Author Topic: Black Powder Accident #2  (Read 13453 times)

Offline T*O*F

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Black Powder Accident #2
« on: November 13, 2009, 11:30:33 PM »
I have several friends who shoot N-SSA competitions.  Last weekend was their company's turn to host the Deep South Regional match.  The host company does not shoot in the match, but receives a set number of points because of all the work involved.  I received a last minute phone call to assist them because they were short handed....one heart attack, a death of one's father, and one down with the flu.

Saturday afternoon during the smoothbore competition, a cook-off occurred.  Original .69 cal. musket, 6th shot of the relay, breech had been scraped and barrel cleaned after the individual competitions on Friday.

The load had been seated and he was in the process of removing the ramrod when the cook-off occurred.  The ball struck the ramrod and flexed it, causing it to enter the meaty part of the left index finger between the knuckle and the first joint.  The entire rod passed thru his finger (including the tulip) but did not hit any bone.  It was never found.  Closely behind, the ball hit the tip of the same finger removing a large chunk of skin and breaking it in 3 places.

During the incident report, he and all witnesses were interviewed.  Everyone agreed that he followed all safety procedures to the letter and could find no fault to be placed.  The fact that the ramrod was partially withdrawn when the cook-off happened seemed to be the mitigating factor, causing the steel ramrod to flex.    Had it occurred at the bottom, chances are that he would only have sustained powder burns and/or some bruising.

He was treated at the local hospital and opted to obtain further needed surgery and repairs when he returned home the next morning.
Dave Kanger

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roundball

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2009, 12:05:23 AM »

"...a cook-off occurred...Original .69 cal. musket, 6th shot of the relay.
Breech had been scraped and barrel cleaned after the individual competitions on Friday.
The load had been seated and he was in the process of removing the ramrod when the cook-off occurred..."


If I'm understanding the scenario correctly:

A clean bore had been fired 6 times with no problems;
A 7th powder charge was dropped and the powder did not ignite at that time;
A paper or cloth patch and ball were seated and the powder did not ignite at that time;
Then as the ramrod was being withdrawn the musket fired;

Offline T*O*F

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2009, 12:35:02 AM »
Quote
A clean bore had been fired 6 times with no problems;
A 7th powder charge was dropped and the powder did not ignite at that time;
A paper or cloth patch and ball were seated and the powder did not ignite at that time;
Then as the ramrod was being withdrawn the musket fired;
Essentially correct except he had fired 5 times and was loading the 6th shot.  All their loads are pre-measured and kept in their cartridge pouch.  Further, they are required to leave the spent primer from the previous shot in place while loading and the gun is capped while bringing the gun to the ready position.
Dave Kanger

If religion is opium for the masses, the internet is a crack, pixel-huffing orgy that deafens the brain, numbs the senses and scrambles our peer list to include every anonymous loser, twisted deviant, and freak as well as people we normally wouldn't give the time of day.
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roundball

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2009, 12:59:41 AM »
I never take lightly that sports/hobbies like these have inherent danger, but I do try to truly "understand" how things can happen and is why I ask questions to ensure I really have it clear...I can only have a better appreciation of the severity of something if I understand it in detail, etc, etc.

So looking at this trying to determine the ignition source possibilities, if the spent cap was still on the nipple no external souce could be the cause because it couldn't "get in there"...so if that's really true, it had to be internal.
But ieems like an awfully long time for blackpowder to be sitting on an internal ignition source like a "glowing ember".

But if "ALL" safety practices had been followed, then how did this actually occur?
A conclusion is swabbing between shots is NOT a required safety practice?
Do these same events allow "blowing down bore" after a shot?

Not a pushback at you TOF, I just really get exasperated over hearing of these "accidents" which include claims that "all safety measues were followed".....it just doesn't compute to me as there has to be a cause & effect for everything.

Offline T*O*F

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2009, 01:55:47 AM »
Quote
But if "ALL" safety practices had been followed, then how did this actually occur?  A conclusion is swabbing between shots is NOT a required safety practice?
Do these same events allow "blowing down bore" after a shot?

These are timed events called "skirmishes" and last from 2-5 minutes depending on the number of targets and men in a squad.  Cook-offs are a fairly common occurence, but this is the first that ever resulted in an injury other than scorched fingers.  No part of the body is ever allowed in front of the muzzle, they drill until it is 2nd nature, and infractions are heavily dealt with.  Obviously they do not blow down the bore, as this would require placing a body part over the muzzle.  Nor do they wipe between shots....they load just as a soldier in a skirmish line would have done.

