he is using tricked out race guns he would be very correct, this is why he has went non-standard and put the lock on backwards to give him additional edges over others.
     
  17. Threeband

    Threeband Member

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    In the excellent historical novels of Kenneth Roberts (such as Northwest Passage, the Arundel series, and Oliver Wiswell), the author frequently has his characters hastily prime their muskets by slapping the side of the breech opposite the lock. I was always highly skeptical of that, but your comment makes me think there may be something in it.


    Roberts books were well researched, and I strongly recommend them.


    http://www.amazon.com/Arundel-Kenne..._B000AQ8RTA_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367761204&sr=1-2

    http://www.amazon.com/Rabble-Arms-Kenneth-Roberts/dp/0892723866/ref=pd_sim_b_1

    http://www.amazon.com/Northwest-Passage-Kenneth-Lewis-Roberts/dp/1582882665/ref=pd_sim_b_2

    http://www.amazon.com/Oliver-Wiswell-Kenneth-Lewis-Roberts/dp/0892724684/ref=pd_sim_b_5



    .
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  18. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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  19. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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  20. Threeband

    Threeband Member

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    BlackNet, thank you for that link. It was very interesting and I learned a lot from it. thought this post was particularly interesting:



    The video was very interesting, too. Makes me want to try a flintlock. I used to have no trouble averaging three aimed shots per minute with my threeband P53 Enfield, resting the ramrod between shots on a socket bayonet thrust in the ground at my feet.


    Again, I recommend people read the books of Kenneth Roberts. They will open your eyes to American history.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  21. Steel Horse Rider

    Steel Horse Rider Member

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    I would think that the man on the right would not care for an enlarged touch hole if soldiers were standing in a line.
     
  22. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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  23. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Member

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    Nice seeing your new acquisition in action. One question: does it ever get uncomfortable having your face that close to the flash?
     
  24. BlackNet

    BlackNet Member

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    No not really, not only is it over faster than you can blink but it's down right fun.

    On a percussion you have fragments of the cap and orange hot sparks, smoke etc going by. Now if you are standing on the SIDE then yes you can be injured. This is why *MANY* historical flintlocks, i.e. the Brown Bess, had flash guards.
     
  25. Ryden

    Ryden Member

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    Some muskets had a brass shield fitted to the bridle to keep the flash from the man on the right, but mostly they just had to take it.
    They weren't as squeamish back then as we are today :)
     
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