Author Topic: Historical question about PM rifles  (Read 10000 times)

Offline cowabounga

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2013, 18:40:03 »
I've used a Spencer like automatic rifle that shot .22 shells. There was no lever, since it reloaded on gas exhaust.
I think number one has to be an old fashion "mousquet". The ones used during the (French) first Empire. You loaded them by the muzzle with black powder, then a cloth "tampon", then the bullet (which was round, like iron marbles). You ignited the powder with a flint attached to the butt. So the shot wasn't instanteous: you pulled the trigger, the butt jumped, the flint hit a rough pad, thus creating a spark that would lit the powder in the chamber through a small hole in the barrel.
Of course, the exhaust gasses would push the bullet out, but some of the exhaust would make a burst of flame on the side of the rifle…
Was that clear enough? I know I should attach a pic, but I'm on my phone.
Life in the so called space age...

Offline cheng

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2013, 00:24:10 »
i think this could have been the 'Spencer' which was very effectively used by some Union cavalry and not just some experimental invention.

Offline Baron Marshall

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2013, 08:55:28 »
In My opinion (how I have thought of these and based on guns I have seen and handled)

#1 is a Brown Bess (1722) or similar

#2 is a shotgun (I have seen many that look like this but do not know when they first had this look to them, but here is a close example)

#3 in an Enfield Rifled Musket (1853) or similar
Someday, I will organize my stuff, I promise.

Offline cheng

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2013, 09:04:48 »
oh, thanks a lot Baron!
I'll definitely study the links you gave!
meanwhile here are the 3 guns again everone!

Offline Limorrj

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2013, 16:24:14 »
Like you I have many doubts about using these guns.
But after one year and half of studies about it I think Baron Marshall has solved them.

Offline Wesley Myers

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2013, 05:37:59 »

Okay, hang-on, this is going to be a long (thorough) one. 

For some background history:

Percussion Rifles

The percussion cap , introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzle-loading firearms to fire reliably in any weather. Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the gun`s main powder charge. The flintlock mechanism replaced older ignition systems such as the matchlock and wheellock. Flintlocks were prone to misfire in wet weather, and many flintlock firearms were later converted to the more reliable percussion system.

The percussion cap is a small cylinder of copper or brass with one closed end. Inside the closed end is a small amount of a shock-sensitive explosive material such as fulminate of mercury. The percussion cap is placed over a hollow metal "nipple" at the rear end of the gun barrel. Pulling the trigger releases a hammer which strikes the percussion cap, and ignites the explosive primer. The flame travels through the hollow nipple to ignite the main powder charge. Percussion caps were, and still are, made in small sizes for pistols and larger sizes for rifles and muskets.

While the metal percussion cap was the most popular and widely-used type of primer, the small percussion caps were difficult to handle under the stress of combat or while riding a horse. Several manufacturers developed alternate "auto-priming" systems. The "Maynard Tape Primer," for example, used a roll of paper "caps" much like today`s toy cap pistols. The Maynard Tape Primer was fitted to some military firearms used in the American Civil War. Other disc or pellet-type primers held a supply of tiny fulminate detonator discs in a small magazine. Cocking the hammer automatically advanced a disc into position.

In the 1850s, the percussion cap was first integrated into a metallic cartridge which contained the bullet, powder charge and primer. By the late 1860s, breech-loading metallic cartridges had made the percussion cap system obsolete. Today, reproduction percussion firearms are popular for recreational shooters and percussion caps are still available.


Flintlock Rifles

When was the flintlock invented?
In 1608, a Frenchman from Normandy, one Marin le Bourgeoys, was appointed to the French court. He made the first true flintlock for King Louis XIII shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610. This was not an idea that sprang full-blown from his mind, but the result of putting together the pieces of a puzzle which already existed. The development of firearms had proceeded from matchlock to wheel-lock to snaphaunce and miquelet in the previous two or three centuries, and each type had been an improvement, contributing some design features which were useful. It remained for Monsieur le Bourgeoys to fit these various features together to create the flintlock. The new system quickly became popular, and was known and used in various forms throughout Europe by 1630.

How long was the flintlock in use?
Unlike most weapons systems and configurations, which last a few decades, the flintlock was center stage for both military and civilian use for over 200 years. Not until the Reverend Alexander John Forsyth, a Scottish minister, invented the rudimentary percussion system in 1807 did the flintlock begin to slide into oblivion. The slide was a slow one, even at that, since the percussion system was not widely used until around 1830, and the flintlock continued in use until the time of the American Civil War, 1861-65.
Are flintlocks loaded the same as percussion?
Yes. For the same caliber or gauge, the main charge is the same. Flintlock ignition is available on many types of gun, fusil, fowler, northwest gun, musket, single and double barrel shotguns and pistols. Except for the ignition system, the lock, everything is the same for flintlock and percussion.
Is flintlock ignition slow?
A bit slower than percussion, yes. A well designed and properly set up lock, though, will give ignition fast enough to get the job done, easily, and will seem barely slower than percussion to the shooter. That's true only if all factors are optimized, however. Dull flints, soft frizzens, weak springs, an over-primed pan or a touch-hole that's too small or partially clogged will all slow ignition appreciably.
What about flints?
Black British flints are highly thought of, today, and many shooters prefer them. However, archaeological digs have shown that no flints of that type were used during the French and Indian (Seven Years) war, that only 5% of that type were used in the American Revolution, and only 50% during the war of 1812. The main type used instead was the tan coloured French flints, apparently the standard of the time. Today, either will work well.  All those flints were made by knapping them from a large spall of flint.  Also available today are sawed flints, cut from agate or other stone.

