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In February of 2004 the Pennsylvania State Navy was inducted as the first naval unit in the Continental Line. The primary goal of the PSN's application to this organization was to address the fastest growing part of the reenacting hobby, that which utilized naval artillery and functioning boats as part of living history programs, and to safely integrate them into the existing infantry, artillery and mounted units at historical events and reenactments.

The Continental Line has an established "Safety Guide to Black Powder," and as a member unit the PSN adopted these standards upon its acceptance into the Continental Line.  This document is well written and serves as the standard for black powder safety at all of the PSN's events.  These Naval Safety Standards are not designed to replace the Continental Line standards, but are in place to augment them so far as the use of specific naval armaments and equipment is concerned.   Taken together and understood by both land and naval units, the combined safety standards serve to help protect our members, our fellow reenactors and the general public from the liabilities inherent to our hobby.

These Naval Safety Standards address three main areas: naval artillery on land, the use of artillery on the water, and naval small arms.  All of the recommended powder charges, lines of fire and instructions for individual and tactical demonstrations as published by the Continental Line's "Safety Guide to Black Powder" apply, and are therefore not reprinted here.



The use of naval artillery, or garrison guns, while part of a land engagement falls under the direction of the event coordinator and the respective overall commander of the garrison.  These guns are a static battery and are not designed to be moved during action, nor should they be.  When naval/garrison guns are used during a tactical engagement, a proposed specific field of fire is to be designated by the officer in charge of the battery and conveyed to the commanders of all land unit participants.  In the event a land unit, whether infantry, horse or artillery should move into this field of fire during the course of a tactical demonstration, the naval/garrison battery shall cease fire until the field is clear and it is safe to resume.

A naval/garrison gun shall be manned by no less than three crewmembers, consisting of 1) a Gun Captain, 2) a Sponge/Rammer and 3) a Wormer.  The Gun Captain tends the vent, oversees the loading of the gun, points the gun, primes it and fires it.  The Sponge/Rammer uses those tools in the loading process, as does the Wormer.  Each battery of guns is serviced by one or more Powder Monkeys whose job it is to supply powder charges to the battery.  The powder is stored in one or more lidded powder boxes located 10 yards either behind the guns or to the left or right of the battery.   Charges are handled via a pass-box to the respective guns as they're called for.   Once in place the powder boxes are not to be moved unless directed by the officer in charge of the battery and only to address a potential safety issue.

Swivel Guns are used on land only when a suitable gun mount is available and a specific field of fire can be established.  A suitable gun mount is described as either an existing wall mount (brick & mortar or wooden post,) as in a Fort or Fortification, a stout log or stump which has been drilled to receive a swivel yoke mount, or a stable swivel gun tripod mount.  Prior to use the swivel gun mount needs to be shown to the event coordinator and respective overall commander of the garrison, and its use permitted only upon their unanimous approval.  Land-mounted swivel guns require a two-man crew and consists of 1) the Gunner and 2) the Tender.  The Gunner is in charge of loading, firing and cleaning the weapon.  The Tender is in charge of passing the gun tools and linstock to the Gunner as needed.  Ammunition is in the form of aluminum foil cartridges for guns with a bore size of 1.25" or larger, and in the form of paper cartridges for smaller guns.  Swivel guns that use foil cartridges are loaded in the same manner as full-scale artillery, while the smaller guns are loaded like a musket via paper cartridges being poured down the muzzle.  Wadding for these guns is NOT allowed, nor is the use of powder horns, plastic film canisters or other types of powder containers.  A water bucket is required for all swivel guns used on land, regardless of whether they're loaded via aluminum or paper cartridges.  Ammunition for swivel guns is kept in a leather cartage box and worn over the shoulder of the gunner.  Priming is done either with quills (recommended) or in the case of smaller guns with loose priming powder taken from the paper cartridges.

Recommended safe MAXIMUM powder charges for swivel guns.  Note: One Ounce = 437.5 grains. 

Swivel Gun Bore Size: .75cal to under 1" 1" - 1.24" 1.25"-1.50" 1.51" - 1.75"
Powder Charge: 215 grains 1F (half ounce) 430 grains 1F (1 ounce) 530 grains (1.25 ounces) 650 grains (1.5 ounces)

The tools and equipment used to fire naval/garrison artillery is nearly identical to that used by field artillery units.  One difference is the optional use of flexible Sponge/Rammers, whereby the shaft of the tool is replaced by large diameter natural fiber rope, usually of manila or hemp.  These tools are sometimes necessary and are a safe alternative when a naval/garrison battery is firing through embrasures or through ports where access to the space in front the muzzle may be limited.



Many of the vessels used by naval living history units are armed in some way, often by swivel guns, small deck guns or small arms.  The use of black powder onboard a vessel only compounds the safety issues already inherent to being on the water, and the use of such weapons for demonstrations and tacticals is contingent on safe water conditions and the discretion of the individual in charge of the vessel. 

Swivel guns are the most common armament, and when serviced on board a vessel are normally done so by one person per gun.  Ammunition is kept inside a wooden boat box in which the charges, whether foil or paper, are stored within a waterproof metal ammunition box.  When going into action a ready supply of cartridges is kept inside a leather cartridge box either worn by the gunner or hung from the rail, and this cartridge box is replenished as needed from the ammunition box.  A water bucket is not required, as a ready source for water exists outside the vessel.  A lantern may be kept inside the boat to provide a means by which to light slow match while on board, and should be looped onto a hook, dowel or other suitable means for suspending it above the floor or deck.   

