Rising in popularity in recent few weeks are the American Revolutionary style musket rifles such as the ‘Brown Bess’. The reason for the rise in popularity is because the second amendment is being reexamined by the American public to thoroughly understand that it is not in place for the need of hunting but rather for the natural right for protection against tyranny. Because of this however, many families have purchased black powder rifle replicas in order to learn how to effectively load and shoot them. Shooting a black powder rifle isn’t exactly easy but with some patience and practice anyone can learn how to clean, load, and shoot one without any problems.
To begin, cock the hammer at ‘half cock’ instead of ‘full cock’ which could cause the rifle to fire if dropped or bumped. It is important to keep the hammer at ‘half cock’ because during the loading process you will be operating with your hands above the barrel of the rife. Using a black powder or grain measuring tool measure the appropriate amount of black powder necessary for the specific model black powder rifle being used. Some rifles use as low as 100 grain while other rifles can exceed 230 grain. Some black powder rifles have a flash pan in which black powder can be poured directly into than closed. Newer black powder rifles however have primer caps that are to be placed in the same general area as the flash pan.
To load a lead ball black powder must be first poured directly into the barrel as the rifle faces straight up. With Revolutionary War style black powder rifles the lead ball, black powder, and wadding come in one package called a ‘charge’. This lasted through to the American Civil War and years thereafter. With newer black powder replicas the lead ball, black powder, and wadding will be separate. Pour the black powder into the end of the rifle barrel than place wadding into the barrel as well. Newer store bought wadding’s will be cylindrical in shape and will usually be perfectly fitted to the specific style black powder rifle. The wadding helps ignite the black powder from the flash pan all the way through to the lead ball. Over the wadding place the lead ball than pack it down the barrel using the ramrod.
The ramrod, usually found underneath the barrel of the black powder rifle, will have one end specifically shaped for packing down the lead ball. Be sure to push down thoroughly with the ramrod as the lead ball, black powder, and wadding must be packed for a proper shot. Once finished place the ramrod back underneath the barrel of the rifle.
At this point the lead ball, black powder, and wadding are squared away and the flash pan, or primer cap, should be set at ‘half cock’. With a target in mind take aim than set the hammer at ‘full cock’ which will allow the rifle to fire once the trigger is pulled. Aim and take fire.
Cleaning a black powder rifle is relatively easy and much similar to cleaning any other rifle. The only other difference is that a black powder rifle, musket, does not disassemble as easily. To begin cleaning the musket thoroughly dab a cloth with black powder solvent and attach it to the cleaning rod. Dip the cleaning rod into the barrel of the rifle similar to that of the ramrod but be sure that the barrel of the rifle is empty. Repeat this motion several times until the barrel of the rifle is clean and free of powder stains. After this place a decent amount of rifle lubricant on another piece of cloth and attach it again to the cleaning rod. Repeat this motion several times until the barrel of the rifle is thoroughly lubricated for the next day of shooting. Once the barrel of the rifle is clean use the black powder solvent and lubricant on the flash pan as well and use only lubricant for the outside of the rifle to remove rust stains.
“A Reenactors Guide to Shooting the Rifled Musket.” By John Rountree