Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Sept. 18, 2000

Kaboom! Waverly hosts black powder shoot

By Andrea Vargo

The noise is deafening, and everyone wears ear protection, as the cannons erupt with smoke and shot.

This day is reserved for cannon and mortar at the Waverly Gun, Rifle and Pistol Club annual black powder shoot.

The shoot is hosted by the First Waverly Volunteers, the black powder branch of the gun club.

Later, Ed Marketon and his wife, Florence, of Waverly, talked about the sport they love.

In the beginning, Ed and Florence shot trap every week in Montrose.

Then, they became interested in muzzle-loading rifles.

Later, they got son, Phil, and his wife, Vicki, hooked on the sport.

Ed explained that the First Waverly Volunteers are a group of people who invite black powder shooters from other clubs to join them for a weekend of camping and camaraderie.

By the end of the weekend, the shooters have black powder all over them.

While black powder shoots are a noisy and dirty way to spend a weekend, Vicki said, it is definitely a family fun time.

Ed and Phil explained that there are different kinds of guns used at the shoots, including muzzle-loading rifles and muskets, and breech-loading carbines.

The guns the Marketons shoot are Civil War era replicas.

The Hawkins Ed started with is a rifle. It uses a patch and a lead ball. A measure of powder is poured down the barrel of the rifle, a patch goes next, and the ball is last.

The ball is hammered down with a starter knob which has two sides. The second side pushes it down about four inches, Ed said. Then, a ramrod is used to push it down all the way, until it is seated.

The next step is to cock the hammer and put a percussion cap on the nipple. Then, the gun is ready to fire, he said.

"By then, the Indians have scalped you," Vickie added.

More and more, Civil War military guns are being used in the shoots.

An 1863 Springfield, 58 caliber muzzle-loading musket is a good example.

It uses grease on a bullet and has no patch. A good rifleman in the Civil War could load and shoot six rounds per minute.

The first step in loading the musket is to tear the top off a paper packet containing a measure of powder and a bullet.

The rifleman used his teeth to bite the bullet out of the paper and hold it, while he poured the powder into the gun. This is where the expression "bite the bullet" came from.

Next, grease was applied to the bullet, and it was pushed down the barrel with a ramrod.

Every black powder gun needs a complete soap and hot water bath at the end of the day, Phil said.

The powder is very corrosive, and toothbrushes and bore brushes are used to scrub out the barrel, he said.

Then comes the oil to stave off rust. This time-consuming maintenance is the reason why most people won't shoot an original, only replicas of old guns.

"Once something happens to the original, it is gone. They have served their time," Ed said.

In addition to long guns, pistols, cannons, and mortars are also used at the black powder shoots.

Cannons and mortars come in full-size and miniature. The miniatures are mostly 50 caliber and are less expensive to shoot, Ed said.

It costs about 50 cents a round for the miniatures, compared to about $10 to $15 per round for the full-size units. It takes about a quarter pound of powder for a light charge.

A full military charge is designed to hit a target at 1,000 yards, he added.

The big cannons have rifled barrels and are extremely accurate. They shoot straight ahead at a target.

Mortars lob the shot into the air in an arc to come down in a target ring.

In a cannon crew, there are usually five people, explained Florence. She is on one of the few women-only cannon crews.

Each of the crew members has a specific job to do. Someone has to pour the powder and place the ball, one sights the cannon, one is the rammer, and two people are on the wheels.

When the cannon shoots, it is pushed backwards by the force of the shot. The two wheelmen push it back up to the firing line.

Safety is very important to the shooters, Phil said.

There is a range officer that overlooks safety on the range, as well as a safety person behind each team, who checks each gun and clears the shooter to leave the firing line.

Parents need to feel the sport is safe for their youngsters, Phil explained.

Kids get some exposure to black powder shooting in their gun safety classes.

More education is needed, and parents are encouraged to come with their kids to watch and learn.

If a stranger comes to a shoot and shows interest, members like to share their knowledge. They will even let their guns be used.

It's the people involved that keep all the Marketons coming back to this sport, year after year.

Back to Current Stories Menu | Back to Archives List

Howard Lake-Waverly Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal
Stories | Columns | Classifieds | Obituaries
Community Guides | Special Topics | Cool Stuff | Search | Home Page