The BP Cartridge Rifle Reloading Guide
The BP Cartridge Rifle Reloading Guide (rev. 9/18/03)
by Dick Trenk (Competition Events Coordinator, Davide Pedersoli & Co. )
This is a different kind of reloading instruction text. You will not just be advised how to do things but you will also be given the reason why it is done that way. Many frank warnings and opinions will also be seen throughout this text.
Such remarks and opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily agree with those of manufacturers or other experienced shooters and reloaders. The shooting of black powder cartridge rifles is a great challenge and one which has very few finite rules.
It involves almost continual experimentation with old and new components and equipment.
For short range hunting and target practice, simple and proven reloading methods will provide suitable ammunition and accuracy.
For those who want to surpass that level, specialized and developed handloads will always produce a significant improvement, just as it does with reloading for modern smokeless powder arms.
PYRODEX & TRIPLE SEVEN WARNING
WHAT POWDER GRAIN SIZE TO USE
DUPLEX POWDER LOADS
DEVELOPING A BP LOAD FOR YOUR RIFLE
NO AIR SPACE ALLOWED
BULLET LUBRICANTS & THE BLOW TUBE
CASE PREPARATION & BULLET SEATING
CASE STRETCH WARNING
GOING FOR ACCURACY
PROBLEM SOLVING TIPS
CASE CARE & GUN CLEANING TIPS
GUN BARREL CLEANING
THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES, REASONS,EXPLANATIONS AND RELOADING ADVICE WILL APPLY TO ALMOST ALL BP CALIBERS BECAUSE THE BASICS WORK ACROSS THE BOARD FOR ALL CASE SIZES AND GUN TYPES. IT IS ASSUMED THE READER ALREADY HAS EXPERIENCE RELOADING MODERN SMOKELESS POWDER RIFLE AMMUNITION. IF YOU LACK THIS EXPERIENCE YOU MUST FIRST READ SUITABLE SMOKELESS POWDER RELOADING GUIDE BOOKS BEFORE STARTING TO RELOAD THE LARGE CAPACITY BLACK POWDER CASES. IF POSSIBLE, WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED RELOADER AND ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT ANYTHING WHICH SEEMS UNCLEAR.
NOTE: The .45 caliber rifle will be used in most of the following text, but the data and theory will apply equally to all other calibers.
Any weight of 45 caliber rifle bullet may be used but accuracy is related to the barrel twist rate and bullet length. For example, a 45 caliber barrel with a twist rate of 18:1 will properly stabilize bullets longer than 1. 1 inch. Bullets of shorter length may be fired but may have a excessive spin rate and be inaccurate at long range. Bullets cast in a lead alloy between 20:1 and 30:1 lead:tin ratio work best and will weigh between 475 and 550 grains.
Other twist rates are found in original and replica 45 cal. rifles and other calibers. As a general rule, fast twist rates are required for long heavy bullets and slower twist rates for short lighter weight bullets.
Commercially made smokeless powder ammunition is available from many firms and usually is loaded to a low pressure and velocity in consideration of some original rifles which are considered to be on the weak side.
Almost all of this ammo uses 300, 350, or 405 grain bullets which will generally be accurate enough for hunting out to perhaps 200 yards.
Reloaders can easily surpass the performance of such commercial ammo using black powder or smokeless powder.
45 caliber hunting bullets are usually cast of pure lead or a soft alloy.
On large size game it is important that the bullet expand properly and not exit out the far side of the animal. Hard alloy bullets would not tend to expand in a satisfactory way.
In order to cast bullets of a particular lead/tin ratio you must start with pure tin and pure lead. Automobile wheel weights are made of unknown alloys and may include zinc, arsenic, antimony and other metals which we do not want to use in bullets.
Therefore, although wheel weights provide a cheap and hard alloy and work quite well in many rifles, you are advised not to add wheel weight metal to a pot which has pure lead and tin in it.
Once you add the wheel weight metal you will be dealing with an unknown alloy which cannot accurately be duplicated in the future. It is better to just use the wheel weights alone and once you have developed an accurate loading, you can then duplicate the load using the pure metals.
It is important that the bullet carry sufficient lubricant to help powder fouling to remain soft and thereby maintain accuracy between shots. Bullets with 4 or 5 grease grooves are best. Fewer grease grooves will also provide enough lubricant capacity if the grooves are deeper or wider than normal.
The final diameter of your cast bullet should be the same as the groove diameter of your gun barrel or up to .002" larger than the groove diameter.
Still, we know that cast lead bullets "obturate" a great amount and fine accuracy is sometimes obtained with bullets which were up to .005" smaller than your groove diameter.
Obviously you need to "slug" your barrel just in front of the chamber and also near the muzzle and get an accurate measurement of your groove diameter.
You should find the same dimensions at both locations (as well as near the center) If the diameter is slightly large near the chamber end, this indicates a tapered rifling and is a good condition which promotes accuracy.
All modern replica rifle makers are using the following groove and bore diameters:
40 caliber groove .408" with a bore of .400". For 45 caliber the groove is .458" with the bore at .450". However...you are advised to slug your gun to make certain of these vital dimensions. Be advised that old time original barrels are found with wildly different sizes so measurement is really important.
Also be advised that it is extremely hard to obtain a really accurate fully expanded slug from a rifle barrel. Many owners report that their barrel is far too large or way undersize on the groove and bore diameters.
The fact is though...modern machining methods produce barrels with very tight tolerances and it is the owner or inexperienced machinist who is making the error by improper slugging of the barrel or measuring incorrectly.
Due to the ability of a lead bullet to expand (or squeeze down) to fit the barrel, we find that so called "out of specs. " barrels which are found to have dimensions not in agreement with the standard sizes listed above really do produce fine accuracy and do not require any rebarreling or internal corrections as long as they have consistent dimensions throughout the barrel length.
45 caliber bullets should be cast with a diameter of between .458" and .460". Most moulds will produce bullets of .459" diameter and this is considered normal size. In most rifles, .457" bullets will also produce normal accuracy because of the obturation affect which is a word meaning the bullet is puffed up or expanded to fit the barrel tightly even if it started out slightly smaller than the groove diameter. This is another of the many areas where the reloader can experiment to see what his particular rifle likes best.
Cast bullets are assumed to be nearly perfectly round as cast. In reality, this is rarely achieved and such perfection is hard to find in all but the most costly custom moulds. As a basic rule, if your bullet measures within .002" of roundness it is about average. If your mould makes bullets with a smaller amount of out-of-roundness you have a unusual mould which you should plan on keeping forever.
On the other hand, if your new mould happened to produce bullets more than .002" out-of -round, I suggest you send it back for an exchange or perhaps a refund.
Such nearly round bullets (if close to your rifles groove diameter) should not be sized through a lubrisizer sizing die which is smaller than the cast bullet because the original near perfect roundness may be lost once the die touches one side of the bullet.
Many shooters use a lubrisizer die .001" larger than their cast bullet and thereby are able to lubricate bullets in a lubrisizer press without altering the cast diameter.
Some reloaders avoid the lubrisizer entirely and lubricate bullets in a shallow pan by pouring the heated lubricant into the pan and then cooling it, or apply the lubricant by other means.
