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Very difficult to load

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Preserve&Protect, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. Hi all, new to THR, with a question.

    I recently got a .50 Cal muzzleloading rifle. It seems to shoot well enough, but it is ridiculously hard to ram. A little hard to start, and very hard to drive, almost all the way down. (Except at about 4-6 inches from the bottom, where it is much easier.)

    I've tried loading .490" balls with ~.015" pillow ticking, or with some similar cotton cloth that is about .011". (Patches lubed with bore butter) I've tried loading the Hornady 385 grain great plains conical. I've also tried loading a 45 auto bullet in a plastic sabot.

    Not kidding at all, I've been forced to DRIVE them all down using a plastic hammer on the end of the synthetic (plastic?) ramrod. Even that barely gets the job done. And with the sabot, I got it started down about 2", and finally gave up and pulled it back out by screwing a wood screw into it and pulling it back out.

    About the only easy way to shoot it is with a .454" ball and 1 or 2 patches, but that doesn't seem ideal.

    The bore isn't rusty, but it must be rough or something because it is so hard to load. I've been told that someone took some kind of a brush on a power drill to it, and I think this may be why...

    What can I do about this??? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
  2. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    Seems to me I'd try some Chore Boy copper wool on a cleaning brush and give the bore a good scrubbing down. Do you have one of those drop-in LED inspection lights that allow you to take a good look at the bore? If that doesn't help, I think I'd try some JB Bore Paste on a tight patch and a lot of elbow grease.

    When I start my ball down the barrel, I usually start it with a whack from a rubber mallet I bought at the dollar store, followed by using the short ramrod of my ball starter, then the full length ramrod. The dirtier the bore, the more difficult it is to start. I usually swab it every few shots with 50/50 mix of Ballistol and water.
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    .50 cal means different things, just like .54 cal. The actual bore sizes vary quite a big. I'd suggest using thin cotton instead and see how that works. If it's still being very difficult to load you might consider a smaller roundball.
  4. I can measure as much as .515" using a set of calipers, from groove to groove. I'm not sure what the lands are... A .490" ball drops clean to the bottom without a patch, so the bore diameter must at least be that large.

    I don't think it is a problem of being dirty, I've been cleaning it thoroughly. Takes a lot of swabbing to finally get the patches to come out clean. I do have a little LED on a flexible stem that I can stick down the bore, but nothing looks all that wrong to my eye.
  5. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

  6. It actually isn't all that hard to start a ball. I can do it with my thumb using the thin .011" patches and a .490". I do have a short starter, but it only puts the ball about an inch down the bore. It's mostly AFTER that that it gets difficult... (It's a 28" barrel the first inch isn't too bad, and the bottom 4-6" aren't too bad. It's the middle section that is so tough.)

    Again, I've been told that someone took a brush on some kind (bronze bore brush?) on a power drill to the bore, and I think it is roughed up from that?

    BADUNAME30 Well-Known Member

    If this were my gun i would lap the bore.
    I would use a cleaning jag with a very tight fitting patch loaded with JB bore lapping compound. I can't tell you how far to go. That is a matter of 'feel' for you.
    This can be quite a lengthy process. Lap, clean,butter the bore, load gun with a light charge, see how patched ball fits, fire gun, clean and repeat until you get the proper fit. After the very first 'proper' fit, i would then try regular shooting loads and see how the accuracy is before reapeating the process any more.
    If you decide to do this. Set aside the better part of a day and be very very patient. This will indeed solve your issue. But as i said, it's a lengthy process.
  8. BTW, I forgot another tidbit...

    The patches I've found all have a big hole in the middle, about where the patch would have been touching the bore. Even with light 30gr powder charges of real black powder. I think it is cutting them on the way out? I don't think I've ever found one of the patch centers.
  9. AJumbo

    AJumbo Well-Known Member

    Is the rifle new, or has it had another owner?
  10. damoc

    damoc Well-Known Member

    Possibly a filthy barrell (crud buildup) give it a good clean and tlc then retry
    Im no expert but the piece where it gets easy towards the bottom could indicate a ballooned barrell from overcharge or short start you may want to have it checked out.

    Ive got a hawken which behaves the same when it gets filthy thats why they invented mini balls you know.

    a little more thinking about this if it is that hard to ram its an ideal contender
    for a short start have it checked out.
  11. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Hole in the patch?

    I think the patch is too tight for the bore (or the balls are too big) and when you hammer the ball down, you're driving it through the patch.

    Slug the bore. You must do that to determine the ball size to use.
  12. BlackNet

    BlackNet Well-Known Member

    The groove is the channel that is cut and the 'flat' is the top part. The flat is also the most narrow section you can measure. Think of it as a U the top of the U is the flat, the bottom is the groove.

    Look at it this way, Bore diameter between flats - 2x patch thickness = ball diameter you need for a good clean load. When it goes *OVER* your loading pressure/work is drastically increased.

    I.E. assuming your bore measures 0.50 exactly:
    *) patch 0.015 and a .495 round ball = .525 total. so your work will be increased and this is a dangerous condition.

