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9/19/2017 7:27:10 PM
Posted: 2/13/2006 10:03:13 AM EDT
So I seem to recall experts in the Revolutionary war could fire 2 shots in about a minute or something like that.

My question is how safe that is.

I know when it comes to cannons you have to swab the bore with a wet rag to extinguish any burning embers before you reload. I also know a guy in Iowa recently lost most of his hand during a High School football game when he forgot (or was never taught) that crucial step. He wasn't firing cannon balls but lost a bunch of fingers just the same.

So if you rapid reload a muzzle loader (like a flintlock) couldn't it pose the exact same risk?

I'm thinking about getting a Kentucky rifle and need to look into this stuff. I don't wanna fire a ramrod 100 yards and don't wanna lose any fingers.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:06:25 AM EDT
that is why you use the ramrod to tamp out any embers before reloading
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:17:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By SteyrAUG:
So I seem to recall experts in the Revolutionary war could fire 2 shots in about a minute or something like that.




Unless you planning on doing some re-ennactment with that same proficiency, you should be ok.
Swab, then load. Better safe than stupid
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:20:17 AM EDT
I've been shooting cap lock and flint lock muzzle loaders for years - never had a single problem with a premature cook off.

While I suppose that it's possible I don't think it's likely.

The first thing you do when reloading is pour the next powder load down the barrel, if anything is going to happen that's where it's going to happen. Worst thing is the powder will flash.

Next is placing and ramming the patch and ball down the barrel. I never put the plam of my hand over the ramrod just in case....

Olde tyme muzzle loaders are fun to shoot, I could load and shoot one at the rate of a couple shots per minute but I don't find much fun in that - but then nobody is shooting back at me.....
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:35:53 AM EDT

Originally Posted By AZ_Sky:
I've been shooting cap lock and flint lock muzzle loaders for years - never had a single problem with a premature cook off.

While I suppose that it's possible I don't think it's likely.

The first thing you do when reloading is pour the next powder load down the barrel, if anything is going to happen that's where it's going to happen. Worst thing is the powder will flash.

Next is placing and ramming the patch and ball down the barrel. I never put the plam of my hand over the ramrod just in case....

Olde tyme muzzle loaders are fun to shoot, I could load and shoot one at the rate of a couple shots per minute but I don't find much fun in that - but then nobody is shooting back at me.....



Do you, or other muzzle loaders, ever tap out embers or swab the bore as mentioned above?

This will be my first flint and I plan on having a LOT of fun with it. This will include rapid reloads. But I'm totally new and don't want to ruin the fun by losing a couple fingers.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:45:47 AM EDT
The only time I swab the bore of my Springfield 1861 replica is when a) I get a lot of fouling in the barrel after many shots, or b) when I'm cleaning the gun afterwards.

I've never heard of tapping out embers, so no, I don't do that either. No problems (yet?) with rapid reloads.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:50:35 AM EDT
I've never swabbed between shots either () and have never had a problem.

Like has been said already,do not put your hands of head (or?) over the muzzle.You will be fine and addicted.

I always,always wear safety glasses and hearing protection.

Have fun!
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 10:54:46 AM EDT
I usually kill my yearly deer with a flintlock. I probably put 100-200 rounds through it per year target shooting and plinking. I've never tapped out embers,and I've never had a premature detonation. I wouldn't swab with a water dampened cloth of any kind,due to the possibility of dampening the next charge. I do swab/clean the bore every 3 shots or so with patch lube (nonpetroleum oil based). That's simply a matter of being able to load the next shot, however.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:11:37 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 11:16:57 AM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By SteyrAUG:

Do you, or other muzzle loaders, ever tap out embers or swab the bore as mentioned above?

This will be my first flint and I plan on having a LOT of fun with it. This will include rapid reloads. But I'm totally new and don't want to ruin the fun by losing a couple fingers.



It is really not that much of a problem it very rarely happens… I have never seen it happen in 30 years.

Just don’t put your face over the end of the muzzle and wear glases.

A lot of people blow down the bore after a shot… the moisture in you breath will supposedly suppress any embers at the muzzle and keep the powder flowing moist and softer. I don’t put my mouth over the muzzle of any gun anytime.

Loading a smoothbore musket is very different from loading a muzzle loading rifle. Sustained rates of fire with smoothbore muskets were around 3 rounds a min. the bores were much bigger than the ball they fired so the unpatched ball went down easy even with powder fowling build up.

With a patched ball rifle a sustained rate of fire of one round a min is tough to keep up… as powder fowling builds up it gets tougher to ram down the tight fitting patched balls. Depending on the rifle you have to swab out the bore every 3 to 10 shots to clean out the fowling.

There is a reason backwoodsmen carried knifes and tomahawks... inside 100 yards against someone charging you a flintlock rifle was a one shot deal.

Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:21:56 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 11:24:46 AM EDT by Chas]
If you lube your patches with grease, you will have to swab out the bore every 3-5 shots. Most competitive shooters lube with saliva or "moosemilk" (water, light oil, oil soap combination). I have gone 25 shots "spitpatch" without needing to clean my rifle. Go to a blackpowder shoot and you will see folks walking around with long strips of patching cloth hanging out of their mouths...

Grease is definitely better for hunting-waterproof and doesn't dampen the powder charge. A spitpatch cleans the bore as you push the ball home, and usually there is so little time between shots that the dampening effect is negligible. It does take a little experience to gauge how wet the patch should be.

You'll love a flintlock-- If the Almighty had intended us to shoot those new-fangled percussion and cartridge rifles, He would have scattered caps and brass on the ground instead of rocks!
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:22:25 AM EDT

Originally Posted By TheRedHorseman:
that is why you use the ramrod to tamp out any embers before reloading



Uh, no, you use the swab, wetted by the water in the bucket carried by one of the matrosses, while a leather thumbstall is held over the touchhole, to rob any embers or unburnt powder of oxygen, in case the rushing air compressed by the swab fans any embers remaining. Then the piece is wormed out, to remove any foreign matter. The piece is then ready for loading.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:29:21 AM EDT
A well trained soldier was supposed to be able to fire 3 aimed shots per minute. The flintlock is just a little bit quicker to load since you are priming and charging with a single cartridge.

I've never swabbed the bore of a musket between shots. The military manuals didn't call for this anyway. Only with the cannon.

As for cook-off’s with muskets, they can get quite hot. Especially flintlocks after a dozen 120 grain loads but I've never known anyone who has had an accidental discharge due to embers left in the barrel.

Loading a flintlock is a bit different than loading a percussion musket. With the flintlock, the pan is first primed with a bit of powder and closed. The remaining powder is poured down the barrel following by the ball and seated using the rammer.

With a percussion musket, the powder is poured first down the barrel followed by the ball and rammed. The musket is then primed with a percussion cap.

For muzzle loading cannon, once the cannon is fired, a worm (has a large corkscrew on the end) is used to clear out any remainder of the charge. Then the sponge is inserted to wet the interior and extinguish any embers. While this is being done, the man at the position of primer is holding his thumb over the vent to keep any air from entering. Limiting airflow is also important with muskets so always make sure the musket is pointed down range before removing a spent cap or opening the pan.


Period military manuals on the use of muzzle loading arms are great sources for how to safely load and fire these types of weapons.

1812 Regulation for Loading the flintlock: www.usregulars.com/Smyth01.html#p2LESSON%20III

1833 Regulation for Loading/Firing the Percussion rifle-musket:
www.usregulars.com/css4.html
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:38:17 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 11:43:06 AM EDT by 95thFoot]

Originally Posted By SteyrAUG:
So I seem to recall experts in the Revolutionary war could fire 2 shots in about a minute or something like that.



Those would be flintlock rifles firing a patched ball. I'm not talking about how people do it nowadays for hunting or buckskinning, but how it was done back then, loading from a powder horn and measure, or from blank cartridge, and then loading ball/patch, once the powder was down the barrel and in the pan.


My question is how safe that is.


How safe is standing next to Dick Cheney?

Seriously, if done in a military fashion, loading smoothbore muskets with ball cartridge and priming from the paper cartridge, one can load and fire safely three to five shots per minute if the soldier was well-trained, the gun in good-working order, and the powder, flint and weather in optimum condition. Notice I said, "well-trained". It gets to be a rote exercise, repeated, until it functions like clockwork.

As for safety, it's relative. If you do it as the did it back then with all the conditions above, you had more to fear from the enemy, than from your own gun or from your fellow musketman.


I know when it comes to cannons you have to swab the bore with a wet rag to extinguish any burning embers before you reload. I also know a guy in Iowa recently lost most of his hand during a High School football game when he forgot (or was never taught) that crucial step. He wasn't firing cannon balls but lost a bunch of fingers just the same.


See my other post. We have to go through training on all these guns for the National Park Service as well as in reenactment, or else, no work, no play, respectively.

As for stumpy, he probably wasn't sponging out the gun nor working with a trained crew. There are a lot of Darwin Awards candidates out there.


So if you rapid reload a muzzle loader (like a flintlock) couldn't it pose the exact same risk?

I'm thinking about getting a Kentucky rifle and need to look into this stuff. I don't wanna fire a ramrod 100 yards and don't wanna lose any fingers.



Nobody generally reloaded a Pennsylvania rifle that quickly- they weren't used as saturation fire muskets. They were used as sniper weapons when practical. (Kentucky rifles are a 19th century item, BTW) But if you had to reload a musket that quickly, and had the enemy all around, I think safety was the last thing on your mind, much as in firefights today.

