loading black powder or ? shot shells


December 27, 2011, 01:23 PM
I'm looking for information on loading black powder, pyrodex or 777 shot shells. Anyone have recipes or recommendations? I have a Parker side by side that has been approved for shooting by a gunsmith "as long as I keep the pressure down."

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December 27, 2011, 02:06 PM
The 3 videos in the quote box below can be found in this thread by duelist1954:


Videos - Reloading black powder shotshells without a reloading press
I've put together a three part video series on reloading shotshells without using a reloading press.

The first video shows what I call the "Nail & Dowel Method" which uses simple items that are probably already in your home to reload shells:


The second video covers loading shells using a Lee Loader kit:


The final video shows how to load shotshells using antique reloading tools


duelist1954 also made another video:

Video - Shooting black powder shotshells


Found in this thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=596003&highlight=video

December 27, 2011, 02:48 PM
Real BP and subs are much more forgiving than smokeless powders. 777 should not be compressed, so I would uses something else for starters. I load powder charges in the 45 to 55 grain range (vol) under 1 to 1 1/8 oz. shot in 12 ga. Play with it to get a good crimp. I use plastic wads, cleanup no problem with Ballistol and water mixed 1 to 10. You will find recipes for 75 grains of powder, so whatever you choose shoot some paper to check your pattern; more is not always better.

Driftwood Johnson
December 27, 2011, 03:31 PM

Mike glosses over it a bit, but he makes quick mention of a Square Load. A Square Load in Black Powder shotshells is one where the volume of powder and shot are the same. Notice I did not say weight, I said volume. What tends to happen if you put too much powder into a shotshell for any given volume of shot is the powder will overpower the shot, blowing a hole in the pattern.

Putting less powder than shot in by volume is not a problem. But putting more powder than shot by volume can tend to blow holes in your pattern.

I load Black Powder shotshells for Cowboy Action Shooting. The nail method is great, but I need a lot of shells, so I use my old MEC Jr. I am not going to get into the argument about whether or not BP can be ignited by a static spark, suffice it to say I am probably the last person on the planet who refused to put Black Powder into the plastic bottle on my MEC Jr. I dip my powder by hand using a Lee dipper.

I use wads that I buy from Circle Fly.


You can buy Circle Fly wads from several outlets, but I included their web page because they have an excellent discussion about loading BP shotshells with their wads. Look for it.

My normal load is actually a bit less than a Square Load. I use the biggest dipper in the Lee dipper set, 4.3CC, of powder. This works out to only about 2 1/3 drams of powder. I forget exactly how many grains, probably somewhere around 60. I use the standard charge bar on my MEC Jr to drop 1 1/8 ounces of shot. I usually use #8.

On the MEC I decap and reprime as usual. Then I take the primed hull off the press and pour in 4.3CC of FFg, usually Schuetzen, but any Black Powder will do. Then back on the press I seat a 1/8" thick Circle Fly Over Powder wad. I take it off the press one more time and use a 5/8" piece of dowel rod to compress the powder under the wad just a bit, so I can hear it crunch. It actually compresses it very little. I don't hit the dowel rod, I just lean on it. Back on the press I seat a 3/4" Circle Fly cushion wad, then I dump in my 1 1/8 ounces of #8. Finally, I seat a thin Over Shot card over the shot, and crimp the shell as usual using the last two stations of the MEC.

In truth, I do not need the Over Shot card, but with the shot column I have built up my crimps tend to be a tiny bit concave, so I put the card in to level them out and prevent any shot from escaping.

I can load about 3 boxes an hour with this method.

One further note about dipping powder. I always pour a good quantity of powder into a coffee cup. Then I dip it just like I was scooping ice cream. I dip out a heaping dipper of powder. I do not tap it or shake it or anything to settle the powder. I simply use a piece of index card to scrape off the dipper level with the top.


Most guys who make BP shotshells for Cowboy Action Shooting actually do not use separate wads like I do. Most use plastic wads, it is less work. The go to wad for years was the old Winchester Red wad. Unfortunately Winchester stopped making them a while ago. But Claybuster makes a good copy.

The Claybuster wad number is CB1138-12. Seventh down on the page. This wad is good because it does not eat up a lot of the space needed for the powder charge. BP loads take up a lot more space than Smokeless loads.


Yes, the wad tends to leave melted plastic behind, but most guys clean it out with really hot water and elbow grease.

December 27, 2011, 03:42 PM
I am by no means an expert at hand loading, nor do I have any real tools to do it. Using black powder, home-cast buckshot, orange juice carton wads, primers I reloaded myself (I didn't have any primers at that time) and some Winchester field load hulls I loaded up some good shotgun shells that patterned nicely. They were easy to make, they worked well, and shooting them was magical. I don't remember if that was my exact load, I didn't write it down. But my gosh, it was so relaxing and fun!

