A while back I was asked to write a few words about how I got started
shooting black powder and how I felt about flintlocks. Here is that piece I hope you enjoy
About 30 years ago while camping in the state of Washington. I
heard a loud booming sound that I could not Identify as any firearm that I was familiar
with. Investigating, I came upon a very (at the time) strangely dressed man.
Here was a fellow , dressed up in Elk hide moccasins, buckskin
leggings, Breach clout, cotton drop-sleeve shirt, and a broad brimmed low crown felt hat.
This here coon was blasting away at a stump with a very unusual looking rifle. The rifle,
was a caplock, swivel barreled, 58 caliber. muzzleloader, with 22" barrels, weighing
in at about 14 pounds.
After a few words of greeting, he asked if I'd like to try a shot or
two. "Sure" I said, being a lover of any thing that goes "BOOM",
Maybe, that was my first mistake. The fellow proceeded to (as was his custom with
"pilgrims") double load both barrels . He handed over the piece and after some
preliminary instructions said something like, "here, give her a go".
As I lifted the rifle to my shoulder I noticed the beautiful
workmanship. The stock was carved with scrolls and floral designs, the lock was also
ornately engraved. In those days rifles like that were not a common sight. That first shot
was at a stump not far away. The blast was deafening, and the recoil rocked me back on my
heals. There was a blinding cloud of white smoke, and the smell of brimstone.
I was instantly hooked! I think my next words surprised him. "Can
I try that again"? I asked. Adrenaline making my heart race and my knees shake.
"Sure" he said, with a smile. He showed me how to swivel the second barrel into
firing position. I did as instructed, aimed at the stump, and fired. I don't know if ether
shot hit the stump, but I didn't care. I was content to hear the "BOOM" , feel
the bump on my shoulder, and smell that wonderful black powder smell. I was every bit as
hooked as any heroin addict.
Where can I get one of these"? I asked, with a pounding hart, and
a quiver in my voice.
"I can build one for you" he said, with a grin.
The price he quoted me rocked me back as much as the recoil of that
At the time, I was going to school on the G.I. bill, and raising a
family. There wasn't allot of extra money around for toys.
I guess, he could see the disappointment in my face. With a slight
chuckle he said, that he would give me a magazine that might have something in the adds
that I could afford. That magazine was, "Muzzle Blast". I read every word. (The
addiction was intensifying).
Among the ad's, I found what I so avidly sought. The Numrick Arms
company was offering a, 45 caliber Hopkins & Allen Minuteman Kentucky rifle kit, in
either flintlock, or percussion, for only $99.00. Even a guy raising a family on the GI
bill can afford that. It took me a couple of months to save up the money.
Like many new black powder shooters, I was afraid of flintlocks. I thought
they would be difficult to shoot, too finicky, and frustrating. I ordered the rifle in
"I know better now."
Flinters do take a bit more attention, but the rewards are worth the
little extra effort. There is a great feeling of pride, when you place a ball in the ear
of a squirrel, or drop a pheasant at the top of his climb, with one of these most romantic
of all firearms.
About 10 years ago I converted that same rifle ("old
kaintuck") to flintlock; (the addiction is now complete). I have taken; squirrels,
rabbits, black tails, and a few shooting prizes at rendezvous with this rifle.
I have purchased several muzzle loaders since. Some are caplocks, but
most are flinters. I let pilgrims shoot the percussion guns.
I use a 36 caliber flintier for squirrels. I have a Mortermer 12 gauge
flintlock, that I use on pheasant, and quail. I also bought a 54 caliber barrel for the
Mortermer to hunt Mule deer with in Colorado. The hunt was unsuccessful, do to "good
weather". But that's not important. "THE HUNT IS THE THING".
Hunting with a flintlock is less about making meat, than it is about
getting in touch with history, and the romance of another era. When I'm stalking the woods
with my flinter, dressed in buckskins, I feel as though I have stepped back in time to a
simpler age. I can almost feel the presence of the spirits of men like, Simon Kenton,
Boon, Crocket, and all those other hunters that kept their families fed, back when
flintlocks were the highest form of firearm development. I can relate to the difficulties
they faced. Making sure the powder is dry, and the flint sharp. Stalking to within 100
yards or less, and holding a steady aim until the target disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Is it easy? Maybe not. It takes practice, patience, concentration, and
skill. But, after all, Isn't that what hunting is really all about? I mentioned that I
hunt gray squirrels with a 36 caliber. flintier. I limit my self to head shots only. Do I
always score? No! Does that diminish the thrill and, enjoyment of my hunts. Hell no! If
anything it adds to them. I am, a "flintlock fanatic", and I don't hunt with any
thing else. Maybe I'm just caught up in the romance of it all, but I can't bring my self
to go into the field with any other style of firearm.
After all, I am attempting to take a life , and I try to make it as
challenging as possible, and still make a clean kill.
I can't hit the inside of a barn with a bow. I am too old and slow to
chase down my prey and club it , so I'll stick with my flintlocks.
If You want to experience the challenge and romance of hunting the way
our forefathers hunted. Get yourself a good flinter, learn to shoot it, then head into the
woods for some of the most satisfying hunting you will ever do. Good hunting, and keep
your powder dry
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