Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Safety, Safety, Safety!

 Fall Rendezvous And Trek: Thursday, October 28-Sunday, October 31!

No Stronger Bond by David Wright
During the Golden Age of Flintlocks, shooters adopted many practices that are definitely unsafe by modern standards.  It's a fact that for many frontiersmen (and women), rapid fire as the only way one could be sure they lived another day, and that the lives of loved ones and the protection of personal property were preserved.

Friends, this is the 21st Century, and you're not living in the hostile frontier at the edge of civilization. Shooting competition is NOT a race to see who can survive a historically correct injury, or succumb to a historically correct death. There is no justification for neglecting safe loading practices while shooting.

Blowing Down The Muzzle - Unsafe!

Many shooters believe that a quick blow down the muzzle would extinguish any glowing embers that might remain in the bore. Also, the moisture in one's breath was supposed to keep the powder fowling soft.

Safer! A more effective procedure it to attach a jag to the tip of your ramrod (wiping stick) and quickly swab the bore with a spit-moistened cleaning patch. This effectively extinguishes any remaining embers while moistening the powder fowling. You'll find that this makes the loading easier, too.

The American Rifleman by David Wright
Loading Directly From The Horn - Unsafe!

There's an old saw that says you can't load enough black powder to blow up a barrel. That being said, some neophytes might conclude that it is safe to pour the powder directly into the barrel instead of first measuring it. Barrel strength aside, this is an extremely dangerous practice. If powder is poured directly into the barrel, a single ember could ignite the charge and send a fireball up the barrel and directly into your open powder horn, turning it into a small bomb.

Safer! Use a powder measure designed for your rifle or pistol. As a general rule, you would un-plug your powder horn, then fill your powder measure to the brim. Then you would replace the plug in your horn before pouring the powder down the bore. Your horn is now sealed and safely tucked under your arm, away from the barrel.

Measuring Powder Charges By Eye - Unsafe!

Even as a kid, I heard stories where trekkers would put a single musket ball the palm of their hand and pour powder over it until it was completely covered. This was supposedly the optimal load for the rifle. Needless to say, this method was hardly repeatable with any level of precision.

Safer! Use a powder measure designed for your rifle or pistol. As a general rule, for every caliber of your bore, you should have one grain (not granule!) of powder. The grain is a unit of measurement and equal to  1/7000 of a pound. If you have a 50 caliber rifle, buy a 50 grain measure, it will hold 50 grains of black powder by volume. For pistols, use half of the prescribed rifle load. Don't guess - If you have both rifle and pistol, buy a fixed measure for each gun, or get one that's adjustable.

To The Rockies by David Wright
Careless Loading Practices - Unsafe!

The biggest challenge for new shooters is remembering all of the numerous steps required to load your rifle or pistol. It's not as simple as grabbing a cartridge, inserting into breech, closing the breech, and firing the gun. The steps required just to load a single shot can be a little daunting unless you come prepared with the necessary components and commit to a set loading sequence.

Safer! This procedure works for me. I carry a leather belt pouch for storage along with my possibles bag. Before you load:

  • Put some shooting patches of the proper diameter and the desired thickness in your left cheek to moisten them.
  • Put some cleaning patches in your right cheek to moisten them.
  • Have some properly sized round balls and a proper cleaning jag in the belt pouch.
  • Adjust your powder measure to the proper charge weight, or select the appropriate fixed measure.
  • Fill your capper (percussion) or fill your priming flask (flintlock).
  • Fill your powder horn.
  • Fill your possibles bag for extra shooting patches, extra cleaning patches, basic tools, and your short starter.

The Crossing by David Wright
Loading follows s specific sequence.

  • Open your horn and fill your powder measure. Replace the stopper.
  • Pour the powder down the bore. Replace your measure.
  • Take a shooting patch from your left cheek and hold it over the bore. This is to remind you that your gun has been charged.
  • Take one ball from the leather pouch and hold it in place over the patch with your thumb.
  • Retrieve your short starter and ram the ball home.
  • Remove your wiping stick and seat the ball firmly against the powder charge with one smooth motion. Be sure that the ball seats firmly against the powder charge. Return the wiping stick to its place beneath the barrel.
  • Cap or prime only when you approach the shooting stand.
After you've taken your shot:
  • Take a cleaning patch from your right cheek.
  • Take the cleaning jag from your leather pouch and attach it to your wiping stick.
  • Swab the bore with the cleaning patch. Use the patch to wipe the nipple, or the frizzen and the flint. A buildup of gunk on the nipple may prevent the new cap from seating properly, causing a misfire.
  • Put the used patch and the cleaning jag back in your belt pouch. The patch can be used a second time, or kept for tinder.
David Wright's internationally recognized works hang in numerous collections, as well as in the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA, and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. David's commissioned painting for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, titled Gateway to the West - Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap, 1775 has been made into a breathtaking wall-size mural that is on display at the Cumberland Gap Visitor's Center. He and his wife reside in Gallatin in a beautiful 18th century style house situated over the ever-running falls of historic Asher's Creek, across from the ruins of an old gristmill.