Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Gun Worms & Ramrods:

Gun Worm:  The barrel of rifles and muskets fouled quickly with the solid residues produced by burning black powder.  A gun worm was used to clean the barrel.  The worm is nothing more than one or two twisted tines which can be threaded onto the end of the ram-rod.  Wet tow or flax fiber is wound into the worm which is then moved up and down the barrel loosening and removing the solid residues. The process was repeated until the tow or flax fiber remained clean, then clean dry tow or flax fiber was used to dry the interior of the barrel. 

The Ram Rod was hickory or ash stick, often equipped with a metal tip 1 to 1 1/2 inches long.  The metal tip had a threaded hole in the end.  The ram rod was not simply a stick to load a rifle, but was a multi-function tool.  The ram rod served the following purposes:  

Additionally, on rare occasions, the ram rod might be used as rest for the muzzle end of the gun for taking long shots when other natural supports were unavailable.

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