Talk:Flintlock

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Used in Seven Years War?[edit]

Would this be the technology used by French and English soldiers at Fort Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour in the 1750s during the North American loctaion of the Seven Years War?--Sonjaaa 17:32, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

Certainly. As indicated in the article, the previous technology was obsoleted shortly after 1630, and newer technology did not start to come into play until well after 1800. Your dates lie nearly at the middle of the flintlock period. Robert A.West (Talk) 23:14, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

we have a problem =[edit]

Actually the smoothbore musket was in widespread use during the American Civil war. Neither side of the conflict had anything like enough weapons for the mass armies of staggering size fielded by the protagonist. This state of affairs went on through the 1st 2 years of the war. It would be fair to say that up to 1/3 of the troops in the field were so equipped throught the 1st year of the war. Both sides struggled mightly to get Springfield/Enfield percussion rifles into the troops hands. I rather doubt that by the 3rd year of the war there were field formations using muskets anymore but until then... Tirronan 15:49, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

"See also": spot the odd men out...[edit]

The subsection 'See also...' includes the following list:

  • Wheellock
  • Caplock
  • Snaplock
  • Snaphance
  • Miquelet
  • Musketoon
  • Brown Bess
  • Charleville musket

Can you spot the odd men out? For me, the first five of these are particular locks or firing mechanisms, whilst the last three have nothing to do with the firing mechanism but are particular types of firearms.

As such, I don't think they have any place in this list, or this article. Shouldn't See also... only refer to other lock mechanisms? (the article on Matchlock could be added to the list...)

Would anyone object if I removed the last three in the list? They could be added either to Firearms or to Antique guns - or to both these articles, which are far more appropriate.

Nick Michael 10:18, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

I wish you hadn't removed them altogether, but rather made a section linking to specific firearms using the flintlock, as there is a section in the article talking about how the British Army loaded their weapons with paper packets (cartridges), but there's no citation for this. I'm doing a project involving pre-1860 weaponry and tactics and I found it rather annoying that I had to search around for confirmation of this (whether or not British soldiers were in fact issued paper packets with the necessary amount of gunpowder to prime and fire the weapon, as well as a musket ball).

User: Sean K. 11:39AM, 24 December 2007 (CST)

Go ahead and do it - that's what Wikipedia is all about! Nick Michael (talk) 21:48, 24 December 2007 (UTC)

Not a real moan but.... I find it a bit odd the way the first paragraph is written. what we have is a short definition of flintlock and followed by what repalced the flintlock followed by the use of the flintlock in one conflict in one country at the end of its era of use. Would it make more sense to describe the flintlock- describe its origins and development from early firearms, developments within its era (rifling etc) and then the technologies that replaced it. (I think that the reference should be to metal catridges rather than just cartridges as paper catridges were used for many years with both flintlocks and muskets.)

Once these basics have been covered then the uses could be described- civilian and military and then if there is space look at specific theatres and occurances of use. Keith. 21-2-2008 14:34 zulu

So why don't you go ahead and write it Keith? That's what Wikipedia is all about. Although I have never heard of metal cartridges being used in the flintlock era... Nick Michael (talk) 20:11, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

Cheers Nick, I am very new to this and I thought that the idea was to generate a consensus before editing, It is the confusion about metal cartridges and paper cartridges that I referred to, as it reads at the moment it sounds as if cartridges replaced the flintlock system, my point is that metal cartridges replaced the flintlock eventually while paper cartridges were contemporary. K 22-2-2008 -11:34 Zulu —Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.153.252.37 (talk) 10:36, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Well I suggest you go ahead. Don't worry, you will be treated quite mercilessly if people don't agree - there are lots of 'em out there watching and waiting, eagle-eyed, for any modification that dares show its face. I look forward to reading your edits! Nick Michael (talk) 16:23, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Some thoughts on "Hammer" and "Frizzen"[edit]

An editor deleted the word "frizzen" and replaced it with "hammer", saying this was the "more historically accurate term". Since "frizzen" is the more popular term today, I restored it so both words are used. But if hammer is "more historically accurate", "frizzen" has an impeccable pedigree as well. OED cites (1629): He is euer readie to strik fyre with his frezell and his flint. Later on, in 1817, it cites: Putting down the frizzel, and making it spring up again with a loud snap. A definition does not appear until as late as 1892: Frizzle, in flint and steel guns the piece of iron acted on by the flint to produce the explosion.

