Blackpowder firearms are loved by many collectors and history enthusiasts alike, but they are often shunned by some Homesteaders. Truth be told, they are an entirely different realm of firearms and mastery will take some time and practice. However, there are a substantial number of benefits to blackpowder weapons that make them an ideal inclusion for both the happy Homesteader and anyone else living off the grid.
No firearms collection would, in my humble estimation, be complete without at least a varied selection of blackpowder firearms. There are some drawbacks, and those will be considered first, if nothing else, for weeding out those people who are just looking for an excuse to validate their exclusion of these invaluable firearms in their collections.
After that however, a host of benefits will be revealed, some which may have not been considered even by the most die-hard and ardent Homesteaders and others who may decide to live completely off the grid.
Blackpowder firearms do not shoot like modern firearms and for those who are prone to flinching, or who may otherwise have a difficult time holding modern firearms steady, the blackpowder firearms will likely be a very difficult weapon to master. For those who are so inclined as to flinch, when the firing cap discharges, any immediate flinching or other motion will be effected before the round has the time to leave the barrel.
Thus, the barrel pointing in a different location when the round is discharged will result in a miss virtually every time. A few empty breeches with nothing more than a firing cap “loaded” on the weapon may assist in putting an end to some flinching, but it is only one method and will not always work.
Blackpowder firearms are exceedingly challenging for the novice shooter to reload. While this alone is a major deterrent for many people who otherwise love to go shooting, in my mind, this is actually something of a benefit as in my case when I was young, it forced me to ensure my shots before I squeezed the trigger.
It has been said that “The Queen’s Own” troops could fire up to three rounds per minute, and if this was in fact the case, it was very impressive indeed for the day, and it is no wonder that their large, linear formations were so effective at mowing down their competition on the battlefield.
Still, it should be noted, that a relatively small number of hillbillies, swamp-dwellers and other “simpletons” (at least in the minds of the British) were able, with substantially smaller numbers, to effectively decapitate these major advances by being able to more accurately control their shots. Some used rifled muskets and others used much the same weapons (The Brown Bess, a seventy-five caliber flintlock firearm) selectively targeting the officers of the British Corps.
In short, learning how to aim and how to control their shots and maximizing their efficiency with these “primitive” weapons, these men were able to completely and radically change the face of Modern Warfare … a fact which should never have been lost on many of the European nations during the blood baths of World War One.
Blackpowder firearms are also notoriously difficult to clean, at least in comparison with modern firearms. The barrels should be removed, boiling water poured through them, and the barrels swabbed out completely. Once dried, preferably over heat, they then need to be oiled inside and out.
This is a lot more work than some people are willing to go through just to pop off a few rounds as it were, and not being practiced or experienced in such matters, they may initially believe that it is just more work than it is worth all the way around.
Blackpowder pistols are generally even worse as half-burnt powder residue can easily build up around the cylinder and force the revolver to jam while cycling the cylinder or cause it to have a misfire during general operations. Neither experience will be pleasant and six rounds all going off at the same time, can in fact be quite dangerous.
While there may be some rightful consternation regarding the efficacy of blackpowder firearms, there are far too many benefits and good things that more than outweigh a little extra loving care and attention and a little bit more practice to master the art of blackpowder shooting.
In the here and now, under the current system of governance, oversight and occasional oppression, there is one added benefit that should not be overlooked.
The ownership of and the ability to properly wield a blackpowder firearm generally opens up options for an added deer tag during hunting season. Hunting season is often opened up to Blackpowder shooters alone, either right before or just after the regular hunting season. I do not know about you, or even where you live, but where I grew up, that often meant an extra couple of hundred pounds of meat for the cost of a single lead round that was probably made from a discarded tire weight anyhow.
That extra meat on the table alone should make blackpowder firearms a more viable and meaningful option for everyone from the environmentally conscious homesteader to the staunchest of outdoor survivalists. Additional Blackpowder hunts are also allowed from time to time in more limited locales, but it will be up to the individual to discover which blackpowder hunting events are allowed in their local area.
Blackpowder can generally be purchased in bulk by re-enactors and others interested in the art, without attracting very much unwanted attention from the authorities or the proverbial “powers that be”. With modern firearms, I can easily burn through a thousand rounds in a day on the firing range. Ten thirty round magazines loaded up when I get there are burned through pretty quickly.
If I have a friend with me, a couple of thousand rounds in a single day is not unheard of. While that box of ten thousand rounds may look “scary” to some of the more urban dwellers in “civilized society”, for me it is little more than a month or two of weekends well spent.
While blackpowder firearms generally take substantially longer to shoot, this also means that my powder reserves and even my reserve of primers, will last a lot longer than more modern ammo and firearms. When I go in to the store and purchase five pounds of modern powder, there is all sorts of paperwork involved.
When purchasing large stocks of blackpowder for a reenactment group, there is generally very little in the ways of anything more than a raised eyebrow and a smile and perhaps a cup of coffee and some good conversation.
Along this line, it is preferable also to have included in this antique weapons collection, a mix of both cap and ball weapons that use brass primers, in addition to flintlock weapons. Even if ten thousand caps do last longer than ten thousand rounds of modern ammo, they will eventually burn out. A well stocked selection of flintlocks need only be primed with a small amount of finer gunpowder or priming powder, and a piece of flint that should be readily available, even decades after a SHTF scenario should the dreaded Zombie Apocalypse occur as predicted by some.
Even under that, the worst of all possible scenarios, while others are rapidly running out of ammunition, a collection of flintlocks can be kept charged for as long as the firearms themselves can be maintained. Both flint and the ingredients for black powder are available in abundance in the natural world around us.
The lead is readily available and can be stored in sealed containers that prevents any real danger of lead poisoning. Molds for different sizes, types and calibers of rounds are readily available. Lead is easily smelted, even without the benefit of an electronic smelter necessary for other metals. Used tire weights are probably the most readily available source, but lead can also be purchased in bulk, again without raising any alarms or unwanted attention from the proverbial powers that be.
At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, I do not think any useful collection of firearms would be complete without the inclusion of both cap and ball and the flintlock firearms in both pistol and long arm configurations.
Besides, think of how much fun it will be, even for the professional shooter, to re-learn and remaster the art of blackpowder shooting? A bad day on the range still beats a good day at work any day!