December 27, 2011, 03:55 PM
you dont need any special tools. hammer socket long 3 inch penny nail. a long rod like a 3/8 socket extension 6 inch will do. pocket knife and some elmers glue. check out this thread i made a few years ago.


December 28, 2011, 09:33 AM
My big brother wants me to load 777 because it is safer. How do you load 777 if you shouldn't compress it when seating the wad?

December 28, 2011, 09:35 AM
By the way thanks for the all the BP info. I have some FF goex on hand and have been using goes FF and FFF for years now in my GPRs.

December 28, 2011, 11:51 AM
My big brother wants me to load 777 because it is safer. How do you load 777 if you shouldn't compress it when seating the wad?
Why does he think it is safer?

December 28, 2011, 12:09 PM
Since 777 has a higher ignition temperature, then perhaps it wouldn't be as prone to accidental ignition.
And if 777 is not considered to be as volatile or as prone to accidental ignition from an errant spark, then it would be considered to be a less hazardous and safer powder.

December 28, 2011, 01:07 PM
J bar why isn't 777 easy. Just what did you mean by compression? Seating a wad and crimping all entail compression.

December 28, 2011, 01:31 PM
The Hodgdon Loading Notes state that light compression of 1/10th inch can be used when loading cartridges with 777:

Triple Seven In Cartridges: Use data specifically developed for Triple Seven FFG only. Cartridge loads should be used exactly as listed in this pamphlet. You may safely use a card or polyethylene wad up to .030" in thickness to protect the base of the bullet. Loading density should be 100% with light compression not to exceed .100". Testing has shown that Triple Seven will perform best when the bullet just touches the powder. Allow no airspace between the base of the bullet and the powder. Do not reduce loads by means of filler wads or inert filler material such as Grits, Dacron or Grex. Do not heavily compress powder charges. The use of filler wads, inert fillers or heavy compression may cause a dangerous situation, which could cause injury and/or death to the shooter, bystanders or damage property. Do not create loads for cartridges not listed. Contact Hodgdon Powder Company for recommendations concerning other loads. *See WARNINGS below.


December 28, 2011, 04:00 PM

Hodgdon's online loading data says 777 is more powerful than black powder or other substitutes, so reduce loads by 15% when using 777. I don't know why it doesn't like compression, but Hodgdon says don't compress it or pressure rises significantly.

They should know.

Driftwood Johnson
December 28, 2011, 11:09 PM
J bar why isn't 777 easy. Just what did you mean by compression? Seating a wad and crimping all entail compression.

Howdy Again

It is all a matter of degrees. When I load Black Powder into a metallic cartridge, either using a compression die for 45-70, or compressing with the bullet itself as it is seated in 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40 or 44 Russian, it is the mechanical ram power of the press that compresses the powder. In these situations, the mechanical advantage of the leverage of the press can compress the powder pretty seriously.

If I recall correctly, I compress the powder something like .100 for 45-70. For the pistol cartridges I mentioned the compression is between 1/16" and 1/8".

But when I load 12 gauge with Black Powder I don't use the MEC Jr to compress the powder. After seating the over powder card on the press I take the shell off the press and use a 5/8" piece of dowel rod to compress the powder just a bit. I lean on the rod just a bit and listen for the powder to 'crunch' just a bit. I have been doing this for a long time, so I suspect that I am fairly consistent about how much I am compressing the powder. I suspect I am barely compressing it at all. I suspect if I actually measured it would be less than 1/16". That's not very much, easily within 777's specification of under .100". And if I was careful I could lean on the dowel a little bit less and only seat the wad against the powder with no compression at all.

In a shotshell, once the over powder card and the cushion wad are in place, any further compression happening during crimping will not telegraph itself down to the powder. It will be taken up by the compression wad. In the case of a modern plastic wad, the compression of crimping will be absorbed by the flexible portion of the wad.

As a sidelight, I have to tell you that when I watched Mike's video and saw him actually use a hammer to compress his wad down on top of the powder I cringed. I have been loading Black Powder for a long time, and the thought of pounding it like that actually made me cringe as he did it. Not to mention that if he somehow had a grain of sand or something under the primer when he whacked the shell he would be risking a serious accident.

I do agree that using 777 one should throttle back on the load a bit. That stuff is more powerful than real Black Powder. Remember what I said earlier about blowing patterns with too much powder for a given shot charge.

December 29, 2011, 10:03 AM
I load my black powder shotshells on a MEC(Not recommended, just what I do) and I put 45 pounds of pressure on the plastic wad. Works for me.
All of my experience with 777 was bad.
I bought one container, didn't like the sound, smell or smoke.
I found that it's seemed to be more corrosive than real black. The only guns I have that show pits are ones used in the abortive 777 adventure.
I sold the remainder of the container.

