Now with PA’s October muzzleloader deer season coming up it will be important for me to have my sights exactly on. So, I spent some time today shooting my flintlock and adjusting the sights to dead center. Before now I had adjusted the sights some, but that was not as important as just getting used to having sparks flying next to my face without flinching any.
Shooting off a bench rest at 25 yards I got the gun sighted in so that it put a round ball in the bulls eye pretty much every time. My next step will be to switch to my sabots and fine tune them at 100 yards.
Another interesting aspect of shooting today was that it was raining while I was shooting. At first I figured rain and a flintlock would not work out for more than a few shots, but I was actually able to do a lot of shooting.
According to my calendar just one month from today will mark the start of the October muzzleloader season! This will be my first opportunity to take my CVA flintlock deer hunting. In preparation for the deer season I have been working on different loads to see what will be best to use.
The 1 in 48 rifling twist of my barrel I have found does not accurately shoot a round ball very well past about 50 yards–so bad that in a pattern of three shots at 100 yards it is likely that at one or more of the balls will completely miss the target. I have found however, that the T/C saboted bullets, that Trader Horn sells, shoots pretty accurately even at 100 yards. So, that means that I will not be shooting round balls for the most part when it comes to deer hunting. For a hunting load with the 24o grain sabots I have been using 100 grains of 2FF black powder, which gives quite a bit of kick. Because of the kick I have limited the amount of target practice I have done with the sabots and focused on shooting round balls with 60 grains of 2FF since that load has a relatively light kick. Because, my gun’s 1 in 48 twist is still slower than the 1 in 28 rifling twist that most guns designed for shooting sabots have, I am using 100 grains of powder to give the sabot maximum spin. In the future though I will have to experiment with lesser loads of powder to see if it shoot as accurately.
I got a Lee Double Cavity Round .490 Ball Mold from craigs list.
Here is a sample of some of the round balls I made:
Here is what commercially made CVA swaged round balls look like for comparison:
To speed up the loading of my flintlock I made a loading block. This loading block, which I made with the intention of using for target shooting, will allow me to pre-place a patch and ball together, so I will not have to play around with individual patches and balls when I am shooting.
Ideas of making my own loading block first came, when I saw a few in some books I was reading. My first step in building one was to draw a design of the loading block on graph paper, since I had no pre-made plans to follow. Because, my gun is .50 caliber or 1/2 inch big, making the holes line up properly on the graph paper was easy for each box on the graph paper was equal to 1/4 inch. After playing around with various designs I decided on a design with 1/4 inch spacing between two side by side rows of five holes. Then on the outside of the rows I left 1/4 inch, which so far has seemed to be strong enough. To allow the block to be tied onto a string I put a 1/2 square centered on the block at one end. Finally after making the basic design marking where the holes would go was easy, because each 1/2 square of graph paper had an intersection point that marked the center of the square.
Wood to make the loading block came from an old skid that was probably made out of popular. After tracing my design from the graph paper onto the wood and marking where the holes should go; I drilled the 1/2 inch holes with a drill press. Next, I cut out the design with a band saw. Then, to smooth it out I used a combination of a hand held sander and a dremel tool fitted with a sanding drum.
At this stage a patched round ball would push into a hole, but they went in rather hard and seemed to be ripping my patch some. So, I wrapped some sand paper around a socket and sanded out the insides of the holes until a patched round ball would push in with moderate pressure and would not tear the patch. Then, I sanded the whole loading block by hand to make it nice and smooth. With the sanding all done, I then applied a couple coats of a linseed oil and black walnut finish.
With my loading block now finished the question is does it work? The answer is yes, it is much easier to load ten shots all at once now, then it is to fumble with patches and individual balls when out target shooting. Sometime, I will probably make another version of my loading block that will hold fewer round balls. This ten shot version works well for target shooting, but it might be a little bothersome to carry on a string around my neck, because of its weigh–besides in muzzle loader hunting you typically only get one shot at a time not ten.
Loading my new flintlock gun at first seemed a little complex and time consuming, but with the practice of around 30 shots I have become much better at the process of loading. The process I have developed so far is information from what people have told me, what I have read, and what I have learned from my small experience. The loading process is as follows:
- put ramrod in the gun to check against the unloaded ramrod mark to be sure the gun is unloaded.
- run a rubbing alcohol soaked patch, cut from a T-Shirt, down the barrel followed by a dry patch of the same material. (This removes oil or if the gun has just been shot it helps remove the fowling.)
- measure powder from my powder horn into the powder measure. (It is important for both accuracy and safety that an exact amount of powder is put down the barrel, which is partly why a powder measure is used.)
- after closing the powder horn, pour the powder from the powder measure into the barrel, being careful not to miss the barrel any, since a lighter powder load might affect accuracy. (In addition to the aforementioned reasons for using a powder measure, it is also important that it is used for safety. Safety, because if powder were to be poured directly from a powder horn or flask and an ember from the previous shot is still present the resulting explosion would not be pleasant.)
- tap the gun butt(end of gun stock) lightly on the ground to settle the powder.
- align the lubricated patch over the muzzle the same way for consistency. (Note: a patch is never used on a conical or sabot bullet only on round balls.)
- place the round ball over the patch.
- start the patch and ball with the ball starter.
- push the patch and ball down the barrel until it is seated on the powder charge. If fowling is present it often takes a little extra pressure to get it down to the mark.
- put hammer at half cock and prime with a small amount of priming powder (around 1/4 of a pan), then close frizzen.
Because of a recent purchase I made, two new hunting seasons have been added to the list of Pennsylvania season’s I can participate in! Muzzleloader and Flintlock hunting season are now available to me, because of the flintlock rifle I recently bought. Early Muzzleloader season here in Pennsylvania last year ran from October 18th to the 25th, with flint lock running from December 26th through January 10th. So, that means 6 days + 14 days = 20 extra days of deer hunting per hunting year.
The gun came with an agated flint which worked O.K.–for a time, but soon became dull. I tried to knap it with a small deer antler, but with no success, so I just reversed it which then gave me a good spark again. Then when I was in a sports store the other day I bought a piece of English Flint, which some say is the best flint for a flintlock gun. After trying the flint for one shooting session of four shots I cannot yet attest to its durability compared to agated flint, however, it seems to be doing fine so far.
As can be seen in the picture above I made a mark on my ramrod. This mark is a recommended “safety” feature for muzzleloaders, because it and another mark I placed farther down the ramrod show whether the gun is unloaded, loaded, or loaded without either powder or projectile. The mark that cannot be seen also serves to help me be more consistent while I am loading, because it lets my compress my load the exact same amount every time.
Because my CVA Trophy Hunter III has a rifling twist of 1:48 I can shoot conicals, sabots, and round balls. However, it can shoot none of those three really well, just O.K. To shoot round balls well the barrel would have to have a twist rate of some where around 1:66. In contrast conicals and sabots like a rifling twist of around 1:28. So, my gun is in the middle of the road, which will allow me to shoot any kind of bullet instead of being restricted to one certain kind.