Tag Archives: flintlock

Are Sabots Allowed In The Second Pennsylvania Muzzleloader Season?

I just got a question from a reader asking if sabots are allowed in Pennsylvania’s second muzzleloader season (which just opened today).

The answer is that in the second muzzleloader season sabots are allowed. There was a time when it was roundball only, but a few years ago they changed it to allow other projectiles. So, this means you can use either projectile. When picking the projectile be sure to match it to your barrel twist for maximum accuracy. Below is quoted from page 45 of the hunting digest.

Flintlock Muzzleloader Season: Flintlock ignition, single-barrellong gun, 44 caliber or larger, or 50 caliber or larger handgun, usingsingle projectile ammunition. It is unlawful to use telescopic sights.Peep sights are permitted.

First Day Of October Muzzleloader Season

I had a good start to Muzzleloader Season. At about 7:30 AM three antlerless deer came out of the woods and started moving towards me as they were feeding. One of them finally stopped about 17 yards away from me presenting a shot between a couple trees. I took the shoot with my flintlock and had great ignition and had a solid hand when the gun fired; I felt sure I had made a hit on this deer. I took time to clean the barrel good with a wet patch and a few dry ones and then reloaded. Then I walked to the spot where the deer had been standing and was unable to find any blood or hair. My bullet had left a trace on the ground on beyond the deer so I think I made clean miss. Later that day I looked around the area where the deer had headed for after I shot and still did not find anything, so I am convinced I missed.

Later that day when I walking through some brush I saw a buck; probably had about 5 or 6 points. A few minutes later I saw an antlerless deer that seemed like it might have been a button buck, however, it did not present me with a shot.

On the plus side at the end of the day when I fired my gun, to empty it again, it went off without hesitation. Since I am on fall break from college I have Monday and Tuesday to try again! So, I am really looking forwards to spending some more time in the woods!

Groundhog Hunting With My Flintlock Muzzleloader

I took my flintlock out groundhog hunting today. It was a great day to go hunting; I saw two other hunters out on another hillside. When I was approaching a fence row a surprised groundhog ran to his hole and stood there looking at me. It presented a perfect shot and my pan flashed, but no boom. I re-primed and fired twice more and still could not make it go off. The groundhog grew wary of this game and went down into his hole. The lesson to be learned from this is that I should always swab my bore with rubbing alcohol followed with a dry patch instead of being lazy and just using a dry patch. This is because the oil that I put down the barrel when I fired it last must have still been in there so it dampened my powder. To finish my day I went to where I have a target set up and eventually got my gun to fire two more tries latter.  😀

While I was out hunting I also heard a turkey gobble once, so that is a positive sign for turkey season.

Common Questions About Gun Flint

The following was written by Rich Pierce (who knaps some really good flint) and is used with his permission.

Common questions about flints

Are English or French or cut American or knapped American flints “best”? There is no simple answer to this question.  Lumping all French flints or all English flints or all American flints together and discussing which are best does not recognize the variability you will find among these different types.  But as you decide which gunflints may be best for you, consider what you want from your flint.  Generally the 3 qualities shooters care about are performance, price or value, and authenticity.  Let’s start with the easiest first.  If you are interested in authenticity, then get French flints if your persona would be in French trade areas, and English flints if you are in English trade areas, and do not worry about price or performance.  Performance?  Performance can mean “flint life” or how many shots before a misfire, and how many shots total before a flint needs replacing.  Or “performance” can mean, “I want this flint to throw SHOWERS of hot sparks into the pan when I am deer hunting and if I get 10 shots out of it and never a misfire at deer, then this is a great flint.”  Performance does not depend so much on the TYPE of flint (English, French or various American cherts or agates) used to make gunflints.  Performance depends on material, shape (thickness and angle of the cutting edge), and most of all, on the lock and the user.  Price or value may mean “sparks per dollar” or “shots per dollar”, and you may find that flints from some suppliers give excellent value.  But if you got 100 flints for 50 cents and each was only good for three shots, you might get so frustrated that you would toss them in the weeds.  So cheaper is not always better.

