Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Lucky's Trekking Tips - Muzzle Blasts April 2024

Hunting Bags: I have always marveled at the amount of stuff people carry in their hunting bag, or as people call it, the “possible” bag. I have never found a historical reference to that term in more than 25 years of research. “Possible bag” came out of the 1960’s rendezvous era when all kinds of crazy things surfaced that have no historical existence.

First person documentation lumps the bag, horn, and knife into their historical term, “hunting tools”. A lot of us carry the same three items for fashion and not function. Sometimes I walk around camps and the only thing I can think is, “he with the prettiest accoutrements wins”. But are they functional?

When it comes to my hunting bag, it has very little in it, and what is floats around freely. My horn rides on the flap to keep it closed and the bag rides high under my arm to keep it from bouncing around, especially when on the run, both foot and horseback.

Inside is loose ball, patching material, and a couple flints. In a hurry, the last thing I want is to reach into my hunting bag, to pull out another bag to get at ball or flint. I have read journals that talked about loose ball in the bottom of their bag, and so I do. Once in a great while I will have a flint and steel in there with char cloth in a tin, but usually that is in my saddle bags. When I am on foot my fire kit is in my haversack. Keeping it simple makes rapid reloading a snap.

Pictured are the only bags I have ever owned. The first is an Eastern Native American bag acquired from my first mentor in the hobby, Ron Poppe, when I was with Captain Benjamin Logan’s Company of Kentucky County Militia. The heart bag I made along with the patch knife on the side. It is hand forged from an 1800’s buggy spring.

The last one is my favorite, a beaver tail bag made by Jeff “Po-Boy” Luke. He is one of the finest bag makers in the country and I carried this bag on my Ashley’s Return trip for 95 days in all conditions. The bags performance and craftmanship is impeccable. The two pictures are of it before and on the trek.

When trekking, I have a strip of patching material hanging from the strap. I don’t carry patch lube (neither did our forefathers) and very rarely a loading block, only recently adding one to a bag. It was made by Spark Mumma, good friend, and superb craftsman. Hanging from each bag is a vent pick, brush, and powder measure. That’s it. It is a hunting bag, not a purse or haversack. For me it has a simple function to load and shoot, period. Not to hold everything “possible”.

I am looking forward to seeing folks at Friendship this June. I’ll have a fire and coffee on, stop by for a chat!

Written by Gerry "Lucky" Messmer. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ball Dischargers

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Two Kinds Of Shooters: "There are two kinds of (black powder) shooters: Those who have dry-balled, and those who will." Everybody will dry-ball, or load without a powder charge, at least once in their shooting careers. Some will do it several times. As for my own experiences, I take the Fifth.

During the Spring 2024 Rendezvous, I needed the services of a CO2 ball discharger not once, but twice, and with the same shooter using the same Lyman Great Plains rifle. Since I didn't have a discharger in my camera bag (gasp!), I had to retrieve the Club's discharger from the Stat Shack twice. Luckily for me there were two full CO2 cartridges, and as of this day, we now have none.

In an earlier post I described the ways one deals with a dry-ball rifle or pistol, and if you've never had one, the first impulse is to panic. I've seen muzzles pointed in all directions, often in directions unsafe. It is important to remember that what you think is a dry ball may be a hang-fire, a case where there is a noticeable delay between when the hammer drops and when the gun discharges. I had this  happen a few times. Once, I had a hang fire on a flinter that lasted a second or two. I kept the gun on target, and eventually it went off, and in front of witnesses, I managed to hit the long gong I was aiming at. The other time it took about 5 seconds for the rifle to discharge, and since I kept the fusil pointed downrange, the ball flew safely into the backstop.

I own a beautiful Thompson Center discharger that was machined from solid aluminum. I have also owned a plastic one made by CVA, which appeared to have been a repurposed bicycle tire pump. A check on eBay found no samples of either, a fate expected for so esoteric a tool. The location of my Thompson remains unclear. When I find it, I may keep it with me as my range duties transition from shooter to club official. But every shooter should have one for the measure of safety it provides. Sure, they didn't have them in the 1830s, but  dislodging a ball in an unsafe manner could result in a seriously injured Mountain Man or Woman. Dying a period-correct death is never a good thing.

To use the discharger, you must first attach the special spout that properly fits your percussion nipple (also called a cone). Next, remove the outer plastic cover and screw the CO2 cartridge firmly in place. Finally re-attached the outer capsule. Press the nozzle firmly onto the nipple, just as you would re-inflate a tire. Point the rifle in a safe direction and press the discharger trigger. In a moment, you'll hear a "foop" and the ball and patch exits the muzzle. Wipe the bore with a clean dry patch, reload, and fire.

One final note: The ball discharger pictured requires the use of a 16 gram threaded C02 cartridge, not the 12 gram unthreaded version we're used to seeing. Judging from the packaging, the cartridges were designed to zap moles and ants. Go figure. Get some extra cartridges, just in case. Can you clear more than one dry-ball with a single cartridge? I wouldn't count on it.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that it can't happen to you. Trust me, it will.