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First Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA

Only a small part of the exterior and interior exibits are shown from the Mother Earth News first Fair at the Seven Springs Resourt.

  Why has The Mother Earth News, a  magazine born in the early 1970s,  progressed from a limited-distribution newsprint publication to a glossy full-color publication with a rapidly expanding readership when most print media are losing circulation?

  Like most successful ventures, the publication has evolved to increase its potential audience and risen to meet the challenges of the times. It was birthed when environmental awareness was awakened and the world was threatened with nuclear destruction. Now the threat is environmental warming, and practical information on how to grow your own food and live a more sustainable lifestyle is in high demand. The magazine’s twin “back to nature” and “self-reliance” messages have attracted new audiences who are as interested in wind turbines as heirloom tomatoes. 

Cheryl Long, Editor in Chief, for Mother Earth News giving a presentation on gardening.

  The present Editor in Chief of the publication is Cheryl Long, who might also be appropriately titled “Grandmother to the World.”  Unlike the grandmotherly image of an older lady fussing around the kitchen preparing a holiday meal, she is responsible for assembling and publishing the magazine and also handling the publication’s newsletters, blogs and events.  The most recent Mother Earth event was the first Mother Earth News Fair that was held in rural Pennsylvania at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort on Sept. 25-26, 2010.

  Like many of us in the media business who are coping with rapidly changing modern technology, she “had her adventures” during the Fair attempting to coordinate not only the magazine staff and their assignments, but also trying to get  i-pads, cell phones, flip cameras, video cameras and computers to communicate with each other while also making presentations.  She exercised a steadying  hand with her editors and IT staff during these technological glitches, rather than degrading into unproductive shouting matches and recriminations.  

  The News Fair featured renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, cooking real food, organic gardening, green transportation, green building, modern homesteading and harmonious living with the natural world.  Included were seminars, speakers, demonstrations, fun events for children as well as  outside venues for an eclectic mix of animals, solar, wind and water-capture technologies. One of the oldest, and most welcome, pieces of technology was an old one-lunger that powered a pair of  ice-cream churns that provided a cooling treat on two unusually hot September days.    

  Not only were people drawn to some of the marvels of modern technology, but a pair of enormous draft horses that the Amish work every day to extract timber from the nearby mountains and two sets of alpacas drew immediate attention. The animals seemed as much interested in people-watching as the people did in animal-watching.     

  As I write this in the early morning of the second day of the fair, attendance figures are not available. However, many speakers spoke to standing-room-only crowds, with some attendees driving over 1,000 miles for the event.

  I spoke to a number of participants and exhibitors. The exhibitors were universally pleased with the large audience.  The only regrets that I heard from those who attended was that that they could not go to all the sessions that they wanted to hear in only two days.

  With the experienced gained from holding one successful fair, Long said that plans were under way to hold three or four fairs next year in different geographic areas.   If the present fair is any indication, I have little doubt that these will attract similar vendors and a similarly enthusiastic audience.

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A Big-Game Load for The Nepalese Brunswick Rifle

After the bore was lapped, the Nepalese Brunswick rifle shot reasonable 40-yard groups with the belted ball.

  Lapping the Nepalese Brunswick Rifle’s bore with sand and emery papers was necessary to remove sharp ridges of metal from the bore so that  the rifle would shoot accurately enough to kill game at 40 yards . These metal ridges stood on either side of the barrel’s two grooves, tore-up patches and ruined accuracy with both round and belted balls.

  Shooting round balls, belted balls and hollow-based bullets were tried before lapping the barrel. These results were recorded on five previous videos. Some are on older postings on this blog and all are on YouTube.  These titles are: “Cleaning and Shooting the Brunswick Rifle,” “A Mold for The Brunswick Rifle,” “Casting Belted Balls for the Brunswick Rifle,” “Targeting the Nepalese Brunswick Rifle” and “Elongate Bullets and the Brunswick Rifle.”

  Previous work illustrated that using an 11-gauge over powder wad (available from Dixie Gun Works), Cream of  Wheat breakfast cereal (any American grocery store), and a lubricated (Thompson/Center Arms Bore Butter) cotton pillow-tiking patch (used for covering feather pillows) resulted in arguably improved results; but these were terrible, at best. Hollow-based bullets , if  from special molds that would give comparatively light-weight bullets (like Buffalo Bullet’s Ball-Et), as used by Russia in their versions of the Brunswick Rifle, might work in the rough Nepalese barrels; but I do not have the capabilities to make such bullets. If someone else has the time and equipment to experiment with making such a mold, get in touch. This would be nice to have, but I do not think that there would be sales for more  than 20 or so molds worldwide.

