Why Didn't My Musket Fire?

By John P. DiCarlo, Jr. - Maryland Company, Wayne's Light Infantry Corps.

THIS is an often asked question from new people in the ranks. I'd like to take the opportunity to examine this question.

There are several reasons why your musket didn't fire. To look at the reasons, we first have to ascertain what is really going on.

  1. Is your musket sparking? Did the powder in the pan ignite? If not, here are several reasons why:

    1. The flint is too oily/dirty.
      Take the rag that you carry for this very purpose and wipe off the flint.
    2. The frizzen is too oily/dirty.
      Take a different part of the rag and wipe off the frizzen.
    3. The flint is worn out.
      If wiping the flint and the frizzen didn't work, change the flint. Remember, if you're shooting a Charleville, put the flint in upside down.
    4. The frizzen is not hard enough.
      If you're still not getting a spark, there is a possibility that the spring is too weak, but it's more likely that the frizzen needs to be hardened. A good indication is that your flint is digging deep lines into your frizzen and no or very little sparks are produced. This means your frizzen is too soft and needs to be hardened.

      A good way to harden it yourself is to use an airtight woodstove. Burn the wood down until you can rake a good bed of coals and shut the door. Open both air intakes, and it will turn the stove into a blast furnace of sorts. It doesn't take long. When your frizzen turns cherry red and almost looks translucent, take it out and drop it into a coffee can filled with water. When it cools, it will have been hardened.
  2. Okay, the pan is going off, but your musket is still not firing.

    1. You should have a wisk and a pick. Take the pick and ream out the touchhole pushing all the way into the barrel. Then, reprime and try again.
    2. Turn the musket upside down and dump the powder out. Then try reloading. Only do this one time.
  3. At this point, after several tries, if your "musket didn't fire," it's probably so fouled that the only thing that will help it is a good thorough cleaning.Turn the musket upside down and dump the powder. It's time to take a "hit" and die.
  4. Back at camp.

    1. Pull your lock and open the pan. Take hot water and pour it over your lock. Using a worn out toothbrush, scrub it until all of the black powder is gone. It won't take long as the black powder dissolves instantly. When you're done cleaning your lock, dry it off and oil it.
    2. Pour hot water down your barrel until it comes out of the touchhole clear.
    3. Then, insert a round toothpick into your touchhole. Pour hot water down your barrel until it's about a quarter full. Place a rag over the end of the barrel and grab the trigger guard with your other hand and turn your musket upside down until the water bubbles down to that end of your barrel. Then, turn it back the other way. After several turns, pour the water out. Continue doing this until the water comes out clear.
    4. Run a dry patch down your barrel, working it back and forth. Then, run oiled patches through it until they come out clean.

Copyright © 1997 John P. DiCarlo. All rights reserved.