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Muzzleloading fans take their best shots

November 07, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

BIG POOL, Md. - Nearly two dozen muzzleloading enthusiasts braved blustery fall winds and a fickle sun Saturday on the first day of a weekend shoot, all to practice their hobby at Fort Frederick State Park.

It's not an avocation for everyone. It takes a good eye, a steady hand and patience ... above all, patience.

"I enjoy muzzleloading all year long," said Grayson Babington of Clear Spring. And his love of the hobby has been part of his life for 30 years.

Saturday, Babington was shooting with friends, George Fisher of Clear Spring, and Les Boyd of Frederick, Md. After one particular round, Babington produced his paper turkey target to park officials with several bull's-eyes to the head.

"I have four muzzleloaders, all built from scratch," Babington said.

The gun he was using Saturday came from a kit that runs about $300. But Babington has worked with that particular model, inlaying it with brass from the stock to the end of the barrel.

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That work triples the value of the weapon, he said.

"I buy black powder and caps," Babington explained. "Then I make my own 50-caliber lead balls."

The black powder is poured into the muzzleloader and then a piece of material, called a clean patch, is added. A long metal rod is then inserted into the muzzle.

Once the muzzleloader is fired, the entire process is repeated. Then and only then can the muzzleloader be fired again.

Some shooters were dressed in period costumes. Others were wearing modern camouflage gear, honing their skills for the muzzleloading hunting season.

Roger Rowe of Cumberland, Md., is a muzzleloader because of the history associated with the weapons.

"These guns were built for the person," Rowe said. "There is a nostalgia when you use a muzzleloader."

Rowe said there is no feeling like the one you get when you take game with a muzzleloader.

"There is a real sense of pride because every load in a muzzleloader is a custom load - you do it yourself," Rowe said.

Often he attends two-day events like the one at Fort Frederick that is continuing today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Sometimes I camp overnight but not this weekend," Rowe said. "I'll go home and come back Sunday."

Some who attended Saturday weren't shooting at all.

Doc Kinney and his wife, Becky, are members of Friends of Fort Frederick. Residents of Damascus, Md., they often spend the weekend at the Fort and were doing so Saturday in fall period dress.

"This is a community service for us," Doc Kinney said. "I am a volunteer interpreter in the summer and I also do maintenance work."

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