The .50 Caliber Lyman "Deerstalker" Left Handed Flintlock
By Terry Hart
It is 3:24 PM, Sunday, December 11, 2005. Day before yesterday I turned 64 and last Spring I retired. Tomorrow West Virginia's Muzzle Loader season opens.
I just returned from the local outdoor shooting range. We are experiencing a heat wave. The temperature has skyrocketed to a whopping 34 degrees. The wind is blowing 20 miles per hour, it is totally overcast, and snowing lightly. There is about 8 inches of the white stuff already covering the ground. My wife is convinced I've gone totally NUTS!
Two months ago several of my hunting friends badgered me into purchasing my first ever Flintlock to use in the unique late December through mid January Pennsylvania Flint Lock only White Tail Season. Since I am Left Handed they concluded the Lyman Deerstalker would be the best choice, and ordered one for me.
This inexpensive gun is beautiful. It has a nicely oiled and grained real Walnut stock and shoulders perfectly. After doing a little research I decide to try the skirted Power Belt Brand 295 grain un-plated pure lead hollow point bullets. I purchase a can of Pyrodex RS and a can of GOEX FFFFg and head for the shooting range.
After loading with 5 grains of the FFFFg, followed by 60 grains of the Pyrodex, the plastic skirted Power Belt slides easily down the barrel. Then after sprinkling a little FFFFg into the flash pan, I Tee-Off. KABOOM! A big hole appears dead center in the target at 25 yards. WOW, that's sweet.
There was no hesitation between the trigger being squeezed and the thing going off. Also no big distracting flash in front of my eyes as my disbelieving brother claims there will be. This ain't bad at all.
So I carefully scrub out the Flash Pan with a cleaning patch soaked in 95% Pure Grain Alcohol purchased from the local liquor store. No lube was used, as recommended for the Power Belt's, so I do not clean the barrel, and proceed to reload. After poking a paper clip into the Flash Hole I sprinkle a little more FFFFg into the pan and fire again. Flash, but no KABOOM. All crap!
Again, the pan is thoroughly scrubbed with the drinking spirits, poke the flash hole a few more times, sprinkle a little more FFFFg, same result. Double crap! Now what? I contemplate pulling the load or taking the thing to the local Black Powder Guru to have the Breech Plug pulled. After a few minutes of worry I decide to try one more time. Following a slight hesitation, KABOOM, at last. Another big hole appears in the target about 1/2 inch to the right of the first one.
I clean the barrel and fire a third round without incident. The third big hole appears overlapping the second one, again, just slightly right of the Bull's-eye. Despite my ancient eyes and terrible vision, coupled with out of the box open sights, this darn thing shoots pretty good.
But, without fail, the problem with the main charge not igniting on follow-on shots continues. If the barrel is cleaned between shots it fires perfectly every time. And to my amazement it produces consistent 1 inch groups at 50 yards. Hey, this still ain't all that bad!
Finally I email Randy Wakeman, the good folks at Lyman, and talk things over with a couple of the locals. Without exception the answer comes back to lose the Pyrodex and replace it real Black Powder FFFg down the smoke stack. So back to the store and a few more bucks for a different can of GOEX.
Then White Tail Rifle season opens in West Virginia, followed a week later by Pennsylvania, and for three weeks the Lyman sets, patiently awaiting it's turn.
Previously all of the very tight groups were ending up slightly to the right of the bull. The Lyman has traditional iron sights mounted in Dove Tail cut-outs. There is no simple screw type windage adjustment. One of the several days during these past three weeks when the wonderful weather was so el-stink-o that I chickened out, and did not hunt, I routed around and found the old slide rule and calculated how many thousandths of an inch one of the sights needed to be nudged sideways. After retrieving a small brass ball peen hammer, a punch, and noting, as best one can, where it needs to end up, I tapped the front one sideways. Miracles of miracles, after a single whack it slid exactly the right amount.
This morning I calculated what the trajectory might be for a 75 grain hunting charge of the FFFg, and despite the bitter conditions, loaded up all the junk and headed for the range. One to one and a half inches high at 50 yards is where it needs to go. None to my surprise I had the usually busy place all to myself. After unloading all the junk, I hang the big black bull's-eye target up at 50 yards and, shivering, load the Lyman. After steadying on the bench and carefully squeezing the nice crisp trigger, KABOOM!
My eyes are so bad that I can't see any hole, even at 50 yards. So I wade through the snow and out to the target. To my absolute amazement there it is dead center exactly 1 inch above the Bull. Now it doesn't get any sweeter than this? By now I am really freezing and feeling kind of silly for even being out here. So I unsnap the plastic clothes pins holding the target with my already numb fingers, plow back to the bench, pack up all the junk, and return to the warmth of the living room.
Despite terrible vision and open sights, this 400 year old technology canon shoots better than my 17Mach2 with a fancy target scope. I think I'm going to like this "sparky smoke-stack" stuff.
Copyright 2005 by Terry Hart. All rights reserved.