Friday, October 2, 2015

Notes on Historic Weapons Safety

As you all know, just about any historical site has some type of historic weapons safety. This is to protect not only the visitors, but the demonstrator as well, just in case something would go wrong. When we came up with ours, we used a combination of the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service to come up with ours. We have ours posted on this site as part of the main menu.

When our Director John Miller, conducted his workshop at the beginning of this year, many were amazed by how much safety is involved with demonstrations. But, since the season is winding down, we thought it be a good idea to post John’s notes for you to review. 

When checking small arms, meaning the rifled musket, there are several things that you need to observe. If the weapon does not meet any of these check points, it does not take the field in the demonstration until the infraction has been fixed. Just like hunters safety course, you must handle every weapon as if it was a loaded weapon. 

First things first:
  • The weapon is confirmed to be unloaded by springing the rammer and placing it down the barrel.
  • Your overall first impression is favorable.
The Stock:
  • No cracks or splits.
  • Butt plate; trigger guard, etc., fit tightly
  • No burrs on butt plate or trigger guard screw heads that would snag clothing or hands.
  • If band springs, they work smoothly (not bound by wood).
  • If pin-fastened, pins are there, tight, and wood not splintered.
  • No burns around the top of the lock.
  • Generally, no splinters or rough edges.
  • Two-piece stocks have sections securely joined.
After you have made the determination that the stock is in good order, you will then check the lock plate for the following: 

The Lock:
  • Lock works smoothly.
  • The hammer or cock fits tightly on the tumbler.
  • All the positions are firm and solid.
  • The half-cock (safety) position works properly.
  • When trigger is pulled, it lets off smoothly without catching on half cock.
  • Trigger pull is proper; not too heavy, not “hair” trigger.
  • If a set trigger, it is adjusted properly and works smoothly.
  • Lock fits properly into the stock and snugly against the barrel.
  • The striking face of a percussion hammer is not battered. It strikes the cap or cone squarely and in the center.
Then take a look at the barrel and observe for the following: 

The Barrel:
  • Barrel fits the stock properly.
  • Free from visible dents or cracks.
  • On flintlocks, the flint is not striking the barrel.
  • The muzzle is not dented or worn.
  • The cone of percussion pieces is well-seated and not battered.
  • The hole is clear and of an acceptable size. The shoulders are not worn down.
  • No signs of heavy corrosion around the vent or cone.
  • The sights are complete and operable.
  • The barrel bands or pins hold the barrel securely.
  • The ramrod is straight, fits the stock properly, and the threads at the lower end are clean and free of burrs.
After the small has been deemed safe, you should check over the accouterments such as the cartridge box. Make sure that the tins are in it and that the ammunition is made properly. The ammunition should have no stables or tape holding it together. Make sure that cartridge boxes are being used just for that. To hold cartridges, not cigarette lights, cell phone, and or car keys. We have seen this done before. Look over the cartridge box to make sure it is not falling apart. Cartridge boxes need to be in good order to take to the demonstration. 

Cap pouches. This should only hold three things, the first, percussion caps for the weapon. Secondly, it should have the sheep skin. Lastly, placed into the sheep skin should be a nipple (cone) pick for when the small arm misfires. If the weapon should misfire, you’ll need to do the following: 

Percussion Small Arms Misfire Drill

Level One:
1. Demonstrator or Interpreter explains to the public what is happening.
2. Hold weapon in firing position for 10 seconds to make sure there is no hang fire.
3. Return to the priming position and half cock the weapon.
4. Reprime the weapon, picking the touchhole in the cone if necessary.
5. Repeat firing demonstration from “Ready” command.
6. If, after the third attempt, the weapon does not fire, dismiss the visitors. 
7. Remove the weapon to a safe area and follow the procedure for a Level 2 misfire.

Level Two:
1. Remove the weapon to a safe area.
2. Flood the barrel with water.
3. Wait five minutes.
4. Dump remaining water from barrel and using a worm withdraw the cartridge.
5. Clean the weapon.

Other points to keep in mind during the demonstration: 

  • The demonstrator approached the demonstration area carrying the weapon in a safe and military fashion.
  • The demonstrator has all the equipment he needs for the demonstration (weapon, cartridge box, cap box, a cartridge).
  • The demonstrator is not encumbered with extra equipment.
  • The demonstrator seems knowledgeable and familiar with the manual he is using.
  • There are sufficient additional people for interpretation and crowd control.
  • The demonstration area is safe for the size of the audience.
  • Visitors are kept at a safe distance. They can see and hear without shoving.
  • The weapon is always pointed down range.
  • At no time are there any parts of the demonstrator’s body placed in a hazardous position in relation to the weapon.
  • In the event of a misfire or other unscheduled event the demonstrator reacts properly.
  • After the demonstration the interpreter maintains military bearing and leaves the area carrying the weapon safely and in a good military fashion.

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