What size flint do I need?  How do I know if it will work better with the bevel up or the bevel down? First, your lock or gun maker may have a  recommendation for the size of flint you need, and that is a good place to start.  But even with common production locks there is some variability in lock timing, etc and so it’s worthwhile to figure out what size flint works the best in your lock. A half hour of your time tinkering with your flintlock is never wasted
To test this, make a “fake flint” of hardwood. First measure the frizzen at its widest point. Get or cut a piece of 1/4″ thick hardwood slat and cut it to that width. If your lock is tiny, use thinner stock. Make a chisel edge at one end of the hardwood slat. Not a knife edge, but a chisel edge like on a gunflint, so there’s a “bevel up/bevel down” side to
the “fake flint”. Now cut the piece off at a length 1/4″ longer than the width measurement.

Mount this in your lock with a folded leather piece just as you would a gunflint, bevel up. Now test it.
1) Does the flint clear the frizzen at half‐cock by more than a smidgeon? If not, take some off the back until you have at least 1/16″ clearance.

2) Take it to full cock and fire it. Hopefully, no matter how hard the wood, you won’t get sparks. But did the frizzen fly open easily?

3) Go ahead and turn the flint so the bevel is down (flat surface on top). Now it should strike higher on the frizzen. How’s your clearance to the frizzen? How did the frizzen fly open? Keep trimming the backside of the fake flint until you have a measurement that works, then trace around the fake flint on a piece of cardboard. This is you “max size template”. Make 3 copies and write which rifle they belong to. Stick one in the patchbox now.

4) Now keep shortening the back of the “fake flint” until it starts to fail to flip the frizzen open and note whether it fails first in the bevel up or bevel down position. Note when the flint is so short that the top jaw hits first (been there!).

Now you have the correct maximum width and the minimum and maximum length of flints that will work in your flintlock. Use this when ordering or better yet when picking out flints at a shop or vendor.

How do I mount the flint to get the best performance? Always mount the flint so that it will strike the frizzen 2/3 to at most 3/4 of the way up from the bottom of the frizzen. Make adjustments as needed if bevel up or bevel down. Do not trust the adage that the flint should just about touch the frizzen at half cock. That’s hooey and just depends on how the tumbler notches are cut. To pad the flint in the jaws of the cock, use a piece of folded leather thick enough to deform some if the flint is “peaked” but supple and thin enough to easily fold at the rear of the jaws. Whenever possible anchor the rear of the flint back at the jaw screw. If it is short, put a piece of matchstick or a square of hardwood behind the flint so it has support in the back against the top jaw screw while you extend the front edge the right amount. If the flint is the same width as, or narrower than the frizzen, mount it in the center of the jaws. If it is wider than the frizzen, mount it offset a little to the outside of the jaws so the flint will not strike the barrel. When you have it mounted so the striking edge is square to the frizzen and so it will strike 2/3 or slightly more above the base of the frizzen, tighten the dickens out of it and re‐check to see it will strike the frizzen squarely.  Now snap the lock in your unloaded gun 2x. Look for sparks and double check to see that the flint did not chip or get loose.

Now you should get 10‐15 shots with lots and lots of sparks with most any lock and flint. When you have your gun emptied after 10‐15 shots, dry fire once and see how things are going. Make adjustments as needed. This may involve flaking to sharpen the flint (some call it knapping the edge), flipping it so it is bevel down after some wear, or moving it forward in the jaws and placing support behind it. Go back to the steps outlined above after adjustment: tighten the dickens out of it, check to see it is square, and dry fire it 2x to see it is sparking. Go shoot another 10‐15 times or until you experience ignition problems.

