How History Comes Alive

by David Marrack

While much of shooting culture in Canada focuses on the more modern side of things, there are those that prefer a more refined era of shooting, one in which the very concept of a metallic cartridge was new and wonderful technology. For one range member, this interest has not only given him hours of enjoyment, but a few fleeting minutes in the limelight of fame.

Some range members will be familiar with the YouTube Channel Britishmuzzleloaders, and the channel’s evidently dapper host, Rob. They may not be aware, however, that our own Branko Diklitch recently starred in Rob’s video on the Battle of Eccles Hill, and the wider era of the Fenian Raids. In an interview with Branko, we talked about how someone comes to the collecting of antique and curio firearms, and how that then lead to Youtube fame.

The first step, surprisingly enough, is not to have an interest in firearms. Rather, the interest that you hold in a topic era, when it comes to history, or location, when it comes to geography, will lead you to specific interests. For Branko, this began with an interest in history back in Alberta, which developed into historical re-enactment, and then an interest in the weapons themselves.  In part, this was from an interest in researching and reading about the past, and a desire to keep the stories and knowledge alive; today he volunteers with the Victoria-Esquimalt Military Re-Enactors Association (VEMRA).

One of the key points, which resounds within the VFGPA as well, is the importance of the community. With many pieces of kit being effectively impossible to buy, participants inevitably begin making kit themselves, and if you can make one, you can make five, and sell or trade the remainder to others in the community who may have different skills. Someone may be the go to for casting bullets, reproduction uniforms, or general acquisition of hard to find items.

Community is also important for the sharing of knowledge, and learning or teaching about the hobby. As anyone who has attended a black powder shoot at the range can attest to, there are skills necessary to that kind of shooting that are no longer readily available. Fortunately for us, the range offers a blackpowder shooting class from time to time, a great opportunity to make some noise, and much smoke.

At the same time, it’s important to know your limits; talking about Rob’s series on the Battle of Eccles Hill, part of the incubation of the project was finding a particular sporting carbine, a single-shot Ballard carbine, that had been used by the civilian “Red Sash” militia. However, this carbine was in poor disrepair, and so careful restoration and repair was a crucial part of bringing the video to production.

Ultimately, activities like Branko and Rob’s bring to life what is otherwise a static topic in a museum. When you can smell the gun smoke, hear the echo of shots, history becomes far more than a clinical topic to read about in the history books; it becomes an understanding of what others lived through, and how it affected their lives.

Branko’s advice for anyone interested? Find something else you’re interested in and bring it alive through a combined hobby. It’s about history first, and making a fair effort to show what was. There’s far more reading and researching than may appear at first scratch, but the reward is knowing that you are keeping alive the memories of Canadians. If you’re specifically interested in the re-enactment side, reach out to the VEMRA, or go out to one of the events; they’ll be starting again in the spring, at Fort Rodd Hill, and the BC Air Museum in Sidney.