digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















19th-century flintlock pistol, with piece of flint missing.

The flintlock mechanism was a firing mechanism used on muskets and rifles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is commonly referred to as a "flintlock" (without the word mechanism), though that term is also commonly used for the weapons themselves as a whole, and not just the lock mechanism.

The flintlock was developed in France in the early 17th century.[1] It quickly replaced earlier technologies, such as the matchlock and wheellock. It continued to be in common use for over two centuries, until it was finally replaced by the percussion lock.[2]


The flintlock was developed in France in the early 17th century. Though its exact origins are not known, credit for the development of the flintlock is usually given to Marin le Bourgeoys,[1] an artist, gunsmith, luthier (maker of stringed musical instruments) and inventor from Normandy, France. Marin le Bourgeoys's basic design became the standard for flintlocks and quickly replaced older firing mechanisms throughout Europe. Flintlock weapons based on this design were used for over two centuries, until they were finally replaced by percussion locks in the 1840s and 1850s.[3] The key element added apparently by Marin le Bourgeoys was the vertically acting sear. The sear is "catch" or "latch" which holds the mechanism in a position ready to fire; the trigger acts upon, or is part of, the sear, releasing it and allowing a strong spring to act on the mechanism to fire the gun. Previously the sear, located within the lock, had acted through a hole in the lockplate to engage the cock on the outside of the plate. The vertically acting sear acted on a piece called the tumbler, on the inside of the lock which was mounted on the same rotating shaft as the cock. This design proved to be the most efficient in terms of cost and reliability.

Construction and operation[edit]

Sparks generated by a flintlock mechanism
The components of a flintlock mechanism

A typical flintlock mechanism has a piece of flint which is held in place in between a set of jaws on the end of a short hammer. This hammer (sometimes called the cock) is pulled back into the "cocked" position. When released by the trigger, the spring-loaded hammer moves forward, causing the flint to strike a piece of steel called the "frizzen". At the same time, the motion of the flint and hammer pushes the frizzen back, opening the cover to the pan, which contains the gunpowder. As the flint strikes the frizzen it creates a spark which falls into the pan and ignites the powder. Flame burns through a small hole into the barrel of the gun and ignites the main powder charge, causing the weapon to fire.

Most hammers follow Marin le Bourgeoys's design, and have a "half-cocked" position, which is the "safe" position since pulling the trigger from this position does not cause the gun to fire. From this position, the frizzen can be opened, and powder can be placed in the pan. Then the frizzen is closed, and the hammer is pulled back into the "full cocked" position, from which it is fired.

The phrase "don't go off half cocked" originated with these types of weapons, which were not supposed to fire from the half cocked position of the hammer.


An 1820s gunlock

A gunlock was a flintlock mechanism that fired a cannon. They were a significant innovation in naval gunnery and were first used by the Royal Navy in 1745. Their use spread slowly as they could not be retrofitted to older guns - the French had still not generally adopted them by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).[4]

The earlier method of firing a cannon was to apply a linstock - a wooden staff holding a length of smoldering match at the end - to the touch-hole of the gun, that was filled with loose priming powder. This was dangerous and made accurate shooting from a moving ship impossible as the gun had to be fired from the side, to avoid its recoil, and there was a noticeable delay between the application of the linstock and the gun firing.[4]

The gunlock was operated by pulling a cord, or lanyard. The gun-captain could stand behind the gun, safely beyond its range of recoil, and sight along the gun, firing when the roll of the ship lined the gun up with the enemy and so avoid the chance of the shot hitting the sea or flying high over the enemy's deck. Loading the gun was faster and safer as the gunlock didn't use loose priming powder; the main charge was ignited by a quill filled with priming powder that was pushed through the touch hole during loading and pierced the cartridge bag, containing the main charge of gunpowder.[4]

After the introduction of gunlocks, linstocks were retained, but only as a backup means of firing.

Other uses[edit]

A clock, fitted with a flintlock to light a candle, c.1550. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

Some early land mines, or fougasses, were detonated by flintlocks. Flintlocks were also used to launch Congreve rockets.[5]

A flintlock tinder lighter, or tinder pistol, was a device that saw use in wealthy households from the 18th Century until the invention of reliable matches. It somewhat resembled a small flintlock pistol, but without a barrel and with a candle holder and with legs so it could be stood upright. When the trigger was pulled, the sparks from the frizzen lit dry tinder in the pan, from which the candle would be quickly lit. The device provided a quick and reliable source of light, and flame for the lighting of fires.[6]

Alarm clocks exist that, as well as sounding a bell, used a flintlock mechanism to light a candle. German and Austrian-made examples of these, dating from the 18th century, are preserved in the collections of the British Museum[7] and the Hermitage Museum in Russia.[8] An example dating from 1550 is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) in Nuremberg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lenk, Torsten; Translated by G.A. Urquhart (1965). The Flintlock: its origin and development; MCMLXV. London: Bramhall House. 
  2. ^ Flatnes, Oyvind. From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms. Crowood Press, 2013, pp. 31–36. ISBN 978-1847975935
  3. ^ "Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact" By Jeff Kinard, Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004
  4. ^ a b c Rodger, Nicholas (2004). The Command of the Ocean:A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815. Penguin Books. p. 420. ISBN 0-14-028896-1. 
  5. ^ British Rockets
  6. ^ "Flintlock tinder pistol. English, 1780-1830.". www.ingenious.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  7. ^ "spring-driven clock / clock-case / alarm clock". Collection Online. British Museum. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Alarm-clock". Hermitage Projects - Resotoration Programme. The State Hermitage Museum. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flintlock_mechanism — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
2761 videos foundNext > 

How a Flintlock Works

This is a final project for one of my college classes, the Gun was modeled in Lightwave3D and the animation was edited in Adobe After Effects CS4.

Homemade flintlock mechanism

This is the flintlock mechanism I have made. Because I couldnt get any flints I used a lighter wheel and a piece of leather. Like, comment and subscribe !

Flintlock replica Project: homemade flintlock mechanism

Original mechanism broked. So this is my new one (homemade).

Flint-Lock Test Firing

First test firing of a flint-lock mechanism. This is the first flint-lock that was totally designed and built By Steve Culver. All of the major parts of this...

Sparrow flintlock replica - lock mechanism

Made out of Zamak.

Building a flintlock pistol from scratch- Part 1 of the DIY "smoke stick"

DIY project, Building a flintlock from scratch- part 1. Sort of a "how to" for those looking for a similar project or the confidence to go out try something ...

Flintlock pistol 3D animation

How to load flintlock pistol.

(Airsoft) Flintlock KTW

My facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pages/French-Airsoft-Dude/207828539287306 I bought the gun second handed, but you can buy it, for example, on Red...

Shooting the Loyalist Arms British Elliot 1760 LIght Dragoon Flintlock Pistol

I discuss the Loyalist Arms British Elliot 1760 Elliot Light Dragoon PIstol. I explain the pistol and the firing mechanism as well as some safety and Black p...

Homemade flintlock pistol; Part 1, The hammer

I started a new project, a flintlock pistol. I want to make it as realistic as posible, so it looks like a real flintlock pistol. part 2 will come out soon. ...

2761 videos foundNext > 

We're sorry, but there's no news about "Flintlock mechanism" right now.


Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight