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Muzzle-loading hunter's safety.

* With the approach of hunting season, this is a good time to take a few moments and think about safety in the hunting fields. This is by far the most important single aspect to be considered in any hunting situation. Safe and sane shooting and hunting practices should be foremost in the hunter's mind during every moment of the hunt. There are a few basic do's and don'ts that should be followed when hunting with black powder firearms. Let's review some of them here.

This first safety step should be employed anytime you are shooting, regardless of whether it is on a hunt or not. When loading a muzzle-loading arm, never load directly from your powder horn or flask into the gun's muzzle. Friction, or a still-burning ember from a previous shot could ignite the charge being poured into the charge being poured into the muzzle, turning your powder container into a veritable bomb. Always use a powder measure, and load from the flask, or horn, into it--then pour the smaller measure's contents into the gun. Another alternative is to carry your powder charged in pre-measured containers. Several black powder suppliers offer small vials, desiged to hold both the powder charge and the projectile, which can be safely and conveniently stored in one's pockets or possibles bag. Several household items can be utilized for such purposes liek plastic film canisters, prescription plastic drug containers and so on.

During the course of hunting, lots of rugged country could well be encountered. Because of the chance of unsteady footing, and the amount of tricky maneuvering the hunter has to accomplish to climb over such obstacles as logs and rocks, or wading through bogs and creeks, it is a wise practice to carry your hunting rifle unprimed, with the hammer down. If hunting with a percussion rifle, caps can be carried in a homemade leather capper, or perhaps taped to the stock of the rifle. Such methods allow for quick and silent access to the caps when the game is finally spotted.

With a flintlock, the pan should be left unprimed until you are about to make a shot. If you do cap or prime the pan in your muzzle-loader, then decide against shooting, remove the cap, or empty the priming pan, then lower the hammer before continuing your stalk.

If you are hunting with one of the exposed-hammer, metallic cartridge arms such as a Sharps or Winchester, always carry the gun with an empty chamber. It only takes a moment to slip a cartridge into the chamber and ready the gun for firing. Don't consider the half-cock position of these rifles' hammers to be a "safety". Since much hunting is done in cold weather, a practical approach tridge into the chamber until you are ready to fire. One more thing, regardless of what type of ignition system you hunt with, never, never set the triggers until the moment before you shoot. Walking over rough terrain with a "set" trigger is asking for trouble. As with priming, if you set the triggers, then do not make your shot, unload or remove the priming, then slowly lower the hammer and "unset" the trigger by releasing the firing trigger.

Incidentally, if you shoot one of the Italian-import percussion or flntlock Hawkens, and desire a more positive safety system than presently found on most muzzle-loaders, there is a new safety device made to for several of these arms. Called the Silent Safety, this safety lever acts in the same manner as safeties on many modern arms and simply blocks the sear. With the Silent Safety set, the rifle can be carried cocked--even with the trigger set--while hunting. When your quarry is sighted, simply flip off the safety setting and you are ready to fire. This device can be activated quicker than you can set the triggers and cock the hammer--and in relatively silence. This device is easily installed (by a competent gunsmith) on the exterior of your rifle's lock and retails for $39.95. For further information on this safety system write to: Silent Safety, inc., Dept. GA, 4000 E. 9 Mile Road, Warren, MI 48091.

If you do attempt to make a shot, but experience a misfire, remember to hold your rifle downrange for at least 30 to 45 seconds. You could have a "hanfire," which is a delayed ignition of the main powder charge. It is also advisable during a hunt to periodically check the seating of your projectile over the powder. Although unlikely, it is not impossible for a patched ball, or a conical bullet, to work its way forward in the barrel. With a hunting load in the bore, mark your ramrod at the muzzle. In this way, you simply put the ramrod into the barrel and determine if the load is seated properly.

Don't use your hunting rifle for a "leaning stick" while hunting. Although seen in many period illustrations, the habit of resting your hand over the muzzle of your rifle can be a dangerous one.

One last suggestion in the vein of safety is to wear blaze oragne or some other bright hunter's color when stalking game. While many states dictate that a hat, vest or some other prominent article of clothing must be of blaze orange, there are hunting seasons and areas where it is not mandatory. Even so, you have no way of knowing if you are the only hunter in the region--regardless of how remote the country, so do yourself a favor and be colorful. To the purist, buckskins may be authentic and more fun, but that is certainly outweighed by safety and visibility factors. I've hunted in authentic mountain man-type clothing but I always make certain to wear a bright red homespun-style shirt in warm weather, a red capote in colder climes, with a colorful sash and a vivid piece of headwear.

