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J. Lee





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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 7:25 am    Post subject: Are flintlocks "inherently" less accurate than mat         Reply with quote

Recently I was able to read some Japanese academic works on 16th century Japanese warfare and matchlock muskets.
It was a book written by Takehisa Udagawa, a leading expert on sengoku/edo Japanese matchlock muskets.

While reading his book, he attempted to elucidate why Japanese used matchlocks predominantly instead of supplanting them with flintlocks like Europe. One of the reasons he listed was quite interesting.

He claimed that the 'kick' associated with the ignition of flint was enough to hinder accurate shooting compared to the matchlock, and thus the Japanese maintained the use of matchlocks since it was more suited for their style of accurate 'snipe' shooting, whereas flintlock was suitable for mass volleys commonly practiced in early modern europe.

Now, I know due to the intrinsic limitations of accuracy in smoothbore muskets and it was indeed a common practice to merely 'level' the muskets toward a 'unit', but I've also read napoleonic regulations regarding target shooting, and specific guidance on shooting which parts of body according to the distance(e.g. : 300 yards - head, 200 yards - chest, 100 yards - knees to get a sense of it) quoted in "Military Experience in the Age of Reason" by Duffy.

Not only Takehisa, but other Japanese military history authors seem to agree about the forementioned reason, but were flintlocks really that much unsuitable for 'accurate'(for a smoothbore of course) compared to matchlock?
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, if this were true, how does one account for the incredible accuracy of the Pennsylvania (or Kentucky) rifle, using flintlock ignition? These in trained hands are very accurate out to 500 yards and beyond. Besides, as a long time shooter of both rifled AND smoothbore flintlocks (in my American Revolutionary War reenactment hobby), I can attest that there is no discernible "kick" to the firing of a flintlock prior to the main charge being ignited. The action of the cock hitting the frizzen is forward, and if anything, should make you stay on target better, after the rearward trigger pull. I can hit regulation sized targets at 100 yards with my .62 caliber smoothbore fowler, with a patched ball.
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had never heard that theory before but I can't figure out were that extra "Kick" would come from. Basically a matchlock works by touching a match to a small amount of priming powder to set off the main charge and a flint lock at the most basic sends a shower of sparks in to the the priming powder. (and by flint lock I mean any action that uses flint not just a Flintlock proper) So at the most basic they both have a small charge of powder going off near the breach.

I suppose a case could be made that a heavy lock on a flint lock could reduce accurary, but thats poor construction not a fundemental flaw with the style of lock.

This sounds more like historians repeating the same source who was trying to find a technical reason for a personal choice. Wouldn't supprise me if flintlocks were seen as too "Foreign".
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could also be related to the mechanism. I don't know what kind of mechanism the Japanese used, but some western matchlock triggers pivoted the match arm smoothly down onto the charge as opposed to the trigger-pull and snapping action of other lock forms. If the Japanese used the former method, that could theoretically eliminate one common source of inaccuracy--jerking the trigger. Anyone used to the former mechanism would probably initially be less accurate with the latter if they had no instruction, especially with a heavy or rough release on the latter.
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Eric Meulemans
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 10:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm wondering if this isn't some sort of mistranslation or misinterpretation? While there is no discernible "kick" from the flintlock mechanism, there can be a considerable delay between the pulling of the trigger and ignition of the main charge. For some, this adversely affects accuracy as they pull or flinch upon the frizzen sparking or pan flashing, but the charge has not yet gone off. In a matchlock this is typically (theoretically) reduced as you're introducing fire directly to the pan.

Now of course, a finely tuned flintlock should be quite fast, and matchlocks have inherent dangers due to the open slowmatch, but in a poorly made or maintained arm, the margins narrow. Given bores, powder, and rounds of equal quality their potential for accuracy should be limited by the user, not the action.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recently I read somewhere (sorry I can't remember where) that the reason that the Japanese never adopted the flintlock on a large scale was down to the country's poor supply of suitable flint. I have no evidence to prove or disprove this theory, I just thought that I would mention it in the hopes that someone else here could confirm or refute it.
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R Ashby





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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

sounds like revisionist history to me.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well accuracy with a flintlock, or even with the matchlock, is affected due to the delay between ignition of the primer powder and the main charge, which may be variable from shot to shot by a perceivable degree, means that to be accurate one must ignore the " fizz/pop/flash " of the primer and continue aiming and follow through until the main charge has sent the ball down range.

With the flintlock there are sparks that ignite the priming powder but with maybe a slight and variable delay longer than with a hot match ? Although I have never fired either myself so I can't personally testify about it based on experience and only based on conjecture: Is the delay with a lit match shorter or more consistent in the ignition of the main charge ?

Flintlock will occasionally misfire and I think that at times the match can hit the pan and not ignite the priming if the match has too much ash and not hot enough combined with damp priming powder ?

