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The Loading Bench

posted Oct 3, 2010, 2:14 AM by Peter Lucas   [ updated Oct 5, 2010, 8:10 AM ]
  This Article is about a purely utilitarian and largely overlooked item: the Loading Bench.  At virtually all Muzzle Loading Shotgun Events, loading is done "at the bench".  In other words, all of your loading supplies and paraphernalia can be set out on a table or bench were the gun will be loaded.  Once the gun is loaded, its carried to the firing position (muzzle above your head) capped and fired.  At the larger events, loading benches are provided. (However, some shooters prefer to use their own benches, even when benches are available at the shoot).  At the small shoots, you will absolutely have to bring your bench. 

    Everyone has their own ideas about what makes the ideal loading bench.  The purpose of this Article is simply to provide some ideas about what other shooters use so that you can decide what works best for you.

   Prior to jumping into "loading benches", I would like to draw a distinction between "benches" and "boxes". 
This Article does not attempt to address the boxes used to store and transport your muzzleloading stuff.  There are some very talented craftsman who produce "gunning boxes" which are works of art.  This Article deals only with the primarily utilitarian bench or table used support the loading supplies and other paraphernalia while at the shoot.  However, as shown by some of the examples below, it is sometimes difficult to determine where the "box" ends and the "bench" begins.
  Pictured to the right are a variety of loading benches which have been used at various muzzleloading shotgun events.  The top bench is my current loading bench.  I do not advocate my bench as the "perfect" bench.  Everyone has different ideas about loading benches.  You need to decide what works for you.  Here is my list of factors which you need to consider when selecting a loading bench:
  • Compactness/Stability. First and foremost, a loading bench must be sturdy and stable.  Chances are that at sometime you will need to set up your loading bench on grass or other uneven ground.  In addition, at sometime  your bench will be subjected to strong winds.  The last thing which you want is to have the bench (together with your gun and loading supplies) tip over.  Consequently, having a stable loading bench needs to be the number one concern.
Balanced against the need for stability, is compactness.  You are going to have to transport the bench to and from shoots.  From time to time, you are likely to be driving with one or more other shooters.   Compactness is most usually achieved by the use of folding legs for the bench.  However, benches with folding legs tend to be less stable and more complicated to construct.
  • Bench Height.  One of the most overlooked factors to be considered is the bench height.  At a multi-day event you will be loading your gun several hundred times. Loading a gun from bench which is too high or too low for this period of time can cause significant fatigue.  
There is no absolutely "correct" height for the bench.  However, the ergonomic guidelines for Standing Workstations give some guidance.  The type of work will determine the work surface height:
  • Precision work, such as writing or electronic assembly—4 inches above elbow height.
  • Light work, such as assembly line or mechanical jobs—just below elbow height.
  • Heavy work with demanding downward forces—4 to 6 inches below elbow height.
I consider loading the gun to fall somewhere between Percussion Work and Light Work.  Consequently, my view is that bench should be between elbow height down to 4 inches above elbow height.  However, most loading benches which you see are much lower . 
  • Size.  The loading bench needs to be large enough to hold all of your loading supplies; including but not limited to: powder, shot, over the powder wads, over the shot wads, caps, short starter, and range rod. In my view 18 x 24 inches is about the minimum size needed to conveniently place all of the necessary items.  However, again this is largely a matter of personal preference.
  • Aesthetics.  The loading bench is largely a utilitarian item.  Most shooters use some type of commercial workbench or table. On the other hand, your loading bench which will be used at muzzleloading shot gun events.  There is something to be said for having a wooden bench which looks appropriate to the gun which is being used.
  • Gun Holders.  The loading bench will need some mechanism for the holding the gun in place while it is loaded.  A simple "U" shaped cutout in the bench top will suffice. 
  • Ram Rod Holders.  Most shooters will use a dedicated "range rod" for loading from the bench.   Range rods tend to be longer and heavier than the ram rod which is carried with the gun.  Range rods also typically have a handle to make loading easier.  A well equipped loading bench will have some mechanism for conveniently holding range rod. 
  • Other Features.

Wad Holders.   Many loading benches contain cut out sections to hold canisters of wads.


Mobile Loading Benches.  My first loading bench was a modified golf cart.  I still use this mobile bench when I take the muzzle loader to the sporting clays course.