Shooting Black Powder in Cartridge Guns

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Driftwood Johnson, May 6, 2017.

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  1. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    I have noticed for some time now that most of the content in this section of The High Road relates to muzzle loaders. Nothing wrong with that, far from it. My first experience with Black Powder was with a Cap & Ball revolver in 1968. But there is not much content here regarding shooting Black Powder in cartridge guns.

    So I thought it might be useful to post an essay on the methods I use when shooting Black Powder in cartridge guns, what works for me and what has not worked for me. I intend to cover preparation of the guns for Black Powder, making cartridges, and clean up. I will be mostly covering the guns used in Cowboy Action Shooting, so most of my comments will be about Black Powder cartridges used in revolvers and 'pistol caliber' rifles, such as 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40, 44 Russian, and 38-40. Other shooters of my acquaintance load 38 Special with Black Powder, but I have no personal experience loading Black Powder into that cartridge. I will also be discussing Black Powder shotgun shells. I will only make a few comments about the traditional 'rifle calibers' such as 45-70, since I have less experience with those.

    Oh yeah, I will only be talking about real Black Powder, not the black powder substitutes. Nothing wrong with the subs, they make shooting with lots of smoke possible for many shooters who do not have access to real Black Powder. I will only say that those who prefer the subs because they believe they are easier to clean and less corrosive than real Black Powder are mistaken. More about that when I get to making cartridges and clean up.

    As with the photo essay I did a few years ago comparing older S&W revolvers to the newer MIM models, I ask that posters respect that I started this thread to post the methods I have found useful. Of course, I do not 'own' this thread, this is a public forum after all. I welcome questions, comments, suggestions, and even differences of opinion. This thread is after all mostly about my own experiences and opinions.

    I only ask that others refrain from posting their own photos in this thread.

    Thanks


    My interest in Black Powder cartridges started with my interest in Cowboy Action Shooting, roughly ten years ago. Contrary to what some may think, not very many CAS shooters use Black Powder, most shoot Smokeless. However there are probably around 10% or so who like to shoot the old guns with Black Powder, the way they would have been shot in the second half of the 19th Century. I spent my first couple of years in CAS shooting Smokeless, but eventually the lure of Black Powder brought me to The Dark Side, as we say.

    There are many books published about shooting Black Powder. The books I found most useful where the ones written by Mike Venturino, specifically his books, Shooting Sixguns of the Old West, Shooting Colt Single Actions, Shooting Lever Guns of the Old West, and Shooting Buffalo Rifles of the Old West. I'm not sure which of these books are still in print, but a quick search of Amazon should make that obvious. In the first three books Mike has chapters about loading the common cartridges for each or these firearms, both Smokeless and Black Powder. I of course found the Black Powder information the most useful. I only disagree with Mike on one small point that I will cover later. The fourth book, the Buffalo Guns book goes into more detail with the big single shot cartridges such as 45-70 and many others. In this book Mike does not bother with Smokeless powder, he gets right to the heart of the matter and only discussing shooting the Sharps, Rolling Block, Trapdoor, 1885 Winchester and a few others with Black Powder. He has one chapter that covers general Black Powder loading of the old rifle cartridges and specific chapters of cartridges such as 45-70, 45-90, 45-110, 40-70, and a bunch of others. Mike gets pretty detailed with his discussions of loading these cartridges for maximum accuracy for BPCR competitions.

    So, enough rambling, let's get down to brass tacks.

    First, a few words about preparing a firearm for shooting Black Powder. There have been endless discussions in the past about 'seasoning' the bore. Also endless arguments regarding mixing petroleum based cleaners and Black Powder. I am only going to discuss what has worked best for me.

    I want to remove any petroleum based oils or solvents that were in the gun, and I replace them with an oil that is compatible with Black Powder. If you mix Black Powder fouling with modern oils, you will probably build up a sludge that will be difficult to remove. So step number one is to get all the old fouling, that may be over 100 years old out, and replace whatever oils were used over the years with a lubricant that is compatible with Black Powder. Basically, I take the gun apart as far as I am comfortable, and clean all the parts thoroughly of old powder residue. Then I use a solvent to completely remove any old oils that were on the parts or inside the mechanism. Then I re-lubricate the parts with a Black Powder compatible oil, and finally I put the gun back together again. It may sound tedious, but this procedure only has to be done once, before shooing any BP in the gun.

    Notice I said I take the gun apart as far as I am comfortable. It depends on the gun, how far I want to take it apart. The rule of thumb is, the further you take it apart, the easier it is to clean all the parts.

    One more thing. I am not going to explain how to take down any or these guns. That would be way beyond the scope of this thread. There are plenty of disassembly books and videos available in print and on the web. I will make one specific plug. The very best book I have found is Antique Firearms Assembly/Disassembly by the late David R. Chicoine. He covers most of the guns I shoot in CAS and many more. This book is available on Amazon.

    I am very comfortable taking a Colt (or colt replica) completely apart. Here is a 2nd Gen Colt, completely disassembled. The lockwork of the Colt is hidden up inside the frame, so to prepare the parts thoroughly it is best to take a Colt apart this far to prepare it for shooting Black Powder cartridges.

