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rolling block reload questions

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by edwin41, Oct 28, 2011.

  1. edwin41

    edwin41 Well-Known Member

    i am thinking of a rifle for some targetshooting , and the rolling blocks seem to be like a magnet to me..
    i have had one , but ive sold it some years back.:banghead:
    done a little reading and comparing , and one thing caught my attention.
    reading in my lyman reloadbook ive found a data for the 45 70 cartridge , and its especcially for the trapdoor springfields...and i quote "also suitable for rolling blocks , sharps and replicas of these rifles ".
    exclusive use of cast bullets is recommended for the older original rifles.
    i will take one line of the manual :
    lyman bullet 457193 , 405 gr , powder imr 4198 31.5 gr velocity 1312 pressure
    c u p 12.400...
    for the comparison :
    lyman bullet 457193 , 405 gr pyrodex powder 60 gr velocity 1216 fps pressure c u p 15.500
    so , with the use of blackpowder or nitropowder , the pressure should be safe
    if the levels are kept down i would say...?
    this is the data for the 45 70 cartridge , the swedish rolling blocks are more like a 50 70 cartridge [12,7 x 55 mm ]
    my thinking is that it wouldnt make a lot of difference...
    so the question i would like to ask is if any of you guys have tried to shoot the older original blackpowder guns with the newer nitropowder?
    yes i know there are replicas , but imo thats waht they are , replicas..
    any advise, experience?
    thank you....greetings from holland !
  2. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member

    Smokeless powder builds up peak pressure much slower than black powder, an older shooting buddy of mine had a Trap Door Springfield and an old Ballard and he used modern smokeless powders which in reality put "less" strain on these older rifles.
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Hello from Alaska!

    I just recently bought a Rem. RB in .50-70 and have been wrestling with this same question. With the receiver being as old as it is, and not exactly the strongest design ever made, I've opted to stick exclusively to black powder loads.

    My reasoning is that while there are smokeless powders that can keep pressures low, they also create a different kind of pressure than black powder does. I have heard it puts more strain on the actions, not less. And with Trailboss, the loads for .50-70 only give meager velocity. Black does the job better, they were designed for black and I have dozens of other firearms for smokeless.

    Loading is a new experience involving drop tubes, compression dies and so on. But it's a lot of fun and will continue to be fun. That's a big part of this--I want to keep using BP after flintlock season has ended. This is a way to do that.

    Cleanup is slightly more annoying. Not so much with the rifle, which cleans up great if you use a blowtube, but with the brass which must be deprimed and cleaned immediately.

    I made a drop tube out of some copper plumbing tube tacked to a spare piece of wood and made a blow tube out of some half inch hose. You want your tube to fit all the way in the chamber and stop a the throat.

    The rolling block action itself is a real treat. The hammer is big and easy to manipulate. The block effortlessly slides into and out of position. It's very natural and intuitive. The mechanism is absurdly simple, relying on two blocks rotating on two axles. Takedown is a breeze, and I can see why so many armies *loved* these guns for so long. I've heard they continued to be in use in some smaller nations well into the 20th century.

    You can get them in excellent condition on GB and elsewhere for half the price of a Sharps.

    Here's mine in action last weekend:


    I think it really comes down to whether you can get BP locally. If you can get the Swiss stuff in Holland, you're golden. But I think some of those nations consider holly black a kind of terrorist device and are down on it. Substitutes are another option, but I haven't messed with them in cartridges or muzzleloaders.

    BTW, if you're looking for load data for the .50-70 I've tracked down and obtained several published sources including the book on the .50-70 so shoot me a PM.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  4. NCsmitty

    NCsmitty Well-Known Member

    Salutations to beautiful Holland.

    The Rolling blocks are a fun and fairly strong action. www.hodgdon.com lists the "trapdoor" Springfields and the Rolling Block rifles together, with a maximum load @ 28,000 C.U.P., so the loads that you listed are certainly well under the maximum listed.
    The Hodgdon site has a bunch of loads for the 45-70, you just need to select the trapdoor loads listed, and you'll see many safe loads for the Rolling Block to choose from.
    Good luck in your quest.

  5. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member


    I have reloading manuals dating to before 1968 and "NONE" of them have "ANY" warnings about shooting smokeless powder in rifles designed for black powder. The only warnings are these older rifles have barrels made of softer steels and jacketed bullets will erode the barrels faster and will be more accurate with lead bullets. Both Lyman and Hogdon's have smokeless powder loadings for the Trap door Springfield, 1886 Winchester and modern made 45-70 loadings.

    Black powder reaches peak pressure much sooner than *smokeless powders do and smokeless powders will actually put "LESS" strain on these older rifles. NOTE:*Smokeless powders listed in the reloading manuals.

    If you have any printed data about black powder vs smokeless powders and possible damage to older firearms I would like to see it.

    The data in our reloading manuals was tested and pronounced safe for older firearms and leaves nothing to guesswork.



