Thursday, January 29, 2015
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
A Green horns progress
By Richard Lees
When I wrote my first chapters as a novice shooter, it was December 2009. Now at the end of 2011, after two years shooting I thought it was time to add some more information and tell what I have been up to for the past few years.
When you purchase ammunition for a conventional modern gun, you buy it pre-packaged: each round will be the same and it is nicely packaged with the same amount of smokeless powder and weight of projectile. You chamber the round, aim the rifle and fire it.
Black powder muzzle loading enthusiasts have no such luxury and would disdain the use of it if they had! Each muzzle loading gun requires a different amount of powder, a different thickness of patch and there may be several choices of ball (projectile.) Then there is lube, but more about that later.
For example, my Lyman 50 calibre can take a 490, 494 or 498 ball. A different thickness of material patch would be required depending upon the size of ball. A different amount of black powder would be required for the different sizes of ball. So there are variables and it is up to you, the shooter - to find the best combination for your gun. It is not as simple as saying “Oh well, today I will fire 490 ball and tomorrow 494 and I think I will try 50 grains of powder and I’ll use a piece of this old tea towel for patches, or can I have a piece of your old dress dear?” Which brings us to load development.
What is an optimum load?
The black powder shooter will want to find the best combination of powder, patch and ball for his or her muzzle loading gun. This is called the optimum load: The best sized ball, the right patch and the right amount of powder to consistently cause the ball to group on the target. By group, we mean that the ball will form a tight group on the target – perhaps your initial goal should be to get 5 ball falling in a 2 inch radius at 50 metres. Don’t worry about accuracy at this stage – you are looking for grouping. If you can do that you will be the envy of many! Site adjustment can come later.
To begin developing a load, the shooter will need the following:
A powder measure,
Your initial choice of size of ball,
Patches , all of the same thickness of cotton or linen material,
A bench (often available at the range).
Note book and pen– very important.
Much time will need to be spent on the range testing from a bench to arrive at the right combination of powder, patch and ball. A bench is designed to take the human variables out of testing. The forepart of the stock will be supported on sandbags on the bench; the shooter will sit at the bench and support the stock as firmly as possible against the shoulder.
To begin the process, an amount of powder , say 50 grains in the case of the Lyman is put in the gun, a 490 ball is put into the barrel on a cotton or linen patch, (or a combination of linen and cotton patch) note synthetic materials are never used - they are unsuitable. Note the load: the ball size and type of patch material and thickness, and the amount of powder in the note book. Very careful aim is taken at the target and a number of shots (5 minimum) are fired with the same size of ball, the same thickness of patch, the same amount of powder at the same point of aim on the target, at the same distance.
In choosing the distance, it is best to select the distance at which you will shoot most often. Most of the Black powder shooting I do is at 50 metres - that is where most of the interclub shooting is done.
Post firing analysis
After firing the 5 shots collect the patches and examine them. Are they reasonably intact? Did they tear? Did they disintegrate? Patch analysis is an important part of load development. Any of the above will require you to try another patch material.
The target. Where did the shots go? Did they group?
Let us for the purpose of this article assume the patches were intact and the ball was randomly scattered over the target.
Make a note in your book and proceed to up the charge by 5 grains and fire 5 more shots in the target. Analyse the results as before, patch and target and update your notes.
Providing your patches hold together and you use same size of ball, you will reach a stage after upping the charges within the recommended maximum load for your gun where your group starts to draw in and becomes tighter. Of course this assumes that the ball size you are using is the best one for your gun. You may have to try a 494 or 498 ball
You may have to try many different thicknesses and types of patch. By types of patch I mean that the weave of the cloth may be different and may ‘conform’ to the rifling or not conform as the case may be.
Grouping can be a tricky thing. It is not unusual for a gun to have several grouping loads and the group to go in and out as you up the charge by 5 grains each time. It may group at 60 grains; go out again at 65 and group best at 70. This is what black powder shooting is about: fully understanding your gun. Only when you have developed the optimum load for your gun will you be able to shoot with confidence knowing the load is correct. Of course, when shooting of the body and having sighted the gun in off the bench after developing your optimum load your ball may not hit the target where you want it to - but you will have the certainty of knowing it is your fault and not the gun!
When you find a suitable patch material buy a few metres of it, there is nothing worse than putting in the time and then finding you cannot get the same material again.