    2ndGenColtExplodedView.jpg




    Take down of the old Three Screw Ruger Blackhawks is very similar to a Colt. Complete disassembly will make cleaning the parts a snap.

    FlatTop44MagParts.jpg




    Modern New Model Rugers have more parts, and are a bit of a pain to put back together again, but I still recommend complete disassembly to prepare them for shooting Black Powder cartridges. This is a New Vaquero.

    Exploded%20View%20New%20Vaquero_zpsw19ptt60.jpg




    Now here is where the 'comfort level' of disassembly kicks in. The old S&W Top Breaks are a bit fussier to take apart. I have removed the cylinder, side plate, hammer spring, and hammer/hand assembly from this New Model Number Three. That is as far as I am comfortable going with the big S&W Top Breaks. I have avoided driving out the pins that hold the trigger and trigger spring in place. Taking an old Smith like this apart this far, I can still get all the old goo out and coat the parts with a coating of BP compatible oil.

    Disassembly%20New%20Model%20Number%20Three_zpsljl9tmeq.jpg




    This Winchester Model 1873 had probably a century's worth of powder fouling and old oil inside it. It needed to be completely taken apart to clean out all the old fouling and hardened oil.

    Winchester%20Model%201873%20Ready%20for%20Cleaning_zpsssunthfp.jpg




    Much better!

    Winchester%201873%20Action%20Closed_zpsmohqnbnu.jpg




    Let's not forget the shotguns. This nice old Stevens side lock hammer double was actually very easy to prepare for Black Powder shotshells. One screw removes the side locks. That is as far as I went. Everything could be scrubbed clean with this level of disassembly.

    Stevens%20Hammer%20Gun%20Disassembly_zpsemhjo48d.jpg




    OK, so you have the gun all broken down. What do you do next? I take a nice strong solvent, some bronze bristle brushes (not stainless), old tooth brushes, Q-Tips, paper towels, and rags and go to town. I used to use a really strong solvent like Lacquer Thinner. This will totally remove every teeny bit of old oil, bringing the metal parts down to bare metal. That is what I want, bare metal. I will oil everything up again in the next step. Lacquer Thinner is a very strong solvent. Be sure you wear gloves and be sure you work in a well ventilated area. This stuff is bad for your liver. Be aware too, the fumes from Lacquer Thinner are heavier than air, and they will sink to the floor. Remember this if you are working in a basement with pilot lights burning in the furnace or water heater. Avoid house fires and explosions. More recently I have been using regular drugstore rubbing alcohol. Not quite as aggressive as Lacquer Thinner and it may require a bit more scrubbing. But less likely to poison you. I dunno about how bad the fumes are near pilot lights, so be aware of that.

    So basically, I take all the loose parts, immerse them in solvent, scrub them, then set them aside to dry. Then I go after the frame and any other parts that are still attached to the frame. With guns that I have not completely disassembled, such as the Top Breaks, I take lots of Q-Tips and lots of alcohol and swab the dickens out of everything in sight, being sure to drip some in the hidden nooks and crannies. The goal here is to dissolve as much oils and fouling as possible, so it may require lots of Q-Tips. Then more Q-Tips to sop up whatever residue there is. Be sure to keep the solvent away from wood grips or old hard rubber grips (or modern plastic grips), as it will eat away at the finish.

    My favorite Black Powder compatible oil is Ballistol. That is what I use to put a coating on the parts to prevent corrosion and to keep them lubricated. You don't need much, a light coating will do. I keep a little jar of Ballistol on my workbench and a few Q-Tips full will do the job. There is a saying in the gun world that too much lubrication will attract dirt and is worse than not enough oil. I actually fly in the face of that when I am lubricating everything before reassembly. Everything gets a nice light coating of Ballistol. Everything.

    ballistol%2003_zpsdpscwccv.jpg


    Ballistol may be a little difficult to find. A bunch of years ago I called them up and they told me where a local dealer was.You can go to their website and they have a dealer locating page. You can also order direct.

    https://ballistol.com/




    One other thing. This is important. Black Powder fouling is supposed to be very corrosive, right? Well, Black Powder fouling is nowhere near as corrosive as many shooters believe. In the old days when corrosive primers were being used, the combination of BP fouling and corrosive primers caused lots of rust. We do not use corrosive primers any more, so BP fouling alone is not as corrosive as many believe. The main reason BP fouling is corrosive is because it is extremely dry and will suck water vapor out of the air. Wet BP fouling in contact with steel and iron will indeed cause corrosion. But if you can prevent the fouling from absorbing water from the air, there will be no corrosion. I found this out through trial and error. If Black Powder fouling is saturated with oil, it cannot absorb any water out of the air. Think of it like a sponge that is already saturated with water. If the sponge is already saturated, it cannot absorb any more water. It is the same with Black Powder fouling. Infuse it with oil, and it cannot absorb any water from the air. Oily Black Powder fouling will not cause rust.

    And that, friends, is why we are going to coat everything with Ballistol before we put the gun back together again. I will get into this more when I talk about cleaning, but bear it in mind. This treatment, plus the tricks I learned about cleaning, mean we do not have to completely disassemble the gun to clean it every time we shoot it with Black Powder.

