you've got yourself a matchlock?
you've got yourself a matchlock - congrats! Now you need all the other
stuff to shoot, either theatrically or at the
range. Getting all the bits and bobs for black powder guns can be quite
a chore. Order it now, don't wait until you've only got a week to get
essentials like priming flasks, match and powder.
- FFFF for the priming pan, either FFF or FF for the main charge.
Standard recommendation is to use FF if the ball size is over 50, but I
use FFF for my 73 caliber/12-gage so it can work for either theatrical
or throwing ball, works fine with less fouling.
- Since black powder is an explosive rather than a propellant like
smokeless powder, many gun stores can't store or sell it -- so call
first to see if they have the grade you need. Try to buy it through your
local black powder muzzleloading group - it is usually much cheaper that
- Hard to avoid the whole rifle-thing, where sellers assume you are using
a rifled barrel and sell you ball that is too tight/large for a
smoothbore. Ask the person you bought your gun from or friends for the
exact size of ball for your specific gun. For fun shooting you can use
ball with the sprue attached, but for competition it is best to use
tumbled ball / sprueless.
- If you have a standard barrel size, you can get ball from some gun stores;
from Cabelas (http://www.cabelas.com,Hunting/BlackPowder), and
other large suppliers like Dixie (http://www.dixiegunworks.com).
For specialty ball the best source is Thunder Ridge
spending lots of cash on the whole ball-casting apparatus and tools -- a
lot of hassle and toxic waste for a small return -- only go there if you
have a non-standard (aka pipe) barrel and/or have already had children
- Wadding and Patch
is different from wadding. There are two kinds of patch - cleaning patch
and shooting (ball) patch. Cleaning patch is usually square; ball patch
is circular, often lubricated and packaged showing the thickness on the
label. Ball patch is used for wrapping around the ball to
stabilize it as it comes out of the barrel. All the commercial patch
that I've seen is cotton, often striped pillow ticking.
is the alternative to patch, but is much less accurate. Wadding is
commercially available in common shotgun (and other large- calibers)
sizes and essential for Black Powder shotgun shooting. It is a
lubricated cylindrical lump of fiber (often yellow) that can be placed
over the charge and under the ball, or on top of the ball to hold it
onto the charge, or both.
can't find commercial lubricated or unlubricated ball patch in a large
enough size for my 12-gage barrel and 71.5 ball, so I use 2.5"
square cleaning patch saturated in a non-water based black powder
lube/solvent. Lubricated patch is highly recommended, as it greatly reduces
the number of times you have to clean the fouling out of your barrel, as
well as minimizing the chance that you will get the ball and patch stuck
partway down the barrel.
alternative to using lube/solvent is to wet the patch in your mouth
before placing in over the barrel, which is why most un-lubed patch is
packaged as "sanitary". Bu' it doth cauth a werry dwy mouthe...
- Bandoliers of
Flasks (called "Apostles") -
- Many shooters avoid using the "built-in" wooden primer
flask, as they are not as safe as flasks with a spring-close spout, so
only buy it if it's included in the deal. The ball-bag is nice to have
(even if used for wadding or other stuff), the vent-prick is essential,
but the oil bottle is mostly for show.
are different sizes (length of bandolier strap), so be sure to get one
that will fit you. Most have twelve bottles, but this isn't required,
nicer to have more. Bottle-types vary, most important is that they open
one-handed, but don't open by themselves if you run about whilst wearing
the bandolier. The interior of the bottle must hold enough powder for
your charge -- ask the maker what they hold in grains. The little metal
rings on the strings can be nice, but are not required to have the
bottles handle correctly.
bottles were standard issue for some English Parliamentarian NMA units
but not all, and these also had special blue & white twisted strings
for the bottles.
- Paul Meekins in the UK makes the best (http://www.bandoliers.co.uk/),
his prices aren't much more than other less-authentic sources in the
States, order the longer strap extension. Another UK source for
bandoliers, match, priming flasks, etc is Albion Small Arms (http://www.albion-small-arms.freeserve.co.uk/accessories.htm).
