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Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:05 pm
by YosemiteSam
I am totally new to the big caliber cartridge rifle. I have 12 years experience plinking and hunting with flintlock rifles and smoothbores. And I was raised on .22s and 12 gauges in the foothills of California. No formal training. 40+ years ago, Pop showed me the basics and turned me loose! My shooting has been mostly hunting and informal offhand shooting, not at paper.

A few months ago, I sort of adopted a (made in 1985-ish) Shiloh Sharps 45/90. 30" barrel. Some kind of tang sight, a buckhorn/ladder rear barrel mounted sight and a globe front sight. It came with a handful of two different cast and lubed round nosed GG bullets (412gr and 520gr) RCBS dies, about 180 pieces of Starline and some Australian brand brass, a simple loading press, and one pre-loaded (smokeless) cartridge with the 520 gr bullet. oh yeah, and a handshake. The gun looks new inside and out. It is so cool--I love it.

I had a rocky start with this gun, (as I did just enough research to be dangerous) and loaded a few shells to try. I simply filled the case with FF Goex, tap settled it down about .375", fit a hand cut poster board card, a dab of muzzleloading beeswax/bear oil lube, a thin cut out of 24lb bond paper and I seated/compressed and lightly crimped the whole mess to cover the grease grooves in the case. The cartridge was 3" OAL. I shot both offhand and bench and as you can guess---I did not achieve any kind of groups at all. I was lucky to hit 8 x 10 paper. This was at 70 yards---I said to self--- "Self... This gun is suppose to get sub 2" groups at 100 yards---I am such a loser!"

So now that I have fallen on my face.... my plan is to back up and start from scratch. To seek professional help---("This heres a rifle. The front has a hole where the bullet shoots out of right?") This gun deserves/requires more than I am giving it. My ultimate goal is to first get it (actually me) dialed in for hunting accuracy, and second, try some silhouette shooting. I am 49 years old and I think my eyes are not good enough to try the longer range stuff.

I measured my chamber. The OAL of cartridge (pushed snug against the rifling) is 3.25" I have some 1.5 F Swiss on order. But for now, I have plenty of FF and FFF to mess with. I have been corresponding via email with a couple of generous and patient BPCR shooters that live 3 hours away from me. (I think they frequent this message board... hi guys.) If anyone lives near Fresno, CA that wants to help out a pilgrim, I'd sure be grateful. I feel like a lost pup.

Ken Prather

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:32 pm
by DRCook
Ken read you PM's (private messages)

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:55 pm
by gunlaker
It sounds like you might be compressing with the bullet? If so i'd buy an expander plug from Buffalo Arms and use that instead. Next I'd get rid of the wads and lube in between and just use a single wad of 0.030 to 0.060" thickness. If the bullet is of appropriate hardness for black powder you should get decent accuracy. In my CSA 1885 I had to play with a couple of different bullets to get the best accuracy. I settled on a Steve Brooks Creedmoor with tapered driving bands.


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:27 pm
by John Boy
Ken, I wrote this up for a fella with a new 50-70 rolling block but the steps are the same ...

Reloading Steps
Case Preparation
• Anneal the mouth of the cases to the seating depth of the bullet – 650/680 degrees ( bluish/green color using a propane torch) Dunk the case immediately in a bucket of ice water
• Full length size the cases … Not a absolute step to be performed – use a case lube - I use Bag Balm
• Chamfer the mouth of the case with a 22 ½ degree chamfering reamer … to remove any burrs
• Square the primer pockets with a pocket reamer … provides for proper seating of the primer
• Deburr the flash hole with a flash hole reamer … removes flash hole burrs for better primer ignition to the powder charge
• Size the mouth of the case using an M Die or Expander Plug for 0.002 to 0.004 neck tension so there is a very slight bell on the mouth to all the base of the bullet to be seated ½ way into the case
NOTE: Case length trimming (not absolutely necessary unless cases exceed the SAMMI case length a lot. VERY IMPORTANT: Do not trim any cases until AFTER they have been fireformed

