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2000 Personal Accounts
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Is it Loaded? 
2000 Personal Account

(February 2000) Years ago, I was visiting my local gun range when I noticed a gentleman having trouble with his muzzleloader. You load a muzzleloader by pouring black gunpowder down the barrel, placing a bullet on top of the powder, and ramming it down tight with a rod. You shoot the loaded gun by cocking the hammer and placing a pinch of gunpowder under it. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer falls against a flint. The resulting sparks ignite the powder, a jet of flame flashes through a hole into the main charge, and the gun goes bang.

This gentleman loaded his gun, but when he pulled the trigger, nothing happened. He tried it again, and again nothing happened. So he looks down the barrel. It's dark in there and he could not see anything. So he pulls out his lighter, and holds the flame against the flash hole (where the pinch of powder is placed) while STILL looking down the barrel.

I ran up and separated idiot from gun before anything could happen. The cause of the malfunction was old, degraded powder. It's people like this that cause waiting period laws to be enacted.

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Submitted by: Albert D. Mayse

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Jerry Proctor says, "Description of what I take as a flintlock rifle is somewhat garbled. The hammer is actually called the cock and consists of two jaws tightened by a screw. Flint placed between the jaws strikes a hardened piece of steel called the frizzen. Sparks from this collision fall into the flash pan and ignite a small amount of gunpowder, which flashes through a touch hole and fires the main charge in the barrel. I tried to duplicate the feat of this hero, but my arms were not nearly long enough. Most flintlocks were designed with long barrels to ensure complete powder combustion. Maybe the gentleman was using one of those rare variations such as the blunderbuss which features a short barrel with a flared muzzle."

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