The next stage is to develop an off the body shooting technique and that incorporates variables too; how you hold the gun, how you stand, your site picture. Do you wince when the gun goes off? Or fail to follow through ( hold on target after the gun goes off)? No one said it would be easy being a black powder shooter and 3 years down the track, I’m finding that out, but it is a lot of fun.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
- Preparing the gun.
- Preparation for shooting
- The Range officer
- Loading procedure
When I went to the range for the first time to learn about shooting, it was with Karen an experienced shooter. Grey Beaver was absent and Karen, whose gun it was, had kindly undertaken to teach me.
Karen and I put a bench for the shooting equipment on my right hand side of where I would fire from, I am right handed. It would be a while before I was capable of firing ‘off the body’1. Firstly, Karen showed me how to prepare the gun by cleaning the oil out of the barrel. We used several patches made from 4x2 cleaning cloth and these were worked up and down the barrel on the button on the end of the ram rod. Subsequently when the gun has been heavily oiled, I have put a little isopropyl on the cloth as well and even introduced a drop or two through the nipple and then swabbed out with the cleaning cloth. Either way, the intention is to remove the oil which could cause a misfire if it was absorbed into the powder.
Our preparation included loading a ‘block’2 with patches and ball and putting them on the bench together with the powder horn, intermediate measure and capper.
The Range officer is the person in charge of the range. The Range officer’s word is absolute and you obey him, or her, without question. The Range officer declares the range open and closed and may do so at any time. Should you have a problem with your gun, i.e misfire, dry balling etc you notify him and he will direct what action is to be taken. Everyone is responsible for shooting safely but the range officer oversees the safe operation of the range and ensures safe practice is being carried out. Only when the range was declared open by the range officer, Mark - was I able to ‘cap off’ and load the gun.
‘Capping off’ is the procedure where the small cap which fits over the nipple and produces the spark that ignites the powder is fired. Capping off is carried out without powder in the gun and results in a small ‘bang’. The gun is pointed at the ground at a blade of grass and fired. Before capping off, you must advise the Range officer that you are doing so, by calling out: “Capping off.” The purpose of capping off is to clean any remaining oil from the gun barrel and verify that the flash channel is clear of fouling or other obstruction which could prevent ignition. If the blade of grass moves, there is no obstruction.
Under Karen’s direction, I then loaded.
When loading a muzzle loading gun with the charge that will propel the ball, the powder is always introduced into the gun barrel from an intermediate measure, never directly from a powder horn. Failure to follow this procedure may result in a residual spark in the barrel from a previous firing igniting the full powder horn in your hand with fatal consequences.
An intermediate measure is a small unlidded container used to measure out a suitable powder charge for your gun. The shooter will have arrived at a suitable powder charge by bench testing the gun and made an intermediate measure. (Bench testing will be covered at a later date) In my case I was firing a 50 calibre gun and in the absence of having bench tested the gun and knowing a suitable charge, Karen advised starting with 25 grains of powder at 25 yards. The loading procedure was as follows:
- The gun was half cocked
- 25 grains of powder was measured into the intermediate measure from the powder horn.
- The powder was poured down the barrel from the intermediate measure.
- The block was held against the muzzle and patch and ball pushed into the barrel with a short starter.
- The ball was pushed further down the barrel with the short starter 3.
- The ball was pushed firmly home against the powder with a ram rod.
On Karen’s instruction, I fully cocked the gun, fitted a cap, all the time keeping the barrel pointing in a safe direction. I pointed the barrel at the target and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud bang, plenty of smoke, a strong smell and a hole below the target.
to be continued...
- Firing off the body’ All the equipment is carried on the body usually in a possibles bag: intermediate measure, powder flask, patches, ball, short starter, and capper. When ‘firing off the body’ the gun is loaded from what is carried on the body rather than from a bench alongside the shooter on which the equipment has been laid out.
- Block: a wooden block with holes through it. Patches are put over the holes and balls pressed into the holes where they fit tightly and stay until required for loading. When loading, the block is fitted against the end of the barrel and the patch and ball pushed into the muzzle with a short starter.
- Short starter: in effect a miniature ram rod. one part is about 1 about 1inch long and the other about 5 inches long. Used to ‘start’ the patch and ball in the barrel, before using a long ramrod.