    More about that later. For now, put the gun back together again and make sure everything works correctly. Soak a patch with Ballistol and run it down the bore as well as the chambers of a revolver. Then follow up with a dry patch to mop up the excess. The chambers and bore are now lightly oiled, and ready to receive their first Black Powder cartridges.

    Next Installment - A short discussion of Black Powder
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  2. Panzerschwein

    Panzerschwein member

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    Good post but needs more details and pictures. :D
     
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  3. LoneGoose

    LoneGoose Member

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    Driftwood, you are doing a great service to many new BP shooters, I'm sure. You make what you say easy to understand, and make the prospect of trying something new seem less daunting. Looking forward to the next installment.

    THR rocks.
     
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  4. Navy Six

    Navy Six Member

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    A nice, comprehensive installment which I hope will encourage others to experience the pleasures of blackpowder cartridge loading. It all seems very simple and straight-forward now(which it is with the right info), but when I first started about 20 years ago there wasn't much information available. Thanks for taking the time to help others get started.
     
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  5. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Great thread!
     
  6. 99whip

    99whip Member

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    Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading the next installment.
     
  7. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy Again

    Before I get into the nuts and bolts of loading Black Powder into cartridges, I would like to first talk about the powder itself. I'm sure some of this will be old hat to a lot of shooters on this page, but bear with me, you may learn something new.

    I am also going to say some things that some may think are heretical, but as I said, this is an essay on what has worked for me, and there may be some personal opinions thrown in.

    Unlike the Black Powder Substitutes, Real Black Powder is classified by the Federal Government as an explosive. This means that shops that carry it have to contend with more stringent regulations for its storage than they do with Smokeless powders and the BP Subs. This can make real Black Powder more difficult to obtain than the subs. A few years ago there was a shop within an hour's drive of where I live where I could buy Black Powder off the shelf. Unfortunately, they no longer carry real Black Powder, and now I have to drive an hour and a half to buy it.

    Also, unlike most of the BP Subs, Real Black Powder requires bullets that are lubed with Black Powder compatible lubes. Another reason some prefer to shoot the subs. More about that when I talk about BP bullets.



    (I'm getting a little bit tired of typing Real Black Powder and Black Powder Substitutes, so for the rest of this essay I will simply refer to real black powder as Black Powder, and the Black Powder Substitutes as BP Subs.)



    Here are a few brands of Black Powder that I have used in cartridges. I have used one or two more, but no longer have the containers. Like many shooters I started with Goex. That's an older can of Goex. Notice it calls itself Rifle Powder. During the 19th Century there were many brands of Black Powder available, and it was not all the same. Some was designated as Musket Powder, some was designated as Rifle Powder. Of course there was Blasting Powder too, but that was formulated differently, for more concussion for breaking up rocks. Generally speaking, Rifle Powder produced less fouling than Musket Powder. I remember having some discussions on some old shooting boards where we discussed whether Goex was really a Rifle Powder. Some of us felt that it creates too much fouling to be really classified as a rifle powder. Elephant powder is not made anymore. I seem to recall it was imported from Brazil, but I could be wrong about that. On the left is the powder I prefer to use today, Schuetzen. I believe it creates less fouling than Goex, which is why I like to use it. More about that when I talk about the actual loading of cartridges.

    Powder%20Cans_zps9z9bgtdk.jpg




    Just yesterday I was at the range and the guy next to me was shooting a modern inline Black Powder rifle with Pyrodex. I was trying to convinced him of the virtues of Black Powder, and he told me one of the reasons he preferred Pyrodex was because Black Powder was unstable.

    UNSTABLE????

    I asked him where he had heard this, and he could not recall. I hope I didn't go too ballistic on him. Really folks, keep it tightly capped, so no moisture can get in, and Black Powder will remain potent forever. We have all heard stories of antique percussion firearms being discovered that were still loaded, and shot the old loads just fine when a new cap was put on the nipples.



    Static Electricity

    This is a tough one. I know there is a web page out there with photos showing that a charge of electricity cannot ignite grains of Black Powder. I have seen the photos many times. The idea is that the coating of graphite on modern Black Powder grains creates a conductive surface for the electrons to flow over, without creating enough resistance to raise the temperature high enough to ignite the powder. Some shooters are so confident that Black Powder cannot possibly be ignited by static electricity that they use the plastic bottles on their MEC shotgun presses to contain the powder. I am not that confident. I worked in the electronic industry for 24 years and am very familiar with what a static charge can do and how it can destroy delicate electronic components. So I absolutely will not put Black Powder into the powder hopper of my MEC Jr. I hand dip my powder when loading shotshells with BP. What about that plastic bottle that Schuetzen comes in you may ask? Federal regulations require Black Powder be packed in heavy wall conductive plastic receptacles. That means that a static charge cannot build up in the bottle. What about plastic dippers, you may ask. I don't know if they are made of conductive plastic, but they are too small to build up a significant static charge.

