Flintlock Pistols

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

Developed in the early 1600's, the flintlock pistol was a revolutionary invention for piracy and naval warfare. These pistols were some of the first handheld firearms and would change boarding and hand to hand combat forever. Pistols also became the primary means to duel another. In fact these types of pistols remained state of the art for nearly two hundred years after their development. It was only the development of percussion cap projectiles in the 19th century that would see the downfall of the flintlock pistol.

The flintlock concept was pretty simple. In an effort to move away from dangerous matchlock pistols, the gunpowder was poured into the barrel and then a lead musket ball wrapped in fabric was inserted as well. Next a small metal rod attached to the gun called a 'ramrod' was used to jam the musket ball and powder all the way down the barrel.

Pirate Lifestyle - Pirate Weapons - Flintlock Pistols

Flintlock Pistols

Next the hammer was pulled halfway back until the gun was primed. Tt was not technically meant to fire from this position however, sometimes pistols went off accidentally giving rise to the phrase 'going off half-cocked'. When the pistol was ready to be fired the hammer was pulled all the way back and the pirate pulled the trigger after pointing in the general direction of whoever.

Near the top of the hammer was a piece of flint that was held in place via a vice. When the trigger was pulled the hammer dropped down and the flint would strike a metal plate known as the 'frizzen'. This would create a spark which would ignite the gunpowder in the barrel and create a small explosion within the barrel. This explosion would propel the lead musket ball out of the barrel at a high rate of speed at whatever the pirate was pointing at.

One of the biggest problems of flintlock pistols however was that they would not work when wet. Wet gunpowder does not light and this could prove problematic to someone whose entire career revolved around the sea (but wait, pirates could not swim either).

Overall flintlock pistols were instrumental in helping pirates successfully board ships and provided a ranged alternative to the cutlass that was much more effective than a set of bow and arrows.

Blunderbuss

One unique type of flintlock pistol is the Blunderbuss which was a type of handheld shotgun that was useful in the initial process of boarding for helping to clear a deck.

Pirate Weapons

Sources

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Secondary Sources