Stop me if you've heard this before. Oh, that's right. You can't.
I posted this about 3 years ago, so maybe some of you have forgotten (you know, old age, etc...)
I've only been at this 30 years, and hold no illusions about my ability to dryball - I can do it any time, any place, for no good reason at all. But this was a new experience:
Technically it wasn't actually a dryball, as there was a full load of powder under the ball. But it wasn't a proper load either.
The gun was a .54 cal Lyman GPR flintlock. I had taken 4 shots and swabbed after each. I carefully measured 70 grains of ffg Goex and poured it down the barrel. There were no distractions; all the onlookers knew not to talk to me during the loading process. I picked up and carefully separated a single 0.015" lubed patch, placed it on the muzzle. I picked up a 0.530 round ball and placed it on the patch, and noticed that the patch was not well centered. So, I placed one finger on the ball to hold it steady. I took my thumb and forefinger on the other hand and carefully captured an edge of the patch and pulled it across the muzzle to center it. And promptly pulled it out from under the ball, which disappeared down the bore assisted, by my finger.
So now I have a full powder charge in the barrel along with a loose ball. Let's see, .530 ball, .540 bore, should fall right out, right? Nope. Wouldn't budge. Tapped the barrel on the carpet I use to protect the butt when loading. Nope, still no ball.
Ok, rammed the ball down all the way with the range rod, checked the mark, yep, full powder load and round ball. Primed the pan, got a flash, no boom. Great. Picked the touch hole, primed and tapped some 4f into the touch hole. Got another flash, but no boom. Now it's starting to rain.
Packed up the gear and went home. I'd shot 4 guns yesterday and decided to wait until after supper to clean them. I did the .54 flinter last, and decided to try to pull the ball. The timing is important because now it's about 11 pm. The ball came right out with very little effort. Normally I'd just wash the powder out with water, but something made me decide to shoot it out - after all, how much noise would some loose powder make?
It's not loose, stupid, it was compressed when you rammed the ball down. It's still compressed, stupid. 70 grains of compressed 2f out the back door across the lake at 11 pm is impressive. I swear the echo went on for 15 minutes. SWMBO had fallen asleep reading. I now have very clear instructions about how and when to clear bore obstructions. I know exactly how many neighbors I have that retire before 11 pm, and how far away you can hear 70 grains of 2f at 11 pm. I know that the odds of the only Sheriff's road patrol car on duty at 11pm being across the lake in view of my house at that precise moment are slim but not that slim. I have learned that it is a misdemeanor to discharge a firearm at my house, since, although it's an undeveloped rural area, it was platted as a subdivision in 1921 and the county considers it an urban area. He may have made that part up, but he didn't charge me and I'm not going to do it again in any case.
Sheesh. All I did was accidentally pull the darn patch out from under the ball...
In the cold light of day, it's clear that the deputy's civics lesson about misdemeanor firearms violations was embellished somewhat - there is an ordinance about discharging a firearm within 450 feet of a dwelling, which I did not violate because your own dwelling doesn't count. He just felt the need to vent, for some reason.
I don't really blame him for being upset and feeling the need to put the fear of 'Jurisprudence' (that's the nickname of the local lockup Bubba) into me. The lake is down in a bowl amongst some small hills. He was sitting at the top of a short boat ramp, lights out, watching for some kids that were up to some mischief. The flash and boom 'from out on the lake' scared him to death, and he'd completely lost his sense of humor (and perhaps even control of some bodily functions) at that point.
This morning I also realized that by stepping just outside the back door I was in an area completely surrounded on 5 sides by concrete, decking and house walls - in the middle of a big speaker cone pointed directly at the boat ramp on the other side of the lake. Did I mention the lake is in the bowl of surrounding hills? The deputy's reference to 105mm rounds makes a little more sense to me now.
Behind the garage would have been a much better idea. But, when that ball disappeared down that barrel it took my thinking material with it.
A gentleman on another forum has suggested an alternative scenario with respect to the officer's point of view.
I assumed the deputy was sitting in his car quietly watching for some kids doing mischief (we'd had a little bit of the upended outhouse type of shenanigans lately), and was just scared by the sudden flash and boom out of the darkness.
However, considering the already improbable lineup of events, why not add one more: the deputy was actually out of his car, down on the bank by the boat ramp attending to a little personal call, when, in the midst of a quiet commune with nature, KABOOOM!!.
It's possible. That might have colored his view of the event somewhat.
And then, a few days later:
I was in town for some errands today and went by the Sheriff's office to register a new unmentionable. The clerk on duty looked at my DL and said, "You're the guy that scared the #*%@! out of Deputy ______!" It seems the story is all over the county offices. Apparently the "alternate scenario" where he was out of the car and 'busy' down by the water is more than just possible. Seems I'm some kind of local folk hero.
The deputy did not mention my name, but the 911 calls did reference an address that the clerk recognized. He filed a report since the 911 dispatcher log showed his unit responded to their dispatch call. But the report was a 'no violation' report. The clerk put two and two together. She said the office 'coffeepot lawyers' agreed there was no violation as the gun wasn't actually loaded.