The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association in Friendship, Indiana will hold its annual Fall National Championship Shoot, celebrating the muzzle loading sports and our Early American heritage, September 12th-20th. Enjoy the beautiful, blazing autumn colors of southern Indiana as you watch black powder shooting competitions and amble through the “living arts” historical crafts demonstrations featured in the Living History Center/Primitive Encampment. Opportunities abound for young people, from learning how to shoot muzzle loading firearms under the tutelage of trained instructors, to exciting “hands-on” craft activities designed especially for them! The event grounds are located in southeastern Indiana about forty miles from Cincinnati, Ohio. Public attendance is welcome and encouraged!
The NMLRA’s Mission
The NMLRA exists to promote, support, nurture, and preserve the NMLRA’s and our nation’s rich historical heritage in the sport of muzzleloading through recreational, educational, historical, and cultural venues such as match competition, hunting, gun making and safety, historical reenactments, exhibits, museums, libraries, and other related programs.
The History and Heritage of Early America and Muzzleloading
At the Living History Center/Primitive Encampment, an interactive and engaging “living history” area on the grounds, visitors can learn, laugh, listen, participate, and have fun. Located on the banks of Laughery Creek, the Living History Center serves to remind both visitor and participant alike of the importance of the historical heritage behind the sport of muzzleloading. At various times throughout the Nationals, visitors might be treated to the sounds of a hammered dulcimer, fiddle or bagpipe music. Travelers Dream, a duo specializing in the French Canadian songs and sea shanty sounds of the 18th century will be appearing, as will Jim’s Red Pants, a perennial favorite at Friendship, with their own special style of interpreting our Early American musical heritage. Tim Schaiper, an outstanding hammer dulcimer player well known for his powerful and lilting renditions of historical music, is scheduled to play. Traditional artisans and craft demonstrations include woodworkers, powderhorn making, basketmaking, weaving, soapmaking, gunsmithing, and many more living history interpretations in camps scattered throughout the Living History Center. Classes include ones devoted to the arts of making beautiful painted floor cloths (the precursor to carpeting!), bowmaking, leatherworking, and blacksmithing. Several classes require pre-registration, so please see our website for details.
Special activities are planned for children, including butter churning, glass bead stringing, an archaeology class, a “Frontier Naturalist” program, a “Children’s Trading Blanket” activity, a costume try-on booth, and candle dipping. Additional children’s programs include “Play with Clay,” where kids learn how to make a Native American-style pinch pot, and “Rub-A-Dub-Tub” where kids, combined with cold water, homemade soap, and an old fashioned washboard, create lots of fun with bubbles! And what end of summer gathering would be complete without a watermelon seed spitting contest? Pucker up!
Rand House Museum Exhibits
The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s Rand House Museum will host several interesting collections of firearms, swords, and Native American stone artifacts.
An exhibit of different types of pistols, on loan from the Tippecanoe County Historical Association of Lafayette, Indiana, has several unique pieces, including an extremely rare circa 1860’s air pistol by Schemann and Wirsling of Cincinnati, Ohio, a Remington-Beals 1st model revolver, and a Bacon 2nd model revolver, with an estimated production of 3,000 pieces. The Historical Association is also sending some other firearms, including a full stock/percussion/curly maple, circa 1850, a half stock 410 gauge shotgun with a checkered/carved stock, showing several repairs, a Bixler and Iddings double barrel shotgun with a checkered wrist, and a full stock percussion Kentucky rifle with a four-piece brass patchbox.
There will also be a collection of swords from the Historical Association. Several Civil War and pre-Civil War military swords, including a Confederate “Fort Sabre” by Griswold and Company, New Orleans, several 1840 Heavy Cavalry sabres, otherwise known as “the wrist breakers,” and a probable Nathan Starr cavalry saber, circa 1812.
Native American stone tools are often of great interest to those who study the early history of our country, and the Rand House Museum will host a large collection of these artifacts. Many of these pieces and large parts of the collection have won top state and national awards from various archaeological societies and numerous photos of these pieces have been published in various journals, books and magazines across the country. This collection is considered by many to be one of the best of its kind in the country.
A number of photos from the NMLRA archives that have not previously been exhibited are scheduled to be on display, and a special area will be set up with activities and museum handling materials for children. The NMLRA library will be open for visitors and NMLRA members to browse through the extensive collection of books on muzzle loading history and Early American lifeways and crafts. A special “Children’s Nook” will be set up with crayons and an “NMLRA Kids Coloring Book.” Museum hours for the National Championship Shoot will be posted on the NMLRA website at www.nmlra.org.
Exciting Firearms Competitions
National-class competitive muzzle loading shooting is a strong focus of this gathering. There are so many matches that there is truly something for shooters of all skill levels, and with all types of muzzle loading equipment. Win, lose, or draw, all the matches are enjoyable, and a great opportunity to learn by shooting with the best. A special feature of the competition area is the Youth Range, developed by the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association as a way to safely teach children how to shoot muzzle loading firearms and get them involved and engaged in the sport at a young age!
To see truly fine examples of craftsmanship, visit Gunmaker’s Hall during the Nationals. Exhibited at this facility are some of the finest examples of modern gunbuilding by today’s master craftspeople. Gunmaker’s Hall is offering a number of classes and lectures, including several on gunbuilding techniques and tips. Eric Bye, editor of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s internationally circulated magazine “Muzzle Blasts,” will also be onsite at Gunmaker’s Hall to answer questions and share his vast muzzle loading knowledge.
The Commercial Vendor area features a myriad of muzzle loading guns and supplies for the serious shooter or the enthusiastic beginner. Many rows of booths offer merchandise ranging from guns and gun parts to books, period clothing, leather goods, and other supplies relating to the sport. The Commercial Vendors offer a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from the experts in the hobby. In addition, the Living History Center/Primitive Area on the event grounds provides for some interesting browsing and buying amongst the quality vendors of period merchandise and historical crafts.
Handicap parking is available. No pets are allowed except assistance animals. Gate hours are 8 a.m.-5:00 p.m. EDT September 12th-20th. Admission is charged for visitors 16 and up, and part of the parking fee benefits the American Legion. For more information on the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s National Championship Shoot, the living arts programming, and for program and class times, please contact the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association at 1.800.745.1493, www.nmlra.org.
Visitors attending the National Championship Shoot might also be interested in another area attraction, the two Flea Markets that are adjacent to the NMLRA’s’s event grounds. Flea Market activities are ongoing throughout the National Championship Shoot and hours vary. For information in regards to the Flea Markets, contact the Old Mill Campground and Flea Market, Gary Stutler, 812.667.5322, and the Friendship Flea Market, Jan Schnell, 859.341.9188, or 812.667.5645, www.friendshipfleamarket.com.
For directions to the site, and information about hotel and motel facilities and other area attractions, contact the Ripley County Tourism Bureau offices, 1.888.747.5394, www.ripleycountytourism.com.