    *) patch 0.010 and a .480 rounds ball = .500 total. would be much easier to load :)

    *) patch 0.010 and a .457 round ball = .477 total. This is undersized, it is also dangerous in many regards.

    In this example a patch of .010 thick and a round ball of .480 would be ideal.

    Now let me throw some confusion into the mix. the HEIGHT of the land, the distance between the bottom of the groove and the top of the land, if the patch thickness is LESS than this distance and you go over size on the load you will be deforming the projectile as you load, or attempt to load it rather. There is also a compression factor in the patch to consider but that is another topic for another day. :)

    Wise man once told me if you have to force a tool to do it's job then you are doing something wrong and you need to stop, backup and reconsider what you are doing.
  13. Rattus58

    Rattus58 Well-Known Member

    I'm assuming that you are using pure lead. I use an over-powder wad for all of my shooting nowadays and don't have these problems with patches, however, you should never have to "hammer" a ball down the bore.

    I've an austin halleck that has a .499 bore that provided that same concern to which I traded for a .452 sizer that was lovingly burnished open to .499 for me. Oversized bullets and especially balls are never going to shoot well after being "abused" in the bore.


  14. Nappers

    Nappers Well-Known Member

    stupid question, is your hammer down on the nipple (you don't state if percussion or flint). I know my rifle is pretty air tight with the hammer down, won't budge trying to load.

    I use .497 balls and .22 pillow tick (washed/dried twice).

    I use a piece of stainless steel wrapped around a jag and gave my gun a good scrub.
  15. Lunie

    Lunie Well-Known Member

    :what: Am I the only one who noticed this??? :what:

    If this damaged the bore, it sounds like that could possibly explain why it is so hard to load... A ribbed or washboard texture in the bore certainly wouldn't make loading any easier. :eek:
  16. EljaySL

    EljaySL Well-Known Member

    Yeah, people do that with smoothbores or chambers but to do it to a rifled barrel is extremely bad news. Could be anything down there at this point.

    My only thought is to get a cleaning patch on a jag with some jbpaste and see if you can get a feel for where it's tight, and if it's sticking to some burrs or what the heck's going on down there. Just pull it up and down by hand and see how it feels, and maybe the jbpaste will smooth things out a bit while you're in there.
  17. BlackNet

    BlackNet Well-Known Member

    First bronze brush is not going to damage the barrel. Having that on a drill is just going to wear out the bronze brush faster. Bronze was picked because it is the weaker of the 2 metals. If bronze would damage in that manner then think what a lead ball would do coupled with an explosion of 10k+ psi.

    Second putting a brush on a rotary drill and using that in a rifled barrel is beyond fail due to the rifling itself. What is needed is up and down motion, not rotary. Drop a bore light down there and look at what you have. You might just be shocked at what you fine.
  18. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Well-Known Member

    Patent Breech?
    Easily removeable Breech Plug?
    Thoroughly scrub the barrel INTERNALLY with HOT soapy water and submerge the breech end of your barrel into HOT soapy water making a "pump" out of your the barrel/ramrod and the rifle barrel.
    Try a different Ball diameter /patch thickness combo.
    Use pure lead if home casting.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  19. J-Bar

    J-Bar Well-Known Member

    You have an abused rifle. It was shot, not cleaned properly, and the plastic residue plus fouling plus improper lubrication plus time allowed so much crud to accumulate in the barrel that the previous owner thought he could ream it out with a brush on a power tool. If he admitted he used a bronze brush there is no telling what other kinds of hell he put that barrel through. Alas he did more damage. So he passed the problem on to a new owner. I hope he sticks with smokeless powder from now on.

    This happened to me when I bought my first muzzleloader from a pawnshop, so I feel your pain.

    Take your lesson like a man. Sell it for parts. Buy another rifle, a new one this time, and clean it after you shoot it. You will be amazed at how easily it loads.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  20. Think I found the problem...

    Ok, couple new bits of info.

    #1, I slugged the bore. Bore diameter looks like .500", say plus or minus .0005". Groove diameter looks like .516", plus or minus a thou or two.

    #2 I cleaned the rifle again, but this time instead of oiling immediately, I let it dry and sit for a while. After it dried, it developed just a bit of flash surface rust. And NOW I can see the bore is pitted. The first inch or so by the muzzle is clear, but it gets pitted below there. They aren't all that big, but there look like lots of them. After this, I swabbed and then oiled the bore. With a fresh coat of oil, it is hard tell they are there. The oil helps make the bore look shiney and smooth, which is probably why I couldn't see the pits before... :(

    Oh, and because I guess I forgot to mention this earlier... It is a sidelock, percussion. I don't know what a patent breech is. This one has a plug threaded into the breech with a lug on the end that attached it to the stock. I always put the hammer on half cock after firing, so when I load the hammer is off the nipple.

    I think you are probably on the money.

    But my question is, since the rifle still seems to shoot well once it is loaded, is there anything I can do to fix it up and make it more funtional? Lapping, using smaller balls/patch combos? I don't know? I guess the good thing is that it wasn't very expensive, but I still hate to part it out if it can still work... Maybe chop it down into a pistol? Make it into a smoothie, or line the barrel? I don't know.

    And again, thank you all for your input!

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