Why I shoot with traditional muzzle-loading rifles | New
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stephen Williamson, husband of freelance Spirit editor Bonnie Williamson, served as a range safety officer for three years at 340 Rifle and Defense Training Range near Rippon . Assistant Range Director and Colleague Responsible for Range Safety Pete Semak calls Stephen “the black powder guy.” Here’s why.
I am a bit anachronistic. I am a smoker. I don’t smoke cigarettes or cigars, but I choose to smoke a pipe. I don’t use my cell phone to tell the time, but I wear an analog winding pocket watch. I’m even writing this little essay by cursive hand using a fountain pen. I like target shooting, but I avoid modern sport rifles like the semi-automatic AR-15. I much prefer to shoot with traditional muzzleloader black powder rifles.
There are several reasons why I choose to shoot black powder rifles.
The first reason has to do with the ritual involved. Just like smoking the pipe where I load tobacco, apply a match, cup then relight, with black powder I have to load powder, put a lubricated patch on the muzzle, center a round ball on the patch, seat the ball with a short starter then press the patched ball onto the powder with the wiping stick (wand). I then place a percussion capsule on the nipple (for percussion rifles) or prime the pan, close the frizzen (for flintlock rifles) then put the rooster full tail before aiming and shooting.
The second reason I love black powder shooting is its touch of history. I can feel the story when I shoot a black powder rifle. I use the same gunpowder that was used during the Civil War, Revolution, and French and Indian War. I shoot with a rifle very similar to those carried by the first settlers of this country.
The last reason I shoot black powder is her connection to my family. My father’s ancestors settled in Lancaster County, Pa., In 1733. They pushed on to Cumberland County, Pa., But were driven back by Indian attacks.
My fourth and fifth great-grandfathers fought both in the French and Indian wars and during the Revolution. They took part and were honored for their role in the Battle of Point Pleasant in West Virginia. They were also among the first settlers of the Ohio Valley in West Virginia.
Three of my great-great-grandfathers enlisted in the 14th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.
When I shoot black powder rifles, I feel the same recoil that my ancestors felt. I smell the same aroma of smoke that they smelled. The act of shooting brings me a little closer to my parents.
Yes. I’m a little out of touch with this modern world, but I experience the past in a way that can never be taught in the history books.