Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Woodland Escape YouTube Channel

Last week I discovered The Woodland Escape YouTube channel, created by Peter Kelly and Catherine Wolfe up in Ontario, Canada. I've been binge watching it since then. They've put out some great content on 18th and 19th Century living history. This morning I watched this one on what he carries in his shooting pouch and also about making them:

This is the kind of content that The History Channel should be showing, instead of Ancient Space Alien Nazis on the Dark Side of the Moon. Two thumbs up!

More Flintlock Practice

Yesterday I got out to the range again with my flintlock longrifle for some more practice.

My shooting was frankly, bad, due to poor follow through. Black powder guns in general, but flintlocks in particular, require you to maintain your form after you pull the trigger because the lock time in slow. The 41.5" barrel of this rifle compound the need for follow through even more.

I had a hard time with all that yesterday. After shooting a rather crummy offhand group on paper I spent the rest of the time banging an 18" or so gong, which I was able to do regularly.

That said, a mediocre day at the range beats a good day in the office!

The Delrin ramrod I fitted to the gun a week and a half ago got its initial use. It's whippier than I'd like but I don't need to worry about it breaking on me.

One thing I noticed was that with the October Country Bumblin Bear Grease lube I was using, the rifle develops a crud ring of fouling a few inches down the bore if I didn't wipe between shots. Even though the rifle's muzzle is coned, I found myself using a short starter to get the ball past that ring of fouling.

I also tried using spit for patch lube and wiping between shots. For targets this seems to work fine. I'll note that the cotton flannel cleaning patches don't have much of a taste but the pillow ticking I use for shooting patches is a bit tangy.

Another patch lube I've used in the past is 100% pure neatsfoot oil. I was able to fire over 20 shots without wiping, but that was before I had coned the muzzle and used a short starter as a matter of course. I plan to try it again and see if I still get that crud ring.

Last week I joined the Pennsylvania Federation of Black Powder Shooters, and I'm looking forward to getting the booklet they publish which lists matches. I'm hoping to find a woods walk or two within reasonable driving distance of southeast Pennsylvania, so I want to get my loading from the pouch routine dialed in.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Deer Camp Dinner Pics

Last Friday a friend and I went to his cabin on 65 acres in Tioga County, PA for the opening of firearms season. We hunted Saturday and again on Sunday but then really bad rain blew in and we bailed.

He missed a big buck at ~210 yards Saturday morning (for which I busted his chops) and the rest of the deer we saw over the weekend were does. Both of us already tagged out on does during the early muzzleloader season, so they all got to walk. We may go up again for flintlock in January.

Anyway, Friday night's dinner was backstrap from the fat corn-fed doe I shot in October.

We cooked it on the cabin's wood stove, along with sliced red potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Paper plate, because it's a primitive cabin with no running water and we like to limit the dishes we need to wash.

This was one of the best pieces of meat I have ever had. Absolutely no gaminess and if I didn't know better, I would have thought it was top quality beef.

How to make for those so inclined:

  • Pre-season both sides of the meat with Montreal Steak Seasoning to taste (or don't).
  • Pre-heat your skillet with olive oil in it until you can flick a drop of water into it so that it pops. Then put in the meat which will sear on the bottom side. Flip over after about 4 minutes. Cook on that side for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat to rest for a few minutes.
  • Optional: Deglaze the pan by pouring in some red wine or some other spirit, let it reduce, then pour over the meat. We didn't have any wine with us so we didn't do that and I wasn't about to pour Longbranch bourbon into a hot frying pan.

How we made the side:

  • Slice up small red potatoes so that they are pretty thin. Also slice up one large or two small onions and a few cloves of garlic.
  • Fry the potatoes and garlic in olive oil, turning occasionally. Cook until they are starting to turn golden brown then add the sliced onions. Cook until the onions are soft.

Proceed to stuff your face.

Serves two.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Delrin Ramrod for my Longrifle

My longrifle, which is a reworked Dixie Tennessee Mountain Rifle, came with the original ramrod. It was made of some mystery wood by Miroku and was 9mm in diameter (a standard metric dowel size). I've managed to damage a ramin wood replacement that I bought several years ago and then this happened yesterday at the range with the original rod:

(Several years ago there was a shortage of hickory ramrods so ramin was offered as a replacement. IMHO, it is inferior to hickory.)

