This came up in comments over at Possumblog, so I thought I'd tell the tale of the Evil Cannon.
The Evil Cannon was my first Blackpowder Military Rifle. It had began it's life as a Zouave and somewhere along the line someone had converted it over to a Mississippi rifle. I think I paid a hundred and twenty dollars for it at the gunshop. Scutter and at least three or four other guys in the old 29th Georgia had owned it before me. It was an ugly rifle, beat up and scratched up and had a tight spot in the bore which made it aggravating as hell to shoot with live ammunition. I kept it for a couple of years, burning much powder and carrying it at several events before I sold it to another guy in the unit, but there was an understanding that if he wanted to sell it that it should "stay in the family," simply because of it's history.
The Evil Cannon got it's name from Big John. Big john is a good fellow, but he ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hmm, on a semi-related note, he figures prominently in the Port-a-Let story I mentioned several posts ago.
Anyway, we were on a Cowboy kick (long before the current Cowboy action shooting craze) and would go around and stage mock gunfights at local festivals and suchlike. Well, one Saturday night we were at a racetrack (I have no idea who's idea that was, but they paid us to do it) and getting ready to stage a shootout in front of the stands between races.
Well John, rather than loading his own rifle, hands it to someone else to load for him. I'm sure you can see where this is going... Whoever loaded it (who must remain nameless as Big John doesn't know to this day who did it) didn't bother with cartridges, nor did he bother with a flask. He poured about half a pound of triple F powder straight out of the can into it, then tore a Kroger bag in half and rammed it down on top.
Although John ain't bright, he's not completely stupid. He figured the gun was overloaded so when we got down in front of the crowd to stage our little shootout, he fired from the hip. We're standing there in front of a couple of hundred people banging away at each other with pistols and scatterguns when all the sudden we hear WOOOOOOOOOOOM! You'd have thought somebody had set off a small nuke, because like a flash of lightning, night was turned to day.
The people who were supposed to get shot "took their hits" and laid down on the ground. I glanced over at John, who is also on the ground, but he ain't playing dead. He was rolling around like Curly in a Three Stooges routine and screaming to the top of his lungs. I'm sure the crowd thought we were pretty damn authentic! Hobbit came out with his tape measure and did his Undertaker impression and we got up to head back to the parking lot when we realized that John was still laying on the ground squalling.
He'd got some unburned powder in his eye. Somewhere along the line some bright soul had decided to make sure the Evil Cannon never misfired, so they had drilled out the nipple (where the percussion cap goes). When John fired, the recoil almost knocked him down. There was flame coming out of the nipple with enough force to cock the hammer all the way back to full cock and throw powder all over John's face.
We took him up the hill to the ambulance, where they proceeded to flush his eye out. Fortunately there was no permanent damage to John or the Rifle. Now chillins', the moral of this story is "don't let somebody else load your guns for you."
Shortly thereafter, this innocent piece of fine machinery began to be referred to as "The Evil Cannon."
I called Freaky Frankie (the guy I sold it to) a couple of years ago to buy it back, because I was flush and wanted to reclaim it since he'd moved away to Nashville. Sadly, he'd gotten in a monetary tight and sold it outside the family. I may run across it again someday, if I do I hope I'll have the money to buy it back again.