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Thread: flintlock question

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    Default flintlock question

    Was following the prevous thread on availablility of powder so maybe this question is moot but will ask anyway. Have a few percussion black powder firearms but was toying with the idea of picking up a 50 cal flintlock. Any recommendations and brands/guns to avoid? Does a flintlock require blackpowder to shoot or will it work with a substitute (pyrodex for instance), or is that gun dependant? I am not talking about ignition - I would assume one needs black powder for pan ignition. I would be buying the gun to shoot for fun, rather than for any specific hunting. Any thoughts or recommendations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by abreitzm View Post
    Was following the prevous thread on availablility of powder so maybe this question is moot but will ask anyway. Have a few percussion black powder firearms but was toying with the idea of picking up a 50 cal flintlock. Any recommendations and brands/guns to avoid? Does a flintlock require blackpowder to shoot or will it work with a substitute (pyrodex for instance), or is that gun dependant? I am not talking about ignition - I would assume one needs black powder for pan ignition. I would be buying the gun to shoot for fun, rather than for any specific hunting. Any thoughts or recommendations?

    If you're just going to shoot for fun, consider a full-stocked, Kentucky Rifle reproduction in .36 caliber. Perhaps someone more familiar with the current market than I could recommend a good brand.

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    You can shoot some black powder substitutes as your main charge in a flintlock. I shot Triple 7 in powder form for quite awhile as my main charge, there was a slight delay in ignition but not bad. Then I tried Pryrodex powder, it had a higher ignition point and the 'delay' was horrible. Goex black powder offers the fastest ignition of the powders I've tried. I know you're not asking about priming powder, but I did try Triple 7 in the pan once - it didn't work too well

    I have Cabelas .50 flintlock. Despite what some might think with having Cabelas stamped on the barrel its a pretty decent muzzleloader and has proved to be very accurate over the years. Always liked Lyman rifles myself, sure wish I had a couple in my gun cabinet for fun and for hunting. I don't have enough experience with other make / models to offer thoughts on which to avoid.

    I'm sure BrownBear will chime in soon, he's full of great info on muzzleloaders.

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    I've used FFG black powder in the barrel, FFFG in the pan, and to my mind, the ignition is instantaneous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abreitzm View Post
    Was following the prevous thread on availablility of powder so maybe this question is moot but will ask anyway. Have a few percussion black powder firearms but was toying with the idea of picking up a 50 cal flintlock. Any recommendations and brands/guns to avoid? Does a flintlock require blackpowder to shoot or will it work with a substitute (pyrodex for instance), or is that gun dependant? I am not talking about ignition - I would assume one needs black powder for pan ignition. I would be buying the gun to shoot for fun, rather than for any specific hunting. Any thoughts or recommendations?
    First off, you'll need real black rather than a sub. The ignition temps of all the subs are way too high, compared to black, so they just don't ignite reliably from the spark. If you can only get black irregularly, some guys get away fine with putting black (3f or 4f) in the pan, along with 5-10 grains under their charge of sub powder. A little fiddly, but I've tried it and it works.

    As for brands, the array of new factory models has shrunk a bit recently when TC quit making their Hawken. Lyman's models have performed well for me. They're made by Investarms in Italy, as are the Cabelas branded guns. Cabelas sells Pedersoli brand in several models, as do other sources. In fact Cabelas Blue Ridge is actually a Pedersoli. Traditions makes a few flintlocks, but I've had mixed results with their guns. Probably the bottom of my list for "reliable" function, though with fiddly adjustments they can be made to work. I should clarify that flintlocks are all more fiddly than percussions, but the Traditions versions are just more fiddly.

    You'll also see custom guns floating around at good prices on the used market. You're down to the rep and skills of the individual gunsmith and the components they used, requiring a little judgement on your part. That would have to come with time and experience, though if you want a style not available from Lyman/Pdersoli/Traditions you might have to go that route. I've bought used customs with complete satisfaction, but I might have made a mistake if that had been the first flintlock I bought. There are some stinkers floating around.

    Flinters are fun, and with care and precautions surprisingly reliable even in wet weather. In fact I've had less trouble in the rain with flinters than percussion guns, perhaps because I'm paying closer attention to them.

    One other thing to add: Things can go wrong with any gun and you might need repair or replacement. TC used to be good about that, but now they stink. In fact they've quit honoring the lifetime warranty on their guns. Lyman has been excellent. Traditions won't even answer emails, so be sure to pick up the phone and raise hell if you have trouble with one of theirs. Pedersoli is reliable but slower than cold mollasis. Factoring it all together, I'd probably recommend Lyman first, Pedersoli second, Traditions third and TC fourth for support.

