This last Sunday I was in Denver and my friend Mario offered to take me shooting. He was too kind to say this, but I think he’d read some of my stories with cap and ball pistols in them (THE KIDNAP PLOT and CITY OF THE SAINTS both feature cap and ball guns) and he wanted to show me the errors of my ways.
So we hit an outdoor range in the greater Denver area at 9:00 am Sunday morning. Mario brought a nice collection of replica guns: a Colt Dragoon (here upright in the stand to be loaded with the four paper cartridges in the background and two loose bullets), and three smaller pistols — pocket caliber, Navy caliber, and Army caliber. He taught me to load them with pre-prepared paper cartridges as well as with loose powder and patch (I think my big omission in my stories was to leave out greasing the cylinder (we used mutton fat), which Mario did with a period-authentic spatula).
These guns are fun to shoot. They shoot straight, even when aimed by a newbie like me. They throw out a big cloud of smoke that you see, smell, and taste. They’re beautiful and they punch a big hole.
Oh yeah, and they spit a cloud of flame.
Mario (author of the sly and rollicking Felix Gomez books) is a font of knowledge on cap and ball, so not only did I see and practice good technique, we had a wide-ranging conversation on history and practice that drifted back into the Thirty Years War and forward to the Battle of Campeche, with a little World War I thrown in for a bonus).
Here’s Mario greasing the cylinder:
Yep, that’s mutton fat.