    A couple of years ago I was in Florence Italy visiting the Galileo Museum. There was a very interesting display. These devices are called Thunder Houses. They date from the 18th Century (Ben Franklin's time) and were made to demonstrate how a lightning rod protects a house. The metal rod represents a lightning rod. The chain connects the lightning rod to the metal pedestal. There was a small removable panel on the side of the box that could be removed to break the circuit, or put in place to keep the circuit whole. A small charge of Black Powder would be placed on the metal pedestal in the center of the box. Then the folding sides and roof of the box would be closed. A static charge was generated by an early static charge generator of the type invented by Franklin. First the charge would be connected to the sphere at the top of the lightning rod with the connecting panel removed. Nothing would happen. Then the demonstration would be repeated with the panel in place. The powder would ignite, dramatically blowing the folded parts open.

    So much for a Static charge not being able to ignite Black Powder.


    Thunder%20House%2001_zpsjqnlqa2l.jpg


    Thunder%20House%2002_zpsewsenovo.jpg



    Of course the difference is that the 18th Century Black Powder probably did not have a graphite coating.

    Anyway, that's where I stand with Black Powder and Static charges. I remain cautious and am not convinced that ignition cannot happen, and I take some precautions.



    Grains vs Grains/Volume

    One of my real pet peeves. Grains/Volume is a nonexistent unit of measure. You will not find it anywhere in any scientific tables. Grains/Volume, or Grains Volume or however you want to say it, was a construct invented when Pyrodex was first developed. Pyrodex does not weigh the same as Black Powder. But it was formulated to have pretty much the same explosive energy as the same volume of Black Powder. So measuring out your Pyrodex by volume made perfect sense.


    We have all used Black Powder measures like these at one time or another. Of course they portion the powder out by volume. So does the powder measure you use with your Smokeless powder loads. And so do the measures used by commercial loaders. But they are all caliberated by weight, not volume.

    flaskandmeasure-1.jpg



    Why in the world would cartridges such as 44-40 or 45-70 have that second number in the name? Because somewhere in the factory, somebody had calibrated the powder dispensing equipment by weight, and that is how much powder went into the cartridges.

    When we get into actual loading, forget about Grains/Volume.

    I will show you how to set up your charges by volume and then weigh them for reference.

    That's all for now, it's time for lunch.

    Next Time: Black Powder Bullets for Black Powder Cartridges
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  8. 44 Dave

    44 Dave Member

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    This is what I started with, and recently was given a pound marked with an original price mark of $2.
     

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  9. Crawdad1

    Crawdad1 Member

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    Mr. Johnson great post, great topic. Are you going to show cartridge reloading with black powder substitutes such as Triple 7?
     
  10. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    You are doing great. Please continue, it may be enough to get me to reload my 45 LC balloon head cases with BP. Real BP.
     
  11. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    No.

    As I stated in the first installment:

    "Oh yeah, I will only be talking about real Black Powder, not the black powder substitutes. Nothing wrong with the subs, they make shooting with lots of smoke possible for many shooters who do not have access to real Black Powder. I will only say that those who prefer the subs because they believe they are easier to clean and less corrosive than real Black Powder are mistaken. More about that when I get to making cartridges and clean up."

    I have almost no experience loading the BP Subs. Almost all of my experience has been with real Black Powder. I loaded up some 38 SW with APP once, that has been my total experience with the subs. I may make a few comments at some point about the subs, regarding suitable bullets and bullet lubes, or lack of, but I have found real Black Powder to be so easy to load that I have never messed around much with the Subs.
     
  12. LonesomePigeon

    LonesomePigeon Member

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    Great post. Looking forward to the next installment.
     
  13. Taroman

    Taroman Member

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    Following with great interest as I'm about try loading BP 44 Special for my Uberti Open top.
     
  14. Jimster

    Jimster Member

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    Great stuff. I'm a black powder cartridge guy all the way.
     
  15. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    I have never loaded 44 Special with Black Powder, but using the techniques I am going to describe you will have no problem doing so. I have fired Black Powder 44 Russian ammo in a Colt chambered for 44 Special, but never actual 44 Special BP ammo.

    Have you prepared the gun yet to get it ready?
     
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  16. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy Again

    Sorry for not posting sooner, got real busy for a few days.

    Here is a photo of the cartridges that I load with Black Powder.

    Left to right they are 44 Russian, 45 Schofield, 38-40, 44-40, 45 Colt and 45-70.

    44-40 and 45 Colt are the two that I load most often.

    [​IMG]




    Regarding cartridges other than these, the techniques I describe will work fine for other cartridges too.


    But first, before I get into the details of loading Black Powder in cartridges, we need to talk about Black Powder bullets a little bit. And that means we need to talk about the function of bullet lube as it relates to Black Powder. The purpose of bullet lube on a conventional cast lead bullet is to reduce friction as the bullet goes down the barrel. Since a bullet is an interference fit in a barrel, there is considerable heat generated by the friction of the bullet against the bore. If the bullet gets too hot, the outer surface can soften and solder itself to the bore. This is the phenomenon known as leading. So the function of bullet lube on conventional cast lead bullets is to keep the lead from softening and sticking to the bore.

