I'll Never Hear Thunder . . .

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Imacfrog

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So, I finally decided today was the day I would shot my Hawken for the first time! Being a newbie, I wanted to make sure I had all the pieces (cleaner, patches, etc.) as well as all the jags necessary in the event of a problem (ball puller, patch puller, nipple pick, etc.) I “dry” practiced the steps in firing and went over safety rules (how I would load, put the percussion cap, etc.). Watched and re-watched videos on cleaning and organized my materials before I went out to shoot!



For those thinking that I am being overly anal, please let me explain! I grew up in a home with NO guns. My sport from the age of five was archery (50+ years or so). I have shot a gun on occasion and a black powder rifle a time or two about twenty years ago. Always wanted a black powder gun! I am a teacher of American history and the allure and romanticism has always called me. This past year having finally become an “empty nester” (five kids – I wanted one, wife wanted seven-we compromised that is probably why I do not teach math!). I found a nice looking and well cared for TC Hawken after doing my research (the vast majority on this forum).



Luckily, I have enough property to set up my own little range, so I brought out all my gear took a deep breath and started my quest. I wish I could say everything went according to plan but alas that would be an exaggeration. I got everything set up. I had pre-measure the charges the previous owner said working best in the gun (good place to start, I figured). Loaded the powder (no problem), used my beaver loading board to put the ball and patch in the muzzle (so far so good), took out the starter and needed to use a little more force than I thought I would (but still everything is going well). Loaded the percussion cap on the nipple and gently lowered the hammer (I know you can see it coming). Aimed down range at the target and pulled the trigger and nothing! Pulled trigger again and still nothing! Then I realized I did not pull the hammer back (duh!), so I pulled it back and set the trigger (dual triggers), squeezed the front trigger and all I got was a pop! I froze (remembered 30 second rule!). I pried off the spent percussion cap and tried another! Yes, I remembered to pull back the hammer (I’m slow now completely clueless-LOL) and once again only a pop!



Now I’m thinking, I need to get out the bullet puller but first I need to submerge the nipple end in water to neutralize the powder; a thousand thoughts raced through my mind! Then a light bulb went on and I secured the weapon and went into the house. I immediately accessed the forum for advice and there was a nugget waiting for me to mine! "If all your getting is the percussion cap exploding, try using a nipple pick to clear the channel." Figured what do I have to lose! Took out the pick and cleared the nipple area and went back to my shooting spot. Loaded a new percussion cap, pulled hammer back, set trigger, aimed and fired (a bit prematurely) and the Hawken rumbled in my hands! NIRVANA!



I fired a total of six shots and hit the target twice, high right (using the online bear target @ 25 yards), hit the backing a little left and low twice (two distinct groups! LOL) and shot the wires off one of the clamps holding (dead center high) the target I’m using. I need to get use to the double triggers (really touchy) and calm the anticipation of the majestic rumble. I only shot six times because the next task was the cleaning which I was worried about getting right.



Needless to say, I went slowly and methodically while using a cleaning video on YouTube. Cleaning went better than expected (over an hour) and I’m sure will get better once I gain more confidence.



Long and short of the experience is I am hooked! I can’t wait to carve out some more practice time and actually develop some accuracy. Anyone have any suggestions for practice using the double set triggers? Can I put a piece of felt or leather on the nipple and dry fire the gun safely? I have to get “good” because hunting season is only4 months away! LOL



Thanks to everyone who contributes to this forum. You made it possible for a “green horn” like myself to broaden his horizons! I’ll never be able to hear thunder again without wanting to shoot my Hawken
 

Bassdog1

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I would add a little more tension to your set trigger if it is too light. I like to pop a cap or two before I load to clear the channel and I usually run a slightly wet spit patch after popping the caps. The most important thing is to keep practicing and you will get it down pretty quick.
 

Bob McBride

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Awesome post. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

As far as practicing goes, I wouldn’t dry fire your lock. Some folks do. You’ll find lots of different ways of doing things safely. Practice the sequence. Pretend you’ve just finished loading and the butt is on the ground. Start there.

(1) Raise the rifle with your left hand by the fore stock and grab the wrist with your right. Pretend to retrieve a cap and put it on.
(2) Bring the hammer to full cock.
(3) Shoulder the rifle.
(4) Set rear trigger. (Think: Finger off the front trigger until ready to fire.)
(5] Aim at something small.
(6) Deep breath.
(7) Bring your finger to the trigger but don’t pull. Say ‘bang!’.
(8) Go back to the position you were at before executing (#2) and release the hammer gently.
Repeat. Over and over and over until you get comfortable

What you need is reps. I’d also do an exercise where I visualize the loading sequence over and over to the smallest detail.

And then go shoot. A lot. Deer season is just around the bend.
 

hawkeye2

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Great first session, you overcame your problems and went on to successfully shoot. It's all downhill from there.

Take the nipple to the auto parts store and buy a foot (negligible cost) of heavy wall rubber vacuum tubing that is a snug fit where the cap goes. Cut a length such that the hammer cannot strike the nipple when you fire. You do not want any metal to metal contact.
 

