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Society of 18th-Century Gentlemen


Any true gentleman would never presume to take the field without first having tested his skill with his fowler. Firing at marks is yet another activity enjoyed by the Society of 18th-Century Gentlemen, and a variety of challenging shooting games are being devised at this very moment. Shooting of target clays, period targets and mock duels are all on the schedule and will be further expounded upon here in the future.


First, a short anecdote: I almost gave up muzzleloading after attending my first primitive shoot some 16 years ago. Of the dozen or so "old-timers" present, almost half of them had suffered some sort of shooting-related disability. One fellow hand lost a hand, another had a glass eye, a third was in a walking cast after shooting himself in the foot attempting to "quick draw" with a Walker revolver, and another sported a pair of hooks where his hands used to be. I was told that all of these injuries were the direct result of mishandling black powder.

The moral of the story is that black powder shooting can be dangerous and accidents DO happen. Use common sense at all times.


  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Have your muzzle under control at all times and keep it pointed down range.
  • Use ONLY Black Powder in muzzleloading firearms. Modern gunpowder generates much higher pressures and can burst your barrel, injuring you or anyone nearby.
  • Make sure your firing mechanism is clean and the firearm is functioning properly before loading and that your load is firmly seated on the powder before pulling your trigger.
  • Drop your rammer down the barrel to be sure it is empty (it should "ping") before your first load and after your last load of the day.
  • Wear ear and eye protection when shooting -- even if it's not authentic.
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages while shooting or hunting.
  • Be VERY CAUTIOUS of a misfire, hang fire or flash in the pan. Your gun is still live and can still discharge even after several minutes. Keep the muzzle pointed down range and wait one full minute before re-priming and trying again. If you still have a misfire, pour water down the barrel (keeping hands and face well clear) before attempting to pull the load. (I once had a hang-fire while hunting in damp conditions that sizzled for a full 30 seconds before igniting the main charge -- spooky)
  • Never smoke when shooting or hunting and be very cautious with powder horns, measures and related shooting accessories around fire or open flame. Always replace the plug in your horn before firing.
  • Be sure of your target and know what is down range behind your target. When hunting, know where the other members of your party are and NEVER fire over their heads -- even if they drop and tell you to!
  • Keep your muzzle up and clear of your hunting partners and NEVER take the field with your weapon at full-cock. Only go to full-cock after the game flushes. (Several people, including myself, have experienced accidental discharge because a twig, blade of grass or sudden jar tripped the trigger. This may seem an inconvenience but a missed bird or two could save someone's life!)
  • As The Society of 18th-Century Gentlemen has no control over your actions on the shooting range or conditions in the field we cannot be held responsible for accidents -- THINK before you shoot and use common sense at all times.

YOU are responsible for the safety of yourself and those around you!



If you are new to shooting live rounds from a muzzleloading firearm, PLEASE find someone to show you how to properly and SAFELY load and shoot. The Society offers the following information only as a guide. YOU are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those around you when shooting. See additional Safety guidelines HERE.

When shooting a fine fowler, musket or other smoothbore, accuracy is completely dependent on finding the proper load, that is, the best combination of powder, shot and wadding for your specific firelock. The black powder known as ì3Fî works best in pistols and fowlers, whereas ì2Fî powder is best in military arms (though 3F may also be used for more sure ignition).

In determining the proper load, in general, the following formula may be used:

Diameter of bore = grains of powder = thickness of wad = volume of shot

That is, if shooting a fowler that takes a round ball of 20 to the pound (20 Gauge) your bore diameter is .62. Using the formula above, your powder charge would be approximately 62 grains, your over-powder wad approximately 5/8" thick, and your volume of shot, be it #5, #6 or #7 (these being the best for shooting fowl) would be dispensed from the same measure as your powder. Field experiments have yet to determine if the thickness of the wads is crucial to the pattern of the shot, and any wad over 1/2" seems excessive, in our humble opinion, so you may have to experiment.

