A few August’s ago, my friend, old coworker, and major gun enthusiast Barry Geipel invited me to stop by his firing range and shoot his flintlock. I immediately said yes. I was at that time in the middle of writing my second book and really wanted to hold and fire a flintlock for myself. We went to the outdoor range and Barry showed me the ropes.
It’s one thing to learn about things by reading about them and watching videos, but it was quite another to hold the firearm, to load it and fire it, to feel the kickback as it fired (which was not as great as I was expecting). The musket in question is a 28 Gauge flintlock fowler.
Lots of little things stood out to me on the trip. For example, the spring on the hammer. It’s really strong. It would need to be, of course, because the flint it holds needs to strike the frizzen strongly enough to produce spark, so it makes perfect sense, but it didn’t even enter my consciousness until I was levering the hammer back to half cock.
Another thing was how gummed up the barrel can become and what you do to clean it. The powder leaves residue and it has to be cleared away after a certain number of firings. And the men in the civil war, lacking other things, might have pissed down the barrel to clean it because the ammonia in the urine acted as cleaning fluid.
Other interesting things are how you might get to know each individual gun. They were similar, but they’d each have their own quirks, from the way they fired and released their shot (and the adjustments you would make because of it), the way the ramrod feels as you tamp down the gunpowder and cloth and ball (the shot), the strength of the spring, how easily the frizzen opened and closed, and so on.
It was a really fun experience. It was like taking a crash course through Civil War history with Barry, too, because he’s so knowledgeable about that time period.
Thanks, Barry, for the fun time. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again some time.