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Will Hamilton: A young vet attempting to reclaim his life.

Will Hamilton with a new vision of the world.
Will Hamilton with a new vision of the world.

It is a regrettable, but still all-to-common practice, for people to put unwanted dogs out on the road in Central Georgia and elsewhere. I am sometimes able to rescue these animals and most of my present crop of Whitehall “hound dogs” were roadside pick-ups. Returning from the recent Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration (CEER 2014), I saw a young guy with a white plastic bag filled with his things standing by the side of I-65  near Bay Minette, Alabama. It was obvious what was going on, and I stopped to give him a lift.

We Southerners talk, and during the long drive towards Montgomery Will Hamilton’s life story unfolded.  I had heard many similar stories before. He grew up poor in Texas, dropped out of high school, got his GED, went into the Army, got out on a Compassionate Discharge to care for aging relatives, sold his part of a small landholding that his parents owned, moved in with is brother, had a falling out and went on the road. His present plan was to go to South Dakota to experience America.  A few days before in Bayou La Batre, someone had taken his backpack with his IDs, glasses, cell phone, money and personal papers.

He had worked in food service and construction, but nothing above a minimum-wage job. He had managed a little college, and what he enjoyed most was an art appreciation course where he could more fully express his artistic side. He had sold a few found-object assemblies, but never had the tools, equipment or time to see where his talents might take him. He also liked to write poetry and fiction, but had never completed anything substantial. For a time he even experimented with his own band where he did original songs on keyboard instruments. In brief, here was a 30-year-old with unrealized creative potential, but with few solid skills whose life had taken some recent hard hits.

His most immediate adverse physical circumstances were that he could not see beyond a few inches without glasses, had one broken tooth, another that was rotten  and was about half-starved.

The Proposition

If I take in stray dogs, could I do less for a person? As a 72-year-old widower who lives alone, has an active creative life with a house and hunting land to keep up, I could also use some help.  There was the potential that we could help each other do some things together that neither of us could do nearly as well alone. I needed a younger man’s physical labor. He needed a place he could call a permanent residence, a roof over his head, time and some long-term guidance on reassembling his life. This was a possibility. Would he be willing to accept help and stay put long enough to  discover what he wanted to be/do and make plans so that something positive could happen?

Some 30-minutes outside of Montgomery, he accepted my proposition. He would stay and help me, and I would do what I could to help him  with his immediate physical and paperwork problems. Immediately on arrival, I made contact with the Sandersville, Georgia,  Lions Club who said that they would help get him glasses and also with my dentist to have those bad teeth extracted. Will had been attempting to medicate himself with snuff, alcohol and over-the-counter cold medicines. His previous lifestyle had led to binge drinking and heavy smoking, a not uncommon situation for young men, or even for me at a younger age.  After being relieved from constant pain, these needs were hopefully going to be reduced.

The Results

Nearly 30-days later progress is being made. Will now has glasses, and the two bad teeth have been extracted. We are starting to get some real physical work done clearing my hunting roads from the debris caused by an ice storm and getting the property ready for this hunting season. Advances are also being made towards reestablishing his identity with a new driver’s license, Social Security card and other  items so that he can get a job, vote and act as a normal U.S. Citizen.

Will has produced one painting, a Phoenix, which is particularly appropriate for what he is trying to do with his life. As a writer of some 15 books, blogger, videographer, speaker, broadcaster and comedian, I can expose him to a large number of possible creative activities and see which seems to offer the most potential as a future hobby or business. As in all life, the outcomes are uncertain.  Nonetheless, Will, like my hound dogs, will have a fighting chance.  I cannot give him a life, but I can help out by providing him with the time and opportunity to find his own way.

Phoenix (2 size reduced) (800x533)

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Making Pedersoli’s Bounty into a Hunting Handgun

Pedersoli Bounty .50 caliber flintlock pistol with "saddlebags" and loading components.
Pedersoli Bounty .50 caliber flintlock pistol with “saddlebags” and loading components.

The instant that I saw a photo of Davide Pedersoli’s flintlock Bounty Pistol in about the year 2000, I knew that this was a gun that I wanted to take on a hunt and write about.  The gun’s 16 1/2-inch long .50-caliber barrel was sufficiently long that I could reasonably expect to meet Georgia’s then-existing regulation that a deer-hunting handgun develop 500 ft./lbs. of muzzle energy at 50 yards. In the years before Triple7even, getting this amount of energy from a pistol required barrel length, and the Bounty had that. The difficulty was finding a U.S. importer who carried the gun.  Ultimately I managed to locate a Bounty flinter through Flintlocks, Etc. (P.O. Box 181, Richmond, MA 01254 (413) 698-3822), but I had to wait another month before the gun arrived from Italy.

