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Removing A Stuck Projectile From A Traditional (Closed Breech) Muzzleloader


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#1 Jeremiah

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 04:15 PM

I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman in a bit of a bind, as they say. He had recently acquired a flintlock rifle that had a bad powder charge and sabot stuck in the barrel and needed to know the best way to remove these items. Well, I figured I would go over the three ways I've learned to do so, from easy to difficult.

The easiest way is with a CO2 Discharger/Unloader.
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I don't know for sure who first invented these contraptions, but they should likely be considered for sainthood. You should be able to locate one at most sporting goods stores. (Tip: Many manufacturers sell them as a Muzzleloader tool as well as a small tire inflater. So, be sure to check the bicycle shop if you can't find them elsewhere. Or, obviously, just order one online.) The tools actually build up quite a bit of pressure. So, I recommend using them outside with the same basic precautions as if you were going to shoot your firearm. (Point it in a safe direction, generally toward the ground or at an old stump etc.)

Now, if, for some reason, you are unable to locate a CO2 discharger, the next best effort is to try to make that powder charge in the bore go "BOOM!" with some extra help. Head to your local range with the rifle and all of the usual shooting implements; especially a wrench or screwdriver to remove the touch hole liner from the barrel and a nipple pick or paper clip. Once at the range with the barrel of the firearm pointed safely downrange, remove the touch hole liner from the side of the breech area of the barrel. (You may need to remove the lock assembly first to do so depending on the make and model of the firearm.) Next, use the nipple pick or paper clip to carefully remove/compact as much of the powder charge as you can. Fill in any void that you make with fresh 4F black powder and re-install the touch hole liner. (Sneak some more 4F into the touch hole liner once it is installed as well.) In this case, make sure you have a good sparking flint, prime the pan, and attempt to fire the rifle. It is likely that if the powder charge in the bore is indeed inert that the shot will be weak... Possibly just strong enough to push the projectile out of the end of the barrel with little extra power to spare (depending on how much 4F you were able to seat in the breech). Use a bore light of some sort to ensure that everything cleared the bore before doing anything else. (I carry a small, single LED flashlight - a Streamlight Stylus actually - that I place into the touch hole to use as a bore light.)

Last and definitely least would be the "ball puller" method. If all else has failed up to this point, getting that stuck projectile and powder out of your rifle's barrel is about to get tough and dirty. Using a ball puller can be time-consuming and somewhat difficult to do. The first thing you will want to do is remove the barrel from the stock and remove the touch hole liner from the side of the breech area of the barrel just as if you were going to clean the barrel the "old fashioned" way. Following suit, take a coffee can or old pot and fill it with enough water to submerge the breech end of the barrel past the touch hole. Just like when cleaning the barrel, you may want to do this outside or somewhere that you can make a bit of a mess. You will want to also pour water down the end of the barrel. Basically, you are trying to completely soak the powder charge to ensure that it will not go off. (I know we said it's bad powder, but I have seen "bad powder" still end up going "BOOM!" So, it's always best to be safe rather than sorry.) Once you have let the barrel soak for 30 minutes or more, you will then want to collect your tools of the trade. You will need a ramrod or cleaning rod. Personally, I have a solid brass ramrod that is threaded at both ends that I use for this as it is stout enough to withstand what we are about to do next. Install a Ball Puller on the tapered end of the ramrod and a T-handle extension onto the other end. Depending on what type of projectile is in the firearm, you may need to purchase a different style of ball puller. (They make several different.) The long and the short of it, however, is that it will be tipped with a course-threaded screw. With the aid of a rubber or plastic mallet, you will slowly and carefully tap the ball puller against the projectile while turning the ramrod. You may need the aid of a vice grip or some such tool to grip the ramrod and turn the ball puller into the projectile. Eventually you will get a good grip on the projectile and be able to begin slowly pulling it from the barrel. You may need extra water or even lubricant here depending on how tight of a fit the projectile is inside the bore. With the projectile free you can flush the bad powder charge from the bore and clean up as usual. Just remember that slow and steady is the rule of the day when using a ball puller and you should be okay.

