Keeping a flintlock 'made ready'

#1
Was flicking through the virgin box the other day and saw a scene from Sharpe that made me ponder. He'd been attacked during a march and his men responded immediately by dropping a few French with rounds from their baker rifles. The rifles were already loaded and made ready.

Appreciate this is drama, but was wondering how this would work in practice and would be interested to know what the general drills were at the time. Would you really be able to tromp about for miles on end with a flintlock made ready and still get a round off first time (putting weather conditions to one side)
Was thinking there would be a problem with gunpowder falling out of the pan, or does making ready 'lock' the powder securely in place?

To a lesser extent, I was also wondering if the risk of the ball falling out of the barrel (if depressed below 90 degrees) would be a major concern? I read this was a problem for earlier matchlock and wheelock firearms, but wasn't sure if rifling and newer loading drills (such as grease wraps) removed this problem?

Grateful for any insights.

Thanks

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#2
In the Sharpe series, 'chosen men' are often depicted moving about with their little fingers hooked around the firing mechanism ready to cock the rifle.

To me they seemed loaded, but not made ready.
 
#3
In the Sharpe series, 'chosen men' are often depicted moving about with their little fingers hooked around the firing mechanism ready to cock the rifle.

To me they seemed loaded, but not made ready.
That sounds right - loaded would have been a better description for me to use

I don't see them 'charging' the pan with powder before firing though and was wondering if there is big risk of the powder blowing/ falling out. Suppose it's because I'm unsure of how the mechanism works as I've not seen the 'lock' up close and don't know how protected the pan is

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#4
Just had a look on 'how stuff works' and see that the 'frizzen' protects the powder in pan.

Would still be interested to know how effective this was in protecting the powder and alsi the general drills of the day for having the weapon loaded or made ready

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#5
To a lesser extent, I was also wondering if the risk of the ball falling out of the barrel (if depressed below 90 degrees) would be a major concern? I read this was a problem for earlier matchlock and wheelock firearms, but wasn't sure if rifling and newer loading drills (such as grease wraps) removed this problem?
I'm no exeprt, but Cornwell (Cornwall?) repeatedly describes how hard it was to ram the ball wrapped in a leather patch down the barrel. So hard in fact that when requiring to fire more rapidly the leather patch was not used to enable more rapid ramming, with consequent loss of acuracy.
 
#6
Not exactly the same thing but comparable. Muzzle loading naval guns, of the same period as Sharpe and which were fired by a musket type flintlock were kept ready loaded at all times.
 
#7
Thanks that's interesting on both points. I'm probably not giving the tech of the day as much credit as I should

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#8
You can see here how the frizzen keeps the priming powder covered but then lifts to expose it for ignition:

[video=youtube_share;BhtnWAHxBpM]http://youtu.be/BhtnWAHxBpM[/video]
 
#9
Where time is available to load the ball is firmly rammed down the barrel onto the powder charge inside a waxed patch, the patch is usually a neatly cut circle of waxed linen or parchment.....



............once home it is not going to budge until fired. Where rapid fire was called for the patches (and therefore the accuracy, were left out).

The powder is held in the pan by the frizzen which is spring loaded........



........and remains closed until struck by the hammer.

In bad weather the lock would be wrapped in waxed paper (any old paper rubbed with a candle) to keep the powder in the pan dry.

 
#11
Some years back I read that the early American settlers would get small round shot and place them between the four fingers, near the knuckle. As they grew, the size of the ball was gradually increased until when they were an adult they could hold 3 musket balls between their fingers.

When they were hunting and needed to drop a new ball down the barrel, they just rapped the back of their hand agaisnt the muzzle and a ball would drop in.
 
#13
Some years back I read that the early American settlers would get small round shot and place them between the four fingers, near the knuckle. As they grew, the size of the ball was gradually increased until when they were an adult they could hold 3 musket balls between their fingers.

When they were hunting and needed to drop a new ball down the barrel, they just rapped the back of their hand agaisnt the muzzle and a ball would drop in.
What on earth were you googling for.........Hillbilly balls......early ball handling drills.......iroquois bukkaka butt bang???
 
#14
Some years back I read that the early American settlers would get small round shot and place them between the four fingers, near the knuckle. As they grew, the size of the ball was gradually increased until when they were an adult they could hold 3 musket balls between their fingers.

When they were hunting and needed to drop a new ball down the barrel, they just rapped the back of their hand agaisnt the muzzle and a ball would drop in.
Pockets were passe then I take?
 
#15
Thanks - thats cleared it up for me

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#16
Quite, but that wasn't unburned gunpowder in the legendary rag and shag bread....that was mouse shit!
It was so long ago I can't remember - may even have been in Guns and Ammo and I stopped getting that about 25 years ago!

Pockets were passe then I take?
I don't think buckskins had many pockets. The fingers developed 'cavities' between them which apparently held the balls securely, so they could use the hand as normal. It was, however, a lot quicker than fumbling in a pouch for a musket ball.
 
#17
OK, just did a quick Google and it's saying Maoris did in in the Musket Wars. I'll try and find out more.
 
#18
As the owner of a couple of flintlock pistols I will add my bobs worth. Apart from weather considerations there is no real problem about carrying a flintlock made ready. Indeed those of you who have seen the film Master and Commander starring Russel Crowe may remember two scenes that demonstrate this. In one scene some clown grabs a ready loaded rifle/musket and tries to shoot a bird (albatros?) and hits the Doc instead, in another scene in preparation to attack and board a French ship boxes of pistols are opened and issued to the boarding party.
As an aside tap loading as demonstrated by Sharpe does indeed work. I found that out inadvertently with my Charles Moore flintlock pistol. I was loading some fine gash black powder into the muzzle and then hammered the very tight ball down the barrel. On opening the frizzen to put powder into the pan I discovered that it was already brim full of fine grey powder, the stuff I normally put in the pan is Swiss No1, which is coarser and black. So tap loading works. However there was so much powder in the pan that apart from a very large flash there was noticeble delay before the flame burnt down to the flash hole and hit the main charge.
 
#20
It was so long ago I can't remember - may even have been in Guns and Ammo and I stopped getting that about 25 years ago!



I don't think buckskins had many pockets. The fingers developed 'cavities' between them which apparently held the balls securely, so they could use the hand as normal. It was, however, a lot quicker than fumbling in a pouch for a musket ball.
Where did they keep their powder then, under their eyelids?
 

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