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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Muzzleloading Madness

I would like to start this post off by mentioning the sillyness that transpired Tuesday.

WHO decided that Obama should be represented with the color "dark blue"? Exactly what are the TV people trying to say here? Dark blue? Very funny guys.

OK there. I got that out of my system. I feel a little bit better now. Twisted as I am I actually thought this was amusing - way back in the Iowa primaries when Obama was dark blue, Hillary was light blue, Edwards was black, and the other guys were green with purple polka dots or whatever. Who came up with that shit???

Not me. I would have picked wacky colors. Like for example "Safety Orange" and "Teal" and "Chartreuse" and "Green metal flake" and stuff. You know, mix it up a little.

This blue/red shit is really stale and boring.

But I did not want to talk about colors and pie charts and graphs and shit. I wanted to mention a comment left by The Fuzz.

The Fuzz is one of a kind. A real live Mountain Man who also has electricity and a computer and internet access. The kind of guy who HAS melted his own lead to cast things. Mostly lead balls that were to be stuffed down the barrel of a primitive weapon and then expelled using primitive propellant.

So this gets me to thinking. I actually own some primitive stuff myself. Not like the lever action rifle I mentioned before. Oh no, I can get much more primitive than that!

This is a Ruger "Old Army" .45 caliber revolver. A six shooter. I have one. Not this one, but one just like it. In fact the only difference in this one and mine is the serial number.

Now this is a beast of a revolver. Someone who did not know about guns would look at it and think "crap that is a big gun". It is made from solid stainless steel and has a 7.5 inch barrel. It is a .45, so the barrel opening looks large. You just know a lot of hot lead is going to be flying out of that hole. It looks like something Dirty Harry would carry.

But the truth is that this is a primitive weapon. It is a muzzleloader. This means it takes about 10 minutes to load. First you have to measure 20 - 30 grains of black powder and dump it into an empty cylinder. Then add some filler (corn meal) so the cylinder is at least 1/2 full. You can also use a circular wad of felt in place of the filler. The reason the filler is important is that there should not be an air space between the powder and the bullet. If you use more than about 30 grains of powder - you do not need any filler. It is impossible to put too much powder in this gun, it can handle any load.

You just CAN NOT use modern smokeless powder. You have to use the old timey black powder. The stuff that makes a large cloud of smoke.

Now what the cylinder is loaded with powder, you have to place a lead ball or conical bullet with a diameter of .457 inches in the cylinder. It will not fit in, so you have to use the loading lever to force it in the cylinder. A small sliver of lead will be shaved off in the process.

Now do that all over again, 5 times. Once for each cylinder.

But you are not done yet! Oh no! See you can have this thing called "chain fire" where some residual powder is ignited when you shoot the thing. There is a possibility that more than one cylinder could fire off, which would be bad. So you have to use some of lubricant over the bullets in each cylinder. I use Crisco because it is cheap and inert.

The Crisco does three things. First, and most important, it makes a horrible mess. Making a huge mess is an important part of the black powder tradition. Second, it lubricates the bullet, which actually means less mess as far as lead fouling in the barrel. And third, it instantly renders any stray powder inert.

Now....YOU ARE STILL NOT DONE loading! No, you have to cap each cylinder nipple off with a #11 cap. The cap is important, because it creates the spark that then creates the bang.

Now you can shoot. But if you are going to holster the weapon because you are in some sort of shooting competition where you pretend it is the old west (these matches are very popular, people even dress in period clothing) you have to rotate the cylinder slightly (the hammer is in the half cock position so the cylinder spins freely) so that one of the safety notches in the cylinder is under the hammer. Then VERY CAREFULLY pull the hammer back just far enough that you can pull the trigger, pull the trigger WHILE KEEPING YOUR THUMB ON THE HAMMER and gently let the hammer fall in a safety notch. Now it is safe to holster.

