Musket Vs Flintlock Pistol- Which Is More Powerful?

Key Point: A musket is a long-barreled firearm, designed for infantry use, providing range and more power to the user. While a flintlock pistol is a shorter-barreled firearm that sacrifices the range of a musket for increased portability.

In this article, we will discuss the topic of musket vs flintlock pistol. What are the differences between the two and which one would be best to carry with you?

Before we go into more detail, you can find all the major differences between a musket and a flintlock pistol in the paragraph below:

Flintlock pistols were small handheld firearms that were primarily used for self-defense and hunting. While on the other hand, a musket is a much bigger weapon that was primarily used on the battlefield. Aside from their difference in size and the way they were used they also differ in the firing mechanism. The flintlock pistol was fired using the flintlock mechanism while muskets were manufactured both with the flintlock and with matchlock triggers.

Now that you read the summary of the article, let’s take a look at their origins. The history of both the musket and the flintlock pistol.

Musket vs Flintlock Pistol – Their History

The flintlock mechanism by which the flintlock pistol gets its name was first created in the very early 17th century. The pistol with the flintlock mechanism soon followed. It is not clear who was responsible for its creation but its usefulness nonetheless made it extremely popular. It was wildly popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. While it did have some use on the battlefield it was primarily used for hunting and self-defense.

The fact that it was small and easily portable meant it became incredibly handy for people wanting to protect themselves. It also packed a huge punch in close quarters.

On the other hand, if we take a look at the musket. It predates the flintlock pistol by a wide margin. The earliest accounts place the origin of the musket in the late 15th and early 16th century. Though it didn’t immediately start with the flintlock mechanism.

Their Impact On History

The flintlock pistol and the musket have had a significant impact on history. The flintlock pistol played a role in the development of modern handguns. They were also used by soldiers and civilians in numerous conflicts and wars. The musket was a key weapon in the formation and expansion of many empires and played a significant role in the evolution of modern firearms. Military units like the Spanish musketeers for example had musket in their official name.

Remember when I said that muskets weren’t always fired using a flintlock trigger? Well, the earliest muskets were fired using a matchlock mechanism, which was the dominant method of firing firearms from the 15th to the 17th century.

What Is The Matchlock Mechanism?

The matchlock mechanism used a burning cord, or “match,” to ignite the gunpowder and fire the musket. To use a matchlock musket, the shooter would place the burning match into a clamp, or “serpentine,” on the side of the musket. When the trigger was pulled, the clamp would release the burning match and bring it into contact with a small pan of gunpowder, which would ignite the main charge and fire the musket.

Now, imagine using that in a wet or humid environment. Good luck with that!

So, when the flintlock mechanism, which uses flint and steel to create a spark to ignite gunpowder, came along in the early 17th century it gradually replaced the matchlock mechanism as the dominant method of firing firearms.

Now, that we finished our tour through the history of flintlock pistols and muskets, let’s take a look at the design of both firearms.

Design Of A Musket vs Flintlock Pistol

Now, it’s time we take a look at the design of both firearms. And their difference in size, which is one of the key differences between the two.

Flintlock Pistol

It has a shorter barrel and a smaller caliber, making it easier to carry and handle. The flintlock mechanism is located on the outside of the pistol, and the trigger is used to release the flint and fire the gun.

What About The Musket?

A musket has a longer barrel and a larger caliber, making it more powerful but also more difficult to handle. The musket also has a flintlock mechanism, but it is located on the inside of the gun, requiring the shooter to cock the hammer before firing.

In general, the musket is a long gun that is typically much larger and heavier than the flintlock pistol.

How They Were Used?

The flintlock pistol was primarily used as a sidearm, either for self-defense or as a backup weapon on the battlefield. It was also used by civilians for hunting small game and for personal protection. The flintlock pistol was not as accurate as the musket, but it was easier to carry and could be quickly drawn in a close-quarters situation.

The musket was primarily used as a primary weapon on the battlefield. It was effective in short to medium ranges. The musket was also used by civilians for hunting larger game and for self-defense, but it was not as practical as the flintlock pistol due to its size and weight.

If you were a civilian living in the 17th or 18th century, what would you choose? Would you pick a musket or a flintlock pistol? Well, my suggestion is you stick with the flintlock, here is why.

Advantages Of A Flintlock Pistol

There Are 3 Advantages To A Flintlock Pistol:

  • Portability
  • Quick To Fire
  • Power


The flintlock pistol was small and lightweight, making it easy to carry and draw in close-quarters situations. For self-defense situations, it was ideal since it allowed the user to conceal his weapon.

Quick To Fire

The flintlock pistol could be quickly drawn and fired, making it a good choice for self-defense. And reloading it was much simpler and faster than with a musket. And if “you know what” hits the fan, speed is essential. So, let’s take a look at how fast can a flintlock pistol be reloaded.

The flintlock pistol could be reloaded relatively quickly, as it only required the shooter to pour gunpowder and a ball into the barrel and prime the pan with a fresh charge of gunpowder. This process could be done in a matter of seconds, depending on the skill and experience of the shooter.


So how powerful was a flintlock pistol? The flintlock pistol was not as powerful as the musket due to its smaller caliber and shorter barrel. However, it was still capable of causing significant injury or death at close range. And that is what it was designed for. Being as deadly as possible at close quarters. This means it was not designed for long ranges and therefore accuracy at longer ranges was almost non-existent.

All in all, the flintlock pistol was not as accurate as the musket due to its shorter barrel and lack of rifling. However, it was still capable of hitting targets at close to medium ranges, depending on the skill of the shooter.

Key Takeaway

So, what does that mean for you? Well, if you are a civilian a flintlock pistol is the way to go. No doubt about it. The flintlock pistol was far cheaper than the musket it packed enough of a punch to be useful in civilian life, either for self-defense or hunting.

As you can see flintlocks were incredibly useful in the civilian context. Muskets on the other hand were more accurate at longer distances and carried a bigger punch (piercing power) than the flintlock pistol. This naturally made them better suited in the context of a battlefield.

There is a popular question out there that asks “are flintlocks and muskets the same?” No, not always. Flintlock is a term that describes firearms that use a flintlock trigger to fire. These firearms can include a musket but also a pistol for example. Muskets are long-barreled gunpowder firearms that have been made with a flintlock trigger and before that a matchlock trigger.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two here. If you wish to continue learning I invite you to check out my other article where I detail the difference between a musket and a bow, just click here to check it out.

Or check out my article on the Chinese musket and the role it played in Chinese history.

Take care!

Sources: Firearms: An Illustrated History by DK