Black Powder Blues
We experienced another hot summer, although Victoria was kept mostly green by some good showers seemingly fortnightly. Still, black powder burning remains a no-no all summer long. Campfires are generally frowned upon at the same time. Consequently, there has been bugger-all happening on the Club scene, apart from a brief attempt to eradicate bracken ferns encroaching through the slab walls of all facilities.
So, with no camps and no shoots, we asked Club President Ian Convey for a blow by blow description of how he resurrected the wall hanger featured in our Vol 57 story “Sad Times”. As a fill-in I’ve included my version of Sam Hall written under previous threat of government gun confiscation. I’ve waffled on about other things, but hopefully have struck a chord with most readers. Me thinks we all need to get to a rondyvoo. And soon!
Beads ‘n’ Blades
Chris Erickson kindly supplied our feature photo this edition and I’ve been meaning to catch up with him for a chat and to hopefully view and photograph more of his work. He is a multi-talented artisan as we will show if I can just manage to visit at a suitable time. Keep an eye out for more of Chris’ work in future Around the Traps.
Down at the Western Districts Muzzleloader club there is a signpost to “Immigrant’s Lane”. All those who have attended a WDMLC “Wet to the Arse” shoot will vouch for the historic tales of this event. The passing of years seems to add to the flavour.
Now I’m here to tell there’s nothing boring about history. For many, in our youth it was just the teaching styles to our basic learning, where the important element was to remember dates, simply dates, damn dates. You know 1066, 1788 and all that crap.? Just bloody boring dates. Who cares? What about the fighting, the weapons and their development, long bows, cannon, flintlocks, the leaders, the soldiers, the blood and guts? We were protected from all the bleeding and gore, the ransacking, the rape and the pillaging. Sanitised and we didn’t have a clue. Bugger!
America’s turbulent history was not even on our Australian state school’s itinerary. So I remained rather ignorant of all the stuff that I now never tire of learning. I thought Lewis and Clarke were merely trekking unexplored territory of America, populated by the indigenous Indians. I hadn’t realised that they were actually trekking on foreign soil. Spanish soil! This land is my land / your land, from California….
It wasn’t always thus. Even as late as 1840 (our declared cut-off date), the far West was foreign soil. Hmmn, I’ll get into trouble if I say too much here. Actually, I’m no historian or scholar. I just wanna shoot more black powder. That’d be great!
Making of the Wall-hanger
I was talking to the Chookster on the phone one evening when he happened to mention that he had bought a derelict percussion shotgun just for its ebony ramrod. He explained the condition of the old gun, suggesting that it might once have been a quality shotgun but was now just junk. Unseen, I felt that perhaps it might be deserving of one last chance to be saved, if only as a wall hanger.
So it was arranged that at the next rendezvous Chook would bring all the bits and pieces and let me have a look at it and see what could be done. A hessian bag was duly presented and when the contents were sighted, I thought “Shit, this is much worse than I anticipated.” But a challenge is just that and so I took the parts home.
After the sorry sight had sat in the corner of the shed for a fortnight I thought that I had better have a go at it so the gun was collected and examined more closely. First thing was to disassemble all the parts for treatment, no small task as all the screws were badly corroded and did not want to budge. So I gave them all a good smack on the head with a brass drift and dosed them liberally with WD40.
Two days later I attacked the screws, recutting the slots “carefully” with my trusty Dremel tool. Then having clamped the stock in the padded vice the screws were wriggled back and forth with a tight fitting screwdriver until I managed to extract them all. All but one! There is always one – known as Murphy`s law No.3. So out with the oxy set fitted with the smallest tip, I heated the head of the screw, after having made a heat shield out of sheet metal to protect the wood. Eureka! It came out!
All the steel parts (except the barrel and under rib) were set to soaking in a molasses solution to remove the rust. The barrel was then examined and the first priority was to check that it did not hold a charge of powder. The ramrod came up 3 inches short of the breech plug, so I concluded “the bloody thing is loaded!” I then propped it up in the corner of the shed with the breech sitting in a tin can and filled the barrel and the can with Penetrene.
