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The "Davis Loader"

posted Oct 5, 2010, 7:56 AM by Peter Lucas   [ updated Jul 14, 2011, 10:31 AM ]
If you look closely at the pictures of loading benches in the prior Article, you will see that several shooters have a device which resembles a modern MEC brand shotgun shell reloader mounted on their loading bench.  These devices are not MEC reloaders, but instead a purpose built, muzzle-loading powder and shot dispenser made by Kim Davis of Canyon City, Colorado. For lack of a better name, I have dubbed these devices as "Davis Loaders."  In my view, the "Davis Loader" is an indispensable piece of equipment for loading a muzzle-loader from the bench.

    Prior to addressing the mechanics of the Davis Loader, it is useful to review the manner in which the "old timers" dispensed a charge of powder.  This is also the manner in many muzzle loading shotguners  continue to load their guns.  Generally, the old timers used a powder flask for holding and measuring powder.  Most of the old powder flasks integrated a powder measure on the top of the flask.  In order to charge the gun with these types of powder flasks, you place a finger over the end of the flask, open the powder gate allowing the powder measure to fill the powder measure, close the powder gate, and pour the powder charge down the muzzle of the gun. 

    Charging a gun with a powder flask which has a integrated powder measure is quick and efficient.  However, charging directly from horn or flask is unsafe and is not permitted at NMLRA sponsored events.  NMLRA Rule 1220 requires that a separate powder measure or holder to be used to carry the powder charge from container to the muzzle of the gun. The MNLRA rule prohibiting the charging a of a gun directly from the powder flask exists for good reason.  The dangers associated with charging a gun directly from the powder flask are well know.  Peter Hawker, one of the best known sports writers of the muzzle loading era, stated as follows in his book Instructions to young sportsmen:in all that relates to guns and shooting 6th Edition, 1830 at page 115.

Many serious accidents have happened from sportsmen not having had the precaution to detach their charge before they put it into the barrel, which may have a fatal spark remaining! A spring powder horn should have a cap to it, from which you can load, and by means of which you keep all dead leaves, and other dirt, that may fall in the pocket, from crumbling into the top of it.

Having pushed back the spring, to fill the top or charger, let it gradually close again on the thumb, instead of allowing it to fly back and snap. I mention this in consequence of an accident, which happened to one, who, in doing the latter, had his hand dreadfully mangled by the explosion of a flask, which it is supposed was occasioned by the 'adhesion of a piece of flint.

    Given the dangers associated with charging a gun directly from the powder flask, shooters have two basic options for dispensing a charge of powder.  First, shooters can dispense charge of powder into a separate powder measure and the pour the powder charge down the muzzle of the gun from the powder measure. This alternative requires the shooter to handle both a powder flask and powder measure each time the gun is charged. The process of locating and handling both the powder flask and powder measure is a relatively slow process, adding amount of time it takes to reload your gun.  Alternatively, shooters can scoop a powder measure full of powder from an open source of powder, such as a bowl or cup.  However this alternative requires that there be an open source of powder available for "scooping."  This can lead to a number of problems if foreign substances (such as dirt or shot) get into the powder.

    Kim Davis, the builder of the "Davis Loader," is both an accomplished machinist and trap shooter.  Kim builds many of his own trap guns and has previously won the NMLRA National Trap Championship.

    The Davis Loader suffers from none of the draw backs of the alternative methods of dispensing a charge of powder (or shot for that matter).  Both the powder and the shot are held in clear plastic MEC reloading bottles.  The MEC bottles hold enough powder and shot to shoot at least 75 rounds with a twelve gauge gun and can be easily refilled or interchanged when you run short of powder or shot.

    The design of the Davis Loader is deceptively simple.  As noted above, the Davis Loader holds two MEC plastic loading bottles; one for shot and one for powder.   The MEC bottles screw into the body of the Davis Loader which is, in turn, mounted to the loading bench.  At the bottom of each MEC loading bottle is a spring loaded gate. In the resting position, the springs hold the gates in the closed preventing the shot and powder from pouring out.  The gates are opened by by pressing on the side of the gate with a powder or shot measure, allowing the shot or powder to fill the measure. 

The accompanying pictures demonstrate the use of the Davis Loader.  By simultaneously pressing the shot or powder measure against side of the gate and the roof of the device, the Davis Loader will dispense enough powder or shot to fill the measure.  For those of us who shoot loads which include equal volumes of shot and powder, a single measure can be used for both shot and powder.  The shot or powder charge is then poured down the muzzle of the gun from the powder/shot measure.  That is all there is too it.     

    The Davis Loader is a quick and convenient way in which to dispense both shot or powder.  However, the real beauty of the Davis Loader is its versatility. In order to change the size of the powder or shot charge, it is only necessary to adjust the size of the powder or shot measure.  There are no bushings to change or charge bars to calibrate.

  In my view, the Davis Loader should be on everyone's loading bench. Kim is planning on building another batch of his loaders this winter.  If  would like to get a Davis Loader of your own, send me an email and I will put you in touch with Kim.

UPDATE:  An Alternative to Standard MEC Bottles.

    One advantage to the Davis Loader is that it uses standard MEC shot/powder bottles.  This allows shooters to purchase additional MEC bottles to store extra shot and powder.  However, there are two problems with the MEC bottles.  First, they are a little on the expensive side.  An genuine MEC bottle costs about $7.  That seems like a lot for a plastic bottle. 

    Second, the MEC bottles have a removable stopper on the bottom of the bottle. The removable stopper is great for refiling the bottles while they are in place on the Davis Loader.  However, if you turn a MEC bottle over while it is full of shot, the plastic stopper is likely to fall out.  That greatly reduces the utility of the MEC bottles for storing extra supplies of shot.  (Since powder generally comes in one pound cans, this is not as much of an issue.)

    As an alternative to the standard MEC bottles, I have started using generic plastic bottles which are available on line for less than $1 each.  All you need is a plastic bottle with a "28/410" neck size.  Plastic bottles with this neck size come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  I started using a 16 oz "Modern Round Bottle" from U.S, Plastics. ( )  At 58 cents each (plus shipping), purchase at least six which are more than enough to hold 25 pounds of shot.  That way, when when open a new bag of shot, you can transfer the entire contents of the open bag to plastic bottles for storage.   When it is time to go to the range, just pick up another bottle of shot.