Best US source is Sykes Suttlery
- Gun Tools
(screwdriver, vent prick, etc) -
- Most matchlock pan covers are built with a standard slotted adjustment
screw, and it can be critical that the tension on this screw is properly
adjusted to avoid misfires and loss of priming powder when loading.
Different makers use different drill sizes to make the vent hole into the
barrel, so vent pricks must be properly sized for each gun as well as made
from flexible metal. Another handy tool is a worm tip for your ramrod or
cleaning rod, as this allows you to recover cleaning patch from the
barrel. Many black powder shooters have to run
wet patch down their barrels every few shots to avoid fouling, but if the
patch comes off the cleaning jag/ramrod tip and jams in the barrel, it can
ruin a day's shooting!
- Most bandolier makers and black powder merchants sell vent pricks, but
the local blacksmith can be your best source for a hand-forged combined
vent prick & screwdriver tool. Hang this tool from the bandolier, so
it will be handy when you need it -- and won't get lost. The "patch
worm" tip can be carried in the ball bag if it screws into your
- Priming flask -
- There has been a lot of discussion on which priming flask to use. The
primary injury in matchlock shooting is powder flakes in the eye,
usually from the shooter's priming pan on your left. Less common but
much more serious is primer flask explosions, which can cause serious
injury to hands and bodies. These are caused by residual hot ash/sparks
in the pan, or sparks feeding through the touchhole from the barrel. The
shooter pours the priming powder into the pan onto this spark, which
then feeds back into the flask and explodes.
theory is that the safest priming flask is one with the least amount of
metal and potential compression, with leather flasks heading the list.
Use a standard primer flask spring-spout, then make a sewn leather body
for it. Alternately, use the smallest flask you can find, and only
fill it for the required number of shots. The Baby Flask has a metal
body and is commonly used for black powder pistol priming, and can be
strung on a cord by twisting wire through the screw-holes.
- Most authentic are the larger triangular wooden priming flasks with
metal trim, nails, and metal spouts. Best source for these is Sykes
who is also good for match and OK for bandoliers of flasks. For small
try Thunder Ridge (best selection, Bag Baby Flask Item: DP-537, Price
aprox. $24), Dixie or Cabelas (ACW-embossed pistol flask Cabelas Item:
XB-210257, Price: aprox. $17).
- Ram/Cleaning rods,
and materials -
- Unless you have a short-barreled gun, matchlocks need longer cleaning
rods than modern shotguns, so check the length before ordering. Cleaning
rods have different end thread sizes, so be sure the rod-end and all
brushes match! Tornado brushes are great for smoothbores
but are hard to find, so most of us use the standard brass shotgun-type
brushes if they are close to the correct diameter.
YOUR RAMROD - It is critical to get the ball all the way onto the charge, as you can blow up your musket if you don't.
If you want to build a combination ramrod/cleaning rod, be sure to measure
the exact diameter of the shooting ramrod, and order that size of threaded
end - easy to purchase threaded ends larger than the ramrod diameter won't
fit into the stock. For the stock/clean end of the shooting ramrod, buy a
smooth (not flared) fitting with a center hole with either of the two
standard thread sizes - 8/32 or 10/32. Then buy a patch worm and ball
extractor this threaded end. The patch worm is critical, as you need to
clean the fouling out of your barrel on the range, and if you lose the
patch in the barrel you can retrieve it with the worm and don't have to
stop shooting. For the screw on cupped fitting for the dirty/business end,
get it as large in diameter as you can within 3.5 calibers of your barrel
size, as this helps center the ramrod/ball/charge. Use brass nails to fix
ends to the ramrod, as having the end come off is VERY bad juju. This is
also why you want a separate ramrod without brass ends for skirmishes, as
you won't have to worry about really killing your friends. Any gap between
ball and powder can cause enormous backpressure -- this is how a thin plug
of mud or snow causes commercial shotgun barrels to explode.
