Flint vs Percussion
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Author:  Calum [ Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Flint vs Percussion


I'm starting to do some research for a future target rifle, and am looking for help with documentation. Just about every photo I've seen of a target rifle used during the war is of percussion type. But the photos are also a relatively small sampling of the weapons used. There are numerous accounts of target rifles having been used and/or captured, but I've not read one that specified the ignition source. Given that these rifles were expensive civilian items, has anyone run across documentation of flint target rifles in use?

By the time of the ACW, percussion caps were well established. What I'm trying to determine is if there is documentation of perhaps flint versions being handed down through the family, and carried off to war by members of the USSS.

My rifle will be used for live firing, and LH. I doubt it will ever see reenactment battlefield "use". I'm partial to flint locks, and yes, in this instance I'm trying to find evidence to justify using my preference opposed to what is documented in photographs.


Author:  Bill Skillman [ Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flint vs Percussion


From my research of the August 1861 volunteers from Michigan (Co. 'C' 1st USSS) as well as other companies that were mustered in afterward (I & K-1st; B-2nd; Dygert's sharpshooters-attached to the 16th MI Vols Inf) I have not found a single photographic or written account of a man bringing a flintlock rifle into service with them. This is not to say one or two might have used one during shooting trials (but I think this highly unlikely). The couple surviving shooting trial records I have examined (listing mens names, ages, towns and total string) show the men used their own percussion rifle or percussion service arm provided by an Army officer assigned to superintend the trial.

Second, percussion was the dominant form of ignition for military and civilian by 1860 (both in the USA and Europe). The stores of Model 1821-41 smoothbore muskets, in armories both north and south, had been converted from flint to percussion by the time of the CW. I have only read a couple war time accounts of CSA volunteers armed with old Brown Bess muskets that were in such bad shape they had to carry the hammers in their pockets to keep from losing them. They quickly swapped the antiquated arms for 'new' Federal cast offs once they had the opportunity to do so. In a similar vein, Grant's soldiers were able to dump their old smoothbore muskets for new Enfields from the surrendered CSA stocks at Vicksburg.

Using a flintlock system for a CW impression is fraught with problems (unless early 1861 western theater or 'backwoods' CSA impressions; MAYBE and stress MAYBE, northern 'home guard' militia). Tactically, the problems with delayed ignition and the flash in the pan would seriously degrade accuracy, and immediately mark the position of any flintlock shooter to retalitory fire. While my knowledge of combat accounts of rifled flintlock arms is limited; During the Peninsula War, the 95th Rifle Battalion's Thomas Plunkett made what was considered a pair of astounding shots from 300 yards to kill a French general and his bugler. The CW rifle-muskets had an effective range of twice that distance. Sharpshooters, from my research, quickly grabbed (or were issued like Andrews MA sharpshooters) the best made civilian target rifle available for their special service/duty.

By the Civil War, flintlocks were the equivalent of 8 track tape machines in the digital age.

Hope this helps.

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad Mess-USSS

Author:  Calum [ Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flint vs Percussion

Thanks Bill.

I'd not been able to turn up anything defininitive on the civilian side, but I also know that my research skills aren't that great. I was hoping that someone would have more data - looks like it'll be percussion when it happens. Sigh.


Author:  Bill Skillman [ Fri May 25, 2018 2:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flint vs Percussion

Calum and fellow Sharpshooters,

You lie in wait for things to turn up-they eventually do. I mentioned some of the CSA troops being issued obsolete flintlocks from state arsenals early in the War. On the Civil War Forum an image of a early War Confederate posing with his M1816 flintlock is featured.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/rebel- ... et.102785/

While this doesn't answer Calum's original question if prospective sharpshooters attended shooting trials with flintlock rifle muskets (not to mention using them in battle), it is a great image. Both Brian and I have continued to look through pages of original documents (me) and original CDV's (Brian), we haven't found any documentation to support the use of flintlocks during trials or action by the USSS.

Hope this helps.

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad Mess

Author:  Calum [ Thu Jun 07, 2018 3:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flint vs Percussion

That is a great photo! And that flintlock is beautiful! Thanks for sharing that Bill.


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