First three-shot group at 30 yards after bore lapping.

 Jeff Tanner, the British mold maker, suggested that I clean up the barrel to remove these bothersome metal ridges. I put some sand and emery paper on a 12-gauge shotgun jag, chucked a shotgun cleaning rod into a hand drill and lapped the barrel. After the first clean-up of the bore, I fired a few shots at a Tide box at short range.  This test shooting gave  a 2-inch, three-shot group at 30-yards, rather than the almost random scatter that I had seen before. More lapping was done, and recorded  on the video, “A Big-Game Load for the Nepalese Brunswick Rifle which on YouTube at the following location:

 I now have sufficient confidence that I can successfully hunt with the gun, and I intend

After the third shot fouling prevented accurate shooting.

 to use it on whitetail deer during Georgia’s black-powder deer hunting season which starts in about 10 days. My shots are most often well within the demonstrated 40-yard range where I can expect the gun to produce 3-inch groups. After casting some harder lead balls to insure deeper penetration, I may even take the Brunswick rifle on an elk hunt, but I want to discover  more about load performance before using the gun on heavier animals.

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Can I Hunt with my Cowboy Action Guns and Loads?

Should these guns and loads be used on game?

  Tempting is certainly not to strong a work to describe a Cowboy-Action shooter’s desire to bust something with his guns besides balloons and paper plates. After all, these guns are newly made, Action participants fire more rounds through them in a single event than hunters do in years; and aren’t these more-or-less  the same loads that were used to tame the American West?

  All of this is quite true, and the answer is, “it depends.” Forget using all pistol calibers below .44-caliber for use on anything but small game. They are just too, too puny. With these you can take jackrabbits, but that is about it. Moving up ever slightly in power to the .44 Henry Rimfire, this one is a dud too – small game only. I don’t care of Kevin Costner was shown killing a buffalo in its tracks with one shot  in “Dancing With Wolves,” that puny .44  would have just made that huge buffalo mad. I have killed bison, and I did not do it with a .44 rimfire.

Georgia doe taken with home-cast bullets in black-powder equivalent loads in .45-70.

The .44-40 and .45 L.C., can be used with considerable care on deer-sized game in states where they are legal; but SHOULD YOU. With hot loads of smokeless powders and expanding bullets their performance is considerably enhanced to bring them up to 30 and 50-yard deer killers, provided bullet placement is OPTIMUM. Some guns, particularly the weak Winchester 1873s, should not be stressed with anything more than low-pressure loads.

Working up to a load with deer-killing potential, the .45-60 used in the 1876 Winchester is generally considered a weak deer cartridge. I owned an original and successfully used it on deer with 300-grain jacked soft-points designed for the .45-70.  The smaller cartridge does not have the penetration of the .45-70, but with careful shooting at close range it can get the job done. It is good to have a dog handy to trail up your deer as it is likely to run away to die when using any solid lead bullet at relatively low velocities.

  Since I was about 12-years-old, I have never been without a .45-70. For a magazine article, I cast some lead bullets over a wood fire in my backyard and use a Browning-made Winchester 1886 ExtraLite to shoot a deer about 200 yards from my house. It took five shots to kill that deer. Those heavy lead bullets punched holes through it, but did not kill. This is what nearly always happened if these bullets did not hit sufficient bone to expand them.  To the old-time buffalo hunters it made no difference if the buffalo died six hours after it was shot or not. They would just skin it later. Modern hunters want more rapid kills.  

  The bottom line is to use expanding bullets that you reload or modern smokeless loads for best game-killing results with your ’86s, Sharps, Ballards, Remington Rolling Blocks and the like.

  With shotguns, the picture is different. So long as you remember that you must use non-toxic shot on waterfowl, these may be used on small game.  The best of the cowboy guns pattern well, but the originals, and close copies, have such bent stocks that is it very difficult for modern shooters to hit anything. These old guns were meant to be shot in the head-erect position. It was ungentlemanly to have the cheek pressed down on the stock.

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The Colt Walker and other Percussion Revolvers for Hunting Deer and Big Game

Can the Colt Walker or other black-powder revolvers be used to hunt big game?

Catalog pages from Guns Illustrated.

  As a gun writer who enjoys all aspects of hunting with black-powder guns, I had to try out the Colt Walker as a potential game-killing tool. Over the years I have owned two replica guns and shot them with a variety of bullets. Although the original guns were used in combat, I had problems with them as functional handguns. With my guns, and others that I have shot, the loading lever very commonly fell down and tied up the cylinder after every shot.