Imacfrog

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I would add a little more tension to your set trigger if it is too light. I like to pop a cap or two before I load to clear the channel and I usually run a slightly wet spit patch after popping the caps. The most important thing is to keep practicing and you will get it down pretty quick.
Remembered and saw that advice after! Great learning experience.
 

Imacfrog

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Awesome post. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

As far as practicing goes, I wouldn’t dry fire your lock. Some folks do. You’ll find lots of different ways of doing things safely. Practice the sequence. Pretend you’ve just finished loading and the butt is on the ground. Start there.

(1) Raise the rifle with your left hand by the fore stock and grab the wrist with your right. Pretend to retrieve a cap and put it on.
(2) Bring the hammer to full cock.
(3) Shoulder the rifle.
(4) Set rear trigger. (Think: Finger off the front trigger until ready to fire.)
(5] Aim at something small.
(6) Deep breath.
(7) Bring your finger to the trigger but don’t pull. Say ‘bang!’.
(8) Go back to the position you were at before executing (#2) and release the hammer gently.
Repeat. Over and over and over until you get comfortable

What you need is reps. I’d also do an exercise where I visualize the loading sequence over and over to the smallest detail.

And then go shoot. A lot. Deer season is just around the bend.
Muscle memory, muscle memory, muscle memory! Quite the difference in sequence from traditional archery (recurve and cedar arrows). But there are some similarities that can be built on!
 

Zonie

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Imacfrog
It sounds like your on your way to some fun times. :)

Yes, you can safely set and "fire" your double set triggers but before you do, first make sure the hammer is all the way down on the nipple.
With the hammer in this position you can now cock the rear trigger and then "fire" it by pulling the front trigger as many times as you want to.
Doing this, you will hear a "snap" sound as the rear trigger releases and hits the sear arm on the lock. Equate that "snap" with the gun firing.

Do not do this if the hammer is at half cock because that can break the sear and/or the tumbler. Also, it's not a good idea to do it after you fully cock the hammer to the full cock position because the hammer falling on a bare nipple can crack the nipple or damage the hammer.

A lot of people do dry fire their guns at full cock after they put something on the nipple to cushion the hammer fall and if the cushion does absorb the blow of the hammer then nothing should get damaged. On the other hand, I've seen cases where the person just put a piece of leather on top of the nipple to absorb the hammer fall and they ended up with the leather being pounded into the nipple and plugging it up.

Speaking of shooting, one of the biggest problems with a new shooter getting accurate shots is, they anticipate the firing of the gun. That is, they try to second guess when it will fire and they almost always tighten up their muscles to absorb the recoil. Doing that will always move the point of aim off of the place the gun was aimed at and result in a bad shot.
The next time you shoot your gun, forget about when it will fire. Just concentrate on keeping the gun aimed at the place you want to hit and then slowly increase your finger pressure on the trigger. Let the gun worry about when it's going to fire. Don't try to resist its recoil. Just let it do "its thing".
It won't hurt you.


The second thing that makes for a poor shot is the person looks at the target. I know a bow hunter or a person who uses a bow must look at the target but doing this with a firearm is the first step towards a poor shot.
Instead of looking at the target, look at the front sight. The rear sight will be slightly blurry and the target will be blurry as well but don't worry about that.
Concentrate on the front sight and where it is at on the target. Think about aligning the front sight with the notch in the rear site and center it as well as you can.
You will be able to see the notch in the rear sight well enough to get the top of the front sight aligned with the notch and even with the top flat on the rear sight without focusing directly on it. You will also be able to see the target clearly enough to line up the front sight with it.

When it is aligned, then gently squeeze (don't jerk) the trigger.

If the set trigger is too sensitive for your liking, try using the front trigger without setting the rear trigger. The trigger pull will be a lot harder but if you just slowly increase the pressure on it when the sights are on target, sooner or later, the gun will fire and after a few shots you'll get the feel for how much pressure you need to use to fire it when you want it to fire.

Have fun. :thumb:
 

Tobie

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Before I load for the first time of the day- I set a cap, point the gun downrange and fire it. Then, I put a cap in place and get the business end down close to a leaf or blade of grass. Keeping my eye on the leaf or blade of grass- I touch it off again. If the leaf or grass blade moves, we're in business, if not- I clean out the nipple and try again. Maybe run a patch through the barrel. This may sound tedious but it's better than having to pull a ball out.
 

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HOORAYY!!! Now you can have some fun! I found that an old 9mm shell casing from the range (or local indoor? range) is a perfect fit over the #11 nipple, and gives clearance for the hammer to fall. I have one tied to my trigger guard with string, and use it to protect the nipple on my rifles. YOU CAN DRY-FIRE PRACTICE with it on the nipple to protect the nipple. It's cheap and hillbilly style, but it allows that practice anytime. JMO, of course. Tinhorn
 

Bob McBride

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Muscle memory, muscle memory, muscle memory! Quite the difference in sequence from traditional archery (recurve and cedar arrows). But there are some similarities that can be built on!
Exactly. Dad was career Army Infantry, and I was Marine Corps Infantry, so I had that way of learning down early. Besides growing up with guns in the house, getting my first two at age 7, I shot 3-gun for years. I can’t tell you the untold hours spent in my bedroom ‘Draw, raise, extend, aim, transition, transition, transition, holster’. To a timer, no less. 10,0000 times and your an expert they say.....