The factor in this accident was timing, having occurred as the ramrod was being withdrawn, causing the rod to flex.  It was never found.  Over 10,000 rounds were fired over the weekend.  A cook-off is more likely to occur during a smoothbore match since they are shooting bare balls with a greater likelihood of fouling because they fire more shots per man due to the smoothbore being less accurate.  However, they also occur in the carbine and musket matches too.
Dave Kanger

If religion is opium for the masses, the internet is a crack, pixel-huffing orgy that deafens the brain, numbs the senses and scrambles our peer list to include every anonymous loser, twisted deviant, and freak as well as people we normally wouldn't give the time of day.
-S.M. Tomlinson

Offline bob in the woods

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 02:36:00 AM »
Are the premeasured charges held in paper?  A bit of paper can smolder while the paper itself isolates the powder from the hot spot. As the burn progresses, the powder will eventually ignite.
I'm not a fan of leaving the cap on the nipple while loading. I like to see a nice clear vent etc with no evidence of "smoldering" before I dump a charge down a barrel.

Lon Baugh

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2009, 03:12:24 AM »
What is the reason for not removing the spent cap? I don't know what difference it may mean as far as safety but I have always pushed my ball down the barrel with the cap off and hammer at halfcock. I'm used to hearing a bit of air escape if ear plugs aren't in.   

Offline TPH

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2009, 03:26:58 AM »
".....he was in the process of removing the ramrod when the cook-off occurred"

and

"having occurred as the ramrod was being withdrawn, causing the rod to flex"

Those confuse me a bit. Was the rod being removed from the ramrod channel in preparation for ramming or was it being removed from the bore after ramming? And how did the rod flex? Was it from the explosion of the charge blowing the ball and ramrod out?

I have friends that are N-SSA members and avid shooters at the various events, local, regional and national. Cook-offs are not uncommon at skirmishes sanctioned by the N-SSA and you are right, because they use GREAT care and follow militarily prescribed loading methods pretty closely, injuries other than singed fingers are rare. Sorry he had to be the exception.
T.P. Hern

Offline TPH

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2009, 03:32:40 AM »
What is the reason for not removing the spent cap? I don't know what difference it may mean as far as safety but I have always pushed my ball down the barrel with the cap off and hammer at halfcock. I'm used to hearing a bit of air escape if ear plugs aren't in.   

The cap remaining on the cone is to avoid exactly what you want to hear - the flow of air that can and will feed a glowing ember. It reduces the chance of air flow through the barrel and reduces the possibility of premature ignition, especially when ramming the ball. Leaving a spent cap on the cone is prescribed in period military manuals and makes a lot of sense when you think about.
T.P. Hern

Offline Roger Fisher

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2009, 03:56:06 AM »
Hot barrel due to speed shooting ???  Could that have caused the 'cookoff'.  The description "cookoff" is in itself a clue?

I dislike speed shooting events for many reasons, safety being the main one!

roundball

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2009, 04:08:04 AM »
OK, they were strictly following period specific practices, so the statement:

".....Everyone agreed that he followed all safety procedures to the letter and could find no fault to be placed....."

is in that period specific context, not necessarily the context of modern day safety considerations.

Side note:
I understand the spent cap thing...cannoneers did the same thing by plugging the vent with their leather covered thumb when swabbing or reloading a cannon.

I do as much of my range shooting as possible without wiping between shots and as one attempt to minimize unexpected damage to my hand/fingers, all my range rods have a large 2" smooth wooden ball on top which I assume/hope will force my hand/fingers back out out of the way with minimum trauma in case there's an AD.
By contrast an antler or brass T-handle would probably rip fingers off.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2009, 04:17:59 AM by roundball »

Offline Jerry V Lape

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2009, 07:09:53 AM »
As with all such reports it seems there are so many  unlikely details.  For example:  If he was pulling the rod how did he not have the end of the rod above his index finger? Try pulling a rod without having a grip on it between your thumb and index finger and you see what I mean.  Next, since the rod was launched at something around 1200ft per second just how did he detect that the rod flexed?  At that speed the rod was about as fast as the flash of a flintlock, and we don't see that long enough to record it mentally?  I have no doubt his index finger was badly lacerated but doubt the rod passed through it as stated.  More likely the ball did most of the damage to the finger.  Unless the scenario below is considered. 