When and how the final "L" changed to "N" is not clear to me. From the 1629 citation above, it seems that frezell was a word used for the "steel" used in fire-making (incidentally adopted by Philip the Good of Burgundy as his emblem), and not necessarily associated with firearms. I must say that "hammer", even if "historically accurate", doesn't make much sense to me, and is hardly helpful in describing the action of the flintlock. Nick Michael 07:51, 16 September 2007 (UTC)


I have been shooting flintlock muzzleloaders since I was five years old, and I have never in my life heard anyone even float the idea tenatively that the frizzen is called a "hammer" or that the hammer is called the "cock". Cocking describes what one does to a hammer; this use is universal across history and across all firearms--- the only alternative use for 'cock' as a piece of equipment is a type of valve. Further, the frizzen has always been so named; to call it a hammer would undoubtedly cause confusion at any time in history, as the frizzen has no hammer-like action. Even when one puts the frizzen down over the pan, one does not let it snap down with a hammerlike motion--- this would be a good way to break the frizzen, at best, and fair likely to impact the priming powder negatively.

The editor who used this "hammer is more historically accurate" reasoning should justify it; in my vast experience in this particular field, this is a one-off opinion. I would feel comfortable calling it entirely incorrect. Frizzen is the word in use at the time of the F&I War, and at all times subsequent.

Perhaps this usage is British, some of the other grammatical oddities seem to point to that... But in convential usage this passage is so poorly written as to be unintelligible. In all firearms, "Hammer" is the thing released under spring pressure that makes the weapon fire... even if early firearms called the part receiving the blow the "hammer" (and as I said, I have never seen even one other instance of it), all firearms from then on, all percussion firearms, and modern cartridge firearms use "hammer" exclusively to be what is here called the "cock"; while the correct use of "cock" is exclusively as a verb, or to describe a state (like "cocked"). To recast these terms in the way the editor seems to favor would require shifting the meanings of countless other terms--- can he even begin to justify his odd phrasing? If no one objects, I will edit this article into sensibility myself; I will wait a day or two for objections.

No objection from me, to be sure.Nick Michael (talk) 20:04, 18 November 2007 (UTC)


I saw that "hammer" was still being used to describe the "frizzen" which was in reality also referred to as the "anvil" before becoming the frizzen, the cock is the hammer. I changed the article to reflect this. See "Small Arms" by Wilkinson

David Fortini 11:49 12 Feb 08 (EST)

David, having never heard the term 'anvil' used for what most people call a 'frizzen', I looked hard, and can only find the term 'anvil' used in percussion firearms, where it seems to designate what is usually called the 'nipple', or, in more modern arms, 'That part of the cartridge primer which is a solid surface, against which the firing pin strikes to set off the priming powder.'[1]. As such, I don't think the term should be used in the Flintlock article - what's your opinion? Nick Michael (talk) 21:50, 15 February 2008 (UTC)


I agree with you that Frizzen is the better term. Admittedly the only references to it being called an anvil are from somewhat older sources, such as "Small Arms" by Wilkinson. So refering to the Frizzen as an anvil as well might confuse things. David Fortini 21:45, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

The term "Hammer" makes perfect sense if you know anything about early guns. This word came into being because the steel on a snaphaunce gun resembles a hammer in shape, & the name was continued on into the flintlock era. A great pitty you could not do your research before commenting. Keith H. Burgess. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 180.181.123.62 (talk) 02:26, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

Mr Burgess, would you be kind enough to let us know your source(s) for this, and can you supply any citations using the word 'hammer' for the part of the lock that is struck and produces the sparks? It would be very gratifying to put this thread to rest for ever! Nick Michael (talk) 12:23, 4 March 2016 (UTC)

Origin of "Lock and Load"[edit]