After a fortnight I poured out the Penetrene and clamped the barrel in the vice. With a wad-worm on a cleaning rod I tried to screw it into what I assumed would be an overshot card or wad. Surprised, all that I retrieved was a broken wad worm that had been residing there. I couldn’t extract anything else, so out came a 3/8” ramrod drill and slowly I drilled in about ½” expecting to find a shot column, but all that I got was mud.
Further drilling to the breech face produced more mud, no wads or shot or gunpowder, just mud.
All the metal parts were washed, descaled with emery cloth and/or steel wool and oiled. Before oiling, the under rib was glued back onto the barrel, as due to the condition of both, any attempt to solder was quite out of the question.
The walnut stock was in a very sorry condition. The fore-end had a huge split running from the lock inlet to the ramrod entry pipe and quite a bit of the wood had rotted or crumbled away. I scrubbed off all the rotting wood and dirt. Next the split and the gaps in the fore-end were filled and re-joined with Acraglas (as recommended by the late Kit Ravenshear) and dyed brown and reinforced with a tailored fabric strip in the barrel channel to hold it all together.
On hardening, the Acraglas was filed and sanded to shape, and then the stock liberally painted with a 50/50 mixture of kerosene and boiled linseed oil. This was buffed with fine steel wool the next day and then several coats of boiled linseed oil were rubbed in over a number of days.
To replace the missing / lost parts I made a replacement barrel wedge and a pewter escutcheon for the wedge slot to the right-hand side of the stock. I also fashioned a pewter fore-end cap.
Finally, the old relic was reassembled. The lock actually functioned after clean up, except that the main spring was broken, so it was left out. When all assembled and oiled-up it looked as good as new. Really! Well, if you squinted both eyes and stood 10 metres away it didn`t look too bad.
One thing I noticed on the butt stock on the left side in the grip area was that the wood had been worn/rubbed away leaving an obvious depression, consistent with resting on something that was constantly moving such as the pommel of a saddle or the seat or cargo of a dray. It raises many questions that we will never know the answers to.
Anyway, it makes a nice gunroom wall-hanger and conversation piece. Imagine the hunting stories it might tell if only it could talk too!
“I wish to caution the rifleman never to be in too great a hurry in loading and firing. I have found one shot in a minute as much as I could fire to keep myself steady, and to perform every motion methodically; and let him rest assured, as a general principle, that loading properly is much more advantageous than loading expeditiously.” Ezekiel Baker – Baker’s Remarks on the rifle.
Sam Hall – 1997
The song “Sam Hall” is a Traditional one of uncertain origins and numerous versions. This tongue-in-cheek arrangement inspired by Prime Minister John Howard’s 1996-1997 so-called “Gun Buyback” regularly touted by the green Left to have made Australia a safer place. Yet in spite of tax payers millions paid out and the wasteful destruction of many fine sporting arms, the firearm crime rate continues to escalate, as evidenced in our daily media. Johnny Cash did a much shorter tribute to his Sam Hall.
Oh my name it is Sam Hall, Rifleman, Rifleman
Oh my name it is Sam Hall, Rifleman
Oh my name it is Sam Hall and I’ve shot full bore and small
And I’ve never missed at all, that’s the truth, I swear it ain’t no lie
And I’ve never missed at all, but maybe that’s a lie.
Well my father taught me well, yes he did, yes he did
Well my father taught me well, oh yes he did
Well my father taught me well and it’s here I am to tell
That gun and soul you never sell, proud and free, proud and free
That gun and soul you never sell, stay proud and free.
Now I keep my powder dry, cap and ball, cap and ball
Now I keep my powder dry, cap and ball
Now I keep my powder dry, I’ve steady hand and keenness of eye
For my country I would die, Southern Cross, Southern Cross
For my country I would die, Southern Cross.
Then I dressed up in my skins, Rendezvous, Rendezvous
Then I dressed up in my skins, Rendezvous,
Then I dressed up in my skins with my tipi and some tins
Oh God, forgive my sins, break the bread, pass the wine
Dear God, forgive my sins, pass the wine.
I have forty ball in store, but that’s not all, that’s not all
I have forty ball in store, but that’s not all
I have forty ball in store and I’ll cast four hundred more
With mould and leaden ore, cast them bright, cast them bright
With mould and leaden ore, cast them bright.
