Safety, First and Foremost

An article on page 40 of the October issue of The Civil War News caught not only my eye, but my interest as well. Once again, it seems, some unknown individual firing a Civil War weapon under reenactment conditions has injured a participant. According to the story, last May a participant in a "tactical" hosted by the National Regiment in Pennsylvania was wounded by debris fired from a weapon during the event.

Of course, you say, the sponsors and commanders rushed to support their fallen comrade physically and financially. And, of course you might think, an immediate investigation was begun to determine the unit source of the projectiles, and to determine how these errant pebbles became airborne in the victims direction. Most definitely, you might reason, the injured party was passionately and humanly treated by his own beloved brothers immediately after the accident and at future events. Well, pardner, guess again.

Try this one on for what really happened. Terry Daley, National Regiment Commander, was quoted in the story, saying it can not be proved where the rock came from or how it was projected. Oh, great. Just what America needs, another conspiracy theory. Now, I not only have to worry about ill-trained and ill-commanded troops in the field, but I have to also look out for mysterious third party pebble projectors as well. The commander of the troops accused by the injured party and his comrades of being responsible for the shot (an ANV unit) also subscribed to this "man on the grassy knoll" theory. So, into this void of leadership and responsibility stepped ANV Commander Don Patterson. Patterson said that lawyers in his units advised him not to comment on the incident. Just how lame can it get?

Things didn't cool off, either, The victims commander was quoted in the article as saying the ANV has been "incredibly rude and callous" about the entire incident. The quote of the month, however, has to go to ANV's Patterson. He is quoted as saying,"...we know when we go out there we take a risk." Get a grip, Don. When I go out there, I expect field commanders to be in control, and responsible for what happens. If I expected to get shot, I'd carry more life insurance and wear a vest with big yellow F-B-I letters on it.

No reenactor expects to encounter projectiles fired by the participants, perhaps due to sloppy commanders in the chain-of-command. PERIOD.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the ANV has been involved in a shooting accident at a reenactment. I have personal knowledge of an incident in New York a few years ago, where an ANV member was shot point-blank in the face with a revolver. Naturally, the top field commander denied all culpability in the incident, until the culprit was returned to the scene to face the music and admitted his involvement. Unfortunately, the ANV has not responded in an identical manner recently as in the New York incident. When the ANV member was the victim, the hat was passed and the injured person "made-whole". When the ANV is the accused party, for some reason, there is quite a different reaction.

While there is nothing I can do to make field commanders more capable and to exercise better judgement, I would like to promote some safety rules for the use of civil war ordnance. Every organization that takes a part in any scenario which requires the loading of military weapons for any purpose should have an adequate safety policy implemented by an adequate safety officer. Failure to do so is not only a failure of reason, but a failure of conscious as well.

First, the individual firing the weapon has the ultimate responsibility for the weapons safety. The command, "fire", does not exclude any individual from exercising extreme care. If the company commander does not implement safety procedures as recommended herein, individuals should do so safely on their own.

Second, company commanders are responsible for the effect of the combined fire of the troops under their command. Company commanders must take whatever steps are necessary to guarantee safety. If weapons are kept loaded overnight, the commander should take his unit to a safe place and clear all weapons. Care should also be taken when carrying loaded arms during marches. Barrels are easily "plugged", or blocked with dirt, when climbing up and down steep hills. All errors must be on the side of safety.

Third, battalion commanders are responsible for the dumb acts of the companies under their command. If orders are given to remain loaded, the battalion commander must later see to it that all guns are safely unloaded. If required, inept company commanders should be replaced, and inept companies` removed from the ranks for safety's sake.

Forth, high command has high responsibility, or responsibility flows up hill. Everybody wants to sit on his high horse and give orders, but nobody wants to be responsible for careless acts of troops under their "command". Be a real leader, not a pompous asp.

Fifth, every participant has the duty to report unsafe conditions or actions to the event staff, as well as their own chain of command. Also, every participant has the responsibility to identify any source of accidental injury in order to make future events safer.

Remember, any individual who reenacts, skirmishes or pleasure shoots with a musket, carbine or revolver has the responsibility to act safely at all times. Don't depend on others to promote safety, it starts with the individual.

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Now, an update on bore cleaning solutions. Earlier this year, my comrade Joe Bilby introduced our readers to a cleaning solution which first appeared in the NMLRA's MuzzleBlast magazine. The solution, a mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide, Isopropanol Alcohol, and Murphy's Oil Soap, is a good bore cleaner for muskets, carbines and revolvers.

Well, I have field tested this cleaner now for nine months. The best solution appears to be one which is 3 parts of HO2, 3 parts Alcohol, and 1 part soap. Other formulas left a heavy residue which attracted moisture. My teammates helped me test the different formulas all summer, and we all agreed that the 3-1-3 mix was best. Two other recommendations should be offered in conjunction with this cleaner. First, always rinse the metal parts with warm water to remove all residue. Second, do not use this cleaner around open flames, especially campfires. The mixture is very flammable.

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Having just returned from the 88th National Skirmish, I want to congratulate the Tidewater Region teams who made the experience a good one. The Tidewater region also had teams sponsoring the 87th in the spring, which was also well run with the assistance of the Deep South teams. Both National Skirmishes this year were expertly run. Good work, ladies and gentlemen of the Tidewater and Deep South Regions!

Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 1993 by Tom Kelley
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