I had added the Wiktionary term for lock and load to the article, under English language usage involving the flintlock, but see it was removed, under the claim this terminology "referred to later firearms". This is not true. Lock and load is precisely the sequencing used for loading a flintlock. The flintlock is first placed at the half-cock (i.e., at the locked) position, and is then loaded, with two possible scenarios from that point: (1) the British Army method, using paper cartridges, involved first tearing the paper of the cartridge, charging the flash pan with a small bit of powder, then covering the pan, and then pouring the remainder of the powder down the barrel, starting the ball, and using the ramrod to seat the paper cartridged ball securely (thereby preventing a short start that could explode the barrel), or (2) for non-volley firing when achieving maximum accuracy, loading the muzzleloader through measuring a fixed measure of powder, pouring it down the barrel, cutting a patch, lubing the patch (spit), and running the patched ball down the muzzle, and then charging the pan with powder. Lock and Load is precisely the sequence used for loading a flintlock; it doesn't even make sense despite being used for many later firearms, which are not locked (put on safety) until the loading is complete. It seems to me that we should put "Lock and Load" back into the article. Yaf 21:38, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for these thoughts Yaf. I have no doubt (being a flintlock - and wheellock - shooter myself) that 'lock and load' describes the sequences of arming a flintlock firearm. However I think the issue is whether the expression derives from the flintlock era (pre 1820 say) and more importantly, whether it was actually used in connection with the preparation of firearms for shooting. The article Lock and load is not at all clear on this point. It supplies references for the expression originating in modern times, but none for earlier origins, only some 'suggestions'. IMHO the phrase should not be included until it can be shown (with a reference) to have originated from flintlock terms and the flintlock era. Some point out that the first use of the expression dates from no earlier than 1941. Even earlier similar phrases date from no more than fifty years previously: There is even an instance of this usage going back the Spanish-American War; although it’s not certain if this was a phrase current at the time or just a coincidental use of the words. From the Annual Reports of the War Department, 1900, a dispatch from the Philippines, 15 June 1899: The line was under strong long-range fire and the order was given to load and lock the pieces; investigation proved that the white objects seen were the marines returning to their ship. The term lock in this phrase is a different use of the word than in references to the firing mechanism of a weapon, as in flintlock.[2]
If you insist on including the phrase in this article, I think at least that you should add a warning that there are no documented sources showing that the phrase refers to flintlock preparation or even that it dates from the 'flintlock era'. But since this would probably be very clumsy, I would have thought it better to leave it out altogether. It does seem unlikely that we shall find a reference to authenticate the expression. Nick Michael 09:26, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

The earliest reference I can find is a sporting magazine from 1821, but there the complete expression is "brush the dirt away from the lock, and load ...".[3] A more recent usage refers specifically to one line in the 1949 movie "Sands of Iwo Jima" spoken by John Wayne, from which usage the phrase "Lock and Load" became iconic after the movie was released. Looks like the modern use of the expression only dates from the WW II era, but there is some validity back to the flintlock era, but this earlier validity is only incidentally valid, per the cited quote. So, short of finding a usage that shortens the 1821 phrase to the modern shorter version, prior to, say, 1830-1840, I favor leaving out the "Lock and Load" expression from this article. Thanks! I learned something new! (I never was much of a John Wayne fan, so I hadn't seen or heard this line in this movie :-) Yaf 18:19, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

I was in the US Army, the term "Lock and Load" was used frequently. The loading sequence for an autoloading rifle is: Lock the bolt to the rear put the weapon on Safe and Load a full magazine into the magazine well, release the bolt which chambers a round. This works for the AR-15/M-16 family of weapons. For something like the M1 Garand of WWII it is the same except that upon locking the bolt to the rear you insert a full clip into the rifle, rather than a magazine. The sequence of orders being shortened to Lock and Load. I would be interested in seeing more concrete evidence for this phrase as it refers to Flintlock or Percussion lock weapons. It seems unlikely to me that Lock and Load have ever been used for them, historically. David Fortini 18:00 EDT 9 Mar 08

One reference to "Lock and Load" in this article had been overlooked, in the Method of Operation section. I have just removed it. --Colin Douglas Howell (talk) 14:54, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

Why percussion caps became more popular[edit]

We should probably add something to explain why flintlocks were no longer preferred. I own a precussion muzzleload rifle and I believe the reason is that the flintlock's are harder to use in moist environments. If the priming charge gets wet the weapon will not fire (and its a pain to unload it). With the cap, charge can be help in your pocket until read to fire and you simply place it over the nipple when ready (vs having to measure and pour, which is how I *think* the flintlocks did it). Additionally the flintlocks probably require more open access to the pan which creates more problems with moisture in the field. This is only what I know, perhaps someone who ones one can verify this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by RobertGary1 (talkcontribs) 23:49, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Merging Flintlock and Flintlock Mechanism[edit]