best way to check your load is to clearly mark your shooting ramrod. Load
the standard powder charge and drop the ramrod onto the charge. Take a
knife and score the ramrod end at least 1/2 way around the circumference
to mark this position. Now load ball (ramming firmly)
and again mark this new position.
a marked ramrod you can check to see if you have just a charge, or a
charge and a ball down the barrel. Sounds strange, but it is very easy to
get distracted when loading, and then you find yourself wondering,
"Did I already load powder and/or ball??" Dry-ball (loading ball
without powder) is the bane of the black powder shooter, often resulting
in a trip to the gunsmith or a friend with a ball extractor.
black powder shooters clean their guns with hot water and dish detergent,
but others use black powder solvents (different from smokeless powder
solvents) or custom alcohol/soap/peroxide mixes - ask around. You can
either buy cleaning patches or make them from cotton
rags. Use fine sandpaper or steel wool to clean the powder and dirt off
the outside of the barrel, pan and lock. Pull the lock often to check for
water or rust inside the plate. Use gun oil to cover the inside and
outside of the barrel and lock, and you may also wish to oil or wax
the stock after cleaning.
- Best UK source is Albion Small Arms (http://www.albion-smallarms.freeserve.co.uk/accessories.htm),
check out the kit. The rosewood and brass cleaning rods don't seem to be
available in the US, but are very nice. Dixie Gunworks (http://www.dixiegun.com/)
is a good US source for one-piece wooden, metal and composite rods, as is
Cabelas and Thunder Ridge (http://thunder-ridge-muzzleloading.com).
- Gun cases -
- You can't travel with your gun on airlines without a locking gun case,
and hard-sided cases also offer excellent protection for your guns for
regular shooting trips or storage. The Cabelas' case is long enough for
matchlocks, very thin and fits under most van seats. Soft cases
/ gun sleeves need to be extra-long, so ask for ones that will hold a
"Kentucky long rifle".
- Best deal is Cabalas "Bullet Proof" Black-Powder Rifle Case,
Price: approx. $200 (the $90 plastic
case is no longer made). Soft fabric/leather sleeves can be bought at some
gun shows as well as Cabelas and Dixie.
- Match -
- Cord MUST be braided not twisted, as the twists un-wind during burning
and often miss the pan. Braided hemp is wonderful but even more difficult
to find than cotton sash cord without the plastic core, and may require
more nitrate to burn evenly than the same amount
of cotton cord.
the nitrate, use Nitrogen fertilizer with at least a 12% Nitrate (KNO3)
content, the bag will usually have a label showing it as a fire hazard and
oxidizer. This is the same stuff car bombs are made from, so it may be
controlled or hard to find - check a feed store or garden center.
on how to make match are on Carl's Slow Match Website (http://www.metamuseum.com/us/slowmatch/).
It is easy to experiment, as nitrate can always be added or removed by
soaking the match again in various strength solutions. Carl strongly
recommends pre-washing the cotton sash cord to remove starch and/or
sizing. I just fill a pan with water, stir in nitrate until the water
won't hold any more and it begins to precipitate out, then plop the coil
of rope into the solution for an overnight soak, flipping it occasionally.
The critical thing is to DRY THE
MATCH HORIZONTALLY -- lay it out on a hedge, lawn or screen - or all the
nitrate runs to the low end of the match and will burn unevenly.
- You can buy match from Sykes and from G. Gedny Godwin (http://gggodwin.com/page13.htm).
Finding braided cotton cord without the "reinforced" plastic
core can be difficult, but some hardware stores have 100% cotton
non-reinforced sash cord by Bevis Rope Co. on spools in the back. If you
get cord with the plastic core, cut it into 3' lengths and pull ALL the
plastic out with pliers.
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