Hunters should be sure to take care of flintlocks
It's too bad the snow came too late for the regular deer season. A good covering of snow would have increased the total kill by several thousand. If it stays, flintlock hunters will be the winners. Deer are much easier to see against a white background, and it would have taken some of the guesswork out of counting the points before shooting.
The flintlock hunter may be blessed with snow, but it's also possible the temperatures may be down a good bit. Cold hands make it harder to reload the flint rifle, but that's all part of the game. Deer hunting in late December and into January has its drawbacks, but the blackpowder shooter takes it all in stride.
The late small game season also runs through January into early Feb-ruary which means the small game hunter during this period of the year will also battle some chilling winds and possibly heavy snows. However, the small game shooter can keep moving to keep warm. Unlike the deer hunter who normally stays on a watch, the small game hunter is constantly moving and pushing through heavy brush and vegetation. This takes plenty of energy, and even on a bitter cold day, it's possible to work up a sweat routing out rabbits and grouse.
Flintlock hunters should make several trips to a range for practice. If the front end loader hasn't been used since last deer season, the hunter may have a difficult time loading and firing. I've written before that one major mistake flintlock users are guilty of is dumping the priming pan full of powder. Many times a full pan causes a “flash in the pan.” The “swoosh” of burning powder many times does not ignite the powder in the touchhole. It takes a surprisingly small amount of priming powder to set off the main charge of powder in the barrel.
The priming powder is ignited by hot bits of metal the flint scrapes off the frizzen. Many think the hot sparks are bits of flint, but it's just the other way around. A major problem that causes many misfires is due to the flint striking too low on the frizzen. For best results the flint should strike high on the frizzen to give it a long scrape which in turn produces more sparks. To get plenty of metal bits from the frizzen requires a sharp flint. There is no exact amount of times a flint can be used until it's too dull to scrape off metal from the frizzen. It all depends on the flint. The best answer is to carry two or three sharp flints If a misfire occurs, install a new flint.
Experimenting with the flintlock should be done at the range when there is no excitement or need to hurry. Learn how to change flints and get it to strike squarely high on the frizzen. Making sure the rifle is empty, practice setting the triggers (if the rifle has double set triggers). Normally, there is a fairly crisp click when the rear trig-ger sets the front trigger. Regardless of the temperature, setting the triggers should be done without gloves. It's a lot safer.
The cleaner the bore, the easier it is to load a flint. However, it's next to impossible to keep the bore clean on a hunt. When, a shot is fired, powder residue accumulates making it difficult to push the patched ball down the bore for a second shot. By using a thinner patch for the second shot will make reloading easier.
The patch plays an important role in flintlock shooting. The patch's main job is to grip the ball so that it will rotate as it moves through the bore. The patch actually fits into the rifling and forces the ball to turn while traveling through the, bore. A rotating ball is probably more stable in flight. Many think the patch's main job is to seal the gases behind the ball. This is important, but adding spin to the ball is of greater importance.
One hunter told me a few years ago, that he literally crawled on his belly to get within shooting range of a nice buck. He said he really worked up a sweat. Then, to his chagrin, he couldn't get the rifle to fire. He said, “I tried everything possible and the blasted thing wouldn't go off.” Then, with a smile, he admitted it didn't discourage him one bit.
(Don Lewis is a long time outdoor writer for the Leader Times and other publications as well as the author of several books. His column appears each Friday on the Armstrong Afield page in the Leader Times.)