It has been suggested that Flintlock and Flintlock Mechanisms be merged. I had split them on a previous edit due to the fact that the article on Flintlocks contained little information about the mechanism itself and seemed to be mostly devoted to the weapon. I decided to split the mechanism into a separate article so that it would be consistent with other firing mechanisms such as percussion locks, wheelocks, matchlocks, etc. and therefore the mechanism article would be of similar scope to these other articles. This puts the current dividing line with "flintlock mechanism" being about the lock itself and "flintlock" being about the weapon based on this mechanism. Flintlock is somewhat unique in this list since the term is often applied to the entire weapon, which is not true of other lock types (people generally don't call a percussion lock based weapon a "percussion lock" for example). The present complaint, as I understand it, is that there is overlap between the two articles, and both articles are fairly short in length. Personally, I can see both sides of the argument, so it's not clear to me which way we should proceed.Engineer comp geek (talk) 03:16, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

An argument for separation is the uses flintlock mechanisms were put to that didn't involve handguns. I threw in a quick addition to the mechanism article about Fougasses, and 'flintlock tinder lighter'. A further use (which I'm going to add as soon as I can re-find the reference) is the gunlock. They were an importance advance to the Royal Navy at the end of the 18th century. Catsmeat (talk) 22:37, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
Is there a consensus, then, that the two pages should remain separate? They have been tagged for a merge since May 2009... Doniasis (talk) 22:07, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
I've removed the merge tag, if there are no objections. Doniasis (talk) 22:11, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Firelock Redirect[edit]

I've noticed that Firelock redirects here. Merriam-Webster ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/firelock ) defines a firelock as a matchlock, but I'm no expert one way or the other so I figured I'd just put this here for someone to see.76.172.17.227 (talk) 06:26, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Most dictionaries [[4]][5][6] seem to define it as a flintlock or wheellock and Merriam-Webster gives this as a second definition. However this site would have it as what everybody else is calling a matchlock and a matchlock to them is a hand match ignited gun. It appears that firelock has meant different things at different times, the term being transferred from one lock type to another as firearms were improved.[7] [8]. I suggest changing the redirect to point to Lock (firearm) and explain the term there. SpinningSpark 00:06, 4 December 2009 (UTC)
Done it myself. SpinningSpark 00:10, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

"A Scottish laird"[edit]

George looks to be carrying a percussion cap muzzle-loader to me. Thoughts? Even if it is a flintlock, it's hardly a clear illustration of one. I say he has to go. Snori (talk) 05:13, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

You've got eagle eyes Snori! A percussion lock without a doubt. I've exchanged the pic for a far more appropriate one, if you're agreeable (the lock is still not very clear, but the weapon itself is, and the way he carries it). Nick Michael (talk) 09:03, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

The myth of the bayonet charge[edit]

Sir John Keegan, among others, have written about the mythical bayonet charge. They almost never happened. Bayonets were a weapon of last resort in defense; think of the infantry squares at Waterloo holding off Ney's cavalry charges. Section needs to be rewritten. PainMan (talk) 22:58, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Surely this is covered (or should be) under the Bayonet article...? Nick Michael (talk) 06:22, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

I don't know where you got the idea that bayonets were weapons of last resort. Bayonets all through out the 1700s in wars like the U.S. Revolutionary war and the Napoleonic wars accounted for roughly a third of all battlefield casualties (I can easily dig up a cite for this if you want). Bayonets were extremely significant on the battlefield. Going into the U.S. Civil War, military planners still thought that bayonets would play an important role on the battlefield, and the muskets of the time (Model 1861 Springfield and 1853 Enfield, for example) therefore still had bayonets designed exactly for that. What they found though was that bayonets accounted for less than 1 percent of casualties during that conflict. Changing technology and tactics meant that the bayonet was no longer of primary importance on the battlefield, and now had become the last ditch weapon that you describe (for example, the battle in Little Round Top at Gettysburg when they ran out of ammunition and fixed bayonets out of desperation, if you want a typical example). You can see the change in the bayonet's use reflected in the difference in the bayonet on the Civil War and earlier muskets compared to the bayonet on the trapdoor Springfields produced after the war. Initially the trapdoor Springfields still had the earlier style bayonet (since they were just modified earlier rifle-muskets) but later trapdoors had bayonets that were designed more to be trench tools or otherwise useful around the camp(see the article on the Springfield Model 1880, for example).

Civil War rifle-muskets were also intentionally kept the same length as earlier flintlocks at least partially because of their intended role in bayonet fighting (the other main reason being that they were still firing by ranks and military commanders didn't want the back row shooting the front row in the back of their heads). It was only after the Civil War, when it became clear that bayonets were no longer of primary importance on the battlefield, that rifles began to be shortened.

