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Thread: Drilling a flash hole

  1. #1

    Drilling a flash hole

    So I got a contemporary flintlock from an online auction. Unknown maker .32 caliber. It arrived today and there is no flash hole drilled in the barrel. Couldn't tell this from the pics in the auction and it wasn't mentioned in the ad. So I checked the breechplug depth and it stops behind where I need to drill for the flash hole. Never done this before so was looking for tips on what to do and not to do. Particular drill bit I should use, etc???? Also what liner would be recommended, White Lightning or other?Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by hawkenhunter50; 05-04-2021 at 12:42 AM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


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    Something doesn't seem right. I'm fairly sure there are a good number of foreign made muzzleloaders made for decoration only. I would be absolutely sure this isn't a piece of scrap iron before trying to fire this.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by megasupermagnum View Post
    Something doesn't seem right. I'm fairly sure there are a good number of foreign made muzzleloaders made for decoration only. I would be absolutely sure this isn't a piece of scrap iron before trying to fire this.
    Just uploaded the few pics I have, this doesn't strike me as being an import. Barrel is nicely rifled. Really not sure why there's no flash hole, I always thought that was a step performed fairly early in a build, or at least determining where it should be drilled.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    Some offshore guns, such as some if not all from India, are shipped without touch holes drilled in order to render them non-operational, non-firearms, for international shipping. Other than that, there is no common sense reason why the gunmaker didn't drill that most important part of a functioning gun. Which concerns me about bbl metal and gun proofing. Not a good sign.

    I'd pull the bbl, pull the breech plug to see what kind it is - classic flat, I'd hope, and not patent. That would also allow anti-seize lubing the plug's threads before reassembling. A rod down the tube can also be used to detect if there's a lip at the back of the chamber which will indicate a patent plug ante-chamber.

    I'd carefully align and drill for a Chambers White Lightning touch hole liner, as close to a flat breech plug face as you'd dare. Calculate and measure ten times, then drill. Good luck.
    The only government I trust is the .45-70 ....

  5. #5
    Boolit Master


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    Fascinating dilemma. Non operational for shipping makes sense, but if so, how was it proofed? Very nice piece of wood for the stock. Is it natural or doctored for the tiger effect?
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by megasupermagnum View Post
    Something doesn't seem right. I'm fairly sure there are a good number of foreign made muzzleloaders made for decoration only. I would be absolutely sure this isn't a piece of scrap iron before trying to fire this.
    I am thinking the same - dont like to say it (and cant see quite enough detail in the pics) but it looks like a rough copy of a really nice style rifle - or could be the first effort from a budding builder - the thing that would swing me is the trigger - if thats a decent single set trigger (and a decent functional lock) I would go shootin (put a nice coned touch hole liner in first ) BUT if its just a fancy lookin single trigger on a pivot I would follow rfd and go over that thing with a fine tooth comb - a 32 leaves a fair amount of meat in the barrel and its a little charge so that adds a safety margin. check that trigger out and let us know?????

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Maybe better pictures close up will help. Could be someone did their own build and never got around to the flash hole or just didn't want to shoot it. Pull the barrel and see if there are markings underneath.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master


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    No matter what, it's a pig in a poke. Best of luck.
    The only government I trust is the .45-70 ....

  9. #9
    Boolit Master RU shooter's Avatar
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    How big of a barrel is on it width across the flats ? Take the barrel out and pull the breach plug there should be some sorta makers ID on it somewhere if it's a modern barrel . Check the fit of the plug before drilling anything . If it's fitted good against the inside shoulder you could just drill a simple vent hole and test fire it . .062" -.075" dia should work if your getting some delay in firing you can drill and tap for the 1/4" dia vent liner . I just used a simpl vent in the 45 cal I just did it goes off with no delay but there's less distance due to the bigger bore dia.
    If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by mooman76 View Post
    Maybe better pictures close up will help. Could be someone did their own build and never got around to the flash hole or just didn't want to shoot it. Pull the barrel and see if there are markings underneath.
    That's kind of what I'm thinking. The wood is real tiger stripe, not made to look. The inletting is pretty decently done. The eagle carving is pretty nice work. The scrolls look like a kindergarden kid did them. And it's got a pretty nice patchbox. I wouldn't think an import gun would be nicely done in all these areas but who knows, I've been wrong before. I'm working on getting some better pics and will pull the barrel and plug like suggested when I get a chance. Also closer inspection shows a dimple in approximate location of the touch hole, like someone marked it with a punch but just never drilled it out.

