Monday, January 28, 2019

Townsends: Fire Starting No Matches No Lighter

This is a very good video on fire starting with flint and steel, including the use of a flintlock, from Jas. Townsend's & Son's YouTube channel:

Aside from a flint and steel, they demonstrate how you can do it with a flintlock gun.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hopkins and Allen Underhammer Caplock Rifle

One of my oldest memories is associated with this rifle.

The year was 1970 and I was two years old. We were visiting my paternal grandparents in Patchogue, New Yawk. My dad went to a local gun shop and came back with this Hopkins & Allen .45 caliber Heritage Model underhammer caplock percussion rifle.

The black powder revival of the 1960s and 70s was in full swing, and Numrich Arms of West Hurley, NY, owned the rights to use the old Hopkins & Allen name. They started making these simple designs with only two moving parts, the hammer and trigger. The trigger guard is a flat spring and acts as the hammer spring.

In 1981 my parents gave me the rifle as my bar mitzvah gift. (I am quite aware of how unusual that sentence reads.)

I loaded the rifle with 40 grains of 3Fg black powder and a .440" round ball patched with ticking. It is quite accurate out to 50 yards and I used it to win the first shooting match I ever entered.

Because the nipple screws directly into the barrel where the powder charge sits, ignition is very reliable and fast. There can be some spitting, though, so it's wise to hold your support arm off to the side and wear long sleeves.

In the cap box I have a spare nipple and the open notch rear sight that fits the dovetail on the barrel, which can be used in lieu of the tang peep sight. The latter allows you to shoot the rifle more accurately but it's harder to see through in low light, so I'd probably switch them out were I to take it hunting.

I haven't shot the rifle in years but it's time to take it out and let my 14 year old daughter give it a try.

My First Fire with Flint and Steel

I bought this steel years ago at Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop but today was the first time I made fire with it. It was made from an old file.

I cheated a bit and used char cloth bought from an eBay vendor, but now I'm ready to make my own. The char cloth is in the Altoids tin underneath the steel, while the flint shard is laying on some unraveled jute twine from Lowe's.

I held the char cloth on top of the flint and struck it a few times with the flint. The ember took hold quickly and I quickly moved it to the bird's nest. After a little gently blowing it exploded into flame, and I hurriedly dropped it into my fire pit.

You can see where I dispose of my cigar butts and the long matches I use to light my gas grill. ;)

Now I need to make up some of my own char cloth and find some punky wood to char.

Friday, January 25, 2019

My George L. Dech Flintlock Pennsylvania Rifle

I've had this rifle since 2008 but only just got around to taking some good detailed pictures.

It can be a challenge to get a good, full length shot when the gun is 57 to 58 inches long.

Closeup of the lock and patchbox:

Closeup of the cheek piece with a vent pick underneath, some incising on the butt, and the lock bolt and side plate:

The front sight, which is brazed or silver soldered to the barrel:

Rear sight and the barrel's transition from octagon to round:

The ramrod entry thimble:

The trigger guard and toe plate. The button to open the patch box is visible in the middle of the toe plate.

The rifle started out as a left handed .50 caliber Dixie Gunworks Tennessee Mountain Rifle. George L. Dech, who was a gunsmith near Allentown, PA restocked it into more of a Lancaster, PA styled rifle in curly maple with brass furniture. He retained the original lock, double set triggers, the .360" diameter ramrod, and barrel. I replaced the ramrod with one that's a bit longer and with a brass tip threaded 10-32 for cleaning jags or other accessories.

One of the more notable features is how the barrel was turned from a full, 15/16" octagon profile to a 1/3 octagon and 2/3 round profile. This makes the gun much less muzzle heavy, although it is far from a lightweight piece.

The lock sparks very well and ignition is quick. It's a good shooter that I've taken deer hunting several times (although I've yet to bag one).

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sling and New Front Sight on Cabela's Hawken

One rifle I've been shooting lately is my Cabela's Hawken, made in Italy by Investarms. At some point I'd like to take it hunting, which IMNSHO requires a sling. Being a more modern design than, say, my long rifle, I didn't mind mounting modern quick detach swivels.

I found this set by GroveTec at MidwayUSA which fit. I paired it with this Hunter carry strap. Installing the rear swivel required drilling a hole in the stock. The front swivel clamps around the lower ramrod pipe. Before installing it, I Loc-Tited the screw securing the pipe since I noticed it was loose already. I also Loc-Tited the Chicago screw holding the strap to the rear swivel. In my experience, thread locker prevents a lot of problems. I even put some on the inside of the part of the front swivel where it clamps over the ramrod pipe.

The other addition I made was to replace the Williams fiber optic front sight with a Lyman 37ML white bead from October Country. The dovetail for the front sight is .360" instead of 3/8" (.375"), which is more common in the US. The Williams sight never fit the dovetail that well and wasn't as secure as I'd like.

The Lyman front sight wasn't as good a fit as I wanted, either. I wound up dimpling the bottom of the dovetail recess to raise some metal and shimming it with a small piece of 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. After the sight was in I staked the dovetail as well.

The new sight is a little shorter than the Williams it replaced, so I'll have to rezero the rifle. No biggie.

October Country Universal Sling

Earlier this week, I ordered a Universal Sling from October Country, who caters to black powder shooters. I wanted a sling for my Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle that would be more secure than the Leatherman sling I used when I hunted with the rifle last month. (The Leatherman sling is extremely well made but the butt cuff doesn't fit the 1873 snugly and the only way to tighten it is with a cord or rubber band. I'll reserve it for my flintlock.)

