My 9 year old grandson Andrew is always interested in my guns when he is over. He looked at my C&R rifles and asked me, “Which one is the most powerful?” I showed him a Mauser and he said, “That’s the one I want to use.”
I asked him what he needed it for and he said, “To hunt bears.”
I asked him, “And just where do you expect to find a bear around here?”
He just stared at me and said, “In the woods……Duh.”
Well, any boy that wants to hunt bears in Southeast Texas needs a bear rifle.
I started looking for a muzzle loading rifle for him, as I thought he would enjoy all the fire and smoke. I found a Traditions Hawken rifle in .50 caliber at a local pawn shop, but they wanted new price for it, which is around $350. They wouldn’t deal on it, so I kept looking.
I eventually found one at a pawn shop when visiting my buddy in Killeen, Texas. They had $249 on theirs, but I offered them $150 OTD (out the door, taxes included). The manager said he couldn’t go that low, but said he would take $170 OTD. I told him to wrap it up.
I noticed that the rifle is actually a left hand model, but that only means that the lock is on the left side and that shouldn’t be a problem.
It appears to be unfired.
I needed to look for some lead balls for it, as I did not have any .50 caliber balls in inventory. I mentioned it to my old buddy Vern and he said he had a box and gave them to me.
These lead balls measure .490 caliber, which is the proper caliber for a .50 rifle, as you need room for the patch. They weigh around 175 grains.
I had caps and patches, and black powder, so we were ready to go.
I wanted a tight-fitting patch jag to clean the barrel, but the only one I had was a .54 caliber jag that I had once used with a .54 caliber rifle that I sold.
I had an idea. I chucked the jag up in my drill and placed a file in the vise, and slowly ground it down until it was just the right size for the .50 caliber rifle.
Andrew was about to have a fit to get to the range, so we went as soon as we could.
We reviewed the Four Rules of Gun Safety on the way to the range, and he had them down.
I showed him how to load the rifle. We started by popping a cap on the empty rifle to clear the nipple of any oil.
The rifle has double-set triggers, meaning that if the rear one is pulled first, it “sets” the front trigger to be very light.
Or, you can just pull the front trigger without setting it and it will fire.
Then we measured 60 grains of FF black powder by volume.
The suggested maximum load is around 100 grains, but I didn’t want it to kick him too hard.
We poured it down the barrel.
We then lubed a patch with grease and placed the ball on the patch.
We used a bullet starter to get it started and then pushed it down the barrel.
Then we used the long rod to seat it firmly against the powder.
This is critical with a black powder rifle, as any space between the powder and the ball can ring the barrel.
Then we placed a cap on the nipple and it was ready to go.
Lastly, we fitted Andrew with Pappaw’s recoil pad.
He was mighty pleased with himself.
And managed to hit the target.
I loaded it up with a full load, and shot it some myself.
After shooting, we took it home and cleaned it up really well.
The take-down pin allows the barrel to easily come off the stock, as it is a hooked-breach system.
We removed the nipple and placed the barrel in a can of soapy water.
Using the ram rod and the jag with a patch, we pulled the water back and forth through the barrel until it was totally clean of the black powder fouling.
Then we rinsed it with very hot water and dried it out. Then oiled it up and we are ready for the next trip to the range.
Edited to add: My friend Kikilee from AR15.com sent Andrew some black powder accessories to go with his bear rifle.
Andrew especially liked the bullets labeled “For Bears!”
I think the bears on the coastal plains of Southeast Texas had better run for their lives. Andrew the Bear Killer is on the hunt.