How about maybe he was bouncing a  metal rod on the ball when it discharged and wasn't a cook off but a detonation caused by percussion - the hot barrel making the powder more sensitive to the percussion?  The most common element I see in any accident (blackpowder or otherwise) is the parties involved tend to setup circumstances  afterward to deflect attention from what really happened.  It is hard on the ego to admit having screwed up - I fully appreciate that aspect. 

I am thankful the injuries weren't  more serious and hope the  healing is w/o complications. 
« Last Edit: November 14, 2009, 07:28:08 AM by Jerry V Lape »

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2009, 07:31:29 AM »
I wonder if he was using some of that cheap "re-enactor" powder or other cheap stuff.
Then I would wonder what its fouling characteristic are and if the old barrel is pitted and fouls heavily as a result.
Many questions.

Dan
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northmn

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2009, 03:42:11 PM »
Many years ago in Bemidji we had an individual blow down the barrel before reloading as many did back then to see if his barrel was clear and smoke would come out the nipple.  He must have set off some unburnt powder as his eyebrows got singed and his face burnt.  Luckily he wore glasses.  BP can do funny things at times.  When I first got into shooting flintlocks I had a couple of misfires due to a dull flint.  I replaced the flint and held the rifle to see if it would spark.  No primer, but the thing went off and peppered me with flash from the vent.  Lesson learned the hard way. Soem of the rules we learn today came from incidents like that.  I agree with Roger and feel that speed events are accidents waiting to happen.

DP 

Daryl

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2009, 09:35:09 PM »
Definitely presents more questions than answers. As to blowing down the bore after the shot is fired, only to ignite MORE powder still in the bore - I don't believe that one - not for a second.

As to firing a shot with no priming in the pan - I've done that one myself and ignition was instantaneous - or at least seemed that way.  Piece fo super heated frizzen material must have entered the vent is all that would take. Unlikely, but it happens - at times.

Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2009, 10:27:40 PM »
The story may have been altered for insurance reasons.

Remember the recent story of the fellow downrange getting hit by a ramrod from a cannon? The story said that the rr fell across the muzzle just as the gun went off. The wind must have knocked the rr over, was their best guess.

If this is accepted by the insurance companies and the naive public at large, then the events may be able to continue.

Tom
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Ramrod scrapers are all sold out.

northmn

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2009, 02:50:36 AM »
Definitely presents more questions than answers. As to blowing down the bore after the shot is fired, only to ignite MORE powder still in the bore - I don't believe that one - not for a second.

You should believe it because that is what happened.  Several witnesses. Never could figure out why?  Possibly he shot without a ball?

DP

Offline Dennis Glazener

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2009, 03:26:51 AM »
Quote
As to firing a shot with no priming in the pan - I've done that one myself and ignition was instantaneous - or at least seemed that way.  Piece fo super heated frizzen material must have entered the vent is all that would take. Unlikely, but it happens - at times.
I have had this happen also, was working on a rifle/lock that would not fire half the time. I thought the lock was not sparking at all so I purposely left the priming out of the pan and held the rifle barrel down range (I was by myself) but tilted it so I could see how the lock was sparking and low and behold it fired perfectly!  I am sure there was NO priming in the pan. Barrel did have a white lighting liner in it!
Dennis
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Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2009, 04:36:28 AM »
Quote
As to firing a shot with no priming in the pan - I've done that one myself and ignition was instantaneous - or at least seemed that way.  Piece fo super heated frizzen material must have entered the vent is all that would take. Unlikely, but it happens - at times.
I have had this happen also, was working on a rifle/lock that would not fire half the time. I thought the lock was not sparking at all so I purposely left the priming out of the pan and held the rifle barrel down range (I was by myself) but tilted it so I could see how the lock was sparking and low and behold it fired perfectly!  I am sure there was NO priming in the pan. Barrel did have a white lighting liner in it!
Dennis

Some years ago my wife and I were in Dixon's shop one evening.  He was looking over an old original flintlock rifle some guy brought in to sell.  Dixon took his word that it was not loaded.  So Chuck is back at his work bench checking the lock.  Made it spark.  Rifle fired sending a ball through the ceiling up into the loft.

