View Full Version : Flintlock Trouble

Sharps Shooter
10-28-2006, 06:06 PM
I just recieved my flintlock and went out to shoot it today and after 3 hours I got 5 rounds down range. My 6th round never did leave the barrel after an hour of trying to get ignition. I am not getting any spark and when I do get a spark it's like the Daniel Boone TV series, click.....boom. I turned the flint over, tried a different flint and still nothing. After cleaning and removing the lock, I 220 grit papered the frizzen and still no spark or at the best one very weak spark. Any help would be great.

10-28-2006, 08:41 PM
what kind of flints are you using?

John Deere
10-28-2006, 08:45 PM

If you're serious about flinting, buy the back issues of BlackPowder Hunting where Ross Seyfried wrote a 2-part piece on learning how to shoot a flint. All your questions will be answered there. ABSOLUTELY INVALUABLE. Beyond anything else you could possibly read. Do a google on the magazine, call the publisher and describe the article as I did. They'll sell you the back issue(s).

Now, not all flint locks are created equal. If you have a quality lock you're in business. If it's a cheapo, you're basically screwed. Start over. Geometry is important. You can't correct bad geometry.

DONT sand the frizzen. It's case hardened. Sanding will do nothing.

Get a sharp flint. Learn to knap.

It must be positioned in the cock correctly so as to shave the face of the frizzen for a maximum length. See Seyfried's article. Changing how the flint is held in the cock can adjust geometry (previously mentioned) to a degree. But it will never correct bad geometry (or a frizzen that is not suitably hardened)

Some locks spark better with the flint's bevel up, others bevel down.

Not all flints are equal--by a long shot. Buy fine english flints. Go to Danny Caywoods web site. There are suggested vendors for most anything you could want. They are good establishments.

Dry fire (no powder in the pan). If everything is correct a new flint will throw great sparks. If it doesn't, don't waste your powder or patience.

Never dry fire a lock that doesnt have a flint in the cock.

IF you get great sparks dry firing, the problem is likely the flash hole. It could be a location problem, or it could be a hole diameter problem, or both. Or you could be putting too much priming powder in the pan (you are using priming powder, right?) Or you could be slopping priming powder up against the flash hole creating a literal fuse. Definitely not what you want. You want 2-3 grains of priming powder in the pan and an air gap between the priming powder and the touch hole. The flash of ignited powder will travel nearly instantly to span the gap to the touch hole. If priming powder slops over to the touch hole the fuse effect will be much slower in igniting the main charge. This means when you are hunting with a flint you have to be careful not to tilt the rifle and create the "fuse". Prime just before shooting. The touch hole needs to be slightly above the priming powder charge. some touch holes are drilled too low, contributing to fusing.

The diameter of the touch hole is KEY KEY KEY. Seyfried recommends 0.76" to 0.78". Many flint rifles have touch holes with diameters of 0.50" or less. Ideally, the touch hole is a liner that has been "coned" or chamfered on the interior. The purpose of the interior cone is to bring the main powder charge that much closer to the flash in the pan. You want it close. You do not want the flash to have to travel down a long skinny corridor called the touch hole. THIS CREATES SWISHHHHHHH-BOOM. Also a 0.74" hole combined with a coned touch hole will allow a grains of the FFg main charge to hang out of the touch hole a bit like a hemorrhoid. Thus, the flash in the pan virtually instantly travels the air gap to ignite that first granule of the main charge. You may have to hit the butt of your rifle a good one with the heel of your hand to knock a few granules to hang out the touch hole like I am describing. Some people decry a larger touch hole (like this) as allowing gas to escap and reduce velocity.

Big deal. Better the swift ignition.

Get your drill out, select the right bit size and go to town.

if you're looking for credibility, this above is what the Seyfried articles tell you.

The flint lock, if it is a high quality one, with a sharp flint, positioned correctly in the cock, avoiding primer fusing the touch hole, with the touch hole located just a bit (a tiny, tiny little bit) above the prime charge, with a good sized touch hole (0.74") and a (interior) coned flash hole liner, will for all intents and purposes fire just as fast as a cap rifle.

Good fortune.

John Deere
10-28-2006, 08:58 PM
Since your rifle isn't sparking, you either have a dull flint, a very poor quality flint, the flint is positioned wrong in the cock (you want it to be held in the jaws of the cock so that the flint first stikes near the top of the frizzen and scrapes as far/long as possible down the frizzen before the frizzen snaps back exposing the prime. A short scrape will often throw poor sparks. (Think of it this way, if the flint hits a frizzen more or less perpendicular to the face of the frizzen it will instantly pop the pan open, but will likely not throw a spark at all--you want to scratch down the face of that frizzen.) A poor quality lock will sometimes have a soft frizzen, which will never spark correctly no matter how good the geometry of the flint's arc. And a poor lock may have bad geometry, affecting (among other things) the length of the scratch down the face of the frizzen.

