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Keep Your Powder Dry: Powder Horns by Justin Cook

Terril Herbert

“Keeping your powder dry” is important as damp powder is no friend to ignition. Justin Cook’s horns keep the black powder hunter ready for action.

Those of us in the muzzleloading community seek to do things the old fashioned way. Store-bought items are often not enough to satisfy our tastes for the experience and the joy of living the traditional lifestyle.

If you want the best, buying from artisans is the way to go. Many around the U.S., including myself, build the smokepoles. Others are accomplished leatherworkers, blacksmiths, and of course, horners. The humble horn has stored food, drink, spice, and gunpowder since the very beginning.

A flintlock rifle made by the author. A type typical of the era when powder horns were most used. (Terril Hebert)
Terril Hebert

What Is a Powder Horn?

Powder horns are little more than cow horn, or some other horn,  that is rendered watertight and is used to store gun powder while you are out in the field. Since gun powder has a tendency to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, its been important to keep your powder dry.

Today, it’s an empty saying. But in the 18th and 19th century, wet powder could cost you your life. For those of us who still trod the blackpowder trail it means a lost match, a lost game animal, or danger from a disturbed predator.

Powder horns stayed in prominence as long as muzzleloading arms were prevelant and the art of horning never died, just like hunting with black powder. Today’s resurgence in the black powder game has brought horning out of the dark.

One of Mr. Cook's more plain horns. (J. Cook)
Justin Cook

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Cook’s Horns

Justin Cook spends a lot of his time digging up Alabama’s past, literally. But when he is not, he is making arrowheads and powder horns. They range from uncarved plugged horns, starting at about $50, to highly carved and scrimshawed horns with springloaded plungers to release your powder. These are higher in price, depending on what you want done.

I myself opted for a plug horn with my name and the Beast of Gevaudan roughly scrimshawed on the horn. The horn holds over a pound of powder and the  plug doubles as a vent pick to clean the touchhole or nipple of your muzzleloader. All horns come with great straps depending on your tastes.

Powder horns have numerous advantages over flasks. Horns are more watertight thanks to the beeswax waterproofing as opposed to the simple threads of a flask’s cover. They also hold far more powder and can be personalized at any time.

Terril Hebert
Terril Hebert

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s artisans like Mr. Cook that keep the muzzleloading community looking authentic and functional. While powder horns are no longer necessary in the era of self-contained cartridges, they keep muzzleloaders looking traditional. The versatile muzzleloader with all its smoke and flame brings more excitement to the world of shooting and hunting.

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Keep Your Powder Dry: Powder Horns by Justin Cook