    Flintlocks are fun, and for casual use a 50 cal is certainly a good choice due to easier access to loading components. I shoot flintlocks in 30, 32, 50, 54, 58, 62 and 75 calibers, and love them all.

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    Thanks all for the info. Guessed I would need a source of real black if I purchase a flintlock. Marcus, is there someone selling real black down on the Peninsula? I still have most of a can of 2F but would need a source of 3F for the pan. My 2F was purchased at GNG but no telling when or if they will get any more soon. Sounds like the only source right now is up in Fairbanks.
    I like Marcus' suggestion of a 36 cal as I already have percussion guns in 50, 54 and 58, but was trying to be practical in looking at a 50 as I have most of the loading components for that cal right now and want to keep the investment down. Looks like most of the companies are focusing on 50 and 54 cals. I realized yesterday that I am headed down to Oregon at the end of next week to tour around a bit with the wife so will try to come up with an excuse to visit Springfield and stop in the Gun Works for a look see. Problem is I would not be able to keep any purchase under the radar.
    Only got into black powder shooting about 2 years ago but really enjoy the process. Thought flintlock would add to the variety of options.
    Any suggestions on rate of twist? I would think most folks shooting flintlocks are more traditionalists so are shooting lead balls, or do I have that totally wrong? Would I be looking for something along the line of 1 in 60 or are most more practical and looking for cross-over rates around the 1 in 48 range?

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    Quote Originally Posted by abreitzm View Post
    Marcus, is there someone selling real black down on the Peninsula? . .
    Any suggestions on rate of twist? I would think most folks shooting flintlocks are more traditionalists so are shooting lead balls . .

    It's been nearly 20 years since I've fired mine, abreitzm, so I can't be of much help on a source for powder. No idea on twist . . shot only round balls in mine and was more than impressed with the accuracy.


    Thought about selling the rifle some time back and explored the subject here:

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...Hatfield-rifle


    PS: Navy Colts are also .36 caliber and also a helluva lot of fun to shoot. Grandkids go positively bug-eyed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abreitzm View Post
    Any suggestions on rate of twist? I would think most folks shooting flintlocks are more traditionalists so are shooting lead balls, or do I have that totally wrong? Would I be looking for something along the line of 1 in 60 or are most more practical and looking for cross-over rates around the 1 in 48 range?
    There's a lot of hooey floating around about rate of twist. More opinion from reading than first hand experience. My experience has been that twist rate is relative to caliber, and for the smaller calibers 1:48 is in fact a slow twist. If you go too slow with any caliber, you're forced to use larger powder charges to get into accuracy, and small charges just won't shoot well.For example one of my 62 cals is a 1:72 and the other is a 1:110. The 1:72 accurately shoots loads down to 40 grains, while with the 1:110 groups really open up if you drop below about 100 grains. It's best load is 160 grains.

    Most of the complaints about 1:48 twists trace back to TC's use of very shallow rifling for better sabot performance than the twist rate. Deeper rifling and 1:48 works great. The original Hawken rifles and a lot of other rifles of that era were in fact 1:48. And they were renowned for their accuracy. The difference was they all had deeper rifling.

    I've had excellent results with reduced loads (30 grains of 3f) out of my 50 and 54 cal Lymans with their 1:66 twist and deeper rifling. But they're on par with my 1:48's with the exception of the TC's and their cursed shallow rifling. The TC's have shallow rifling while my others have deep rifling. The culprit is the TC shallow rifling and NOT the fast twist.

    My fast twist Lymans (1:32 IIRC) are wicked with 30 grain charges and RBs, but if I use a very tight patch/ball combo are also very accurate with hot loads. If you light off a large charge with a little looser combo, they're all over the paper. Not coincidentally I think, if you go to a real tight patch/ball combo with the TC 1:48's, they're accurate too with the hotter loads.

    If you go with a 36 cal, I'd go with nothing slower than 1:48 so you can shoot light loads. My 1:48 36 cal will cut ragged holes with 15 grains of 3f and is super accurate all the way up to 50 grains, as far as I've pushed it. My 30 cal has 1:36 twist and deep rifling, and it's a barn burner no matter how large or small a charge I shoot. My snowshoe charge is 10 grains of 3f, and I'm pretty sure that's still faster than a 22LR, because it sure blows up bunny heads.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    I've used FFG black powder in the barrel, FFFG in the pan, and to my mind, the ignition is instantaneous.
    My experiences with black powder mimic yours. Only I use FFG in the barrel and 4FG in the pan.

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    Thanks BrownBear for the great explanation of rate of twist. Will contact Nor West about powder before I purchase a flintlock but sounds more like a logistics issue than availablility. If I can get ipowder without excessive fuss, will be shopping in Oregon and on line for a flintlock.

    BrownBear (or anyone else for that matter) have you tried the new and improved Goex stuff?

