Frontiersmen & Flintlocks

Show Notes

On today’s show with, we’re talking the frontier time period and the firearms that belong to it. When we talk frontier time period a lot of us think about flintlock rifles. Absolutely beautiful pieces of history and surprisingly efficient, even though most people would think otherwise. We talk with Chris Powell from Houndsman XP Podcast and Rick Larnerd from Gobbler Knob Long Rifles – we start in with how Rick actually makes flintlocks, and how that has influenced the way he hunts. He goes in depth about his journey that led him into the love of creating flintlocks. Rick shares with us some really nice examples of flintlocks that he has built himself, so make sure you tune into this episode Sponsored by to see the beautiful examples he brought with him.

Chris brings up the style or school of each long rifle we have on today’s show. The architecture is one key example on how to figure out what school these guns belong to as well as the maker’s signature being on the barrel flat. The style of the gun is a huge factor in finding out where they were created or even where the lineage of the owner came from.

We then delve into hunting with flintlocks. Rick tells the group about Pennsylvania Flintlock only deer season which runs for a two-week span. Most at the table today has at one point in time hunted with a flintlock and Rick tells the group that for the past thirty or so years he has specifically hunted with flintlocks. Chris goes in depth telling about not only hunting with a flintlock, but hunting with a flintlock and a dog. He’s very involved with period hunting and has spent some time using flintlocks with mountain cur dogs. Some of the earliest depictions of flintlocks are drawn with dog chasing game during the hunt.

In closing, Rick goes through the process of creating a flintlock. He delves into how he does the process from cutting the blank wood to hand engraving the finish. He spends countless hours building these beautiful examples of flintlocks. Check him out over at Gobbler Knob Long Rifles to see some of his beautiful work. Make sure you tune in to this episode and listen to his expertise on flintlocks.

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Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome to the no low ballers podcast. I'm Logan Medish of high caliber history, your host, and I'm joined around the table by a great group of folks here. We've got Derek from go wild. Chris from Houndsman XP Podcast and Rick from Gobbler Knob Long Rifles. This is gonna be a really cool episode because we are talking the frontier time period, and we're talking about different firearms and hunting techniques and all sorts of interesting stuff that you might not necessarily think about.

So guys really appreciate you for joining me on the show today. Thanks for having me. Yep, absolutely. For sure. Thanks a lot. Yeah. When we talk frontier time period obviously there's certain things that kind of pinging in your mind and one of those has got to be flintlock rifles.

Absolutely. [00:01:00] And not only are they beautiful guns, but they are in incredibly more efficient than we give them credit for. Today, I mean we're going around who's who here's hunted with a flintlock Okay. Yeah. Those two. Okay. And I've done it too. So all right. So three out of four, but you know what, that, that's an anomaly, most people are not in that kind of a situation. And so you go back a couple hundred years and that's what everyone's hunting with. Cause, cause that's all they've got. And Rick you've got a, an interesting perspective that you can lend to us because in addition to hunting with flintlocks, you also make it.

Flintlocks. Yes. Yep. So talk to us a little bit about how you got into that, your inspiration, and how it's impacted your hunting. Sure. So I grew up in rural northeast Pennsylvania. And when I was a young teenager, my dad introduced me to The Frontiersman by Alan W. Eckert. And that is a historical novel that was written in the mid to late 1700s.

There, the entire [00:02:00] series takes place during that time period. And I became so enamored with that lifestyle and the guns from that period that I decided one day I wanted to be a maker of those guns. And in 2000, I did my dad got me a kit for Christmas in 1970. Nine, I think.

And it was a CBA Mountain Rifle and I put that together and harvested a deer with that four year or four days later. And, yep. And I was bitten by the bug. Was it percussion or was it was a flint. Yeah. Yeah. CBA Mountain Rifle was the name and I still have that gun. That was going to be my question. Yes, I still have it.

I killed a lot of deer with that gun. Both of my sons killed deer with that gun. And yeah, it's in my shop right now. But anyway, that was that was my start. And in 2000, I I started making them and here it is 23 years later and I'm still going strong. That's awesome, man. And we've got a couple of guns on the table here that you have made.

And. They're both [00:03:00] very different guns. Talk to us a little bit about the two pieces that we've got here. Both of these guns would have appeared on the colonial frontier in that time period that we're talking about the late 1700s. And this particular gun is a smooth bore.

It's a 20 gauge or 62 caliber. And the architecture of this gun is called New England's a New England Fowler. And it's got an octagon shape to the barrel here. And then it transitions at the wetting band to a smooth round barrel all the way out to the end. And it has a large round faced flint lock.

