A “flintlock” refers to any device thatuses the flintlock mechanism and it may refer to the lock mechanism itself. Thefirst true flintlock mechanism was introduced in the seventeenth century;however, using flint against steel to create a spark of gunfire has been seenas early as the sixteenth century. The flintlock mechanism was a substantialimprovement compared to its predecessors such as the doglock, matchlock, andwheellock mechanisms. The flintlock was used from the sixteenth to theeighteenth century and was followed by the percussion cap and cartridge basedmechanisms in the nineteenth century.
The flintlock mechanism has been used indevices such as pistols, muskets, rifles, and drawbacks. The two earliest formsof a flintlock type gun are the Snaphaunce in 1560 and the Miguelet followingit. The invention of the flintlock mechanism was a major stepping-stone in thedevelopmental process of firearms throughout human history.The Snaphaunce performed by holding flintin the cock, with gunpowder on the outside of the barrel. To fire aSnaphaunce, a steel striking plate is required to pull the cock back in orderto fire.
Keep in mind, early guns were not the most efficient form ofweaponry, as they were slow to load and frequently inaccurate. In the case of aflintlock-based weapon, the powder in the pan may or may not ignite whichresulted in no fire in the barrel and no fire, also called “a flash in thepan.” The powder used in a flintlock mechanism must also be kept dry in orderto ignite and fire accurately. The early forms lacked a shielding force fromthe elements. In the sixteenth century, weapon accuracy was important while onthe battlefield, as it can either kill your victim or make you the victim.
Forexample, soldiers in the English Civil War supposedly used the Snaphauncemuskets to fight in battle. Eventually, weapon makers caught on to this problemand created a sliding pan cover that would keep the powder in place and protectit from any harsh weather conditions. Around the 1580’s, the Miquelet flintlock basedgun improved and reduced the size of the Snaphaunce by making the battery andpan cover one L-shaped piece called the frizzen. The frizzen worked by pivotingdown to cover the pan after the powder had been loaded. When the trigger waspulled, the cock would swing forward and strike this piece, which produced thesparks needed to ignite the powder and fire the weapon.1 By the seventeenth century, each Europeancountry had been exposed to this new form of weaponry and was developingversions of their own. However, it was not until 1610 that French courtierMarin le Bourgeoys, under the request of King Louis XIII, developed the firsttrue flintlock or the “Frenchlock.
” Although each type of flintlock weapon hadimproved in some way, Le Bourgeoys introduced a new type of perfection byadding simple details to the pre-existing features to create the most accurate flintlockmechanism of the time. By 1630, the “Frenchlock” had become growingly popularand people across Europe had access to one. By the 1650’s, many different forms ofbreech-loading flintlocks had been created and the pistol was becoming more andmore popular. The most popular at the time had a barrel that was disconnectedfrom the gun frame and could be screwed back on to fire. This form eventuallybecame known as a Queen Anne pistol because of the shorter barrel length andits increasing popularity during her reign even though it was actuallydeveloped during King William III’s reign. Another type consisted of a screwplug that could be removed and set on the side, top or bottom of the gun barrel.This type was popular in sporting rifles because of the tight fitting bulletand patch, which allowed an easier loading compared to the loading of a muzzle.In 1704, Isaac de la Chaumette invented a more complex barrel that could openby three revolutions of the trigger guard.
By the eighteenth century the flintlockwas the most standard musket used in both Europe and American colonies. The twoflintlock breechloaders to be produced in a vast quantity were the Hall,invented by John Hall, and the Crespi, invented by Giuseppe Crespi. The Model1819 Hall Breech Loading Rifle was given to the United States Army and was usedin the American Civil War. The Hall rifles were loaded paper cartridge insertedbreechblock; nonetheless, these rifles leaked gas, which resulted in a poorlyfitted action. The Crespi was experimented with by the British in theNapoleonic Wars was eventually used by the Austrians in 1771.2 Duringthe American Independence War, Patrick Ferguson, a Scottish officer developedhis version of the breech-loading rifle.
This rifle surpassed any rifle thatthe British had ever seen or used in terms of accuracy, time to load, andfiring. If the soldier was trainedcorrectly, this rifle could fire six to ten times each minute with a killingaccuracy of about two hundred to three hundred meters in range. To load, thetrigger guard must be turned two hundred and seventy degrees so that the pitch screwcan create the breech opening in order for the ball to drop into the cavity. Tofire, gunpowder is added, the frizzen is then closed, and the hammer is pulledbackwards to ignite the shot.3 A variety of guns, such as the FrenchCharleville Model 1763 musket, were used in the American Independence War. TheFrench Charleville Model 1763 musketwas in fact a flintlock based musket that worked similarly to the Fergusonrifle but had a bayonet attached to the barrel.
Flintlock weapons were commonlyused until the mid 19th century, when they were replaced by percussion locksystems.4 The flintlock was a major step in the technologicaladvancements of firearms. For two centuries, this device was the basis of mostrifles, pistols, and muskets. It was used by soldiers in several well-knownwars such as the Napoleonic Wars and the American Independence War.
If it werenot for Marin le Bourgeoys and his perfected version of the early flintlock,man would have never advanced in firearm technology. The ideas and technologythat create the firearms that are used today ultimately were formed as a resultof past ideas and inventions, such as the flintlock.