Note on terminology: All gun types are referred to as
firelocks. When referring to an army-issued firelock, it's a musket. This
does not count privately owned hunting arms such as rifles, fowlers, blunderbusses
POLICY & INSPECTION
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Why are we doing this?
In 1777, the Lights were an elite, specially trained
company. The quality of these troops was reflected not only in their training
but also in how they carried themselves and took care of their equipment.
"A filthy musket besmirches the whole company"
(Sandford, Lieut. June 18, 2001). Contemporary accounts about light infantry
speak of how they were always ready for action. And, one can't be ready
with a dysfunctional musket.
Likewise, a dirty musket is an unsafe musket. A build-up
of dirt and rust can wear down a firelock's moving parts. A good cleaning
job can help a musket last a lifetime and continue to grow in value. A
deteriorating musket can slip a spring, cause injury, be permanently damaged
and bring on the Apocalypse.
Light company firelocks must have the following attributes:
|| All metal parts on firelocks to
be, clean, and oiled. All metal parts on a musket are to be 'bright'
||all wood to be finished and clean
||all brass to be clean and free of
|| Inside of lock to be oiled and
free of grit and rust
|| Inside of barrel to be lightly
oiled and free of grit and rust
|| all firelocks must have a hammer
|| all firelocks must have a BAR regulation
|| all light bobs must be able to
produce a turn key
|| all muskets slings to be of black
|| all muskets must have a bayonet
|| Any firelock that will not take
a military bayonet must have a sidearm (preferably a plug bayonet)
In the Lights, there is a company inspection in the
morning of every day at every event. This inspection is run by the sergeants
and records (particularly of defaulters) are kept for the officers.
Each and every man is expected to have an oiled, clean,
and serviceable firelock. This does not mean the firelock has to be parade-square
sparkling. If there is a little grit due to weather or action, that's
okay. However, it must be clear that a concerted effort has been put into
keeping the firelock workable and relatively clean.
If a sergeant deems a firelock neglected or unsafe,
the owner of that firelock will have failed inspection. If a soldier fails
an inspection, he will have his name recorded, he will lose his day's
grog ration, he will be on pot- cleaning duty during evening mess and
he will be made to clean his musket under supervision of an NCO.
The thought of losing grog alone should be enough to
put the fear of God into any Light Bob worth his salt.
Why such an emphasis upon the bayonet?
Note that two of the points in policy touch upon having
a bayonet. This is important. All Sir John's soldiers are obliged to have
a bayonet. This is especially pertinent for the flank companies. The bayonet
is the soldier's sword and it is a minor dishonour to us all when you
are unable to fix one during ceremony or action.
Some folks don't carry army muskets and therefore have
a piece that will not take a regular socket bayonet. Despite this problem,
these folks should have some sort of side arm to replace the bayonet.
We'd prefer if you used a plug bayonet. Talk to your officers about what
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At the very least, a soldier should have a rag and "turn
key" as part of his kit. These items allow a soldier to keep his
firelock minimally serviceable for field use. However, a rag and turn
key is not enough for serious firelock maintenance.
In order to give your firelock the attention it deserves,
soldiers are encouraged to build/acquire a firelock cleaning kit. Click
here for more information on what kind of tools make up a cleaning kit.
Keep your amazing firelock cleaning kit in your haversack
for easy access AND to impress the girls (they lo-ove those ramrod worms)!
Other items you can add to your kit are things like a muzzle stopper and
WHERE TO GET STUFF
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There are a number of interesting reproduction items
that go into firelock maintenance.
Use this chart for quick reference:
|What is it?
||Where do I get it?
||Brick dust is just what it sounds
like. You can't buy brick dust from anywhere so it's sort of a do-it-yourself
job. Old red bricks are the best. You can usually get these by the
ton at demolition sites. Some antique bricks are so brittle you can
crumble them with your hands. If not, take a hammer to it. When you
have smaller pieces throw them into a cloth bag, (one you don't mind
wrecking) and smash it to a pulp. Le voila! Brick dust!
||This includes, turn key, worm, lock
vice, your oil bottle or any piece of equipment that makes up your
kit. Sutlers can cover most of your needs. Roy
Najecki is the best.
||Tow is a cheap linen byproduct.
Most sutlers will sell you a big bag of tow for only a few bucks.
Keep this in the freezer during the winter as your wool moths love
to burrow in it. Also doubles as excellent insulation and stuffing
|Extra firelock parts
||It's a good idea to determine where
you can get lock parts ahead of time. Check with the firelock manufacturer
of the Wolf is also a good place.
||Foot oil (reduced cows' hooves)
is still made -- it's called "Neat's Foot Oil". Sweet oil
is easy, as it's just olive oil. Palm oil can purchased from a West
Indian grocer and is very similar to the popular modern gun oil "Barrel
Butter". For more info on oils, see
the musket cleaning kit page.
||Alex Lawrence of the grenadiers
is our current flint pusher.
HOW IT'S DONE
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Once you have all your period materials, you'll find
cleaning with them so effective you may never go back to a modern method.
