Firing Flintlock Guns
Firing a flintlock gun was no easy task. There were no re-loadable 30 round magazines with thermal scopes back in the 17th and 18th centuries. No early flintlock guns were designed to work especially well on ships, because well they did blow the whole thing to kingdom come when they fired.
Early matchlock weapons could easily ignite the gunpowder storages upon firing and this could easily explode the ship with everyone aboard it. There were four majors kinds of flintlock weapons. The first two were pistols and blunderbusses which were short range weapons. The next were musketoons and muskets which resembled modern rifles.
Method of operation
For more details on this topic, see Flintlock mechanism.
Sparks generated by a flintlock mechanism
A cock tightly holding a sharp piece of flint is rotated to half-cock, where the sear falls into a safety notch on the tumbler, preventing an accidental discharge.
The operator loads the gun, usually from the muzzle end, with black powder from a powder flask, followed by lead shot, a round lead ball, usually wrapped in a piece of paper or a cloth patch, all rammed down with a ramrod that is usually stored on the underside of the barrel. Wadding between the charge and the ball was often used in earlier guns.
The flash pan is primed with a small amount of very finely ground gunpowder, and the flashpan lid or frizzen is closed.
The gun is now in a "primed and loaded" state, and this is how it would typically be carried while hunting or if going into battle.
The cock is further rotated from half-cock to full-cock, releasing the safety lock on the cock.
The gun is leveled and the trigger is pulled, releasing the cock holding the flint.
The flint strikes the frizzen, a piece of steel on the priming pan lid, opening it and exposing the priming powder.
The contact between flint and frizzen produces a shower of sparks (burning pieces of the metal) that is directed into the gunpowder in the flashpan.
The powder ignites, and the flash passes through a small hole in the barrel (called a vent or touchhole) that leads to the combustion chamber where it ignites the main powder charge, and the gun discharges.
The Royal Infantry and Continental Army used paper cartridges to load their weapons. The powder charge and ball were instantly available to the soldier inside this small paper envelope. To load a flintlock weapon using a paper cartridge, a soldier would
move the cock to the half-cock position;
tear the cartridge open with his teeth;
fill the flashpan half-full with powder, directing it toward the vent;
close the frizzen to keep the priming charge in the pan;
pour the rest of the powder down the muzzle and stuff the cartridge in after it;
take out the ramrod and ram the ball and cartridge all the way to the breech;
replace the ramrod;
shoulder the weapon.
The weapon can then be cocked and fired.