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Antique Firearm Safety Basics with Glenn Gravatt (cc)


Ok What I’m gonna do here is cover some of the safety principles in shooting a Civil War era, muzzle-loading percussion firearm. And before I begin, I just want to start with
a disclaimer and say what I’m gonna be talking to you about is my own opinion from years
of shooting. These items have not been peer-reviwed by
a panel of experts or endorsed by some organization. If you decide to take on a hobby such as this,
you take on the risks – of course, nothing is risk-free when shooting firearms, dealing
with powder and cap and those sorts of things. So I just encourage you – verify things and
be sure you are taking on the liability and responsibility whenyou do this sort of thing,
but I’m trying to put these things out here, probably as an added aid for you. I just want to start with two very basic principles
in dealing with any kind of shooting of a firerm,particularly an antique firearm. That is if you purchased a firearm from a
company, that is to say a production type firearm, there will be a manual and ensure
that you get that manual, that you understand that manual, that you read that manual, that
you follow that manual. If you have any questions, contact that company. So, that’s a very important point. In addition, especially if you’re a first-time
or your not confident – whatever it might be, you should start your shooting with someone
who is much more knowledgeable, someone who has expertise on the firearms that you’re
shooting. Someone who can verify the gun – assuming
it’s an antique – is safe to fire, someone who can monitor your loading and your shooting
and be sure you’re doing everything safely. That all being said – we’re gonna start off
with the most basic principle pf firearm safety – I’m not gonna be covering every safety principle
here, but the basic principle for everyone for every firearm is muzzle-control – this
being the muzzle end, the barrel, the direction of this barrel being pointed – whether the
gun is loaded or unloaded – is always in a safe direction. You notice I’m leaning the gun down-range
as I’m talking. So a safe direction might be up, might be
down at the ground, or might be down-range toward the target. Always in a safe direction, even if I have
the gun in my house, showing it to people, whatever, you always treat a gun as if it
is loaded and always have it pointed in a safe direction. “Muzzle control” – we call that. So now, starting with the firearm, any type
of firearm you get – the first thing you do is verify that it is unloaded. Now, with a muzzle-loader, that’s a little
bit more difficult. With modern firearms we do what’s called – we
open the “action,” which is this area on the gun on most firearm that loads and unloads. But for a muzzle-loader, you load it up from
the top. So this area here, we don’t call it an “action,”
we call it a “lock,” in this case it’s a “percussion lock,” because a hammer hits a cap to make
it explode. It causes the powder to go off inside. But to ensure the gun is safe, you want to
make sure there is no percussion cap – no shiny percussion cap on the end of this. The gun can be placed on half-cock to verify
that – all these firearms should have a working half-cock. You’re gonna ensure at some point, you’re
gonna “safety-check” that this half-cock works (though it is not a full-safety measure). Every proper, operating muzzle-loader should
have an operating half-cock. You would test that by making sure that the
entire weight of the gun could be laid on the trigger, which I’m not gonna right now
because I’ve not verified that the gun is fully unloaded. ((Maybe for a legal state in some)) In some
states, just not having a percussion cap may be a legal state of unloading, but we want
to make sure there is nothing inside there to make sure it is completely unloaded. So we don’t put our finger inside the trigger
yard unless we’re actually firing or unless I need to de-cock this gun for some reason. So, no percussion cap. That’s the first part. The second part is I want to make sure there’s
nothing inside here. So, how is that done? One of the old school ways it’s done and this
is not necessarily a definite. You would probably drop this ramrod down in
here. As you can see, muzzle control becomes more
difficult with a muzzle loader because at times you have your fingers around the end
of the barrel. So you want to minimize that. But as I drop it, you might hear a clink. (sound) OK. That’s the sound of the steel hitting the
base. But again, is that a surefire method? Not necessarily. I have found, over the years, kids have dumped
things down there. Kid might have put a ball bearing down there
– not necessarily a guarantee (that it isn’t loaded) hearing that sound. What you want to do is actually a ramrod measurement. Now someone may have put marks on the ramrod. So when you drop that ramrod down, the mark
will show the gun is loaded. In other cases the properly fitted ramrod
that goes with the musket will drop actually surface level when the gun is unloaded, so
you know it’s unloaded. Now all that being said, these firearms have
histories. The ramrod may have not been the ramrod that
originally went with this gun. They could have been changed out. So what you want to do finally is actually
verify that that ramrod length from end – down there – goes right down to where that touch-hole
would be, where that percussion cap would go – there’s room where a breech plug would
come into – but that shows that the ramrod is going right down to the bottom. Of course, for an antique firearm, or any
firearm that you would use, that wouldn’t come straight from the manufacturer, you would
want to have, with equipment, the barrel inspected inside and out, also verifying that it is
unloaded. So now that we have verified that we have
an unloaded firearm. That’s kind of good, I guess if you’re showing
it to friends at home and that sort of thing. But when you’re at the range, you take added
steps before you begin shooting and after to verify that a percussion firearm is unloaded. That’s the first step in what we call “cap-off-the-gun.” Remember that the percussion cap – it starts
the whole process. Now remember I’ve not put any powder or bullet
in here. But I will fire a cap down-range just to ensure
that, if there is anything in there, that it would go off and would come out. Caps are loud. So we start with our hearing protection. They can bust. We have our eye protection. So always standard with your firearm – ear
protection and eye protection So we’re gonna shoot one cap down-range. So full-cock (ready to fire) cap (aim) down-range
(fire). Bang. Secondly, we would then do a second cap, because
(that one shot) doesn’t necessarily one hundred per cent guarantee the gun is clear. I’ve seen caps go and not unload. So, the second and final thing is you want
to make sure everything is clear. And the way we do that, we cap one to the
ground (by putting cap on here). We point the gun at a leaf or something that