And. brass furniture and a curly cherry stock. This gun here is a 1770s era 50 caliber Flintlock rifle, curly maple stock. Some people call that tiger maple, but it's the real name is curly maple. It has a 42 inch long octagonal barrel. And like I said it's rifled in 50 caliber and it has a [00:04:00] brass.

Lock plate flintlock that's highly engraved, and it has sights, and it's an extremely accurate gun. How deep do we want to go into this? Do we want to talk, what style of rifle is this? Okay, so thank, that's a good question. a very good question. A lot of different schools. Yes, there are. And that's exactly what they are.

They're called schools. And this is from the Lancaster school of the long rifle. The architecture is unique to that particular school, and how they get their name is gun makers from a particular area, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for instance, made those guns, and that's how they looked if they came from that area.

So 200 years from then, you could look at a gun and say, oh, that's a Lancaster school. Another way you can tell is by The maker's signature would have been engraved here on the barrel flat. That of course is my name because I made that gun. Yeah. And it's interesting in the different regions and the different schools that you get it, like you're saying, you can identify them from that.

It's [00:05:00] how things have grown up and localized in that. It's like a dialect today. You can tell someone who's from Tidewater, Virginia or some of the New York city. And, and it's interesting that it's all just locally influenced things. that pick up, the gun's still gonna do the same thing but you've got all these different stylings depending on where they're made.

And I don't know if you're familiar with the term of Kentucky Long Rifle. You've probably all heard that. That's actually a misnomer. The Kentucky Long Rifle is actually a Pennsylvania Long Rifle. The settlers, as they moved west, brought their guns with them, of course, and, or took their guns with them, and when they settled in Kentucky that's how that got its name.

They're actually Pennsylvania Long Rifles, but they're frequently in

1750, the United States wasn't even a country yet. We were all immigrants at that point. You get into these, you can look at different styles of long rifles and Find out a lot about where that person came from, because you'll [00:06:00] see remnants of German makers like the Jaeger that came from Germany and Swiss rifles and fin rifles and they brought all those styles that with them because they came to the new world.

And they started building rifles here. So when you get down to Virginia in that Appalachian culture, a lot of German, a lot of Scotch, Irish, and you start seeing all these styles melding together into what is the American long rifle. And Chris, you make a good point there. So when these guns first appeared on the American frontier they were, a lot of them were from German.

Immigrants and the Jaeger was a primary source. And as you can see the German Jaeger from the 1740s, 1750s during the French and Indian war into the 1760s, they were much shorter and they were heavier, clubbier. You can see that neither one of these are that way, especially this rifle right here.

This gun would have. been considered from the golden age of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle, [00:07:00] which is generally considered to be 1775 through 1820. And then when you get past the, deeper into the 1820s, they transition from the flintlock to the percussion. system. Now some flintlocks were converted to percussion, but from really around 1830 and on, it was all straight percussion guns.

Yeah. And the ignition systems are interesting to me because the flintlock really of all the different ignition systems that we've had through history, the flintlock has the longest shelf life, as you would say, the longest lifespan of its usefulness, even though percussion was leaps and bounds in terms of the simplicity of the use over the phone lock, it enjoys just a relatively short period of time before we start getting into actual cartridges and coming into what we have today.

So I think there's some people realize that nipples belonged on women, not on rifles. And there's came to light real quick. I like it. [00:08:00] And there's the meme we're going to have for this episode. So we try to get, we try to get at least one for every episode. And that, that Alan and I both thank you that it doesn't have to be one of us.

And here's the thing about the Flintlock ignition. You're a hundred percent correct. This thing has been around for several hundred years, and there's a reason for that. It works. It's reliable. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's right. That's why Pennsylvania has its own flintlock season.

It's dedicated to the flintlock rifle. And I don't know if there are any other states that have that, but Pennsylvania was unique and they developed their own it's not a, it's not a muzzleloader season. It's a flintlock season. Interesting. I did not know that. Yes. Yeah. You cannot hunt with a, with an inline.

You cannot hunt with a percussion gun during that flintlock season, which is. December the 26th, unless that falls on a Sunday, because there's no Sunday hunting for deer in Pennsylvania. And runs for two weeks after that. So Pennsylvania does have an early muzzleloader season where you can use percussion guns or inline guns, but I believe it's antlerless [00:09:00] only.

And but you can kill either sex in the flintlock season in Pennsylvania. Interesting. I've been hunting almost exclusively with these two guns ever since I made them. I made this rifle in 2018 and this Fowler in 2020. But I've hunted almost exclusively with a black powder gun for gosh, 20 years, 30 years.