Deck guns mounted in the bow of a vessel are to be manned by no less than two crewmembers, consisting of 1) a Gun Captain and 2) a Gunner(s).  While the Gun Captain tends the vent, oversees the loading of the gun, points the gun, primes it and fires it, the Gunner manages the loading and reloading process in a patient, slow and responsible manner.  If the vessel is large enough to permit the use of a Powder Monkey, that person shall provide the charges to the gun crew from a secure location aft.   If this is not possible, the Gunner will be responsible for retrieving the powder from the gun box aft.  It cannot be stressed enough that firing a bow gun requires slow, deliberate action, with the rate of fire always being regulated by the safe operation of the vessel while under way.

The use of slow match and linstocks while on board a vessel requires special attention.   When not in direct use, such as during the loading/reloading of a gun, the linstock needs to be held in a deck or rail fitting so that it is either 1) held in a vertical position along the rail behind the Gun Captain or 2) held in a horizontal position where the lit match hangs outboard.  When the gun is loaded the linstock may be held by the Gun Captain for as long as is necessary prior to firing the gun, but when the gun is in the process of being loaded/reloaded the linstock must rest in a location that affords safety to the vessel and the crew.  Slow match shall only be lit when the vessel is cleared for action, and should be extinguished immediately upon the termination of the engagement.



Unless an armed landing is planned as part of a tactical exercise, crewmembers on board a naval vessel should NOT be armed, as it creates an unnecessary hazard to the operation of the vessel.  When an armed landing is planned, the following naval small arms are permitted: boarding pistols, boarding axes, pikes, blunderbusses, cutlasses, muskets and rifles.

Unlike land forces that typically use firelocks in a military line formation, naval forces employ an altogether different strategy of warfare.  Because of this it is extremely difficult to merge the two into one cohesive group.  That said, when a naval force lands and joins an infantry force, it is to take a position in a skirmish line on the flank of the infantry, and move forward and retreating in that line, taking its direction from the senior infantry commander.  In this manner short-barreled naval firelocks, muskets and rifles can be safely used.

Muskets and Rifles: Because of the difficulty and possible danger involved in loading long-barreled firelocks while on board a boat,  muskets and rifles are NOT to be loaded or discharged while on board.  When marines or sailors are to use long guns, they are to be first landed, at which point they may prime and load.  The only exception is when the vessel has deck space that permits free movement of passengers and crew, such as on board a tall ship, where the loading and use of long guns will not interfere with the safe operation of the vessel.

Blunderbusses: The use of these short-barreled firelocks is of particular value to naval units.  Unlike muskets and rifles, they can be safely loaded and fired while on board a vessel.  Blunderbusses are loaded according to the powder load specifications of their caliber, and when used on board a boat may be wadded with paper to prevent any spillage of loose powder.  Once on land blunderbusses are to be primed and loaded without wadding.  Note: It is advised that blunderbusses have a minimum barrel length of 18" in order to comply with federal firearms regulations. 

Pistols: Landing parties may be issued pistols for scripted tactical landings.  If they are to be loaded and discharged, it will be done only with the approval of the event coordinator.  They may be loaded ONCE and are not to be reloaded after being fired.   When loaded on board a vessel they are to be wadded, kept on half cock and stored muzzle-down in a bunge bucket set on the floorboards until ready for use.  Loaded pistols are NOT to be carried in a waistband or belt.  Upon landing the pistols are to be issued to the crewmembers designated to use them, and are to be fired only by the direction of the officer in charge of the landing.  They shall not be fired in coordination with an infantry line nor are they to be reloaded once they are used on land.   An empty pistol is to be carried by the barrel (backwards,) and only an empty pistol may be carried in a waistband or belt.  Any pistol held by the grip is to be considered LOADED.  Ramrods are NOT to be removed from the pistol except during the time they are initially being loaded, and the loading of all pistols must be done under the supervision of the office in charge.

Cutlasses: Naval swords may be worn by crewmembers during armed landings and/or land engagements.  They are not to be unsheathed except for specific demonstrations and/or ceremonial purposes.

Boarding Axes: Although issued to most vessels, boarding axes are only to be used for tactical demonstrations when there is a specific need for them.  They are not to be issued for combative purposes, but may be carried by crewmembers who have been assigned to use them as part of a scripted action; i.e. to cut a cable, to clear a barricade or obstruction, etc.

Boarding Pikes: Pikes and pole arms may be carried into action as a reserve weapon for those crewmembers not in possession of a firelock.  However they are not to be leveled in proximity to anyone at anytime.  They're to be used in the same manner as a fixed bayonet.



It is expected that all naval units with boats are to abide by U.S. Coast Guard rules and comply with all local, state and federal laws as they apply to the use of watercraft.

Where applicable, all naval units with boats must be in possession of the tide tables and navigational charts of the waterways on which they plan to operate.

The safe use of watercraft at historical reenactments is at the discretion of the boat owner and the boat crew(s).

In addition to black powder/reenacting insurance, all boats are required to provide liability insurance for their watercraft, whether owned by an individual or by the unit.