Firing a Flintlock Musket

As far as the flintlock action goes, it might best to describe the loading procedure first, then describe ignition. This makes it all much clearer.

Assuming we have a rifleman of the 95th who is going to load, using a paper cartridge.

  1. Place the rifle on "half cock" (Safety) and open the pan by pushing the "frizzen" foreward
  2. Reach into the cartridge box and grab a single cartridge (These are twisted paper tubes with enough powder and ball for one shot)
  3. Bite the cartridge open
  4. Prime (Place some powder in the pan of the lock) Close the frizzen. Leave rifle at half cock
  5. Charge with powder (Pour the remaining powder down the muzzle of the barrel) then insert the paper wrapped ball. This ball was NOT patched for speed in loading.
  6. Draw rammer (Pull the ramrod from the stock)
  7. Ram Push the ball and paper ALL THE WAY DOWN until it is resting firmly on top of the powder
  8. Return Rammer (Replace the rod in the stock)
  9. The rifle is now LOADED. HANDLE WITH CARE DUE A LOADED WEAPON. (elapsed time: 15 seconds)
  10. Make ready (Bring the hammer to "full cock")
  11. Fire (squeeze trigger)
  12. Another Frog bites the dust (Just kidding)

The same procedure was used by troops using smoothbore muskets, French, British, etc. Good soldiers could fire four shots per minute. Of course volley fire was the rule of the day, but still, a company of infantry could fire over a THOUSAND SHOTS PER MINUTE and often at a range of under 75 yards!

[As far as I can tell, Riflemen also used this procedure when they had to fire volleys - Sue]

Riflemen falling back into line beside a battalion of Highlanders, Waterloo reenactiment 2000. Image courtesy of John from the 42nd RHR Australia.

Thanks to Peter for these notes

Go to The Flintlock
Return to The Baker Rifle
Return to Main Page

Content Copyright © 2002 Susan H Law and her licensors. All rights reserved.
Last update 12/2/03