A firelock should be cleaned after fouling, or every six months if it
is in storage. Yes, firelocks can and do collect dirt and moisture by
just sitting in the closet or on the wall. To maintain your investment,
AFTER YOU HAVE FIRED...and have fouled the firelock,
follow these simple instructions:
|STEP 1 - field clean
||Wipe down external fouled areas
quickly with a whisk and pick, or rag.
|STEP 2 - flush lock
||Remove the lock, making sure you
do not lose the nails or side plate in the process. Flush any fouled
areas with clean water and dry with a soft cloth or tow.
|STEP 3 - flush barrel
||With the lock off, remove the ramrod
and plug the touch hole with a twig. Flush the barrel several times
with clean water (preferably hot), until it stops running black. Use
a worm to scour the insides of the barrel to dislodge caked powder.
Repeat this step, until the flush water runs clean.
|STEP 4 - Barrel swab
||With tow latched into the teeth
of the worm, swab the barrel until dry. You may need to repeat the
flushing stage after the first few swabs. Once the barrel is clean,
swab it with an oil-soaked piece of tow. Lean the firelock muzzle
down while you clean the lock.
|STEP 5 - polish lock
WARNING - Do not disassemble the inside components of your lock.
Locks should only be totally disassembled if they are so fouled
inside that it is a safety concern. Even still, this should only
be done by an experienced gunsmith using a lock vice. (Never use
vicegrips, you'll be sorry.)
Disassemble the outside of the lock including the cock, hammer,
feather spring, and flash guard. Keep all small parts in a container
or area where you won't lose them and no little animals will touch
Take a small pinch of tow and dip it in oil. Dip it in brick dust
and work this into the metal. The brick dust and oil should mix
and form a soft black compound. A build-up of this compound makes
an excellent metal cleaner.
Repeat, until all parts are free of rust, grit and powder residue.
|STEP 6 - buff lock
||After the lock is polished, use
clean tow to buff it bright. Use a clean soft cloth for the final
|STEP 7 - polish and buff barrel
||Using the same technique in step
5 and 6, use tow, dust and oil to polish and buff the entire barrel
and the brass parts on the stock.
|STEP 8 - polish and buff bayonet
||You know the drill.
|STEP 9 - clean and oil wood
||Using a piece of tow, clean any
grit or powder residue from the stock wood.
|STEP 10 - wax polish the wood (optional)
||Rub beeswax into the wood and with
a soft cloth work it in and buff it until the wood shines. Note: this
is a time-consuming project but fun fun fun! At the end you have shiny
|STEP 11 - reassemble
||Reassemble the entire musket and
store in a dry place.
THINGS NOT TO DO
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Besides the obvious disasters, like having no hammer
cap or leaving your firelock out in the rain all night, the following
are things that are ill-advised and could cause injury:
|| NEVER use linseed
oil to clean a musket. Linseed oil dries into a gummy build-up that
is highly combustible.
||IF you own a British-made
gun, the stock is most likely "pinned" to the barrel. Do
not remove these pins in order to clean the entire barrel. You should
never have to clean the underside of a barrel but if you feel you
do, please consult a gunsmith.
||DO NOT disassemble
the inside of your lock. This should only be done when the inside
of the lock has been fouled to the point of being a hazard (and it
should never have had an opportunity to get this way). If you are
in a position where you have to strip the lock only use the tools
designed for the purpose. Never use a pair of vicegrips. Always make
a sketch of how the pieces go back together.
||IF you have purchased
a worm, make sure it threads tightly around your ramrod. You may need
an adaptor or to re-thread your ramrod for it to work.
||DO NOT overload your
worm with too much tow. You run the risk of getting the whole mess
stuck down your barrel.
||NEVER NEVER NEVER put
any projectile down the barrel unless you are on a supervised gun
||NEVER NEVER NEVER point
the muzzle at another person.
|| NEVER NEVER NEVER
assume the gun is unloaded.
|| NEVER NEVER NEVER
roll cartridges near an open flame or spark.
||ALWAYS seek the advice
of an experienced gunsmith if you are taking on a job that is beyond
your skill level. Colin Post of the Artillery section is the KRRNY
official gunsmith. Ask him questions and trust his advice. He is experienced
and knows what he's doing.
|| Do not overload your
cartridges with powder. Sure, they make a neat big bang, but they
are dangerous. 100 grains max please.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH MODERN CLEANING
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There is nothing inherently wrong with cleaning your
gun with modern materials. Even those who clean their firelock the period
way 99.9% of the time, may do one full and thorough modern cleaning job
during the off season.
The thing about modern cleaners is that if you are doing
things right with period cleaners, you don't need them. Diligent maintenance
with the period method is not only as effective, some argue it is more
effective and preserves the piece longer.
Cleaning chemicals such as Autosol, Flitz, Brasso, and
Neverdull are harsh, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly, not to
mention an eyesore at an event. They also contain ingredients that may
harm your piece, especially the wood. For example, many are unaware that
WD-40 is a water-based lubricant and thus can actually aid in rusting
There is much merit in period cleaning methods. Once
you become a convert, you may never go back.