Determining Extended COL of Loaded Round
• Drop the bullet into the chamber and tap the base with the eraser of a pencil
• Using a caliper, measure from the base of the seated bullet to the rim of the chamber (A)
• Measure the length of the bullet (B)
• Add A + B = C
• Measure seated depth of the bullet in the case (D)
• C – D = Extended COL of the round

Measuring Powder Charge Height
• Measure the distance from the top of the settled powder to the mouth of the case
• Determine how much you want to compress the powder column
• Adjust your compression die to the required length to achieve the amount of compression you want.
o NOTE: Adjusting the compression die requires … Fiddling – do it in small steps

Charging the Cases
• Primers: Favored primers are: CCI BR2 and Federal GM210M (LR Match)
• Option: Insert an Over the Primer Wad – 0.10 to 0.20 construction paper … punched out using a 45-70 wad punch
• Charge the case using a drop tube with the desired number of grains. The powder charge can also charged directly from the charger and then settled using a vibrator
• Compress the powder to the desired depth using a compression plug …
• Insert wad using a dowel rod. Types of wads that can be used:
o O.030 or 0.060 LDPE – 0.030 to 0.060 fiber wad – hard felt wad (lubed or not lubed) – jute wad under the LDPE or fiber wad – newspaper – wax paper … separately or in any of the wad combinations
• Insert lubed bullet into the case using:
o Seating die
o Finger seated which is the preferred method
• Apply a very light crimp on the case to ONLY to remove the bell on the case


Plus, here is a good read ... ... oading.pdf

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:06 pm
by YosemiteSam
Ok, I have a lot to chew on here. I will study and digest this. Its starting to make a little more sense why my thrown together loads were so abysmal. It looks like I have my work cut out for me.

thanks all


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:03 pm
by colt45nut
My first thrown together 50-90 loads were horrible it will get better

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:16 am
by YosemiteSam
What keeps bouncing around in my head is--- Did the 19th C raggedy, buff hunter spend so much effort and time loading their ammo and going to such precise lengths sitting by a buffalo chip fire making ammo to get their guns to hit their targets reliably?

I mean, right now, I would not take this gun out in the woods and hunt with it. I cannot acheive hunting accuracy at flintlock distances right now, let alone at 100, 200 yards.... What would have kept the normal Buff hunter to not throw their rifle in the river and walk away? I mean these guys were also depending on these guns for self preservation as well, am I right? Old Billy Dixon and the boys at Adobe Walls, Billy was using a borrowed gun, and pre-made "factory" ammo.

It makes me wonder...


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:37 am
by Brent
you may have bigger problems then.

I haven't followed your story closely but here is one thing that I would worry about LONG before got caught up in uniforming primer pockets etc (hell, I don't do that even now).

You say you have an 1985 vintage Shiloh. If so, that rifle has a 0.6" freebore that is over groove diameter. That is just about the hardest animal on earth to make shoot. I had one just like it. I did kill and elk the first year, but I had to get radical to do it. It was rebarreled that winter. If you do indeed have this original chamber - Stop right there, take a deep breath and dial up Green Mountain or call Buffalo Arms and order a new barrel - then find a qualified smith to install it.

Can you make a chamber cast? If so, do so immediately.

If not, then sacrifice an unprimed case. Take the case, cut a dowel to fit inside it so it is about 1/4" shy of the case mouth. Seat some sort of skinny long, soft bullet - I'll mail you something if necessary, and insert it in the chamber. That lead has to extend at least 3/4 past the case mouth. Then with a taped steel rod and a well protected muzzle, hammer that lead to expand it to fit the chamber. That will get you a find chamber casting.

I think this is what you will find

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:50 am
by YosemiteSam
Hmmmm. well in light of goal #1, getting this gun to hunt--- meaning I need it to reliably and regulary get a 6 inch group at 100-even 200 yards, Theoretically should I be able to wring that out of this gun even if it does have a freebore issue? Right now, id be happy for that.

