Rifle Section

History

Matchlock

The addition of a trigger operated lock to a simple hand held gun enabled the burning match to be dropped into the priming and left both hands free to hold a steady aim. The ignition time of a properly set up matchlock is extremely fast and was really only equaled  by  flintlocks with the finest tuning until the development of percussion ignition.

Matchlock muskets are used in competition at 50 metres using the French military 200m ten-ring rifle target. In the UK, the competitions are restricted to the cheek-stocked Japanese style matchlocks and these are shot, kneeling and standing. There are usually five National competitions each year for this discipline.

The International competition equivalents under MLIAC rules are titled the Tanegashima (standing) and the Hizadai (kneeling) – link to MLAIC web site-section on rules.

Under the MLAIC rules, the class for Original firearms is restricted to cheek stocked muskets and the class for Reproduction firearms allows the European style, shoulder stocked Matchlocks.

This has probably come about because of the scarcity of original European-type matchlocks in usable condition. The Indian matchlocks of the Torador type usually have a trigger which lowers the match into the priming as opposed to releasing a spring-loaded serpentine carrying the match. It  is more difficult to keep on aim while operating a mechanical link than it is with the snaplock type of matchlock. It is possible to occasionally find snaplock matchlock muskets very similar to those of the Japanese style but from other surrounding countries.  As these are cheek-stocked they might well be eligible but in practice it is the Japanese matchlocks that are used in competition.

There is another section on selecting firearms but it is worth making a separate mention here.

Although the Japanese matchlocks are among the most beautifully made and decorated firearms that a shooter will come across, they do vary in strength and great care must be exercised.  The breech screws, notoriously, were hand cut and relied on a very long plug and a mixture of tar and fibre in the threads to make them gas tight.

It is vital to get good advice before selecting a matchlock musket  for shooting.

 

Flintlock

The Flintlock which appeared at the end of the 17th century was an improvement on the wheel-lock and the snaphaunce in both its efficiency and simplicity. A shaped flint which was held in a set of jaws was, upon release of the trigger, brought down against a steel which was directly attached to and formed part of the priming pan cover. As it sprang away from the strike it exposed the priming and the shower of sparks which had been produced, effected ignition.

There are no specific competitions for wheel-lock firearms, originals tend to be very expensive and there are few reproductions. The mechanism is complex and difficult to clean which may be another part of the reason that one does not see  them used.

Flintlock rifles and muskets are widely available as commercially produced reproductions as well as originals and are used at clubs throughout the UK. There are usually seven competitions each year organised nationally  which includes the MLAGB Short-Range championships

The MLAIC competitions are :

Miquelet for military flintlock musket. This is shot standing at 50m and again uses the French military ten-ring 200m rifle target. The muskets should be of standard military type and have no rear sight.

Pennsylvania for flintlock rifles . 50m, standing but shot on the standard PL7 target ( MLAIC 50m pistol target).

Maximillian for flintlock rifles  100m prone. Shot on the PL7 target.

For rifles there is no restriction on calibre and any contempory  style of sights  can be used as long as they are in the spirit of the original.

In the MLAIC competitions there are separate classes for reproduction and original firearms but all the national UK competitions except the Short Range Championships combine the classes.

 

Percussion

Percussion ignition when fully developed was a great improvement on flintlock both in terms of reliability and speed of ignition. Sportsmen quickly saw the advantages and many high quality flintlock arms were converted to the new system. The military, of the various nations, also gradually adopted the system and again many flintlocks were converted.

There exists a great variety of  well made reproduction percussion rifles . There are calibres and styles that will fit in with the energy restrictions of most clubs and patched -ball shooting with these rifles forms the back-bone of Muzzle loading rifle shooting in the UK.

High levels of accuracy are achievable and achieved.

There are fewer specific patch -ball competitions nationally but these rifles can be shot in the free rifle 50m standing competitions.

The MLAIC title for this competition is:

Vetterli and again the target is the PL7 (MLAIC 50m pistol target).

This class really takes muzzle loading shooting to highest level of accuracy and the rifles used in top competition are among the finest.

The renewed interest in muzzle loading shooting in the middle of the last century made the  commercial production of reproduction rifles viable. Some of the earliest of these were the Enfield .577 rifles produced by Parker-Hale.  These rifles and the continuing availability of original Enfield rifles in shootable condition led to thriving competition. There are many competitions for this class of rifle. Most in the UK specify the Enfield design but the MLAIC competition just specifies Military rifles of calibre greater than 13.5mm( .5315”).

The international competitions are:

Minie Military rifle prone at 100m on PL7 target

Lamarmora Military rifle standing at 50m on PL7 target

The military interest in accurate long range shooting brought about a lot of experimentation in the mid 19th century. From this experimentation small calibre military rifles with fast twist rifling  were designed. From these target rifles developed along the same lines. This made shooting out to 1200yds a viable proposition and there was intense interest in this as a sport.

Original military match rifles are expensive and original target rifles very expensive.

Fortunately there are excellent reproduction rifles available and long range  target shooting is a very strong discipline in the UK and abroad. (link to long range rifles )

The free rifles used in the Vetterli type competitions at 50m can be used at 100m but generally they are specialised  for off-hand shooting and are not easy to shoot prone.

Whitworth  is the MLAIC  100m free rifle prone competition and this is generally shot with the military match or target rifles,

Although there are many original percussion muskets in  shootable condition there are no International competitions for this class. There are National competitions (please see the competitive shooting section of the site), however, and these muskets are great fun to shoot.