Thankfully, I didn't get stuck. Last night I ordered a couple hickory replacements from Track but I later also found a Delrin 9mm rod that I'd bought from them but never fit to my rifle, and forgot about. I fixed that this morning.

It needed some tapering down towards the bottom so it'll fit inside the stock. Some 60 grit sandpaper worked for that. After I was finished fitting it I sanded it to 220 grit which gives it some faux grain so that it doesn't look too plasticky.

The brass tip was not pinned to the rod which is a recipe for losing it down the bore. The tip has a snug fit on the rod but I drilled a hole and pinned it with a piece of .098" diameter brass rod, peened over on both ends.

Thin Delrin ramrods tend to be whippy but won't break. They are less abrasive to the bore than fiberglass or aluminum. I'll be more comfortable taking the rifle into the woods with this ramrod in place.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Shot the Coned Muzzle Longrifle Today

I took this afternoon off and went to the range with my longrifle, having coned the muzzle for easier loading last weekend. As others have reported and I hoped, the group size and point of impact were unchanged at 50 yards. This target was shot offhand at 50 yards with .490 patched round balls on top of 70 grains of 3Fg black powder. The bullseye is 5.5" in diameter. My point of aim was at 6:00.

I also got the chance to use the M-1817 style worm I recently bought from Track of the Wolf. In the 18th and early 19th Centuries, cloth was too expensive to waste in cleaning gun barrels, so tow was wrapped around a worm and used to scrub out the barrel. Tow is waste material left over from processing flax or other fibers. The stuff I have is hemp tow.

When used in this manner the tow acts like a bore brush. Afterwards it can be rinsed out and reused, or repurposed as wadding in smoothbores, or used as a bird's nest for starting a fire.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Coned the Muzzle of my Longrifle

Back in the 18th - 19th Centuries in the US, most rifle shooters did not use short starters. Instead, most rifles had internally coned muzzles. In other words, the muzzles were funneled so that a patched round ball could be started with thumb pressure, and then seated home with the ramrod. Eventually barrel coning fell out of favor but has been rediscovered in the past couple decades.

Cabin Creek Muzzleloading list barrel coning as a service. There are also a couple of tools you can buy that will allow you to do it yourself. I recently purchased one of these from Joe Wood, who posts under the name "flintsteel" on the Muzzleloading Forum. There is a thread about purchasing the tool, here.

I should note that when I mailed Wood my check he was away on vacation. He called to let me know that there would be a delay, and after he returned from his cabin he called to let me know that he was shipping the tool I ordered. I couldn't be more pleased with his service.

This morning I finally got around to using the Wood tool to cone the muzzle of my George Dech Pennsylvania rifle. This pic is a few years old, taken while hunting at my friend's land in Tioga County, PA.

The tool is a tapered brass mandrel that you afix a piece of wet/dry sandpaper to using carpet tape or an adhesive. I tried both and carpet tape is much better. I used three grades of paper: 220, 320, and 400 grit.

You will also need a tap wrench to use as a handle for rotating the tool. Wood recommends dismounting the barrel from the stock and rotating both the tool and the barrel simultaneously, in order to grind out the cone evenly.

Before starting I pushed a couple cleaning patches down the bore to a little below where the tool stopped, and left them there. This way they'd catch grit and metal particles and can be removed later with a patch worm.

The instructions state to periodically check your progress with a ball and patch. I used a .490 ball and dry 0.020" patch material. Once you can seat it with a dry patch about halfway it's done. However, I went further and can fully seat the ball. I did this because I want it really easy to seat, especially since I normally use 0.018" pillow ticking for patches, lubed with Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil Tallow, or October Country's Bumblin Bear Grease.

I wound up using three pieces of 220 grit, three of 320 grit, and two of 400 grit. The 220 is what does the bulk of metal removal while you polishing with the higher grits. After two rounds with 400 grit, the coned out area shined like a mirror.

Over on YouTube, Mike Beliveau did three videos on coning a rifle barrel with Joe Wood's tool and shooting it afterwards.

I recommend watching the first video before using the tool.

After I get to shoot the rifle I'll post a follow up.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Hornet Nests

The leaves on the magnolia tree in front of my house finally all fell on Friday and yesterday we found these:

Not one, but THREE hornet nests in one tree. The one in the middle is huge, at least 18" tall by a foot wide. Never seen nests close together like this.

