In firearms, what’s the difference between flint lock, cap lock and percussion?



In firearms, what’s the difference between flint lock, cap lock and percussion?

In: Technology

All these weapons work in a similar way. You load gunpower into the muzzle with a ball/bullet on top. Then, you find a way to ignite that gunpower and propel the ball. There are different ways to ignite that power.

A flintlock uses a piece of flint as an igniter. Pulling the trigger releases the spring loaded cock with a pieces of flint attached. The cocks scrapes the flint against a steel backing plate, called the frizzen, which creates a park. When the frizzen is hit, it folds backward and uncovers the pan, which also contains power. This sparks ignite the powder in the exposed frizzen pan. This ignited power then ignites the powder in the muzzle and fires the weapon.

A cap lock/percussion cap are parts of the same system. Instead of scraping a flint against a frizzen, the weapons creates an ignition by exploding a cap. The cap contains chemical that explode when exposed to friction (those chemicals are called fulminates). When the cock of the weapons slams down on the cap, it causes the friction which explodes the chemical. The explosion then ignites the power in the muzzle and fires the weapons.

An older type of firing mechanism is called the matchlock. This is one is fairly simple. It used a slow burning match (a piece of rope). When you fired the weapon, the cock dipped the match into the priming power, which would then ignite the muzzle power. Another older system is the wheellock. Similar to the flintlock, a wheellock creates sparks. However, instead of a flint hitting a steel frizzen, the sparks were created in the rotation of the wheel mechanism—the mechanism is similar to a modern cigarette lighter.

The difference is in how they ignite the gunpowder in the chamber. A flintlock use a piece of flint that they strike against a piece of steel creating sparks. This then ignites some gunpowder in a pan, still on the outside of the gun. There is a small hole from the pan into the chamber. As the gunpowder in the pan burns it heats up the gunpowder in the chamber through this hole igniting it. A cap lock is a later invention where they use a special percussion cap which is filled with a primer powder that detonates when you hit it with a hammer. So instead of a pan you have a nib to place the percussion cap on with the hole through to the chamber and instead of a flint there is a hammer head.

When cartridges came out the percussion cap were placed at the base of the cartridge instead of outside the chamber. In order to hit the percussion cap inside the chamber a fireing pin were installed, either mounted in the hole using springs or mounted to the hammer.

In addition to flint lock and cap lock there were also match lock that used a slow burning fuse that they would ignite the gunpowder in the pan and wheel lock where they would use a spinning wheel touching a flint to generate the spark.