Black Powder Firearms. Key Topics. Know Your Muzzleloader Black Powder Black Powder Substitutes Basic Muzzleloader Safety & Skills. Objectives. You should be able to… Show a basic understanding of the history of black powder Know the different black powder firearm actions
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Muzzleloader is the term given to early firearms because they are loaded from the muzzle or open end.
The Chinese are believed to be the first to use gunpowder's, now called “black powder.” The first firearms were tubes closed at one end, usually made of brass or cast iron. Early firearms were loaded by pouring black powder, shoving a projectile into the tube from the muzzle end, and then igniting the powder using a lighted wick or match. The powder burned creating pressure that launched metal objects or arrows. These firearms are called “muzzleloaders” due to their loading process. Advances in ignition systems were the major changes that brought about modern firearms:
·Flintlock ignition appeared in the late 1600s. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer holding a piece of flint fell against a steel cover (the frizzen) sitting over the priming pan. The hammer knocked the cover out of the way and the collision of flint and steel caused sparks that ignited the powder in the priming pan.
Top View Flash Pan
The percussion lock (also called “caplock”) replaced the flintlock in early 1800s. Early percussion locks used priming compounds inside a metallic foil cap placed over the vent hole. When the hammer strikes the cap, the resulting spark ignites the main charge.
The percussion cap also paved the way to the self-contained ammunition we have today – cartridges and shotshells. The percussion cap ignition system was developed in 1805 by the Reverend John Forsyth of England. Gunpowder, the projectile and the primer were put together into a single housing that could be loaded quickly in the mid-1800s. In addition to this system, some of the new in-line muzzleloaders may use a 209 primer, the same as is used in some shotgun shells.
Black powder is the only type of powder that should be used in muzzleloaders. However synthetic substitutes, such as Pyrodex®, also may be used. Don’t use modern-day smokeless powders in black powder firearms – it could cause serious injury.
Pyrodex® and other black powder substitutes that can be used in amounts equal to black powder – loading may vary. Be sure to consult instructions from qualified gunsmith for loading procedures.
Pellets to be used in in-line ignition systems only. Not recommended for use in flintlocks.
The use of smokeless powder (except in the new Savage designed for it), a mixture of smokeless and black powder, the wrong type or granulation of black powder, Pyrodex®, or overloading may damage your firearm and cause injury and/or death to the shooter or bystander.
The types of projectiles are:
modern handgun bullet of lesser caliber
Loading a muzzleloader firearm presents some special concerns because it requires the muzzle to be pointed upward.
Damascus or “damascus twist” barrels are older shotgun barrels that were typically made before 1900. Iron and steel ribbons were twisted and welded together. Damascus barrels are weaker than modern barrels and are not designed for the high gas pressures created by modern ammunition. Damascus barrels have a distinctive, irregular pattern of short, streaklike marks around the barrel.
If you have a damascus barrel gun, don’t shoot it. The barrel may burst slightly ahead of the chamber, crippling the shooter’s hand or forearm. If you have an older firearm and are not sure if it has a damascus barrel, before shooting it go to a qualified gunsmith to identify its make.
Modern muzzleloaders are reproductions of original muzzleloaders.
After firing a muzzleloader, it should be cleaned thoroughly. Black powder is very corrosive - residue inside the barrel causes pitting, reducing accuracy. Buildup of residue, called fouling, will also make loading difficult.
Follow this procedure to clean muzzleloader:
If you load your muzzleloader and do not have the opportunity to fire it while hunting, you will need to unload it safely before entering camp, home or vehicle.
Muzzleloaders take significantly more knowledge to operate than modern firearms. They also present greater risks. Several rules must be followed to ensure safe operation.