TFB Armorer's Bench: Initial Steps with a Muzzle Loader Kit

Sam.S
by Sam.S

Welcome everyone to the TFB Armorer’s Bench! As mentioned in the little blurb below, this series will focus on a lot of home armorer and gunsmith activities. Recently the projects have been stacking up but so have the odd jobs so there has been very little time to stop and take pictures for ongoing content. I did however find some time this week to work on a Traditions Blunderbuss Muzzle Loader Kit that I acquired a little while ago. These sorts of kits are common enough and similar ones have been sold for decades. I’ve never used one but I figured it would be a fun project that I could potentially impart some general tips along the way. Let’s dive into the initial steps!

Note: I have never played with a kit gun like this. I have plenty of experience in metal and woodworking but when it comes to these kits, there may be a few tips and tricks that I myself don’t know about them specifically. Feel free to share with everyone down below! Armorer’s Bench is supposed to be a welcoming and informative space for beginners and enthusiasts.

Recent TFB Armorer’s Bench Content:

TFB Armorer’s Bench: Initial Steps with a Muzzle Loader Kit

Here, we at TFB hope to inform, entertain, and even inspire any would-be gunsmith or armorer out there. Ideally, with the information I provide and with the help of our sponsors, you can have some useful knowledge about the conservation and improvement of firearms technology while at the same time sharing experiences and teaching each other new tips and tricks along the way in the comments. Digging deep into what it is to be an armorer or gunsmith has significance but what is important is what those people do to show they’ve earned that title. I am happy to share my experiences and knowledge and hope it is informative!

Make your personal safety a priority:

  1. Practice proper gun safety. Always make sure before the firearm hits your bench that it is unloaded and safe to be handled.
  2. Wear the proper safety equipment. The main one would be safety glasses (decent ones) since parts are often under spring tension and you may work with high RPM tools. Other honorable mentions would be latex gloves or a respirator when working with potentially harmful solvents and oils. Also hearing protection when working with loud machinery or test-firing firearms.
  3. Modifications, alterations, and customizations will void your firearm’s warranty 9.5 times out of 10. Please take that into consideration before attempting any at-home gunsmithing.
  4. If you are unsure about proper safety practices, disassembly procedures, or warranty standards, stop, put down the tools, and consult a competent gunsmith.

The Kit – Traditions Blunderbuss Flintlock Muzzle Loader Kit

So yeah, I picked up a blunderbuss kit from muzzle-loaders.com which seemed to have partnered with Traditions a while back to sell some blunderbuss kits. Buyer beware if you are interested in this kit for any sort of authenticity. The kit is very much an effort in fun and efficiency. It is very obviously an unrifled 54 caliber barrel with a threaded end where the funnel-looking flare was threaded on and thread locked, brazed, or soldered, etc. This blunderbuss is going for that sort of Looney Toons Thanksgiving Elmer Fudd vibe.

The kit comes with everything you need as far as parts are concerned. The actual lock portion is fully case-hardened and assembled. It’s probably a good idea since those V-springs can be a pain to reinstall once they are removed. The screws, trigger assembly, and screw inserts are already blued. The brass trigger guard is polished (on the exterior), however, the remnants of the sticky polishing compound are very apparent on the inside portions.

The stock is shaped and inletted. Things are left fairly rough but completely manageable. Just a few frayed threads of wood here and there.

The tang piece had a nice burr on one side where the drill bit must have exited and somehow was never taken care of even though the top portion was also polished to a mirror finish. A side note is I wish this was not the case since the barrel is a matte finish. We could always polish the barrel to match or sandblast the tang.

Dry Fitting – Traditions Blunderbuss Flintlock Muzzle Loader Kit

Per the instructions, we should kick things off with a dry fit. I had a hard time not going straight to cleaning parts up so I removed all of the frays and frilly bits inside the stock. No special tool is required for this. Just something with an edge. I used a sharp chisel to more or less push in a scrapping motion. The frays don’t need to be “cut” the glances of an edge will detach them.

With those guys out of the way, dry fitting can begin more comfortably. I started with the lock mechanism/plate. It should be as easy as a plug-in and play but mine had some edges that were catching somewhere. If you can get one side somewhat aligned or inserted and gently tap the other with a hammer it will make an imprint on the high side of the wood.

Inletting black can also be used here but it really isn’t necessary.

This can be filed, sanded, and/or chiseled. I just chiseled it down since it wasn’t much. Make sure you have a sharp set of chisels before using them. a dull one will easily ruin a project.

Next, I sanded things down inside the lock plate area as uniformly as I could.

While doing this I would periodically test the fit of the lock until it sat in.

Next up were the lock plate screws and their spacer/inserts. These were easy enough to install. I put the screws through the spacers and put them in their holes. With a few soft taps of a nylon hammer, they were set. Just be aware that the inserts will stay put after they are pressed in.

Note: Do not hammer, squeeze, or twist the stock too hard. Parts are inletted very thinly and could crack if you aren’t careful.

After the lock plate and screws, I installed the flash hole into the barrel. This is a threaded and slotted screw with a hole through it that threads into the barrel.

Some antifreeze is very advisable since black powder fouling is some nasty sticky corrosive stuff.

Next, I needed to test the fit of the tang but it had that large burr on the side that needed removing. Chucking it up in a vise and filing it down was not a big deal. I wouldn’t worry about damaging any finish on the sides since it will be hidden by the stock.

After the burr was removed the tang, tang screw, and trigger could be installed. The tang needed to be set pretty low in its factory inletting for the screw to reach the trigger.

The trigger was said to have been a tight fit in the instructions but it was extremely loose and needed no sanding, chiseling, or filing.

Arguably the most nerve-racking step that every long gun muzzle loading kit by Traditions will require you to do is fitting the trigger guard. Since these parts are cast and potentially bent here and there they will be a little long on the stock end. You need to draw where it overlaps and chisel your extension.

Luckily this did not require too much material to be taken out so with a few swipes of a rounded chisel I was off to the races…or so I thought.

Since this trigger guard is cast it has a small nub protruding out the side. This is another quick file job.

Just a few swipes with the file and she’s gone.

After the trigger guard is in place we need to drill some pilot holes for the wood screws meant to hold down the trigger guard. Find a drill bit that has a diameter that appears smaller or about the same size as the wood screw and tape the drill bit roughly half the length of the screw. Wood is pretty forgiving. It isn’t rocket science.

The factory inletting was a bit deep on the rear end but that is nothing some wood putty won’t fix.

Next, I turned my attention to the brass buttplate which came attached to the stock. It was a little proud around the edges. To fix this I wrapped the rear of the stock in tape (around three layers). this will ideally prevent a person from accidentally filing away at some wood.

I just filed the level around the whole buttplate until I began to hit the first layer of tape.

Once all that was done, it was time for the complete dry fit assembly.

Closing Thoughts

Well, that is all for now folks! Next time we will hopefully cover sanding and finishing. After that, we will rust blue the barrel and tang, toss a sling on it, and take it to the range. I will see you down the road. Be safe out there and safe smithing!

As always, thank you for reading TFB! Be safe out there, have fun while shooting, and we will see you next time for the TFB Armorer’s Bench! Also, let us know what you think in the comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

Sam.S
Sam.S

Writer | TheFirearmBlogWriter | AllOutdoor.comInstagram | sfsgunsmithOld soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.

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  • Marathag Marathag on Oct 02, 2023

    Do wish they had an option for a better grade of wood. Used to joke on the poor quality of the Beech wood in the old CVA kits, and that looked not much better, but with better inletting

  • What kind of “antifreeze” would you recommend on that flash-hole plug? Green or blue?

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