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Old March 8, 2013, 05:31 PM   #1
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4f in the Pan -- Really Necessary?

I'm currently shooting my .45 Lancaster flintlock with 3f under the ball and 3f in the pan. I keep reading how I'm suppose to be using 4f in the pan. The rifle goes boooom with 3f in the pan so what's with "you need 4f in the pan?"

I find it hard to believe that many years ago, and many wars ago, that finer grade powder was used in the pan than under the ball.

Educate me please-- I've been shooting cap and ball and only recently graduated to the flintlock class.


and, Thanks David
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Old March 8, 2013, 06:02 PM   #2
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The old timers used in the pan whatever they used for the main load, and it
worked fine. Three F or even Two F will work. I use Seven F, but that's just
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Old March 8, 2013, 06:22 PM   #3
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Reliable Ignition

Reliable and fast ignition from a flintlock has more to do with through cleaning and loading than it does with the priming powder. If fffg is working for you then you are doing a good job. IMHO after shooting many rounds through flintlocks ffffg makes a difference. The ignition time is noticeably quicker.
In general I agree with the comment that it is not uncommon that old timers used the same powder as in the barrel. Looking through “The Kentucky Rifle Hunting Pouch” by Madison Grant most of the flintlock rifle pouches only have one horn. But some have 2, the same book has a separate chapter about priming horns. This leads me to believe that some and likely many hunting rifles used priming powder.
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Old March 8, 2013, 06:30 PM   #4
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I used to use 4F and then got tired of having to have two granulations. You should be just fine using whatever you use in the bore for under the flint.

Military flintlock muskets utilized hand made cartridges - F & I, Rev War, etc. If you study the drills for loading, you'll see that the tail of the cartridge was torn open and the musket was primed FIRST utilizing the same powder that then went down the bore.

I have a fusil de chase - .62 (20 gauge). Normally, I use 2F in it but I have gotten caught short and used 3F. Both granulations worked well for priming. I don't have my long rifle any more but that was a .36 with a large Siler - the 3F worked just fine with that one.

I do however, carry my priming powder in a small horn. My large horn is quite large in the F & I War era style and I really don't want to prime the pan out of it.

When I first started shooting flinters, I made a priming container out of a section of large deer antler and put one of the brass push priming spouts on it. It worked well with the 4F but I just didn't like it - I like a more traditional way of priming.

If your lock is tuned and your flint adjusted to give a good shower of sparks - a coarser granulation shouldn't be a problem.
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Old March 8, 2013, 10:36 PM   #5
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Actually the gentlemen and competition shooters of the time did use different grades, as I've seen sets of fine flinters with 2 powder horns, one large and one small for priming. Why have 2 horns, if you're using the same powder, no for practical and average guy shooting, well I'm sure they didn't go the extra mile for daily use.
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Old March 9, 2013, 09:30 AM   #6
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I have been a flintlocker for over 40 years. To answer the question: No. You do not NEED 4Fg to prime the pan. Some shooters use 1 or 3 Fg. for priming. Most prefer 4Fg. I prefer 4Fg.
A never ending debate among flintlockers is whether 4Fg is faster than the others. I cannot answer that definitively.
But, I will say I can detect slower ignition times using 2Fg. I cannot detect a difference between 3Fg and 4Fg. But human ears and reaction times are not perfect machines.
I am of the opinion 4Fg is faster and I use it.
Others opinions may vary.
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Old March 9, 2013, 10:07 AM   #7
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FWIW, I've been getting what amounts to virtually instantaneous ignition (MUCH faster then my caplocks) with FFFg for both main & pan charges, over the last 35 years, in my rocklocks.

I started doing it to simplify what I carried for hunting (all I do w/BP rifles).

IMO, much ado, about nothing.............

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Old March 9, 2013, 08:00 PM   #8
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Thanks folks -- I get it. Ten more .45 round balls down range today. 3f/3f

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Old March 9, 2013, 08:08 PM   #9
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Not a problem

I keep reading how I'm suppose to be using 4f in the pan.
I've never read it that way but only that this is what is recommended. I have read strong warnings on using FFFFG as the main charge. If the FFFG is working for you, whose going to argue with that. .....

A never ending debate among flintlockers is whether 4Fg is faster than the others.
Well, it surely is but how much more, I cannot say. I also prefer FFFG on the main charge, up to and including .50 and know others who prefer FFFG in a .54. As long as there are no safety issues, I will not find fault with anyones technique. So, go for it and;

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Old March 11, 2013, 03:58 PM   #10
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It will delay the ignition time some in my very limited experience. 4f makes it easier to shoot. We were using 2F, I believe. I can't recall, but it seemed like I was waiting on the shot. That's a lot of time to move it off-target.
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Old March 11, 2013, 06:26 PM   #11
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Colonial Williamsburg used high speed film to capture the flintlock's ignition. They saw the sparks rain down into the pan and then leap out. They surmised that until a larger grain or collection of grains capture a spark and holds it long enough for ignition. We're talking micro-seconds.

Military cartridges only had one size grain and it wasn't until the Napoleonic Wars that military riflemen had priming flasks with finer powder. Up to then, soldiers primed from the cartridge.
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Old March 11, 2013, 07:02 PM   #12
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As I've done myself in a pinch occasionally.
If you have 3-FFF available. And needing 4-FFFF. Just take a coffee cup saucer or small mirror glass. Pour a little 3-FF on to it and proceed to chop it up into a smaller grain size with a stiff edge safety razor blade. 2-3-& 4-ffff are the same powder in a given powder brand. They differ only by their kernel-or-grain size. ( F-grade ratings.)< That's all that separate them from each other.___ (F) by the way stands for French thanks to Mr. DuPont giving meaning to the letter F shortly after 1802.
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Old March 12, 2013, 09:07 AM   #13
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I have read of old timers using two wooden spoons. Place the coarse granulation in one spoon and use the back of the second spoon to grind the powder into a finer granulation for priming powder.
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