    Also was kind of hoping to figure this all out without much disassembly in case I return the rifle, haven't spoke with the auction house yet to know if that's an option.Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
    More picsClick image for larger version. 

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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by RU shooter View Post
    How big of a barrel is on it width across the flats ? Take the barrel out and pull the breach plug there should be some sorta makers ID on it somewhere if it's a modern barrel . Check the fit of the plug before drilling anything . If it's fitted good against the inside shoulder you could just drill a simple vent hole and test fire it . .062" -.075" dia should work if your getting some delay in firing you can drill and tap for the 1/4" dia vent liner . I just used a simpl vent in the 45 cal I just did it goes off with no delay but there's less distance due to the bigger bore dia.
    7/8" Barrel across the flats, measured at muzzle end.

  13. #13
    Douglas barrelClick image for larger version. 

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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    I am thinking the same - dont like to say it (and cant see quite enough detail in the pics) but it looks like a rough copy of a really nice style rifle - or could be the first effort from a budding builder - the thing that would swing me is the trigger - if thats a decent single set trigger (and a decent functional lock) I would go shootin (put a nice coned touch hole liner in first ) BUT if its just a fancy lookin single trigger on a pivot I would follow rfd and go over that thing with a fine tooth comb - a 32 leaves a fair amount of meat in the barrel and its a little charge so that adds a safety margin. check that trigger out and let us know?????
    Can't tell about the trigger, I tried to remove the trigger guard but I think it might be epoxied in place, I don't see a pin for the front. I removed the rear screw and it is tight, doesn't budge, without seeing a pin in the front I'm guessing it may be epoxied there. Other than that, I'm not 100% sure how a single set trigger works. I cocked the lock and tried pushing the trigger forward (only way I'd know a single set may work??) but nothing happens.

    At this point with a Douglas barrel I probably won't push my luck trying to remove the trigger guard. I can try getting better trigger pics as it sits if that'd help.

    Thanks for everyone's input so far.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Douglas are good barrel makers.
    Aim small, miss small!

  16. #16
    And pics of the lock. Unable to determine lock maker looking at different locks at Track of the Wolf and several other muzzleloader supply houses. It was pretty dirty and took a good cleaning, perhaps it was taken off another rifle. It sparks pretty well, but the hammer portion has a little play in it. Might have to disasemble the lock and see what's going on there.

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  17. #17
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    .

    With a Douglas barrel, you can be assured that it's not a cheap import - so, probably an assembly by a talented amateur.

    I'd drill the flash hole after you sort out the lock and give it a test fire, tied to a vehicle spare tire; but most likely it'll turn out to be OK.

    .
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  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by pietro View Post
    .

    With a Douglas barrel, you can be assured that it's not a cheap import - so, probably an assembly by a talented amateur.

    I'd drill the flash hole after you sort out the lock and give it a test fire, tied to a vehicle spare tire; but most likely it'll turn out to be OK.

    .
    Douglas barrel, decent sights, good piece of timber, plain trigger (theres no adjustment screw so its not a single set?) I dont recognise the lock but it looks like it should work ok, tang is fitted up neat and straight to the barrel, so - does lock / trigger function correctly? (the trigger plate looks a little deep inletted) -- I would go with Pietro at this point - if it functions ok - drill it, test fire - go shoot - I definitely put a proper touch hole liner in, coned inside, and as big diameter as the barrel flat will stand - get that main charge as close to the pan as possible.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    If you want to check the inside of barrel and don't want to take it apart, buy a cheap endoscope of Amazon or Ebay, that will attach to your phone or computer. These typically run under$20.00.

    Also, on the picture of the lock you posted, is there a gap between the barrel and the breach plug or is that an illusion?
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master


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    Ok, I wrote my first post before ever seeing any pictures. That is definitely not a cheap import, and a Douglas barrel is top quality.

    Drilling a flash hole is one of the last steps in gun building, which maybe this was a project that never quite got finished. Odd that whoever did this, carved and finished the stock before drilling the flash hole. I can take pictures of how to do the flash hole from "recreating the american longrifle". Lots of people recommend the Jim Chambers white lightning liner. It's probably just me, but when someone uses a bizarre thread just so they can make life harder for others, I get put off. In my own build, I'm going to use a liner with a 1/4"-28 thread, a common thread that has been used for centuries. You can buy those liners from Track of the Wolf.

    That said, there is nothing wrong at all with simply drilling a hole through the side of the barrel and calling it good. If you don't like the performance of it, all you then have to do is drill and tap it for a liner after the fact. I think most people recommend a 1/16" drill bit as a good size.
    Last edited by megasupermagnum; 05-05-2021 at 12:05 PM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check