Take a shot at muzzleloading

Those of us who are less than 200 years old often take certain things for granted, such as flush toilets, ballpoint pens, and ATMs. We also sometimes do the same with modern firearms, and forget that our forefathers, who fought the French, Spanish, British, Indians, and each other for this land we live in, had to use the old muzzle loading type of weapon. In case you’re not familiar with muzzleloading type weapons, they are kind of like guns, only not quite. As the name implies, a muzzleloader is loaded from the muzzle, or ‘powder horn’ end, as opposed to a regular rifle, which is not. A regular rifle accepts a cartridge while a muzzleloader will always reject it, unless it happens to be a very attractive cartridge. A muzzleloader has to have the various components of a cartridge poured into it from the end. This is very dangerous, and must be done in a very careful and precise manner, in order to keep from blowing off a useful part of your anatomy, such as your noggin. ‘Never look into the end of your gun’ was the number one mountain man rule of muzzleloader safety. The cartridge components also have to be poured into the gun in a particular order. ‘Powder first, especially if there’s Indians around’ was another mountain man rule of muzzleloader safety. This is because if you decide, on a whim, to put your bullet in your gun first, there will be no powder behind it to blow it out. The bullet has to be shot out of the gun because it is wedged very tightly into the barrel, and has to be pushed in there with a gun stick, designed for that purpose, and known among muzzleloader enthusiasts as a ‘gun stick.’ Of course, your bullet may just roll freely down the barrel of your gun, in which case you have the wrong gun, or the wrong bullet, or both. This is because of calibers. Calibers are numbers stamped onto the sides of all muzzleloaders. These numbers are very important, because they designate the distance, in inches, that that particular gun will knock you backwards when you shoot it. In other words, if your muzzleloader has .45 stamped on it, when you shoot it it will knock you backwards 45 inches, or three feet, nine inches. If it says .50, then it will knock you back fifty inches, or four feet, two inches.’ Etc., etc. It is very important to match up the caliber number of your gun with the caliber number of your bullets. If your caliber numbers don’t match, you will either get knocked back too far or not far enough.’ This is considered bad etiquette. ‘ Anyway, if you poke your bullet down the barrel of your gun with your gun stick before you put the powder in, you will not be able to shoot it out, so you will have to use one of the various methods available to remove it. All of these begin with being ridiculed by your peers, for having forgotten the ‘powder first’ rule. After being ridiculed for a while, you will have to attach a sort of corkscrew onto the end of your gun stick, and then attempt to screw it into the bullet in your gun, and pull it out. If this doesn’t work, you can try removing the nipple, poking some powder into the barrel behind the bullet, and then shooting the bullet out. If this doesn’t work, you can always heat the barrel up and hope the lead bullet melts, and runs out the front of the gun. You could also put the barrel under your pillow, and hope the bullet fairy comes while you’re asleep. Good luck. The nipple, I should mention, is where you put the cap, in order to ignite the powder that you put in first. The nipple has a hole in the middle of it that leads from the outside of the gun to the inside, where the powder is. You have to put a cap, which contains a small explosive charge, on the outside of the nipple, so that when you pull the trigger and the hammer falls on the cap the explosive charge will travel to the inside of the gun and ignite the powder and blow the bullet out the front of the gun, which will, hopefully, be aimed at something besides your anatomy. Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of muzzleloading in this column, and believe me, muzzleloading is glad. The point is that, with proper instruction, you could someday become an expert with muzzleloading type weapons, and spend many happy hours being ridiculed by your peers. But at least it beats trying to hunt deer with a flush toilet’ ‘Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist whose aunt, Patsy Lohn, has served as president of the Texas Muzzle Loader Association. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex.’76856 or jeep@verizon.net

Leave a Comment