Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Long term 18th Century Survival, Then & Now; Number 2.

Note the hammer cap made of leather. This is a safety device that fits over the hammer to make sure the gun can not fire when not needed.


Setting up a trap line is a priority. A trap line will work for you when you are asleep or working elsewhere. In times when there is little game about you can hunt to and from your trap line all year round, in good times you can wait until the traps have been checked and reset and then if needs be you can hunt on the return trip.

Don’t forget that if a trap line is discovered it will be a good place to lay in ambush, so keep your wits about you and a sharp look-out. For those of you that think this is taking things too far, consider this. In the 18th century in the New World there was a constant danger from hostiles, both woodland Indians and white men. On camps and treks I have been on, on one occasion I was openly attacked and fired on by seven assailants, and on another occasion tracked by four young men who backed off when they saw I was armed. Man is the most dangerous land animal in the world, and he/she is just as dangerous now as they were 300 years ago. In a survival situation the risks will be higher.

Fishing is another good source of food, and in a survival situation there is no law against set lines. Set lines are lines baited and left just like a trap line.

Fish hooks can also be used on floats/small platforms baited with bread for ducks. The line is attached to the shore, and a rock is attached to the line and supported by the float. When the duck takes the bait the rock is pulled from the float and the duck drowns. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A SURVIVAL TRAP ONLY!

The same goes for fish traps. Research fish traps so that you know how to make them.

Land animal traps include: cage traps, dead falls, pit traps, fence traps and snares. There is no point in carrying steel jaw traps when you can make your own traps on site from natural plant materials, though I would advise making your small game and preditor snares from brass picture hanging wire. A 7 strand wire is good for rabbit and possum, or you can twist two 4 strand wires together if the number 7 is not available. Preditor snares for feral dog and cat and fox can be made from two 7 strand wires twisted together. This is as close as you can get to 18th century snares today. Be careful of snaring cats and foxes, they do carry diseases. Cat I am told tastes like chicken, though I have never tried it. Snake I have eaten though and it does taste like chicken.

Kangaroo, goat and pig snares need to be made from cordage or rope.


The Rabbit Stick. A very simple hunting tool is the rabbit stick. This stick is about as long as a tomahawk helve (though I like my tomahawk helve a little longer) from your clenched fist to you elbow. You can add a point to each end and use it as a digging stick as well. If you can throw a tomahawk you can throw a rabbit stick. The rabbit stick is thrown like a boomerang for rabbit, duck, geese and other birds, but it won’t come back if you miss!

The Tomahawk. The tomahawk is a very useful tool and can be used for hunting, butchering, shelter construction, defence, offence, and trap construction. The helve fits in the head from the top just like a pick axe or mattock so it is easy to make and easy to fit in the field if one should break.

The Hunting Knife. Choose your hunting knife well. I like a big knife but not too big and not heavy. I find a butcher knife works very well. The long blade would enable me to use this knife bound to the end of a stabbing spear so if needs be I could lie beside a trail and ambush game.

The Bow & Arrow. The bow is probably the ultimate survival tool, but it is not so easy to find decent bow woods and arrow woods in Australia. But it can be done. Simple self-bows for survival can be made from wattle and other woods with some experimentation. Where I live in the New England area I use wattle, but in other areas you may find other suitable woods.

Arrows can be made from reeds with hard wood tips and notches fitted in the ends if you can’t find any decent reasonably straight timber. Arrows of course can be heated and straightened in the fire and fletching can be secured by binding or wrapping.

The Flintlock Muzzleloading Gun. The flintlock gun or rifle is a first rate survival tool.
• You do not need to carry brass cartridges but you can make your own paper ones.
• A fusil or musket can digest round ball, bird shot, and swan shot (buck shot), or a combination of these.
• There are very few parts to a flintlock and they are easy to repair.
• You can get moulds for all shot types.
• You can use the lock on the gun to make fire.
• If the lock breaks and you have no spare parts, you can turn it into a matchlock and keep using it.
• The ignition only requires a sharp edged rock to fire the gun, and you can find these in the field if you should run out of spares.
• Far easier to dig the used lead out of targets and game for reuse.

A few flintlock tips for beginners:
1. Always use the correct black powder, it is the name BLACK POWDER that counts, not the colour.
2. Always use a powder measure of the correct volume and NEVER load directly from the powder horn or a flask.
3. The flint held in the cock must be sharp or it will not cut sparks from the hammer and will not fire. If the hammer is not sparking with a good flint (any good hard sharp rock will work), then the hammer may need hardening or replacing.
4. Do not overfill the priming pan. It does not require much powder to work.
5. Prime from your main horn, there should be no need for an extra priming horn.
6. The flintlock should fire instantaneously. Make sure you use your vent pick to clear the vent each time you load. Powder in the vent will slow ignition.
7. You carry a pan brush to brush burnt powder from the pan in damp weather to stop it attracting moisture. I suggest you also wipe the surface of the hammer.
8. If after doing everything right you find that you have misfires or slow ignition, check the size of the vent (flash hole). I drilled mine out in a bigger size and it works great now. Sometimes they make them too small. I also countersunk the hole.
9. Cleaning is easily done by removing the barrel from the stock and with your cleaning stick or ram rod and some cloth or tow or similar you place the vent hole beneath water and use the barrel like a bicycle pump. Sucking in clean water and pumping out the dirty water.
If you use hot water it will dry quickly after wiping out with a dry cloth or similar. If using cold water simply wipe out the bore and heat gently in front of your fire until dry.
This may all sound like a lot of hard work, but it really is not. You get used to knowing what to do and it does not take long.

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