A few years ago at the range.  I had my flinter loaded.  Would not fire.  Clean the pan and wiped it with a cloth.  Point down range and cycled the lock.  Gun discharged.  The flame out the vent got my right hand around the thumb and first finger.  Ever since I have been carrying this neat powder tattoo on the hand.
But when it happened it was like in slow motion.  Saw the flame out the vent hitting my hand.  Felt nothing.  Then nothing out of the vent and my hand was smoking.  brain kicked in at that point.  Had a bottle of water on the shooting bench.  Poured it on smoking hand and put out the powder grains stuck in the flesh that were still burning, though very slowly.

That gave me a little taste of what I had read about torture with a musket where the Indians would simply load powder and fire it into a captive's skin at close range.

The lesson learned was that anytime I work on a loaded flintlock and work on the lock a tooth pick goes into the vent.

Bill K.

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2009, 09:15:20 AM »
Many years ago in Bemidji we had an individual blow down the barrel before reloading as many did back then to see if his barrel was clear and smoke would come out the nipple.  He must have set off some unburnt powder as his eyebrows got singed and his face burnt.  Luckily he wore glasses.  BP can do funny things at times.  When I first got into shooting flintlocks I had a couple of misfires due to a dull flint.  I replaced the flint and held the rifle to see if it would spark.  No primer, but the thing went off and peppered me with flash from the vent.  Lesson learned the hard way. Soem of the rules we learn today came from incidents like that.  I agree with Roger and feel that speed events are accidents waiting to happen.

DP 

if he was blowing down the barrel when it fired he would have had more problems than singed eyebrows.
I cannot imagine unburned powder remaining after the shot is fired. Too much heat in the barrel when the rest of the charge is burning.

I have seen sparks go in a vent. Fortunately there was only enough powder in the gun the scare the $#@* out of me since I was LOOKING in the vent at the time. I had pulled a load and gotten all the powder out, I thought, all that occured was a small ffsst. But it still blew gas out the vent.
I was old enough to know better but brain was apparently not working past the "check the spark" mode.
Dan
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northmn

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2009, 02:56:33 PM »
After that incident the Bemidji club was very strict about not blowing down the barrel.  I have seen it done without incident so many times I cannot count.  maybe he wet swabbed and it took a bit for some powder to dry out.  He also suffered some facial burns.  BP is funny stuff.  I cannot explain why or how just that it happened.  There was a lot of socialization on the range at that time, which also can cause problems due to inattentiveness.

DP

Offline hanshi

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2009, 08:55:40 PM »
On more than one occasion I've fired my flintlock without priming.  In those instances a few kernels of powder made their way into the pan; wasn't much.  But just to see I pulled the trigger and it fired normally.  I did this intentionally just to see if it would  fire and indeed it did.  My belief is still that a well sparking lock/flint can fire an unprimed gun.  Even if no powder kernels exit the vent a spark can make it's way to the main charge given enough tries.
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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2009, 09:30:21 PM »
On more than one occasion I've fired my flintlock without priming.  In those instances a few kernels of powder made their way into the pan; wasn't much.  But just to see I pulled the trigger and it fired normally.  I did this intentionally just to see if it would  fire and indeed it did.  My belief is still that a well sparking lock/flint can fire an unprimed gun.  Even if no powder kernels exit the vent a spark can make it's way to the main charge given enough tries.

I had heard that a flintlock would fire with no prime, but didn't believe it until I tried it, just to see if it would fire. My gun fired on  the second strike of the frizzen, with absolutely nothing in the pan but air. I'm now a believer...and the lock doesn't necessarily need to be a good sparker.

God bless

Offline Frizzen

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2009, 12:32:28 AM »
This is "Nothing in pan but air"   You can see why it would fire. This is just a small "Becky"
pistol lock. A larger rifle lock would have lots more fire in the pan.
The Pistol Shooter

Mike R

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Re: Black Powder Accident #2
« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2009, 04:55:44 PM »
This is one reason we require wet swabbing between shots out of our cannon and some sites additionally require 3 min between shots [we often repeat shots in half that time, but insist on good swabbing techniques].  Of course it is  easier for embers to remain in a cannon--and we shoot large amounts of powder at a time [typically >2600 gr].  As I usually swab between shots from my rifles, I suspect such a cook-off will be extremely unlikely for me.  But I wonder about some of you who say they shoot 50 times without swabbing...I wish y'all no harm and good luck!  A rare accident, but preventable.