Anyway the recoil idea makes no sense as far as physics are concerned and I wonder who came up with that lame excuse about the Japanese not adopting the flintlock ? My best guesses for not adopting the flintlock:

A) The advantages not considered worth the trouble as the very high quality Japanese matchlocks where very reliable and accurate with well made barrels.

B) Japanese Conservatism.

C) Lack of available flint in Japan, if true that this was the case.

D) Battlefield use not being seriously handicapped by using matchlocks.

E) Security paranoia: A matchlock makes for a very " unconcealable " weapon in a ready to use state with a lit match versus a flintlock that can be hidden and readily used for assassinations, and this might have been a concern for the Japanese elites in power.

Even if very rare, are there any known Japanese made flintlocks or imported European style flintlocks documented to having been in Japan in period ?

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Even if very rare, are there any known Japanese made flintlocks or imported European style flintlocks documented to having been in Japan in period ?


Depending on what "in period" means, yes. Flintlocks and airguns - imported and native. Mostly 19th century, I believe. Some info and references on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_of_Japa...f_firearms

But consider the late pre-Edo and early Edo period wars/battles involving Japan:

1592-1598: Invasion of Korea.
1600: Battle of Sekigahara
1609: Invasion of Ryukyus/Okinawa
1614-1615: Siege of Osaka Castle

At these times, matchlocks predominated on European battlefields. Not surprising to see matchlocks predominate on Japanese battlefields.

These were followed by, mostly, peace, until into the 19th century. Peace rarely motivates governments to invest heavily in development of military technology. So not surprising to see the matchlock remain as the major Japanese handgun, until fears of imminent war stirred things up.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 6:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With a properly set up flintlock there is no perceptible delay between the flash in the pan and the ignition of the powder charge. The classic "fizzle-pop" is a myth perpetuated by Hollywood and shooters using badly made repro firearms. The flash going off inches from ones face might induce a flinch in the faint of heart and this might account for a perceived lack of accuracy in the fintlock.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 7:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
With a properly set up flintlock there is no perceptible delay between the flash in the pan and the ignition of the powder charge. The classic "fizzle-pop" is a myth perpetuated by Hollywood and shooters using badly made repro firearms. The flash going off inches from ones face might induce a flinch in the faint of heart and this might account for a perceived lack of accuracy in the fintlock.


Yeah, based on the very old " Last of the Mohicans "T.V. series, or the Disney Davy Crocket series.

Trigger pull ........ Spark ............. Puff of smoke from the flash in the pan ............... long 2 second pause .... BOOM ! Wink Big Grin Cool

" But I saw it on T.V. it MUST be true ...... " Laughing Out Loud

Thanks Patrick for the reality check, nothing beats real experience. Big Grin Cool

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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm pretty sure that the Japanese expelled most of the 'foreign devils' at one stage, and became a virtually 'closed' society for 200 odd years,, not having much contact with western societies again until forced to by the Americans in the 1850-60's. I'd suggest a more probable reason for the Japanese not adopting flintlocks was that reliable military flintlocks weren't developed in Europe until after the Japanese had expelled the europeans. In that period, the Japanese may have had some small contacts and gained a bit of knowledge regarding flintlocks, but didn't see any real *need* to proced past matchlocks..after all, the country was pretty much at peace then, and didn't NEED armies with flintlocks ?.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 9:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph, sound very plausible and probable to me. Big Grin Cool
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 1:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

im gonna go with the idea that by the time the flintlock was widespread, the edo period had already started,
and for the job of arming guards/ retainers, the matchlock worked fine, its also worth noting the japanese developed a few very interesting methods of improving the matchlocks flaws

Quote:
The Japanese soon worked on various techniques to improve the effectiveness of their guns. They developed a serial firing technique to create a continuous rain of bullets on the enemy.[11] They also developed bigger calibers to increase lethal power.[11] Protective boxes in lacquerware were invented to fit over the firing mechanism so it could still fire while it was raining,[12] as were systems to accurately fire weapons at night by keeping fixed angles thanks to measured strings.[13]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanegashima_(Jap...oku_period

im particularly impressed by the second development, as far as ive seen europeans never developed a similar thing for their armies matchlocks

http://www.japaneseweapons.net/hinawajyu/shurui/english.htm

and the fact that while they didnt developtheir own form of sakers culverins etc all that much it seems there are numerous examples of very heavy calibre matchlocks instead functioning as light artillery.
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i would side with patricks idea that a 'flinch' in the shooters shoot is much more reason for an inaccurate shot. but as for one being more accurate than the other, there's probably very little difference. the match lock was abandoned because of the need to have a burning ember on the battle field. imagine what happens when your match cord goes out. therefor flint and later percussion caps make the fire arm more reliable.

as for recoil, i shot both flint lock and newer percussion cap muzzle loaders. depending on power, it's nothing out of the ordinary. infact i feel that a muzzle loader has more of a push factor in recoil rather than a slamming effect of say a 308 270, or 338.

and the delay in ignition, it can happen if the rifle has a build up of gunk in the touch hole, but even black power moves at so many feet per second that when ignited your not going to see a delay. but when trained with flint lock, everyone is trained to hold until the gun goes off. the gun not going off at all, there's probably something stopping the spark from reaching to the inside of the barrel.

a flit lock does have a little fault, the flint can break right out of the clamp and shatter. soldiers usually carried a spar flint with them because of this.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Yeah, based on the very old " Last of the Mohicans "T.V. series, or the Disney Davy Crocket series.