- Capper: the capper holds the caps in such a way that it allows the easy fitting of a cap to the nipple of the gun. Caps are very small and some form of capper is necessary.
Friday, December 05, 2008
One does not - and certainly should not, casually decide to pick up a gun and get into shooting. I crept into the ABC (Auckland Black Powder Club) through the back door of historical re-enactment after an invitation to contribute in the role traditional craft person: clay pipe maker, pole lathe worker and broom squire. After 15 months of sitting around the camp fire listening to talk of powder, patch and ball, of language and terms I did not understand, I began to think of taking the big step. My reluctance or was it fear? Stemmed from the following concern:
- Would/could I be a safe shooter? Firstly to others and secondly to myself.
- I would advise anyone thinking of getting into black powder shooting to join a club.
A few facts and suggestions:
- You can shoot in New Zealand without a firearms licence if you are ‘under the close supervision of someone who has a firearms licence’
- You cannot buy or keep a gun without a firearms licence.
- Try a few guns before you buy one. Take your time in making your choice.
- Club members, if asked kindly, will generally supervise you while you try their gun.
- Ask an experienced shooter to be your mentor.
- Be aware you know little and have much to learn: Listen and absorb information.
- Get a note book and record what you learn.
To be continued...
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Be it known to all & sundry that I do vehemently aver all scurrilous & Defamatory lies told about myself and my Commanding Officer.
1. It stated that my wife wished I were well hung,a lie.It is well know abroad that Rangers excel themselves beyond the dream of the common soldier with their ardent& skilled lovemaking.
2. That I would turn my coat for 2/6d was an0ther allegation. I have yet to see a coat of a foreign hue that could compare to my Greenjacket. It also may be noted that Rangers are Gentlemen & would do naught for Shillings & pence. Being Gentlemen we only accept Guineas.
3. True I have on occasion shewn comradeship & pretended loyalty to the French but only when soliciting secrets that may help with their ultimate defeat.
4. It states that Ranger HQ has denied all knowledge of me,true,at times they may have but only because of my work for The Ministry of Secrets & Information. I have on several times worked as tactical an advisor for The Iroquois Special Forces whilst on “Black Ops”.
5. Of the insults to Maj.Jager I fear our cowardly friend has gone far to far. Jager is a Hessian a fierce proud people who will go to great lengths to avenge a wrong. It would have been better had our friend thrown himself upon the tender mercies of the cruel Huron than fall into the somewhat hairy hands of Maj.Jager.
6. On the matter of the unkempt hair & matted beard I must admit a modicom of truth. I am sometimes lax on occasion with my ablutions believing a mans fighting skills are of more import than fine manners & an affected sense of fashion. On the matter of birds & small creatures inhabiting my beard ,they are after all Gods creations & who am I to drive them away. We all at times be in need of a warm place to rest.
If it is brought to my attention that any man is spreading these vile lies or is found passing copies of the said Broadsheet let him be very afraid for no Law of God or High Justice will avail him from my anger .I know something of the cruel ways of the Iroqouis & will shew them no mercy, except if they fall into the hands of Maj. Jager then I would wish Gods mercy upon them.
Signed by me Ranger Joy For the O/C Kiri Kiri Redoubt in the Coromandel Hinterland on this Day the 8th October 2008.
Also known as Klatch, and, The English Leprechaun
Long overdue for hanging, said Villain shall be apprehended forthwith and punished to the full extent of the law. His crimes so outrageous as to prevent moral men from writing them down, much less the anguish should women and small children read of them. Verily, even his long suffering spouse does wish he was well hung.
All true and Loyal subjects of his Majesty be warned. This blackguard’s affiliations are as inconstant as a woman’s whims. For 2/6 he will turn his coat in a trice. One moment he sides with the hated French and their heathen savage allies. The next he disavows all affiliation and knowledge. Though he be dressed in manner like one of Rodger’s Rangers, they claim no knowledge of him. His closest known associate, Major Jaeger, fully as hairy as Joy, is cut from the same cloth and is more beast than man.
No man, woman, or beast alive knows his face as it has for decades hence been concealed ‘neath a matted beard, bespeckled with remnants of his last several meals. Small animals, vermin and birds may well live within.
