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Flintlocks & Flints - The armed characters of the Outlander series seem to favor their blade weapons, such as swords, dirks, and smaller daggers like the sgian dubh, though they do also carry firearms. As weapons go, blades had many advantages in the 1740s, because flintlock firearms such as muskets and pistols were relatively heavy, expensive, and loud; they made smoke that hindered breathing and vision; and they were high maintenance. While a blade might need regular cleaning and sharpening, the flintlock firearms of the 18th century needed cleaning, oiling, fresh flints, ammunition, a safe means of transporting and measuring explosive gunpowder, and maintenance or repair of small parts. On top of all of that, the chance of injury from misfire was not inconsiderable, and the accuracy of smooth-bore weapons was dubious. One might wonder why firearms were seen as advantageous at all, but the trade-off is clear: close-quarters combat was worth avoiding if you could damage your opponent from a distance. Image of an old newspaper clipping. Caption reads:On January 20, 1763, one of the possible owners of the pistol flintlock from Saunders Point, Robert Saunders, Jr., made the news in the Maryland Gazette when his sloop was captured at sea. This episode illustrates the risks of life as a sea captain of the mid-18th century, and one of the reasons for the Saunders family to own personal firearms. Photo image of pistol flintlock:Pistol Flintlock, Date: ca. 1700-1790, Site Name: Saunders Point, Site Number:18AN39/165 - This flintlock has a form that is consistent with British Royal Navy pistols ca. 1720-1750. That makes a lot of sense for a find from the Saunders Point site, because the family who lived there made their living on the sea. For example, in the mid-18th century the site was probably the home of Captain Robert Saunders, Jr. and his unmarried sister Elizabeth. Robert was a ship captain who would need personal firearms on his travels. Shipping could be a risky business as pirates and English enemies frequently took cargoes by force. According to the January 20, 1763 Maryland Gazette, Robert Saunders saw these risks firsthand, when his sloop Sally, carrying rum from the West Indies, was captured by a Spanish  privateer. Apparently Saunders’ sloop lacked the arms needed to defend its cargo.; Photo image of musket or fowler flintlock: Musket or Fowler Flintlock, Date: ca. 1690-1730, Site Name: Addison Plantation, Site Number:18PR175/9175 - This flintlock was recovered in the cellar of a structure that burned down at the Addison plantation ca. 1730. Several generations of Addisons traded with American Indians and served as officers in Maryland’s colonial militia, and the cellar seems to have been used for the storage of gun parts that could have been suitable for trade or military purposes. This particular flintlock has a double-throated cock for holding a gunflint, a safety mechanism known as a dog lock to hold the gun in a half-cocked position, and it lacks a side plate where the bolts would have passed through the stock. Together these characteristics suggest that the weapon was manufactured at the end of the 17th century. This image shows the interior parts of the mechanism and the bolts that held it to the  gun’s wooden stock. Although not visible from this angle, the exterior of this lock has decorative engraving indicative of a relatively high-end weapon. Photo images of 3 gunflints:Pistol Gunflint, Date: ca. 1700-1800, Site Name: Fort Garrison, Site Number:18BA27/69; Musket Gunflint, Date: ca. 1730-1790, Site Name: Pleasant Prospect, Site Number:18PR705/841; Musket Gunflint, Date: ca. 1750-1780, Site Name: Ft. Frederick, Site Number:18WA20/165 - Flint is not a type of stone that is native to Maryland, but archaeologists regularly find the imported stone on colonial sites because when flint strikes steel it makes a spark. In the days before matches and electricity, that made flint an invaluable asset for starting the fires people needed for cooking and heat. Flint was also standard for firearm ignition systems by the 18th century; when the trigger is pulled on a flintlock weapon, the gunflint hits a steel plate called a frizzen, and a spark falls into a pan holding a charge of gunpowder. Gunflints had to be chipped into a specific shape in order to achieve efficient ignition, but skilled gunflint makers could turn out so many of the tools in a day that the cost was pretty low.  For example, when the ship Jeffries arrived in Maryland from London in 1698, its cargo included 4,000 gunflints valued at 24 shillings. It is difficult to convert prices from that time period to today’s dollars, but to offer some perspective, other items listed as worth 24 shillings in the cargo included 2 striped serge coats for boys (1 coat = 2,000 flints), 2 dozen pair of children’s shoes (1 pair shoes = 167 flints), and 3 gallons of Canary wine (1 gallon = 1,333 flints).  It was in the best interest of the British military to keep gunflint prices low because they needed regular replacement. Each flint was good for about 20 strikes, and while a flint might last longer, the chance of misfire increased with wear on the striking surface, making regular replacement of flints a good idea to avoid that potential danger.;  Photo image of a pistol cock with gunflint:Pistol Cock with Gunflint, Date: ca. 1711-1754, Site Name: Smith’s St. Leonard, Site Number: 18CV91/323 - It is rare to find a gunflint still clamped in place on a pistol cock, so this artifact was a pleasant surprise for the volunteer who found it during JPPM’s Public Archaeology dig at the Smith’s St. Leonard site. In order for a gunflint to be well-seated in the hammer’s jaws, it was often wrapped in a strip of leather or lead to create a tighter grip. If this example once had a leather strip, the leather did not survive, but the flint was clamped so tightly that it stayed in place even though the soil it was buried in was plowed for hundreds of years.  This pistol cock was probably made at the end of the 17th century, but the weapon could have seen several decades of use before it was apparently dismantled. Perhaps the pistol needed repairs, and the cock was set aside in case it could be reused.
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