Muzzleloader 101
I assume that you have standard nomenclature for guns, like sight and trigger, down pat. This will address words unique to, or having a special meaning for, muzzleloaders. I will mostly skip the words already shown on the illustrations.
Halfstock Percussion Long Gun
Full-stock Flintlock Rifle
Inline Rifle
Pistol Percussion Revolver


  • Sidelock: The most common form of muzzleloader with the lock on the side of the stock and the ignition channel through the side of the barrel.
  • Box lock: A form with the lock mounted in the center top of the stock and the ignition channel into the top of the barrel. Usually only seen on small pocket pistols as the lock blocks view of the sight(s).
  • Inline: The lock is at the rear and the ignition channel is through the breechplug.
  • Screw barrel: The barrel unscrews from the breech plug for loading. The end of the breech plug has a chamber for powder at the bottom of a hemispherical cup for the ball. Firing forces the ball directly into the rifling. No patch required. Usually only seen in small pocket or target pistonls.
  • Matchlock: The earliest form of ignition. A piece of nitrate soaked cord, called a match, was touched to the pan of powder to ignite the main charge.
  • Wheel lock: This worked rather like a cigarette lighter. Pulling the trigger allowed a spring to rotate a serrated wheel against a piece of pyrite making sparks which ignited the powder in the pan. Note that the wheel only turned a few degrees like a lighter.
  • Migulet, Snaphaunce: Early flintlocks.
  • Flintlock: The true or French flintlock the flint striking the frizzen opens the pan.
  • Pill lock: Early percussion using a small bead of fulminate in an ignition cup.
  • Percussion (cap) lock: The shock sensitive chemical is in a small cup fitting over a hollow nipple into the ignition channel.


  • Long rifle: Called Pennsylvania (origin and gunsmiths) or Kentucky (users) these flintlocks had long barrels, often above 40 inches and full stocks almost reaching the muzzle.
  • Plains Rifle: A shorter barrel and half stock with a larger bore made this a more suitable firearm for a horseman in the west. Modern usage makes "Hawken" the generic term, although the Hawken brothers actually made more long rifles than plains rifles.
  • Fowling Piece: Name for a shotgun during the flint era.
  • Trade Gun: Flintlock smoothbore usually of around 58 to 62 caliber made in large numbers, mostly in England, for the frontier trade.
  • Musket: A military long gun. The characteristics were a large smoothbore with the barrel retained to the stock with bands for strength in combat and a bayonet lug. Begining in the 1850s with the invention of the Minie Ball the "rifled musket came into use, but it was quickly replaced with cartridge guns.
  • Fusil: A light musket. In current rendezvous usage, it is a flintlock smoothbore used in a special series of shoots using ball and shot and the same gun used for both. Most participents use a replica trade gun.
  • Open Top: Percussion revolvers, mostly Colt and copies, that did not have a top strap above the cylinder.

More Coming

  • Minie Ball
  • Patchbox
  • Buckhorn sight
  • Creedmore (tang) sight
  • Paper Cartridge
  • Belt Hook

Return to
Cap'n Ball's Home Page

Return to
Muzzleloading 101 Classroom

This site designed and maintained by Cap'n Ball Web Designs.