Now for some pictures:

Flintlock rifle:



Percussion Lock:

Antique Firearms Systems:

New Percussion Caps:

With the shift from flintlock to percussion ignition of the powder charge.  Governments liked it because it was a cheap and easy replacement to do with flintlocks, so you did not have to completely rearm, you could retrofit. Cheaper and quicker. Here is an example, with a US M1842 (Springfield) conversion:

View from the top (not the nipple for the percussion cap with the hole in it):

Close up of Flintlock with parts labled:

Close up detail of percussion cap:

Since most people seem to get their impressions of firearms from movies, not from handling the real things, here is a photo of an MGM percussion cap movie prop that is engraved on the stock “Property M.G.M. Studio 1950 Serial #129”:

Here is a BRITISH TOWER TWO-BAND ENFIELD PERCUSSION CAP RIFLE, with three-quarter walnut stock with brass tip and trigger guard, the steel barrel 28.5in (72cm), 46in (107cm) overall. (1) (from:

Percussion cap terminology:

Percussion Lock, External View

A- Mainspring retainer stud
B- Lockplate
C- Hammer nose recess
D- Hammer head
E- Hammer spur
F- Hammer
G- Tumbler screw
H- Sear spring screw tip

Percussion Lock, Internal View

A- Upper limb of mainspring
B- Lower limb of mainspring
C- Claw of mainspring
D- Lower pivot stud of stirrup
E- Stirrup
F- Upper pivot stud of stirrup
G- Tumbler axle/pivot
H- Tumbler
I- Pawl of sear (sear nose)
J- Sear pivot screw
K- Body of the sear
L- Arm of the sear
M- Sear spring
N- Sear spring screw
O- Bridle
P- Bridle screws
Q- Hammer
R- Hammer spur
S- Hammer head
T- Stirrup arm of tumbler
U- Bolster
V- Lockplate

Percussion Lock, Internal View, Bridle Removed

A- Upper limb of mainspring
B- Lower limb of mainspring
C- Stirrup
D- Claw of mainspring
E- Lower pivot stud of stirrup
F- Tumbler
G- Tumbler axle/pivot
H- Fly
I- Half-cock notch of tumbler
J- Pawl of sear (sear nose)
K- Sear pivot screw
L- Body of the sear
M- Arm of sear
N- Sear spring
O- Sear spring screw
P- Bridle screw holes
Q- Hammer
R- Stirrup arm of tumbler
S- Upper pivot stud of stirrup
T- Bolster
U- Retainer stud of mainspring

Let's look at this one last time. 

Here is the flintlock:

Here is the percussion lock:

Yes, the look similar.

However, if there is no frizzen (on which to strike the flint) it cannot be a flintlock.

If there are no jaws (to hold the flint) on the hammer, it cannot be a flintlock.

Now for the pictures of the Playmobil muskets (yes, they are all muskets, regardless of whether flint, or percussion, or wheel-lock, or matchlock):

I think we can clearly see what they are supposed to be.  The western rifle is clearly a percussion rifle.  The new pirate pistol is clearly a flintlock. 

The older two pirate guns it is not so clear.  However, the obvious flintlock jaws on the longer musket would make it a flintlock (even if they did not bother to sculpt a frizzen). 

The handgun really lacks detail of any proper firing mechanism, however, based on the flared barrel and the shape of the hammer, it is probably supposed to be a flintlock.  Again, like the long-gun, there is no frizzen sculpted.

However, the beautiful new pirate handgun is VERY well detailed.  I absolutely love it! 

The percussion rifle is actually well done and accurate for the firing mechansim, but sadly it is sculpted on BOTH sides – which would make it a double mechanism for two barrels – yet, it only has one.  Why such a glaring error, I do not know...

Unless it is supposed to be a percussion cap shotgun:

BUT it would need two barrels, if that were the case and it only has one.

I searched and searched but could find no evidence of there ever being a double firing mechanism single barrelled weapon (I did not think I would as that would make the weapon unusable as the pressure to fire the bullet would escape via blowback through the other percussion nipple making it not only underpowered, but downright dangerous to fire!

Offline cheng

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Re: Historical question about PM rifles
« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2013, 06:40:14 »
WOW! you've taken the trouble to write such a clear review of all the earlier PM guns....If anyone would like to copy these for a reference thread on PF listing all (including those newer ones) PM firearms, please go ahead and share.
and thanks again, WM, for all the very clear pictures and labels! (for the first time, I can now feel at ease with my PM guns after some corrections amongst my shelves)