I just, I love it. I love the romanticism about it and I just love it. So Chris, that, that kind of brings us to something that I want to talk about specifically with you. Yeah. You mentioned you've hunted with flintlocks Have you hunted with your dogs with flintlocks? That's interesting. You ask that?

Yes. The. There's a whole culture out there that I became involved in called period hunting, where you take a time period and you try to match all your gear, all, everything to that. And at the time that I was heavily involved in that, then I was also hunting with. The mountain cur breed or what would have been familiar to and available to the mountain [00:10:00] hunters of Virginia, 1750s Virginia.

So it would have been a more of a historical type dog that is still thriving today. We squirrel hunted and hunting was different. The 17 fifties than what it is today. We have specific seasons for things. Whereas the average mountain hunter or long hunter that traveled over the mountains into the Kentucky Canelands and all that stuff, they brought their dogs with them for a variety of things.

They brought them with them for security, for companionship, and also to produce games. Some of the early depictions on powder horns and drawings and different things show people firing at deer with a dog chasing it. And, just the dog in that was an important part of the culture at the time.

Yeah, I've spent some nights out there huddled under a blanket with a dog, and some of our primitive encampments where we would track into [00:11:00] these. These places and hump for a few days with limited food and what you killed is what you ate. And, it's a little trickier because you've got to abide by the game laws and things like that, obviously, if you go during the right time of year and you got the right license it can, you can have a pretty good variety, everything from waterfowl to squirrels to, to, all kinds of small game.

Were you doing any trapping during that window as well? Because, if you throw trapping in with that and you're out there actually hunting in these areas with these historic dog breeds and you're using, rifles from that time period, if you throw trapping into the mix you're doing it all.

Yeah. You're living that life, 100%. The only reason we didn't is because of, seasons, maybe, didn't parallel. It, they would have paralleled. Okay. Or they would have matched up, but it was really, how much gear are you taking? Are you taking pack animals? Are you coming in? Cause most of the people that hunted, especially through this region, the waterways and canoes and, dugout canoes and flatboats.

And now cottonwood trees and absolutely. So when you're talking about a [00:12:00] weekend warrior thing, you run in with. It's pretty light and your dog and you do what you do. Plus, the whole trap design, it wouldn't, it just wouldn't feel right setting a Victor coil spring or even a Victor long spring, when everything was hand forged traps and things like that in the 1700s.

So that's going to be the next thing for Gobbler Nob, right? You're going to start doing, making blacksmithing your own traps and stuff, right? I don't know about traps, but I do have a forge and I have made a couple of knives and my intent is to produce patch knives. And I've also started making 18th century turn screws because the screws and the bolts on these locks the heads.

They're very narrow and modern screwdrivers, just unless you modify them, they don't work well. So I decided the architecture of those things really caught my eye. And I said, you know what? I've got a forge. I'm going to try and make in some. And so I've started making them and I offer them as part of when a customer orders a gun from me, I provide one for them for their [00:13:00] use.

And there's a lot of artistry even in just something as simple as a turn screw because you posted on go wild Recently is some of the ones you were making and I mean they're beautiful works of art Just like the guns are work of art, too that's the signature on them alone. It's so fitting because an are you doing all your own engraving and everything?

Yeah Yep. Yeah. I actually I learned how to engrave in the early 1990s, I'm sorry, early 2000s. I went to Western Kentucky university. They had a class there for engraving. So I traveled there from Pennsylvania and spent a week there to learn how to engrave. I don't use in a power engraver.

I use a graver and hammer. Yep. Yep. And I take a lot of pride in the fact that the guns that I make are largely produced by hand. The only power tools I use is a band saw to cut the initial, when I get the stock blank, I cut away the bulk of the waste wood. And then I use a drill pressed because the pin holes and the screw holes and bolt holes need to be plumbing square.

Other than that, it's [00:14:00] files, chisels, scrapers, and lots of elbow grease. It takes me a lot of, one of the most common questions I get is how long does it take you to make one? When I started making these My, my very first one was a kit, of course, and the first several were kits. And that, that, I was ready to move forward on to doing them from scratch.

The first one took me about 125, 130 hours, but a gun like this right now I can do in probably 30 to 40 hours. Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. Yeah. Yeah, because I just made my first one a few months ago, and it was from a kit. And, and I, Rick has more talent in his pinky nail than I have, in, in my entire body.

And and it took me a good while to do it, even from a kit. And then, the gun turned out great and that's more a testament to the kit maker than to me. Thank you. And I would love to get into being able to do what you do and making it from scratch, but I'm just like It would be faster for me to get a suppressor than it would be for me to make a gun, honestly, I know it's hard to believe and it's easy for me to say because I've been doing it for as long as I [00:15:00] have, but it really isn't that difficult. It, to me I compare it to putting together a jigsaw puzzle because the placement of each piece is dependent upon the placement of the piece before it.

