Preparing for Muzzleloader Season

I was downstairs this morning at the bench, running one more patch down the Hawken before I pack it for the farm. This weekend is early Muzzleloader, and I finally got a good group out of the new barrel on Sunday.

For twenty years, I shot buffalo bullets and round ball out of the factory barrel. Last year I finally broke down and bought one of those Green Mountain IBS barrels with the 1in28″ twist. Last year was a disaster– couldn’t get the new barrel to shoot worth a poop. I don’t know what was wrong. I tried sabots, Buffalo Bullets, Maxiballs. It was all just a mess, and the rifle recoiled horrendously too– even at 80 grains.

This year, I’m back out with Buffalo Bullets and CVA Power Belts. Both shoot perfectly with 100 grains of 777. I was putting them all through the same hole. Go figure.

I now know why I blew two shots at doe last year with this smokepole– the elevation screw on the back Firesight was loose, and it was sliding around all over the place. Oh well.

Tomorrow I will prepare my pre-measured cartridges. It’s looking like rain for Saturday.

The muzzleloader is really an artifact from my young bachelor days. I bought it in 1984 for my 25th birthday, back when I was running my coffee house and doing stand-up. It created quite a show at the party when I sent off a toilet paper salute at midnight, right in the middle of Clifton. For years it was a piece I just shot– never hunted. There was always something calming about shooting round ball. I could never make it out for the short BP season Ohio had in early January.

I still remember taking it over to Target World– the old location over by the railroad tracks. It was one night after work. When I would touch that puppy off, the entire range would fill with smoke. Anyhow, the guy decided that night to put two BP shooters next to me, even though the range was otherwise empty.

The two guys had shown up in an old pickup with KY plates– the whole thing was put together with duct tape and bailing wire. The body panels shook as it came to a stop. Both guys were a good week gone from a bath, and they brought only one piece. It was a vintage 45 Cal Kentucky rifle with sporting an old paint job of red primer. The nipple was held on with plumber’s putty.

“Ya gettin’ ready to hunt?” said one.

“No, just shooting.” I replied

“That’s a nice piece.” he said. “That one of them new ones?”

“It’s a couple of years old.” I said.

“New.” he said. “We shoot this one. It still shoots pretty good.”

“It looks old, ” I replied.

“Yep. Still shoots,though. Fred’s Dad did the paint job t’keep it from rustin’.”

Every time I’d get the rifle up to my cheek, and pull the set trigger, this guy wanted to start up a new conversation.

“‘Sat a 50? It looks big for a 50.”

“It’s a 54.” I said. The next shot I made was off the paper. I was getting rattled.




“What kin aloo beyousin?”

“I’m sorry I just cannot understand what you’re saying.”

“Yurlube! Yurlube! What kin’ y’all usin’?”

“Oh, my lube.” I said, putting my hammer back to half cock. “I’m using Maxi-lube.”

“Shucks!” he replied. “Maxi-lube. Fred, give him a look a’ your balls.” Fred complied. I wish he had not. They were ugly things, encased in some rancid-smelling waxy substance, splotched with a vertigris-like green. The overall impression was that of boogers, or something picked from a malfunctioning garbage disposal.

“These is our balls.” He said. “Fred and I, we makes them ourselves.”

“Nice balls.”

“What you need is an Ammuminun pie pan. You get yurself some beeswax, and then you get some hog taller or some deer taller and you melts it in the ammuninum pie pan, and then ya’ set yer balls down in it until they get all hard, and all. Then you pull them out.”

“I’d be afraid of damaging my ramrod.” I said.

“No, they slide in real easy.” he replied, oblivious to my attempt at a joke.

. . . and so it went. They had me so rattled that I was certain I was going to double ball. I ended up just seating a ball before the powder, and used that as an excuse to end the torture.

I did this as a performance art piece a few weeks later at the Caberet Noir. The yuppies and the arties in their black Generation-X uniforms thought I was a genius for dreaming it up. I couldn’t get them to believe it was all true.


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