Rogues of the Golden Coast are committed to the safe display and demonstration of blackpowder arms, and cannons, both for our audiences and for ourselves. Maintaining a flawless record of NO incidents or injuries to this date. We insure that all safety standards are always upheld, RGC holds required blackpowder training, safety, and handling sessions for RGC members and RGC recruits on a regular bases. On the day of an event that we are performing at, all members of RGC along with new recruits and members of other historical groups firing with us must attend all blackpowder arms inspection and safety classes before firing any and all weapons. Only after being signed off by our safety officers are they allowed to do so.
The guidelines provided may not necessarily be inclusive of all safety practices required for any procedure or operation conducted in private or at reenactment events. Every effort has been made to provide accurate and detailed instructions for the reader, but the information presented must be treated as a guideline only.
There is no greater responsibility of a member of a cannon crew than to ensure the safety of the cannon, the crew, other muzzle loading artillerists, other reenactors, and the general public. Each member of the cannon crew is a safety officer with the duty to prevent anything unsafe from happening. The following safety rules have been compiled from actual experience in the field.
RULES OF SAFETY
1. The drinking of alcohol in any form or the use of any kind of controlled substance is NOT ALLOWED before or while handling or firing any and all firearms. This includes sword fighting and hand to hand combat weapons also. It creates safety problems and it conveys a bad impression to the public. Anyone attempting to operate any weapon under the influence will be asked to leave that event. Repeated offenses of this nature will be cause for permanent removal from the group.
2. The Three-Minute Rule must be followed at all times - no exceptions. This rule states that three-minutes must elapse between the time the cannon fires and the next round is introduced into the muzzle. Since the last thing that happens when a cannon is fired is that the tube is wormed and sponged, and the first thing that happens when a cannon is loaded is that the tube is wormed and sponged again, the chances of premature firing from burning embers are greatly reduced.
3. All members of the gun crew must wear ear protection when firing powder charges.
4. All crew members must make sure they are never directly behind the wheels or the carriage when the cannon is loaded. This is to prevent recoil injury and should be followed whether or not live ammunition is being used.
5. No one may wear any synthetic material while serving on a cannon crew. Synthetic materials melt in heat and can fuse to the skin in an accident.
6. The gunners should wear leather elbow length gloves on both hands when firing powder charges. Leather does not burn, and this helps protect the hands in the event of premature firing.
7. All gunners should always have their thumb of their ramming hand pointing out and that they are grasping the rammer on the bottom when loading powder charges. This will reduce injury in the event of premature firing while ramming.
8. Never use flour, corn meal, or other substances with powder charges. It creates a fire hazard and makes the tube harder to clean. It can also reduce the smoothness of the cannon's bore, increasing the chance that a powder charge could be accidentally ripped open while ramming and causing a potential premature firing situation.
9. Be careful not to load too much powder into each charge. Be sure to use Fg or cannon grade black powder ONLY (never use anything other than black powder). Powder should not exceed 2 oz. per inch of the bore diameter.
10. Always use pre measured charges. Never pour blackpowder directly into muzzle. This can create a dangerous situation causing the weapon to explode.
11. Never use charges that are not double wrapped in heavy aluminum foil. Make sure there are no holes or tears in the foil.
12. Never ram two charges at the same time to create a bigger bang. One could explode outside the muzzle, creating a dangerous situation with shrapnel from the aluminum foil.
13. Do not allow anyone not part of the cannon crew or its chain of command to cross between the limber and the cannon line.
14. Do not fire if anyone is within a 90 degree arc from the center line of the tube or within 50 yards of the front of the muzzle.
15. Keep the limber locked at all times when not in use.
16. Do not let anyone smoke within 20 yards of the cannon line or the limber line, regardless of whether or not the limber is locked.
17. Make sure all gun crew members are properly trained and supervised.
18. Make sure the area around the limber and between the limber and the cannon is free from rocks, sticks, or anything else that could hamper safe operation of the cannon.
19. Never allow anyone to fire small arms over the limber chest.
20. Never leave a loaded cannon unattended.
21. Always look around before firing to be sure it is safe to do so.
22. Always inspect the cannon before its use. The inspection should be carried out by the Gunner, the Chief of Section, and the Safety Officer.
23. Vent Pricks. When using a cast iron or steel barrel, be certain to use a bronze or brass vent prick. When using a bronze barrel, be certain to use a steel vent prick. This is to prevent a spark from being generated by using a ferrous metal with another ferrous metal when cleaning the vent. An unintended spark could cause the powder charge to prematurely fire while the powder charge is being pricked before the friction primer is inserted into the vent.
24. Make sure to dampen area around cannon line in a 10 yard diameter.
25. Always make sure all fire extinguishers and a water source are working and easily assessable.
Reenacting is a hobby, and while black powder can be dangerous, there are ways to keep the hobby safe for artillerists, other reenactors, and the general public. The key is to be observant and to be prepared.
Handling and Storage Precautions
Avoid impact, friction, heat, sparks and open flame.
Never smoke while handling black powder.
Never handle or use black powder after drinking alcohol or using mind-altering drugs.
Keep containers tightly closed when not in use.
Do not mix black powder with any other type of gunpowder.
Do not purchase or accept black powder that is not in its original, factory sealed container.
Do not dispense black powder directly from the canister, flask or horn into the firearm.
Do not dispense substantial amounts of black powder in close proximity to the firearm.
Learn and obey all laws and regulations regarding quantities of explosive material and methods of storage.
Do not store black powder in the same area with other flammable materials.
Do not store black powder within the reach of children.
Store black powder only in manufacturer approved containers.
-DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME-
Reasonable care has been used in this articles preparation.The reader of the above article assumes all risks, responsibility and liability for any and all injuries, losses and damages to persons or property arising from the use of information found in this article. RGC are trained artillerists and do not condone nor promote the misuse of firearms without proper training. Historically, firearms were necessary as a means of survival and are reflected as such. References or portrayals of firearms cannot be eliminated from world history and, from an educational standpoint, Rogues of the Golden Coast is accountable to educate the public by also demonstrating the responsible use of firearms. Through dramatic re-enactments that depict such use, firearms usage is portrayed as an appropriate act of protection for the period, not an act of senseless or random violence.*