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Safe Loading Procedure? 1858 New Army

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Packman, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. Packman

    Packman Well-Known Member

    I have myself a brand new Pietta 1858 New Army model revolver. It's .44, 8 inch barrel, steel frame. I would like to inquire as to whether my intended load procedure is safe and wise. I know this has been hashed a million times, but please bear with me, I'm a rookie. Mods, feel free to shut down/merge this thread after it's been answered by a couple knowledgeable folks.

    My intended startout load is this: 20 grains loose FFFg poweder, topped by a wool wad. (Should I lube the wad with some Cabela's lube first? it's what's on hand.) Next up, a .454 ball, topped off with the Cabela's Blackpowder pistol lube that the gun came with. Load all cylinders the same way, then #11 Remington percussion caps on the nipples. (They fit great, I tested that part. no pinching needed.)

    Would that be safe? Is that enough powder that the ball will seat fully, or should I add more powder or a filler? I know I'm safe with 25-30 grains of powder in the steel frame, and If I understand correctly, 35 is a maxed out load. I don't aim to exceed 30 grains, but I want to start with a downloaded cylinder. Is 20 enough for safe operation with a fully seated ball?

    Thanks THR.

  2. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Well-Known Member

    If you are worried about not being able to compress the powder charge adequately simply add 10gr or so of corn meal on top of the powder. As far as the wool wad is concerned it's personal preference, personally, I'd skip it. Especially if you use the corn meal between powder an ball.

    If you should choose to use the wool wad I would pass on putting any lube on it. That's a good way to foul your powder. If you're gonna use lube just take a popsicle stick and apply a small amount to the mouth of each chamber after you load. Be prepared to clean your glasses and wash your face after firing though, the lube will go just about everywhere.

    As far as the powder charge amount is concerned, 20gr of 3f is fine. That charge will give you a big bang and plenty of smoke. Once you get into the ballistics of the disease (you probably will) then you can play with different loads, fillers, lubes etc., for now just go have fun and welcome to the "Dark Side
  3. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Well-Known Member

    I like the wool wad better than the cornmeal. it takes up space well, provides compression, helps prevent chainfires, and it doesn't make me hungry after each shot.Other than that I'd say Joe's advice is spot on.
  4. SixxshootinSam

    SixxshootinSam Active Member

    I never understood how wads or cornmeal is supposed to stop chain fires.
    Doesn't the super tight fit of the ball prevent chain fires from the front? I though only sparks that come from the percussion cap can flash into the other nipples.
  5. Packman

    Packman Well-Known Member


    The cornmeal isn't there to stop chainfiring. I'm planning on shooting a reduced-powder load. So, the powder won't fill up the chambers all the way, and the rammer can only seat the ball a certain distance into the chamber. You want the ball sitting right down on the powder, or you run the risk of damaging your gun. The wad helps with this as well, and I'm sure there are other reasons to use the wad, including reducing fouling and keeping the gun cleaner. The reason you use cornmeal (or cream of wheat) is that it's inert and won't add to the power of the powder already loaded when you fire.

    In regards to preventing chainfiring, that's why I'm putting a lube in the cylinder following the ball. It won't allow any sparks to jump cylinders. I'm actually as puzzled as you are, in that I would also think that the ball being super tight, enough to swage, would prevent a chain fire, but everyone I've heard from said to put lube on it to prevent the chainfire. I figure it can't hurt, and it might help a whole bunch, so I figured I'd go with the majority on that one.

    Oh, and Welcome to The High Road. Much knowledge is contained here. Come on in, stay a while!

  6. mykeal

    mykeal Well-Known Member

    I'll add my 2 cents to the side that says adding grease over the ball to 'seal' the chamber is not necessary to prevent chain fires IF the ball is the proper size. Your .454 ball should be more than sufficient chain fire insurance. The grease WILL help keep fouling soft, IF any of it remains around after the first round is fired.
  7. Hellgate

    Hellgate Well-Known Member

    Re over ball grease preventing chain fires: Sometimes there is a slight overhang of metal from machining the cylinder face and the ball gets shaved rather than swaged which creates an undersize ball that can allow flame past the ball (causing the chainfire) or allow a loose fit whereby you get "ball creep" (I love that term, kinda like a venereal disease) where the ball migrates forward under recoil and jams the cylinder when it rotates around. Also you can have casting voids or wrinkles on the ball that can allow flame past it. The grease helps fill the voids and seal the ball from the next chamber firing. 99% of the grease gets blown away each time the gun is fired but a little bit stays in the crevice around the edge of the ball. Putting a slight bevel on the chamber mouths can eliminate shaving and give the snug friction fit we all want.
  8. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    Packman, I'm not sure why you want to shoot reduced power loads but it's your choice. I run with 28 to 30 grains of powder, no wad or meal, a 457 ball which shaves a nice ring in my Uberti guns and then add one drop of canola oil over the ball to seal any slight cracks and to give the ball some lubrication during it's run down the barrel. With the 30 gr by volume load I can just barely seat the ball into the powder with the ram travel distance on my Uberti Remington clones. YMMV since you have the Pietta version. In my case the balls are seated well down in the chambers. I could easily load 40 grains and the balls would still be in no danger at all of seating proud of the front face of the cylinder.

    With my 30 grain load the recoil is pretty much consistent with a full on .38Spl shot from my Model 19 or model 10 with a 6 inch barrel in both cases if that aids you in evaluating the recoil. If you've never shot a S&W revolver in .38Spl I know this doesn't help much :D
  9. Ifishsum

    Ifishsum Well-Known Member

    My Pietta 1858 shoots the best with 28gr of Pyrodex P or FFFg black, it's not really a stout load and I don't need filler. I do use wonder wads under the ball, usually lubed - (unless I plan to keep it loaded, then unlubed so as to avoid fouling the powder). Between the wad and a correctly sized ball (shaving a full ring when loaded) I've never felt the need to put grease over the cylinders.

    I agree that the Remington #11s have the best fit for the factory nipples being used by Pietta of late - they seem to be a little taller, fit tightly without pinching and don't fall off during the firing sequence. Unfortunately they have been a little hard to find in my area.

    Have fun shooting! I've sure enjoyed mine.
  10. Mr. MyKeal told ya'll right. I myself use Crisco over the balls, and sometimes I might use some over the powder wads I got from Cabela's, but if one has a well fitting ball they will have no problems. I'vd shot my carbines and '49's and '58's without grease over the balls several (few dozen) times and have had no problems. However, I alway's have and alway's will use grease over the Walker .457's. Just a habit I have I reckon although I have no doubt I could shoot it quite safely without any grease. It's all well and good to err on the side of caution but it seem's that some people are just too paranoid and nervous..Just me here..Not trying to upset anybody. Not meant that way at all....
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  11. A. Walker

    A. Walker Well-Known Member

    Hellgate mentioned the "lip" you can get; in addition, chambers have been found elongated and "coke bottle" shaped due to tool wander during machining. Only carefully measuring your chambers will tell you what you've got. Most times, a wonder wad is sufficient for preventing chainfires.

    Try instant grits as a filler, too! Best use for it I've found...

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