    But with Black Powder, things are a little bit different. If bullets with conventional hard lube used on conventional hard cast bullets are shot with Black Powder, the fouling left behind in the barrel tends to turn into a hard deposit. After a few shots this hard deposit will build up in the rifling and cause accuracy to drop off. In addition, when it comes time to clean, the hard fouling is difficult to remove. So black powder compatible bullet lubes have two functions. In addition to reducing friction, a good BP compatible bullet lube will be soft and gooey. Not like the hard waxy lube found on most cast bullets. As the bullet travels down the barrel it will shed its lube along the length of the barrel. When BP fouling mixes with this soft, gooey lube, the fouling becomes soft and gooey. As each successive bullet is fired down the bore, it tends to push some of the fouling left behind by the last shot out of the bore in front of it. This tends to prevent the fouling from building up and ruining accuracy. And at the end of shooting, the fouling remains soft and easy to remove with a BP compatible water based solvent. More about that when we get to cleaning.

    There are probably as many formulas for BP compatible bullet lubes as there are BP shooters. These days I like to use SPG. I used to buy SPG sticks for my lubesizer from Cabela’s. It looks like they don’t sell it anymore, but Midway USA still does. When I was pan lubing I made up my own BP bullet lube of equal parts beeswax and Crisco. As I said, there are a probably a bazillion other formulas for BP bullet lube. Google it.

    So……..how does one get bullets that carry a soft, BP compatible lube? I used to Pan Lube regular hardcast Smokeless bullets with my mixture of 50/50 Beeswax/Crisco. Pan lubing is a technique where one melts the hard, waxy lube out of commercial bullets, and then places the bullets in a pan filled with BP compatible lube. The pans are placed in an oven, and the wax melts. When removed from the oven the wax solidifies and the bullets have ring of BP lube in the lube grooves. It is more complicated than that, and if anyone is interested I can post complete instructions, but not right now. The problem with my Pan Lubed bullets was they needed to carry enough soft lube to keep the fouling soft the entire length of the barrel. Not a problem with revolvers and their relatively short barrels, but the single thin lube groove of most commercial bullets did not carry enough lube to keep a rifle barrel lubed for its entire length. What I found was that the bullet would run out of lube for the last six inches or so of a rifle barrel. Fouling would then build up and accuracy would begin to suffer. During a typical CAS match we will shoot the rifle ten times at each stage. After two or three stages accuracy would begin to suffer. The solution was quick and easy, swabbing the barrel out with a few patches soaked in my favorite water based BP solvent and accuracy returned.

    There were other solutions too. You will probably have heard of Lube Cookies. A lube cookie is a disk of BP compatible lube sitting behind the bullet in a loaded cartridge. I used to press lube cookies out of a sheet of beeswax with an empty 45 caliber cartridge case. I would place the lube cookie on top of the powder charge and under the bullet. You will also probably have heard how BP lube can adulterate the powder charge, causing it to burn inefficiently. The classic solution for this is to place a thin card wad between the lube cookie and the powder charge. There is one disadvantage to Lube Cookies. I was testing some rounds at the range one day and accuracy had gone to hell in a handbasket. I recovered some of my spent bullets from the berm and low and behold there were lube cookies stuck on the back of some of them. What was happening was the soft Lube Cookie got glued to the bullet base. In flight, the bullets became unstable, flying like a lopsided dart. Not unstable enough to tumble, but unstable enough to ruin accuracy. So I came up with variation #3 for my Pan Lubed bullets. I placed a card wad between the bullet and the Lube Cookie and well as another one between the Lube Cookie and the powder. Accuracy returned, but it was way too much extra work loading cartridges this way. After priming and belling I would pour in the powder, then place a card wad on top, then compress the powder, then drop in the Lube Cookie and another card wad, and finally seat and crimp the bullet. There had to be a better way.


    Big Lube Bullets

    About this time I heard about the Big Lube Black Powder bullet molds. A CAS shooter with the alias of Pigeon Roost Slim developed a new style of bullet for Black Powder shooting. Basically he took the idea of the Thompson Center Maxi Ball and adapted it for the 45 Colt cartridge. The PRS 45 bullet is a 250 grain bullet with a huge lube groove. The lube groove is big enough to carry enough soft, BP compatible lube to keep fouling moist in the longest rifle barrels.

    The four bullets on the left in this photo are Big Lube bullets. Left to right they are the 38-40 180 grain bullet, the Mav-Dutchman 200 grain 44 caliber bullet, the J/P 45-200 grain bullet, and the PRS 250 grain 45 caliber bullet. You will notice all of these bullets have a wide, flat nose (meplat). That is because they were designed to be shot in rifles with tubular magazines. Of course they can be shot in revolvers too. The tall bullet is a commercial 405 grain Flat Nosed Montana Precision .458 bullet that I load in 45-70. Finally, on the far right is one of my old Pan Lubed hard cast 250 grain bullets. The huge amount of lube the Big Lube bullets carry is evident in this photo. The Montana Precision 45-70 bullet has multiple lube grooves. Not a big lube bullet but it is adequate for a single shot rifle when used with a blow tube between shots. It is a bit indistinct in this photo, but the single lube groove of my Pan Lubed bullet does not carry enough lube to keep a rifle barrel lubed its entire length.


    [​IMG]





    This photo is a good illustration of how much lube the Big Lube bullets carry. The cartridge on the left is a 44-40, the cartridge on the right is a 45 Colt. The bullets to the left of the 44-40 are the Mav-Dutchman 200 grain 44 caliber bullet, shown with and without lube. The bullets with the 45 cartridge are the PRS 250 grain bullet, shown with and without lube. I don’t own any rifles chambered for 45 Colt, but I have fired thousands of 44-40 rounds loaded with the Mav-Dutchman bullet through several lever rifles, and I never have to swab barrels anymore to keep my accuracy up. And I no longer mess with Lube Cookies and card wads. I just pour in the powder, then compress it when seating and crimping the bullet. Easy Peasy.

