Author Topic: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes  (Read 8529 times)

Offline Tsalagidave

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Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« on: September 04, 2019, 03:27:01 am »
Gentlemen, here is a draft of an article I'm working on.  Since the complete dos and don'ts list would fill a book, I am  putting it together incrementally.

Seat It! Don't Slam it!
...and other muzzle loading mistakes that will spoil your shot

By Dave Rodgers
Sept. 2, 2019

Fraley Farm, Tennessee - April, 1862
Wilbur Douglas concealed himself along a forward picket line in the woods to the south of  the main army. There was word that rebel skirmishers were probing along the lines and so, he and his comrades were spread out to give warning should the enemy make their presence known. 'Will' as his friends called him, had never even fired a gun before his enlistment four months earlier. Being relatively green to the use of arms, he gained the basic rudiments through military drill and despite the good intent of his older comrades, their "advice" on how to shoot was not always valuable. When loading, the conical ball followed the powder, gliding under the ramrod to a firm seat. He then forcefully pounded the round with three-sharp blows from the rammer to make sure that it was "well-seated". He was also told that if an enemy approached, a firm "jerk on the trigger" would ensure a certain shot.

Time passed slowly as the chorus of blue jays and chickadees sounded from the branches and echoed through the trees. Anticipation gave way to fatigue. He sat with his shoulder braced against an old dogwood well concealed in its shade.  Will picked away the bark at the end of a twig,  and chewed  it for some time so that he may brush his teeth with. The regiment had been on the move for the last few days so attending to the basics of hygiene had been a difficult for everyone.

Casting the twig aside, he noticed that the birds had stopped singing. Did he hear footsteps in the leaves? Was that a branch snapping? From the forest gloom in front of him emerged drab forms of men in earthen colored uniforms who seemingly sprouted up from the soil. His heart leapt into his throat as one in particular started directly toward him. From his concealment, Will drew a bead, hesitated and then determined to hit his mark. His heart raced as his enemy approached to within four rods, filling his sights. He jerked the trigger and his gunshot smashed the silence. Through the smoke, Will saw the Rebel soldier standing unscathed.  The Rebel's eyes were wide in surprise and terror as he took aim to return fire. Will turned and ran back to the battle line. To his left and right, the other pickets were firing and retreating as well. His lungs could not seem to draw in enough breath as a multitude of thoughts ran through his mind. Did he shoot back? Was that a shot; or was that thunder? His chest felt compressed as a dull throb turned into a searing pain running from his lower back up to the base of his neck. What is this? he thought, as the forest floor rose to embrace him and the sound of battle faded.


A Fatal Mistake - Had Will hit his mark, the enemy soldier nearest to him would have been unable to take the fateful shot. This parable also serves as a reminder that then, as it is today, not everyone with a firearm in their hands knows what they are doing. When I first got into the living-history hobby, there were many who gave me bad advice. My previous shooting experience protected me from some of it. There were however, other bad habits taught to me that would eventually be remedied through trial and error. I have included a short list of shooter mistakes for muzzle loaders.  Many of the shooters here already know this stuff. However, for those new to this or afraid to ask, here are the most common mishaps that I've encountered in my 30+ years as a shooter.

Never slam your ramrod down onto your ball - Most muzzle loading rifles and fowlers come with either a brass-tipped or plain wood ramrod. Slamming will weaken and eventually split a wooden ramrod. If you are match shooting with a tight-patched ball, use an all-metal utility rod in conjunction with a short-starter. For military rifles & rifle-muskets firing the conical or "Minie" ball, the US Army Ordinance Department was kind enough to equip their arms with a metal ramrod that will push the bullet all the way down to the breech in one stroke. Never pound the ramrod. This will almost guarantee that the Minie bullet's skirt would split and accuracy be destroyed. I repeated this experiment at the target range with an m.1855, .58 caliber Springfield Infantry Rifle. Not only did I seat the ball, I pounded it with 4-hard strokes and actually thought I felt a slight give as the skirt split. I then bench-rested the piece at just 25 yards perfectly zeroed on the bulls-eye. Instead of a crisp report, I heard the fizzle of gas escaping as the round tumbled the moment it cleared the muzzle. The round hit over 9-inches high to the left. The hole indicated that the ball hit the target sideways in just 25 yards before skipping into the sand berm 100 yards beyond. I repeated the experiment with a .54 conical ball that is much too small for a .58 bore, and I also tried a .577 ball that was previously dropped and its skirt misshapen. The results were nearly the same in each case. If there is doubt that people of the period were unaware of this, an interesting article was written by British mercenary and Brigadier General of the Army of the Republic of Nicaragua (ARN), C. F. Henningsen  in the November 1, 1856 edition of El Nicaraguenese regarding the use of the ?American Minie Rifle? (m.1842 Rifled-Musket). In the article, he specifically addressed the cardinal sin of either slamming the round or overloading the recommended powder charge. His caution was that either would split the skirt and destroy accuracy.

