Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Commenting about 1839 on the Monaro plains south of present day Canberra, David Parry-Okeden wrote:

"Even the means of defence against attack by black or white marauders was of the most primitive kind for practically the only firearms were of the old flint lock type. Mr. Parry-Okeden took the first gun fired by means of a percussion cap into the Maneroo (afterwards called the Monaro) district. This gun, a rifle which had belonged to his brother in India, and a couple of double-barrelled muzzle loading shot guns, quite a considerable armory, and became the object of envy by at least one party of bushrangers..." (here)

I inquired of Keith Burgess, primitive skills instructor and member of the New England Living History Group, about the weapons used by the first settlers in Australia and this was his informative response:

"The British FLINTLOCK Brown Bess was in use with the military from 1722 to 1838, then it was replaced by a percussion Brown Bess. However, those guns that found there way into private hands, were used for a lot longer. The problem with the percussion gun is that it required caps for ignition, and these were not always available to the ordinary person, especially someone who could not afford to be seen in town! 

In the New World and Africa and other such places the flintlock ruled, anywhere in the wilderness a flintlock was a must, well into the 19th century and beyond. Cap and ball revolvers were being used in Australia during the mid 19th century, but again there would have been a lot of flintlock pistols still in use.

Smooth bore flintlocks were common in the early days of the (gold) rushes. No doubt there were even some examples of the earlier wheellock pistols and hunting muskets. But it was the cheap and popular flintlock firearm that was carried by most diggers when they flocked to Ophir and shortly after to the diggings in the colony of Victoria. 

The flintlock came in a myriad of shapes and sizes. As a pistol it was wildly inaccurate but that didn't deter people carrying it for self-defence. Where was the Flintlock Box Lock pistol with a screw-off barrel that had to be removed to load the weapon. There were Pocket Pistols that looked as if their protruding mechanisms would catch on everything as it was drawn from the pocket. 

There were Muff pistols that were designed to be secreted in ladies' muffs. There were double barrel pistols with spring bayonets fitted under the barrels. Triple barrel and even seven barrel pistols. Military pistols of the Flintlock Blunderbuss type were probably in greatest supply as they had been manufactured in great numbers during the many wars just prior to, and during the early part of the 1800's". 

The following video explaining the flintlock is supplied by Keith.

The New England Living History Forum is (here)
Keith's blog Woodsrunners Diary is (here)
His YouTube channel is (here)

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  1. Good one Dave, thanks for the plug. Anytime I can help with images let me know.

  2. Thank you Keith.
    Cheers Dave


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