Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Black Powder Flint Lock Rifle

This past deer gun season I went out hunting with my friend Mike on his property. I learned two valuable lessons.

1. When you see a deer walking down a slope into your firing zone, take off your gloves and make sure your safety is off. 

2. When said deer moves out of your firing zone, because you were not ready to shoot even when said deer turns its flank to you, it will taunt you from a direction it knows you cannot take a shot in.

So after my failed shotgun hunting season came to an end, I thought; there is always next year. Then I remembered we have a black powder season in Ohio. I thought, who do I know that can help me pick the right black powder rifle? Immediately my friend Chuck came to mind. I mean this in the most flattering way, Chuck is the rain-man of firearms.

So I shoot Chuck an email asking what he thinks of the .50 caliber black powder rifles they sell in the sporting goods section of the big box stores. Here is his response:

"I’m a traditional guy.  The in-lines that you may be seeing in the big box stores, are the spawn of Satan….   Sewer pipes strapped to fence posts."

I like chuck.

So what did Chuck do? He let me borrow an amazing piece of machinery. This is a Great Plains Rifle made by Lyman, in Italy. It rifle is a .54 caliber, black powder, muzzle loading flint lock.

Chuck graciously offered to set me up with a black powder rifle and all the fix-in's. I know Chuck because of our shared love of the Red River Gorge. We are both volunteers on the Red River Gorge Trail Crew. Thanks again Chuck for lending me your baby. =)

Flint locks have a interesting history. The first flint lock was created for King Louis XIII by a French gunsmith named Marin le Bourgeoys. This was in the early 17th century around the year 1610. Flint locks quickly became the weapon of choice, and everyone had to have one. People kept tinkering with the design. Isaac de la Chaumette improved the design in 1704.In the 1770's, Colonel Patrick Ferguson made 100 experimental flint lock rifles that were used in the American Revolutionary War, for the wrong side unfortunately. These rifles came to be known as the Ferguson Rifle.

The distinction of the first American flint lock, made by a US armory, goes to the Harpers Ferry Model 1803. Followed by the Model 1819 Hall Breech Loading Rifle, which was the first flint lock breech-loading rifle to be widely adopted by any military.

Black powder has a very interesting history as well. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate or saltpeter. Gunpowder was invented in China sometime in the 9th century AD. All the components of gunpowder were know to the Chinese and used in medicines and other applications long before they were ever put together to make gunpowder.

It is thought that gunpowder spread from China to the Middle East, eventually making its way to Europe. The term "black powder" is a relatively modern term dating to around 1890. Before that it was referred to as "gun powder" or simply, "powder". The term "black powder" was coined to differentiate between the old gun powder and the new "white powder", a nitrocellulose powder, or what is today called "smokeless powder".

There is a lot going on in this picture. Those bamboo tubes were made by my friend Chuck to hold a measured load of black powder. Very handy when you are trying to reload in the woods. The copper tube next to them is full of black powder. When you depress the spring tensioned piston on the bottom, you can load the flash pan with powder. You then close the frizzen, holding the powder in. Once you pull the main trigger, after you have pulled the set trigger, the cock, which holds the flint,  flies forward striking the frizzen, shaving off bits of white hot steel, causing a spark, igniting the powder in the flash pan, which then goes through the touch hole and ignites the powder in the barrel. Simple right? Good. 

The blue webbing is actually a tube to hold the .54 caliber balls next to it, very ingenious Chuck. The black and white squares are flints. The black one is setting on a patch. Always remember this order, powder, patch and ball. You don't want to screw that up. The white one is in a piece of leather so the cock can hold it.

It is very important to keep your barrel clean and dry. I have a ton of cleaners and solvents for my guns. I asked Chuck which one to use, he informed me that water is a great solvent and that water is all he ever uses to clean his black powder rifles. 

Here is what the cleaning patches look like in the order I ran them down the barrel. I asked Chuck which one of the many gun oils I have would be good to use on the barrel. His answer, WD-40. Makes sense, but I would have never thought to use it.

Here I am, patiently waiting for a deer to cross my path. I sat on a 5 gallon bucket turned upside down with a pillow on it for 4 hours or so. I eventually gave up because of the cold. It was fun discharging the rifle in my backyard, I love living in the country. =) I will be going out ever year from now on, eventually I will get lucky and fill my freezer.

Thanks again for lending me this beautiful rifle Chuck. I can't wait until I can afford to buy one.

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