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When I think of shooting a black powder gun the words “proceed with caution” come to mind. I’m not saying black powder guns are especially dangerous BUT I am saying . . .

there is a lot more to learn about them. Especially when it comes to loading. And like any gun, things can go very badly wrong, as reports.

Approximately 5:30 .p.m., Nance County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a report of a hunting accident south of Genoa, along the Loup River.

A 13-year-old Shelby girl had been hunting with her father and two family friends, when the black powder gun she was using [not shown] accidentally discharged, striking her. She was pronounced dead at the Genoa Community Hospital.

Nance County Deputies and the Nebraska State Patrol investigated and determined that it was a tragic accident.

Her name is not being released at this time.

We don’t know how exactly the teenage huntress met her untimely demise.

But we do know that keeping your gun — black powder or not — pointed in a safe direction reduces the possibility of a fatal shooting accident to almost zero. But not entirely.

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  1. I would bet a rather large sum that both rule 2(never let the muzzle cover..) and 3(keep your finger off the trigger…) were violated here.
    Muzzleloader or full auto, the 4 rules of gun safety are the same. The fact that so few know and/or abide by them doesn’t change that.

    • Is it possible she followed all four rules, yet set conditions where there was high potential they would be overcome? Maybe the muzzle was pointed toward the sky, stock situated on the ground, no human contact. Then, as a result of supporting the rifle with an unsteady support such as a tree trunk, or fence post, or car fender, the rifle fell over, with either the trigger contacting some debris on the ground, or the concussion of the fall caused the black power to ignite, projectile contacting the young girl. I.E. all the rules followed, the the surroundings, and human action, contributed to the rifle discharging in a preventable and predictable manner?

      Sometimes “the rules” are not enough?

      • In a social setting you never leave a loaded weapon unattended. Either have complete control or have it empty. It’s no different than being at the trap and skeet range and putting a loaded shotgun in the rack to wait your turn. It isn’t done.

        And you never lean a weapon, loaded or empty, against a vehicle. I can tell you what a ‘bead’ scratch looks like down the side of my truck.

        And here in CA a loaded weapon anywhere on, inside, or against the side of a vehicle is a 700 dollar fine. Just for starters.

        Her adult supervision failed her. Period.

        • Are you agreeing that it could be that all four “rules” were followed, and still a negligent discharge happened? That it is possible that the “rules” do not promise no ND?

        • Now we don’t know if the fact the rifle was black powder was a contributing factor. But comparing your manual of arms with for a cartridge fired shotgun with a muzzle loaded rifle is a little disingenuous. If the only way to unload your shotgun was to fire it, then you can start talking.

        • How can you know the rules weren’t followed? Nothing in the article describes the entire event. The linked report states, “the black powder gun she was using accidentally discharged,…”. Nothing about the combination of trigger control, or muzzle discipline. Indeed, from the simple wording, it would appear the gun discharged while she was using it, meaning the firing phase, not the carry. We know nothing of what actually happened. Even if “…while she was using it..” means only that it was the rifle she had available, there is not description of how the rifle discharged. It is presumptuous to presume the only way the ND could have happened is that one of the “four rules” was violated. Which is why I proposed a scenario where the “rules” were followed, but other circumstances led to the ND. Indeed, I was present when just such circumstances as listed did lead to a near-ND. The AR was safed, the AR muzzle was pointed skyward (ceiling), the trigger was free of obstruction prior to the fall. The AR fell, the safety moved to “fire”, but the AR did not have a round chambered (full mag attached). Oh, did I mention this happened in a room with steel walls?

          How in the world can you conclude someone is anti-gun simply because the question is asked, “Is it possible to follow all the “rules”, and still have an ND?” It is lunacy to conclude that a question about a sacred cow is de facto “anti-gun”. But let me be as blunt as possible, if you think I am anti-gun, you have no idea what anti-gun is. I am one of the few here who believe there should be no restriction on the manner of weapons a private citizen owns or possesses. And that jailed citizens should have a right to self-defense with a firearm (as in I am an absolutist, regardless of the risk).

        • Even if a gun fires without someone’s pulling the trigger, keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times guarantees that no one will get hurt.

          Now that that is settled. . .
          If a negligent discharge takes place, and the Rules (especially TWO, and a bit of FOUR) have been followed, it’s like a tree falling in the forest when no one’s around: NO ONE GETS SHOT. Or crushed, in the case of trees.
          How does this happen, when the Other Rules are followed (such as the one about triggers)? Easy. Firearm mechanisms are not infallible. Hammers and strikers fall without trigger input, safeties fail, bits of smoldering wad or embers from a prior discharge can set off a muzzle-loader in the course of reloading. However, if the muzzle is not pointing at anything not deserving of being shot at the time, it’s merely an object lesson, as opposed to a tragedy and/or a prison term and a huge settlement.