Never overcharge the recommended powder load - In addition to a greater powder load splitting the Minie ball?s skirt, it?s also wasteful of propellant and increases fouling. There is only so much oxygen in a gun barrel and for this reason, the more powder loaded beyond the optimal load means the more unburnt powder will simply travel down the barrel leaving a thicker residue  before dissipating in the cloud of powder that actually did ignite. Overloading too much may also place an unsafe amount of pressure on the gun barrel itself.  It is better to follow the gunmaker or arsenal recommendation to achieve the best results with optimal powder burn.

Never Jerk the trigger - Like having a bad shooting posture, jerking the trigger will guarantee that you miss the precise mark you are aiming at. It is far better to draw tight the trigger to the point of release and then, cross the Rubicon.  With many target guns and sporting rifles, a double set trigger will ensure that a hairline touch will fire the gun. Never fight the trigger, take charge of it with a steady pull.

Never fire a short-started ball - When fouling causes a ball to lodge in the barrel short of being fully seated, it is called a short start. Firing the gun with a short-started ball will certainly ruin the barrel. The sudden force of an exploding powder charge gaining momentum then coming to rest behind the ball will either "walnut" the barrel or burst it outright.  Rather than soak the vent and barrel before drawing the ball, there is an easier, less wasteful solution.  Using the ramrod, run a damp patch down the barrel. Moisture will collect in the grooves between the ball and the lands. It will loosen the fouling enough to properly seat the ball while removing the excess fouling from the bore.

 Don't run a soaked patch lest the excess moisture run down the grooves and soak the powder charge. Likewise, do not run a wet patch before loading the powder and ball or the charge will be rendered inert. Should it be necessary to draw the ball, soak the charge and put a half gill of warm water down the barrel. Thrust down the ramrod with ball screw attached upon the round so that it may bite in. Firmly turn the screw clockwise until the ball is fully engaged and the ramrod will turn no farther by hand. Gently start drawing the ball upward and outward. Do not fight it as it turns with the rifling. Once the ball is drawn, fully clean the barrel.
Know what to do if you dry-ball or get a soaked load ? Dry-balling is a cardinal sin that is either committed by the greenest tenderfoot shooter, or by the old hand at precisely the moment when he intends to show off.  It is when the ball is seated without the powder load. When this happens, there are two solutions.  Either draw the ball as previously described or use priming powder (FFFFg) down the barrel vent as much as will be taken (approx. 3-5 grains). Ignition from the cap or flint will dislodge the round. A wet charge (usually from a river crossing), may either be drawn or the barrel sun or fire dried allowing the moisture to escape out the vent. Once dried, add priming as afore mentioned and clear the charge.

(Percussion) Always replace the spent cap last - Once a gun fires, the oxygen in the barrel is depleted. This allows the next powder charge to be dropped down the barrel with perfect safety. Removing the cap before loading creates an airway that may possibly stoke a wayward ember and cause a cookoff. It is not that likely but for safety purposes, it is a safe procedure. Leave the spent cap in place until the piece is reloaded.  Only then should you change out the spent cap for a fresh one.

(Flint/Fuzee) Always keep your touch hole blocked when loading - As was previously stated, drill manuals regarding the flintlock musket/rifle always called to prime first in order to help smother the airflow. Many shooting ranges see this as a safety violation so it?s best to block your vent with your vent pick while loading and then prime last. I have noticed that this practice seems to enhance ignition while firing.