I will dig up some cites later when I have time, but I don't see any major problems with this article. A more detailed discussion about the use of bayonets on the battlefield probably belongs in the bayonet article. Engineer comp geek (talk) 21:39, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

Not organized well[edit]

For readers new to the subjects, the Matchlock article reads way better. It has a description of the technology followed by the history. This page doesn't even begin to describe how it works until halfway down. That's not helpful. Let's discuss a better order. --206.180.38.20 (talk) 21:22, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

Could start with that comic book image. 2601:1:8600:510:F5C7:EB8A:DE7C:1A5B (talk) 00:42, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Flintlock mechanism diagram faulty[edit]

The diagram illustrating the flintlock action has been part of the article for many years, and I've only just realised that it is totally incorrect with regard to the frizzen spring action. The frizzen spring appears to act on the frizzen only when the frizzen is open. Otherwise, the frizzen looks as if it can pivot freely, which of course can not be the case, as the priming powder would escape! Can any one change this? I don't have the technical knowledge to do it. Nick Michael (talk) 20:25, 12 December 2015 (UTC)

flintlock's[edit]

A flintlock pistol circa 1700–1730 Ketland brass barrel smooth bore pistol common in Colonial America. A flintlock pistol circa 1700–1730 Ketland brass barrel smooth bore pistol common in Colonial America. Flintlock firing system of a French naval gun.

Flintlock pistols were used as self-defense weapons and as a military arm. Their effective range was short, and they were frequently used as an adjunct to a sword or cutlass. Pistols were usually smoothbore although some rifled pistols were produced.

Flintlock pistols came in a variety of sizes and styles which often overlap and are not well defined, many of the names we use having been applied by collectors and dealers long after the pistols were obsolete. The smallest were less than 6 inches (15 cm) long and the largest were over 20 inches (51 cm). From around the beginning of the 1700s the larger pistols got shorter, so that by the late 1700s the largest would be more like 16 inches (41 cm) long. The smallest would fit into a typical pocket or a hand warming muff and could easily be carried by women.

The largest sizes would be carried in holsters across a horse's back just ahead of the saddle. In-between sizes included the coat pocket pistol, or coat pistol, which would fit into a large pocket, the coach pistol, meant to be carried on or under the seat of a coach in a bag or box, and belt pistols, sometimes equipped with a hook designed to slip over a belt or waistband. Larger pistols were called horse pistols. Arguably the most elegant of the pistol designs was the Queen Anne pistol, which was made in all sizes.

Probably the high point of the mechanical development of the flintlock pistol was the British duelling pistol; it was highly reliable, water resistant and accurate. External decoration was minimal but craftsmanship was evident, and the internal works were often finished to a higher degree of craftsmanship than the exterior. Dueling pistols were the size of the horse pistols of the late 1700s, around 16 inches (41 cm) long and were usually sold in pairs along with accessories in a wooden case with compartments for each piece. Muskets Main article: Musket Flintlock mechanism

Flintlock muskets were the mainstay of European armies between 1660 and 1840. A musket was a muzzle-loading smoothbore long gun that was loaded with a round lead ball, but it could also be loaded with shot for hunting. For military purposes, the weapon was loaded with ball, or a mixture of ball with several large shot (called buck and ball), and had an effective range of about 75 to 100 metres. Smoothbore weapons that were designed for hunting birds were called "fowlers." Flintlock muskets tended to be of large caliber and usually had no choke, allowing them to fire full-caliber balls.

Military flintlock muskets tended to weigh approximately ten pounds, as heavier weapons were found to be too cumbersome, and lighter weapons were not rugged or heavy enough to be used in hand-to-hand combat. They were usually designed to be fitted with a bayonet. On flintlocks, the bayonet played a much more significant role, often accounting for a third or more of all battlefield casualties. This is a rather controversial topic in history though, given that casualties list from several battles in the 18th century showed that less than 2% of wounds were caused by bayonets.[4]

Antoine-Henri Jomini, a celebrated military author of the Napoleonic period who served in numerous armies during that period, stated that the majority of bayonet charges in the open resulted with one side fleeing before any contacts were made.[5] Flintlock weapons were not used like modern rifles. They tended to be fired in mass volleys, followed by bayonet charges in which the weapons were used much like the pikes that they replaced.[dubious – discuss] Because they were also used as pikes, military flintlocks tended to be approximately five or six feet in length (without the bayonet attached), and used bayonets that were approximately 18 to 22 inches in length. Rifles — Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.79.47.250 (talk) 22:46, 19 June 2017 (UTC)