        • No evil intention here, but if one stands a loaded rifle against anything, even thought the trigger is not obstructed, and the muzzle is pointed skyward (no potential tissue to damage), and the rifle falls and fires, which of the four rules would be violated? Thinking one could stretch rule one to cover, eliminating placing a firearm in a status not controlled by the owner/shooter. Would any of the other rules apply, prior to the ND? Rifle pointed in a safe direction; rifle not intentionally pointed so as to endanger others in the direction of the muzzle; no target is selected; finger not on trigger.

        • Two and a half years later on and I come across this article. I figured I would go ahead and comment on Sam’s ridiculous argument in case anyone happens across this article in the future…clearly Sam has next to no experience with firearms.

          Sam, if you ever read this, trying to make it sound like leaning a firearm of any type up against a tree is somehow a stretch of a violation of Rule #1 (Treat every weapon as if it were loaded) shows nothing, but a complete and utter lack of abstract thinking on your part and, frankly, a very good reason why someone such as yourself likely has no business ever owning one. Treating every weapon as if it were loaded directly implies maintaining positive weapon control at all times and would therefore disallow a user, of any age, to lay a firearm, of any type, up against a tree or other object specifically because it can fall and it can discharge, and it can kill someone. When followed PROPERLY it is literally impossible to kill someone else aside from a total failure of a significant component of the firearm (like the barrel explodes or something). Even in such a case it would still be the fault of the shooter, or in the case of the little girl, whoever the watchful eye was suppose to be. The firearm should be inspected regularly and maintained to prevent any incident involving a catastrophic failure. There is no possible way you can actually argue a point of a firearm accidentally discharging itself and killing someone by falling over and not blame whoever the shooter or, again in this case, the responsible party was. Positive weapon control literally means treat every weapon as if it were loaded…at all times. Not treat it as if it were loaded, except when tired or sitting down or not paying attention or when using the bathroom or etc. Always. It’s pretty simple.

          Since I came across this article it’s likely that others will in the future. Folks, if you can’t pay attention well enough to know where the barrel is, where your finger is, and where the bullet is, then don’t own a firearm. I don’t know what else to tell you. Safety really is not very complicated. If the United States Marine Corps can manage to run 200 twenty somethings on a range at a time and have significantly less accidents than in the civilian world ya gotta wonder why that is. It isn’t like every Marine at ITB has their own instructor. Four simple rules can be the difference between you and a casket or a jail cell. If you follow the simple rules, always, you will not kill anybody. It seriously could not be any easier.

  2. Nice choice in using the 1853 Enfield rifle for the article pic. You’ve inspired me to take mine out today.

  3. As long as you are using black powder and seating the projectile firmly against your powder charge, a black powder muzzleloader is no more dangerous than any modern firearm
    They are just a hell of a lot more fun.
    Today is the last day of muzzleloader deer season in Texas, and I’ll be spending all day out with the flinters.

    • “Today is the last day of muzzleloader deer season in Texas.” That’s the only reason, other than somehow ending up with “all the money,” that I’ll ever get a muzzleloader.

    • “muzzleloader is no more dangerous than any modern firearm”. Not really, I can unload my “modern” gun without firing it. I can carry modern rifle with the action open. Now I know you can take the primer cap off, but do people do that when hunting?

      • For folks hunting with percussion cap, yes the standard is to not put a cap on it until you are ready to fire.
        For those of us who use flintlocks, just don’t charge the pan until you are ready to fire.
        It would be fantastically difficult to get the gun to fire without having done one of those two things.
        And by the way, no you don’t have to fire the gun to unload it. It is by far the easiest way but it is not required in either percussion cap or flintlock.

      • Safety note for muzzle-loaders! Removing the percussion cap does NOT make your loaded rifle or pistol “safe”! Or unloaded – Rule # 1. Every firearm is ALWAYS loaded.

        Here’s why: There was an incident in Montana, I believe, about 30-40 years ago where a man and his girlfriend (might have been his daughter, it was a long time ago) were out hunting with a muzzle loaded rifle. After the hunt the man removed the percussion cap from his loaded rifle and placed it in the rack inside his pickup truck while they drove home, but for some reason left the hammer in the full cock instead of half-cock (more or less safe) position. When they arrived home the female exited the truck and he reached inside to retrieve his rifle, at which point he either accidentally touched the trigger which was apparently a “set” trigger, very light pull, or the trigger hit some obstruction on the rifle rack. The rifle discharged and the ball passed through the female’s head, killing her instantly.

        Investigation ruled it an accidental shooting and determined that enough residual chemicals had remained on the nipple after removing the cap that when the hammer fell it created enough spark to discharge the weapon.

        This may explain why old-timers always (gently) drop the hammer on a thick piece of leather when they are carrying a loaded rifle they do not need to be in the ready condition. When I lived in Montana it was not unusual to see many rifles at black powder shoots with a small patch of leather attached to the trigger guard by a braided string for this very purpose. Shooters who were waiting their turn with a loaded weapon would keep the hammer down on the leather. When it was time to fire simply pulling the hammer to half-cock caused the patch of leather to fall out of the way and they would insert the firing cap.