Never blow down your gun muzzle or otherwise, aim it at your head - This should seem like common sense but this stupidity has been demonstrated more times at shooting matches, rendezvous, and living history events than I?d care to recall. Perhaps a shooter may think that he looks macho by blowing down the muzzle to make his touch hole hiss or maybe, he hasn?t figured out that you can run a damp or oiled patch down your barrel to accomplish the same thing. It's not that there's a high likelihood that the muzzleloader is still loaded; rather, it is a really bad habit to diminish your natural fear of a firearm discharging into your face. The same applies to people resting their hands and chins over the muzzles of their arms, or seizing a firearm by the muzzle and drawing it out of a wagon towards themselves. I've heard a wide selection of knot heads say that "it's period to do this" and "they didn't know about safety then".  In fact, there is period documentation of people doing stupid things on occasion in the past just as we continue that fine tradition today. Military manuals of the period specifically instruct recruits to avoid aiming the piece at their head and bodies. Even Capt. Randolph Marcy admonished the reader in his 1859 book using the then, old maxim of "See to your gun; never let your gun see you".  He followed up with "Never point your gun at another, whether charged or uncharged, and never allow another to point his gun at you." The more casually you handle your firearm in an unsafe manner, the more dangerous you become to yourself and the shooters around you. All of these things are trademark greenhorn moves and if you choose to handle your arms like a tenderfoot, one of these days, your luck will run out.

Learning the muzzleloader is not just another discipline in shooting; you are embracing a legacy that is now centuries old. Some of the rules are consistent with modern shooting. Others belong exclusively to this world of black powder and smoke.  There are far more dos ad don?ts for future discussion but as for now, load easy; master your trigger and keep your eye on the prize.


« Last Edit: September 09, 2019, 02:12:31 am by Tsalagidave »
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2019, 10:43:09 am »
When I transferred from word doc, a lot of apostrophes and quotation marks were replaced with question marks. I have been working on a correction for that.  This is the first rough draft so I am already finding the rough patches and will be streamlining those parts.

-Dave
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Offline Gabriel Law

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2019, 01:26:02 pm »
Dave:  this is a worthy endeavor, and you're off to a great start.  I like the little history story at the beginning.  Well written.
At some point, you will likely be met with second opinion, and I too am not above that.  But for now, your comments are entirely valid.  I've been building, shooting and competing with muzzleloading guns for over 50 years and have seen all of the mistakes you have described.  Keep up the good work.

Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2019, 02:28:54 pm »
Thanks for the kind words Gabriel.  I completely agree on the differing opinions.  My experiences in shooting, equestrian, and being an outdoorsman is that everyone who does this fancies themselves an "expert".  I have wanted to do this for 20 years but felt that I lacked the experience to do so until now. 50 years experience is impressive.  You're a whole generation ahead of me.  Feel free to send feedback whenever you like.

-Dave
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Offline santee

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2019, 08:34:53 pm »
Well written and researched, Dave. You've also managed to teach some of us muzzle-loading beginners a thing or two.
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2019, 11:40:14 am »
Thanks Santee,

This is the straight rough draft and I am already cringing at all the parts I need to streamline but I really appreciate your feedback.

