View Full Version : Tuning a flintlock for success

12-15-2005, 10:55 AM
I promised this post - so here we go!
This subject is not complicated - but I will hit the high points first, then if more info is needed we can go from there.

First the "The Eric factor"
1. Safety Glasses are required at all times - period ( I can go into why but really it should be common sense and routine practice)
2. Blackpowder is the ONLY propellant used with flintlocks
3. Patience is the key to success - don't get discouraged if your having problems - ask for help.
4. Attention to detail is a must - do a good job rather than a poor job

Ok - for a flintlock to work properly there are a few important things that need to be done for everything to work in harmony. This is the list of things I feel (mechanically) that need to be addressed on any factory rifle. (meaning, CVA, Traditions, Lyman, etc. - If you have a custom gun some or all of this may not apply depending on the rifles characteristics)

1. DOME shaped Touch hole liner - (Make your own from a stainless steel percussion nipple or buy a commercial "White Lightning" liner.) (Throw your factory liner in the VERY bottom of you P. Bag for dire emergencies)
2. Mirror polish of pan and surrounding area
3. Frizzen must be clean and free of "Wear areas" and other use problems (Frizzen can be re-done quite easily - Kasenit, leather, bone and oil, torch - and the know how)
4. No unnecessary "grub grabbers" on the lock (screwdriver slot on touchhole liner is the most common)
5. Proper touch hole allignment (factory guns are difficult to change for the average shooter, etc)
6. Lock Geometery - Flint must hit frizzen on the upper 2/3rds of the frizzen. (Again - factory locks are sometimes not right - the only way to deal with this problem with minimal work is to replace it)( Frizzen must rest flat with ZERO gaps against the lock and the pan - perfect flush fit) (Mine doesn't - it is impossible to make it too - as the hole lock was hastily assembled and of poor grade in my opinion - replacement is comming soon!)
7. Flint allignment, orientation and sharpness (1/2 cock, frizzen closed - allign flint in jaws until the flint is flush and parallel to frizzen - back off a wee bit like 2 hairs widths but no more than a 1/16th of an inch (Orientation usually is "flat side" down - sometimes it is necessary to reverse - use whatever method that gives long flint life and the most sparks)
8. Use English Gun Flints (If you want flawless performance and in the field sharpening ability this is the only way to go) (Synthetic flints are harder - more wear on the frizzen, dull quickly and are very difficult to sharpen compared to real flint) Use what you have available or what works best for the gun - try the English gunflints first
9. Can't think of anything off hand.....
10. Questions?

Here is some pictures to illustrate my points -

Note frizzen condition in picture - time to re-do it!
I am having trouble with the picture dealy thingy - I hope they show up!
Please ask any questions that come to mind - there is a lot more on the subject!

12-16-2005, 02:38 AM
Great thread! Why is bp the only propellant? I understand about priming, just curious as to why you couldn't use pyrodex for the main charge. How much powder do you need in the pan? I have read and been told that pressures/velocities are much more even and consistant in flintlocks, what is your opinion?

12-16-2005, 11:37 AM
The heat from the priming charge is what sets off the powder. That is why you want the touchhole up off the bottom of the pan, because the heat is at the top of the flame. Pyrodex has a higher combustion point and there is not enough heat produced for reliable ignition. Duplex (fffG and Pyro) loads will work, but there is no point to them and they are a pain.

Only one addition to the main post and that is that if you hunt in damp climate the frizzen/pan fit should be a perfect as you can make it. A good tuned flinter will go bang about as quick as a persuction gun (55 thou of a second). This sh#t you see in the movies of woosch bang is hollywood garbage, we call that a hang fire.
My Durs Egg lock will go bang in the rain and the snow and will sometimes set off the charge withoout priming. The sparks dance in the pan. Usually the gun fires before the pan is all the way open.

Good Post!

12-17-2005, 01:10 AM
Got a question for the greybeards.

Last year, I had bought a dozen French ambers, and I got nearly a hundred shots from each one I used. This fall, I bought some more from the same vendor. They had a bit more of a tempered look, and they don't spark near as well as the other flints. Side by side, the new ones look glassier. Any knowledge of wheter lower grade flint is being heat tempered, to make it easier to knap into usable flints? Anyone else noticed anything along this line?

12-17-2005, 09:26 AM
Can a left hand shooter shoot a right hand flintlock?Nothing to do with the subject but have always wanted one but never shot one.

12-17-2005, 11:34 AM
Taft33---Can a left handed shooter shoot a right hand flintlock? Only if they stand on their head. This is not allowed in matches in Scotland where the men wear kilts.

12-17-2005, 12:06 PM
Well we're not in scottland are we.And I wouldnt be ashamed if my kilt did come up.

12-17-2005, 05:26 PM
Can a left hand shooter shoot a right hand flintlock?Nothing to do with the subject but have always wanted one but never shot one.

