Those who were fortunate to attend the Grand Muster at St. Mary's and participate in the shooting competition were, I think, pleasantly surprised with the accuracy of their matchlocks. Historically in the New World smoothbore fowlers proved more versatile than the more expensive rifled musket. A properly patched lead ball of the musket gauge could take out a deer or bear and using shot the same weapon would yield fowl and other small game. It wasn't until the big game was hunted out of the new colonies that smaller caliber rifled muskets were justified for more wary small game and longer range for bigger targets.
Whether smoothbore or rifled, assuming your musket is in proper condition, to consistently shoot, everything must be consistent. First you must eliminate the windage. Windage is the space between the ball and barrel. Besides loosing a lot of energy, an unpatched ball will literally bounce down the barrel. In a rifled barrel besides sealing the escaping gases, the patch also imparts the spin of the rifling. For John Buck's matchlocks which many of the King's Lifeguard use takes .600 "balls with a .010" patch. Recommended powder is FF (2F) for muskets, FFF for pistols. Rule of thumb for normal shooting is whatever the caliber (in this case .62") use that number in grains of powder (60-65 grains). For pistols, use half the caliber. However, if you are merely trying to punch a hole in plywood at 25 yards, the less powder you use, the less recoil you will experience and give tighter groups. Also, for persons not used to the recoil of large bore muskets you will be less prone to flinch. You will need to experiment as to what load works best for you. I personally use FFF for target shooting since there is less fouling.
Look at the fired patches. If there are sharp cuts in the shape of a circle, your patch is too tight. If you use a rest, leave it in place as a reference to keep the distance constant. Don't pull it back and forth to correct your aim. Something that is overlooked is your natural stance when shooting. Using a pistol as an example, stand at the shooting line but do not look at the target. Extend your arm and point the pistol to where it feels comfortable. Now look at where your muzzle is actually pointing. Correct the left or right aim by moving your rear foot. Repeat this until you are always right on. Scuff the ground to mark where both your feet are so you can return to this position again and again. Use the same principle with musket and rest but close your eyes when "aiming".
Although not authentic, I recommend a fiberglass range rod like the "Super Rod" available from Mountain State Muzzleloading (800-445-1776). As fouling builds up if you get a bullet stuck halfway down the barrel, bounding on a hickory or ash scouring stick you risk breaking it and ramming it through your wrist. Super Rods have a built in bullet-puller, get a proper size wire brush, worm and cleaning jag. If fouling builds up, run the brush down a few times dry. Another "must have" is an adjustable powder measure.
The more you shoot your weapons live the more you appreciate keeping the bore clean. My cleaning kit includes a Maglite that uses one AAA battery. Adjust the beam, tilt your "cleaned" musket and slide it down shining back at you. If you get real serious about shooting, you may need to have the barrel reamed to clean up the pitting. Something else overlooked for consistency: before shooting live, foul your bore with a blank shot. Otherwise your first shot will not be the same as the subsequent ones.
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