Load testing today with the 1860, interesting results


May 12, 2012, 10:38 PM
I recently bought one of those adjustable powder measures and took that with me to the range today, along with some FFFg and FFg (Goex) powder. I also brought along some Wonder Wads to try out.

My previous load has been 30 grains, measured via a 30 grain spout on a flask, with a 454 round ball seated directly on the powder, Wonder Lube on top of the ball. This load is fairly accurate, shooting 2" at 25 yards, but about 10+ inches high from POA.

Three things I wanted to test. 1) Try FFg powder to see if I could get a good load combination, since my local shop has a bunch of FFg and no FFFg. 2) Try the over the powder wads vs. over the ball lube. 3) See if I could crank up the velocity enough to bring down POI significantly closer to POA.

I had the adjustable measure set for 35 grains from loading 45 Colt earlier, so I left it there and tried the FFg first. Target was at 25 yards. Hit about 10 inches high, both with the wads, and with lube over the ball. About where the 30 grains of FFFg load I was using before would hit. Decent groups.

I left the measure at 35 grains and put in the FFFg powder. This provided the interesting results. Three times in a row, the first shot was dead on to POA. Drilled right through the bottom staple on the post-it note where I was aiming. Then the next 5 were all over the place, all higher, and favoring to the right. With all the other times I've shot this gun, if there was any windage variance it was to the left, never the right. It is strange that the first shots in three successive strings would hit dead nuts on where I was aiming, but the others would spray high and right. I could not figure out what was going on there. The fact that the first shot went where I was aiming three times in a row makes me think this was not a fluke.

The wads do make things easier and less messy loading, but the cylinder starts to bind up quicker I think. It is nice not to have scorching hot lube splash on your hands and forearms though.

I also went down to 25 grains (25 grain spout on the flask) of FFFg, and those shot way high.

Here's one of the groups shot with 35 gr FFFg that had the first shot going into the post-it note's staple. The second shot was the one directly above, way at the top.

Any clue what's going on here? Is this something mechanical (barrel shifting on the arbor), or am I just seeing the real accuracy of this particular load, and it's a coincidence that the first shots hit right to POA?


If you enjoyed reading about "Load testing today with the 1860, interesting results" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
May 13, 2012, 04:36 AM
I think that the 1st shot is just part of the group, maybe shooting lower due to the cold barrel and cylinder. There will always be some loading, sighting and velocity variations affecting the accuracy of every shot. Only a chronograph would be able to show the velocity spread between each shot which would give some clue about whether inconsistent velocity is a factor or not.
People aren't machines, and it's never easy to hold a gun perfectly steady while it's firing, if that's even possible. There's usually some movement of the muzzle between the time that the brain sends the signal to release the trigger and the hammer falls. And then there's the ignition and the lag time before the ball exits the barrel. So inevitably there will be some movement of the muzzle during that period of time. There's a computer program along with a sensor that can be installed on a grip to measure that movement for those who want to measure how much each shot is affected by the shooter's movement.
However even if a pistol is placed in a Ransom rest for accuracy testing, there's bound to be variations in velocity and accuracy as a matter of routine. A Ransom rest can remove some variables, but not the variables concerning loading and the loading components.
All that can be observed are the groups that result from the human doing all of the loading and shooting.
What's most important is that you had a blast firing it, right? :)

May 13, 2012, 04:44 PM
It may be that the first shot has a full compliment of lube over theball that greases it's way down the barrel but the rest are drier from the lube being blown away by the adjacent chamber. Also I will rest the barrel or at least the trigger guard on a sand bag to get a solid rest when shooting for groups or trying to determine if all chambers hit to the same spot. I also shoot at 6 bull targets to tell where each of the 6 chambers are hitting. You need to mark a chamber as #1 (or #6) so you shoot each chamber at the same bull. Sometimes you find one chamber is exceptionally accurate or not.

May 14, 2012, 03:38 PM
I had considered that the lube being blown off after the first shot might have something to do with it. If you've ever looked at the front of the cylinder after firing the first shot (if you use over the ball lube), you'll see most of the lube has liquefied and run out.

I tried greased over powder felt wads for one shot string with the 35 grain FFFg load and had similar results.

I guess if I really wanted to be obsessive about it, after each shot I could pull the barrel, clean it, then replace the barrel with the wedge at the same depth through the arbor. Might be an interesting experiment.

That's a good idea about having 5 (or 6) different bulls to see where each cylinder hits in relation to aiming point.

May 14, 2012, 09:51 PM
IMHO, if you don't have the revolver locked down in the same exact position using some sort of contraption then I'd have to say your pictured target doesn't tell me much. Perhaps your aim was off is the reason for the grouping....just sayin'. ;)

May 15, 2012, 10:16 AM
The first thing you need to realize is that these weapons were never intended to be "dead on" accurate. They were used to produce close range work or in some cases area fire. One minute of torso was good enough.
If accuracy is the primary goal then the sights on the Colt models need to be replaced, the cylinder checked for alignment with the bore and the chambers bored for consistant diameter.
Yes I know, you have one that shoots 3" groups at 100 yards. I'm happy for you because you have an exception.

