The Flintlock was developed in France around 1612. A key contributor to this development was Marin le Bourgeoys who was assigned to the Louvre gun shops by King Henri IV of France. The Flintlock's manufacture slowly spread throughout Europe, and by the second half of the century it became more popular than the Wheel Lock and Snaphaunce. The main difference between the Flintlock and Snaphaunce is that in the Flintlock the striking surface and flashpan cover are all one piece, where in the Snaphaunce they are separate mechanisms. This made the mechanism even simpler, less expensive, and more reliable than its predecessor. This simplicity allowed for more creative gun designs, such as guns with multiple barrels and miniature pistols which could be concealed easily inside a garment. By 1664 experiments with rotating-block repeated fire guns were under way (like a revolver which holds a number of shots in a rotating cylinder) but such weapons were dangerous to operate and would have to wait for another century and a half to be made a standard weapon.
The northern Arabs acquired the Snaphaunce and Flintlock in the late 1600s and often designed their long guns with a sharply curving butt so that they could be tucked under an arm and fired single-handed from the back of a camel or horse.
In the early 1700s the Brown Bess Flintlock made its appearance. It probably got its name from the acid-brown treatment of its barrel. I mention this so that any flintlock owners with those brown-treated guns (like mine!) will understand just how late in the game they appeared. By this time, the flintlock was accurate up to about 80 yards but nobody could aim at a man and kill him at 200 yards. A shooter of average experience could load and fire two to three rounds per minute.
For more information on Flintlocks and Percussion Cap arms and enthusiasts, visit the Kentucky Long Rifle page at http://www.webpub.com/~jhagee/ky-lr.html.