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Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. The term may also apply to the mechanism itself. Introduced at the beginning of the 17th century, the flintlock rapidly replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the doglock, matchlock and wheellock mechanisms. It continued to be in common use for over two centuries, replaced by percussion cap and, later, cartridge-based systems in the early-to-mid 19th century. Although long superseded by modern firearms, flintlock weapons have enjoyed some popularity with black powder shooting enthusiasts.



Flintlocks may be any type of small arm: long gun or pistol, smoothbore or rifle, muzzleloader or breechloader.


Flintlock pistols were used as self-defense weapons and for duelling, and as a military arm. Their effective range was short, and they were frequently used as an adjunct to a sword or cutlass. Pistols were usually smoothbore although some rifled pistols were produced.


Flintlock muskets were the mainstay of European armies between 1660 and 1840. A musket was a muzzle-loading smoothbore long gun that was loaded with a round lead ball, but it could also be loaded with shot for hunting. For military purposes, the weapon was loaded with ball, or a mixture of ball with several large shot (called buck and ball), and had an effective range of about 75 to 100 meters. Smoothbore weapons that were designed for hunting birds were called "fowlers." Flintlock muskets tended to be of large caliber and usually had no choke, so they could also be used to fire a ball.

Military flintlock muskets tended to weigh approximately ten pounds, as heavier weapons were found to be too cumbersome, and lighter weapons were not rugged or heavy enough to be used in hand to hand combat. They were usually designed to be fitted with a bayonet. On modern weapons, bayonets are a last ditch weapon that rarely plays a significant role on the battlefield. On flintlocks, the bayonet played a much more significant role, often accounting for a third or more of all battlefield casualties. Flintlock weapons were not used like modern rifles. They tended to be fired in mass volleys, followed by bayonet charges in which the weapons were used much like the pikes that they replaced. Because they were used as pikes, military flintlocks tended to be approximately five or six feet in length (without the bayonet attached), and used bayonets that were approximately 18 to 22 inches in length.

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