How do I knap or sharpen my flint when it dulls? Flints can become dull or develop a projecting shiny round spot that prevents the rest of the edge from striking the frizzen.  The solution is to knap a fresh edge on the flint.  There are at least 3 basic techniques for knapping the flint.  Safety first: NEVER, no matter what precautions you take, knap the flint on a loaded gun.  No matter what technique you choose, you must make sure the gun is unloaded.  If the gun won’t fire with the flint as it is, replace the flint.  Now, to get down to business, flip the frizzen open and put the lock on half cock. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and for good measure you may want to plug the touchhole with a feather or toothpick. Being right handed I cradle the gun in the crook of my left arm with the muzzle pointing to my right and me facing the flint head on.

The simplest way to knap the flint is to strike downward across the face of the flint with a piece of coarse threaded rod about 2” long and 5/16 in diameter.  The threads give repeated small blows to the edge and give a very controlled result.  I angle a sweeping blow forward from behind the edge of the flint toward the pan.  Little chips should fall in the pan.  Always blow or brush the flint chips out.  Flint dust will cause wear or pitting of your frizzen spring and frizzen pivot and affect the fit between pan and the frizzen pan cover.

The second method is to strike the front edge of the flint with a copper, brass or soft iron tool shaped like a miniature hammer.  Place your left forefinger below the edge of the flint and press upwards with a good bit of pressure as you give little blows along the front edge of the flint.  Little chips will fall off the underside.

The third method uses no tools.  With the lock in the fired position, bring the frizzen back to lie atop the flint.  With your right hand draw the cock back as you press the frizzen down on the flint.  When the very edge of the flint is just barely below the base of the frizzen, press down mightily on the frizzen while drawing the cock back.  This should shear a fresh edge on the flint.  But it feels like scratching your fingernails on a chalkboard, so it is not for everyone.

Written By: Rich Pierce

Rich Pierce GunFlint

Gunflint top left Agate, right English (Tom Fuller), and bottom Missouri Long Trek Flint.

Missouri Long Trek Flints or probably more commonly called in the muzzleloading world as Rich Pierce Flints has been my favorite source for flint. The flint which is really Burlington chert is collected by Rich Pierce who then hand knaps it  “using only simple tools that an early hunter might have.” The flint color varies from white to gray which Rich says is due to his “[exploring] new sources for raw material.” In my own personal experience with his flint I have found it to be typically a white color, but it is the spark that counts not the color when it comes to gunflint, so I do not really care what it looks like.

The flint I have found seems to spark similar to English flint, but there is no comparison to machined agate flint which typically sparks poorly and does not knap well for re-sharpening. In contrast both English and Missouri flint do well at re-knapping which allows for more sparks per flint. To me it seems like English flint chips less easily compared to Missouri Flint. So, I think English flint might possibly have a longer life (at least in my gun), but English flint also costs considerably more.

The cost of Rich’s flint I think is very fair. My gun seems to eat 5/8″ x 3/4″ flints the best so for $10 + $1.50 shipping I can have one dozen gunflints. This dozen when I have ordered from him has been slightly over a dozen. He seems to throw in a few usable, but not perfect flints sort of like a baker’s dozen. Anyways assuming an exact dozen flints I would pay $11.50 for 12 which comes out to about $0.96 per flint. In contrast English flint from Track Of The Wolf would cost $19.80 for a dozen plus $5.35 shipping bringing the total to $25.15; costing about $2.10 per flint. This means that even if English flints lasted twice as long as Missouri flints I would still be ahead buying Missouri flints. However, I do not think the difference in flint life is that great; while I have only used a few English flints I think Missouri flints are not far behind English flints.

Rich Pierce’s shipping also seems quite fair. He charges $1.50 for 1 dozen, $2.00 for 2 dozen, and $3.00 for 3 dozen. He also offers the use of flat rate shipping boxes for those who would like to order his some of his shards of flint in bulk. What really stands out about Rich is his return/inspection policy. When you order flint from him, he encourages you to test one of the flints in your gun then send him his money. If you are not happy with them, he says to just send them back at your expense.

When I contacted Rich for permission to post his information he asked me to say that he is currently about 3 weeks behind in orders, but hopes to make progress soon. Frozen ground has been making it hard for collecting flint and business travel has used his spare time.