The American Revolution was NOT won by individuals with rifles; it was won by the USA eventually beating the British at their own game: massed, well-trained troops firing smoothbore muskets in precision volleys, three to five times a minute.

ETA: and they didn't just stand there and blast away at the enemy- three to five volleys, fix bayonets, if not fixed already, then charge, once the artillery and light infantry (skirmishers) had done their work along with the musketmen. By 1784, when Washington disbanded most of the army, the Continental Army was the best battlefield army in the world, despite its recruitment problems- Washington never had enough troops!
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:52:16 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 12:17:48 PM EDT by 95thFoot]
NB: This post pertains to smoothbore flintlock muskets, NOT flintlock rifles. Two very different animals, for different purposes.


Originally Posted By balexander:

As for cook-off’s with muskets, they can get quite hot. Especially flintlocks after a dozen 120 grain loads but I've never known anyone who has had an accidental discharge due to embers left in the barrel.



The guns never usually got all that hot. They weren't fired all that often in the American Revolution.

Standup firefights of repeated fire were rare until the Napoleonic Era. In America, in the War of 1812, the battles of Lundy's Lane and Chippewa were the exception where the US and Crown forces stood there and traded volleys for hours- very rare. The slaughter (6K casualties?) was such that it was the benchmark for battlefield horror in America until the War Between the States.




Period military manuals on the use of muzzle loading arms are great sources for how to safely load and fire these types of weapons.

1812 Regulation for Loading the flintlock: www.usregulars.com/Smyth01.html#p2LESSON%20III

1833 Regulation for Loading/Firing the Percussion rifle-musket:
www.usregulars.com/css4.html



True- go back even earlier, to check out the firing/reloading section of the 1764 British manual, which was also used by the Continental forces for much of the war, too:


www.britishbrigade.org/library/drill64.html

1. Poise your Firelocks!

1. Seize the Firelock with your right Hand, and turn the Lock outwards, keeping the Firelock perpendicular.

2. Bring up the Firelock with a quick Motion from the Shoulder, and seize it with the left Hand just above the Lock, so that the little Finger may rest upon the Spring, and the Thumb lie upon the Stock: The Firelock must not be held too far from the Body, and the left Hand must be of an equal Height with the Eyes.

2. Cock your Firelocks!

1. Turn the Barrel opposite to your Face, and place your Thumb upon the Cock, raising the Elbow square at this motion.

2. Cock your Firelock, by drawing your Elbow down, placing your Thumb upon the Breech Pin, and the Fingers under the Guard.

3. Present!

1. Step back about six Inches to the Rear with the Right Foot, bring the left Toe to the Front; at the same time the Butt End of the Firelock must be brought to an equal Height with your Shoulder, placing the left Hand upon the Swell, and the Fore-Finger of the right Hand before the Tricker, sinking the Muzzle a little.

4. Fire!

1. Pull the Tricker briskly, and immediately after bringing up the right Foot, come to the Priming Position, with the Lock opposite to the right Breast, the Muzzle the Height of the Hat, keeping it firm and steady, and at the same Time seize the Cock with the Fore-Finger and Thumb of the right Hand, the Back of the Hand turn'd up.

5. Half Cock your Firelocks!

1. Half bend the Cock briskly with a draw back of the right Elbow, bringing it close to the Butt of the Firelock.

6. Handle your Cartridge!

1. Bring your right Hand with a short Round to your Pouch, slapping it hard; seize the Cartridge, and bring it with a quick motion to your Mouth, bite the Top well off and bring the Hand as low as the Chin, with the Elbow down.

7. Prime!

1. Shake the Powder into the Pan, Placing the three left Fingers behind the Hammer, with the Elbow up.

8. Shut your Pans!

1. Shut your Pan briskly, drawing your right Arm at this Motion towards your Body, holding the Cartridge fast in your Hand, as in the former Position.

2. Turn the Piece nimbly round to the loading Position, with the Lock to the Front, and the Muzzle the Height of the Chin, bringing the right Hand behind the Muzzle; both Feet kept fast in this Motion.

9. Charge with Cartridge!

1. Turn up your Hand and put the Cartridge into the Muzzle, shaking the Powder into the Barrel.

2. Place your Hand, closed, with a quick and strong Motion, upon the Rammer.

10. Draw your Rammers!

1. Draw the Rammer with a quick Motion, half out, seizing it at the Muzzle back-handed.

2. Draw it quite out, turn it, and enter it into the Muzzle.

11. Ram down your Cartridge!

1. Ram the Cartridge well down the Barrel, instantly recovering and seizing the Rammer back-handed at the Center, turning it and enter it as far as the lower Pipe, placing at the same Time the Edge of the Hand on the Butt End of the Rammer, with Fingers extended.