        Be safe out there.

        • Although aware of black powder firearms for quite awhile, never considered the matter of “unloading”. Indeed, it was always folklore that WB Hickock unloaded his revolvers every night, and replaced the ammunition because night air (which also should have affected every cartridge) somehow might make the powder not ignite properly (or at all). With all that folklore, I imagined Hickcock’s gun were cap and ball, so how would unloading work (a question that only arose in the last few years, for me). Does anybody know how to actually “unload” a cap and ball, of flintlock firearm?

        • Sam, there are CO2 powered devices that put gas from a CO2 cartridge through the nipple to unload a percussion gun.

        • Interesting.

          Does the CO2 move the powder, wadding and ball through the barrel, and out?

          Do you happen to know how a flintlock is unloaded? Same/similar way?

        • Yes, out the barrel. There’s no where else for it to go.
          As for flintlocks, there are adapters available to unload them the same way as percussion guns, but using the touch hole.
          Google is your friend.

        • You can use a ball puller. It screws to the ramrod and then you screw the threaded tip into the soft lead ball, then pull it out. Once that’s done, you can dump the powder.

        • “Never point the gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot”…that applies to ALL firearms. That accident occurred because the firearm owner was a dipshit who had little experience and a lot of misplaced confidence. It would have happened regardless of the firearm he had at the time. He would have left a round in the chamber and the firing selector off safe.

      • If you fail to shoot the muzzleloader during a hunting trip (means you had a bad weekend). Remove the ignition source (cap or priming powder), attach a ball puller to your ramrod, thread the puller into the lead ball down the barrel, pull the ball, dump the powder. Done. It’s not rocket science. Funny how folks with little or no experience with muzzleloaders all treat them like they’re a grenade always on the verge of detonation.

  4. Am I weird for using Pyrodex? Sure, it doesn’t have that smell, but it’s more shelf-stable than real black powder.

    • I prefer the real thing myself. Black Powder is more reliable, in my experience. I have a .54 cal. Lyman Great Plains Rifle that refuses to fire reliably with a bp substitute. But it runs like a top with holy black. My Uberti Dragoon and Pedersoli ’61 Springfield doesn’t care what you feed them, they will shoot. Also, Ive found that cleaning real black powder residue from the firearms is easier than Pyrodex. Ive read, and experienced, Pyrodex residue (after a thorough cleaning with hot soapy water) attracts moisture to the firearm days after they’ve been cleaned. I haven’t had that problem with real black powder.

  5. I don’t see the connection between black powder, and this girls tragic death.
    Firearms of all types are inherently dangerous, black powder ones, no more, or less than any other.
    I learned how to shoot cap and ball revolvers, when I was 10.
    I still shoot the original Colt 1851 Navy, I started with.

    • I agree. The story highlights the dangers of accidental discharges, not dangers of black powder.
      The title “Nebraska Hunting Accident Highlights Black Powder Dangers” , lead me to think, black powder would be what caused the accident. It seems, black powder had little, if anything to do with the cause of the accident
      I’m not be sarcastic

      • Is the headline designed to underscore that too many people may presume black powder firearms are some how less subject to NDs because the ignition system is less sophisticated? Or less prone to discharge through rough handling, dropping?

  6. I’m no expert on modern muzzleloaders, but don’t they need to be manually cocked? Why would you cock one before your sights are on target?

  7. It’s not especially easy to aim a muzzle-loading rifle at yourself. I guess there are circumstances where this could all happen as (vaguely) reported, but boy it takes carelessness and some terrible luck.

    • Did not find any clear words in the linked article that explained the term “…rifle the girl was using”, which is all that was mentioned about the shooting.

      Although there is a video available of a guy looking down the barrel of a misfired rifle/shotgun (here:, I gotta believe (without evidence, of course) that was not what the girl was doing.

  8. Just brainstorming here – I have never used a black powder firearm, but could static electricity be enough to flash a pan? There are times of year when you don’t want to touch any metal that is grounded – step out of a vehicle and reach for one inside the cab…….

    When loading gasoline tankers, we had to clamp a static line to each trailer.

  9. To unload a Black Powder firearm. Rifle/shotgun take cap off nipple, take ramrod from gun, thread on a special jag that has a threaded tip and insert the rod to the ball and screw it in. Then pull the ball out. Shot is simply poured or the wad is pulled. The same goes with handguns there is a tool that screws in the ball and pulled.
    Moderate all you want this is the method used.

  10. What does this have to do with black powder? You follow the same basic gun safety rules as all other firearms. This could have happened with any gun. With that being said, I love taking my muzzleloaders to the range. Once the other shooters find out they’re black powder, I can see the look of fear and curiosity in their eyes. They all seem to want to keep their distance, lol. Idiots. Fearing what they don’t understand.


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