Sometimes, You Have A Good Day

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My son called me yesterday and asked if I wanted to go shooting today at the club. A good friend of his from back in Illinois was out visiting (he was the best man at my son's wedding last year). So today we all gathered up the ordnance and went down to the club. We didn't bring any long guns, just handguns. We duly signed in, checked that there was a Range Safety Officer (RSO) at the rifle/pistol range (there was) and trooped on down there.

Oddly, my son had not read the "Easter Gunny" post and was very surprised when I pulled that 1858 New Model Army replica out. The RSO laughed when he saw it because of the enormous barrel. You really have to see it to understand how truly huge a 12-inch barrel on a handgun really is. After the targets were up, I capped the revolver – I had loaded the chambers at home, but not mounted the percussion caps. We walked on down to the firing line and got set to shoot. When the RSO said it was ok to shoot, I stepped up to about the 25-foot mark, cocked the big Remington, aimed and pulled the trigger. An impressive boom followed and a great deal of powder smoke erupted from the gun.

Whereupon the target, a self-adhesive 12-inch bullseye type, went flying, knocked right off the backboard. Everyone was laughing. My son went over and picked it up from where it had flown off to. When he stood up, he showed the target. Almost perfectly dead center in the bullseye there was a brand new .44 caliber hole. The RSO laughed a bit and said it kind of wasn't fair, with that long barrel, the gun was almost touching the target when I extended my arms. I told him I shouldn't shoot again that day and retire undefeated, so to speak. That made him laugh.

Everyone wanted to try a shot, my son came very close to my shot, my youngest boy hit a little high but in the black, My son's friend hit just below my shot and then my daughter's shot misfired. After talking it over with the RSO, he decided that we could fire the sixth chamber, so my daughter got to take her shot. She was a bit to the right. We headed back to the table where our more modern weapons were and took turns firing various guns. (The targets were looking very sad by this point.) Meanwhile, I had cleared the blockage on the nipple on the revolver and talked to the RSO about shooting the gun clear. He decided it would be a good idea to retry it, so we went down range, I capped the cylinder and the gun fired perfectly.

I went back and started reloading the revolver. The RSO told the kids, "Hey, I think your dad is reloading the howitzer," which made me laugh. The RSO was fascinated. He was a black powder shooter, but of the modern rifles, not the old revolvers. He had never seen the process of loading one of these. To do it, you pour a measure of powder into a chamber (I was using 25 grains, a little lower than the maximum of 30 grains) Push in a wad, place a .454 caliber soft lead ball over the opening and rotate the cylinder to the bottom center. Then you seat the ball into the chamber by using the lever under the barrel to ram it home. If you do it right, you get a little ring of lead shaved off the ball. After all are loaded, you then apply a bit of "Bore Butter" to each cylinder (I found that a Q-Tip works best). This offensively bright yellow substance will a) condition the barrel and decrease fouling and b) prevent a "chain fire", which is a very unpleasant event.  

Note: Normally, a six shot revolver, especially of this type, should never, ever be loaded with six shots if you are carrying it. The hammer has no safety and lowering the hammer onto a live percussion cap is an operation that can go wrong all too easily. In this case, I loaded all six because I was not going to carry it anywhere, I capped it only at the firing line and the fact that the 1858 New Model Army actually has a safety feature. The hammer can be lowered into a neutral notch between the cylinders so there is much less danger of an unintentional discharge. (This also locks the cylinder in place.)

So it was a fun time for everyone – except the targets. They were mostly gone by the time we finished for the day.

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3 Responses to Sometimes, You Have A Good Day

  1. Lars Walker says:

    I used to shoot black powder revolvers. I have a .36 Navy and .45 Colt Walker (replicas). Great fun, lots of noise, lots of smoke.

    The best part, of course, is spending two hours cleaning them afterward.

  2. Gaius says:

    Yeah, that’s a big bonus, isn’t it? That stuff is damned hard to get off!

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