    Also was wondering about which powder for the pan. Sounds like some use 3F and others use 4F. As I will be only making limited purchases, want to choose wisely.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by abreitzm View Post
    BrownBear (or anyone else for that matter) have you tried the new and improved Goex stuff?

    Also was wondering about which powder for the pan. Sounds like some use 3F and others use 4F. As I will be only making limited purchases, want to choose wisely.
    I've read a lot about it, but not tried it. It's supposed to compete with Schuetzen, the queen of the accuracy buffs and match shooters, and some of those guys say they like it. But I'm happy with the regular Goex, so I'm not really willing to pay the extra even to try it out.

    As for pan powders, I'm a hunter and field shooter, and I kinda dislike carrying two powder horns or a horn and a primer of some sort. Because of that I always try using my main powder for priming first, and only go with 4f if I'm not happy with those results. So far I've been happy with results using either 2f or 3f in my pans. Kinda runs against the popular tales on the web to use 2f, but most guys who criticize it have never actually tried it. I can't notice any difference between 2f and 3f, but maybe I'm just not a sensitive kind of guy. Heck I use 1f in the big old pan on my Brown Bess, same as the charge in the bore, and it works just fine. I figure the huge depression in the pan was put there for a reason in the first place, and the old guys who used it in the 1700's sure didn't carry a finer powder for priming. Heck, when they went to paper cartridges for loading, they just dribbled a little of the powder into the pan before pouring the rest down the bore.

    I used 4f at the range for a while and tried it in the field. A little tiny breeze is enough to blow it everywhere but the pan if you're not real careful. I've also seen it pick up atmospheric moisture faster than coarser powders as well. If it toots your whistle, use it. My whistle remains silent on it. I gave away the two cans I had.

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    Thanks again BrownBear for the info! Makes sense not having to carry 2 different powders in the field.

    If I were to purchase a Lyman Great Plains Flintlock in 50 cal, should I split the difference and shoot 3f in bore and pan or use 2f for both?

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    Each gun is different, but my GPR50 is real fond of 3f Goex in the pan and the bore.

    A couple or three things on the GPR- not criticism, but "fiddling" like I talked about.

    Lyman uses some kind of grease in their bores that's a miracle of some sort. Normal cleaning won't get rid of it all, but it won't shoot well until you do. Easy solution is to grab a can of brake pad cleaner or carb cleaner, squirt a little onto a cleaning patch and run that down the bore. Three or four patches will leave the bore spotless and ready to roll.

    The rifling and especially the crown on Lyman barrels tend to be sharp when new. They'll cut patches and give erratic accuracy as a result. It will all smooth out after 100-200 shots if you do nothing else, but it can be irksome. Recover and examine your patches after shooting, and if you're getting cuts or tears, then either resolve yourself to the extra shooting (fun!) or take matters in your hand. I like to lay a piece of 400 grit emery over the muzzle, press down evenly with the ball of my thumb, then rotate half a dozen times. Presto, the sharp crown edges are gone, and accuracy immediately improves. If the rifling is too sharp too, just cut a little square of a Scotch kitchen pad, drape that over your jag, and run it in and out of the bore about 50 times. Presto again.

    When first starting out with the Lyman, it's going to want thinner patches simply because the bore isn't quite smoothed out yet. I started with .015 patches and .490 balls because the same ball with .018 patches required more starting effort than I wanted. After 100-200 shots it's going to start getting easy to start a ball. Then go up to .018's, and you'll see yet another improvement in accuracy.

    Long and short of all that, there's a break-in period of 100-200 rounds before Lymans reach their accuracy potential. But when they do, they're one of the more accurate factory guns around.

    Oh, one more change you may want to make eventually. The adjustment screw between the two triggers is too short, so turning it makes no difference in trigger pull. If you don't like the Lyman trigger, swap that screw out for a little longer one from the hardware store, and you're in business.

    Long as I'm laying out the one-more-things, here's a last and I'll shut up. Eventually you may want to consider swapping out the Lyman trigger unit for the Davis Deerslayer trigger. Best $47 you'll ever spend on a gun. It says it's for TC's but it fits the Great Plains Rifle just fine. The thing with it is, not only do you get a better set trigger, but you get a better trigger pull on the front trigger even without setting the rear trigger. Without the set most Lymans come in at about 8# and rough. Without the set the Davis comes in at about 3# and crisp. It's not an issue if you're using the set trigger all the time, but on hunts I often don't have time to set the rear trigger first.

    Lotta good info on working with the Lymans scattered around the web. It's a popular gun, and there are a lot of satisfied users with fine tuning tricks and loading advice. If you buy the Lyman, get back online and I'll point you to the best of those sources.

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    Thanks again!

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