I thought fellow pirate cosplayers might like to see how I modified a replica flintlock pistol to look more authentic. I'm not aware of anyone who makes decent replica flintlocks, at least here in Europe, so I bought a very cheap-and-nasty Denix replica 'Kentucky' while it was on sale for £30. Considering it normally retails for over £50 I'm glad I didn't pay full price! It has cheesy black gloss hardware, the screws were rusty right out of the box, they're not countersunk on the trigger guard, and the ridiculous solid-cast ramrod doesn't even fit the contour of the wood! It needs a makeover.
Step 1: Stripping the 'Steel'
After dismantling the gun I removed the glossy black coating from the metal parts (they're made from cast alloy, so at least they won't rust like the real thing). I tried dipping them in paint stipper but this had no effect so maybe it's a power coating? Anyway I ended up using my drill with a wire wheel to remove it, followed by a little sanding with some 400-grit wet and dry paper. I used a file to remove the casting lines, which made a big difference to the realism. I then wiped all the parts with Iron Paste (also called Grate Polish) to give it a slightly blackened steel finish. Other details I added were drilling a touch hole in the barrel and filing a channel into the pan, to make it look more like a real black-powder mechanism. Then I painted the flint to look more like, well, flint.
Step 2: Make Some Brass Fittings
I didn't like the side-plate thing on the gun, even after filing off the Denix name. I therefore bought a piece of 1mm brass plate from eBay and used it to make a new side plate. Brass always makes things look old and hand made. I used brass screws of course, and added a third, larger screw because I liked the look of it. I had to saw the screws shorter to stop them poking into the trigger mechanism inside the gun. Tip: File and sand the top of the screw heads to remove the modern-looking machining marks!
I also went as far as inlaying the side plate into the wood so it's completely flush, although looking at photos I see not all guns did this. In fact, some pistols had no side-plate at all, just the screw heads countersunk into the wood, so if you want less work I suggest copying that.
I made another brass piece and inlayed it behind the barrel to simulate the breech plug found on real guns. I don't know what kind of wood the stock is made from (it's pale underneath the varnish/stain) but it has some very hard grain running through it which makes it difficult to chisel. I'd probably think twice about inlaying next time.
I also tried to make a belt hook from the piece of steel you can see in the photo, but it turned out to be too thin and flimsy so I abandoned it.
Step 3: Make a Ramrod
I really, really hated the one-piece ramrod on this replica. It's so obvious that it doesn't slide into the stock in any way. I therefore went to the trouble of making a proper one. First I drilled into the stock to create a hole into which the new rod will fit, progressively enlarging it to 8mm. I did get some cracking in the wood which I later filled with PVA glue. Dirtying up the stock will hide the defects.
Next, I made a thimble from some more 1mm brass sheet, bending it around a piece of bar in my vice and generally hammering and swearing at it until it formed a tube, before filing a couple of decorative grooves into it. After sanding and burnishing with steel wool you can't see the hammer dents. To fit the thimble I drilled a line of small holes into the gun stock and used a needle file to turn them into a slot, into which the brass tab of the thimble fits. I then drilled a small hole through the side of the stock -through the brass tab- and inserted a nail to hold the thimble firmly in place. This is exactly how the real thing is made, so I feel happily authentic!
Step 4: Dirty It Up!
To make the gun look suitably well-used (and to hide the defects in my workmanship!) I bashed the wood all over with a screwdriver to give it plenty of dents, then polished it with brown furniture wax. Finally I reassembled the metal parts. I had to cut down the screw which holds the barrel in place since it no longer passes through the ramrod. I also replaced the trigger-guard screws with brass ones, and drilled countersinks into the guard itself so the screw heads no longer scrape my fingers. I'm pleased with the result; it's more detailed and looks a lot more like a sea service pistol -the kind of pistol a pirate might actually have carried, rather than an overpriced toy!