Yes, you can; but it will be a bit more "flinchy" with the pan flash closer to your face (WEAR GLASSES!). But if you're looking for one of your own, several of the commercial ones (Thompson-Center, Lyman, etc.) can be gotten in L.H. persuasion, and most of the kit sets and custom ones are available with L.H. locks.


12-20-2005, 10:45 PM
Hey guys,

Glad the post is of some use to those interested in the flintlock.

A question on BP and why only BP? My experience has showed me that I cannot get reliable ignition with anything other then BP. I have tried Pyrodex, Cleanshot, Triple 7. None of these powders would provide me with reliable ignition. Once in awhile you can get a decent performance but nothing reliable. I have tried BP in 3F grade and get mediocre performance in my lock. 4F grade give nearly instant ignition and no matter the condition I get a reliable boom. Typical amount - 1-4 grains depending on the lock and pan.

Foul weather shooting is something that can be easily accomplished with a flintlock if you follow some basic guidelines in preparation of venturing out in the bad weather. The main trick is to get your pan water-tight. This is where the fitting of the frizzen to the pan is critical. If you cannot get a perfect flush fit then you have the opportunity for water to sog-out your powder. To prevent this some bullet lube smeared gently on the outer edges of the bottom of the frizzen works well. The other trick is to lay a bead of lube down the length of the barrel (on the lock side) - this fills the gaps between the stock and the barrel, water then cannot travel into the lock along the barrel channel. Next the use of a "calf's knee" over the lock is recommended also when the weather is really bad. This is nothing more than leather that has been treated to be water proof that looks like an eye-patch with thin tie ends. The eye-patch part covers the lock and area around it then it is gently tied under the belly of the gun. A quick pull of the knot and cock the lock in one motion exposing the cock and frizzen then you are set to fire.

One trick I might throw out there about getting reliable ignition. Charge your pan, close your frizzen then tip or roll your rifle or weapon to the right. The powder will move to the outside of the pan. This position in conjunction with a mirror polished pan will allow the fire to explode directly at your touch-hole due to the concave shape of the average pan. I have read numerous people claim this method works well - I tried it and yes it seems to work better than just having the powder sitting in the bottom of the pan. The other trick is to not fill the pan - 1/4 to 1/3 full at the most. You need to experiment with your particular lock and weapon to find what works best for you.

As far as Lefty-type shooting - yep you can do it. The main consideration is placing any part of your body or equipment in-line with that touch-hole. When the rifle discharges there will be a large jet of flame coming from the touch-hole. I have burned a hole or two in my shooting bags a time or two! Just something to keep in mind.

Learning to shoot a flinter well takes a lot of practice. I don't know maybe I am not a normal type shooter - but learning to shoot my flintlock well took a lot of lead to be sailed downrange! The key is "follow through" - maintain target picture (even though you can't see it) and be relaxed. This is where good glasses come in handy. If you have glasses that don't protect you eyes well the natual tendency is to flinch when a stray ember or two lands on you - or a shard of flint bounces off you cheek, etc. I have to talk myself through the ignition sequence in my head - "relax, squeeze, clack-boom, exhale and relax". Basically if you listen to you firing sequence you should hear the clack of the cock and flint on the frizzen and the boom of the pan and main charge should be instantly behind that to where it seems like you couldn't distinguish the sound of the cock falling. If it gets really hard to hear the cock and flint hit the frizzen because of the disharging firearm - then you have reached the correct speed of your firearm so to speak.

There are adjustments you can do to "factory" locks if you can't reach that "blend of sounds" when the firearm discharges. This could include honing the bearing surfaces to polish them to reduce friction, stoning the sear surfaces, bending the cock to get more contact with the frizzen when the flint arcs down the frizzen face, etc. Doing the bending can be tricky though - if you have the flint hit the frizzen too high you will destroy your flint as the frizzen shoe cannot open properly and the flint basically hits a flat wall breaking it. In my lock this became a problem for me - it is just a poor lock in my opinion. I have tweaked it as far as I can - I get short flint life due to the geometery of the lock. I would need to weld up drilled holes and re-make the frizzen with a different pivot location to overcome the problem - I can't justify all that work when I can replace it with a custom lock for $100 bucks. Thus there is my next project.....Also need to go to a peep sight too - or learn to shoot lefty because of my right eye problems after an unfortunate accident.

Anywho - hope this helps explain a little more.

12-20-2005, 11:10 PM
Greats posts. Lots of good info there. I'm forwarding this to my brother who was given a new flinter he knows nothing about.


Hang Fire
12-20-2005, 11:21 PM
Can a left hand shooter shoot a right hand flintlock?Nothing to do with the subject but have always wanted one but never shot one.

Have done so for decades.

Hang Fire
12-20-2005, 11:27 PM

Lots of misconceptions about rock locks, they are slow, they don't work good, not accurate, etc & etc.

A good flinter IMO is so fast, that to me, ignition is indistinguishable from nipple guns.