May 15, 2012, 01:08 PM
The photo shows some pretty good shooting for firing 35 grain powder loads at a 25 yard target.
Were you using a pistol rest or bench to shoot that target?
I can't imagine firing much of any better 25 yard groups with any pistol that I own without having optics mounted on it or adjustable target sights, or by letting off a really good string of shots.
That's probably why I usually shoot pistols at closer distances.
And 35 grain loads are usually considered to be more of a combat load than a target load.
I think that groups represent the "accuracy average" for the combination of the gun, the shooter and the loads. :)

May 15, 2012, 01:45 PM
I would say that the results you are getting are pretty typical in that they are high above POA and probably a little closer to POA than some. These guns don't typically shoot to POA at the distances you are referring to. I too have tried to find a load that shoots more to point of aim. As far as your first shot hitting POA is concerned I would say that it's either you or a coincidence. I would think that if something was moving around you wouldn’t be getting as good of groups as you are. One thing you could try is firing several shots in a row from each chamber and see if any pattern develops.

May 15, 2012, 02:38 PM
These were fired with the trigger guard and frame immediately in front of it resting on a sandbag. It was really, really windy that day, so these may shrink down a bit on a calmer day (I had the target stand blow over a few times).

Like I said, the groups with the 30 grain charge were at least half this size, probably less. I was mostly just experimenting to see what effect different charges had on changes in elevation from POA.

I had every intention of trying some of these at 75+ yards to see if I would start to get enough drop in trajectory at that range to see POA = POI, but I just never moved the target out. Next time, I definitely will.

May 16, 2012, 02:19 PM
You could check the lube effect pretty easily...just put lube over each ball as you shoot them. (charge and cap all five chambers, put lube over first ball only and shoot it. Then put gun on half-cock and lube over the second ball and shoot it, etc.) If the spread is caused by absence of lube, then your group should tighten by doing this.

I wonder if you are the victim of a heavy/gritty trigger? Some of these revolvers even have sears cut at a negative angle at the factory. This makes the hammer go backwards just a hair as you pull the trigger. It is possible to smooth out the trigger pull on these pretty easily, so if you are struggling with the trigger, that could also blow the groups out.

Finally, have a friend shoot a group. Does the group size change depending on who is shooting the gun? Just checking for operator effect...

Link to one of my posts with 15 yard targets from a Uberti 1851 Navy:


May 16, 2012, 02:25 PM
Trigger was pretty light, almost too light, out of the box. A mile of creep, but it's smooth creep so it really doesn't affect the sights as long as I'm consistent with the trigger pressure.
(see this thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=654624)
I was actually going to try to increase the pull, and remove the creep. I'm waiting on a Kuhnhausen manual to see the engagement angles first before I try this, though.

I will try lubing one chamber at a time, along with the other suggestions made here, next time out.

Foto Joe
May 17, 2012, 10:35 AM
Well....I tried this exact same thing (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=640295)a few months ago and although totally unscientific about the only thing I confirmed was that "my" '60 likes 22gr 3f by weight and nothing else. I say by "weight" simply because spouts vary greatly between one to the other, I've weighed the charge from all of my spouts and I just happen to have one that throws 22gr 3f Goex.

There are sooooo many variables when you're doing something like this and there are people on this forum who are way more knowledgeable about it than I but...

Are your chambers camfered? Probably not. Are the chambers a consistant diameter? Again, probably not. And...Are your chambers under-sized by comparison to the barrel? They probably are.

I've got an experimental gun that I play with. It's one that if I screw it up I'm not out a bunch of fun tickets. So far I haven't ruined it but I'll keep trying. One of the things that I want to do when I get back to Wyoming and have my drill press is to "camfer" (pardon me if my terminology is incorrect) the chamber mouths. The other thing I want to try is to have a machine shop "ream" the chambers out so that they are not under-sized by comparison to the bore of the barrel.

My thinking on this is that if the ball engages the rifling better then the odds of each chamber hitting someplace other than where it's pointed get better. Of course as Dennis Miller used to say, "That's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

Keep in mind, these things are NOT rifles. They've got relatively short barrels, the sighting system is primitive at best and they just weren't designed even by Mr. Sam to shoot the eye out of a fly at fifty yards.

May 17, 2012, 02:29 PM
Here is another experiment that might shed some light on group size:

Shoot a group from each chamber only, to see how tightly each chamber will group.

For instance, number the chambers with a sharpie or something so you can identify each chamber. Shoot 5 shots in a row from chamber #1, then shoot another group with chamber #2, etc.

(Edit on 05/18: Another way to do this would be to post 6 targets down range, load a full cylinder, and place one shot on each target, always starting with the same chamber on the same target. It would give you 6 loading sessions rather than 30, if that makes a difference to you.)

It might not prove a darn thing, but it would be a good excuse to go out and send 30 balls downrange. ( I suspect one would see some chambers shooting tighter groups than others).

If you enjoyed reading about "Load testing today with the 1860, interesting results" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!