OC's sling can be ordered for left or right handed shooters with the difference being which side of the butt stock the lacing is on. As a southpaw, I ordered a lefty sling.

It's primarily intended for muzzleloaders but as you can see below, it fits lever actions just fine.

It wraps around the barrel as shown below. There are two holes pre-punched in the strap so you can adjust it. I moved the lacing to tighten it up on my rifle.

The butt cuff has a slot for the strap in lieu of a swivel. Again, there are two pre-punched holes in the strap down below, allowing you some length adjustment without making modifications.

They also offer a two-tone version but I prefer the looks of the all-brown one.

I'm very impressed with the quality. All parts are made from good, thick leather, including the laces. This will make the rifle very nice to carry afield. For $28 and change it's a great deal. I'm tempted to order one for my 1860 Henry because the rear sling swivel popped off it again. On the Henry, I'd use the lacing to attach it to the front sling loop so that it doesn't interfere with the magazine follower.

Aside from the sling, I also ordered a couple French amber flints to try in my long rifle, a primitive forged turn screw to keep in my shooting pouch, and a Lyman 37ML front sight to put on my Cabela's Hawken.

I was also very pleased with October Country's service. A few minutes after I ordered I got a phone call from them asking if I'd changed my address. Apparently, there's another Dave Markowitz who had ordered from them. (I explained that was the evil one. ;) ) My ordered was placed Wednesday and it arrived here via USPS 2-day Priority Mail on Friday.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Neatsfoot Oil as a Patch Lube

My preferred lube for several years has been Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil, which is actually more of a grease. It's what I used last week when zeroing the Lyman peep sight I installed on my Cabela's Hawken.

However, I recently read on the Muzzleloading Forum and the American Longrifles Forum about using neatsfoot oil as a lube when shooting patched round balls. A couple guys reported being able to shoot all day with no swabbing between shots. Neatsfoot oil is good to have around for treating leather and it's cheap enough, so I figured it would be interesting to try.

On Thursday I took delivery of a quart of Fiebing's 100% pure neatsfoot oil from Amazon. The first thing I did with it was treat the sling on my 1860 Henry. It slightly darkened the leather and softened it noticeably.

Today I took the Hawken back to the range with 30 ticking patches pre-soaked in the neatsfoot oil.

It was in the upper 40s but not ideal for shooting round balls since it was very windy. As you can see from the target, accuracy was very meh. The wind was definitely a factor in the group, as was the varying light on my front sight.

On the other hand, I was able to load 30 shots without any swabbing. The last shot loaded as easily as the first.

On the gripping hand. there was a nasty ring of crud down in the breech that really grabbed my cleaning patch until I floated the bore with some Windex to dissolve it.

So, in conclusion, I haven't concluded if neatsfoot oil is a good patch lube in this rifle. I need to experiment with different powder charges, maybe .495 balls, and a thicker patch.

The Twelve Apostles of Musketry

In the pre-flintlock era, before the invention of paper cartridges, it became common for musketeers to carry pre-measured powder charges in wooden bottles hanging from a bandoleer. They have come to be known as the "12 apostles," after the Apostles of Jesus. (In my quick research, the term may actually be more modern and not in use in the 17th Century. Regardless, it's in use today.)

Regardless, many modern muzzleloading shooters like to pre-measure their powder charges before heading afield or to the shooting range. There are numerous "quick loaders" available from the usual black powder shooting suppliers, but I found a cheaper alternative:

The modern apostles in the picture are 10ml centrifuge sample tubes with snap caps. Each has 70 grains of Goex FFg black powder in them, which occupies about 5.5ml. So, there is plenty of space in them for hunting loads in my rifles, which will be under 100 grains. I bought a bag of 50 of the tubes from Amazon for $10.39 on Prime. 15ml tubes should handle hunting loads for almost any muzzleloader.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Stolen Winchester 1892

(Post has been edited for clarification.)

Please be on the lookout for a stolen Winchester 1892 Sporting Rifle, serial number 100156, caliber .38 WCF.

I shipped the rifle on 12/21/18 via UPS Ground insured, from Plymouth Meeting, PA to Taylor Machine in Puyallup, WA for gunsmithing work.

On 1/3/19 John Taylor called to inform that all he received was an empty box with some bubble wrap in it. UPS confirmed delivery of the package.

I do not suspect Mr. Taylor. He has an excellent reputation.

Full details of the rifle:

Type: Lever action rifle
Make: Winchester
Model: 1892
Serial number: 100156
Barrel length: 24 inches
Caliber: .38 WCF AKA 38-40 Win
Finish: Metal has turned brown. Buttstock and forend are brown walnut wood.

The rifle is an antique manufactured in 1898 per the factory letter that I got from the Buffalo Bill Center of the Wild West.

Pictures of the stolen rifle are at my blog:

Any help in recovery will be appreciated.

Pictures of the stolen rifle (click for full sized):

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Zeroed the Hawken

Today I took advantage of unusually warm weather for January 1st and got the Cabela's Hawken out to the range and got it zeroed with its new sights.

It was shooting about 18" low and a little left at 50 yards with my initial load of 60 grains of 2Fg Goex, a .490 round ball, a 0.018" ticking patch lubed with Track of the Wolf's mink oil tallow, and a CCI No.11 cap.

Grouping with the 60 grain load was 3 to 4" from the bench. IOW, not very good. So, I increased the charge to 70 grains and the rifle started grouping nicely. My last three shot group is below. It's the one hole in the center.

That's 2 in the X-ring and one just outside it in the 10. I can certainly live with that. (The target is full of .22 holes from taking my daughter to the range.)

I still want to experiment with different charges, patch thicknesses, and ball size.