Cull your cast bullets to remove those having external or internal flaws. The internal voids are evidenced by bullets being too light. Separate bullets into groups according to their weights, as follows.
For plinking or informal shooting use bullets weighing within 2.0 grains (high low spread.) For serious target shooting and for developing and testing loads use bullets weighing within 1.0 grains (high low spread.) Some champions cull bullets to plus/minus 0.2 grains weight but working to such extreme accuracy may not actually be necessary. Given the many other variables in BPCR shooting, you can set up your own weight tolerances and if you obtain good accuracy then stick with that tolerance.
NOTE: The base of the bullet is where accuracy lies. Any bullet not having a sharp crisp base edge will usually not be accurate for target purposes. Bullet moulds in which the molten lead is poured through the nose are called "Nose Pour Moulds" and such moulds produce near perfect bullet bases.
These types of moulds are more expensive than "Base Pour Moulds" which always show a cut off scar where the metal entered the bullet.
Tests indicate that a well made base pour mould bullet can produce the same accuracy as one made from a nose pour mould. However a good nose pour mould will produce more perfect base bullets and result in fewer being culled out, which save lots of casting time.
Also, for obvious reasons, a nose pour mould must have a flat point (meplat) while a base pour can have a curved, rounded or pointed tip.
Casting good bullets takes a certain amount of skill, learned only by lots of practice. I poor caster may get poor bullets from the very finest mould.
When culling bullets, throw out any bullets which have driving bands not fully filled and crisp in appearance. Turn each bullet and examine it all around to see if some portion has poorly filled bands. Such a poorly filled out bullet will not fly accurately and may cause a "flier" or erratic strike on the target.
After inspecting and culling out the rejects, store the "keepers" base UP in a suitable box or rack.
At most pistol shooting ranges you can pick up empty 45 acp boxes and the plastic racks used in such ammo boxes will hold 50 of your rifle bullets safely.
Some commercially made rifle bullets have a large 45 degree angle on their base. These bullets load into the case mouth very easily and are ok for Cowboy Action type matches fired at short ranges. These bullets will NOT produce acceptable accuracy at longer ranges and should not be used when you are expecting long range precision accuracy. The flat base and perfect base edge is absolutely required if you want accuracy far out.
As a general rule...serious match shooters do not purchase commercially made lead alloy bullets but cast or swage their own, for the simple reason that well made bullets with perfect bases are not available at affordable prices.
Originally, most BP cartridges used what is called a "paper patched bullet."
Such bullets have no grease grooves and require the use of a "grease cookie" installed below the bullet and over the powder. Most modern shooters do not use the PP bullets today but great accuracy can be obtained by reloaders willing to do the careful work required to make a PP bullet.
Today, when using PP bullets many shooters wipe out the barrel between each shot and therefore do not have to use any grease cookie at all (although some do.)
Due to the time restrictions in Silhouette match competition it is not practical to wipe the barrel between shots so PP bullets are not used without the grease cookie.
If you want to try PP bullets you can learn about making them by reading one of the many good books on this subject.
The large capacity BP case holds so much powder that strong primer action usually works best. Any large rifle size "standard" or "magnum" primer will get the job done but it must be noted that Large Pistol primers will also fit the primer pocket in the case but these pistol primers are made from thinner metal, produce a much weaker flash intensity and also are not high enough. For these reasons DO NOT use Large Pistol primers with cases holding more than 75 grains of BP.
Also, because the pistol primer is shorter than a rifle primer, the pistol primer is slammed back against the breech block when powder ignition takes place. In some guns where the breech block front surface may be of a softer steel, this continuous primer "set back" can result in permanent indenting of the area around the firing pin hole. As is usual, this subject is also one where different opinions and results have been noted. Some reloaders like the mild Large Pistol Primers and get good accuracy with them.
All the rifle manufacturers are well aware of reports of indentation of the breech face caused by the Large Pistol Primers slamming back against the breech face.
The cure would be to make the breech block face much harder and brittle and because this can cause fracturing around the firing pin hole it is not a safe or suitable change. The only other cure would be to install a special hard bushing around the firing pin hole and allow the breech block to remain somewhat softer. This bushing is not installed by the gun manufacturers but can be done by a competent gunsmith.
I recommend not using the Large Pistol Primers as any measured advantage they may produce can also be duplicated by simply placing one or two wads of newsprint over the flash hole before dumping in the powder charge. The .003" newsprint wad has the effect of smothering or reducing the primer flash slightly and tests have indicated the results are close to those obtained with the Pistol Primers.
However, this is but another of the countless things which need lots of experimentation and testing.
What is required would be a Large Rifle primer having pistol primer material inside. I suspect it will be made available in the near future since there seems to be a reasonable demand for such a special primer.
Various brands of black powder produce different burning rates, power and consistency. Different lots of the same brand will also have such variations. Some powder brands have been encountered which are very poor quality and give erratic results and inaccuracy.
We suggest using any of the following black powder brands: Swiss brand powder, Elephant brand powder, Goex brand powder, KIK brand powder and WANO brand powder.
(The author ranks these in that order of quality and performance but recent tests of 2002 lots of Goex indicate it is much improved over 2001 and prior lots and reports place it just below the Swiss powder performance).
A new type powder designed for use in Schuetzen type rifles is becoming available and while it is mainly designed for the smaller caliber rifles used in that shooting activity, it is likely to also work well in some larger calibers as well.
Pyrodex RS powder (which is not a black powder) may also be used. We have not tested Pyrodex in the 45-100, 45-110 and 45-120 large capacity cases and make no suggestions for its use, but experience with it in smaller cases has shown good performance so it will likely do well in the large cases also. Pyrodex is used on the basis of equivalent black powder volume not weight.
Load the same amount of Pyrodex powder height into your case as you would for black powder. DO NOT load Pyrodex using equal scale weight of black powder. Use ONLY the RS or Ctg. grade not the P grade of Pyrodex in BP rifle cases.
In recent years there have been some new type powders developed, for which high claims have been made by the sellers. At this time, we advise against using such powders based on reports of poor power, inaccuracy, high corrosiveness, short canister life, moisture attraction and other undesirable conditions which have been reported.
As such powders may become better perfected in the future, their time may yet come but it appears that this is not yet that time. This does NOT rule out the use of other brands of powders but we suggest that you talk to other shooters and if possible log onto one of the black powder shooters message boards seen on the internet. Put your questions on one of those boards and you will soon see advice and opinions from other shooters.
Starting in 2003, the NRA has ruled that Silhouette and target Rifle matches must use only 100% black powder or Pyrodex. No duplex loads or substitute powders will be allowed.
Dealers selling little known powders may not know the performance characteristics of the brand being sold and may also be tempted to sell powders of an inferior type which bring them a higher profit. There are reports of "fireworks" powders being repacked and sold as BP rifle and pistol powders. While there is no danger from these low grade powders, there will also be poor and erratic performance resulting from their use.
PYRODEX & TRIPLE SEVEN POWDER WARNING
Pyrodex and Triple Seven powder fouling is easily cleaned using the same simple process given for black powder.
Hodgdon Powder Co. sells a Pyrodex solvent product called EZ-Clean which also works well with Triple Seven and black powder.
However...if you use Pyrodex or Triple Seven powder and decide to clean your fouled barrel with a smokeless powder solvent which contains ammonia...AND...if it is allowed to remain in the barrel for several hours it can create a rapid rusting condition. Therefore if you do use a product containing ammonia remember to not allow it to remain in the barrel beyond the time needed to do the cleaning and also make certain it is completely removed and the barrel protected properly before storing the gun. To be on the safe side just use the Pyrodex EZ-Clean or any other brand name commercial BP solvent or the standard soap and water used for blackpowder fouling removal.
The above applies to Pyrodex and Triple seven in both powder or pellet form.
Hodgdon states that Pyrodex should not be compressed more than 1/8 inch (. 125") and Triple Seven not compressed more than .100". (pellets are not compressed by the reloader so this applies only to these powders in loose grain form).
If Pyrodex or Triple Seven powder is over-compressed, the powder grains may collapse and become a solid column or "plug" of material and upon ignition, extremely high and dangerous pressure can be produced which can burst the cartridge case as well as cause damage to the firearm and injury the shooter and bystanders.
This danger is present in any cartridge case but is more severe in a case which has a slight taper or a bottleneck shape!
POWDER GRAIN SIZE
Powder grain size is designated by the "Fg" system in the USA, Canada and many parts of the world.
The Fg system uses four designations for "Sporting and Military Small Arms Powders". The Fg (1Fg) is the largest grain size and the FFFFg (4Fg) is a very fine, almost powdery grain size. The FFFFg is used ONLY as a primer in flintlock guns and burns very fast and extremely powerfully. It is NOT to be used as a main charge in any large rifle caliber.
The list shown below is a guide only. Some bottleneck cases and some guns respond well to powder grain sizes not in accord with this list and you are advised to experiment to see what your gun likes best.
WHAT POWDER GRAIN SIZE TO USE
Powder grain size Caliber
of rifle cartridge
Fg 45 and 50 cal.(best with case lengths 2. 6" and longer)
FFg 38 to 45 cal. (all case lengths)
FFFg Under 38 cal. (all case lengths)
FFFFg Flintlock primer
The Swiss brand powder uses a reversed numbering system in Europe and entered the US market. To assist US shooters, the canisters have been remarked as shown below.
Swiss brand number "F"
system of grain size designation
5 Fg (1Fg)
4 1 1/2 Fg (between Fg and FFg in grain size)
3 FFg (2Fg)
2 FFFg (3Fg)
1 FFFFg (4Fg)
Note that the Swiss 1 1/2 Fg has no actual equivalent in the Fg system and therefore is simply called 1 1/2 Fg because its grain size falls between Fg and FFg.
Some powders sold or repacked by small companies have been found to have grain sizes not in agreement with the generally accepted sizes used by major powder companies. As a result such powder usually does not perform as expected.
The popular 45-70 and 45-90 will produce best velocity combined with best accuracy when Swiss number FFg or 1 1/2 Fg powder is used. Most 40 caliber cases do well with FFg or FFFg Swiss powder.
For the 45-100, 45-110, and 45-120 cartridge case, best results are obtained with Swiss number Fg or the 1 1/2 Fg grain sizes. The FFg grains size burns too fast in these large cases but some shooters like the performance of the FFg in the large cases.
Our tests have indicated that currently, the Swiss brand powders produce the most powerful loads plus delivering first class accuracy. The other powder brands can produce accuracy at somewhat lower bullet speeds.
Most rifles produce their best accuracy with a load somewhat below maximum so these other powder brands should be tested to see what your gun likes best. Powders other than Swiss brand will produce slower bullet velocities and this reduces recoil quite a bit and sometimes accuracy is found to be improved also.
Swiss brand also sells for a higher price so you should experiment with lower price powders to see if you can get a good load worked up. The old style BP cases hold so much powder that even with those weaker powders there can be plenty of bullet speed developed.
In both smokeless powder, as well as with black powder, it is desired to have each bullet leave the muzzle at exactly the same speed.
Of course this is a dream never made real!
With the use of a chronograph, a shooter fires each shot over electric eyes, which sense the shadow of the bullet passing over the eyes.
The speed is shown in feet per second (fps) or meters per second (mps.)
With the Swiss Brand we expect a well developed loading to produce "single digit" variations. Most other brands can also be made to deliver single digit ES (extreme spread) so this is but another area needing careful experimentation.
While having your ammunition deliver single digit ES is certainly something that we usually want to see, the fact is that sometimes such a loading does NOT produce the best accuracy in a certain rifle so be aware of these exceptions to the rules.
Example: Shot #1, 1250 fps; shot #2, 1255 fps; shot #3, 1247 fps. The spread between the high and low is only 8 fps which is a single digit number.
A load which consistently produces a single digit speed variation is considered to be match grade and if other factors are also good, this load would possibly produce the smallest group size on the target but as mentioned above, the rifle will tell you on the paper target what it likes best.
Such single digit speed variations can also be obtained from some other brands of black powder so you should obtain and test as many brands and powder lots as possible.
With a few exceptions, the original black powder era cartridge cases were designed to be fully filled with the appropriate black powder and partial filling was rarely permitted! If BP is fired in a partially filled case having a large amount of air space there may be a danger of producing a dangerous pressure spike which can "ring" the chamber or bulge the barrel. A small amount of air space not exceeding about 1/16 inch seems to be harmless but there is no good reason to have any air space at all and in fact a slight amount of powder compression is always recommended to hold the powder column in a rigid manner and promote consistent ignition pressures.
Unless you are working with one of those rare calibers mentioned above, do not leave significant air space inside the loaded case.
In an attempt to produce a mild reduced loading using black powder, some reloaders will put various light weight materials over the powder charge. As long as there is no free air space created these "fillers" seemed to cause no problems but accuracy will usually suffer a bit.
However, you will see some warnings and advice listed below.
If you do experiment with fillers, make certain to inspect your barrel after "all" the first few shots to see if there is any material being deposited inside the barrel.
If nothing seems to be accumulating in the barrel it may be safe to continue using that material but you should check frequently for possible buildup of burned material which may not wipe out easily and could cause inaccuracy or barrel damage.
Long ago, shooters found that Cream Of Wheat cereal, Dacron and other light fluffy material seemed to work well as a filler for reduced black powder loadings.
Lately, we have learned of problems and possible dangers with the use of fillers.
A recent product called "Pufflon" is made specifically to take up air space in smokeless powder cases or in BP cases. The maker's literature is full of advice but when I made a personal call and discussed it with the head man I was told they really have almost no experience using Pufflon with black powder and with BP size cases. I cannot make any remarks or opinions about Pufflon but would suggest avoiding reduced loads which require some sort of filler material.
It seems that common medical cotton balls, (opened up to increase their size) may be the safest material to use. With any type of filler, do not pack the filler tightly but leave it semi-loosely fitted over the powder charge.
Many shooters desire to use a smokeless powder charge in these large capacity BP cases. When done properly and with strict monitoring of the powder makers load data, this is not necessarily a dangerous thing to do in a modern-made BPCR.
I would under no circumstances use any sort of smokeless powder in an original old BPCR.
Recently there has be quite a few reports in the USA concerning modern BPCR which have suffered "rings" or "bulges" in their barrel or chamber region.
All these have been cause when smokeless powder loads were being fired.
Such damage can of course be caused by black powder as well but NEVER when a BP charge is made which has zero air space inside and when there is NO obstruction inside the barrel.
The reports I have been seeing concern smokeless powder charges printed in powder company, or reloading equipment catalogs. It appears that some powders can position themselves in such a manner inside the large cartridge case and when ignited, they can produce a shock wave or spike of pressure which may exceed 100,000 psi. Such a pressure can and will bulge, ring or actually burst the barrel or chamber.
Lots of opinions and research has been done on this problem but the answers are not yet settled among the many ballistics experts and master gunsmiths. If you elect to use a smokeless powder which produces a reduced pressure (lower recoil) you may be risking damage to your rifle, yourself and those nearby.
To avoid this risk, you should do one of the following:
1. Use only BP loaded to apply "some" compression on the powder charge.
2. Use only a smokeless powder charge printed by the powder manufacturer which is correct for the bullet you are going to use and, which produces a full pressure upon ignition (not a so called reduced load).
3. Change to a smaller caliber rifle to obtain reduced recoil affect.
Original (old) BP guns do not have the improved steel alloy as is used in modern replica BP firearms. An original BP firearm should be properly inspected by a gunsmith who is qualified to pronounce it to be in safe firing condition and not every gunsmith would have that qualification.
Various tests such as X-ray, Zyglow and Magnaflux testing can be performed to verify the internal condition of the firearm.
Such original BP firearms should only be fired using the correct grade of BP and NEVER with a smokeless powder charge (even when thought to be moderate in pressure) is not recommended.
Modern made replica guns in good condition may use smokeless (rifle powder) loads providing the pressures generated do not exceed those produced by the original black powder charge it is the owners responsibility to contact the manufacturer of the rifle and obtain their pressure limits.
Note and be advised, that just because a smokeless loading may be rated at the same pressure as a BP loading, the actual pressure spike and time involved is quite different from what happens when BP is ignited. The smokeless can produce a dangerous pressure in both the chamber and barrel! Therefore, consult the gun maker for smokeless pressure limits and if you cannot obtain this data (maker out of business or won't supply the data) then we strongly advise not to use smokeless powder in any manner.
DO NOT use any smokeless powder unless you have seen the powder manufacturers loading recommendations and pressure data. If you cannot obtain this vital data then DO NOT use that smokeless powder under any circumstances. Contact the powder manufacturer and obtain the official data.
At this time, the only powder company which has published proper test data and load recommendations for just about every old black powder cartridge case is the Accurate Arms Co. , maker of Accurate brand smokeless powders. They have available a superb reloading book which covers all BP calibers as well as all the bullets weights likely to be used properly, and gives the pressure data you will need when using their brand of smokeless powders. This book is titled " Accurate Loading Guide Number Two. " Their phone number is: 800-416-3006.
However, as mentioned earlier, it is risky and uncertain, to use a smokeless powder reduced loading, no matter what the printed book may indicate.
Other powder makers do offer reloading suggestions for their smokeless powders but so far none cover the full range of large BP cartridges and bullet choices as does the Accurate Arms book.
With smokeless powders the safe pressure limits of replica guns can easily be exceeded therefore you must obtain and read the powder makers data sheets first.
The Davide Pedersoli Co. officially authorizes black powder and smokeless powder reloads which do not exceed 29000 psi (or CUP) for all their centerfire cartridge BP rifles. Other replica manufacturers have not openly published their allowable pressure data so you are advised to contact those other firms and request this vital information before reloading near maximum pressures.
WARNING: Recently there has been at least one commercial ammo company (Buffalo Bore Ammo co. ) offering 45-70 ammo which they claim produces around 42,000 psi pressure. Such pressures would definitely be damaging to most old original rifles as well as modern replica rifles if it were used regularly. You are warned against the use of such ammunition.
DUPLEX POWDER LOADS
In an effort to obtain faster muzzle velocity and a less fouled barrel condition, some shooters insert both smokeless and black powder into the ctg. case. This is called a "Duplex Load".
Be advised that there is obvious danger involved in a duplex loading and there are NO gun manufacturers who officially approve of this type of loading.
In Canada and some other parts of the world, the use of duplex loading is still approved for some long range match conditions but at the time of this being written, the American NRA is considering changing the rules concerning the use of duplex loads and possibly making pure BP mandatory. You are advised to contact the sanctioning organization running any shooting match to verify the current loading rules.
Basically, a duplex load involves putting a small amount of smokeless powder into the case first, then the black powder is placed on top of the smokeless powder.
No wad or material is used to separate the two powders.
The BP is compressed in your usual manner and the over powder wad (if used) installed, then the bullet is seated on the wad in a normal manner.
The smokeless powder selected must be of a fairly slow burning rate, thus a fast burning pistol powder would produce dangerous pressures with possible damage or injury.
While the Canadian rules allow up to 25% of the black powder charge "weight" to be replaced with an equal weight of smokeless powder, this is in the opinion of most US shooters to be both excessive and highly dangerous in even modern made guns.
Experience has shown that Alliant Reloader 7 or IMR 3031 or IMR 4759 powder used in place of 5% to 10 % of the original BP charge weight delivers a large speed increase as well as a very clean barrel condition.
This author has used up to 5% of IMR 4759 with good results and pressures remained in a safe range. I would not use more than 5% because a stronger pressure is simply not needed.
The ASSRA shooters seem to prefer the IMR 4759 powder.
Other powders which have a similar or slower burning rate may also be tried in small percentages and such loads are to always be developed with strict attention paid to pressure indications during firing tests.
The above mentioned Accurate Arms book will provide that firm’s smokeless powder recommendations and other powder firms can be contacted for their suggestions for use of their brands of smokeless powders.
Remember...remove the same percent of weight from the original BP charge and replace it with the same weight of the smokeless powder.
Example of a 10% duplex charge: Original BP charge weighed 70.0 grains. Ten percent would be 7.0 grains.
Therefore the final loading would be 7.0 grains of a proper smokeless powder plus 70.0 minus 7.0 equals 63.0 grains of black powder. The total of both powders comes back up to the original 70.0 grains.
From the very beginning of smokeless powder, the shooters started to add smokeless to their BP loads. They obtained faster muzzle velocities and cleaner barrels just as we get today.
Because accurate pressure testing cannot be done by ordinary shooters, you simply have no way to know the amount of internal chamber pressure and the time lapse in which it occurs.
Such costly and highly technical measurement equipment is found at gun and powder manufacturers, not at home loading benches.
To my knowledge, no powder manufacturer actually publishes any duplex loading suggestions because of the obvious dangers involved. I advise you to consult other shooters who have developed a safe duplex load for your caliber and bullet weight.
This sharing of duplex information is common on the several internet "chat boards" and dedicated BPCR "message boards."
The Pedersoli company does not officially recommend or authorize the use of any duplex loading due to the impossibility of knowing just what pressure any duplex load would develop. If you decide to shoot duplex you do so at your own risk.
DEVLOPING A BP LOAD FOR YOUR RIFLE
There are at least three methods of load development which can bring you to a point where you have the most accurate loading for your rifle with a particular bullet.
The first method (along with general assembly steps and suggestions) will be described next.
Many black powder shooters weigh every charge but what appears to be more important is to have the same powder "height" or "volume" of SETTLED POWDER in the case prior powder compression and bullet seating. This is more critical with Fg grain size than with FFg and FFFg grain sizes.
Because your bullet may have many seating positions possible, the actual powder height cannot be specified but the following will explain what is required and for these reasons it is usually a waste of time asking other shooters for their "pet" loads. Their bullet, seating depth, powder lot, compression, wad type, lubricants and many other factors will NOT be the same which your gun will be using. Therefore trying to obtain the good results someone else obtained with a certain powder charge and bullet generally does not work too well.
1. Determine how deep in the case the bullet will be seated. Most guns shoot best when the ogive of the bullet is in light contact with the rifling or backed off about .010" to .200". I suggest starting with your bullet in light contact with the rifling. Later repeat the steps with the bullet backed off the rifling contact by .010" increments.
2. Having determined where your bullet base will be inside the case (we will use .500" as an example only) pour in the powder and tap the case 12 times to settle the powder completely.
Twelve taps is what I use and seems to be a good choice. You can select a different number as long as you stick with it all the time.
Add powder and perform the tapping until you have the powder settled .500" below the case mouth.
3. Dump out the powder charge and funnel it into a hand held brass adjustable powder measure such as used by muzzle loaders.
Tap the measure a certain number of times (12 taps on the bench top seems to work well) and record that number. After fully settling the grains then slowly raise the sliding piston in the adjustable measure until the powder is level with the measure top and tighten up the lock screw. You have now established the size of the powder charge (in volume) which when dumped quickly into the brass case (and tapped the same number of times), will settle to .500" below the case mouth. This is an "uncompressed charge" and because the adjustable measure can be refilled and tapped with the exact same number of taps each time, you can obtain good consistency in your powder charge volume. Depending upon the bullet seating depth the powder charge will vary per the instructions given above.
Note that the hand held adjustable powder measures have grain markings on their body. These grain numbers grains of "water" and are not the same as the grains seen on scales so you will find that the amount of grains of powder seen in the measure will become a larger number when the powder is poured out and weighed on your scale.
4. To obtain a greater volume of powder charge inside the case, you can buy or make a "drop tube".
This consists of a copper tube fitting the case mouth (3/8" tube for 45 caliber cases) flared to suit the inside case mouth diameter) about 30 inches tall with a brass or aluminum funnel attached at the top. Mount this on an "L" shaped wood stand in such a way that the empty case can be placed under the bottom of the tube and the tube lowered slightly into the case mouth.
Powder is poured into the funnel slowly over approximately 5-8 seconds time. The long fall will compact the grains perfectly and allow much larger powder charges to be used than could be put into the case with a quick pour action. Not only will you be able to get more powder into the case but your accuracy will be improved due to the consistency of the powder compaction in the case.
A charge dropped into the case this way will be packed quite densely but is NOT considered a compressed charge...yet.
NOTE: once you have determined the best powder "volume" you can then use a powder measure such as the Lyman #55 or other hopper type dispenser to duplicate that charge volume and speed up your reloading operations. Remember that even with a drop tube attached to this type of powder dispenser, your charge in the case is considered to be not compressed.
5. To protect the base of the bullet, most shooters place a card or plastic wad over the powder grains. This wad can be bought from commercial suppliers or punched out with a suitable arch punch. The wad must be a snug fit in the case neck where it will be finally located so remember that there is a slight taper in all cases. Make or buy wads which will be about .002-.004" larger than the place they are going to occupy in the case. Use cardboard such as seen on the backs of tablets, milk cartons, plastic from containers or other sources which are made from high density or low density polyurethane material. Thickness of the wad can be from around .010" up to .060". The most popular thickness is .030" as found in milk carton and tablet backing material. Commercially made wads are stamped from gasket material made from vegetable matter and are called "veggie wads." Some wads are stamped from very hard card material such as is used for shotgun wads. The main problem seems to be getting the wad diameter to fit properly down in the case. Careful measurements or consultation with the wad maker should answer this question of wad diameter. It varies because gun chambers vary in size, allowing brass cases to expand to whatever the chamber size is.
6. Having charged the case according to repeatable methods, you load up about 6-7 rounds which have the bullet in light contact with the rifling as stated in step #1. Fire 2-3 rounds to pre-foul the barrel, then fire 5 shots at a paper target and later record the horizontal and vertical spread of the bullet holes. Remember to either wipe out between each shot or use your blow tube the same way between each shot.
Fire further 5 round test lots of development ammo which has the bullet backed off the rifling by .010", .020 and .050". You should see some change in group size on the target.
Once you see what bullet seating position in the case the gun likes, then stick with that position and makes tests using different powder charges, having about 2.0 grains difference between each charge. You will again see the rifle telling you what it likes best. Keep good written records of each load and target results.
More refined loadings can be tested using different primers, powders, bullets, lubricants, wads, powder compression and other changes. But...remember this one rule when working up the best load, and this rule is CHANGE ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME. If you change two things, you won't know which one caused the result!
The first load development method described above covered more than just making up test loads but from all the steps listed you now will have a good idea of what is involved in load development. Next I will describe the second popular method used to find what works best in your rifle.
Method number two is the idea of the late Creighton Audette who was one of the top recognized BPCR experts.
1. Load a series of test loads using a slightly smaller powder charge than
you want to end up with. For each group of test loads (say 3 or 4 rounds in
each) add a small amount of additional powder (about 1. 0 grain between test
groups) until your last group has slightly more powder than you really need.
2. Fire all these test loads at one paper target at 100 yards without changing sights or the way you bench the rifle or hold it. Try for consistency in every shot.
3. Due to the increased powder charge in each test group, you should see the bullets hitting the target in a rising manner as recoil increases. Using a good spotting scope, plot your shots on an unused target and identify each lot clearly.
4. You will notice that some groups tend to clump together "vertically" more closely than other groups and some groups spread out more than the others.
5. The bullet groups which struck the target more closely together left the barrel as it had vibrated to near the end of its movement and was nearly stationary at that moment. The bullet groups which impacted the target making a larger group size left the barrel when it was still moving.
5. Chose a loading from among the groups which stayed closest together.
The third and final method of working up the best load is as follows.
1. Load up about 20 rounds and put your strongest powder charge in the first
one while making each one thereafter having 0. 3 grains LESS powder.
2. Fire them at one target starting with the WEAKEST loading.
3. Record on a clean target, the impact point for each shot.
4. As you get into the stronger powder charges your bullet holes will climb upwards on the target but the rise will NOT be uniform. Some shots will clump together and others will spread apart.
5. Those shots which clumped together (even if their powder charges were quite different) represent bullets which left the barrel while the barrel was at its extreme vibration point (as mentioned in method 2 above).
6. Pick a load which is in the middle of one of the powder charge ranges that produced a small bullet hole spread and load up at least 5 or 10 using the exact same methods.
7. Fire these loads making every effort for consistency in how you bench the rifle and hold it.
8. If you can duplicate the small group size originally produced, you have hit upon "one" of the loadings which your rifle likes and which will minimize inaccuracy caused by barrel vibrations.
9. If you seem satisfied with your test load, now is the time to refine it even more by making ONE CHANGE at a time to primer, powder, compression, bullet alloy, lubricants etc. etc.
The powder charge dumped quickly into the case or, the charge poured slowly down a drop tube, or powder dispensed from a hopper type powder measure, is considered to be "uncompressed". What you have after use of a long drop tube or the use of a vibration device, is a "settled" powder charge not a compressed charge.
All black powders respond for better or worse, when additional compression is applied. By far, the usual result of applying additional compression results in improvement to both accuracy and velocity. Sometimes you will also find lower barrel fouling as well.
Experimentation is required to determine what your powder likes best.
Match grade ammunition should always be compressed using a special "powder compression die". Using the bullet seating operation to compress the powder strongly may deform the soft bullet ogive in a manner so slight as to be unseen by your eyes, resulting in inaccuracy and possible jamming in the chamber.
You may find best speed or accuracy is obtained using an uncompressed charge or that compression as high a .300" produces better results. Due to grain crushing effect with excessive powder compression, it is not recommended to compress black powder more than .300". (Note that when duplicating 45-70 original military type ammunition used in Springfield Trapdoor models, very high amounts of compression is required. This should not be done for non-military type reloading in Trapdoor and other types of BP rifles. )
NO AIR SPACE ALLOWED
As mentioned above, bullets and wads must be in actual contact with the settled or compressed powder charge. If a significant amount of air space is present between powder and bullet, a dangerous pressure spike may occur which can "ring the chamber" or cause other forms of damage including personal injury.
Experts are not in agreement about this "chamber ringing" problem but to stay on the safe side I am advising not to allow more than 1/16" of air space between powder and wad or powder and bullet base.
Never intentionally load a small amount of black powder into a case which would create an unfilled air space larger than this distance.
BULLET LUBRICANTS & THE BLOW TUBE
The black powder bullet lubricant must do several things which are different from lubricant used in smokeless powder reloading.
Black powder leaves more fouling in the barrel and chamber than smokeless powder. One hundred years ago the better grade of powders left a moist fouling which did not affect repeated shots too much and allowed many shots to be fired before the barrel needed to be wiped out.
Current powders leave a hard dry fouling which will soon make it difficult to chamber another round and will also affect accuracy.
To combat this problem, special lubricants are available and the current thinking is that the lubricant must have NO petroleum products in it and will be made from all natural animal grease or vegetable materials and oils. Bees wax is also a common and major ingredient in successful black powder lubricants.
Several commercially made lubricants have proven effective and many shooters mix up their own lubricants which work quite well.
To keep the powder fouling soft, target shooters use a short length of tubing to blow into the chamber after each shot. Moisture in the breath is absorbed by the fouling and allows many shots to be fired before a wipe out with a dry patch is required.
Many advanced shooters have reported that they do not use the blow tube but wipe between each shot, thereby getting the very best repeatable accuracy. Wiping between each shot is not always possible so you will see most shooters using the blow tube routine.
Hunters usually have no need to blow moisture into the barrel since they rarely get more than one or two shots at an animal and therefore can wipe out the barrel properly after shooting.
In humid weather one or two breaths into the blow tube may prove to be enough
to keep fouling wet and soft. On a dry hot day you might need 6-10 breaths to
keep things soft inside the barrel.
Drink lots of water between blowing. This helps your breath to stay extra moist.
The actual blow tube can consist of a ctg. case which has the primer pocket drilled out to accommodate as large a plastic or rubber hose as possible.
Inserting the ctg. case into the chamber will prevent the moisture from your breath from wetting the chamber walls. We want to keep the chamber walls dry and just apply humidity to the barrel portion.
CASE PREPARATION & BULLET SEATING
Because the 40-65 and 45-70, 90, 100, 110 and 120 case are almost straight, they should not require full length resizing at any time and once fire formed in your own gun there will be better accuracy obtained from such cases. If you intend to fire these cases in some other guns it may be smart to try your ammo in the other guns to see if they will fit properly. If necessary, you can full length resize the cases back to standard size and fire form them in the next gun.
Once fire formed, keep your cases carefully segregated so they will not be used in another gun.
Try new cases in your gun to assure they will chamber and full length resize only if necessary. This general advice applies to any other BP case which is almost a straight wall design. Cases which have a bottle-neck (BN) shape present different reloading problems and will usually require at least neck resizing for each reloading. The BN cases are sometimes more difficult to obtain good accuracy from and beginners are advised to start with the straight wall cases mentioned in this text.
Dies made to handle the common 45-70 caliber will work OK for the 45-90, 100,110, and 120 neck sizing operation and bullet seating operation. Just set the die so the case is inserted only enough to rework the neck area and not to resize the full length of the case body.
Somewhat better case control and possibly a bit more resizing accuracy can be obtained when using the correct die for each caliber ctg. But the 45-70 die will usually produce ammunition of excellent accuracy when it is used for those longer cases.
Since full length resizing is not normally required when cases are fired only in one rifle they will go back into that rifle without problems.
The 45-70 full length sizing die can be adjusted to perform the required "neck sizing" on the longer 45 cal. cases right up to the 45-120. The expander ball will do its job as well using the same procedures.
The 45-70 bullet seating die also can be adjusted to seat the bullet (and apply a crimp if one is used) in all the longer 45 cal. cases.
The only reason you would need the actual proper 45 cal. caliber die set is if you have fat (expanded) cases fired in another gun and they won't enter your chamber. Such fat cases will have to be full length resized and then can be fire formed in your own rifle.
This same rule would also apply to "fat" cases of any caliber. You would have to get a proper full length resizing die to squeeze down those cases to fit into your chamber but once fire formed in your gun you would only neck resize thereafter.
A fired or new case will have too large a neck diameter and the bullet will not be held snugly or in a straight alignment. The case neck should be resized down to a little undersize for a distance equal to where your powder wad will be located.
A special "neck sizing" die can be obtained from several die manufacturers or the above mentioned 45-70 die used when set to just work the case down to the neck area. Then the neck is expanded using the expander plug to a size which will grip the seated bullet firmly but not so tightly as to change the bullet diameter. This operation also opens the case mouth into a slight funnel shape to allow easy entry of the lead bullet.
This funnel effect is called the "bell" or "bell mouth". The thickness of brass in the neck area will affect how much case "spring back" occurs and may require a larger expander plug than came with your die set.
Die manufacturers can supply expander plugs of different sizes.
As a general rule, the expander plug is made . 002" smaller than the bullet being used and this will commonly produce an inside diameter of the case neck which is .002" smaller than the bullet, providing a good grip on the seated bullet.
However...variations in brass hardness, neck wall thickness and other factors can make it necessary for you to make or purchase an expander plug of a different diameter in order to obtain the desired neck tension on your particular bullet.
Many 45-100,110, and 120 brass have such thick neck wall dimensions that an expander plug of .460" diameter may be required to allow a good grip on the .459" bullet being used.
If you are using a very light weight bullet for your caliber, it is usually necessary to apply a firm crimp at the case mouth in order to create some resistance and allow explosion pressure to build up properly before the bullet starts moving.
The reason is because the primer blast will start the light bullet moving before the main powder charge can get fully ignited. Accuracy will be poor unless the bullet gets a good stiff kick on the base which obturates it properly into the groove diameter of the barrel. Heavy weight bullets have enough weight to resist primer movement and usually don't require any actual crimp in the case mouth. This is another of the subjects worth experimenting with to see what works best. Only trial and error can show you what is required for your bullet and case type.
Because these cartridges are only used in single shot rifles there is no need for a crimp if the bullet is fitted firmly into the neck. In fact use of a crimp would create another variable since crimps vary with small case length differences. It is well known that having no crimp at all produces the most consistent neck tension and accuracy so if you can get away without use of a crimp then do so and see what results you get.
However...if you are reloading for a lever action rifle, a good crimp is required along with a flat point bullet in order to work safely in the tubular magazine.
When neck sizing, full length resizing, neck expanding, removing a bell mouth or adding a crimp to the case, the brass is being "worked" and is gradually hardened to a point where it may split or crack. For this reason, it is advisable to size down as little as possible so that the expanding operation tends to work the brass as little as possible.
Straight wall cases such as the 45-70, 40-65 and others of this type do not require much metal working so the need for annealing the brass is reduced greatly. Bottle neck shaped cases do require more metal working so they will tend to need annealing more often. Modern high power rifle cases need annealing quite often due to the extremely high internal pressures being produced but black powder produces far lower pressures and those cases can be reloaded many times before needing to be annealed.
In addition to helping prevent splits and cracks, annealing does one other thing which is perhaps even more important to BP shooters and that is...it keeps the case neck at a consistent softness which promotes consistent neck tension, which in turn promotes better accuracy.
As a case neck tends to get harder its spring-back from the expander plug will change. This changes the grip or tension applied to the seated bullet.
If you start to experience neck splitting I would suggest replacing that lot of cases. Annealing cannot properly restore the internal grain structure of the brass and you are going to be faced with unknown neck tension conditions in such aged cases.
You can anneal your long thin-wall BP cases as follows:
1. Use a common propane torch or similar low heat type of torch (we don't want
welding heat here).
2. Work in a dimly lighted area so you can watch the color develop on the brass case.
3. Have a container of water at hand which is deep enough to cover the entire case.
4. While holding the case between "bare fingers" so as to feel the heat, apply the flame to the top 1/2 inch of the case while rotating the case in your fingers.
5. Apply the heat carefully until you can see a dull glow of red starting to become visible on the case mouth.
6. Immediately drop the case into the water bath to cool it.
7. Never allow the case to become so hot that you cannot hold it with bare fingers at the base. Depending on your type of flame you should produce the dull red glow in 4-5 seconds of flame application.
8. How often to anneal BP cases is something which has not been accurately defined.
9. I have cases which have been reloaded as many as 75 times and yet never shown any signs of splits or cracks. I pay attention to neck tension as well and if a certain lot of cases start to show an increase in neck tension I think it will be time to anneal them all. With my modern high power smokeless powder cases I do anneal them about every 10 reloads.
CASE STRETCH WARNING
All brass cases stretch a bit with each shot fired! If allowed to keep growing in length they will get too long to chamber properly and if you are applying a crimp, you will find that the longer case length produces a stronger crimp than does a shorter case length. Use a case length gage or caliper to keep track of case lengths and trim them back to the desired length as required.
As a general rule, the 40-65, 45-70, and 45-90 cases should be trimmed after the first two firings and checked every two firings thereafter. These calibers do not tend to grow much once they are fired a few times. Among the many trimming devices available, the Lee company offers a simple economical device which can be hand operated or spun in an electric drill. It works perfectly and reliably.
The 45-100,110, and 120 cases stretch a great amount during the first 5-7 shots. The 45-120 stretches so much the brass may actually flow into the rifling, causing great inaccuracy and problems. For this reason you MUST measure and trim the case length after each firing until this stretching calms down and becomes very small. New unfired 45-120 cases should be initially trimmed back to about 3.190" because they may easily grow .050" or more with the first shot. After this first firing, measure the case length and trim it back an appropriate amount so as to never let the case exceed 3.250". After repeated firing you will see that the case has stopped stretching much and the overall length can be trimmed to about 3.240" but always check the case lengths after firing and keep the lengths well under 3.250".
GOING FOR ACCURACY
After you have understood and mastered the advice, rules and tips listed previously, you are ready to start work on developing the most accurate load for your rifle, your bullet and your other components.
Several things are known to affect the accuracy of BP cartridge reloading, and they are:
1. Bullet shape and length
2. Powder type and quality
3. Primer type
4. Powder volume and compression
5. Overpowder wad type and material
6. Bullet lubricant
7. Case neck grip on the bullet (crimp or no crimp as well as fit in case neck)
8. Bullet position in relation to where rifling starts
9. Many more little things which are capable of affecting accuracy
While learning to reload for the BPCR, you have likely been shooting your reloads and have some idea of what the rifle can do in the way of accuracy.
To properly evaluate accuracy you must shoot at a paper target so you can measure the group size produced and thereby get a correct opinion as to whether or not a change in one reloading step was for the better or actually was worse.
You have to start somewhere so I suggest doing the following.
1. Position your bullet in the case so it is in light contact with the rifling
of the barrel.
2. Use enough BP so that the bullet (and wad) will then compress the powder .050" when the bullet and wad are seated to this length.
3. Load and fire 5 rounds at a paper target and write down the group size .
4. Add 1.0 grains (by volume) to the powder charge and make no other changes (if yours is smaller than 40 caliber, use 1/2 grain increments).
The seating of the bullet and wad will compress this taller powder charge more than .050" and this should also be recorded.
5. Fire the 5 rounds and note the group size obtained.
6. Repeat the process of adding 3. 0 grains of BP and firing 5 rounds etc.
7. When you have reached the point where the powder is compressed about .300" you should end this incremental loading process and sit down and study your group size results. Almost every rifle will display a shrinking of group size when the powder charge gets to where that rifle likes it. You will find a certain powder charge volume and powder compression which produced the smallest groups. You can then work around that data by adding or subtracting 1.0 grain of BP at a time in an effort to refine your load even further.
8. Once you have determined the powder volume and compression which seems to produce your smallest group sizes you then turn your attention to the other items seen on the first list above, such as changing the location of the bullet back off the rifling.
When working up a load remember this simple rule. Change only one thing at a time and keep written notes of what you are doing!
PROBLEM SOLVING TIPS
We hear reports from time to time, of bullets hitting the target sideways (key-holing) or of guns producing bad accuracy. As you can imagine, many things can produce or contribute to such results and we offer a list of things which can usually be found to be the cause or involved in the cause.
1. Bullets too small in diameter, or much too large
2. Lead alloy too hard or too soft. Being too soft is the more serious problem as it can allow the ogive of the bullet bump up erratically causing unexpected flight paths. When too hard an alloy is used it may not allow the bullet to properly obturate into the groove diameter.
3. Bullets too short for 45 cal. 18:1 twist barrel or the 40 cal. 16:1 twist barrel. This would be 45 cal. bullets under 375 grains wt. or 40 cal. bullets under 300 grains wt.
4. Bullets having beveled base design which usually are not too accurate
5. Lack of lubricant or poor lubricant, allowing fouling build up
6. Fouling or lead in barrel or barrel or chamber
7. Case necks too small in outside diameter for your chamber, and having inside diameter requiring too small a bullet diameter. Cases previously fired in your gun should be used when developing loads.
8. Case length too long and metal has flowed forward jamming into chamber throat (ball seat), leade, or rifling. Measure case length first.
9. Too weak powder charge may fail to fully obturate bullet into the groove diameter of the barrel.
10. Too powerful a powder charge resulting in excessive muzzle velocity (smokeless powder only). Too soft an alloy combined with high muzzle velocity and shallow rifling can cause the bullet to "strip" and not engage the rifling properly.
11. Inconsistency with powder charge volume, compression, seating depth, bullets weights, bullet crimp or other assembly variations.
12. Black powder burning badly with variable pressures due to poor quality or deterioration of the powder caused by moisture or storage conditions.
13. Primer inconsistency of intensity and flame. Improper firing pin action can also change the primer intensity between each shot.
14. Front or rear gun sights loose or not properly mounted and some portion is loose and moving with each shot, preventing accuracy.
15. Poor shooting skill or eyesight problems. If in doubt have another experienced shooter test fire your rifle. Use a sandbag support under the forearm of the rifle as a starting point for bench tests.
16. Failure to pre-foul the bore. Almost all BP loads do their best only after 2-3 shots have been fired and the bore coated with some fouling residue. Some loads work best only with a clean wiped bore for each shot. Find out what works best for you.
17. Bullets poorly cast and having internal voids causing severe wobble in flight.
Use of a scale to weigh bullets will let you cull out bullets which are below proper weight (indicating an internal void). For practice use, bullets weighing within 2.0 grains of one another.
For load refinement and match use, use bullets weighing within 1.0 grains.
CASE CARE & GUN CLEANING TIPS
Black powder, Pyrodex powder, Triple Seven powder (and ALL other substitute BP types) leaves hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) fouling in the case and gun. It is suggested that both be cleaned the day of firing or as soon as possible thereafter because in humid conditions damaging rust can occur quickly in the gun barrel and damaging corrosion start inside the brass case. If circumstances will prevent you cleaning cases the day of firing, place them in a container of water and add some liquid soap. The cases can soak harmlessly for many days until you find time to do the complete job mentioned next.
De-prime the fired cases. Make up a container of the hottest water available and add some dishwashing liquid soap and two ounces of common white vinegar per quart of hot water. Allow the cases to soak for 15 to 20 minutes (not longer).
Use a small bottle brush or perhaps a small 410 gauge shotgun brush (or other suitable size) to clean the inside of the case necks while they are wet.
This cleaning of the inside of the case neck is very important with 45-110 and 45-120 cases and reduces case stretching greatly. Rinse cases in hot water until all soap and dirt is removed.
If hot water was not available just allow 10 minutes more time for cold water to do the same job.
Spread cases out to dry or place in a warm oven set to 180 deg. F. or less. There are several brands of commercially made case cleaners. All seem to work quite well and can be used in place of the above suggested methods but the above mentioned method does indeed get the job done properly and cheaply because the white vinegar contains mild acetic acid which effectively neutralizes the powder fouling inside the fired case.
Many shooters have a case polishing machine to make the cases look clean and shiny. This may be done if you prefer but is not required. Store completely dry cases in a closed container to reduce oxidation affect.
GUN BARREL CLEANING
There are several types of commercial BP fouling solvents which all do an excellent job of removing black powder fouling. There are also many "home brewed" solvents which produce a perfectly good job of removing BP fouling.
The Hodgdon Powder Co. , maker of Pyrodex and Triple Seven powders, also makes their own brand of powder solvent called "EZ Clean" and this is also effective for black powder fouling.
Fortunately the BP fouling is water soluble so the use of plain water is also quite suitable.
NOTE: always clean from the breech end if possible. Cleaning from the muzzle end may damage the barrel crown and rifling, leading to inaccuracy!
Patches MUST fit tightly to be effective.
Many shooters buy cotton cloth of proper thickness and make their own tight fitting patches. If you can push the cleaning patch through fairly easily, it is not going to do a proper job!
Some shooters have a special cleaning jag made up which will allow patches to have the proper firm fit inside a particular barrel.
If you prefer not to use a commercial powder solvent you can obtain very effective cleaning by using warm or hot water with some liquid soap added. Swab the barrel with patches wetted with the hot water mixture until clean patches come out almost perfectly clean. Examine the first few patches to see if lead flakes are seen, indicating your bullet lubricant may not be working effectively enough. Just a few small lead flakes is not an indication of a lubricant problem but pieces of lead which are long and slim does indicate a problem.
For a stubborn heavy amount of fouling it is suggested to use a tight fitting brass brush to loosen hard fouling. Then place a wetted patch over the brush and scrub some more. Follow this with a clean wetted patch and then test again with a clean dry patch to assure that the fouling has been removed. Finish your cleaning by drying the bore with dry patches and leave no wetness inside the bore.
NOTE that it is not necessary to have your barrel absolutely clean to the point that a patch will have zero traces of darkness on it. There is a certain amount of soot pushed into the pores of the steel barrel and it is needless to work too long trying to remove every trace of discoloration on a clean moist patch.
Once the bore has been fully dry wiped, the bore can now be protected by applying some gun oil or gun storage grease. Many shooters swab the barrel with the bullet lubricant they use, if they plan to shoot again soon. This method may not fully cover every bit of land and groove surface due to the stiffness of the grease and inability of the patch to contact deeply into rifling corners and edges.
Because barrels with tiny pits may trap some water molecules, it is suggested that you go over the barrel a few days after cleaning and oiling with a dry patch first, followed with your oiled patch, just in case this trapped moisture may be working out of the steel.
For this reason, water displacing products which drive moisture out of the metal and leave a protective film, are also an excellent choice. Among the many available, the Break Free and CRC 5-56, 6-56 and CRC Power-Lube products have been found to provide excellent long term protection for both the inside of the barrel as well as external metal portion of the gun. CRC products are found in auto parts supply stores.
I advise against the use of WD40 which leaves an undesirable film when it dries.
Dry the exterior of the gun and wipe with an oily cloth or the above mentioned Break Free or CRC products before placing the gun in storage.
Do not plug up the barrel but let it breath freely.
Leather holsters or cases tend to hold moisture and will eventually cause rust on the gun surface. We suggest avoiding leather or non vented containers for long term storage. Inspect your guns regularly and apply more surface protection as necessary.
A "gun safe" vault, with a heating rod placed inside, will provide
the absolute best storage and safety conditions.
Copyright 2003. R. T. Trenk, Sr.
(Reproduction or use in any manner is forbidden without written permission of the author.)