However you hunt, and whatever type of firearm you choose, remember that the safe handling of it is the most important aspect of any hunt. The old-time frontiersmen put it well when they said, "Always be careful to aim, and always aim to be careful!" SHILOH INSTRUCTION MANUAL

The shiloh Rifle Co., 100 Centennial Drive. P.O. Box 885, Big Timber, MT 59011, has recently published an instruction manual for their Model 1863 Sharps reproductions. This complete booklet details all of the steps required for safe operation, loading, unloading, diassembly and cleaning of their military rifle, carbine or their sporting model rifle, as well as original percussion Sharps rifles.

The manual gives step-by-step procedures for loading with paper cartridges, or with loose powder and bullet. Also included are detailed instructions for assembling the nitrated paper cartridges used in these percussion breech-loading arms. Velocity information on each of Shiloh's rifles is included, showing a variety of loads for each model. Extensive testing of all three currently available versions of the Model 1863 Shiloh Sharps was conducted to compile ballistic data for this manual.

The manual is very well written and covers all points of importance in handling these arms. the instructions are easy to follow and many questions concerning safety and procedure have been answered in the text. If you shoot a Sharps rifle or carbine, original or reproduction, consider this booklet. It is well worth the $2 price tag, which includes postage and handling.

I'm told that the Shiloh/C. Sharps Arms folks are currently working on loading info and ballistic data for the various chamberings offered in their Model 1874 Sharps black powder cartridge rifles. This information is scheduled for publication later this year. Watch this column for further information on the release of this data. CVA NIPPLE WRENCHES

Connecticut Valley Arms, Inc., Dept. GA, 5988 Peachtree Corners East, Norcross, GA 30092, includes among their extensive lineup of muzzle-loading firearms and accessories, some unique nipple wrenches. Besides the standard "T" shaped nipple wrench, which is commonly used by black powder shooters today, this firm also offers a couple of combination nipple wrenches that feature a nipple, or vent pick which screws into the base of the wrench. Briefly, their standard hardened steel nipple wrench, catalog No. AC 1432, retails for $2.95. The tools that come with the removable brass cap with the built-in nipple/vent pick are $4.95 each. Catalog No. AC 1488 fits all CVA pistols and rifles, as does No. AC 1432. Catalog No. AC 1489 is manufactured especially for all CVA revolvers.

Next time you're in the market for black powder shooting supplis, give CVA a try. Better yet, write to them at the above address for their free, full color catalog. I'm sure you'll find several useful items within its pages. GUN HANGERS

It seems that just about anybody who likes guns likes to display them. Whether it is a single rifle over the fireplace, or many guns scattered about the den--or in some cases, the entire house. How a firearm is hung has as much to do with its eye appeal as where it is displayed. Hoppe's (the folks who make No. 9 Solvent and No. 9 Plus Black Powder Solvent and Patch Lubricant) have a variety of decorative gun hangers that are both handsome and easy to install. Each style lends itself well to antique or replica black powder guns. I know because I've used some of them myself. Among Hoppe's selection are solid brass wall hangers (also available in brushed aluminum or antique pewter finish) which mount directly on the wall. The same style of hanger is also offered mounted on a solid walnut shield. If you want ot get fancy, they hae a solid brass Colonial hanger. This eagle design comes in rifle/shotgun size, and in pistol size.

My personal favorite, and a style I have used extenesively, is their Sportsmen's Knobs. These are simply 2-inch-long finished walnut knobs that are turned and bevled. They are also slanted at the proper angle on the wall end which allows them to hold your firearm in position properly. A brass, dome-headed nail serves as both a means for hanging these knobs along with adding a decorative touch. Again, these handsome pegs are made in rifle/shotgun size and pistol size. Either retails for $3.13 for a set of six. Prices for the other styles range from $6.30 to $16.84 per set. Look for them at your favorite gunshop or write to Hoppe's for their full-color 1984 catalog. Their address is: Hoppe's, Division of Penguin Industries, Inc., Dept. GA, Airport Industrial Mall, Coatesville, PA 19320.
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Author:Spangenberger, Phil
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Aug 1, 1984
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