Now I’ve shot cartridge, ball and more, yes indeed, yes indeed
Now I’ve shot cartridge, ball and more, yes indeed
Now I’ve shot cartridge, ball and more, from three o three to fifty-four
And cannon to protect our shore, raise the flag, protect our flag
And cannon to protect our shore, save our flag.
But the Government wants my gun, Amnesty, Amnesty
But the Government wants my gun, Amnesty
But the Government wants my gun when no crime have I done
If I yield I’ll soon have none, freedom gone, freedom gone
If I yield I’ll soon have none, my freedom gone.
We will have a safer place, Johnny says, Johnny says
We will have a safer place, Mister Howard says
But we’ll have a safer place for invasion by another race
No defence for our home base, that’s no joke, that’s no joke
No defence for our home base, and that’s no joke
I will give up my self-loading gun, my fears high, fears high
I will give up my self-loading gun, my fears high
I will give up my self-loading gun but no never another one
Now I’m all said and done, here I stand, here I stand
Now I’m all said and done, I’ve made my stand.
Well my name it is S a m u e l, S a m u e l, S a m u e l
My name it is S a m u e l, S a m u e l
I said my name is S-a-m-u-e-l and I’ll see you all in hell
Before another gun I’ll sell, durn your hide, blast your eyes
There’s no other gun I’ll sell, damn yer hide.
Samuel Hall, damn yer hide!
Adjusting your sights
This subject sometimes confuses both new chum and regular old timers. It needn’t do, but I’ve experienced it, and to save lots of head scratching I plucked these few lines from one or other magazine where the experts congregate monthly. I made copies for each of my shooting boxes so that the brain scratching hair loss is kept to a minimum.
Adjust the rear sight in the direction that you want the round ball group to move. In other words, if your rifle is shooting groups to the left of where you are aiming, you will want to move the group to the right. Move the rear sight to the right and your group will follow.
The same applies to any direction. Move the rear sight higher and the gun puts its bullets higher. Move the rear sight down and the group moves down. Move the sight left and the bullets move left. This rule is universal and applies to smooth-bores shooting round ball as well as to rifles. The rule to remember is this: The bullet group follows the movement of the rear sight. So what’s the rule if your smooth bore has no rear sight?
Remember when Goex powder was $28 to $32 per one-pound tin? Well I can! About that time Pioneer brand was selling for $50 per kg and that had us all scuttling for a calculator with a 2.205 x key. Around about 1974 our president bought a can of Goex with original price tag of just $ 8.00. He can’t remember it being so cheap, but he is getting on in years. Back then 500 gram tins of Curtis’s and Harvey powder was still available if you could sniff it out. Price? Well, damned if I can remember either.
The great GOEX can explosion
Now GOEX powder has not been readily available in the land of Oz for many a year. As private stocks have become severely depleted, what to do with the excess empty GOEX cans we seem to be accumulating lately? Shoot ’em up that’s what! Fill them with water, screw lid down tight, clear the firing line, shoot plumb centre, and watch them explode in meteorite like showers of water vapour. Fun? You bet!!
Easter camp 2017 April 14th to 17th – Enjoy Autumn camping at its very best.
Winter Quarters Queen’s B’day w/e June 10, 11, & Mon 12th More days of fun.
Millmerran Open Rendezvous July 1st – 9th Really, how much fun can you take?
Spring Rondyvoo Sept 16th – 17th Our original Primitive weekend still going strong. 2nd Annual Great Southern Turkey Shoot. Start practising for our best gobbler comp.
Guess who had to buy a new sump protector plate for his BitsRmissing ute after coming to a crashing halt stalled atop a massive rock hidden in the ferns. Yep you’re right it was … Oh but Tattler can’t tell. Happened on a much earlier firewood foray and he hoped to keep it quiet, but the cat was out of the bag when he disclosed the price of an upmarket replacement. You ask!
Although fees for 2017-2018 have been waived, members must advise our Treasurer they are continuing with club membership for P.L. insurance purposes. A brief Email confirmation to Bob Ellis will do the trick firstname.lastname@example.org