    [​IMG]




    A fellow named Dick Rhody started up the Big Lube line of bullet molds. He does not sell bullets, he sells molds. His CAS alias is Dastardly Dick. You can read more about the Big Lube bullets on his web site. In addition to the bullets shown, Dick has molds for 32, 38/357, 38-55, and 45-70. He also has a mold for 36 and 44 caliber bullets for percussion revolvers.

    https://www.biglube.com/


    Official disclaimer: although I am constantly pushing the Big Lube line of Black Powder bullets, I get no financial compensation for it. I also do not get any financial compensation for the J/P 45-200, which I designed.


    In truth, I don’t cast bullets anymore, I buy my Big Lube bullets sized and lubed from another CAS shooter whose alias is Springfield Slim. Here is the address to his website. Go to the Big Lube page.

    http://www.whyteleatherworks.com/


    Lube Star

    A Lube Star is a deposit of lube left behind by the bullet on the muzzle. The rifling shapes it into a star shape. If you see no Lube Star on the muzzle of a rifle, chances are your bullets are starved for lube by the time they exit the barrel. A Lube Star is an indication that there was still plenty of lube left on the bullet as it exited the muzzle, and the bore is adequately covered to insure the fouling remains soft.


    A few more comments about bullets before we move on. It is usually recommended to use soft lead bullets for Black Powder. When I was casting my own they were either pure lead, or a mix of about 20/1 lead/tin. Although my Pan Lubed bullets were conventional hard cast bullets and they usually worked pretty well, other than all that wad and Lube Cookie business.


    One more thing. Earlier I mentioned that different brands of Black Powder produce different amounts of fouling. Generally speaking, the less fouling your powder produces, the less lube you can get away with on your bullets. I used to use commercial BP bullets produced by the Mid Kansas Bullet Company in my 44-40 cartridges. These bullets had two lube grooves filled with a SPG. I found that using Goex powder they did not carry enough lube to keep the fouling in the bore of a rifle soft for its entire length. I talked with other shooters who were using Swiss powder who claimed these same bullets worked fine, because Swiss burns so clean. I have never used Swiss powder, could not justify the extra cost. But if you cannot find a bullet that carries enough soft lube for a rifle barrel, you might try Swiss powder. I have heard that Olde Eysford also burns clean enough to be able to get away with less soft lube. I have never tried that powder, so I cannot speak authoritatively about it. These days my powder of choice is Schuetzen. It burns a little bit cleaner than Goex, which is why I like it, and it is not as expensive as Swiss. A good compromise. Graf sells Schuetzen packaged in bottles with their own label on it, but it is the same powder as Schuetzen.


    Here is a photo of three 44 caliber Black Powder bullets. A good visual comparison of how much lube each bullet carries. On the left is the Big Lube Mav-Dutchman 200 grain bullet. In the center is the Mid Kansas 200 grain bullet with two lube grooves I mentioned earlier. This bullet is very similar to the old Lyman 42798 bullet. On the right is my home brewed 44 caliber Pan Lubed bullet.


    [​IMG]




    That’s pretty much it for bullets, unless I remember something else.


    Next time: Actual Black Powder cartridge loading.

    I promise.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
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  17. Taroman

    Taroman Member

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    All cleaned and lubed, ready to go.
    [​IMG]
    Turning to bullets, I plan on using some Penn 210 grain LTCFP. Cleaned the lube off 1000 of them and Hi-Tek coated half. Planned to try pan lube the other 500.
    Wondering about using a coated bullet with a lube cookie..
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2017
  18. LoneGoose

    LoneGoose Member

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    Taroman, that's a sweet-looking conversion.
     
  19. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    If I were you, I would use the Mav-Dutchman 44 caliber Big Lube bullet for your 44 Special loads. That is the bullet I use for both 44-40 and 44 Russian. The 44 Special cartridge is basically a 'stretch' version of the 44 Russian. All dimensions are the same, except for the length of the brass.

    I looked at the Penn Bullets site and did not see a reference to a 'Penn 210 grain LTCFP'. Saw several 44 caliber bullets, all appeared to have a skimpy lube groove just like most hard cast lead bullets.

    I have no idea whether Hi-Tek coating will be compatible with Black Powder. Have never used it and have no idea. Have no idea what you mean by 'using c coated bullet'. I have already stated what a pain I think Lube Cookies are. Do what you think best.

    If you Pan Lube those bullets, they may carry enough lube to keep hard fouling from building up in your barrel, they may not. I had mixed results using Pan Lubed bullets with a thin lube groove in my 7 1/2" barreled Colt. If I was you and did not want to buy some Mav-Dutchmans, I would take those bullets and Pan Lube them. I would not add any unknown coatings or lubes for fear of them not being BP compatible. I would just Pan Lube them and be done with it.