Petite of stature his limbs are yet wiry and none should underestimate the quickness of his actions or mind. He oft times portrays a clumsy and offish manner with which to lull his opponents into a state of unwariness. Only then does he shew his true colors. Which are oft times than not, Oafish and clumsy.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
By Jared Rehm
My father and I travelled down south recently to go Tahr hunting in the Southern Alps. We both carried .50cal flintlock Kentucky rifles built by my father, John. Our aim was to hunt the mighty Tahr and try to secure our first Bull Tahr with flintlocks. Previously, we had both taken nanny tahr with the flintlocks and learnt many valuable lessons regarding keeping flinters waterproof and functioning in the wet and wild west coast conditions. We considered that trip a success, but this time we were out to prove the point, that with careful hunting and thorough knowledge & familiarity with the firearms, flintlock blackpowder rifles are reliable and capable of taking the most majestic of all the Alpine hunting trophies in this country, the Bull Tahr.
We struck a clear spell in the weather just right, and enjoyed 4 nights out on the hill, sleeping in rock caves where possible, to keep out of the nasty frosts that clear winter weather brings. As with most places in south-westland, the going was tough, but with the prospects of animals on the tops, we had the inner drive that was required.
We climbed up the side of a large rock face for about an hour, and stopped for a rest. The rock up ahead became steep, wet and unclimbable, so we agreed to double back and try another route. As I lead the way, I looked down to see a Bull Tahr walking casually across the rock face about 250m below us. As we were well above it, it was completely unaware of our presence, as danger normally comes from below. I quickly dropped my pack and pulled the cows knee cover back from the lock, so that I could change the priming powder in the pan for some fresh stuff. That done, I headed off down the hill, with Dad close behind as a backup shot if it was needed. We stuck close to cover and used the contours of the land to our advantage. It didn’t take long to get within about 80m of the Bull, as he stood surveying his domain. This was a takeable shot, but I decided to sneak down a small thick gut, to a better vantage point which would get me to within 60m of the animal. I left Dad to watch from 80m, as it was a good spot to see all the action. He wished me luck, as I moved off.
I carefully looked over the rock, and there he was……broad-side at 60m and looking down hill. After picking a good spot, I slowly slid the rifle barrel over the rock and lay down behind it. I decided on my aiming point and pulled the big hammer back to full cock, and checked the set trigger. The Bull was a magnificent sight, and looked huge, even at 60m. As I lined the graceful Kentucky rifle up on my quarry, I couldn’t help but feel completely comfortable with the familiar rifle in my hands, and I knew it would shoot right where I pointed it. All I had to do was make a good shot. I lined up and let out a slow controlled breath and gently touched off the shot. It felt good, and the ignition was nice and quick. I lost my view of the target for a second, as the smoke cleared, but Dad said he saw the shock of the ball hitting the Bull Tahr, ripple across its hairy coat. It jumped off the rock it was standing on and bolted down hill about 20m and out of sight. It didn’t reappear. This was good, but always a worry, as you never know if the animal can be recovered. I stood up, and Dad arrived as I was reloading, trying not to get too excited just yet. We sat down and waited about 10mins, as that was all I could endure. Carefully, and quietly we climbed down to where it was last seen, and I found tracks which lead…..to a very hairy looking bush! Yaaaaaaaahooooooo!
The Tahr had collapsed into a ferny hollow, with only its back visible. It took both of us to drag it out, and once it was out in the open, the realisation of what I had achieved hit home to both Dad and I. We were stoked, to say the least. It couldn’t have worked out better, as Dad got to watch his son shoot a Bull Tahr with one of his Flintlock Muzzleloaders.
While skinning the Tahr, I recovered the 170gr .50cal lead ball just under the skin on the opposite side, slightly deformed. It had passed through the heart and not hit any bone. I suspect that the ball slightly deformed on impact with the heavy hair and skin as it entered, and efficiently used up all its energy within the animal. As there was no exit wound, there was no blood trail, but it was a quick clean kill on a large heavy animal. I was very impressed with the performance of 90gr of powder and a round ball.
As always, a broad-side shot allows the best chance of a clean kill shot.
Once again, this just goes to prove that with careful hunting, being prepared, and accurate shot placement, you can give yourself a challenge and do it the old way………who really needs high powered rifles with flash scopes that shoot great distances, when you can get up close and personal with a black powder rifle with iron sights!
Become a hunter, shoot a real rifle…………………..end of story.