-Dave
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Offline Gabriel Law

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2019, 12:30:08 pm »
Dave:  when I was a young man, I was friends with an elderly gentleman from Tennessee who had a machine shop near the town I was stationed in.  He recommended a book to me, "The Muzzlelaoding Caplock Rifle" by Maj. Ned Roberts.  I bought a copy and read it religiously many times over.  It was the basis for my regime in shooting and has not varied much since then.  I recommend the book - it is timeless.
But now there is the internet, and many folks would rather ask questions on-line, sort of conversationally, rather than go to the range and try something...a whole new and different way of gleaning information.
If I may, there are a couple of problems I see many folks running in to in shooting muzzleloading rifles.  They find loading their rifles too difficult with a tight patch/ball combination, and cannot load more than a few shots without the need to clean their bore.  All of my round ball shooting is done with pure lead round balls .005" - .010" under bore size, and a cotton/denim patch in the .018" - .022" range.  This patch/ball combination fills the grooves of the rifling, imprints the fabric weave on the ball, and shoots clean all day without cleaning between shots.  When target shooting I use saliva, soaking the patch to the point of dripping.  For hunting, I use neatsfoot oil or mink oil, or preferably, bear grease.
Of utmost importance in loading these combinations, is the condition of the bore, and particularly, the MUZZLE.  As the rifle comes from the maker, or the barrel from its manufacturer, the crown at the muzzle is machined and needs some gentle relieving.  Otherwise, it will prevent loading this tight a combo, and/or will cut the patch, ruining any chance of accuracy.  It is simple to do this work:  take a piece of abrasive cloth in the 220 - 320 grit range, press it into the muzzle with your thumb, and with the other hand, rotate the rifle back and forth while you twist in the opposite direction with your thumb and the abrasive cloth.  Do this to a count of about thirty.  Then turn the rifle around 180 degrees, and repeat.  This action will cut the sharp corners off the crown on the outside and inside and polish the crown.  The result, when loading a tight patch/ball combo is that the patch and ball are more easily SWAGED into the bore giving less resistance and increasing the ease of starting.  I use a short starter for this job, though there are those who will balk at that.  The starter presses the patch ball into the muzzle without damaging the ball's round surface.  Once the patch and ball are now bore/groove size, the wooden ramrod can easily send them down to the charge, where they are simply pressed firmly against the powder.
Shooting in this manner will allow you to shoot all day long without having to clean the bore.  Each loading will effectively send ALL the fouling from the previous shot down with the ball, and will be shot out with the ball.  The only fouling in your bore at the end of the day, will be that which remains from that last shot, plus the area in the breech where the patched ball has not had access, ie:  the powder area.

Cleaning the barrel:  there are probably as many opinions on this subject as there are folks doing it.  I suspect that those people who say they cannot load the tight combinations I have described have frosted their bores using cleaning regimes that are damaging/inadequate.  The very worst thing one can do, and this is going to piss off a significant number of you, is use hot water to clean your fouled rifle barrel.  The concept that the heat of the water dries the bore is the problem.  Before you can get a dry patch down your bore, the water has evaporated and left a very fine oxide on the bore.  That first patch down the dry bore will come out orange.  That is rust.  Rust etches the bore, destroying the mirror polish your bore should have, and creates tiny pits I call frosting.  With each cleaning, the pits deepen, until eventually, and it doesn't take long, you find it difficult to send that tight combination down to the charge, and have to clean the bore between shots.  Rust is cancer in a gun barrel, and cannot be cured without cutting it out, just as in us.
The solution:  use water that is comfortable to your skin, ie:  room temperature. And just a quick note about water - it is the very best cleaning solution on this planet.  There is no commercial solution that works as well, and definitely none better.  I have a designated vessel made from a length of pvc pipe with an end cap glued to it, and a bail for easier handling.  I pour in about a quart or so of water, add just a drop of Dawn dish soap, immerse the breech end of the barrel in the water, and pump the water through the vent with about fifteen strokes.  I use a jag that is well undersized and two layers of cotton flannelette cloth, like diaper material, on a stainless steel rod with a good handle.  Two issues here:  the jag is undersized, for example, a .50 cal jag in a .54 cal barrel.  Thus, I can apply two pieces of 1 3/4" square cloth to the jag, ans still get in up and down the bore without too much strain.  But it has to be tight.  It has to go the the bottom of the grooves to scrub the bore clean.  Back to the warm water issue...having pumped that water through the vent until you're satisfied the bore is clean, push the rod all the way down to the breech one last time, and remove the barrel and rod from the water.  Now, pull the rod out of the bore, set it aside, and dry the barrel off on the outside.  The bore is still wet.  The best process for drying the bore is to use a bench vise so you can get two hands on the cleaning rod, but in the field, this is not possible and you'll have to hold the barrel in one hand while you work the rod in the other.  Using two dry clean flannelette patches, push them down the bore to the breech and withdraw them.  They'll be dark grey...not to worry.  Repeat with a second pair...they'll also be slightly grey, and be more difficult to withdraw.   Repeat a third time.  This time, the patches will come out white, and will be quite difficult to withdraw, as there is no moisture or lubrication in the bore.  Apply your favourite bore protector...I use Break Free CLP or any good gun oil, to that third pair of patches, and oil the bore.  Do not pour oil into your bore.  If you are concerned about moisture in the threads of the breech plug, spray a generous amount of WD 40 into the bore and push it out under pressure of the doubled patches, prior to applying your bore protector. 
Store your rifle muzzle down in your lock-up.  Even the thin coating of oil will migrate down the rifling and pool at the muzzle.  You do not want that pool in your breech, as it will definitely interfere with ignition when you take your rifle to the range again.  At very least, store the rifle horizontally, just never on the butt.
That's a lot, and enough for now.  I know these words will elicit a discussion, and that is fine.  I do not claim to know it all or have the last word, although I have a lifetime's experience, have built close to three hundred muzzleloading guns for clients around the world, and have spent most of those years in the winner's circle at local, provincial, and national matches.  And I try to learn something new every day.

Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2019, 05:29:54 pm »
Thanks for the lead on the book Gabriel.  I know that Track sells it and I regret passing it by.
In addition to US Army Manuals and Sam Fadala's book, I have also studied the writings of Captain Heaton of the 3rd Manchester Rifle Volunteer Corps. (1864).
You give great insight and show the perfect example that I could take virtually any shooting topic; sit down with a few experienced hands like you, and in the end, I could make a full novel of everything everyone had to say.
Thanks for your input.  This is all really good stuff.

-Dave
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Offline Gabriel Law

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2019, 11:54:44 am »
Dave:,  please feel free to use any of this.  I post stuff like this because I continuously see and read about folks who are frustrated and have difficulties that are easily avoided with a little information.  When I go to the range or on the woods walk trail, I go there to shoot, as accurately as I can, and do not want to spend my time dicking around with my rifle because it needs a wipe so I can reload, frustration from missing a target I had dead in the sights, etc.  Over the years, using the simple informaton provided by Maj. Roberts, I and those with whom I play, can shoot all day, load after load, without cleaning, and walk away with satisfaction that when I missed a target, it was I, not the rifle, the load, or other excuse.  And having expended between thirty and sixty shots, when I arrive back in my shop to clean my rifle, it only takes me fifteen minutes, and the water in which I have flushed my barrel is very light grey as I pour it down the drain.  In fact, there is more fouling on my flintlock than there is in my bore.  It is my hope that others will read this, and try it for themselves, and add a new level of enjoyment to their blackpowder shooting.

Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2019, 03:55:17 pm »
Outstanding.   Thanks Gabriel, I really appreciate the permission to use your content. I see it all as sound advice from someone who has been there and done that quite a few times.  Thanks again.

-Dave
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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2019, 10:28:06 am »
Dave, good, solid stuff there for all of us who shoot muzzleloaders, seasoned or green.
Gabriel, I too am a disciple of the "Gospel of Roberts." Not only is "The Muzzleloading Caplock Rifle" filled with pure truth from Ned's firsthand experience with firearms of the muzzleoading period, but he also peppers it with wisdom and humor.
Thanks for the comments of using warm vs. boiling water. I used to do the latter, and indeed noticed the flash rusting that it produces.

Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2019, 06:04:52 pm »
That tears it. I'm definitely getting the book. I originally got the idea of piston-cleaning the vent from the British Army manuals for percussion arms and the method has never failed me.  Also, I see a lot of reenactors pop a cap to "clear the vent"  after cleaning. However, the fulminate residue will bond with the moisture in the vent and corrode the metal.  As you have said, warm, not hot water flush  followed by clean, dry cloth. The friction and warmth will clear the moisture and make the barrel ready to receive a very lightly oiled patch followed by a dry patch.

What I did not mention is that I wash, dry, and reuse my patches until they are so well worn that they eventually wind up in my tinder box for other purposes.

Thanks for contributing your knowledge gentlemen. I always benefit from discussions like this.

-Dave
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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2019, 08:40:37 am »
Dave, and thank you for that idea about washing and drying used patches. Never occurred to me ...

Offline Kent Shootwell

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2019, 12:20:14 pm »
Dave, you present a lot of good basic information that will be of service to many. Too much powder is a waste and can reduce performance. Yet I disagree that there is only so much oxygen in the barrel. The powder burns in of itself this being well illustrated by a heavily compressed charge in black powder cartridges.
And don?t tell people to not pound the bullet to smithereens! I have enough trouble getting beat at matches with out you guiding them to success!  >:(
Little powder much lead shoots far kills dead.
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2019, 11:29:26 am »
You make a good point Kent. I was referring to keeping the spent cap on the cone while reloading or priming first on a fuzee since either restricts airflow that may feed a lingering ember in the barrel. I should look into revising that.

In regards to the other part, I recommend distracting the shooters next to you with a sudden Yeti sighting ; grab their rammers and give em a good shog just for good measures.

Thanks always for the feedback brother.

-Dave
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Offline Kent Shootwell

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2019, 01:15:48 pm »
Dave another tip for those folks that ?I have to shoot against? is to fill their powder measure then tap on it so more powder might be added. Just last week I watched a fellow doing this and it brought a smile to my face. After all the only thing us old guys have on our side is treachery!
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2019, 01:02:48 am »
I can't get the song "Carry on My Wayward Son" out of my head when I am about to commit treachery.

-Dave
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2019, 12:28:21 am »
All good insights Greyhawk. I agree that casually setting your gun muzzle down is a great way to damage the crown or short-start some debris. However, I know Gabriel well enough to say that he's a very experienced shooter and if he keeps his pieces muzzle down, I am certain that it's in a controlled environment where the afore mentioned problems don't occur. As he as said, Gabriel has a lifetime of experience at this and has built hundreds of guns.

As far as leaving the spent cap from the previous firing on the vent while reloading, yes, absolutely 1000% do that. It is standard US military procedure for loading a percussion arm and I have never, ever had a mishap through the thousands of rounds I fire each year. I am literally at the range each week dumping anywhere from 50-100+ shots each time I go.  Never had a cook off, barrel burst, or even a chain fire of revolving arms.

In regards to compression ignition, give me some credit. I'm a good ol' boy American from the heartland, not a starbucks sipping, skinny-jeans wearing Kardashian clown. I can't vouch for your friend, nor do I intend to put him down. I wasn't there when he busted up his hand so I don't know what he did wrong. That said, I've never had a mishap like that under all types of conditions I've shot. Even if you don't think that removing a spent cap right after firing is unsafe, it still adds an extra step in the loading process and slows down your firing rhythm.  Of all the different ways that I have loaded and shot, following the US military drill manuals of the period (Duane's, Scotts, Gilhams, Hardees, Caseys, Baxters, etc.) have always proven the safest and most efficient ways to shoot.

-Dave
« Last Edit: October 05, 2019, 02:19:25 am by Tsalagidave »
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Offline Blair

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Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2019, 11:51:46 am »
greyhawk,

It is an issue of safety... to leave the spent cap on the cone after firing.
Removal of the spent cap allows air into the system. Should there be an ember or coal in the bore after firing, air will be drawn into the system, allowing the ember to breath and stay lite longer.
Look how long a candle wick will glow after the flame is blown out. That is because it draws air to it after the flame is gone. No air, no glowing ember.
I hope this helps.
My best,
 Blair
A Time for Prayer.
"In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things right,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted"
by Rudyard Kipling.
Blair Taylor
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Offline Tsalagidave

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  • Dave Rodgers
Re: Seat It! Don't Slam it! and other muzzle loading mistakes
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2019, 12:45:49 pm »
Thanks Blair, exactly right.

I've seen a man open the vent on his percussion fowler, charge the barrel, and when he rammed his shot card, the gun mortared on him. Fortunately, he only suffered a flash burn on his hand and some embarrassment.

In order for a shooter to achieve compression ignition the same way people start char cloth with a fire piston, would require a considerable measurement of newton force exerted on a very tight patched ball and a metal piston rod. If I were to guess, he left his vent open and embarrassed himself. I'm not one to judge mistakes from a high horse. A month ago, I was so distracted in talking with a fellow shooter, I dry-balled a round like a damned greenhorn. 

As an aside note, this is also why you prime firelocks first when loading. A lot of ML shooting clubs frown on this as a safety violation in  itself.  Fortunately, the rate of fire is not high enough to merit this change as being a real threat. That said, the more experienced shooters stick either a pipe cleaner, vent pick into the touch hole or close the frizzen altogether before commencing the reload.

Great discussion gentlemen. Greyhawk, thank you for bringing up elements that are really worth the discussion.

-Dave
« Last Edit: October 05, 2019, 12:49:12 pm by Tsalagidave »
Guns don't kill people; fathers with pretty daughters do.