View Full Version : Flintlocks in the rain

Tom Matiska
October 19, 2002, 12:23 PM
First day of early muzzle loader season today in PA. First three hours were dry, then the rain started. My novice attemt to keep my powder dry was to rubber band a piece of saran wrap over the flint and flash pan.

Fun meter was pegged after two hours in the rain. Had spark but no flash when I went to clear the gun. Put fresh powder in the pan and got spark, flash, pause, hiss, sizzle, then bang. One heck of a hangfire.

Any tips from the pros on how to extend my fun on rainy days (besides buying an inline 209)?


October 19, 2002, 08:21 PM
First of all, it is my belief, from hunting and shooting in the rain, that German black powder ( It think it is WANO) pppp is the best pan powder for wet conditions. It almost seems as if the chacoal in the powder is more coal-like than Goex. If your pan does not seal tightly, then that is a problem that will be tough on you. I hold my gun with the pan about 90 degrees downward from the normal shooting position. This does 2 things. It keeps the powder away from the touch hole,(which causes a fuse effect if you don't) and it allows water to run across the frizzen dripping to the ground instead of trying to find it's way into the pan. There must be something else I am forgetting... I just can't think of anything else to tell you right now. Perhaps another flinter will add his ideas to these.

Fred Hansen
October 19, 2002, 09:07 PM
Wrapping a piece of oiled or waxed cotton or silk cloth around the gun at the lock was how they used to try to protect them. Plastic will just "sweat" with moisture as it condenses. Nothing works perfectly though. Flintlocks are a real challenge.

October 20, 2002, 03:00 PM
Get or make a "cow's knee". That's what they're called, AND that's what they look like.

It's a cover for the lock of your rifle that is usually made out of leather.
Check with Dixie Gun Works or any "traditional" blackpowder gunshop for one, or a pattern to make one.

Back in the early 1970's, when we started hunting with flintlocks in PA, my Dad made a couple of "cow's knees" from scatch, with supplies from a Tandy's leather store. 30 years later, they still work great.

I've also heard (but never seen) of some people, placing the priming powder in the pan, closing the frizzen, then lighting a small candle, and dripping hot wax onto the edges of the frizzen/pan to make a watertight seal. The wax breaks away, when the flint strikes the frizzen duing firing. Sounds like a touchy situation; a lit candle and loaded flintlock rifle???

I'd use a "cow's knee"!

Tom Matiska
October 20, 2002, 04:30 PM
I was thinking of the wax, but it only keeps the powder dry. I tried a few shots at the range after the rain started and the wet flint against wet steel wasn't giving much of a spark.

Never heard of a "cows knee" before, but I'm going to have to figure one out soon. Thanks


October 20, 2002, 04:53 PM
BluRigDav has it right. I've a friend who is a member of a "primitive" group. 5 or 6 times a year they spend several days living and dressing as 17th century mountain men and women did. The "cows knee" is a common sight with them. From what I've been told, it really began as the tanned hide of a cow or elk's knee. The knee cap bulge would fit over the frizin and flint area keeping the powder and flint dry. It could be pushed forward freeing the frizin and flint when a shot was needed at game. I'm sure you can find one if you do a search into flintlocks and primitive lifestyles. Cabela's may have it.

Cap n ball
October 21, 2002, 02:20 PM
They're right. A 'cows knee' is the ticket. If it's a condition that is merely damp such as fog or misty dew then I use a piece of beeswax around the pan before I prime it and that will keep a pretty good seal for a while. Some folks also use muzzle plugs to keep moisture out of the bore. Real old plugs were often carved into pretty cool looking little pieces of Art by their owners. It also helps to keep a dry bandanna in your pocket to wipe the frizzen and flint with.

Tom Matiska
October 21, 2002, 03:45 PM
Thanks again. I have some time to work on it. My first flintlock season ended this morning a little after 7 AM. Something about doing it with a patched ball and flint that just plain feels right. I'm in the "low tech rules" mode right now and I'm going to get a cow's knee before I get a 209.

side note:

Didn't mention that I was surprised to start a small fire Saturday when I cleared my gun. It had been raining for two hours, but the ground was only wet about an inch deep. My flamethrower kicked up some moss that was still dry enough to ignite. Who'd of thunk it?