1997-12-23 - Re: Lock and Load (fwd)

Header Data

From: “Michael H. Warfield” <mhw@wittsend.com>
To: ravage@ssz.com
Message Hash: 8c2244e1b9d71b7652605a10ee21c55f70f9eee86abcbb9026d920aaadfede38
Message ID: <199712230450.XAA01360@alcove.wittsend.com>
Reply To: <199712230241.UAA21609@einstein.ssz.com>
UTC Datetime: 1997-12-23 04:56:28 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 23 Dec 1997 12:56:28 +0800

Raw message

From: "Michael H. Warfield" <mhw@wittsend.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 1997 12:56:28 +0800
To: ravage@ssz.com
Subject: Re: Lock and Load (fwd)
In-Reply-To: <199712230241.UAA21609@einstein.ssz.com>
Message-ID: <199712230450.XAA01360@alcove.wittsend.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Jim Choate enscribed thusly:
> Forwarded message:

> > 	The reference goes back to old flint lock muzzle loaders.  You would
> > "lock" the firing mechanism in a safety position (kind of a half cocked
> > position), then load it through the muzzle (picture this and some old
> > cartoons about raming a ball on top of gun powder down the muzzle of a
> > riffle and the possiblities to picture why you would want this locked on
> > "safety"), then finish cocking the rifle to prepare it to fire.  This also
> > relates to the term "half cocked" since a rifle that was only half cocked
> > (in its locked position) was not ready to fire.  So going off "half cocked"
> > became a reference to going into something unprepared while "lock and load"
> > evolved into a reference to actively or vigorously preparing to engage in
> > something, be it a battle, an arguement, or what ever...

> This is only partialy correct, the fact is that half-cocked simply means the
> pan-head is down or covered so if the flint strikes the firing plate a spark
> will not be propogated into the firing chamber (a hole in the side of the
> barrel) and hence fire the weapon. Firing one of these weapons is a two step
> process once loaded and aimed. Pull the hammer back and remove the pan-head.
> The pan-head is *always* opened just prior to firing in order to eliminate
> as many causes of a mis-fire (eg rain hitting the pan-head or wind blowing
> the primer charge out of the pan-head) as possible.

	Agreed to all technical specifics of the muzzle loaders.

> Traditionaly (as I was tought anyway) 'half-cocked' meant you didn't carry
> through all the way in preperations to the final goal. It is clear that it
> has taken on much broader meaning relating to general incompetance and
> over-zealousness.


> "Lock and load" is not in any of the infantry manuals I have ever seen from
> before the mid-1800's. And in every case it refered to a modern weapon not
> a muzzle load weapon. If anyone can point to an exception I would
> appreciate it. In all of them it refers to safety'ing the weapon and then
> loading a round into the chamber. It originaly came into use because of the
> operation of a bolt-action rifle. If the gun wasn't on safety when the bolt
> was driven home there was a small but real chance the firing pin (in the
> back of the bolt you just jammed down with some zeal) would go off and cause
> the weapon to mis-fire (if you and your buddy are both lucky - you missed
> both of you).

	Can't point to any specific manual.  This was explained to me by
some of the "so called" experts on early firearms who give demonstrations
down here at some of the battlefield monuments and parks here in Georgia.
This is what "the experts" have claimed.  Can't personally claimed to have
read it in any specific manual myself.

> As to the loading of the ball onto the gun-powder - you won't do it the way
> described above but once. The black powder will go off on about the 3rd tap
> and you won't have the two hands it takes to load a muzzle-loader. If you
> *ever* load a black powder be *absolutely shure* that there is a ball pad
> between the gun powder and the ball. It is *not* there for barrell sealing
> or some other silly explanation - it's there to inhibit compressive
> explosion of the black powder. Don't believe it, go down to the hardware or
> feed store and buy a small can of black powder. Then get a 3/4" pipe and
> cap. Put only one or two flakes of the black powder on the threads and then
> tighten with a pipe wrench (wear gloves, glasses, and apron). After about a
> half turn or so you should hear a distinct snapping sound. This is the black
> powder going off. This is what will happen if black powder gets between the
> ball and barrel while you're tapping - and there's a *lot* more gunpowder
> than a couple of flakes to take your hand (and your face if you're silly
> enough to be leaning over the barrel which is where not looking down the
> barrel of a gun comes from).

	I have loaded and "touch off" a Kentucky long rifle.  Admittedly,
percusive caps have replaced the old lock and flint so some of the issues are
different.  I do, however, follow the rules.  Yes the wadding goes in, which
ever reason you accept, and yours is just as good (if not better) than the
others.  I also happen to have an friend who happen to be very much into
muzzle loaders as well as reloading his own shells for conventional arms.
This friend happened to have a fire in his house about five years ago.
As he tells the story, the fire burned the paint off the outside of the can
of smokeless powder sitting on a shell in his basement but did not expedite
his journey into discovering the nature of life beyond.  I personally would
not recommend subjecting such substances to such abuses of heat and pressure,
but some are known to get away with it and still live to tell the tale.

> Also, those guns didn't have safeties to engage. There was really only two
> ways to enshure a safe weapon once loaded - either have the panhead closed
> or take the flint or steel blade out of the hammer. Even when un-cocked the
> hammer and blade rests on the firing plate and any stiff strike will cause a
> spark. Easy to demonstrate - while holding one simply strike the hammer with
> the heel of your hand while in the dark - that little spark is what blew
> your face off.

> You can buy working 'Brown Bessie' models at most any gun or decent hobby
> store. They're cheap (around $100 last time I looked), loud, smelly, and
> loads of fun...

	I personally like the Kentucky Longs you can build from kits.  Will
throw and impressive 1/4" lead ball and leave one hell of an impression when
it arrives...

> Merry Christmas!


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 Michael H. Warfield    |  (770) 985-6132   |  mhw@WittsEnd.com
  (The Mad Wizard)      |  (770) 925-8248   |  http://www.wittsend.com/mhw/
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