Monday, October 17, 2011

Black Powder Safety: Don't Leave it Charged!

Never leave a Blackpowder rifle loaded or charged!
© 2011 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Don't Leave That Powder In Your Rifle

With hunting season in full swing in many parts of the United States, it is a good time to remind everyone about Black Powder safety.

Many years ago I was at my neighborhood gun shop. Knowing my interest in all things firearms related, the proprietor showed me a percussion rifle that was brought in to him.

I gasped when he laid it on the counter. The breechplug's tang was bent, the threaded part of the breech plug aiming straight up. The barrel, what was left of it, was banana peeled forward, with large chunks missing. I asked where the lock was as it was missing, and was told that it had been blown completely off. The trigger guard was still attached, albeit loosely, but the trigger was gone. The wood around the breech was splintered and the top edges scorched.

I immediately surmised that smokless powder was the culprit. Smokless powder develops upwards of 50000 pound per square inch, whereas black powder and its modern equivalents like Goex, Pyrodex, and 777 rarely exceed 20000 PSI.

My gunsmith friend quickly corrected me. The problem was black powder that had been left in the chamber for an extended period of time!

Closer examination of the charge area of the breech revealed extensive pitting, so much so that it actually looked like it would have been an egg shaped cavity before it let loose.

The owner of the percussion rifle said that it had been left loaded throughout the muzzleloader season, and when hunting season was over, he attempted to discharge it. The first two caps did not fire the weapon, but upon touching off the third one, the rifle blew up between his hands! He was fortunate, said the gunsmith, to only suffer some powder burns, and a shallow gash across the top of his hand.

The long and the short of it is,

Do Not Leave
Your Muzzleloader Charged!

Pull the ball at the end of the day, and dispose of the powder safely.

If you buy a used blackpowder firearm, make sure you carefully inspect the chamber area for pitting and possible enlargement. You never know how the owner may have conducted his loading affairs!

Related Posts:
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles: Fall Protection Harness Safety

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained Capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

1 comment:

jes said...

I don't believe this story. Whatever reason the gunsmith had for passing on this second hand information, I haven't the fainest idea, but there is no reason to accept it. Your first assumption was probably correct, and the owner of the gun wouldn't admit it. I have personally stored a loaded blackpowder rifle for over two years, or three, and know many friends who do as well. Not that I think it is a good idea, but I've never had one rust as long as it wasn't shot or wet....

Think about it. Black powder is a simple combination of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulpher. I have known stored KEGS that have been excellent for over thirty years. Now, modern smokeless powders are nitro-cellulose, and the nitroglycerin can and does change over the years due to the loss of ether in the base, and extreme heat, which causes separation, and sometimes makes a cartridge a "dual load", with more combustible powder next to less combustible powder. And even then, I have had and shot many cartridges that were over 40 or 50 years old. Often the higher pressures in old cartridges are from the bullet "gluing" itself to the case, and for that reason alone, it is usually unwise to shoot them...

So, don't take everything you hear for granted...sometimes don't take anything.....