12-21-2005, 12:35 AM
Ejjuls, thanks a bunch. I've got a piece of gennawine KY maple that I've been horading for several years now, waiting for the moment I could convince myself that I was ready to make up a REAL rifle, rocklock and all. It'll be a .45, with something in or near the 40" length. I've recently done some stock work on a couple of guns, and finally convinced myself I'm about as ready as I'll ever be to tackle this task, and will make it up from the blank. IMO, there can be nothing more satisfying IF it comes out "right," and I just may have a few questions for you and others as I make my way along this perilous route. It's something I've dreamed of for many years now. Just took a while to come to this point.

When deer season's over, I'm going to make my start. Will take it nice and slow and with all deliberation, looking long and cutting seldom. An elderly gentleman I've been hanging around has re-taught me, for the umpteenth time, the lessons of patience and deliberation, and of being SURE before you cut. That old phrase "measure twice, cut once" also rings resoundingly in my ears as well.

I spent a whole afternoon in the Smithsonian quite a while back in the muzzleloader's section, and did you know those old guns STILL talk to you, if you'll but just sit and listen? What some of those old 'smiths did, often with a bare minimum of tools, is simply amazing. Talk about "artistry!" Van Gogh should hang his head!

Amazing rifles, and though they DO require a specific body of knowledge to use, and use effectively and reliably, I finally think I'm ready to pursue this dream. As when I finally went afield armed only with a pistol for my deer, going afield with a rocklock will, I know, be one WHALE of an experience!

Thanks again for the info. Already knew most of it, but not having used it yet, and with CRS disease being the only thing I have that's getting stronger, I appreciate and NEED to hear it again .... and again, and again. Darned if just reading this hasn't gotten me all excited! THANKS!

12-21-2005, 01:41 AM

I agree; the best summary of flintlock priming and ignition I have seen since the old "Shooters BP Board", maybe even better. If cast boolits give you a college degree in shooting technology, percussers will provide the MA and flinters the PhD. But they are still individuals: my wife's original "India Pattern" Brown Bess (now in retirement at 200 yrs. of age - the musket, not my wife, that is) still ignites best with fG in the pan; the sparks from that HUGE flint and frizzen just bounce around between those big grains until something lights off.


12-21-2005, 10:02 AM
Many years ago my father in law shot my first flintlock. I asked if the flash in the pan bothered him, as he put 3 shots in the black first try. He said"No why should it? I'm watching the sights". No better advise for a flinter novice!

12-21-2005, 11:17 AM

I just recently switched to a "rock lock" about 5 years ago or so. Before that I ran Perc all the time ave the years. I am no old man (kind of) but not a young guy either. I started shooting perc when I was about seven. I am 34 now.

Before I made the plunge to a flintlock I started studying. I studied for about a years straight, found a local gentleman that was a flinlock nut and had been around them for 40 years or so. I used this guy as my encyclopedia and major reference center. He taught me a lot!

Armed with what I thought was enough knowledge - I made the purchase. The firearm wouldn't function at all unless a detailed cleaning was performed after every shot. The lock and touch hole was my first target. Afterwords something still wasn't right. Accuracy sucked horrible (did I buy a shotgun!?) inconsistencies (spell) in loading pressure with perfect looking patches - burs in the bbl? Twisted / bent bbl? off center bore? Also the P_RB would hit about 2 foot low and 1 ft left at 50yds with the sights raised to the max and the windage to the max.

I was thinking this sucker was a lemon and a half! Basically to make a long one short - 2 years of tweaking and re-work. It now can reliably hit a 3 pound coffee can at 100yds every shot (as long as I do my part), I am still not satisfied with it though.

I will be doing the same this comming winter of 06' - building my own from scratch.
I have built many kits and re-worked many stocks and perc locks - now a flint lock.
I have some beeeeeaaaauuuuutiful wood to use too! I have inherited a piece of burly Myrtle wood from my grandfather's estate. It has already been cut to a firearm blank dimentions.

My advice on doing one yourself - is what you have already stated - go slow!
I have the gentleman I mentioned above available so to speak if you run into problems. This guy built a 40 cal flinter from burly walnut (his own hand made bbl) hand made lock, etc. etc....basically he built it from TOTAL scratch. It is a sight to behold! It now rests proudly in a custom gun rack over the door in AceHardware locally in John Day, OR. It was given as a gift to the owner.

Anyway - responsibility beckons......got to go to work. Glad to hear there is still some interest out there in the ole' rock and ball guns. The local 4-H kids invite me out once in awhile for their local small bore matches and contests. Mainly as a demonstration - most can't believe that a flintlock really works!


12-21-2005, 02:20 PM
Great list of info. I'm looking for a rock lock myself. Will be getting a TC Hawken flinty soon. Will go over this post while tuning it. Thanks for taking the time .

12-22-2005, 10:17 PM
Here is my last flinter, a 32 with an old Dixie barrel. made from left overs in the shop.

12-23-2005, 12:13 AM
Gosh darn, Jim, that looks like a real beauty! Any chance of some close ups?

09-10-2013, 08:50 PM

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