Friday, April 9, 2010

Weapons Handling

A thread on the Pyracy Pub got me to thinking about the differences between the 17th century colonial and English Civil War reenactors I have been doing things with for decades and pirate reenactors. Specifically, I've been thinking about why so many pirates seem unsafe with weapons.

Part of it is experience. I doubt that most of the 17th century people I fall in with could count how many events they have been at. They have fired their weapons hundreds or thousands of times. Many of them have also drilled at historic sites where safe gun handling is stressed.

That does not mean that everyone doing the earlier periods is safe. I have had someone fire his gun right in my face at close range. He was worrying too much about getting his piece to fire and not enough about where the muzzle was pointed. I have seen other people do unsafe things but this is rare.

I do not get the same level of confidence at pirate events (Paynetown is an exception but most people there have crossed over from other periods). At the 2008 PiP I had someone load her pistol then turn to talk to me which pointed her pistol at my face - twice.

Some of this comes from the weapons used. Most people doing the earlier periods are using matchlocks. There is a whole drill for learning to use these and a lot of safety is built into the drill. If you load and handle your piece then the muzzle is always pointed up and away from anyone else. I have seen matchlocks go off unexpectedly. If the piece is being held correctly then it is an example. ("Look at where his muzzle was pointed. That's right where it should be.')

On the other hand, pirates are using newer, simpler locks. Some of them use caplocks. Too many of these pirates think that figuring out which end of the piece they should pour the powder down makes them an expert. Without the drill they are more likely to forget muzzle control.

Another factor is the different in the type of pieces used. Musketeers always carried muskets or calivers - both are long weapons. Pirates often use pistols or blunderbusses. It is much easier to forget muzzle control with a shorter piece.

We probably need to work some gun safety classes into big pirate events. PiP had a chance for people to practice their weapons. This could be expanded into a general mass-fire with people assigned to watch for unsafe behavior. Anyone who looked unsafe could be taken aside for some private instruction.

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