Not only this, but the rear sight on this pistol is only a notch in the hammer. This, and a very low bead on the barrel,  causes the Walker revolvers to shoot high. There is no means of adjusting the sights so that it will shoot to the point of aim. In the excitement of a hunt, you do not want to have to remember that you must aim a foot low and right to hit the vitals of an animal.

If the preceding were not damming enough, the cylinder length will only allow about 45-grains of FFg black powder to be loaded, and the weak attachment of the barrel to the frame with a wedge means that this gun cannot be stressed with anything more. This load with a round ball puts out 300 foot-pounds of muzzle energy – more about that later. This structural weakness also means that the gun cannot be used as a club; despite its size and weight.

For kids on their first hunts with muzzleloading rifles, the weakest rifle load that I recommend is 85 grains of FFg and a patched round ball which generates about 900 foot-pounds of energy.  With reasonable shot placement, this load will kill deer.  A load, like the Walker’s,  that generates only 300 foot pounds does not become a magical deer killer when fired from a pistol.

Deer and many domestic animals have been killed with the .22 L. R., which does not even generate 100 foot-pounds. This can happen with extremely precise shot placement. However, the crude sights and often not-very-good trigger pulls on the replica Colt revolvers preclude accurate shooting.  In a survival situation with nothing else available, I could kill game with it, but I would not take it out hunting except as a back-up gun for use at point-blank range to kill an injured animal.

Since this was written I have developed loads with Hodgdon’s TripleSeven powder that would reach 500 ft./bs. with the Ruger Old Army and the 12-inch barreled stainless 1858 Remington Pietta revolver and taken close-range deer with both guns. In the case of the Ruger I employed a new 240 grain bullet made by Kaido Ojamaa. The details of this are in later posts and also on Part 7 B of my series on percussion revolvers. These loads worked in these modern strongly-built guns. I do not recommend them for the weaker Colt-pattern pistols, although people have used, and will doubtless use them, to take big game. 


 Some single-shot percussion pistols can be loaded with 65-grains of FFg and heavier bullets, that in 10-inch and longer barrels, can work as back-up guns for the muzzleloading hunter.  I often refit these single-shots  with musket caps and use Hodgdon’s granulated Triple Seven powder to give these short-barreled guns an added boost to the 500 foot-pounds of energy level, which many consider the minimal for an ethical deer-hunting load.

A very few long-barreled single-shot pistols, such as the Thompson/Center Scout, Thompson/Center Encore, Traditions Buckhunter Pro, Traditions Vortex, Pedersoli Bounty and the longer-barreled versions of the Tingle can be used with loads of up to 100 grains of FFg and a 370-grain Maxi Ball for big game in the case of the Encore and lesser loads for the others. These are much more powerful than any presently available percussion revolver.  For details consult my book X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, fowl and dangerous game with muzzleloading rifles, smoothbores and pistols.  This book will be available in the Fall of 2012.

The Ruger Old Army that the author uses to kill alligators beside the boat.

I use a load in the now-discontinued Ruger Old Army revolver for alligator killing at a range of  about 2-inches from the top of the skull  and for squirrel hunting. This gun has my vote for the best percussion revolver yet made. It was offered very briefly in .36-caliber, but was mostly sold as .45-caliber revolvers that take .457 lubricated round balls. These are fine guns with adjustable sights that are much stronger than the Colt designs.

Remington-style revolvers with a top strap and adjustable sights are still available from importers. One of these all-steel guns with adjustable sights would be my selection as a percussion revolver to be used for investigating the technology of a percussion revolver, target shooting, for small-game hunting and hunting big game in thick cover. .

Percussion revolvers have their place as fun-to-shoot-guns, on the target range, for small game hunting and some of the stronger designs with Hodgen Triple Seven powder can be ethically used to kill big game at close range.

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Elongate Bullets and the Brunswick Rifle

Bullets and components used to test a .69-caliber Minie ball with an expanded base in the .75-caliber Brunswick rifle.

Bullets and components used to test a .69-caliber Minie ball with an expanded base in the .75-caliber Brunswick rifle.

   Late in the history of the use of the Brunswick Rifle by the world’s military, hollow-based Minie style bullets were developed and used with a degree of success. Because these bullets are .75-caliber to match the bore, they are, of necessity, heavy projectiles. I do not know what the Confederate States of America’s Ordinance Department designed, but the Russians used a short bullet that was comparatively light-weight for its caliber. It most closely resembled the modern Buffalo Bullets “Ball-Et.”