    I was not going to get into the specifics of Pan Lubing yet, but I suppose this is as good a time as any. So here are my instructions for Pan Lubing. This is the way I used to do it. Others may have other methods, but this always worked for me. You may find my instructions useful.





    Pan Lubing 101-Not Rocket Science

    Go to the Supermarket and buy yourself a couple of teflon coated circular cake pans that you're going to dedicate to pan lubing. Mine are about 8" in diameter. I actually have four. Two for 44 and two for 45. The reason I differentiate between the two will become clear later. While you’re at it, pick up a cookie sheet that you'll dedicate to melting lube out of your hardcast bullets. I'm assuming you're starting with regular hardcast bullets. You might also want to pick up a really cheap double boiler to melt your lube in. I use a cheap pot that I balance precariously in a bigger pot of boiling water. Buy lots of paper towels too.



    Step 1

    Melt the hard lube out of your hardcast bullets. Turn on the oven to 200 degrees F. Lay a few sheets of paper towels in your cookie sheet. Count out 100 bullets and lay them flat, not standing up, on the paper towel. Throw them in the oven and go find something else to do for 1/2 hour. The hard lube will melt out of the grooves and the paper towel will wick it out. I like to do this in multiples of 50, so I can load up each of my pans with 50 bullets.



    Step 2

    Melt your lube. You could do this while waiting for your hard lube to melt out of your bullets. I use a 50/50 mix of beeswax and Crisco. It hardens up to a good consistency for pan lubing. I start with pure beeswax I buy at a craft store. Cut off a chunk of beeswax, maybe 1/4 pound. Throw it in your double boiler and scoop out a glob of Crisco about the same size. Eyeball measuring is close enough, don't get too fancy, this ain't Rocket Science. Keep your eye on this stuff while it melts, it's flammable.



    Step 3

    Take the bullets out of the oven. Don't turn off the oven, just leave it right at 200 degrees F. The paper towel in the pan will be soaked with melted lube. Lay out another couple of sheets of paper towels on the counter and dump your naked bullets onto them. Roll the bullets around in the towels while they're still hot to rub off some of the remaining lube, be careful, they're hot. You won't get all the lube off. A little thin coating left behind is OK. This ain't Rocket Science.



    Step 4

    Place 50 bullets, pointy side up in each of your pans. Space them so that they are at least ¼” apart from each other and ¼” from the edge of the pan. Neatness doesn’t count. Put your pans on a flat level surface and carefully pour enough melted lube into each pan to cover the bullets just up over the lube grooves. If you don’t need all your lube, just set it aside to harden in your pot. You can use chunks of it later to replenish your pans when you need to. You’ll probably pour some down on top of a few bullets, and you’ll probably jostle a few bullets around. That’s OK, while the lube is still molten, just push the ones that moved back so that everything is well spaced again. Don’t sweat the ones that got some poured on top, you can rub that off with your thumb later. Leave the pans undisturbed for ½ hour.



    Step 5

    At this point you have ‘bullet cakes’ in your pans. A layer of hardened wax with bullets imbedded in them. First, you have to get the ‘bullet cake’ out of the pan. It’s a little tough to do at room temperature. After cooling on the counter for ½ hour, your bullet cakes will still be a little bit soft. I like to throw my pans into the fridge for just a little while to harden up the lube a little bit. I think this is the real secret. If the lube is a little bit stiff, it will separate from the pan better, and it will shear off from the main body of the cake and stay in the groove easier. I leave them in the fridge until everything is a little bit cool. But not too cool. Take them out and separate the bullet cake from the pan just like your mom taught you how to do by jerking the pan up sharply a couple of times until the cake breaks free. The cake may have already shrunk away from the sides of the pan and made this easier. Some folks separate the bullets by pushing the whole mass out at once. Others like to use a cookie cutter of some sort. I like to sit in front of the TV and push them out one at a time. I just carefully push them out with thumb pressure. It’s easier to push them out from the pointy end, but I find the lube shears off cleaner in the groove if I push them out from the base. This is why you kept all the bullets separated by ¼”. It leaves a web of material between the holes so you don’t break the cake. Dump your pan lubed bullets into a Tupperware container. If any bullets get an incomplete groove fill, smoosh a little more lube in with your thumb. When you’re done, you’ll have your empty bullet cakes full of holes. Now here’s the secret. DON’T MELT THE LUBE AGAIN. Just put the empty bullet cakes, which have 50 perfect holes in them, back in the pans. If the cakes broke in a couple of pieces, just line the pieces back up in the pans as best as you can. The trick is to maintain the cakes with 50 holes in them, which you’re gonna refill with bullets. That’s why I keep separate pans for separate calibers. The holes will be custom fit to each caliber.



    Step 6

    Next time you are gonna pan lube, either right now or next week, just fill up the holes with bullets. Don’t melt the lube and pour it over the bullets again. Place the pan right in your 200 degree oven. In a half hour, all the lube will have melted and filled up the grooves again. This is the tricky part. Using the fancy embroidered pot holders you made in Home Economics class, carefully take the pans out and set them onto the counter to cool. If you’re not extraordinarily careful, the bullets will slide around in the pans. That’s OK too, set the pans down and push the bullets around while the lube is still molten, just like before, to space them out again. That’s it. Go find something to do while waiting for your bullets to cool and then return to Step 5. Don’t melt your lube again.

