Fixing a Flint to a Musket in the British Army 1768-1815
This article is a brief study based on a sampling primary source material of the time on the subject of fixing a musket flint in the British Army. The first to write on the subject was, the often quoted, Bennett Cuthbertson in 1768: "The flints should always be screwed firm, between a thin piece of lead, it having a more certain hold, than leather, or any other contrivance". This belief was echoed by Thomas Simes in 1777 in his work A Military Course for the Government and Conduct of a Battalion... and adds an opinion on the selection of the flint itself:
It appears this advice was adopted to some degree by the various regiments. However it was not until 1809 before any sort of official army position used issued. Likely concerned with the various regimental methods of fixing flints, the Adjutant-General found it necessary to issue a memorandum on the subject. Taken from the General Regulations and Orders for the Army(London, 1811) the order read ("hammer" is the proper name for the frizzen cover) :
Interestingly enough the above order is silent on the material used to assist the securing of the flint. Both Simes and Cuthbertson suggested a thin piece of lead and evidence seems to point to this being most common. In 1809, for example, the 71st Highland Light Infanty ordered "the flints to be put in between a piece of lead, nicely beat out and notched." The "notched" was possibly a reference to a notch out of the lead to allow the screw for the jaws to pass as close to the rear of the flint as possible, along with the rounding of the corners to pervent injury. This was similar to the French system of the time that had a notched single lead piece but which also had a decoratively stamped edge and side "wings" to further increase the hold. The single piece of lead has not universal in the British Army. For example the 12th Regiment ordered their men to always fix their flints between two pieces of lead. In addition the 29th Regiment in 1812 noted that the musket flints were to be fixed "with a regimental copper-plate." The "regimental" in this context usually refers to an approved regimental pattern and not regimentally marked. The use of cooper is an interesting alternative to the lead as it was as well a soft metal, though not as soft as lead.
Today the frequent of lead is frowned upon for health reasons and more often than not leather has been substituted for holding the flint in place by black powder enthusiasts. To date I am unaware of anyone using cooper as a substitute and since it was the choice of at least one regiment, it may prove a better alternative. The article may be considered a "work in progress" and anyone uncovering further information are encouraged to the article's growth.
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