So I have a certain system that I use. I don't, I'm sure all gun makers have their own system, but the one that I use is I have the stock blank. Cut out the barrel. I inlet the breech plug tang first, then I inlet the barrel lugs pin them. And then I inlet the trigger. I'm sorry. I inlet the lock after that.

Then I inlet the trigger. Then I inlet the butt plate because the butt plate, the length of pull on the gun is determined where the distance between the trigger and the butt plate. And then after that, then I. the stock out to its near final profile. Then I'll do the side plate and trigger guard and then finish sanding and scraping.

And then the stain goes on. So it's a, it's a. process, but it's not very difficult. [00:16:00] One of the things that I've seen in rifle builders, new rifle builders is they tend to leave too much wood. Yes. Everything's heavy, like through here. And you can tell Rick is taking the time to take all this down.

And it looks real bulky. It will be real, it'll be real clunky in the wrist or somewhere. And especially through this forearm right here. There's just too much wood on this sides and it's because of the first couple you build, you're scared to take too much off. And I was there, believe me, my first couple of guns, you could have used them as boat paddles.

And you're a hundred percent correct. I was afraid I was going to take off too much. I have a stock blank in my shop today that I bought probably, let's see, 2003, 2004, and it's Walnut. And, I got to work on that, and when I was using my bandsaw, I cut off, there was a lot of wood underneath of the forearm, and I cut off and cut right into the ramrod channel.

And I stopped, and my eyes got big, and I glued it back [00:17:00] together. And I thought to myself, now how did that happen? Then I realized that if I drilled holes when the barrel is out, if I drilled a hole from the bottom of the barrel channel into the ramrod channel, I can figure out how deep that ramrod channel is and mark that in a witness mark on the outside.

And then cut beneath that, and that'll never happen again. So I have that stock hanging in my shop as a reminder. That's awesome. I thought you were going to say, you're like, I could do that. And I got so scared of messing that stock up that I haven't touched it in 20 years. That's where I thought it was going.

That's a good example of what not to do. There you go. And that's what it's all about is trial and error and learning. And I learned a ton even just. In the kit that I made, one of the biggest things about flintlocks is they get a lot of bad rap or, because we've grown so far past them with this, modern ammunition, but a properly tuned flintlock.

And when you pull the trigger, there [00:18:00] isn't a delay, and especially if you shoot. And you train yourself to get accustomed to everything going on there. A flintlock that's well tuned and well taken care of is pretty, pretty daggone reliable and it's instant. Chris, that, that is, that's a great point.

You bring out far too many hunters today. Hollywood's helped it too. Yep. Boom. They put too much powder in that pan. I have found, of course, each gun is going to be different, but I have found that all I need to do is put enough powder to cover the bottom of the pan, and it's almost near instantaneous ignition.

It's a sign. Have you ever ignited one without any powder in the pan? With just the spark. Yes, I have to. Yep. Yep. I had scars for a while to prove it. I was standing on the line at friendship and was shooting a match and I wasn't getting good spark. I was having delayed reaction.

So I, I napped the Flint and As you're napping the Flint, I cleared the pan and everything. And as you're napping the Flint, I'm standing there with the [00:19:00] rifle pointed down range and I pulled it back and dropped the hammer to see what kind of, and I was shading it, I was shading the lock so I could see what kind of spark I was getting.

And when I did that. But it goes off and shot the unburned powder out into the fatty part of my hand right here, just peppered it. So for four or five days, I just pick a black pepper or powder. I don't, I've had guys tell me that they will pack powder into the touch hole and they don't realize that they're, you're creating a block.

Exactly. That's exactly right. So I I had a guy just day before yesterday asked me if he should Fire a pan of powder without a main charge in it to clear that. I said, no, take a pick and pick after every time you load that gun and you will never have a problem with a misfire as it relates to that.

Now, Flint's a different story. If you're flint is dull, you might not get it to. Ignite, but have you got liners? Do you have stainless liners in your browse? Yes. Which are all manufactured with a cone going towards the interior of the [00:20:00] barrel. Anyway. So the powder is supposed to pack in there.

You were only talking, just fraction of an inch, millimeter to millimeter or something where that's so available to the spark. So something that I've started doing. Probably 10 years ago when I started using these stainless steel liners is I don't know what size they come to me from the manufacturer, but I drill out the hole to 1 16th.