Even so, the formula above offers an excellent guide for the amateur or novice shooter in determining a starting point for finding the proper load for his specific piece. In field trials we have found that a load of 80 grains of 3F in a 20 gauge fowler with two, pre-lubricated "wonder wads" over the powder, an ounce of #5 shot, and a third wonder wad as an over-shot card patterns wonderfully. This load has worked well in breaking clays and has brought down a few birds, but we are currently experimenting with a heavier powder charge for hunting, as the charge of 80 grains of 3F does not seem to have enough knock-down power.

In shooting ball, your bullet must naturally be a size or two smaller than the bore. You can shoot ball in the same manner described above by simply replacing the shot in the diagram with a suitable projectile. For a .62 bore a .60 ball fits perfectly. In larger military arms like the British Brown Bess a .735 ball does remarkably well.

Ball can also be fired using a greased patch for a snug fit. Once again, consistency is the key, and your patch should always be the same thickness and even the same lubricating agent used. A patch of .01" thickness works well with a ball sized .02 smaller than your bore. Once again using the 20 gauge fowler as an example, a .60 ball with a .01" patch performs very well.

Check the links page for information on shooting supplies.

The Society of 18th-Century Gentlemen is not responsible for accidents.
YOU are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those around you when shooting!


Please pardon the redundancy of the visual at right, but as it illustrates the point so well it has been left in place.

Firing at marks is a simple gentlemanly sport that both entertains and helps develop proficiency with firearms. Regularly firing a smoothbore flintlock fowler can actually improve your aim and performance with modern weapons as well.

For firing at marks, the Society uses a simple target similar to that shown in the 18th-century engraving at right. The official Society target is based on this engraving with detail of the color and placement of scoring rings taken and a 1777 archery target. Original targets of this type often had additional artistic embellishment on them, but as this practice was not widespread in either England nor the Colonies, only the basic target will be used in our competitions. The target is laid out as follows:

  • The target to be made of wood and of no less than 1/8" nor more than 1/2" nominal thickness.
  • The ground is to be white and two-feet square, that is, 24" by 24".
  • The center "bull's eye" is to be black and three inches (3") in diameter.
  • The first ring is red and is six inches (6") in diameter.
  • The outer ring is green and is 13" in diameter.
  • The coloured rings should be about 1/2" so that they are easily discernible from the firing line.

The whole to be mounted upon a pole or stake, no wider than two inches with the narrowest dimension placed so as to face the shooters. The whole is to be driven into the ground so that the center of the "bull's eye" is approximately five feet above than the level of the ground at the firing line.

The firing line, that is, the point from which the targets are fired upon, is to be no less than twenty paces (about 50 feet) from the target for smoothbores, forty paces (about 100 feet) for rifles no matter their caliber. Only round lead balls are to be used, but they may be either patched or wadded according to the shooter's preference.

As we have found no period-correct scoring method to date, for the time being a scoring will be loosely based on an early 19th-century target from the Netherlands.

  • All bullets that pierce the target to leave a hole of more than one-half its diameter in the black scores thirty points.
  • A hole that is more than one-half to the inside of the red scores twenty points
  • A hole more than one-half to the inside of the green scores but ten.
  • Holes that are perfectly centered on a colored ring score the higher of the two point values. Any holes made outside the green ring score no points.

As the first to fire has a distinct advantage in shooting at an unspoiled target, that is, there are no holes in it to distract the shooter's aim, the range officer will walk down field to take the score, after which he plugs each hole with a tapered peg made expressly for the purpose. The shooter's initial or number (assigned beforehand) is inscribed on the peg as a way of settling any disputes. Thus filling the holes should help minimize confusion and distraction to future shooters.

While the range officer is at the butts performing his function, no shooter shall suffer to either load, prime, work on his flint or handle his firelock in any manner other than to support it by his side, hammer down, pan open and muzzle upward. Any who disobey this safety directive shall be disqualified from competition, forfeit any prize money and quite possibly receive a right proper spanking!

Check the links and clothing pages for information on proper attire, weapons and accouterments.

See the Firelock Riflesmith for fine firearms for the discriminating gentleman.

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