we want to see move. You want to see movement. So if you have the camera on the front of
the barrel toward the ground. You have that cap (fire) you see movement
in the grass. That verifies again that everything inside
here is clear. Now I have a gun which I can safely begin
to load and fire. Now speaking of loading, we’re gonna put black
powder in here. Now there’s different types of powder. One thing you should never, ever do is use
smokeless powder, the modern type of powder in an antique or in any type of muzzle-loading
firearm. It could cause a catastrophic type of failure. You want to use the type of powder that’s
for your gun. There are black powder substitutes that might
be useable in some of the reproductions you might get. Certainly you would read the manual and determine
what types of powders you could use in that gun. What we can say is blackpowder is the common
denominator and you can use black powder in all your guns, but again you would want to
consult to determine what would be the correct powder loads for that paticular firearm. Generally we load significantly less than
what they shot in the Civil War. I am shooting forty-eight grains of a powder
here, “double-F” type powder is the more proper powder for these. Some people use a “triple-F” faster burning
powder, which is really designed for pistols. But we’ll just say the “double F” is the common
denominator powder that you could use for these types of muzzle-loaders. So now we’re gonna do the loading process. So what I’m gonna do is pull out one round
here and I have pre-measured powder and bullet in here. You’ll see all sorts of things on youtube.com
People with an open can of caps. My caps are in this covered pouch. There might be an open can of caps on their
shooting table. They might have a can of powder on their shooting
table. These are all things you don’t want to do. If you ever saw one of these things fired
in the dark, you’d see sparks going everywhere, coming out of the barrel, rapping back. So you want to have all your shooting items
protected. You also don’t want to load directly in the
barrel from any type of powder horn, for instance. You might look like Daniel Boone, but that
is not cool, not safe. Certainly not from the can. One individually-measured container. Why? Because it’s just possible – and I’ve actually
seen it happen in my lifetime and I’ve known other shooters that have seen it happen. That you could a burning ember, still down
at the bottom of this from having capped. It could be an old piece of patch burning,
or a piece of carbon. It could be some lubricant from some previous
bullet. So, when I would pour the powder down here,
it would get what we would call a “cook-off.” The powder would ignite. And you would just see a puff of smoke and
flame and you might even burn your hand maybe some times your face. These things are possible when you’re loading
these firearms. So that’s why we use just an individually
measured container of black powder. “Uncontained” would burn off very quickly. It’s not like that slow-burn that you see
on the old TV shows. It burns instantly fast. So that’s why we load from individual containers. So I’m going to pull the bullet out. Here goes the powder,(rather rapidly) just
so I can get it in; and now I start with the bullet. One thing we don’t do is put our thumb over
the top of the bullet and shove it in there. My bullet’s rather loose. It’s gonna sink in. Some times your bullet might just stick on
the top there. And you really don’t want to basically try
to – what is called – “thumb the bullet.” Anything over the top of it other than the
ramrod. Now I want to ensure that the bullet goes
down there and sinks down there – a couple of taps. You really don’t want to have any air space
between the bullet and the powder, but you really don’t need to slam and smash the bullet. OK. So out comes the ramrod. You have powder and bullet now in the gun. All that really remains now is for me to fire
the round. So, again from a safety standpoint, my finger
does not go in here, until I’m ready to fire. So, when I cock and put on a cap – in any
kind of shooting range situation. You might be at a competitive event, you might
be told toload and come to the ready. You wait with your finger outside the trigger
guard. And, when you aim, you don’t point your finger
way up to the sky and drop it down, because you want the gun pointed in a safe direction
now that it’s loaded. We’re gonna try one shot here and see where
it comes out. (at fifty yards) Now we’re done shooting and
before I leave the line, I want to again verify to the range officer or to whomever I’m shooting
with and certainly to my self, that this gun is one hundred per cent unloaded. You say: “Well I just saw it go off.” Or I’ve seen in the midst of shooting, people
thought their gun going off, but it didn’t go off or it didn’t fully discharge. So before I actually talk about making sure
this gun is unloaded, I’ll mention one more thing: it’s possible with a firearm, I could
have pulled the trigger and nothing could have happened. OK? So, a mis-fire. In that situation you’ve got to keep the gun
pointed down range – some people say thirty seconds. Some will say two minutes. In either case, you have to be prepared – for
that gun could possibly go off at any time because there could be a slow burn going on
in here. But at some point, if the gun mis-fired, you
gonna re-cap and try again, re-cap and try again. Eventually it’s gonna go off. If it doesn’t, this is why you will have someone
who is more experienced with you. You may need to be doing things – possibly
putting more powder in there, cleaning out the cone hole; hopefully if your range has
a CO2 discharge mechanism – worst case scenario – you might be soaking it, using a bullet
pourer – all things you don’t to really want to get into unless you have someone with expertise
whose working on it. Odds are, if you have a clean gun – you’ve
done everything, you’ve done your pre-capping – this gun’s gonna off every single time. So, we’ve just done that. Now, before leaving the line with this firearm,
we want to doubly be sure, this gun is safe. So, we’re gonna go ahead and cap one more
down-range. So it’s a double cap process again. So cap down-range (fire cap) Again, just the
cap. And lastly, we’re gonna ensure that the gun
barrel is clear. We’re gonna go to the ground here. We’re gonna look at the ground here and here
we go (fire). Watch that ground (grass) move. So now this gun is fired safe. I can depart from the line with it. But the last thing, of course, is we’re always
going to continue to maintain that muzzle-control. Keep that gun pointed up in the air in a safe
direction and not toward any people. So those are the basic safety principles. Again verify and double-check with other people
on what procedures that you might use with your particular firearm. Know your firearm well and have some safe shooting.

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