That's the drill bit that I use. That's just probably one size larger than when it comes, but I find that increase or decreases my ignition time as well. Yeah. So those, these are all things that. As a flintlock owner, you need to figure these things out. You can't just dump powder in there and, hope to score with it.

Do you, are you priming, what are you priming with? Good question. So I started out many years ago, like everybody probably priming with 4F. And then I charged with 2F. Over the years, I've discovered that 3F ignites just as quick as 4F. And 3F for the main charges. Can go in the [00:21:00] barrel.

Exactly. You can load and prime out of the same horn. That's exactly what the Frontiersmen did. They didn't carry priming horns. That was an invention of friendship. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. I, so I've, for many years, I've been shooting just three F and everybody says what kind of powder, I use go X.

And that's another, that's a good point. Many people who are misinformed or uninformed altogether think that you can use pirate X or something like that. And you cannot use a black powder substitute in a flintlock. You can in a percussion, but not in a flintlock because that, ignites at a much higher temperature than genuine black powder does.

And that's why it's not that it's unsafe. It's you just can't get it to ignite. Not reliably for sure. Exactly. Yeah. So we had gone around and we had, who's hunted with a flintlock and Derek, you're the odd man out. So I'm curious is it, you just haven't had the opportunity or, are you interested in, oh, I'm definitely interested in it.

It's just, it's an opportunity and time. Deal. I've [00:22:00] been hunting with, the inline muzzle loader for quite some years now. And I keep talking with Rick about how one day I'm going to purchase one of these rifles and get into it. And you're talking about Pennsylvania and their Flintlock season.

I have a couple of buddies that live up in Pennsylvania and for several years, I've threatened to go up there and hunt with them, but it's just, it's, it just hasn't happened yet. So it is just such that I can't even begin to describe how. unique it feels to be out there with one of these during that time period.

There was a time when in Pennsylvania where I used to dress as a long hunter. Me too. I had, that's the only way I've ever owned a whip. Yeah. And I try to do that here. Of course, it's not as cold here in the muzzler season. And when I say here, Tennessee as it is in Pennsylvania.

But I love that. I just. There's just such a romanticism about that for me. And it just takes me back. And I just love that. Yeah. It's like you get transported back, you're standing there over a Turkey you just shot. And all of a sudden you realize it, you get transported back and you're thinking, if I'd had done this in the 17 [00:23:00] fifties, I wouldn't be standing here for the gripping green.

I'd be getting this bird and getting in the brush because somebody would be coming to take my scalp. So there's just a lot of different nuances. Oh, yeah. I love the history and all of it and it's calling my name to get into it. It's addicting. It has been one of the most rewarding things that I've ever undertaken is making 18th century guns.

And that's, that's my tag name is recreating 18th century Americana. And I just love it. Yeah. My, my wife says that I spend too much time in my shop and she's right. I do, but I love what I do out there. They say, if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.

That's correct. Yep. We didn't even get into the misnomers about the accuracy of these guys. Oh boy. Yeah, there's, yeah, there, we could do, three, four different episodes just on myth busting on these guns, which I probably do a whole other Hollywood episode too in relation to, yeah, exactly.

Yeah, there's a ton to [00:24:00] cover on it. And I think, talk about being transported back in time. And I think it's so cool, that the objects themselves can transport you. And Rick, you were talking or Chris, sorry. That's all right, Dave. Yeah. And Chris, you were talking about, even hunting With the specific historic breeds of the dogs and, and I just think it's so cool how, you can add in one little aspect of something, and it really helps transport you to, to a whole different time period in and of itself. And you can just relive it all through a little bit of metal in some wood and a little bit of fur on a dog.

And it's just so cool. It gives me a whole new. appreciation for what our forefathers went through in the forming of this country. And it's just, I'm so grateful to play such a smart small role in being able to keep that alive. Yeah. Yeah. And there's a Ton of history in all of it.

There's a ton of history of hunting with dogs. There's a ton of history of hunting with the Flintlocks. And it's so awesome that you guys [00:25:00] are keeping all of that alive. And it's very cool. And if folks are interested in finding more about it, you guys are both on the go wild app, so they can find Houndsman XP on there.

They can find Gobbler Knob long rifles on there. What were you going to say? Nothing. Oh, you looked like you had something to say. So yeah make sure you go into the Go Wild app, you're logging your time listening to this show and follow these guys on the app, and we appreciate you tuning in.

To the podcast here. Make sure you're subscribed on your favorite platform. Leave us some comments some likes and reviews. We appreciate that. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me around the table today. Absolutely. And we will see all of you right here next week on the next episode of the no low ballers

podcast. Outstanding.