How to Build a Flintlock Hunting Rifle

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Have You Ever Hunted with a Flintlock?

While modern in-line muzzleloaders are sleek, accurate, easy-to-clean, and ultra-reliable, many hunters seek the challenge of going old school with a traditional muzzleloading rifle. And you can’t get much more traditional than a flintlock rifle.

Even more satisfying than taking a deer with a flintlock? Taking one with a rifle you built and finished yourself. While few of us have the time, tools and talent necessary to build a rifle from scratch, there is another option. Many companies offer rifle kits in various stages of completion that anyone can finish into a working rifle.

A VisionA VisionA VisionA VisionA Vision

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Image 1 of 9

1 | A Vision

In 2016, my then 12-year-old son, Potroast, decided he wanted to build and hunt with a flintlock of his own. For his first build, we settled on the Kentucky long rifle kit from Traditions Firearms. The kit came with an unfinished metal barrel, raw wood stock, action and parts kit. 

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

The PiecesThe PiecesThe PiecesThe PiecesThe Pieces

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2 | The Pieces

We started the process by test fitting everything together and double-checking the parts. While the stock was mostly finished, a bit of additional inletting let the action fit more cleanly. Potroast used a standard wood carving set and chisels to carefully remove the excess wood.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

The ProcessThe ProcessThe ProcessThe ProcessThe Process

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3 | The Process

Next came sanding and fitting the two stock sections together. Potroast used multiple grits of paper, starting with a fairly coarse paper and finishing with an ultra-fine 600 grit. Between final sandings, he ran a damp cloth over the wood to remove any sawdust and raise the grain for the next sanding.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

Oiling ItOiling ItOiling ItOiling ItOiling It

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4 | Oiling It

Once all sanding was finished, Potroast applied a walnut stain and finished with multiple coats of hand-rubbed tung oil. Each coat was allowed to dry completely, then rubbed with fine steel wool and tack cloth. The result was a deep, satin finish.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

The Browning ProcessThe Browning ProcessThe Browning ProcessThe Browning ProcessThe Browning Process

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5 | The Browning Process

To finish the raw metal barrel, he decided on Birchwood Casey Plum Brown. To prevent the browning solution from entering the rifle’s bore, we plugged the touch hole and the muzzle end of the barrel before browning. In order for the Plum Brown to react with the raw metal, the barrel first had to be heated.

Since the long rifle barrel wouldn’t fit in our oven, we sat it on wooden blocks on an outdoor table and heated it with a torch.When using this method, be careful that heat is applied evenly and keep the torch moving so that no portion of the barrel is overheated. The metal has to be at least 275 degrees for the browning solution to work. When a drop of water sprinkled on the metal sizzles and evaporates instantly, the metal is hot enough. (The barrel heating is the only portion of the build I helped with.)

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

More Barrel WorkMore Barrel WorkMore Barrel WorkMore Barrel WorkMore Barrel Work

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6 | More Barrel Work

Multiple coatings of browning solution were applied to the barrel, with a thorough rinse with clean water between each application. When the color met with Potroast’s satisfaction, we drenched the barrel with gun oil to stop the browning process.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

Final FittingFinal FittingFinal FittingFinal FittingFinal Fitting

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7 | Final Fitting

With the stock and barrel finished, the final fitting was then completed. The toughest part of the entire build was drilling the holes for the barrel retention pins. Careful measuring and a drill press were necessary for the perfect fit.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

The First ShotThe First ShotThe First ShotThe First ShotThe First Shot

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8 | The First Shot

Once the rifle was complete, it was time to test it out. We loaded with 50 grains of Goex FFg blackpowder under a .50-caliber round ball with a lubed patch. Potroast’s first shot hit three inches to the left of the bullseye. His second clipped the edge of the black bullseye. His rifle build was a success.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

AchievementsAchievementsAchievementsAchievementsAchievements

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9 | Achievements

His first chance at a deer came in December of 2016 during Kentucky’s late muzzleloading season on a brutally cold, single-digit evening. The deer entered the food plot just before dark and gave Potroast a broadside, 30-yard shot. He carefully sighted down the long barrel, silently cocked his hammer, and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. One of the things that makes hunting with a flintlock such a challenge is the fact that they don’t always go off.

The deer was alert, but the draw of the clover plot was strong in the stinging cold and it soon went back to feeding. Potroast re-cocked the hammer, took aim, and squeezed the trigger again. This time we were greeted with a loud boom and a plume of smoke that completely blocked our view of the deer. Once the smoke cleared, there was no sign of the deer in the food plot. We gave it a bit and silently slipped out of the blind to take up the trail. After following the freshly disturbed leaves for a few yards, the first speck of blood revealed a hit. We found the deer a short 50 yards later, piled up in the edge of a creek draw.

Photo credit: Michael Pendley

Don’t Miss: How to Deer Hunt with a Flintlock Muzzleloader

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