Learning to Shoot a Flintlock Pistol #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #research

After an attack at the Fury Falls Inn in my story, Flint Hamilton decides he needs to defend the property. He asks the deputy sheriff for his help in learning how to shoot a flintlock pistol accurately. In order for me to be able to portray what he learns, I had to do a bit of research. Thank goodness for online sources I could access to understand the process!

By the way, it is a happy coincidence that I chose to name my character Flint and then he wants to use a flintlock pistol. He’s named Flint because he has a solid sense of responsibility and conscience. So like the rock he’s named for, Flint is a hard man to fool and is dedicated to protecting those under his care.

Back to figuring out how to shoot a flintlock pistol. I went to the science website, How Stuff Works, where Marshall Brain details the parts and the process of shooting this type of gun. Loading and firing the pistol is rather complicated to detail but I imagine once you’ve learned how, doing so would flow rather easily.

According to Marshall Brain, the flintlock consists of four main parts: a hammer, mainspring, frizzen, and pan. The hammer is powered by the mainspring. The hammer’s purpose is to hold a piece of flint and make it move quickly to create a spark off of a piece of steel, the frizzen. The pan holds a little bit of gunpowder awaiting the spark to detonate it. These four parts work together to fire the lead ball (bullet).

There are seven steps Brain lists for loading and firing the pistol. Since I’m writing from Flint’s point of view, I needed to key on the steps as he would. But without boring my readers. Here’s how it unfolds in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn:

“Careful with that thing.” Parker waved a hand toward the flintlock pistol in Flint’s hand. “You said you’re not so good with it.”

Flint pointed the muzzle away from the deputy with a smirk. “That’s why you’re here. So teach me how to handle it and shoot straight.”

“First you need to load it properly.” The deputy held out his hand until Flint handed him the weapon. “Do you know how?”

He seemed to recall it took some special steps, and if you fouled them up then the contraption could explode in your hand. His father had tried to teach him how to handle a pistol years ago. After several near catastrophic missteps, he’d decided Flint would be safer using a rifle or even a musket. They weren’t quite as tricky as the smaller weapon, at least for Flint. But now Flint wanted something smaller he could carry with him instead of the larger, bulkier guns. Still, he approached the weapon with extreme caution.

“It’s been a while. Remind me.” Flint folded his arms while Parker talked him through the process. He forced himself to pay attention as the deputy explained and demonstrated each step, making the entire process look easy. Flint knew better.

Half-cock the hammer to pour in some gunpowder down the barrel. Wrap a lead ball with a bit of cloth and ram it down the barrel on top of the gunpowder. Add some gunpowder to the pan and snap the frizzen on as a cover. Fully cock the hammer and then squeeze the trigger to fire the gun. For each shot of the pistol, he had to do every step. With any luck, he wouldn’t need to do it at all. But he must be prepared.

“Your turn.” Parker handed him the gun. “Let’s see what you’ve got. Shoot the bull’s eye. Or try, anyway.”

With a grunt, Flint clumsily loaded the pistol. He raised the gun to point at the target, then steadied his shaking hand by briefly supporting it with his other one. Dropping the second hand, he aimed at the center red circle and jerked on the trigger. The blast of sound rang in the confines of the cavern, slowly echoing into silence. The odor of gunpowder lingered longer. Parker strode to the paper target and examined it. He spun around to smirk at Flint.

While Flint isn’t perfect on his first shot—he missed the target—he improves rapidly. I’ve fired a modern pistol but not any from the 1800s, so I appreciate the information Marshall Brain shared. I learned enough about how the pistol mechanism functions to be able to weave it into my story to help put the characters in context with the time in which they live. As I’ve said before, I am writing historical stories not to teach a history lesson but to entertain. Happy reading!


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Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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