Well hmmmm again... if I end up springing for a new barrel, I might rechamber this gun for 45/70. It might be better all the way around for the purpose and goals that I have (and that I think I can acheive in my lifetime) But anything as drastic as a new barrel will have to wait for funding--- I got a kid in college.

cripes, looks like I may have adopted a gun with issues.


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:00 am
by Brent
Well, first get an idea of what the chamber looks like. Even close inspection with the ol' hairy eyeball will tell you if you are looking at one of these.

Rechambering to a shorter cartridge has issues. You have to set back - well quite a bit. Your barrel probably has a tulip flare at the breech end that would be lost. That makes fitting the forearm and even seating the barrel against the breech face problematic, esp. if it is a standard weight barrel. And your lever-spring block and forearm screw anchors will have to be re-dovedtailed. and in the end, that barrel will not be all that great anyway.

Check the chamber first. Then seriously consider a rebarrel.

I can tell you how I made my rifle accurate enough to kill that elk at 90 yds. but really, it ain't worth it. Not if that is what your chamber is. Been down that long long road.

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:44 am
by YosemiteSam
What I was thinking was rebarreling to a NEW 45/70 chambered barrel--if this barrel is unable to achieve even hunting accuracy. I am not ready to rebarrel just yet though. This aint my number one gun, and so far, my investment has been small. I will take a closer eyeball view of my chamber and see if it resembles the drawing. I'd be willing to save my pennys and rebarrel someday if it would give this gun the potential that I read you guys get from your guns. I am impressed! I am not afraid of hard work and persistence. My wife says I am a pretty stubborn cuss.

I would think that even an old Shiloh freebore barrel would at least have the potential to be accurate enough to plug a CA blacktail at under 150 yards. I am more willing to put most of the blame on my lack of technique and skill, rather than Wolfgang's barrel, but hey, I defer to those that have done it and are doing it. Really, that is why I think going back to square one and some hands on, face to face with someone that knows their way around these Sharps rifles. So seriously, if there are any fellers that are in central CA area, I'd be grateful to meet a couple times somewhere.


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:49 am
by Brent
There aren't many, anywhere, that know their way around that chamber. If that's what it is, your rifle, she deserves better.

Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:31 am
by YosemiteSam
well I certainly agree. Why would anyone sell a barrel chambered this way if it cannot achieve at least hunting accuracy? I am confused (nothing new there).


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:58 am
by montana_charlie
Care to experiment, Sam?

Take one of your 520 grain bullets and drop it nose first into the chamber.
Measure the distance from the rear face of your barrel to the base of the bullet.
Load a cartridge (or two) with the bullet seated 'only that deeply' in the case ... or to put it another way ... with the bullet set out 'that far'.
Handle them with care when loading, and see what kind of performance you get.

You can use some thick felt or cork to use up space in the case so you don't HAVE TO put in a ton of BP if the bullet is almost free of the case.


Re: Newbie intro and plea for help

PostedCOLON Fri Aug 10, 2012 11:00 am
by YosemiteSam
I am all for experimenting!! and HAVE measured the OAL of the chamber that way already----- With a bullet pushed snug into the rifling I used a dowel and marked the dowel at the base of where the case fits flat. The OAL is 3.25". The 52Os end up being seated in the case with one grease groove and one driver showing out of the case. I also tried the shorter 412s and it requires two grease grooves and two drivers showing. I have yet to load any cartridges that way, but that is going to be my next step. I kind of got sidelined this summer with shoulder surgery.

I figure to use a .060 fiber wad... I think my powder charge will be around 80 grains to fill the space...

Well I have my homework set for me. Once I get some of these questions answered, I am sure i will have a dozen more questions.

thanks all.

by the way, I just got off the phone with DRCook. I have some things to work out before I go any further, but I'll be back with more questions I am sure. :D :D