12. Return your Rammers!

1. Return the Rammer, bringing up the Piece with the left Hand to the Shoulder, seizing it with the right Hand under the Cock, keeping the left Hand fast at the Swell, turning the Body square to the Front.

13. Shoulder your Firelocks!

1. Quit the left Hand and place it strong upon the Butt.

2. Quit the right Hand and throw it down the right Side.


Link Posted: 2/13/2006 11:55:45 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 12:22:33 PM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By balexander:
A supposed to be able to fire 3 aimed shots per minute. The flintlock is just a little bit quicker to load since you are priming and charging with a single cartridge.




NO

A well trained soldier was was the expected sustained rate of fire of 3 shots per min for a flintlock smoothbore musket... notice I did not use the word aimed as most smoothbore muskets did not generally have any sights to aim with.

The smoothbore musket was the predominate weapon by large margins in the American Revolution on BOTH sides. There were exceptions like the Battle of Kings Mountain which featured irregular forces on both sides but in most battles rifles accounted for well less than 10% of the weapons. iIn set battles the rifle was used mainly as a long range sniper weapon, riflemen unsupported by line troops ran to a new position when enemy troops got close.

They could not and were not expected to sustain 3 aimed shots per minute with a patched ball rifle… 2 shots is damn near impossible to maintain over a 4 shoot spread. I have seen a lot of people that thought they could maintain 3 shots a min with a patched ball rifle... but when they are timed they could not.

Later rifled muskets that use a Minie ball can sustain 3 shots pre min. because they load much faster due to use of a expanding base bullet (that was effectively self cleaning) instead of a patch ball.

Link Posted: 2/13/2006 12:22:26 PM EDT

The American Revolution was NOT won by individuals with rifles; it was won by the USA eventually beating the British at their own game: massed, well-trained troops firing smoothbore muskets in precision volleys, three to five times a minute.


How many Continental regulars were there at King's Mountain again?
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 12:25:26 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 12:27:22 PM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By pisgahrifle:

The American Revolution was NOT won by individuals with rifles; it was won by the USA eventually beating the British at their own game: massed, well-trained troops firing smoothbore muskets in precision volleys, three to five times a minute.


How many Continental regulars were there at King's Mountain again?



None... but there were no British Regulars (except for command) there either... Kings Mountain was a fight amongst Americans irregulars.

It is an amazing battle to read about... and a lesson not to make hollow threats against people who are armed.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 12:41:37 PM EDT

Originally Posted By pisgahrifle:

The American Revolution was NOT won by individuals with rifles; it was won by the USA eventually beating the British at their own game: massed, well-trained troops firing smoothbore muskets in precision volleys, three to five times a minute.


How many Continental regulars were there at King's Mountain again?



None- and no Ferguson rifles, either.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 12:57:13 PM EDT
GRRRRRRRRRRR! No such thing as a Kentucky Rifle! They copied the ones being crafted in Lancaster County Pa. Seriously, thats the rest of the story.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 8:14:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2006 8:14:41 PM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By hdhogman:
GRRRRRRRRRRR! No such thing as a Kentucky Rifle! They copied the ones being crafted in Lancaster County Pa. Seriously, thats the rest of the story.



Actually not a copy but the same thing as many if not most Kentucky Rifles were probably made in PA.

The term Kentucky Rifle and Pennsylvania Rifles are virtually interchangeable.

Now the Tennessee Rifle is a distinct version derived from Pennsylvania Rifle. It was a locally produced version that tended to have no patch box or a wooden patch box and none of the frills of a true Pennsylvania Rifle and the Tennessee Rifle usually had a smaller bore diameter.
Link Posted: 2/13/2006 8:27:31 PM EDT
Yeah the minie ball was probably the biggest advancement in the muzzleloading rifle after the percussion cap. As another poster mentioned it was smaller than the bore and when the charge ignited its hollow base would expand and engage the rifling, resulting in easier loading and more accurate shots.

It was given a lot of credit for the horrible casualties in the civil war. Be about like using Nosler Ballistic tips or Barnes X bullets in our M16's...

How did they dry the bore out after swabbing it with a wet sponge? Did the residual heat of the last shot dry it out? I know my old sidelock would have turned into a paperweight if I did that!

I read that in general with a long gun it's best to wait a bit for any residual embers to burn out before reloading if you don't swab the barrel, but I imagine, in combat. shooting off a couple fingers would be the least of your worries.

What I really wanna know, having bought a Navy Colt once with the idea of keeping it loaded as a home-defense gun when I wasn't out shooting it, was how long could you keep a black powder weapon charged with powder and shot without damaging the metal? I never could bring myself to leave it laying around stoked up even with pyrodex...

Considering people used to carry them as personal-defense/combat handguns, what were the do's and don't's of keeping them loaded at all times?
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