Yeesh. I've lived in this subdivision since 1979 and never saw even one hornet nest until about 15 years ago.

I was running a leaf blower underneath them last weekend, and my lawn guy was here Thursday mowing. Both those activities are known to aggravate hornets so I'm virtually certain the nests are no longer active.

We had a couple hard frosts a week or so ago so I think they are just about dead. However, I hosed them down with wasp spray (I have a pole that holds the can and allows me to get it right up to the nest). I saw one hornet come out of the nest on the right when I sprayed, but nothing else.

It's going to be warm this week but hopefully it'll cool off again next week and I can take them down.

They'll give me a nice supply of wadding material for my muzzleloaders. They can be used between the powder charge and a patched roundball, or over-powder and over-shot wads in a smoothbore. I've been wanting to try that for awhile so I'm not entirely unhappy about finding these things out front.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Successful Muzzleloader Deer Hunt

Pennsylvania's early muzzleloader antlerless deer season was last week. PA was one of the first states to have a muzzleloader-only season but for decades this started the day after Christmas and was flintlock-only. That season is still available and is for antlered or antlerless deer, but the early antlerless-only season is a more recent addition. In the early season, any .44 caliber or larger muzzleloader is legal, so a lot of guys use percussion or inline rifles.

My friend N. owns about 65 acres in Tioga County, which is in north central PA, just south of NY. We went up there last week to catch the tail end of the early antlerless season.

Late Friday, he took a shot at a doe but it was a clean miss. He shot high because the sights on his rifle are difficult to see especially in the wrong light. (He has plans to fix this.)

Saturday morning we got on stand. At 8:05 AM I heard a shot from the direction where he posted up and when I got to him, saw that he'd bagged a button buck. The .440 round ball from his Euroarms Kentuckian Carbine flintlock had passed through both lungs and must have hit a major blood vessel, because the deer bled out almost immediately and collapsed after running 15 feet.

I went and got my truck while N. field dressed it. We loaded it into the back of my Xterra and took it up to the campsite where we skinned and quartered it, and put it on ice. We had that done by lunchtime.

After eating lunch, then relaxing for awhile with a Guiness and a cigar each, we headed back out to a different part of the property at about 3:00 PM (closing time was 6:49 PM). He came with me to help with dressing and dragging out a deer if I got lucky.

At about 5:40 PM I had to stand up and stretch. I noticed a doe grazing in the field in front of us, about 60 or 70 yards out. I sat back down and a second doe appeared. I signaled to N. that we had a couple deer in sight.

Both of the deer were large. There's a cornfield and a couple pear trees across the street from N.'s land so they've been feeding well.

For a few minutes I peered over the burlap blind as the deer slowly worked their way towards us. At one point both were broadside but one was behind the other and I didn't want to risk wounding it if I shot the one closest to me.

Eventually, I had a clear broadside shot presented to me and I stood up to clear the blind, placed my front sight bead behind her shoulder and touched off the shot. The .490 round ball from my Cabela's (Investarm) Hawken caplock hit right where I aimed.

Strangely, the other deer didn't immediately bolt. Rather, it stomped and snorted at us, and even advanced a little towards us before turning and running. If N. hadn't already tagged out that morning he probably could have shot this one.

As we eventually discovered, the ball didn't exit and because it was a high lung shot the blood trail was poor, but we tracked it down in about 15 minutes. We decided not to wait before tracking it because we were running short on daylight. Normally we'd wait 30 minutes to allow the deer to lay down and expire. But all's well that ends well, and we got the second deer of the day up to the campsite, skinned and quartered, and on ice.

Something we noticed on these deer was that they both had large quantities of fat reserves under their skin. I saved a gallon Ziploc bag of fat to be rendered down into deer tallow, which will make good patch lube.

N. has an extra fridge that the deer is now in. He wound up having to bone out all the meat because the legs wouldn't fit in his meat bins. With the bones and fat cut out we have over 80 pounds of meat! I'll be going over to his house next weekend to help process it.

We always try to learn lessons and do better. N. is going to put better sights on his rifle. I'm planning to experiment with heavier powder charges in my rifle to improve the chances of a complete pass through if I shoot another large deer with it. Aside from increasing the powder charger to more than 70 grains, I also have some Hornady Great Plains bullets and may try some Maxi balls.