From the Heartland

This is my soap box, on these pages I publish my opinions on firearms and any other subject I feel like writing about.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Muzzle Loading is as much a social activity as it is a sport (for me at least)

Less Nostolgia or More Hunting
Jed has an interesting article at Freedom Sight on Muzzle loaders. He cites the increasing popularity of the "modern in-line" over the "traditional" muzzle loading firearms and wonders if more people are "into" the sport for the separate hunting season and not the nostalgia of "doing it" the way our fore fathers did.

My own History
I have been shooting muzzle loaders since about 1970. Back then the only black powder firearms generally available were the originals, replicas of military arms and real rotten egg smelling black powder. We spent many Sunday afternoons after Church and dinner, out behind the house, either ours or a neighbors shooting black powder guns. It was a predominately male oriented social event that included the women folk and children if they wanted to. No one was excluded from the fun unless it was by their own choice, but usually the women were content to socialize in the kitchen drinking tea and conversing. It wasn't sexist, it was what they chose to do.

It was truely a social event where conversation was possible between reloading and waiting a turn to shoot. Challenges were issued back and forth to see who could hit the smallest the farthest, or who could fire the most shots in a given time. At that time though a don't think anyone of us ever considered hunting large game with a muzzle loader. Sure someone occassionally used one to bag a garden bunny, or varmitous woodchuck but that wasn't what you would call hunting.

Over the ensuing years I have introduced more than a few people to the socialization of muzzle loading. I even began to hunt with them when the special seasons began to be scheduled. To this day I still use and hunt with a Thompson Center Renagade caliber 54 caplock that came to me as a kit in 1985 or 86. Both my sons shoot caplock 50 calibers as well. The only inline in the family belongs to Jr.'s father-in-law and that is a 50 caliber too.

Stop and smell the powder burning
The thing I find most enjoyable about muzzle loaders is the slowness of it. There is not the load up a kajillion round magazine and see how fast you can spend your money emptying it. A person with some free time, a muzzle loader and a few friends can spend an enjoyable afternoon for a couple of bucks. Shooting as few as 10 rounds each in an couple of hours is quite a contrast to 10 rounds each in a couple of seconds, and much, much cheaper as well. If there is one thing muzzle loading firearms teaches us it is patience.

Who shoots black powder
In the last several years I have met, as Jed suggests, a number of people that are getting "into" it for the extra season. Even this group of people is divided on their reasons for participation. Some enjoy the total experience of hunting and use a muzzle loader to spend even more time in the great outdoors. Others have spent years harvesting their game with a high powered rifle and seek to put "some challege" back in the hunt by using the smoke pole.

There is another group of people that choose the black powder option as well and I can readily identify with them. Some former rifle hunters are over whelmed by the numbers of regular firearms users in the woods and want a season where and when the woods are not so populated. In addittion to the nostalgia that Jed mentions this was my primary reason for focussing on muzzle loaders as a way to fill the freezer. Although nostalgia played/s a big part in it. Possibly that is why I still shoot and hunt with a caplock, instead of an in-line.

Not just for Hunting either
It is just not the hunters that enjoy the benifits of black powder. There are non hunters that own and shoot front loading, pistols, shotguns and rifles for fun and competition matches.

What is tradition
In the hunting fratenity, however there are those that consider themsleves purists and look down their noses at at "them citified shooters and them dang modern in-lines". I always wondered where that would end, the caplockers disdain for the in-lines, the flintlockers disdain for the caplocks, the long bowyers disdain for anything that goes boom and makes smoke.

I have always thought that traditional was defined as more than a specific single period in history. Tradition is being true to that period of history you wish to portray, represent or have an interest in. If you are the flintlock type then be true to that era in your equipment and methodology. If you are more into caplocks then the same thing goes there as well.

Much has been said with in the fraternity about in-lines not being traditional and shouldn't be allowed during the special seasons. While I can see a good portion of that arguement, let me relate a couple of reasons why I disagree.

First and foremost a bit of history.
Flintlocks were used up and into the War between the States. (1860's) The Caplock was invented by an English preacher about 1808. It didn't catch on because frontier folk realized that should the caps get wet they were then permanately useless. Out in the wilds of frontier America a man or woman without a firearm was in trouble. If a person was armed with a flintlock and their powder got wet it would dry and could still be used and since the flint is just a piece of rock it was just wiped dry.

Disspelling the notion that the in-line is some new fangled invention note that the first patent for an in-line firearm was awarded in 1822. As with all things it takes awhile for a change to catch on. The advent of the insurrection in 1860's hastened the development of the cartridge gun. Had it not been for the North/South skirmesh the in-line was the next logical step in the advancement of the firearm. The necessity of the war dictated the brass cartridge however, and the rest is history. Except that as a footnote, the inline fully came into it's own a hundred and twenty years later than it would have.

No, I personally don't hold any disdain for in-line shooters, I am a traditioanlist and I focus my efforts on being traditional to the time period that most interests me. In reality there may be an in-line in my future if for no other reason than just to have one. Isn't that reason enough?

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