Well, that's about it. Again, I can't talk up the CO2 Dischargers enough. I carry one with me always in my possibles bag. I use it to unload my rifle after each hunt rather than firing so that I don't end up fouling the gun to the point of having to clean it. (If you're careful and truly cheap, you can even re-use the roundball. :doh2: ) Happy unloading!

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#2 Eric

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 04:31 PM

Re-use a round ball!!!!
I don't think I have ever heard that or any one trying it. :no:
Very good post Jer. :boone:
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#3 Spirithawk

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 04:58 AM

It's funny. I had just read a CVA booklet on that exact subject giving those three methods. Good advice to know. Posted Image

#4 Jeremiah

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 12:36 PM

It's funny. I had just read a CVA booklet on that exact subject giving those three methods. Good advice to know. Posted Image


And here I thought I had the market cornered. :(
Oh well... Story of my life. :lol:

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#5 cayugad

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 01:24 PM

You covered it perfect. I normally shoot them out. I have never used a CO2 gadget. But then I seldom dry ball anymore (knock on wood).As for ball pullers, I have done it, but more often then not, they pull back out. Also if you try to shoot one out, and it does not go out the end of the barrel, repack the touch hole or nipple port, then be sure and reset the roundball back down on the powder before you try again. You might have moved that ball up the barrel and if you shot again, you have an obstructed barrel.
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#6 Spirithawk

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 02:31 PM

Years ago, think it was about 75, I lived in St. Louis and there was a shop that had bought the original rights to the Hawken Bros. rifle. In fact, it was called the Hawken Shop. Think they still exist in another state now. Anyways, this was a really high classed muzzleloader store. Besides selling original and replica rifles and anything you could imagine relating to muzzleloaders, they had a machine shop where they made rifles and accesseries from scratch too. They invented a really handy and practical ball puller that I've not seen anywhere since. It looked like a long brass loading, cleaning type jag that screwed onto your ramrod but both ends screwed off and it could be reveresed on your ramrod to use either end. What was cool was that housed inside one end was a fixed 1/8 " drill bit with which you'd drill a hole into the stuck ball. Then you'd flip it around and housed inside the jag end was the standered sheet metal screw ball puller. The idea being that with normal ball pullers when you screw them into the ball it exspands the ball lodging them even tighter in your barrel. But by drilling a hole into it first, the ball didn't exspand making it much easier to pull. Back then, and I dare say even now, it was quite a novel and very functional device. Think they ran about $20 for one. Would be interesting to see if they still produce them.

Edited by Spirithawk, 25 January 2010 - 02:32 PM.


#7 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 07:28 PM

Great post. I know a guy here locally that made and produced them at RMC Sports. He had them in his store/shop before I saw anything in ads. I would only do one thing different. As Cayugad said you want to be sure the projectile is seated all the way down even before the first shot and absolutely be sure it is all the way down if you need to shoot again. Most muzzleloaders have a chamber at the rear immediately adjacent to the vent that the bullet does not enter. If you fill that chamber it will certainly shoot the bullet out of the barrel but absolutely check to be sure that has happened.
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#8 cayugad

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 05:46 PM

I once packed a dry ball with powder through the nipple hole. I pushed as much as I could in there, replaced the nipple, checked the ball to make sure it was down on the cone, and fired it at a cardboard box 25 yards away. That ball hit that box and bounced half way back to me. My black Labrador, watching the whole thing ran out into the yard and brought me back the lead ball, dropping it in my hand when commanded to.
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#9 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 10:25 PM

I have used two of the three a couple of times. two I shot out and one I pulled. Infact the one I pulled is still stuck on the screw tip at the back of my reloading bench. It reminds me powder before ball. I did it once with my inline and that is fairly easy. I pushed the sabotted bullet through the breech but the rear of the sabot did catch on the threads so if presented with this situation again the sabot will be pushed out the muzzle.
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