It is a good idea to practice putting the hammer down in a safety notch before you load it. But if you are going to shoot as soon as you load you do not need to do any of the safety notch stuff. NEVER load and cap a cylinder that is not in the revolver, or remove a cylinder that is loaded and capped from the revolver. A loaded and capped revolver is, in effect, a gun. Drop the cylinder and the chances of an accidental discharge are high.

Meanwhile, at least 10 minutes have passed. If you were really in the old west you would already have been impaled by an arrow or eaten by a bear or whatever.

And when you finally do shoot the thing, you find out that black powder is low power. For a .45 there is hardly any kick at all. Of course the revolver is heavy. The projectile has to be sub sonic. Accuracy is good to about 25 yards. Beyond that you have to adjust the sights to compensate for drop. You have to adjust loads to find the perfect measure. It will not be the maximum load. For me, 20 - 25 grains provides the best accuracy.

The thing creates massive clouds of smoke with each shot. The cloud wafts down the range.

And I also have a .50 caliber rifle. Like this.

This is a Traditions inline muzzleloader. This gun is a really low end model. I paid less than $100 for it brand new. You have to be careful with this because they are known to fire before you pull the trigger. Mine has never done this, but I do not use it much either. In fact I only used it once that I can recall.

It is easier to load. First you pour the powder down the barrel. 90 grains or so is a good starting point. I think 120 grains is the maximum suggested load, but I would have to check the manual to confirm that. Anyhow after you pour the powder down the barrel, you take a lead ball, wrap it in a cotton patch, place it in the ball in the barrel, then ram it down the barrel using the ram rod that comes with the rifle. Then you pull back the bolt (the bolt locks in place) and place the cap on the nipple. There is no "safe" position for this rifle. At least not one you can trust. There is no "safe" way to carry this thing loaded. So once you pull the bolt back and place the cap on the nipple, you are going to need to take a shot.

If you are hunting then you would load the powder in and ram the bullet in place, but you would NOT pull back the bolt and place the cap on the nipple.

Again, although the caliber is large the kick is low. It is fun to shoot. Massive clouds of smoke are created. Not a lot of recoil.

No filler is needed. No Crisco either. Loading times are a lot shorter. An expert can get off up to three rounds in a minute. But I am not such an expert. I am lucky to get a shot off every two minutes or so.

But anyway, I could also cast ammo for these two devices. If I get the electric furnace and molds.
I also found someone with 50 or so pounds of lead that they are not doing anything with. That is a lot of fishing weights. And ammo.

But I never really use the black powder stuff much. The revolver was used two or three times, the rifle once. I do not even know if I have any supplies for the black powder stuff. No powder, no caps, and no bullets.



Blogger M@ said...

Some very "intelligent" liberals told me at Thanksgiving dinner, in all seriousness, that they were blue people living in a red state.


Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

M@ - I am a purple person living in a mug-whump State. But the red part of the purple got to be soooo incredibly retarded that I was forced over to the blue side. The reds did not want any purples at all. They rejected anyone who was not exactly like them and who did not believe the same bullshit they believed. Fuck them all.

Blogger Fuzz said...

Your Ruger "Old Army" seems to be modeled on the Remington cap and ball gun I have a cheap replica of. I haven't shot lately. It is massy, but fun. Nice loud boom and lots of messy smoke. You gotta love it.

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Fuzz - the Ruger "Old Army" is based on the proven and very solid Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum frame. It also has the reputation for being the finest cap and ball revolver ever made in the history of humanity. Pretty much no improvements to the cap and ball design were made for over 100 years - the Bill Ruger came along.

The revolver is not made any longer. For "cowboy action shoots" they want period guns. The Ruger is a cap and ball, but not a true replica. Mine has adjustable sights. The other replicas are more true to period guns.

But it is fun. Lots of old time smoke. Not really a huge boom, but lots of mess and smoke. Can't get better than that. Good old fashioned fun.

Blogger Cheesemeister said...

My father would love this post! But he's not really much for going online except for buying history books from Amazon and other sources.


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