The evolution of gun technology can be seen in archaeological sites and from artifacts found throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Gun flint can help to date the site in which it was found to the Colonial Period (1607 – 1789) or the Early National Period (1790 – 1828). First introduced in the 16th century, the firing mechanism called the “flintlock” created a more reliable weapon by using gun flint that was less susceptible to misfiring and moisture. Flint was shaped using the process of flint knapping, the same process Native Americans used to create stone tools. It was held in place by a clamp within the cocking mechanism of a musket. Once the trigger was pulled, the spring loaded cock swung forward, striking and opening the frizzen. This in turn revealed the black powder beneath, and the impact of flint with steel created a spark that ignited the charge.
Prior to the invention of the flintlock, it was difficult to keep the ignition source dry and to protect the gunpowder from the elements. The use of gun flint allowed for other leaps in lock technology in the following centuries.
There’s more information about artifacts and current excavations around Fairfax County at cartarchaeology.wordpress.com.