Are muzzleloaders dangerous?


July 18, 2003, 11:40 PM
Yes, firearms are dangerous - granted. Specifically, my inquiry is whether or not it is possible for a muzzle loader to fire unintentionally when you are packing the ball on top of the powder with the ramrod.

To me, a complete amateur, it would seem the compression of the powder would make it go *bang* when you really, really do not want it to.

In fact, this fear, has prevented me from shooting it much. Am I concerned for no reason.

Thank You,

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July 18, 2003, 11:47 PM
To the best of my knowledge, black powder doesn't ignite by compression. Black power doesn't "explode", it burns. That requires heat/flame from either matchlock (a flame), flintlock (spark) or percusion cap (or enough heat left in the gun to from previous firing to "cook off" the charge).

July 18, 2003, 11:55 PM
Interesting - Hkmp5sd states that a charge can be cooked off by enough heat left in the barrel. Gulp. Thanks for giving me one more thing to worry about :)

Seriously - how can one ensure this does not happen???


July 19, 2003, 12:10 AM
Sorry, didn't mean to cause more doubt. With a muzzle loader, that's effectively impossible. It generally takes a machinegun or some fast trigger work on a semiauto to generate that much heat.

4v50 Gary
July 19, 2003, 12:59 AM
Was told of an accidental discharge. First was a misfire. Shooter let it sit (good move). Shooter pulls ball and then puts some water down the bore. Lets it set for 10 minutes. Then he pushes a wet patch down the bore when it goes boom!. :eek: About the only thing they can think of is compression of that patch causing enough heat for the powder to ignite. Darn freak accident and one in a million.

Gotta find the litte snippet on compression. Maybe it was in Gibbon's Treatise on Artillery.

July 19, 2003, 01:12 AM
There is a slight possibility that a hot something, like a fouling deposit, ember, or some such could set a freshly poured charge off. Try running a damp patch down the bore between shots.

Sir Galahad
July 20, 2003, 12:00 AM
Compression from a ramrod will not set off the powder. Heat from the barrel---the whole weapon will be too hot to touch to that point. Yes, muzzleloaders are dangerous. They have their own "do's and don'ts". DON'T use smokeless powder. DON'T exceed the maximum recommended charge. DON'T mix up your granulations---if the rifle calls for FFg, use FFg. DON'T smoke while shooting your muzzleloader---chew tobacco if you need some of the delightful weed as there is plenty of good plug and loose leaf chews out there. DON'T mess with powder out of container---keep it in horn and only load measure long enough to dump into barrel. DON'T load directly from horn---if there is an ember and it chases the powder up, you've had it. DON'T forget that this IS a weapon and a weapon of war which killed millions of people it was aimed at. DON'T use homemade "wonder projectiles"---if you want to play, play with something else. DON'T DON'T DON'T drink alcohol while shooting a muzzleloader. There are people who do this. They are disasters waiting to happen.

DO wear safety glasses. DO swab bore between shots---you can keep a separate range rod for this and use just plain rubbing alcohol as a swab. DO respect that this IS a firearm and one that, within range, will kill someone deader than doornails. Some of these weapons of the .58 caliber firing Minies will create horrifying wounds that will be fatal if in the chest area. A regular .54 round ball will kill elk and bear; think what it will do to a man. DO return your remaining powder from horn back to can and tightly seal lid after shooting. Never store powder in ANYTHING but the can it came in. Store powder in cool, dry place away from kids. DO clean your muzzeloader THOROUGHLY after you use it. Lots of exploding muzzleloaders are the result of carelessness and neglect.

And, importantly, DO have fun. :D If you practice these simple rules, muzzleloading is a satisfying and SAFE way to have fun. As long as you respect that you are handling a REAL firearm and not a toy and, in the case of black powder, a REAL explosive and not just a propellant, you will be just fine. Most accidents with any weapons are a result of lack of respect for the weapon coupled with carelessness. Don't be scared of them. They're firearms and if you can handle cartridge arms, you can handle these.

July 20, 2003, 10:42 AM
(one more Do or Don't to add to the excellent list SG gave)

- make sure your ball and charge are seated all the way down and there isn't any airspace between the powder and ball, or the powder/ball combo and the breach.

Mike Irwin
July 22, 2003, 01:25 PM
Black powder does explode.

It is classified as a low explosive due to its burning rate.

That's why black powder makes effective fireworks and things like pipe bombs, whereas smokeless powder isn't nearly as effective for such tasks due to its progressive burning nature.

Black powder can go off from compression, but it's extremely doubtful that you could get the kind of compression needed to do this by ramming a ball home.

There have, however, been several verified instances of muzzleloaders going off due to static discharge from the clothing being worn by the shooter. Some synthetic materials can generate substantial static charges.

July 26, 2003, 11:37 PM
I have been using muzzleloaders for over thirty years. I have never seen
any bad accidents. Myadvice for you is to join a blackpowder club. They will welcome you and teach all you need to know.

July 27, 2003, 12:30 AM
Ditto what Hal said. You have a much greater chance of a problem from NOT compressing (i.e., having an airspace between ball and powder) than you do from compressing.

August 2, 2003, 08:00 AM
Only gun I ever saw burst was a Mowry. The ball was not seated on powder. Took off top of barrel. This guy was just to my right on the line.
I was one of those nutty kids that just had to experiment. I made my first homemade powder when I was 8 or 9. I still have all body parts in reasonably functional condition at 61. Blackpowder is just one of many things you must RESPECT. If BP goes off by percussion or compression it is probably contaminated with potassium chlorate or some other substance. You will not have to worry about this with any commercial powder or any you make with due care. NEVER load anything made by a stranger. Use lint free linen patches. Don't let fouling build up. Blow down the barrel between shots. It softens fouling and the moisture puts out smolders. If you can load and shoot fast enough to get your gun hot enough to cook off you will be something I'd like to see. Hang around with serious long time shooters. You won't see many accidents, if any.:D

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