I inhale deeply and hold, squeezing the rear trigger. Tic. Then I slowly exhale and gently touch the forward trigger. Tiff-FOOM. A cloud of smoke obscures my vision but I can hear the ball cut through my intended victim. What’d I get? A buffalo? A grizzly bear? A Redcoat? No, just a cardboard box. I see that I am becoming more accurate with this gun.
Firearms and their accompanying accessories have evolved a long way from their origins; a long way. But that doesn’t mean we should relegate old technology to the archives or the bone yards. At least not all of it. Firing an old tech gun can be very beneficial to those of us who are gun enthusiasts. From honing fundamental skills (because you only get one shot), to bringing a fun and new challenge to the game of hunting. Owning a muzzle loader and knowing how to make it work is very rewarding and always puts a smile on your face–not to mention instill a sense of patriotism and make you very grateful for repeating firearms. (At least it does for me!)
But what does a relic like my flintlock rifle have to do with prepping? I can see you out there asking that. Alright, I’ll explain. We, as preppers, are mostly concerned with the newest, latest, and greatest in hunting and self defense weapons and / or gadgets. Many guns and bows are in that grey area between, where you could use it to knock down a bull moose today, then use it for counter-sniping tomorrow (after TEOTWAWKI). But why a front-stuffer? Its all about sustainability. A muzzle loader makes perfect sense for a table-filler, if you plan on hunting to supplement your food storage supplies.
With a little research, you can find instructions to make your own gun powder. Most of these will be black powder, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Honestly, it is just a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and salt peter, but that is a whole other article. And I can’t stress enough that if you try making your own powder, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK, and I am NOT responsible for your actions and outcomes.
Now, back to the main topic: Making the powder is time consuming and can take a year or more to produce (because of the old-school method of deriving at least one of the ingredients), but two of the materials are easily found in my neck of the woods. Charcoal is a no-brainer. I can get sulfur from hot springs near my house here in the great redoubt. As far as projectiles go, pure lead balls are my mountain man match load. Lead can be recovered from old batteries, medical offices where they have a dedicated X-Ray room, old televisions or computer monitors that have color tubes, and even if you can find the ball that you killed your supper with, presto. Well, not quite presto, poof. But it can be melted down and molded to the correct projectile for the caliber you have. In a pinch, you could even get away with melting wheel weights, though I dont recommend that, as they have too much antimony in them, resulting in very hard bullets which in turn are extremely difficult to cram down the barrel (also, many new wheel weights are made of zinc, which won’t work at all).
But you may say “But I have the fastest-shooting bow available! Why would you ever want that old-fangled smoke-pole?” Well, lets think that over. Yup, bows are great. I own one also, and love shooting it and hunting with it. But, unless you’re using a little kid’s compound bow, or you have a recurve or long bow, once you lose or break the last carbon fiber or aluminum arrow (and you WILL lose and break arrows), that fancy pants stick flicker isn’t even good for a club. Because of the sheer torque sent down the string, compound bows tend to make wooden arrows into shrapnel as soon as you release, so don’t count on making your own arrows. These facts render your sleek new bow a specialized weapon, just the same as, say, your large bore sniper rifle. So you must stockpile arrows and a variety of arrowheads, because when you run out, you’re really out.
Sure, my muzzle loader is a bit loud. But its not nearly the sharp pop of my M-4orgery, not even close to the thunderous roar of my big game rifle. It’s more of a dull boom that is fairly absorbed by surrounding trees and hills.
But you just remembered: I still got Grandaddy’s ol’ Winchester .30-30! Good for you. That would be a fine game getter. But let me zap a lil of my insight into your mind. First, did you remember to include reloading dies and materials for that, in your preps? You did? Awesome! Now lets take this one step further. Lets say, for kicks and grin, that you didn’t get loading supplies. (Shoot, you only had a couple boxes for the .30-30 anyways, becuase it wasn’t a primary weapon) and, as in Mr. Rawles’ fine book, Patriots, several years have gone by since the collapse (or in some cases, two months, or a whole bunch of war fighting). You and yours have survived thanks to foresight, meticulous prepping, God’s grace, and a healthy dose of good fortune. Supply sources are scarce. You had to use your last carbon-fiber arrow to silently K.O. one of the evil dudes who had taken hostage your sister’s niece’s third cousin.
