Muzzleloader 101
Loading tools

Ramrod / Range Rod
The ramrod is an integral accessory of the gun. It slides under the barrel, retained by little rings called thimbles. . Its function is to push the ball into barrel. One end has a cupped metal tip to fit the ball. Shotguns have a flat end for wad and card. Frequently the center of the tip is threaded either 8-32 or 10-32 for tools. The other end is usually tapered to enter the stock. Occasionally this end has a tapered brass tip, tapped for the other thread. Traditionally they are made of hickory, but many modern rods are made of tough high tech plastics. Check your event rules as some youth events ban wood (breakable) and many traditional events ban non-natural materials. The less common metal ones are good either way. Avoid fiberglass rods. They are abrasive.

Range rods are special ramrods. They are usually metal, brass, aluminium or steel, with a handle on one end and the other tip is threaded. For loading, a jag (see below) is screwed into the end of the rod. Range rods double as cleaning rods and for other maintenance tasks. Some range masters demand a clear bore indicator. A paint or tape stripe around the rod at the muzzle shows empty and a space below the stripe indicates loaded.

It simplifies things if you select either 8-32 or 10-32 and purchase ALL rods and tips in one thread only. I prefer the larger 10-32. Most modern cleaning equipment (rods and tips) is threaded 8-32 and may be a better choice for most shooters. For shotguns 5/16-27 is common, but a few use 5/16-28. Sorry, but asking me why will not increase your knowledge.

Powder Horns and Flasks
The classic frontier powder container was the horn. They look cool and are period correct. Most are capacious, rugged and handy on their own shoulder strap. A few are magnificently decorated. Some of the decorative techniques such as scrimshaw are well within capability of an amateur. However I only rarely see the fancy ones on the firing line but often are on display in camp, at council fire or at home, hanging on the wall..

Flasks are probably a good choice for the beginner.The thin spout is easier to pour into a measure and the almost always have some kind of valve to help avoid spills. They come in very small for pocket pistols to very large for shotguns. There is a wide selection of decoration as well. They must be of a non-sparking material. Most are brass, a few are copper and occasionally nickel silver. Plastics are becoming popular. Some of the larger ones haave rings for a carry strap.
Note: The spouts come in various sizes. Do not use these to pour directly into the barrel.

Powder Measures
This is the standard fixed powder measure made of brass. Usually the knob is pierced for a cord. Historically they were made of tin, pewter, antler or other materials as well and are often cone shaped. The smaller sizes are usually available in 5 grain steps and the larger ones in 10 grain steps. I know some target shooters who file theirs down to the exact measure they have worked up.

Developing a load? An adjustable measure does the trick. Some of this type have a pivoting funnel. I find the small measures with the small funnel very handy for the small calibers but you can pour directly into a large bore easily without one. Typically available in three sizes.

Similar to the above, but with a swinging funnel. I must prefer the rotating funnel as that is what I seem to always be using.

Rod Guide
A rod guide is useful on any range rod, but should be a necessity on steel range rods to protect the muzzle from damage.

Short starter or pistol starter
Available with wood, brass or plastic shafts. Usually has a wood ball or a tee handle of metal, plastic or antler. Some, as the one shown, have a much longer shaft that will double as a ramrod for a pistol.

The straight line capper holds 15 caps, but one or two are always in the tip. In competition I usually carry two or three.
The "rifleman's" style holds more, but I always have some of the caps turning sideways. There is another variation with a hooked tip that is useful for revolvers because of the shrouded nipples.

Loading Block
Loading blocks are usually made of wood and have holes for patched round balls. Use your short starter to push the ball into the barrel. You may need to adjust the hole size a bit with sandpaper for a reliable fit.

Priming Flask
Priming flasks are filled with 4F to prime the pan of s flintlock. This style has a plunger mechanism that dispenses a measured amount each time it is pressed. The two readily available are sized small for a pistol or light Kentucky and large for a large musket. There are other styles as well. The smaller plunger is available separately to mount on your favorite container.

Shot Pouch & Spout
This is an English style spout which is usualy fastened on a leather pouch. Tilt it up and the spout tube fills with shot. Pressing the lever blocks the pouch and releases the shot into the barrel. Changing the gate sets either one or one and a quarter ounces of shot. Good for a twelve, but rather heavy for a twenty.
The Irish style has a kind of removeable scoop.

Speed Loader
These tubes hold one load. Measure the powder and patch the ball at home. Open one end, pour the powder into the barrel, open the other end and use your short starter to push it through into the barrel. Often it has a little clip for a cap. Good for hunting but prohibited in some period correct competitions.

Drop Tube
This tube, usually 3/8" brass, with a funnel on the end is used by extreme accuracy shooters. It prevents powder from sticking to the walls

Patch Knife
In the old days many, or even most, carried their patch material in the form of a ribbon. It was laid across the muzzle and the ball pressed in to flush, then the ribbon was cut off with any handy knife. Often a small knife ( 2 or 3 inch was carried for this purpose. contemporary shooters using this method usually use pillow ticking and either have a sheath with the shooting pouch or on a lanyard around their neck.

Muzzleloading 101 Classroom

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