The Black Powder League of the Oneida Rifle Club was started in 1978 as a result of the interest left over from the Bicentennial. History, people, music and firearms involved in the settling of the country were very popular. Thompson Center Arms was making excellent reproductions of the Hawken rifle, along with several other models. CVA rifles were also popular at the time.
Several of us were shooting at the club and Rob Foster formed us up as a league of the club. For some reason, he turned it over to me (Dave DeFrees) in 1980 and I have, with the help of my friends, been keeping it going since then.
As we were shooting firearms of the type the mountain men used and the mountain men were popular in movies about then; when we affiliated with the New York State Muzzleloaders Association, we took the name of the Oneida Free Trappers. The free trappers were not part of the Hudson's Bay Company or other organized groups of trappers.
The league runs on Thursday evenings, April through September, from 5:30 PM until dark or when the mosquitoes become unbearable. The league is run informally, but we try to hold with the rules and safety procedures of the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association.
All types of black powder firearms are allowed to include black powder cartridge arms, pistols and shotguns, along with the rifles we normally shoot. We also do some tomahawk and knife throwing as are popular at the present day rendezvous.
The shooting is as informal or as competitive as the shooter wants to make it. Some of us use it for practice for competitions; others just for sighting in for hunting or as fun shooting.
The shooting is normally at 50 yards, but at times can be at 25 yards or 100 meters. Usually, we have some type of fun target or gong to shoot at if we get tired of paper targets.
The league is open to members and non-members at a very reasonable fee. If one is interested in black powder, but doesn't already own something, they are still welcome to come and watch and learn what is involved and can try to different firearms we are using to see what they like.
Black powder shooting is smelly, dirty and quite a bit of work. Every shot is enough effort to make one do the best they can. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to other shooting disciplines and extremely satisfying. Try stepping back in history and feel what one good shot at a time feels like.