You still have the AR for defense and ol’ Winnies still kicking out .30-30 shells. But honestly, your ammo cache looks grim. Personally, I’d much rather go to war with that old .30-30 than a sling shot or a club. Plenty of fire fights were won by men (and a few women!) on both sides of the law because they had a lever action rifle that was superior to more primitive weapons. Even if you’re up against a horde of rabid bikers who do still have working assault weapons, it’d be a much more fair fight with a lever action or bolt action rifle than trying to stick em with a bow, knife, spear, or sharp stick. Or, I guess, at least youll be taking a few more companions with you when they do finally take you down. Yeah, I know wholeheartedly that David slew Goliath with a sling and stone. But how do you suppose that fight would have turned out if ol’ Goliath had an M16A4 with a Trijicon ACOG versus David’s sling?
Generally speaking, a .22 pistol (and even some pellet pistols) beats a sling shot. Not to mention how highly advanced military type guns would do. Honestly, how would any of us fare against a gun if all we had was a sling shot or club? Im sure that if the above were the case, a higher power would have intervened and given Goliath a dud round or at least some sort of malfunction, so, that if nothing else, David could have found cover. But good luck getting into rock range of an angry dude packing that kind of heat. Even if your faith is solid, that’s a long shot. And, my Dennis the Menace skills are a little fuzzy here, but I dont remember my slingshot being semi automatic, let alone select fire, and my folks didn’t spring for the model equipped with an infrared compatible EO Tech. (Really, for a long time, I literally used a forked branch and a strip of inner tube rubber).
However, if you’d bought that awesome muzzle loader kit, put it together with the kids on a stormy day, and spent a couple range trips learning about it before TSHTF, then you’d still have a lot more ammo, because you didn’t have to use Grandad’s gun or your defense weapon to put game meat on the table.
If you plan on bugging in or have a cabin in the boonies BOL, then a muzzle loading gun may be just the right addition to your preps.
Let me share some history: The earliest guns (as we view guns by modern standards) relied on a piece of burning hemp rope for ignition. These are known today as matchlocks. I must digress here. These guns were the first with what we call an action, and weren’t fired in the manner as an old cannon, where, after stuffing the powder charge and projectile down the barrel, a fuse was stuck into a hole at the rear, then lit and burned into the powder chamber, igniting the charge, resulting in BANG. Instead, the hemp fuse was slow burning and simply attached to the trigger, which was basically a lever (I’ve seen this referred to as the serpentine in old literature), and when the trigger was pulled, it pushed the burning rope into the flash pan, which held a priming charge, burning the small amount of powder through the touch hole, which in turn ignited the main powder charge, which forces the projectile down range.
The next evolution of firing mechanism is the wheel lock. An over simplified example of this is the modern Zippo lighter…well, a vast over simplification. These were the first guns with firing mechanisms as we know today, what with springs and sears and the likes. After the actual loading, the action had to be wound up (between each shot) and cocked before being primed . The user would wind the lock spring which powered a serrated iron wheel (some specimens were wound through the actual wheel, others had a separate winding tab or slot), cock the hammer (which held a piece of flint and set the sear), and prime the flash pan. When the trigger was tripped, it would spin the wheel (fairly quickly), the hammer would fall against the wheel, thus generating spark (like the lighter), which fell into the priming powder in the flash pan, which burned through the touch hole, resulting in the shot being fired. These were VERY expensive and extremely complex in their time, so it’s probably a safe bet the matchlock was more common, especially in the earliest days of New World exploration (1600s) and wars where early firearms were used.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)