Rich Pierce can be contacted at:

Rich Pierce
504 West Drive
St. Louis, MO   63130

Below is the text of the January-March 2010 price sheet for Missouri Long Trek Flint. The full PDF version is available here: Missouri Long Trek Flints Info January 2012

Missouri Long Trek Flints are hand-knapped in Missouri from white to gray “Burlington” chert that I gather myself.  I make them using only simple tools that an early hunter might have.  I don’t heat treat flint to make it easier to work or reproduce the European style of making gunflints.  As a result of my collection methods and the way I make them, the color, gloss, and shape of the gunflints vary a bit within a single batch and during the year, as I explore new sources for raw material. They are not as pretty as English or French or cut flints, but are hard to beat in “sparks per dollar”.  I hope you will find them, as I like to say, “rough, tough, and sparky”.  Standard sizes are 1/8” longer than wide. Though not “flat-topped”, they will not be overly “humpy”.  If I ship them, you can trust I’d use them.

Shipping It costs me $1.50 to pack and ship 1 dozen flints by USPS, first class, but only $2.00 to ship 2 dozen, $3.00 to ship 3 dozen, etc.  Shipping to Canada is done by air mail and sometimes takes almost 2 weeks.  Shards, being heavy, cost more to ship.  The Flat Rate Priority Mail Box of shards for strike-a-light, which contains at least 50 assorted irregular flint shards, is a great value.  Share these with friends or teach scouts or other kids how to make fire with flint and steel.  They have sharp edges but may be thick.  With the large Flat Rate box, the customer is getting more than 50 shards for $14.65, since the shipping costs me $10.45.  If you order gun flints at the same time this saves shipping costs, because it is all included in the flat rate.

Availability Lately, orders are coming very often, so please limit your order to 2-3 dozen of any one size, so other customers can be accommodated.  If you do not know the size of flint you need, check with the manufacturer of the lock or gun, or measure a flint that works well.  Flints should not be wider
than the frizzen at its widest point, and should be of a length that allows secure half-cock position, and flips the frizzen open readily.  I have another few pages on how to know what size flints to use, and how to get the best results with your flints.

Ordering Please email me (rpierce@dom.wustl.edu) your name, address, and quantities of flints desired, sizes, etc.  I then ship the flints to you with an invoice.  You inspect and even try for sparkiness in your gun or with your firesteel.  You don’t need to go to the range to do this.  Just dry fire an unloaded gun in a darkened room.  If satisfied, you send me cash, a money order or a check as payment, made out to “Rich Pierce”.  Please do not pre-pay, as I prefer to not have your money, while you don’t have the flints.  If the flints I send are not suitable, you may send them back to me at your expense.  That is no problem whatsoever.

Other items I occasionally build rifles and smoothbores in Colonial styles, focusing primarily on the period from 1750-1790.  I may have something in stock in the $1800-$2400 price range, so ask if you have interest.  I also make powder horns for the same time period to order, and sometimes have one or two in progress or in stock.  I favor large horns engraved with simple period designs.

Target Shooting With CVA Trophy Hunter III

Today I did some target shooting with my muzzleloader. I am still trying to work up the best load for a round ball with my gun, but this is one of the better groups I shot today. This five shot group was shot at 50 yards using a .490 Cast Round Ball, square cut pillow ticking lubed in crisco, and 50 grains of 2F black powder.

For comparison this is another 5 shot group I shot the other day using the same load combination except for only 30 grains of 2F black powder.

And here is what happened when I increased that 30 grain load to a 40 grain load. As you can see the group opened up a lot (the fifth shot is all the way on the left).

The targets I used were from mytargets.com where they offer free targets. The target used here was their Bullseye Target With 1″ Line Spacing.

How To Keep A Flintlock Working In Bad Weather

This past season has taught me a few things about keeping my gun working when hunting on cold and snowy days.

