What’s in a Name?Have you heard the saying lock, stock, and barrel before? It refers to the three main parts of a musket—the firing mechanism or lock, the wooden stock, and the steel barrel. During the U.S.-Mexican War, both countries sent their infantries into battle with the flintlock musket as their main weapon.
Flintlocks get their name from the type of lock they use. With a squeeze of the trigger, tension on several internal parts is released. This causes a piece of flint to come crashing down onto a steel plate, creating a shower of sparks. These sparks ignite gun powder held in a shallow steel or brass pan on the side of the lock.
Its simplicity made it practical to use and easy to maintain. Although newer firing mechanisms for muskets were beginning to make waves among the armies of the world, it was the trusty flintlock that saw most of the action during the U.S.-Mexican War.
Load & FireLoading and firing a musket was not a quick and easy process. The weapon had to be loaded at the gun's muzzle. U.S. and Mexican armies spent countless hours training their soldiers to load and fire their muskets. The U.S. musket drill called for 12 motions and the Mexican drill called for 11 motions. Both musket drills start at the Shoulder—ARMS position. Once the instructor was satisfied with the soldier's progress, training with live rounds would being.
The musket drill begins with the lock in the half-cocked position. If the lock is functioning properly, it will not fire from this position. In other words, it will not go off half-cocked.
Before the musket can be fired, it must be "primed". A paper cartridge is removed from the cartridge box. The cartridge contains gunpowder and a musket ball at the bottom. The cartridge is torn open using the teeth and a small amount of the powder is then poured into the pan.