Flintlock pistols powerful enough to use on big game animals are scarce. Unless one has a gun custom made, or builds it himself, the choices on the replica gun market are the 1805 flintlock Harpers Ferry .58 caliber (more about this one in a later post) and the Bounty. Of the two, the Bounty’s longer .50-caliber barrel with its rifling twist of 1 turn in 17-inches gave it promise of being able to stabilize conical bullets as well as round balls. When I received the gun, I was surprised to find that the recommended factory load was only 45 grains of  FFg and a patched round ball. This was a plinking load in this gun, and was a long way from reaching the energy  that I needed. Pedersoli obviously intended this gun for the novelty replica market. As Italians may not hunt with handguns, I suspect that they saw the Bounty as a gun that would be hung on a wall more than shot, or perhaps used as movie prop thrust through some swashbuckling pirate’s sash.

Detailed examination revealed more about gun. Rather than make up an entirely new flintlock pistol, Pedersoli had taken the existing stock design from their Kentucky pistol, fitted it with a longer brass fore-end cap and attached a 16 1/2-inch barrel. The flintlock action used in the pistol along with the turn-out vent-hole screw was identical to that used on a Pedersoli flintlock rifle that I owned. Even more significantly, my pistol was  proofed to the same standard and carried the same proof marks as the rifle. In short, I could safely shoot  rifle-level loads in this pistol. Again, as a manufacturing expedient, Pedersoli used components that they were already making to produce the new gun. ( I cannot vouch that they still are doing this or say what other makers may be doing with their flintlock and percussion handguns, but this was true of my particular pistol.)

Nonetheless, I took great care in slowly working up loads for the gun.  I used a 295 grain Black Belt bullet which are now sold as PowerBelts.  This heavier bullet would provide more muzzle energy by aiding  in the more complete combustion of the black-powder charge because of its additional weight and higher working pressure.  It soon became apparent that I needed to make some modifications to the pistol. To improve the trigger pull I fitted a yoke of deer antler to the trigger plate and custom smoothed the action to provide an excellent trigger pull and increase ignition speed. I also deeply notched the rear sight for faster target acquisition in dim light.

Shooting "Bouncing Bounty"
Shooting “Bouncing Bounty”

Recoil proved to be more of a problem. I could not hold onto the gun’s slick handle as I increased the gun’s loads beyond 65 grains of FFg. The gun needed more weight. I added a little by making a stainless steel ramrod, but that was not enough. Ultimately, I resorted to making cloth “saddlebags” filled with lead shot and taped these to the end of the barrel. This expedient worked, and I settled on a load of  85 grains of FFg and the Black Belt bullet.  I adjusted this load to shoot to the point of aim at 25 yards. The Bounty and load proved itself by taking a Florida deer with a single double-lung shot at about 20 yards. My story of this hunt was published by the late George “Butch” Winter in the 2003 Dixie Gun Works Black Powder Annual and later as Chapter 13 in my book X-Treme Muzzleloading.

"Bouncing Bounty's" Florida deer taken from a tree stand in a palm tree overlooking a cattle pasture.
“Bouncing Bounty’s” Florida deer taken from a tree stand in a palm tree overlooking a cattle pasture.

My most recent work with the pistol was to use it and a holster that I sewed up from an old hunting shirt in a YouTube video that I published on August 25, 2014.  You can see this video at:  The pistol is for sale, and you may make a bid for it by posting a comment on the video or to this blog. The pistol will be available until Sept. 30, 2014. It comes with the homemade holster, steel ramrod, regular ramrod and original factory box along with a letter of authenticity signed by me.



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Thompson/Center’s Scout: A Muzzleloading Pistol for Hunters

Thompson/Center Arms' Scout with its distinctive ramrod-short starter combo.
Thompson/Center Arms’ Scout with its distinctive ramrod-short starter combo.

Those who hunt with handguns are a small minority of the total numbers of hunters in the U.S., and those who use muzzleloading handguns are a tiny fraction of that cohort.  It was a bold step when Thompson/Center Arms introduced their Scout pistol and rifle in 1990.  By 1996, when a factory fire had destroyed the tooling and the Scout line was discontinued, T/C had decided that there was a future in producing handguns for hunters. By ’96  they were outfitting  their Contender with barrels that were 14-16 inches long to take full advantage of the .44 Remington Magnum’s and even the .45-70’s capabilities as game killing combinations. The muzzleloading  Scout was a landmark handgun  in that it was T/Cs first pistol to break the 10-inch barrel-length barrier with the Scout’s 12-inch barrel.