Trigger pull ........ Spark ............. Puff of smoke from the flash in the pan ............... long 2 second pause .... BOOM ! Wink Big Grin Cool

" But I saw it on T.V. it MUST be true ...... " Laughing Out Loud

Thanks Patrick for the reality check, nothing beats real experience. Big Grin Cool


Years ago, when I fired a flintlock for the first time I was expecting the stereotypical flash-boom I'd always seen in the movies. The flash a few inches from my face didn't bother me but how quickly everything happened was quite a surprise. Old firearms are like swords, they're always surprising you and forcing you to change your perceptions.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have extensive experience with all kinds of flintlocks, both high and medium to low quality. If you want to test the gentleman's theory then dry fire a flintlock so that you do not have to contend with the primer flash and the main charge going off. I have done this and observed this being done. In no case have I seen or felt any negative effect from the action of the flintlock. Proper priming, a touch hole in the right place, preferably one that is coned, and a quality trigger mean that you will not experience any type of disturbance in your aim due to the movement of the cock to the battery. Even large military locks like my short land pattern musket do not disturb my aim and it is a big one.

The gentleman from Japan is making a statement, I believe, based on very limited exposure to flintlocks. I will take my flintlock southern mountain rifle over a Japanese - or any other - matchlock.

Lin Robinson

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Jul, 2012 4:02 am    Post subject: Re: Are flintlocks "inherently" less accurate than         Reply with quote

J. Lee wrote:
He claimed that the 'kick' associated with the ignition of flint was enough to hinder accurate shooting compared to the matchlock, and thus the Japanese maintained the use of matchlocks since it was more suited for their style of accurate 'snipe' shooting, whereas flintlock was suitable for mass volleys commonly practiced in early modern europe.


This is odd, because the Japanese mostly used the snapping matchlock mechanism, which exhibits the same spring-driven "kick" as flintlock ones. The snapping matchlock is usually considered to be more accurate than the plain matchlock due to its sharp, clean release as opposed to the non-snapping matchlock's long gradual trigger pull, and was in fact more commonly used on target and hunting firearms as opposed to military ones (where the simplicity and ruggedness of the plain old matchlock gave it the advantage).

Converting a matchlock to flintlock (as the Japanese did after the 1830s or so) would also have been quite difficult if the former wasn't of the snapping variety.


Daniel Wallace wrote:
i would side with patricks idea that a 'flinch' in the shooters shoot is much more reason for an inaccurate shot. but as for one being more accurate than the other, there's probably very little difference. the match lock was abandoned because of the need to have a burning ember on the battle field. imagine what happens when your match cord goes out. therefor flint and later percussion caps make the fire arm more reliable.


On the other hand, it's very hard to put out a slow match, and if the lock mechanism breaks down it's easier to manually touch the match to the pan than to strike sparks off the steel with a dismounted flint.
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Jack W. Englund




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jul, 2012 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
I have extensive experience with all kinds of flintlocks, both high and medium to low quality. If you want to test the gentleman's theory then dry fire a flintlock so that you do not have to contend with the primer flash and the main charge going off. I have done this and observed this being done. In no case have I seen or felt any negative effect from the action of the flintlock. Proper priming, a touch hole in the right place, preferably one that is coned, and a quality trigger mean that you will not experience any type of disturbance in your aim due to the movement of the cock to the battery. Even large military locks like my short land pattern musket do not disturb my aim and it is a big one.

The gentleman from Japan is making a statement, I believe, based on very limited exposure to flintlocks. I will take my flintlock southern mountain rifle over a Japanese - or any other - matchlock.


YEP (Me =1000 +++++ fire with & == no prob. ( except "Murphy" & Me.) + I teach how to & compete.
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Jack W. Englund




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jul, 2012 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
I have extensive experience with all kinds of flintlocks, both high and medium to low quality. If you want to test the gentleman's theory then dry fire a flintlock so that you do not have to contend with the primer flash and the main charge going off. I have done this and observed this being done. In no case have I seen or felt any negative effect from the action of the flintlock. Proper priming, a touch hole in the right place, preferably one that is coned, and a quality trigger mean that you will not experience any type of disturbance in your aim due to the movement of the cock to the battery. Even large military locks like my short land pattern musket do not disturb my aim and it is a big one.

The gentleman from Japan is making a statement, I believe, based on very limited exposure to flintlocks. I will take my flintlock southern mountain rifle over a Japanese - or any other - matchlock.


YEP (Me =1000 +++++ fire with & == no prob. ( except "Murphy" & Me.) + I teach how to & compete.
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