Advise for the new guys
As I was reading through some forums, I just thought of something that someone had told me when I first started.
Insert your ramrod into an empty barrel and mark the rod at the muzzle with a MARKER. Next, ram your powder, patch, and ball then mark your ramrod again. These marks can be used as a gauge. If you are not sure if you have a loaded muzzle loader, insert the ramrod and check. If the end of the barrel is not at one of your marks, you know that something is not right. Also, the one mark lets you know how far the rod needs to go to be sure that everything is packed properly. Do not use a knife to mark your ramrod as it will weaken the rod and may cause it to break.
This may be silly to some people, but it works for me. I prefer to take the extra precautions to avoid destroying my muzzle loader or worse hurting myself.
My brain is like a sponge; lots of holes for everything to fall out.