    "Sherman Bell, in his comparisons (not shown here) used the same bullet but with different smokeless powders and black powder. What he showed is that slower smokeless powders (he used IMR 4198, IMR 3031 and RL-7) can give the same or higher velocity with lower pressure, including lower peak pressure (for the same case, same bullet and same velocity). Thus, the right kind of smokeless powder is actually easier on your old guns."


    All the information in the world is written in books and all you have to do is read. ;)
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  6. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Where's that sheet from, and who compiled the data? I see four goex loads and a 4759 load using a lighter bullet. What exactly am I to draw from that? What is the difference to steel older than my late great grandmother? Will a longer, flatter pressure cover tax it more or less? I really don't know, so I have decided not to try it.

    You've never seen the warning against using smokeless in antique BPCR actions? Quoting from my brand new Lyman cast bullet handbook, section on 50-70: "This data should only be used in newly manufactured replica rifles approved for use with smokeless powder. This data is not for use in antique firearms originally designed for black powder." Yet the pressure on the loads listed is no more than 18,000 CUP. Identical warnings appear throughout the text anytime smokeless loads are listed.

    I'm well aware that smokeless loads have been considered safe for BP cartridge actions, and I would have no problems using them in a *modern* BP cartridge action. To my knowledge nobody does.

    I've heard and read both your position and the other position re. using smokeless in *ANTIQUE* BP cartridge arms. Most sources I've seen disagree with your position, but I freely admit I don't know enough to absolutely support either position. Therefore, in light of that impasse, I err on the side of not changing the variables. An action that's been rolling with BP for 130 years will probably keep rolling with it. Smokeless? Probably fine if you follow the warnings in modern manuals, but like I said I have many other firearms that use smokeless.

    Further, if I accidentally overload a .450 Marlin I get a sore shoulder and maybe a locked up action. In a modern firearm the chances of a bolt flying through my brain are extremely remote. With a rolling block of great age? I don't know. I'm not saying I can't be convinced, but it's going to take a lot more data ;-) And if indeed it appears clear that the light pressure smokeless loads pose less or no greater risk of KB than black, that will be great.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  7. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    The Swedes thought their rolling blocks were strong enough to rebarrel from 12.7 to 8x58R smokeless, the Swedish Krag caliber, but they did a lot of work besides the new barrel

    On the other hand, there was a case not too long ago where a Swedish or Danish rolling block let go and fired a fragment back at the shooter, killing him. It was not only old but neglected and should not have been shot with anything.

    Google searches on Swedish and Danish Rolling Block terms will find some pictures of demolished guns, with both black and nitro. The rolling block is considered a strong action in BPCR terms but if something does go wrong, the big empty box of the action does not contain the pressure well at all.

    I knew a guy who used some of those fuzzy curves to dream up smokeless loads for his Damascus shotguns. He got away with it.

    There was a man at the S.E. BPCR Championship last weekend with his original 1859 Sharps conversion to .50-70. It shot quite well, for a carbine at 300 metres.

    Perhaps not well known in Holland, we here in the Old South have an expression for it:
    Y'all be careful, now, you hear.

    I shoot my BPCRs with BP even though one is a reproduction and the other is a relatively late rifle from 1899.
  8. .45Guy

    .45Guy Well-Known Member

    If you're dead set on a rolling block and smokeless, why don't you try to find a Remington 1902 in 7x57?
  9. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member


    In the newer reloading manuals there are three different loadings for the 45-70 one for the trap door, one for the 1886 Winchester and one for "modern firearms. Below is from the 45th Lyman reloading manual dated 1970 and the firearm used for testing was a 1873 Trapdoor Springfield.

    If you want even more proof then I suggest you get Lyman's cast bullet reloading manual which goes into even more detail. As a side note I'm 61 years old, have been reloading for over 40 years and I have never seen any warnings about shooting smokeless powder in firearms designed for black powder. As long as you see the data in a reloading manuals the loads have already been laboratory tested and deemed safe.


    Remington Rolling Block Rifle
    Phil Davis
    SCRA meeting 11/6/06
    December 2006 GunNews

    "Davis showed us the other rifle that came about in that time period, a Remington rolling block carbine, model 1902. Davis said that particular rifle is chambered in the modern smokeless 7 mm Mauser caliber. Anybody who tells you the Remington rolling block will not handle smokeless powder, tell them they're full of it."

    Last edited: Oct 29, 2011
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Did you see the quote I provided from the brand new Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook?

    You tell me to read manuals, so that's what I'm doing. That warning is repeated throughout the manual even for low-pressure smokeless loads in various cartridges.

    I've also seen warnings about this in magazine articles and on many forum posts. With the .45-70 and trapdoors there may be enough data to be absolutely sure the smokeless loads are OK. What about the .50-70 and the rolling block? Lyman's current manual gives NO smokeless loads for the .50-70 which it approves for use in antique receivers. Ditto the 45-120, 45-110, and so on. The .45-70 is now split into FOUR groups, with the final group for trapdoors. This is the only place where the manual approves the use of very light pressure smokeless loads for BP receivers. Maybe that's because with this cartridge there is enough data to do it. But the others are a no-go according to Lyman.

