The Official on line magazine of the

North American Frontiersmen

Smoke Signals


 PART 1 

This article will deal with target shooting.

First of all, take the time to do it right. Most target shoots today are done at short range with maybe one long shot thrown in. This being the case I will emphasize that large charges are not needed for short range matches. You want to start out with 10 grains less powder than the manufacturer’s recommended charge. For example:

50 Cal. use 40 grains

54 Cal. use 44 grains

36 Cal. use 26 grains (only good out to 30 yds.)

45 Cal. use 35 grains (Seldom go down 10 grains)

36 and 45— it's good to consider lowering the charges for youngsters and women.


Zero in at 25 yards on a large cross target—Empty pizza boxes work well. A .50 Cal. should punch a hole 3 inches high with a 40 grain load. Then move to 50 yards and then to 75 yards. At 75 yards you may have to hold a bit high. If you use an 8 X 10 paper for your target, I have found that  holding at the top of the cross seems to work. If you have to hold off target, I will always tape a card on my stock as a reminder. Tuck this in the back of your mind right now. 

The human eye cannot focus on two objects at the same time. It's impossible. Stare at your front sight. Your target will be a slight blur along with your rear sight. Place your finger on the trigger and hum to yourself as you apply pressure. When the gun goes off it must be a total surprise. 

Lately I have been playing around with some of the new powders such as Clear Shot and Clean Shot and it's recommended to go with the same charge amounts. The only powder I compared it with is 2 Fg. So read the label and go with the manufactures recommendation. For now I'll though, I’ll continue discussing the real F powders.


32 to 50 cal. use 3 Fg.

50 cal. fast twist and larger use 2 Fg.

11 bore and larger muskets, along with cannons, use 1 Fg.

It has been written that Pyrodex doesn't work well in flintlocks. My experience with it showed it to be inconsistent—sometimes okay—sometimes awful. I don’t use it.


I have tried out various materials for patches and now use only cotton, dry or lubed, in strips or precut. When I  use pillow ticking I like to go from target to target with a strip hanging from my mouth. Spit lube then is the order of the day, especially when speed is necessary. In cold weather I revert to pre-lubed patches. My advice is to start out with a .010 thick patch. and work your way up, through 015, 017, and 020. I like to start with the smallest ball the gun I’m shooting will take and the lightest patch and work my way up in patch thickness.



Begin with the smallest available. I say that because some calibers have two sizes that will work in the gun, such as when a 40 caliber will take a .390 / .395, a 50 caliber that will take a. .490 / .495, a 54 caliber that will take a.530 / 535.


Use for safety and consistency. Never load directly from horn or dispensers.


Take with you some 4 Fg. powder with dispenser (for priming pan and dislodging dry balls.) Flints for flintlocks, caps for percussion, short starters to assist with stubborn patches and balls. You really shouldn’t have a need for a short starter unless your barrel is starting to foul or you have worked your way up to a thick patch.

I have a 50 and a 54 caliber that I use for hunting and I changed the nipples to a # 10 which is a musket cap. This is nearly double the blast you get from a standard nipple and cap. This give you an edge, especially in foul weather. I have even dislodged a dry ball with just the cap. Also when you get older they are easier for stiff fingers to handle.


Single trigger, single set, double set, single acting, double set, double acting—you will likely run into them all and you will pick a favorite.


Cleaning jag, ball puller, patch worm, vent pick, Knapping tool, nipple wrench /nipple pick combination, and a main spring vise along with an extra main spring.

If I'm going to spend time at the range I have a large wooden box with everything imaginable to solve any problem. I also have two Co2 ball blower-outers for use at the range in order to save time. This will work well with adapters for both flint and percussion.


Wipe the bore with a clean dry patch to remove any oil. Be sure and clean the bottom of the breach. Prior to shooting, condition the barrels, fill the flash pan, trickle powder through the flash hole and flash. With a cap lock, snap two or three caps to clear oil from passages. Another method is to put 10 or 20 grains of powder down the barrel and snap a cap to clear the breach. In patching, we have 10 - 15 - 17 - 20 thousands patch thicknesses. It should be your goal to settle on the best patch and ball for each gun. I like to tie a large colored tag in large print for each gun to each shooting pouch. It has all the information with what is in the bag.. I did go out one time with a 50 caliber gun and a 54 caliber bag. Big mistake!


My favorite patch lube other than spit is Vaseline Intensive Care Hand Lotion in the yellow bottle. Most of the time in the high country and cold it doesn’t freeze. Remember that patching is very important. Start out with the smallest ball available and the right thickness patch. This is like the bottom line. Try and spend a day at the range and experiment. Make yourself an all brass ramrod at least 6 inches longer than your barrel. Thread both ends. I like to use a patch jag on one end and a brass brush on the other. I will run a cleaning patch after every five shots. I use a cleaning solution of 1:1:1: Murphy"s Oil Soap, Peroxide and alcohol. Try it and you’ll discover that this really speeds up cleaning.

In the next article I'll get into more tips and shooting. In the meanwhile, go burn some powder!

period shootin' pertaining to those than went before us.


documented facts pertaining to periods & availability of items shown.

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