Last weekend, when my shooting buddy Steve and I went out to do some pistol work, we were talking after about this and that. I mentioned that I thought I would like to get a flintlock rifle, because I had enjoyed shooting one of his flintlocks on another occasion. Black powder cartridge guns are basically the same as modern smokeless powder guns, though the shock impulse of firing isn’t the same (there is a sharp difference between the quick snap of modern powder and the slower push of BP). The earlier percussion cap weapons are a little different in terms of loading (typically done muzzle-loading style), but have a similar ‘instantaneous ignition’. With a flintlock, there is a notable lag time between the strike of the flint, and the ignition of the powder charge in the gun. Which presents more challenges for shooting the things well – you have to maintain your control and composure longer, waiting for the full ignition to happen and the bullet to be launched at your target.
I’m by no means a ‘master’ of modern guns, but I can handle most of them fairly well. I know how to properly sight in, how to control my breath and gently squeeze the trigger, how to deal with the recoil. I’ve never been particularly interested in the super-accurate competitions, trying to get multiple rounds through a bulls-eye at a 100 or a 1000 yards. Some folks are, but that’s not for me. I’m happy to make tin cans jump – the sort of level of shooting skill one needs for hunting or self-defense.
Shooting a flintlock is a different story – there are more skills needed, and greater perfection of some of the skills I already have. Plus there’s the historical aspect, tied to the founding of this country. So we talked about it some, and I thought that sometime in the not-too distant future I might order in a kit, and build/finish a flintlock rifle myself – looking to Steve for information and guidance, since this is an area in which he is very knowledgeable.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon he needed to swing by to drop off some other stuff, and when he showed up he gave me this: a Mortimer Flintlock .54 caliber rifle (reproduction). Mine isn’t the ‘target’ version pictured there, but from what I can tell the only major difference is the additional peep site mounted behind the lock mechanism. It’s a wonderful, and lovingly used, weapon. He said he thought it would make a nice birthday gift, and get me started flintlocking (‘rock locking’ some call it, since flint is a hunk of rock) until I got a kit I wanted to build. He brought it complete with the necessary lead balls, patches, black powder, horn, et cetera.
I was gobsmacked. A bit bumfuzzled.
I have been the recipient of many wonderful gifts, this among them. And it always makes me feel humble to have such friends and loved ones. I don’t like ‘things’ – I’m not an acquisitive sort of person who subscribes to the consumerist philosophy of “he who dies with the most toys, wins”. But a well-made tool (firearms fall into this category, as far as I am concerned), or a piece of art, or even a good meal – these things given out of love and friendship, are more than just ‘things’, and are worth more than a simple dollar sign would indicate. I think a lot of people forget that.
I’m glad my friends and loved ones don’t.
5 Comments so far
Leave a comment