A flintlock is a firearm that operates in the following manner:
  • The operator loads the gun, usually from the barrel end, with black powder followed by shot or a bullet wrapped in a paper patch, all rammed down with a special rod;
  • A hammer tightly holding a shaped bit of flint is cocked;
  • The gun is aimed and the trigger pulled, releasing the hammer;
  • The flint strikes a piece of steel or iron, producing a spark that is directed into a pan filled with powder;
  • The powder ignites, and the flame passes through a small hole in the pan that leads to the firing chamber, igniting the powder there; and
  • The gun discharges.

Although a few guns of this type are still manufactured for black powder enthusiasts, the flintlock otherwise passed out of common use around 1860, after cap and cartridge-based guns were invented. The last major use of flintlocks in the Americas occurred in the first years of the American Civil War.