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Old September 14, 2002, 08:17 PM   #1
James K
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Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,193
Check that muzzle loader!

I would like to use a separate thread to emphasize something I said in another thread.

When dealing with old muzzle loading firearms, ALWAYS assume that the gun is loaded unless you have checked it. This can be done by running a cleaning rod down the barrel and measuring whether it reaches bottom, or by the sound of the rod striking metal. If there is any doubt, remove the breech plug(s) if possible, or use a worm or ball screw to try to remove whatever is in there.

Most often, it will just be junk that kids put in the gun while playing cowboys, but it can be a full charge load just waiting for a spark to set it off. Black powder does not deteriorate with age.

There are no hard and fast rules, and the caution applies to ALL muzzle loaders. But, in general, rifles were used for hunting and were shot off and cleaned when the hunter came home. Duelling pistols and the like usually were shot off or emptied.

But pocket pistols were often left loaded, so that only a cap or a charge of priming powder was needed before putting the pistol in a coat pocket and venturing into the street.

In the old farms, shotguns were routinely left loaded by the kitchen door, with the caps placed on top of a cupboard (out of reach of the kids). The gun then needed only capping when a fox was heard raiding the hen house, or some other 2 or 4 legged intruder was heard.

Or a loaded rifle-musket was picked up by a civilian on a Civil War battlefield and hidden away.

In all those cases, the end result was the same. The gun's original owner or finder died, the gun passed on to son and grandson as an heirloom. No one thought to check to see if it was loaded.

Then one day, a child decides to play cowboys, puts a toy cap on the nipple, and fires, with a tragic result.

So, PLEASE, CHECK EVERY MUZZLE LOADER FOR A LOAD. IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW, OR DON'T KNOW HOW TO UNLOAD IT, SEEK ADVICE HERE OR FROM A COMPETENT GUNSMITH. YOUR CARE COULD SAVE A LIFE.

Jim
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