    The Rolling Block action can ABSOLUTELY handle smokeless powder loads. Nobody disagrees. The issue is with rolling block actions made in the 19th century for black powder.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2011
  11. Slamfire

    Slamfire Well-Known Member

    Early smokeless era rifles were made of plain carbon steels, made with primitive process controls. When ever I have been able to find a metallurgy analysis/description of pre 1910 steels, the text always has “slag, impurities, poor quality”.

    Blackpowder rifles were often made from wrought iron because wrought iron was cheap and strong enough for black powder pressures. The better firearms, such as Colts, used Sheffield crucible steels, but I suspect they were not heat treated. If Colt did not heat treat early M1911’s, I suspect they did not heat treat their Sheffield steel blackpowder guns either. And based on that, I have no reason to assume that any one heat treated blackpowder guns, simply because they were strong enough without heat treatment.

    As for the rolling block, the load is carried through those pins holding the hammer and breech. That whole arrangement is very flexible. There is also another nasty with rolling blocks, they rely on hammer spring tension to keep the breech closed. Another gent on another forum had converted his rolling block to a modern cartridge and upon firing the breech would open and the cartridge partially ejected. His hammer spring was too weak. That does not fill me with a lot of confidence in the pressure handling capability of that action.

    There are some interesting pictures of rolling block blowups here:


    I would never recommend using smokeless in a blackpower era rolling block. I would stick to blackpowder.

    I have no doubt that a modern Rolling block could be made from better materials and the designers could move the breech blocks up and around to achieve better mechanical advantages.
  12. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

  13. Robert

    Robert Moderator

    Cosmo I'd just stick with BP if I were you. It was built for it and there is really no good substitute for BP. BP is as much an experience as a means of ignition. As you well know.
  14. edwin41

    edwin41 Well-Known Member

    thanks for all the reactions , must say that most of the replys help me a lot.
    i must agree that the steel used before 1900 wasn t all that.
    did some research and there are stronger lock ups like the one from mauser and kropachek.
    indeed the pins in the rolling block are the weak link , found some data of altered pins , from the gustav factory , and then they were proofed for smokeless powder.
    for as far as i see now the mauser m71/84 would be a good runner up...
    so would the kropachek...
    the reason for this questions is that i would like to cast my own bullets and fire them at moderest velocities .
    yes , i can buy a newer type of firearm like the mauser k 98 for instence , but they would have a slower barreltwist , and the velocities would have to go up for stabilisation.
    so i am currently looking for info about the mauser m71/84 and the kropachek rifles , as they both have the needed fast twist barrels and strong lock ups.
    over here in holland there is a disipline in shooting i would like to try , its called veteran rifle , and the rifles have to be manufactured before 1945 and had to be used by the military.
  15. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member


    There is a difference between not using "ANY" smokeless powder in older firearms and "NOT using the load data for new replicas that can withstand higher pressures.

    The loading manuals tell you which loadings to use in each particular rifle, I didn't say make up your own reloading data and wing it and cross your fingers. I didn't say ignore the reloading manuals, I said the data is in the reloading manuals. If the reloading data isn't there for your particular smokeless powder rifle I didn't say just go ahead and ignore the warnings.

    Black powder loadings go by volume, smokeless powders go by weight and the larger black powder cases have too much volume to get the correct loading density for smokeless powders.

    I took your statement to mean that smokeless powder should never be used in "ANY" firearm designed to use black powder and this is not true and the reloading manuals speak for themselves.
  16. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member



  17. edwin41

    edwin41 Well-Known Member

    that book got a long way....:D
  18. DumasRon

    DumasRon Member

    Today at the range I was shooting my original rollie . Using a perfectly satisfactory 400 gr cast bullet and driven by a Lyman manual recipe for 5744.
    All was going fine until I fired shot #10 and BLAM. I was physically stunned and more than a little scared. I moved back onto the observer bench to regain my composure and contemplate what had just happened. My conclusion is that I had double charged this one load. Since this had never happened before after many reloadings I must conclude that I had been interrupted during the cycle and had thrown the second charge on returning to the bench. This possibility of double charging constitutes the main danger in using smokeless with a rifle intended for smokey.
  19. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member


    I like the Rolling Blocks but respect the limitations they have. I use black powder and some smokeless in mine. Here is an article on a smokeless reload that was a problem. The load was one that is frequently recommended for the Trapdoor rifles.





    I am not trying to scare you but you should be aware that the Rolling Block does not handle pressures as well as other rifle designs. I have two RBs, one is a 45-70, the other 50-70. Both give better accuracy with black powder than with smokeless.

    The Mauser 71/84 is an interesting rifle. Here is a good article on getting one to shoot.


    Some day I may have to get one.
  20. Curator

    Curator Well-Known Member

    I have several original rollers in various calibers that I shoot. I do use smokeless powder, low pressure loads in them. One thing to keep in mind is that some models will need to have your brass "indexed" due to the fact that the breech block may not be perpendicular to the bore. All of mine have a small amount of this but my 1902 7X57mm is the worst. My favorite powder for smokeless substituted for Black is SR 4759 at about a 1 to 3 ratio.

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