Pete D.
December 29, 2011, 04:49 PM
I have loaded BP shotshells for nearly 30 years now.
Basically, they are very safe to use and to construct. The best loads use paper hulls. Nearly as good but more trouble because of the type of wads are brass hulls (unless you opt to use the lathe turned beauties made by Rocky Mt. Cartridge Co. They are the berries and will last longer than you will. But....at $6 per hull, most folk don't use them).
Modern plastic hulls work - once. BP is not kind to them; they melt.
The mallet and nail method is how most loaders start.
Loads: Note before BP data....if you are merely looking for low pressure shotshells to use in your old Parker. Try "Falcon Lite" shotshells by RST.
Also, if you wish to load your own low pressure shells, try using IMR's SR7625. There are published loads with pressures down below 7K psi, some down under 6Kpsi. They are what I load for my old Parker.
Loads BP - BP shotshells are loaded - sorry to contradict earlier posts - by weight. By drams to be exact. Modern shotshells frequently have "dram equivalent" references on them. This is a reference to the weight of powder in a BP shotshell that produces the same velocity. Weight, not volume. A dram is 27 grains weight. The myth that BP is always loaded by volume is related to muzzleloading practices. BP shotshells are not muzzleloaders. (Another note: there is nothing really wrong about loading BP by volume; it'll work but it is not necessary.) The basic load is 2 and 3/4 to three drams (75 to 81 grains) of BP and an ounce and an 1/8th of shot. Drop the BP into a primed case. Seat a nitro card atop the powder. Then insert cushion wads - as many as needed so that when you add the shot the level of the shot meets the crimp line. Then you can crimp if possible or insert an overshot card and glue it in with Elmers or Duco cement.

December 30, 2011, 12:12 AM
I started off like others using the nail method and then a lee classic loader. then i picked up a lee load all junior. An old loader from probably the 1960's. Thats all i use now. does the job very well.....

Now jump forward. We went shooting today my boys and I. we took a bunch of guns and when we started shooting the 12 guage some how we were shooting all reloads on smokeless powder. Well there was about 4 rounds of Black powder rounds in there. It was awesome that low Booom flash and smoke. We were trying to dig through the ammo can to find more. hahahaha. The guy next to us even asked what the heck was that. During a seize fire we told him we had some black powder rounds mixed in the box. He had no idea you could load black powder shells. nor did he even know you could reload shotgun. One thing for sure you can only load black powder rounds once. They do heat up and melt or will have some melting spots on them. A lot of the time they stick in the gun. So you have to keep a range rod available. I do have black powder shells i load and keep in a separate can. i should have brought those. One thing i learned a long time ago. After you load up a bunch of shells spring some Talc powder on the cases Usually i will put them in a box pour some powder on them and shake them up with my hand to make sure they all get coated. When they are coated with talc powder they will extract almost all the time. compared to not using anything.

royal barnes
December 30, 2011, 07:54 PM
I load pretty much like Driftwood except I use a slightly rounded 4.3cc dipper of powder and the same rounded up dipper of shot.

Driftwood, next time you need wads check Track of the Wolf. The last time I bought wads Wolf was cheaper than Circle Fly for Circle Fly Wads. Go figure.

Driftwood Johnson
December 30, 2011, 08:22 PM

I did buy them from Track of the Wolf once when I couldn't get Circle Fly on the phone. I always try to buy from the actual vendor whenever possible so he can have all the money and not have to share it with a middle man.

I usually use Remington STS hulls when I reload with Black Powder. They are the most slippery hulls there are. In CAS you have to dump your shells quickly and our SXS shotguns are not allowed to have ejectors, only extractors. So the preferred method is to jerk the gun backwards quickly. The STS hulls are the most reliable for ejecting. They usually fly out without any persuasion. AA hulls are OK. Ribbed hulls are the worst for quick and easy manual ejection.

I do usually get a couple of reloads out of STS hulls before they are unusable. Usually by the fourth time they are toast. I also like to use Smokeless STS hulls that other shooters have discarded as being worn out. I always get one more reload out of them and they are free.

December 30, 2011, 11:39 PM
All gunpowder is measured in volume of water. Even for shot shells. And always written that way. Be it Grains, drams or the pound.



If you were to tell me to load a case with your weighed amount of your powder, wads and shot, (but I use a different brand powder), and I weigh out the same of mine and use the wads you told me to use I might not be able to get all the shot in my case you did. Or vise versa. Hence the volume standard.

Pete D.
December 31, 2011, 12:46 AM
If you were to tell me to load a case with your weighed amount of your powder, wads and shot, (but I use a different brand powder), and I weigh out the same of mine and use the wads you told me to use I might not be able to get all the shot in my case you did. Or vise versa. Hence the volume standard.
I see your point. One can, however, easily adjust the height of the wad column so as to accommodate the difference. The problem with volume measuring and powders is that the same volume of Swiss, for instance, weighs more than the same volume of Goex or Kik or Elephant. So our identical volumes will give us shotshells with differnt velocities.

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