The Scout pistol was offered at the beginning with .45, .50 and .54-caliber barrels so that it would be compatible with the Scout rifle’s calibers. To take advantage of the continuing interest in Western look-alike guns, the Scout rifle’s profile resembled the 1894 Winchester rifle and the pistol’s the 1875 Colt Peacemaker. As was true with the modern Encore, the Scout’s barrels were interchangeable. Unique to the Scouts, the barrels were vented in the chamber so that gas escaped through the sides of the frame when the gun was fired.  This step was taken so promote more uniform combustion of large amounts of black powder in the pistol’s 12-inch barrel.  This also necessitated that when the heavy gun was fired using a two-handed hold, that the hands be placed on the grip, rather than one hand being used to support the fore-end, as is usually the case when shooting long single-barreled pistols.

Specialized components.
Specialized components.

Other distinctive features about the Scout was its one piece detachable breech plug-nipple, vented chamber, coil-spring mainspring  and a flexible flat spring that connected to the hammer to prevent cap fragments from being blown from the nipple into the action which could tie-up the gun. This was a problem that sometimes plagued Colt’s percussion revolvers whose nipples could also shed cap fragments.

Dimensionally, the Scout pistol was about 17-inches long and weighed 4 lbs. 6 oz., depending on the bore diameter. The oversized Peacemaker-style grips made it feel good in the hand and roll in the hand under recoil. The gun in recoil was  demonstrated very well in a video that I did of shooting a .50-caliber Scout that you can see at:  I like the way the long, heavy gun feels in the hand or when carried. In the video I also show how to carry the gun in either a factory holster, a homemade version or in the off-side hand when approaching game.

When I work up a gun for articles, I try to stay with that company’s products. In the case of the Scout I used T/C’s 370-grain MaxiBall and 85 grains of GOEX FFg black powder and a number 11 percussion cap. This load generates stout recoil, as did the others that I tried in the video. I wanted to see the results that might be obtained in the Scout using more recently developed powders such as GOEX 1 1/2 FFG Old Eynsford, Hodgdon’s Triple7even and Alliant’s Black MZ.  Just to illustrate that not every charge fired from the Scout needs to be a balls-to-the-wall load, I started out with a .440 round ball and T/C Bore Butter lubricated pillow-ticking patch and 40 grains of GOEX FFg.,  which is a target and plinking load in this gun. The results are listed below:

Bullet wt. gr.               Powder  wt. gr.                  Velocity fps.                Energy  ft./lbs.

.490 rb./179              40 gr.  GOEX FFg                 961                             367

370 Maxi                    70 gr.  Hogdon’s 3-7          1044                             895

370 Maxi                    50 gr. Alliant Black MZ       918                             692

370 Maxi                    70 gr. GOEX OE 1 1/2 F      960                             757


Not surprisingly from my previous experiences with Triple7even, the Hodgden powder gave the highest velocity and energy figures . I would happily hunt with any of the MaxiBall loads, but would prefer the higher energy provided by Triple7even powder. On one hunt I took the Scout and a .44 Rem. Magnum 14-inch barreled Encore on  hunts on Georgia’s Cumberland Island. The weather was very cold for the Southeastern Coast, and wind chills were near 0 degrees F. I had Arctic weight gear and hunted, while many hunters stayed in camp. Only six deer were killed on that hunt and I took two, one with each pistol. These were nearly identical double-lung shots through the chest. My impression was that the .50-caliber muzzleloader killed as well as, or even slightly better than, the .44 Magnum due to its larger bullet diameter and heavier bullet. The MaxiBall gave a larger wound channel and it, like the .44 Magnum, passed through the deer.

My .50 caliber Scout is now for sale and will be offered from Aug. 1-31, 2014. You can make a bid by leaving a comment on my video at: The gun will be sold with its specialized ramrod, a signed CD copy of the video and a signed copy of my book,  X-Treme Muzzleloading.


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Protecting Shorelines with Barrier Structures

Living Shoreline Solutions' WAD barriers being emplaced to protect a portion of Louisiana's offshore wetlands.
Living Shoreline Solutions’ WAD barriers being emplaced to protect a portion of Louisiana’s offshore wetlands.

A recent conference on protecting the world’s shorelines from hurricanes and other events exposed some proven solutions and new thoughts about using natural materials and man-made inert waste products to build protective offshore barriers. Reasons for holding the Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration (CEER 2014) in New Orleans was that the city is now protected by a new flood-protection barrier system, and the fact that Louisiana wetlands are still being lost at a rate of about a football-field an hour due to coastal erosion, rising sea levels, delta sediment starvation, subsidence and man-made causes. The complex interrelations presented by these problems  was fruitful ground for the 380 speakers and 100 poster presenters to discuss ways to preserve wetlands and shorelines.