Keep us posted on your development.
 
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rdlowe

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Thank you for sharing your adventure with us, and welcome to the club. Be safe and have a great time. 👍
 

Imacfrog

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E


Exactly. Dad was career Army Infantry, and I was Marine Corps Infantry, so I had that way of learning down early. Besides growing up with guns in the house, getting my first two at age 7, I shot 3-gun for years. I can’t tell you the untold hours spent in my bedroom ‘Draw, raise, extend, aim, transition, transition, transition, holster’. To a timer, no less. 10,0000 times and your an expert.
The hardest part of shooting archery is the follow through which is simply to stand still! Tough to stop yourself from looking where the shot went! I’m not afraid of the boom or uncomfortable with the recoil (80 gr load) just can’t wait to hear the boom! I am still at the point where it is a novelty! LOL Have to focus on sight/target and not the gun as Zonie stated above! This is going to be a labor of love!
 

deermanct

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As an old bowman myself, I can say that there are indeed many parallels with archery and muzzleloaders. Loading, shot sequence and such.
Some good advice has been offered up here. Keep on keeping on. Good hunting.
 

Bob McBride

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The hardest part of shooting archery is the follow through which is simply to stand still! Tough to stop yourself from looking where the shot went! I’m not afraid of the boom or uncomfortable with the recoil (80 gr load) just can’t wait to hear the boom! I am still at the point where it is a novelty! LOL Have to focus on sight/target and not the gun as Zonie stated above! This is going to be a labor of love!
Yep, front sight/target, and squeeze the trigger like squeezing a newborn's hand. There's follow through on shooting rifles too. The worst habit you can get into is anticipating the shot. Squeeze gently but deliberately and let the gun do it's thing while you're still doing yours. I'd say with your background that shouldn't be an issue.
 

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Before you "submerge" the nipple or introduce water, clear the nipple and push a few grains of powder down it before putting another cap on it. I have never used a bullet puller and don't own one. As most of us have, I have dryballed my share. I have just pushed enough powder in the nipple or touch hole to fire the ball or clear a gun.
 

Zonie

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With a percussion gun, if you forget to load the powder under the ball, (dry ball) the best idea if your at a shooting range is to remove the nipple. Then, dump a little gun powder into the hole the nipple was in and try to work it down into the hole that connects the nipple with the bore.
Then, screw the nipple in, cap it, aim it in a safe direction and fire the gun.

That little amount of gunpowder will almost always blow the ball out of the barrel a good 30 yards so be careful. If it doesn't, ram the ball back down the bore and reload the cavity under the nipple and try again.

Be very careful about where you point the gun when you do this. More than a few times I thought I had forgotten to load the gun, I didn't and a full powder charge was waiting under the ball. When this happens, you will know when you hear the mighty BOOM when the powder lights.
 

87TT

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Yeah, always be safe. I have done this with the flinter too. Just kept pushing powder in the touch hole and packing it in until you don't think you can get anymore in. And as was said, make sure it the ball came all the way out or ram it back down.
 

Dale Lilly

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I keep a heavy piece of leather, triangle shape, between nipple and hammer on every gun, You can then cock and pull without damage. The triangle is elongated with long side forward. The leather does not as easily fall off when done that way, Visitors sometimes want to see how it feels to pretend … I usually let 'em. The leather should be at least 3/16" and preferably 1/4" … just my 2 1/2 cents worth. Polecat
 

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Before I load for the first time of the day- I set a cap, point the gun downrange and fire it. Then, I put a cap in place and get the business end down close to a leaf or blade of grass. Keeping my eye on the leaf or blade of grass- I touch it off again. If the leaf or grass blade moves, we're in business, if not- I clean out the nipple and try again. Maybe run a patch through the barrel. This may sound tedious but it's better than having to pull a ball out.
^Best piece of advice here.

I also concur with those using the leather/rubber to dry fire insofar as getting used to the trigger.
 

Greg Blackburn

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A friend did that....unscrewed the cleanout screw (CVA design) and packed in some fresh powder to shoot out the stuck whatever that was.

I never had to pull a ball....I am extremely OCD on most everything.

Imacfrog....congrats on your introduction to firearms. I grew up with guns but my father was not very well-versed....his training and experience was limited to the M1 Garand, 1911A1, and Browning M1919A4. In short, just what the Army taught him, the Army that pre-dated hearing protection!

Thus, I have a ringing in my left ear as my father was a great shot but not great teacher. He thought he knew more than he did but later, in high school, I met the guy that taught me about muzzleloading, target shooting, hunting, etc. If not for him, I wouldn't know much about guns at all.

Get us some pics of you muzzleloader!

Welcome to the sport.
 
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