Some people are shocked when they learn that I go hunting and fishing.Â I donâ€™t know if they expect a foreign language school teacher to not have any outdoor interests, or what.Â Back in the 1980’s I got two muzzleloading rifles, flintlock style.Â This old-fashioned way of shooting a rifle is a blast…. literally!
As you fire the gun, the hammer scrapes the flint across the steel “frizzen” and sends sparks into the open flash pan containing super-fine black powder.Â Once ignited, that fire flashes through a small hole in the breech of the barrel and ignites the powder packed under the lead ball.Â That lead ball is wrapped in a lubricated cotton patch. The patch seals the space between the ball and the grooves in the barrel, assuring a tight seal around the lead ball and a good spin on the ball for greater accuracy.Â Itâ€™s a two-part firing process and requires a steely composure when the powder ignites. I have to talk my way through it… “Thereâ€™ll be a flash in my face, then the kick and boom. Donâ€™t flinch, just hold through it, till itâ€™s over.”Â Itâ€™s quite a blast!
I have fun thinking about the phrases that weâ€™ve incorporated into our lingo from the flintlocks.Â Here are a few, there may be more: “Donâ€™t go off half-cocked.” (There are two hammer positions and its important to get the hammer pulled back the whole way!)Â “Heâ€™s just a “flash in the pan.”Â “Donâ€™t be so rammy!”Â (Referring to the ramrod.)Â “Lock, stock and barrel” (the three parts to a flintlock).
My son, Matthew, came home prior to Thanksgiving and told me that he wanted to shoot the muzzleloader rifle (never having done so).Â We went through the “possibles” bag and got the lead balls, patches, and powder measured out for three shots.Â With target in hand, we headed for a friendâ€™s woodlot and stepped off a 50 yard shot.Â I showed him how to load the gun and I took the first shot, hitting the target a bit high and to the right. (Small wonder for all the smoke and fire flaring inches from my face!)Â We laughed in amazement and gleefully walked out to the target, finding the expelled patch along the way.Â The gun was amazingly accurate.Â We tweaked the sight slightly and Matthew took the next two shots, both hitting the target.
What a delight to share that experience together!Â Even the cleanup was fun!Â Matthew packed up the gun and supplies and took them with him to Virginia.Â I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if he gets a shot at a deer.
That old fashioned way of firing a rifle brought so much fun to our afternoon.Â The muzzleloaders of today are so modernized (even with scopes mounted on them!) that I wonder if thereâ€™s any amazement or challenge to shooting them.
All I know is… we had a blast!