Beach-front developers and homeowners who paid millions of dollars for their properties are vitally interested in helping to protect their resorts, condos and homes from loss of beach sands due to shore-line erosion. Very often this may require mining sand from some other location and periodically re-nourishing the beaches after major storms.  Properly designed protective barriers not only protect existing beaches from erosion, but also cause sand to naturally be deposited in the quieter waters behind the barriers and grow the beaches, provided that sand is naturally being transported along the beach, as is often the case along the eastern cost of the U.S.

In South Florida and other parts of the world, the preservation and reestablishment of coral reefs is a major issue. The growing acidification of the ocean’s waters has retarded the growth of natural coral. The emplacements of irregularly shaped structures by the Reef Ball Foundation not only provides hard structures for corals and other animals to colonize, but their Eternal Reef Memorials allows the lately departed to make a contribution to the environment by having their ashes incorporated into the structure ( At selected locations in the U.S. and elsewhere, the family attends when the memorial reef balls are cast and may put in the concrete any small items that were significant to the individual and inscribe or attach a memorial plaque.  In cases where the Foundation had already placed a ball-barrier structure in front of private homes, the memorial ball might also be included so that the dead remain close to the places and families that they loved.

Reef Ball on barge prior to emplacement.
Reef Ball on barge prior to emplacement.

The WAD triangular barriers and the Reef Balls are made of concrete and cast on-shore as near as possible to the locations where they will be placed. They are then taken out by local barge operators and placed off shore. Although heavy, both structures are hollow and ported to allow a maximum surface area to support natural growth. These synthetic structures are far superior to rubber tires, automobile bodies or decommissioned ships, because they do not leach toxic materials into the environment or degrade into plastic micro-beads.  This technology is now well established, and the companies that contract for the structures are well versed in obtaining the required permits as part of their contracts.

In third-world countries what cannot afford to import expensive rock or use concrete to make barriers, my poster, “The Billion Bottle Barrier,” described how local waste materials might be contained in bags or cages made of natural materials, say bamboo or hemp; and interconnected with  cables made of  animal hair or plant fibers to provide flexible barriers to help protect nearby shorelines. In the example shown by my poster, the bottles are filled with sand with a wad of paper placed in the neck as a stopper. These are placed in a flexible array off-shore and the lines of interconnected containers are secured by pilings driven into the substrate.   In addition, the poster proposed that research on materials and installation methods might be done by small groups of citizen scientists from around the world and that this world-crowd-sourced data be centrally collected and disseminated through periodic newsletters. I am now seeking a university, NGO or private company to take on this project to help protect the world’s endangered wetlands.  Many who saw the poster  said that this was an interesting concept that they thought had merit, but I have received no commitments to date. Because of the numerous permits that must be obtained from multiple Federal and State agencies in the U.S., it is impractical to do this wide-scope research in the U.S., because each use of new materials and each new site would require permitting, even for the emplacement of  small test structures in off-shore environments.

Reef Balls with shellfish.
Reef Balls with shellfish.

A coincidental, but not inconsequential, consequence of placing offshore structures is that shellfish, fish and natural vegetation is attracted to them. Depending on the environment and the purpose of the structure, the accumulated trapped sediment and overgrowth may form the core of a shoal or small island that may ultimately support  terrestrial vegetation to further reduce the impact of  high tides and storm-surge waves. These barriers can offer a significant protection to hard-built structures closer to shore that offer protection for cities like New Orleans.

Alabama and Mississippi now offer property owners incentives and tax breaks to place protective structures off their private holdings. Living Shoreline Solutions  and  the Reef Ball Foundation, who now have a decade of experience, are well versed in local laws and able to assist property owners in applying for these incentives in addition to designing strictures to meet the needs of  particular sites. In general, the WAD barriers are more effective if they are exposed at high tides, but the Reef Balls and other WAD designs can be installed so that they do not protrude above the water and spoil the ocean view from hotels and other on-shore properties.

I had the opportunity to do interviews with Scott Bartkowski  who founded Living Shorelines Solutions, Inc. and Jim McFarlane who represented the Reef Ball Foundation at the conference. These interviews may be seen in a few days as a YouTube video and links will be provided on this blog. McFarlane’s interview is now available at:  If you would like more information on their organizations you can go to and To gain a more complete overview of the concept you can see the videos below.

From Living Shoreline Solutions:

From the Reef Ball Foundation: