getting started with black powder firearms


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TMM
August 15, 2005, 04:31 PM
hey all- i have had a slightly increasing interest in BP firearms, and i'd like to know where to start. oh, and i seem to have a preference toward percussion cap guns, not flintlocks.

i also believe no liscence is needed for rifles or pistols, all i need to be is 18 right? ( i'd like to own a pistol before i'm 21!)

i looked over at Dixie Gun Works, and found a few neat looking pistols and rifles. the kits look fun, and they are cheaper aswell. Cabelas also has some prebuilt ones (pistols) for fair prices...

now, lets start with pistols. what is a good beginner gun? revolver, or a derringer, like from DGW? kit/prebuilt? what assecories do i need? the plus with some of the Cabela's is that they come with a starter kit... or do they offer the kit seperately aswell? i think so...

then a rifle- i saw a few good priced ones on DGW(kits) they're all either .50 or .54 cal- think that's ok for a starter rifle? i guess it's more a personal question... i don't know if i can handle recoil well or not (yet). do you think these would be fair for hunting (don't know if i would ever use a muzzleloader for hunting, but i'm just wondering.)?

other q's:

about the DGW smoothbore derringers- aren't smoothbore pistols illegal? or does that not cover BP firearms?

a while back, someone posted in this forum how to make paper cartridges. could i use these for all the above guns (derringer, revo, rifle)? seems easier, quicker, and not as messy.

what about powder? what should i use?

do i need to use wads? what purpose do they serve?

DGW sometimes suggests a patched ball for thier guns. why not just use a ball a little bit larger?

on some od DGW's longguns they have "double-set triggers"-what exactly is that? single barrel, single hammer, and two triggers?

how are the instructions that come with DGW's firearms (i do believe they come with some sort of instruction, no?)

and... i think that's about it. by the way, i'm more or less only interested in "authentic" BP arms... not like the modern looking BP longarms Cabela's sells... if i wanted it modern looking, i'd go for standard metallic cartridges.

~TMM

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mec
August 15, 2005, 05:55 PM
first get a book. Any of the DGI black powder ones will give you the basics.
Black powder, non cartridge arms - original or replica do not come under the Federal Firearms act (s) and many states do not classify them as firearms either. The prohibition against sawed off shotguns doesn't apply to muzzle loaders or front loading revolvers.

In general, black powder guns require a bit more attention in several areas than modern smokeless powder designs. This is true even of the best ones. A good strategy is to look at www.dixiegun.com and read reviews on the black powder guns that people have actually bought from them. You will find more favorable comments about Ubertis than the other revolver makers. People who have actually shot the guns from Palmetto Arms - Often marketed under the Dixie brand name are just about universal in their condemnation. The positive ones usually end up ".... and some day I'm gonna take it out and shoot it!"

A reasonable first revolver might be an 1851 Navy from Uberti
A very good single shot-with hidden modern coil springs is the Lyman Plains Pistol- available from several sources including Dixie and Lyman products on line.

Derringers or Deringers are another story. Their small size, reduces the useful range to a few feet and most of the replicas are extra cheap- both in price and quality. . A modern replica of an actual Henry Deringer would be a neat thing to have . Unfortunately the only good ones (good, I think) were a limited edition set and cost as much or more than an original antique. The one sold ready made or in kit form by Dixie comes from Palmetto Arms. The reviews on the Dixie site sum them up very well.

armedandsafe
August 15, 2005, 06:07 PM
Hoooo, boy. So many questions, so little time. :D You are starting out properly, however, by asking questions before you start buying.

now, lets start with pistols. what is a good beginner gun? revolver, or a derringer, like from DGW? kit/prebuilt? what assecories do i need? the plus with some of the Cabela's is that they come with a starter kit... or do they offer the kit seperately aswell? i think so...

I would recommend you start with a revolver. They are easier to learn to shoot and are more "authentic" as it were. The kits will save you some money, but need some interest and skill on your part to assemple properly. I have built a number of kits for myself and others and enjoy it. However, it is not a one night job to do it the right way. The starter kit is an inexpensive way to get the minimums you will need to make the piece go bang, but you will buy more "stuff" as time goes on.

then a rifle- i saw a few good priced ones on DGW(kits) they're all either .50 or .54 cal- think that's ok for a starter rifle? i guess it's more a personal question... i don't know if i can handle recoil well or not (yet). do you think these would be fair for hunting (don't know if i would ever use a muzzleloader for hunting, but i'm just wondering.)?

Don't worry about recoil in black powder. The recoil is essentially minimal and is more of a "push" than a "rap." My granddaughter was shooting my .50 and her uncle's .54 at 8yo without a problem. A .50 is plenty large enough for deer and close-in elk. I'd rather not use one for bear, however. I've seen a moose taken with a .45 Hawkin. At about 25yds and a neck shot. The animal dropped as if someone had dropped a safe on his head from a 10 story balcony.

other q's:

about the DGW smoothbore derringers- aren't smoothbore pistols illegal? or does that not cover BP firearms?

Smooth bore pistols are just fine in black powder. I have had several of the old singleshots in .45, .50 and one in .76. Wish I still had that old 76er.

a while back, someone posted in this forum how to make paper cartridges. could i use these for all the above guns (derringer, revo, rifle)? seems easier, quicker, and not as messy.

Paper cartridges are good where they are appropriate (how's that for weaslin'?) A more practical way is to make or buy the plastic tubes that are make for carrying one charge. Paper cartridges are much more practical for rifles and shotguns than for handguns.

what about powder? what should i use?

Any black powder or black powder SUBSTITUTE. DO NOT USE SMOKELESS POWDER. The powders come in different grinds, with the number of "Fs" denoting how many times it went through the screens (more "Fs" means "more finer.") Some of the substitutes are marked "pistol," "rifle," "P," "RS" and such. Generally, pistols take FFFg (3F) or "P" and rifles and shotguns take FFg (2F) or "RS." Rifles smaller than .45 usually take FFg.

do i need to use wads? what purpose do they serve?

DGW sometimes suggests a patched ball for thier guns. why not just use a ball a little bit larger?

Wads are used to isolate your powder from the ball/shot. This serves 3 basic purposes. The wad isolates your powder from the ball and forms a tight seal for the powder gasses to push against. The ball is lubricated and that lube will contaminate your powder over a period of time. The wad cushions the ball from the flame front of the burning powder. The wad insures that you have some compression on the powder and that same compression on the powder from load to load.

A patched ball can be driven down to the powder much more easily than an oversized ball. The original reasoning was that no two rifles had the EXACT same bore, so the balls were molded to fit all and the patch took up the differences. If you mold and use Lee's R.E.A.L. bullets, you will find out the difference in loading difficulty very quickly. I load a REAL in the morning, but carry ball and patch to reload, should I need a second shot.

on some od DGW's longguns they have "double-set triggers"-what exactly is that? single barrel, single hammer, and two triggers?

Double set triggers are two triggers. The "set" trigger, sets the sear engagement so the "fire" trigger is very light and crisp. The "fire" trigger will fire the gun whether the "set" trigger has been engaged or not. Some "set triggers are just one trigger. The trigger is pushed forward to set the sear and then pulled back to fire. These are very rare and I haven't seen one on a modern BP since the '40s

how are the instructions that come with DGW's firearms (i do believe they come with some sort of instruction, no?)

I'm not familiar with the instructions from DGW, but all the manufacturers I am familiar with include basic, but acurate information on how to safely fire and maintain their guns. Buy and read the Lyman blackpowder handbook. Then READ IT AGAIN.

Ask more questions here, or pm/email me for more windiness. :D

and... i think that's about it. by the way, i'm more or less only interested in "authentic" BP arms... not like the modern looking BP longarms Cabela's sells... if i wanted it modern looking, i'd go for standard metallic cartridges.

One word of caution, which I hope you will take to heart. "Shootin' dirty" is addictive. :D

Pops

P95Carry
August 15, 2005, 06:21 PM
TMM - you already have a lot of good info - may I suggest tho as well - go to view this excellent thread we had a while ago - lots there to help you I think.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=65820

TaxPhd
August 15, 2005, 06:36 PM
Read the old posts in this forum. Lots of good info.

Buy "The Complete Black Powder Handbook" by Sam Fadala.

A decent gun to start out with is Cabella's 1851 Navy. Classic black powder revolver. If you want a .44 instead of a .36, get the 1860 Army. Cabella's revolvers are (mostly) made by Pietta. Generally not as consistent as Uberti's, but not bad. If it isn't right, Cabella's will take it back or exchange it.

I bought Cabella's starter kit, and it's not bad. The only problem is that the capper that came with it wouldn't fit to cap the revolver. Get a Ted Cash snail capper - I believe those will fit on the '51's just fine.

"what about powder? what should i use?"

I have always used Goex. Lot's of folks lke the various substitutes, but I have no experience with, nor any desire, to use them.

"do i need to use wads? what purpose do they serve?"

Depends. Some use wads in a revolver. I don't. Powder, ball, crisco over the balls. In my rifle (Lyman Great Plains Hunter) I use conicals seated directly on the powder - no wad.

"DGW sometimes suggests a patched ball for thier guns. why not just use a ball a little bit larger?"

If using round balls in your revolver, you won't use a patch. The balls are sized such that a thin ring of lead will be shaved off upon seating the ball. In a rifle, using round balls, you will want patches for a lot of reasons. Fadala's book explains better than I can. If shooting conicals in a rifle, no patch is required.

"i'm more or less only interested in "authentic" BP arms... "

Good for you. Avoid in-lines like the plague.




Scott

Tinker2
August 15, 2005, 07:23 PM
If you are just starting. Donít get a kit. Start with something
That you know is right first before you try to make one.
I would say a single shot. Better quality over quantity when
It come to learing to shoot well.

TMM
August 16, 2005, 03:51 PM
thanks for all the replies!

Mec:yea, the derringers have crappy range, but i was thinking it would be a "fungun" to get me familiarized with the basic workings of BP arms.

however, i think i'll get a derringer after a revolver.

armedandsafe: thanks for the thorough and informative reply!
how was the recoil on the .76 cal pistol?
and about the plastic tubes for carrying the charge: it is only for carrying, right? because i don't see how the percussion cap spark can travel thru plastic! and why is the paper cartridge better for longguns and not pistols? the paper cartridge tutorial in this forum specifically mentions that he uses them for pistols...

P95: already read that thread, but i will reread it to refresh my memory.

taxphd: cabela's 1860 army and starter kit will be added to my "list" shortly. =)
*EDIT* i looked at cabela's, and the 1860 dosn't have the "top strap" i think you call it - which kind of unnerves me, and i also don't like how it looks. IIRC, the thread P95Carry posted suggested to only use revos with a top strap.

i looked further in cabela's, and i found the 1858 New Army .44 Caliber Revolver With Starter Kit (http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/templates/links/link.jsp?id=0006195212578a&type=product&cmCat=search&returnString=_dyncharset=ISO-8859-1&hasJS=true&_D%3AhasJS=+&%2Fcabelas%2Fcommerce%2FCabelasCatalogNumberFinder.giftCertificateURL=%2Fcabelas%2Fen%2Ftemplates%2Fgiftcertificate%2Fgiftcertificate.jsp%3Fid%3D0005586990011a%26podId%3D0005586%26catalogCode%3DIB%26navAction%3Djump%26indexId%3D&_D%3A%2Fcabelas%2Fcommerce%2FCabelasCatalogNumberFinder.giftCertificateURL=+&QueryText=1858&_DARGS=%2Fcabelas%2Fen%2Fcommon%2Fsearch%2Fsearch-box.jsp.form21&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&N=4887&Ntk=Products&Ntx=mode+matchall&Nty=1&Ntt=1858&noImage=0&returnPage=search-results1.jsp) ... how is this?

what is the capper for? i believe it's for removing and putting on the percussion caps?

and one more question regarding some of DGW's derringers: in the reviews, some mention that the nipple is to short to hold the percussion cap on well. are they removeable on these, and if so, could i just put a new replacement on?

~TMM

TaxPhd
August 17, 2005, 11:40 AM
"1858 dosn't have the "top strap"

Actually, the 1858 DOES have the top strap. Remington's do, Colt's don't.

The open-top design of the Colt has fewer places where a spent cap can get hung up, but both the Colt and the Remington are fine designs, and you will enjoy whatever you get. Personally, I like the ergonomics of the Colt style better. Few revolvers feel better in my hand than a '51 Navy.

"what is the capper for? i believe it's for removing and putting on the percussion caps?"

Not for removing, just putting them on.

Cabellas starter kit has good stuff. The capper may or may not fit, depending on which revolver you end up with. If it works, great. If not, get a Cash capper.




Scott

hillbilly
August 17, 2005, 11:48 AM
Right now, even as I keyboard these words, the Wal-Marts in Arkansas are selling brand new CVA Bobcat rifles....percussion and in .50 caliber, for $54.87.

That's right, fifty-four bucks and change gets you a brand new, never-been-fired blackpowder percussion rifle in .50 caliber in Arkansas.

The Bobcat is strictly utilitarian with an ugly black synthetic stock.

But hey, what do yo want in a brand new rifle for less than $60?

hillbilly


P.S. If you go with the Bobcat, shoot patched round balls out of it. That's what the twist rate is set up for.

TMM
August 18, 2005, 12:27 PM
i realized i screwed up with the dates on the revolvers in my previous post... i edited it.

hillbilly, thanks again for the suggestion. i'll take a look someday.

~TMM

Scoupe
August 18, 2005, 07:10 PM
I was leery of the Colt design without top straps. As it turns out, my favorite BP pistol of three I own is my Cabela's 1851 Navy in .36. As mentioned above, few revolvers feel better in the hand or point better. Still had to have a top strap and picked up a 1858 Remington copy. It gets used the least because it tends to bind up on primer chunks too often and I don't care for the grip angle.

Lots of good advice here. Don't discount the 1851 too quickly. .36 caliber proves to be plenty of pop and tons of fun.

TMM
August 19, 2005, 05:09 PM
ok, i'll consider it...

you think i should go with .36 instead of .44?

~TMM

Father Knows Best
August 19, 2005, 07:10 PM
Welcome, young apprentice! You will soon smell the heavenly sulfurous aroma of the one, true powder -- the Holy Black. In time, you will become a Lord of the Soot.

I love black powder. In cowboy action shooting, my alias is Mo' Smoke. There's nothing like the BOOOOOM of a black powder firearm, and the clouds of gray smoke. Not to mention the awesome jets of flame and sparks, which are especially impressive when shooting at night! :evil:

The three truly classic cap-and-ball revolvers are the 1851 Colt Navy, the 1860 Colt Army and the Remington New Model Army. The Remington is commonly known as the "1858" because of the patent date on it, but Remington never called it that, and it actually didn't hit the market until 1862.

The 1851 Colt is a true classic with excellent balance. The 1860 Colt is more powerful, and has very graceful lines, but I don't find that it balances or points anywhere near as well as the '51 Navy. The 1860 Army also has a much larger grip frame, which doesn't fit my hand as well as the '51 Navy. The '60 Army is more powerful, though. The .36 caliber round ball of the Navy doesn't pack much punch. In action shooting, the '51 Navy often has trouble with knockdown targets due to the light projectile.

Both of the Colts lack top straps. That has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the guns break down easily into three main parts -- barrel, frame and cylinder. That makes cleaning very easy. The disadvantages are that the Colt design isn't quite as strong as the Remington, and the lack of a top strap means that the rear sight is nothing more than a notch in the hammer nose. Also, the "wedge" that holds the Colts together does wear out over time and result in the gun getting loose.

The Remington is also a classic, and is my favorite. It is stronger and has better sights. You can get multiple cylinders for it and keep them loaded and ready to go for fast reloads by just swapping cylinders (ala Clint Eastwood's "Preacher" character in High Plains Drifter). You can also get cartridge conversion cylinders for the Remington that will let you shoot .45 Colt ammo out of it.

The Cabela's Remingtons are made by Pietta. Pietta is getting better, but in the past they haven't been as good as Uberti guns. Of course, the Uberti guns also cost more. Midway carries Uberti, and a blued Uberti 1858 Remington sells for something like $279. They also have stainless ones like this: http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=307218 . The stainless guns are more expensive, but you don't have to worry about corrosion and they are very easy to clean (you can easily see the soot and fouling on them).

Don't feel the need to buy the kits. You can get balls, powder, powder measure, caps, capper, etc., at your local Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. The .44 caliber guns generally take .451 balls. Of course, pretty soon you'll be learning to cast your own balls using discarded lead wheel weights!

Finally, I should mention the Ruger Old Army. It's the ultimate cap and ball revolver. Nothing works as well. They run all day, are 100% reliable and are very accurate. They can take heavy loads. Unfortunately, they cost a lot. Figure $450 and up for a ROA. Note that they also take .457 balls instead of the .451 or .452 that most .44 cal and ball revolvers use.

Have fun!

TMM
August 21, 2005, 05:57 PM
good post FKB--
i don't like the Colts you mentioned, for the reasons you said. i was watching the video cabela's has, and the wedge thing seemed kind of stupid. also the easily removeable cylenders of the Remingtons seems like it would be a plus. i also like that you can get a .45 colt conversion cylender...i assume that the .45 colt bullet is not too big, because you said it takes .451 balls?

so, i'm leaning toward the '58. should i get the Pietta from cabela's with the starter kit (it's handy and all, y'know?) or the better Uberti from Midway?

stainless would be nice, but i think i'm going to go with Blued first, it'll be easy enough to take care of. i'll go for stainless with the Ruger (go big or go home kinda mentality, i guess...) i tend to be cheap but with somthing that's expensive in the first place, plop down a little more for Stainless.

~TMM

Souris
August 21, 2005, 07:26 PM
Personally, I really like the 1858 Remington replica's. My buddy likes the Colt replica's. The 1858 points better in my hand than the Colt. Like all other firearms, it is a matter of what you like the best.

The pietta's are decent guns but I understand that the Uberti's are a little better made. I have had 0 mechanical problems with any of my pietta 1858 replica's.
I bought 2 of them from Cabela's one of them almost 10 years ago.

I will admit that I am very anal about cleaning them when I get home from the range and then I check them a couple of days later to make sure that they don't rust. My older 1858 has had a couple of hundred rounds through it and still looks and functions very well.

For the price I like the Pietta's.

Father Knows Best
August 21, 2005, 08:15 PM
Remingtons feel better in my hand than Colts, but I know plenty of people who say just the opposite. It's a personal preference thing.

As for Pietta vs. Uberti, I also don't have a strong opinion. Twenty years ago, the Uberti guns were far superior. Pietta has come a long way toward closing the quality gap, and may have closed it completely. I've had the honor of meeting Alessandro Pietta himself (son of the founder), and I believe him when he says he is committed to making his company's firearms as good or better than anyone's.

Still, reports I hear are that the Uberti guns tend to be a little more consistent in fit and finish. That may be historical bias talking, or it may not.

For the price difference, I think I'd give Pietta a try with a single gun. If the quality is there, then buy another. If not, sell it and save up for some Ubertis or Rugers.

And yes, they can fire .45 Colt ammo just fine. So-called "44 caliber" cap and ball revolvers are actually 45 caliber. The "36 caliber" cap and ball guns are actually .38 caliber (.375, to be precise). That's wonderfully ironic, isn't it? Modern ".38" revolvers are actually .36 caliber (.357), while old ".36" revolvers are actually .38 caliber.

Old Fuff
August 21, 2005, 10:15 PM
If you are not 21 or over be careful about getting a cartridge conversion cylinder. The cap & ball revolver is not considered to be a firearm under federal law, and in most (but not all) states. But if you convert it to fire regular metalic cartridge it may then be considered a firearm, and subject to all laws that cover them. I don't want to see you convicted of something that could end your right to own guns before you hardly get started. :scrutiny:

TMM
August 21, 2005, 10:43 PM
yes, i'll be aware of that, Mr. Fuff.

~TMM

Old Fuff
August 22, 2005, 09:38 AM
TMM

Some of our advice and comments might be nore helpful if we knew your curent age and the state in which you reside. Remember, laws and regulations are different in different places ... :)

TMM
August 22, 2005, 11:48 AM
connecticut.

i'm 15, but i'll buy at 18.

Father Knows Best
August 25, 2005, 02:20 PM
Dixie Gun Works has stainless steel Uberti Remington 1858 New Model Army revolvers on sale for $275 (regular price $395).

BigG
August 25, 2005, 02:40 PM
Good info in this thread. I just wanted to comment the Remington 1858 revo seems like a product before its time. With our hindsight we can see all the advantages of the strength and precision added by the top strap. But we must also realize the dirt and debris inherent in a BP firearm with loose ammo and caps. Firing all that charcoal just doesn't lend itself to precision tolerances and small nooks and crannies. The Colt just does it better, in my experience.

jondar
September 8, 2005, 11:13 AM
Free advice is worth, of course, exactly what it costs. But I'll pass on some which I give credence to based on the adviser. I worked with a lady whose husband was a member of a reinactment Civil War cavalry troop. I had considered buying a BP revolver and he advised me to buy nothing but the steel framed ones. He said that the experience of the "troopers" who bought the brass frame guns indicated that with heavy use the brass frames would 'stretch", even though no ball loads were used. Only wads. I didn't buy a BP gun so can't confirm one way or another.

TMM
September 11, 2005, 12:27 PM
yea, i won't be getting a brass framed gun... looks ugly too.

.44walkersabot
November 26, 2007, 11:46 AM
Rule #1 to operate under and keep foremost in your mind-The powder goes before the ball or else it will not shoot a'tall.--
Rule #2 to operate under and keep foremost in you mind-There are very few problems in this world which cannot be solved with a well placed rifle shot.

Mulliganpaintdee
November 26, 2007, 01:31 PM
the Bass Pro Shop here in Ft. Lauderdale has some pretty sweet deals on BP rifles. I was just in South Carolina actually and my traditions nipple broke so I had to order some new ones but they wouldnt arrive in time for the hunt so I had my wife stop over at the BPS before she joined us up in S.C. and she bought me a new CVA Wolf Muzzle Loader for $150. Its a great shooting gun, uses the 209 primers and a break-down stock. Put my scope on her and she is now my primary hunting muzzleloader.

.44walkersabot
November 26, 2007, 09:50 PM
I don't know about the Wolf model in particular but By God I can speak highly for CVA in general, and I would be willing to bet the Wolf you have is a dependable straight shooter...Okay...

Mulliganpaintdee
November 27, 2007, 10:18 AM
Actually, yes the wolf is a great gun so far. Shoots straight as an arrow and is super easy to clean, which is a definate plus for me

Pancho
November 28, 2007, 01:23 PM
I bought my first cap and ball revolver when I was 16 gun laws were more relaxed 44 years ago. There was no one around at the time to give me any advice only the Dixie Gunworks catalog. So what I am saying is make a decision based on what you think is neat and temper it with the information that you've gotten on this forum. Probably your first muzzleloader or cap and ball revolver won't be your last. Read the stickie at the top of this forum it is a great primer and stick with us and visit us often.
Actually that stainless Uberti Remington for $275 sounds great to me.

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