A good lock will effortlessly throw great sparks with a sharp flint.

Sanding the frizzen just diminishes the case hardening of the face of the frizzen, worsening future sparking ability. If you really went to town with the sandpaper you may already be in trouble.

A sharp flint striking with suitable duration/moment against the face of an appropriately hard frizzen will shave minute shards of white hot steel from the face of the frizzen to ignite the prime charge in the pan.

John Deere
10-28-2006, 09:08 PM
Oh, gotta have that flint TIGHT in the cock. Wrap it with leather. Super glue the leather to the flint. Tighten the jaws of the cock TIGHT.

bill s
10-28-2006, 09:09 PM
You do not say what make of lock you have...but the frizzen may not be hard enough. You will NOT get any sparks unless the frizzen is just about glass-hard...a file must skid over it without biting in. I had one once, from Dixie Gun Works, which would not spark for sour apples. A Gunsmith friend told me to get some "Casenit" which a big hardware store in Anchorage had. Probably welding stores would also. You heat the frizzen cherry red, dip or roll it around in the Casenit powder, and then quench it. It worked just great...a good flint would make sparks that would dance around fizzing in the pan. The Casenit is just a surface carburizing treatment, so would expect it to wear thru after a while. But mine never did, I went thru something like 10 pounds of powder with it. A second thought...the frizzen may be of OK steel, and so perhaps just heating and quenching it without the Casenit might be enough. Another guy I knew in AK took an old thin file, annealed it, bent it to the curve of the frizzen, then reheated and quenched it to file hardness, and epoxied it onto the frizzen. Worked like a champ. On the subject of flash holes, wisdom has been spoken here. You want the pan powder to flash over into the barrel...not act like a fuse that has to burn its way into the main charge. Also, an old timer showed me, you don't want the pan powder to be packed up against the flash hole..I found, whacking the stock a bit, and actually getting the pan charge to be laid up at the outer part of the pan, not in contact with the touch hole at all, gave nearly instantaneous ignition. Not to brag, but I won a lot of "any rifle" matches with my flinter, shooting against caplock rifles. No big disadvantage. Once you have learned not to flinch when that flash goes off near your face...and can see the patch flying off somewhere, you can shoot anything.


John Deere
10-28-2006, 09:11 PM
Also, be sure the flint is striking the frizzen so that the sharp edge of the flint meets the face of the frizzen perfectly square, so as to cut fully across the face of the frizzen the full width of the flint.

If it strikes the frizzen somewhat cock-eyed, your sparks will suffer plus you will quickly ruin the frizzen.

Sharps Shooter
10-29-2006, 06:13 AM
My lock is a L&R and the flints are from Jim Chambers from Track of the Wolf. Thanks for all the info. this flintlock shooting is all new to me. The flint origionally hit the frizzen 3/4 of an inch down from the top of the frizzen, I then turned the flint over and is now striking about 1/4 inch from the top of the frizzen, but still most of the time no spark and when it does spark it's very weak.

John Deere
10-29-2006, 07:09 AM
Sharps, you got yourself an excellent lock and good rocks. Is the lock more or less new? Has it been pre-owned for a goodly length of time? If it has been fired a great deal the hardened face of the frizzen may be worn through to the soft metal below. Case hardening does not penetrate deep. (not likely the answer, but it's possible).

How sharp is the flint? You've changed it out for a fresh one, right? And the sharp edge is facing toward the muzzle, correct? Just kidding : )

There's just so much I can't see. I think you're going to have to call Chambers and talk to him. You might also call the Track, if yu just bought the rifle there. They have excellent technical staff. But I'd probably call Jim first.

Sometimes people use flints of the wrong width, which therefore do not bear fully across the face of the frizzen and will literally cut a shallow groove in the frizzen. Then if another shooter comes along and uses a flint of the correct width it will only bear (strike against) the previously uncut portion of the frizzen, throwing poor sparks.

Call both outfits and explain your troubles. and hang in there. An L&R lock will throw mighty fine sparks once your trouble is sorted out.

If you're really stumped, pull the lock off the rifle with your screw driver and mail it back to Chambers (or the Track).

ain't no big deal to do this. I keep saying Chambers because I think Jim Chambers bought L&R locks some years ago from a gent named Rice (the R in L&R), but maybe I'm fuzzy about this.

If I bought the rifle to punch paper and got it from the Track, I'd send the lock back to them. If I bought the rifle to hunt, I'd send the lock back to it's manufacturer--assuming you don't otherwise get the problem straightened out.

From your description of the problem the lock is acting a bit like the frizzen face is soft.

John Deere