Muzzleloader 101

Loaded or Unloaded?
To determine if a firearm is loaded, place the ramrod in the bore and mark the ramrod at the muzzle. Remove the ramrod from the bore and lay it alongside the barrel with the ramrod mark at the muzzle. If the ramrod reaches the flintlock touchhole or the percussion nipple, the firearm is unloaded. If the ramrod fails to reach the touchhole or the nipple, the firearm is loaded. This is a easily seen difference. For a 50 caliber that is a half inch for the ball and another half inch for 50 grains of three F. That's a full inch for a light load. I like to mark the ramrod with a stripe with one end at empty and the other at loaded with a Sharpy pen. It is now a quick check and useful to confirm dry ball (no powder under the ball) if it is mid range on the stripe. If in doubt, consult the range master, coach or a gunsmith to clear the bore.

Some guns have a breech plug that extends into the bore. See the patent breech drawing. This should be a one-time check and then you'll know the gun.

Powder, patch and ball or it won't go bang at all
Verify the gun is not loaded. A charge on top of a charge is a very bad idea. With any muzzleloader, your first step should be to insure your barrels and nipples are clean and dry.

Run a dry patch down the barrel. Without powder and with the gun pointed in a safe direction touch off a cap on each nipple. This clears your nipples of any oil residue from cleaning and storage.

Pour powder from the flask into a powder measure. Never pour powder directly from the flask into the gun. A live ember can turn your flask into a grenade.

In many events pouring directly from the flask will get you disqualified and evicted.

Pour the correct powder charge down the barrel.

If shooting a double barrel gun it is wise to charge each barrel at the same time to avoid confusion. Develop a habit of either barrel first and stick to it! Both get powder, then both get bullet, ball or wad. Keep track as to what has been done in the loading process.

For Round Ball
Lay a lubricated patch on the muzzle and push a ball into the muzzle with your thumb. If the ball has a sprue, be sure it points straight up.

For Bullet
The bullet has grooves for lubricant, so no patch is required. The base is usually flat or concave and the nose is domed. Put the bullet in, base down, carefully as straight as possible. Proceed as for round ball.

For Shotgun
The over powder card is next. Seat the card firmly on top of the powder.

For Round Ball or Bullet
Use the short arm of the short starter to push the ball in as deep as it will go.

For Shotgun
The fiber cushion wad comes next---unless you are using a plastic sleeve type at this time. Fiber wads should be lubed. Depending on the choke of your barrels, these wads can be snug to very tight. Start an edge of the wad and then finish it off by pushing it down on top of your powder with the ramrod. Push the cushion wad firmly down on top of the over powder wad.

For Round Ball or Bullet
Use the long arm to push it in deeper.

For Shotgun
Measure and pour the desired charge of shot down the barrel. The rule of thumb is equal volume of powder and shot.

For Round Ball or Bullet
Use the ramrod to push the ball all the way down. Grasp the rod eight or ten inches above the muzzle and tap it in with short strokes. Grabbing the top bends and potentially breaks the rod. Black powder requires some compression, so be sure the patch and ball are touching the load.

For Shotgun
The over-shot card wad is next. Again---firmly push the wad down the barrel till it is firmly seated on top of the shot charge.

Return ramrod to thimbles under the barrel(s).
For Percussion
With the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, place your cap on the nipples. Assure hammer is on half cock.
For Flintlock
Loading position with pan open and hammer down.
For Flintlock
Fill pan � to 1/3 full of priming powder, close frizzen, and place hammer into the half-cock position.

Muzzleloading 101 Classroom

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