Posts Tagged ‘muzzeloader’

Conversations with a Marine and a pessimist; eights shots to the zero

November 11, 2010

Today I went down to the range

Thinking my sights I would change

     In eight shots I was zero’d,

     I’m a vet, not a hero.

With benefits, well, rather strange.

I showed up at the gym an hour later this morning than I usually do and struck up a conversation with the fellow on the stationary bicycle next to mine.

We graduated high school the same year.  He loves watching his career-long project, thirty-two years of work, coming together. He’s looking forward to retiring.  He has a National Guard pension, his wife has a pension as well.  When they get to retirement age they’re planning to work because they love it.

I mentioned that I get VA benefits.  He’d served with the Marines in Viet Nam, and he wanted to know what branch of the service I’d been with.

Most people can name the five uniformed services in the Department of Defense: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  Our nation has two other uniformed services: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Public Health Service (PHS).  A uniformed service runs on a military model and has a uniform; I finished my time with a rank of O-6 and I never wore the uniform though it still hangs in my closet.

Contrast as the essence of meaning: though the government calls us both veterans, clearly the word means two different things when applied to us; I never carried a weapon in my five years of service.

I started owning firearms as soon as I could afford them.

Late in the afternoon I took my muzzleloader down to the range to sight it in.   Shot by shot, I poured powder down the barrel, rammed the projectile home, placed a primer under the hammer, and took careful aim.  I adjusted the sights and after eight shots I hit an inch above the bull’s eye at a hundred yards.  When I retrieved the target, all eight shots were in a four inch group, though I’d moved the point of impact two inches left and two inches high.

Projectile weapons enthusiasts in our country tend to be conservative and anti-government.  I showed off my target to another range member.  He asked me if I hunted, and I said I did.  “Yeah, you know, I don’t hunt, but the way this election went, boy, I don’t know, it’s a bunch of crooks in Washington.  You know, you get rid of one bunch of thieves and put another in.  I don’t care what you call ‘em, Democrats or Republicans or Independents, they’re all the same.”

I couldn’t disagree with him.  But I pointed out that survivalists need a botany book more than they need a gun; in the absence of government, hunters will take the animals quickly, but plants will offer a longer-lasting food supply. 

Then I said that even if the government consists of crooks and thieves, we’re better off now than we ever have been; quality and availability of goods, services and information continues to improve yearly.  A depression in 2010 beats the best of times in the ‘50’s.

He couldn’t disagree with me.  As I walked away he thanked me for putting a positive spin on his day.


I love the smell of napalm in the morning: muzzleloading in Ponca State Park

September 19, 2010

You know, I said with a grunt,

Some just think it’s a stunt,

    With no scope for a sight

    And a load that is light

And a rifle that loads from the front

I went out to Ponca State Park this morning for their annual Outdoor Expo.  Because I’d been so busy in the past I hadn’t attended before, but this year when the Hawkeye Rifle and Pistol Club asked for volunteers, I couldn’t say no.  And I didn’t want to.

Back in February of 1988, my new partner at the time, John, picked up a flyer off his desk and said, “Did you see how long the muzzleloader deer season is in Iowa?  It’s almost three weeks long.”  He put down the flyer and he picked up an identically sized catalogue.  “And did you see how much muzzleloaders are at Comb’s?  They’re $99!” (Comb’s Authorized Liquidators has since changed ownership four times and to the best of my knowledge is out of business.  But they were fun while they lasted.)

For twenty dollars less I bought the kit, mail order.  One of my best stories to tell a live audience is my “take-it-apart-put-it-together” saga of Me and the Ten Failed Muzzleloader Kits.  If you ever meet me and ask for it, I’ll tell the story but it has a lot of visuals that don’t translate to the written page.  In July of that year I bought an actual front-stuffing rifle from Thompson; it served me well for fifteen years until the stock cracked under horrendous weather conditions.  The manufacturer stood behind their product when they didn’t have to, and that’s another very long story.

That summer John and I learned how to shoot and maintain our new rifles.  Over the next five years at least one of us took a crippled deer each year. 

As time passed I acquired a flint-lock, two Civil War era reproductions, modern in-line front loading weapons, and a bunch of spare parts.  I have taken deer and elk for meat. 

I naturally fit in as a volunteer at the Club’s muzzleloader booth.

We kept the loads light, about 40 grains of a black powder substitute propelling round balls with a greased linen patch.  Nobody complained about the recoil.  Several people shot very well.  Lots of folk didn’t know how to aim without a telescopic sight. 

One volunteer gatekeeper, four loaders, and four coaches kept the crowd moving.  It was a good mix of ages, ethnicities, genders and experiences.   A lot of women fired a gun for the first time. 

 At some point I found myself both loading and coaching.  After a few shots my loading went very fast. 

We took a break while three mountain man re-enactors gave a great flintlock demonstration.  One fellow got a shot off every twenty seconds.  Another man dressed correctly for 1760 used a historically accurate “trade musket” loaded with a handful of powder, leaves from the ground for a first wad, a handful of gravel as a charge, and more leaves for a top wad.  He pointed out that with flint and powder he could still have a weapon with whatever he found lying around.