Many outdoor men and women embrace the escape and heritage of hunting and few sensations roll back time like carrying a flintlock rifle. Like a magic wand, the challenge of harvesting game with this historical device clears the mind and engages the spirt. Whitetail deer haven’t changed since the time of the early settlers, neither has the basic function of the flintlock.
Pennsylvania has one of the most historic flintlock seasons. Beginning the day after Christmas, weather in the Keystone mountains is often cold, frequently with snow. An extended archery season and two weeks of firearms hunting have whitetails on edge, adding a bit of extra challenge to the hunt.
Traditions PA Pellet Rifles
Traditions Firearms has captured the spirit of the flintlock era in a line of rifles that are slightly modern making them easier to fire and clean without compromising the heritage of “a flash in the pan.” The PA Pellet Rifle offerings range from basic with a synthetic stock to reduce cost to models complete with handsome wooden stock and brass embellishments suitable to adorn any fireplace. These rifles will appeal to those who want “functional tradition” to the avid traditionalist seeking full emersion in the pioneer spirit.
Coining this basic ignition system as “flinch-lock” is one of the oldest jokes in firearms and for good reasons. Early rifles had long, heavy barrels making them difficult to aim off-hand. Additionally, poorly tuned systems would have the shooter hear the flint scrape along the frizzen, see a sparkling display of fire and smoke and a second later the main powder charge ignite. Maintaining an accurate aim took incredible discipline. No wonder many flintlock deer hunters only fire their rifle when leaning against a tree.
Traditions engineers improved the basic operation of the flintlock to accommodate modern muzzleloading products. For staunch traditionalists, you can still use traditional black powder and you will need FFFF (4-F) powder for your pan. However, the rifle will also shoot modern pelletized powder, greatly simplifying the loading of the rifle, especially in cold, late-season weather. Additionally, the typical 1:60 rifling twist designed for patched round balls has been replaced with a 1:28 ration suitable for modern bullets with sabots. The barrel is coated with a Nitride finish to better resist rust and corrosion.
The patched round ball was the staple of early muzzleloader hunting and shooting. The cloth patch placed a spin on the ball which greatly improved accuracy. The lead round ball expanded modestly upon striking a deer and with a chest cavity hit, would not exit by design. Davey Crockett didn’t have a local box store or Amazon account for additional projectiles and the lead ball was recovered from the deer, remolded, and used again.
Patched round balls are lethal for deer, but require great care during recovery. With only an entrance wound, blood trails can be sparse, and a whitetail shot through the heart may run a full 100 yards before expiring. Like archers, traditional hunters must hone their trailing skills.
Traditions has engineered the PA Pellet series to shoot bullets with sabots, allowing for modern copper bullets which open and frequently provide and entrance and exit wound. These bullets penetrate so well that retrieving one is difficult without some type of frontal shot in which the bullet lodges deep in the body cavity.
Although the PA Pellet series has the more primitive ignition system, the ability to fire modern bullets gives it the same lethality as most other muzzleloaders on the market. Shooting a “flinter” may create at a slightly greater ignition challenge, yet performance will match the latest in muzzleloading technology.
An equally significant improvement in the PA series is the removable breech plug. Cleaning a traditional flintlock rifle is always a mystery since you cannot see what kind of fouling lurks at the base of the barrel. Since this is the area of ignition, the greatest fouling will occur at the area of most significance. Removing the breech plug improves this situation immensely so that you can be assured of beginning each hunt with a fully functional rifle. Incidentally, Traditions makes a full line of muzzleloading products that will keep your PA Pellet rifle humming for years.
A pipe cleaner is a low-tech tool that’s a must-have for flintlock shooters. Since smoking a pipe is out of style these days, check at a tobacco shop or on-line and always carry a couple in your possibles bag. Use the slender, brush-like, object to clean the flashhole at every opportunity. Even one shot can leave residue in the conduit to the powder charge and can cause a flash in the pan. Also, for fastest ignition, fill the pan only 1/3 full of FFFF so that the sparks shoot directly to the charge for quicker ignition.
Taking a walk in the woods with a flintlock rifle is like turning back the pages of time. Flintlocks are fun to shoot and deadly on game once you master the challenge. Sit against a tree, lay this rifle across your lap, and your imagination will instantly enter the world of the hard work and self-sufficiency. You loaded it, you primed it, soon you will reap the rewards.