The term "muzzle loader" has two meanings.
A muzzle loader is any firearm in which the projectile and propellant are loaded down the front of the gun's barrel.
"Muzzle loader" can also refer to the person who loads the firearm.
Several area historial reenacters gathered at the Redwood County Museum on Sunday afternoon to show how muzzle loading guns work.
Visitors got to load the rifles, and fire them into the woods behind the museum. However, no bullets of any sort were used. The firearms only fired scraps of old newspaper.
John Balko, 10, was one of the visitors who discovered how long and difficult loading a rifle was at one time.
A black powder charge and a piece of cloth wadding both had to be rammed down the barrel before the projectile could be loaded.
Don Ryer of Belview explained how muzzle loading rifles evolved over the years.
The first muzzle loaders were called flintlocks because they had a two-step process to actually fire something.
The first explosion — outside the barrel of the rifle — sent flame down a tiny hole into the barrel, igniting the charge behind the projectile.
That meant a slight delay — a second or more — between pulling the trigger and the gun firing. Gunners needed to take that into account when aiming at an enemy soldier, or at an unlucky deer.
Later on, rifle makers learned how to use a single percussive cap fire the charge.
For visitors who didn't like the sudden explosive bang of the guns going off, Brian Sams showed how to aim and fire at targets using a bow and arrow.