  The rifle I am using is a Brunswick rifle from the Royal Arsenal of Nepal and presumably made there or elsewhere on the subcontinent. I suspect that these were the first rifled guns that an arsenal was asked to make. The rifling they used had two wide rough grooves with ridges of metal standing above the bore were they were displaced by the rifling broach. The result was that this gun shot miserably with either patched round or belted balls, even though the belted balls were cast from a custom mold designed for this particular gun by Jeff Tanner in England.

  I could order .69-caliber bullets designed for U.S. Rifled Muskets. These had heavy skirts that I believed would expand to fill the bore without destroying the bullets. I made a cavity-expanding die and guides so that I could expand the bullet’s bases to bore size so they would be retained in the bore without using over-bullet wads.

  The powder charge was reduced from 100 grains of FFg used with the patched belted ball to 85 grains of  FFg.  An 11-gauge wad was seated over the powder followed by two bullet-base-cavities full  of Cream of  Wheat and then the libricated .69-caliber Minie ball with the expanded bases was rammed down the barrel.

  Shooting at 35 yards the “group” was about 3-feet high and 10-inches wide – miserable. The hollow-based bullets were stabilized and the skirt bases remained intact, judging from the clean round holes in the target. The base of the bullet was jammed full of the Cream of Wheat filler which showed no indication of scorching by the burning powder charge.

  A video, “Elongate Bullets and the Brunswick Rifle”  is on YouTube and  may be seen at: . I have also posted it below:

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Backyard Squirrel Hunting with a Muzzleloading Gun and Squirrel Cleaning Video

Gathering and cleaning some squirrels are the first step towards making squirrel stew.

  Using a small-caliber muzzleloading rifle to shoot squirrels is a traditional hunting method in the Southern U.S. which is still practiced. These rifles started out first as flintlocks that frequently were about .32-caliber, although increasingly larger .36s, .40s and .45s were also used if the hunter thought he might have an opportunity to take larger game. Always with a thought towards economy, the smaller calibers provided more shots with less expenditure for powder and lead.

  Performance from round-ball rifles on larger game improves dramatically when ball size is increased. In the YouTube video that accompanies this post, a much-expanded .32-caliber ball was recovered from a squirrel. This bullet had struck bone in the skull and flattened out to nearly .45-caliber. It was retained by the animal’s tough hide and fell out as the squirrel was being skinned. This bullet would have given miserable performance on a deer or hog. For round-ball guns that might be used to take squirrels and larger game, I prefer .45s as the smallest caliber that I would use on deer. Although the .45s are a bit big for squirrels, they will work as combined small game-deer guns. To prevent having to remember two sets of trajectory figures and sighting in between hunts, I shoot everything with a deer load which usually consist of 70-85 grains of FFg and a patched .440 round ball in most replica .45-caliber  rifles.  While this use provides valuable practice with the gun before deer season, the economies of using less powder and lead are lost.

  The Traditions Deerhunter Small Game Rifle, which was furnished by the manufacturer and used on the hunt, is a typical modernized side-lock replica rifle that uses an aluminum ramrod, synthetic buttplate and adjustable polymer front and rear sights. I found that the front sight was too low for my load of 20 grains of FFFg and a patched round ball and inset in a small South African coin that I trimmed to proper height to zero the gun. Even though I do not see iron sights as crisply as I once did, I can still do reasonable work with this gun; although attempting all head-shots with these crude sights would be a futile exercise.

  Although the squirrels were not very cooperative on this hunt, I did have one shot opportunity and took the animal with a single shot. The previous day I had gone out with exactly the same result for a 4-hour morning hunt. I have a large population of squirrels, but they were not moving much in the late August heat. I think most of them were looking for a branch to stretch out on to catch some cooling breezes.

  The squirrel cleaning section of the video was added to supplement my August 13 radio show on “The Backyard Sportsman” where I discussed squirrel hunting, cleaning and cooking. This video may be seen at .  It is too long to post on this blog. It shows and discusses the Traditions .32-caliber rifle as well as takes the viewer through the squirrel-cleaning process. The squirrel took the shot through the head. The head was  so mangled that I cut it off before I started the video.

  One thing not mentioned in the video is that it is much easier to remove the hides from squirrels, and all game, while the animals are still warm with body heat.  On this particular hunt, I shot the squirrel near the house and put it in the refrigerator before resuming my hunt to keep from carrying it for hours in the August heat.