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Traditional Muzzleloading Rendezvous

A User’s Guide to Attending Rendezvous


These are my thoughts on rendezvous, a lot of people have a whole lot more experience, so if you see something you don’t like, ask around, someone else may do it better. In the meantime, if you follow this guide, at least you’ll have gotten a decent start.


Find out the rules for authenticity required by the rendezvous’ organizers, first. DON’T BE SHY! All but a very few rendezvous allow first timers great latitude in the way of equipment and clothing. I personally am a follower of the ‘Squint School’ of authenticity. If I squint hard enough and it looks ok, then it’s fine. This saves me a lot of trouble but it’s a little lackadaisical for some rendezvous, where they may have ‘juries’ ruling on permissible clothing and gear.

On arrival at the rendezvous, get there early. Good sleeping spots go quickly. I don’t like to be too near the portable toilets, it’s just me. Set up your camp. You need some sort of tent, I like Whelen lean-tos. I cover my modern sleeping pad and sleeping bag with a blanket. An ‘A-frame’ tent is popular with people who don’t like to sleep on the ground, a cot fits inside. For sleeping in summer, you really don’t need anything more than a covering blanket in most areas. Water storage can be by an in-sight period canteen and hidden 2 ½ gallon plastic container. I cook over charcoal briquettes. Although wood is always readily available, I like the controlled heat. A cast iron dutch oven can prepare ‘most anything, I usually don’t bother with a frying pan or a pot. For a quick cup of cocoa, I use a  little propane stove, also hidden away out of sight when not in use. I plan my meals beforehand and package them up into plastic bags. I keep a period lantern out in the open, but after night falls, I pull out my modern flashlight if I need to go somewhere. A comfortable camp chair and I’m set for the rest of the rendezvous. The fire place usually is a hole cut in turf with a grate, save the covering grass and replace when you go. A tripod to hang the dutch oven from is a handy thing to have. A period-correct storage box is also very handy, but a spare blanket can cover a lot of modern gear and a plastic garbage bag for trash - the goal is ‘leave no trace’.


Cooking gear clean-up usually is informal; a basin for cups and dishes and such with HOT water and detergent, rinse in a second basin with more hot water, then a quick hit with a dish towel to dry.  I wash up the dutch oven with scrubbing and more hot water, dump the waste water in a ‘grease hole’ near the tent but out of the way and I’m done. Don’t forget to cover up the grease hole when you leave. If the rendezvous has rules on any of this, they’ll let you know before you set up.


The most important Rule - HAVE FUN!!

Getting Started


Guns

Most people get into traditional muzzleloading because they have a firearm that they want to shoot, or know someone who does.  The first thing to realize is, not everyone who puts the label of ‘traditional’ on a gun is really being traditional. Guns by firms like ‘CVA’, ‘Traditions’ or ‘Thompson Center’ are fine for beginners, but when you are ready to move up, talk to a knowledgeable buckskinner or visit on-line websites like, as examples, ‘Track of the Wolf’, or Dixie Gun Works’ to see what REAL traditionally styled guns look like.

“You get what you pay for” is alive and well in the world of muzzleloading, as in the rest of the world. Gun locks are complicated and good ones cost more than poor ones. Good guns cost more than poor ones, and are a LOT more fun.


Try to match the design of the gun to the era you are interested in. As an example, I have a Pedersoli ‘Mortimer’ model that I find to be quite reliable, and reasonably authentic for early 1800. It is NOT authentic for the Revolutionary War era, however, because of the design of the lock. At my local shooting range, I don’t care, but if I want to be reasonably authentic, I want to leave it out of my Revolutionary War camp. It’s a personal pride thing, no one would kick me out of a rendezvous because I was carrying the ‘wrong’ gun, unless it was an inline plastic-stocked monstrosity with a telescopic sight, and even then, I am sure that someone’d offer me the use of a temporary ‘loaner’ gun.

Smoothbores versus Rifles

I like ‘em both. Rifles have spiral grooves down the barrel and are more accurate than smoothbores. I could easily be wrong, but I believe that there were no true ‘shotguns’ before the invention of choking in the 1800s. Before then, they were called muskets, or fusils, fowlers or trade guns and could shoot a round ball, with or without a patch, or shot of various sizes. A beginner probably should get a rifle, but smoothbores are a lot of fun to shoot, too.

Camp Gear

Tag along with an experienced person before you lay out money for camp gear. This stuff is highly personal, and what I like you might find quite wrong for yourself. A beginner at a rendezvous can bring along whatever they have, altho you may find yourself camping over near the ‘tin mules’ if you bring out a modern nylon tent to sleep in.

Clothing

The same as camp gear, start out with what you’ve got and let it evolve over time. You will need a hat, some sort of rain gear, and something to cover your body. Pretend that you are going camping, and don’t forget the bug repellant.