Beating the cold:
If you do not unload your muzzleloader every day at the end of your hunt never allow your gun to warm up once it gets cold. The reason is you will get condensation in your barrel meaning you will have black powder + water = a gun that will not go off when you have your sights lined up on dinner.

Beating the rain:
Rain is probably one of the toughest things to deal with when it comes to flintlocks. A simple solution that is non-traditional, but works is to put a plastic sandwich bag over your lock. The traditional method would be to use a cows-knee which is pretty much a leather bag that goes around the lock. While I have never used a cows-knee I have heard that they work quite well. Another method that some people use is to put some sort of grease around the outside of the pan in such a way that the water cannot flow into the pan. Sometimes the grease method might be used in conjunction with one of the other methods which I would imagine would work quite nicely.

Unfortunately when it is raining there is also moisture in the air which well wet your priming powder. The solution for this is to simply check your priming powder every so often and change it when ever you think it needs changed. The tough part about this is that it can be a challenge to put new priming powder in without getting it wet while it is pouring rain out. Another thing that you can do that will help your priming powder last longer is to use a larger grain size. Sure 4F lights fast, but it also has more surface area to collect moisture so when there is humidity in the air you might want to use some 3F instead. Even 2F powder can be used in pan–that is what I use when hunting simply because it is what I have in my powder horn.

When ever it has been rainy out, or for whatever reason you suspect you gun might not fire, it is always a good idea to empty your gun whether you shoot, pull, or blow the load out, because you do not want to miss a shot because your powder was not dry.

Beating The Snow:
Snow is a little different than rain, because if it is a light fluffy snow it is not wet at all so you have no moisture problem in your pain right? Not unless you are removing your load after every hunt and bringing the gun inside. The trouble is when you take that warm gun out into the cold the snow hitting the gun will melt into water. So to keep your pan dry you have to tuck your lock under your arm or keep it covered with your hands (a cows-knee or plastic bag would work much better here). Now your body heat will keep your lock warm and the snow will keep melting and possibly you will get water in the pan. The better way of doing this is to put your gun outside out of the snow about an hour or so before you hunt begins. Now the snow will not melt when it lands on your gun and it will fall off when you turn the gun upside down. This works provided the snow is not a wet snow if it is a wet snow you will still have to cover the pan.

Final Week Of Pennsylvania Flintlock Season

On the final day of the season I jumped two antlerless deer that were about 150yards away so I passed on that shot. I think the deer were the same two that early on in the week I had jumped about 30 yards away. I tried for a shot that time, but my flint broke so I my gun never went off. That day I also saw two maybe three deer in an area that has solid woods for at least 1/3 mile around. Those deer saw me first though and were a good 200 yards away by the time I saw them.

Even though I am lacking a deer I had a good two weeks of hunting and look forwards to next years rocklock season. It seems like every time you go out you come back with something new learned about the animal’s tracks or habits, so this season was in that sense very successful for me.

First Week Of Pennsylvania Flintlock Season

Well, this first week of PA Rocklock Season has been interesting. The first Saturday I shot at an antlerless deer, but missed. Since last Saturday I have not seen a deer, however, I have been seeing deer tracks most of the days I have been out. One day I even heard a deer when I jumped it from its bed. Its been a cold and snowy week, but quite fun. Hopefully I’ll get another chance at a deer next week.

Fine tuned my flintlock’s sights some

Now with PA’s October muzzleloader deer season coming up it will be important for me to have my sights exactly on. So, I spent some time today shooting my flintlock and adjusting the sights to dead center. Before now I had adjusted the sights some, but that was not as important as just getting used to having sparks flying next to my face without flinching any.

Shooting off a bench rest at 25 yards I got the gun sighted in so that it put a round ball in the bulls eye pretty much every time. My next step will be to switch to my sabots and fine tune them at 100 yards.

Another interesting aspect of shooting today was that it was raining while I was shooting. At first I figured rain and a flintlock would not work out for more than a few shots, but I was actually able to do a lot of shooting.