    On bullet melting night, I would usually start the oven up, melt the lube out of 200 bullets on one level of the oven and be melting loaded pans on the other level. Every half hour I come back and juggle stuff to the next step. Every once in a while you’ll want to replenish the lube in your bullet cakes. Just drop a few chunks of lube onto the cakes when you put them in the oven. It will melt when the cake melts. If you time it right, on bullet melting night you just keep taking trips back to the oven every half hour to advance to the next step. No muss no fuss. Last night I lubrisized 200 PRS bullets while watching TV. Took me about 2 ½ hours and I had to handle each and every bullet. Pan lubing is automatic and you just handle stuff every ½ hour.

    When my bullets come out of the pans, they usually have a little skim of lube on the bases. I just leave it right there, I don't bother to clean it off. I don't leave my ammo in the hot sun, and that little bit of lube has never caused any problem contaminating my powder. If some lube has migrated up onto the tops of my bullets, I may or may not clean it off. If they're going into the magazine of my rifle, I'll usually clean it off, so it doesn't attract gunk and clog up the magazine. If they're going into a revolver, I don't bother.

    Did I mention this ain’t Rocket Science?
     
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  20. Taroman

    Taroman Member

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    Sorry, typo. "a coated" was my intended grammar.
    As for the 210s, Penn discontinued that bullet some time ago.
    One of my favorites., very accurate flat base.
    Was able to convince him to run me 2000 of them sized to .432" before he retired the mould.
    [​IMG]
     
  21. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    That looks like a pretty good lube groove, but .432 might be a little bit big. I size all my Mav-Dutchmans to .428. I use them most often for 44-40, and 44-40 groove diameters can run from around .427 (the traditional 19th Century groove diameter) to .429. Most modern 44-40 rifles made by Uberti have groove diameters of .429. Generally speaking, you want a bullet about .001 larger than groove diameter. So generally speaking, .430 is about right for a .429 groove diameter.

    I size my Mav-Dutchmans to .428 as a good compromise between the .427 groove diameters of some of my rifles and the .429 groove diameters of some others. I have two revolvers chambered for 44-40, an old Colt New Service and a Merwin Hulbert. I use the .428 bullets in both of them, and I use them in 44 Russians that I fire in antique S&W Top Breaks.

    Before you go too far down this road, you might want to slug your barrel and measure your chamber throats. Let me know if you need instructions on slugging a barrel.
     
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  22. RPRNY

    RPRNY Member

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    You the man! Love the J/P 45-200 and buy them from the same chap. If you get no compensation, please at least accept my sincere appreciation. I am so pleased to skip the whole lube cookie routine when loading for CAS. And I paper patch for 45-70, so no lubing at all tre. Anyway, love that boolit. Really enjoying this thread and your sage advice.
     
  23. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Actually Loading Cartridges

    Howdy Again

    Sorry I have taken so long for this installment, I was having trouble with my Photobucket account.

    So finally, down to brass tacks, actually loading the cartridges.

    First, I should probably make a disclaimer. This is what has worked for me. You need to be prudent, this is Black Powder and loading it can be dangerous. Proceed with caution. I accept no responsibility if my methods do not work for you, or if something goes wrong.


    [​IMG]




    Let me say at the outset that I am talking about the type of loading I do with Black Powder for Cowboy Action Shooting. I am not talking about loading for extreme precision for shooting at targets 400 or 600 yards away with large rifle cartridges such as 45-70. That is a different story and I will touch on that very lightly later. This is for stuffing BP into a cartridge like 45 Colt or 44-40 and popping them into a revolver or lever action rifle. Accuracy can be very good, but not necessarily good enough to knock down a ram at 300 yards.



    Loading a cartridge with Black Powder is unbelievably easy. You pour in enough powder so that when the bullet is seated, it will compress the powder by about 1/16” – 1/8”. That’s it, that’s all there is to it.




    Of course, there is more to say about it than that. First off, those who load Smokeless powder will discover that loading with Black Powder is actually less fussy than loading with Smokeless. You don’t have to concern yourself with loading down to the tenth of a grain. Plus or minus a couple of grains really does not matter. The important thing is to not leave any airspace in the cartridge. Be sure the base of the bullet touches the top of the powder. Compressing it a little bit is better. The reasoning behind the idea of no air in the cartridge is that the air may be compressed and cause a pressure event that can ring the chamber. At least that is what I have read. To keep things safe, I always make sure that my bullets compress the powder by about 1/16” – 1/8”.

    Some will say that filling the case up to the top and then mashing down the powder is good. In my mind that is over compression and a waste of powder, and there is no need for it. So again, my rule of thumb, compress the powder by 1/16” – 1/8”.


    That gets us to another subject. If you read much cartridge history, you will read that the original load for 45 Colt was 40 grains of powder under a 250 grain bullet. That gets us to the actual design of the case. Modern solid head cases do not have as much powder capacity as the old folded rim cases or balloon head cases. You can’t stuff 40 grains into a modern 45 Colt (or 44-40) without compressing the dickens out of the powder.

    This is a photo of some 45 Colt and 45 Schofield ammunition as originally loaded by the Frankford Arsenal around 1873 – 1875. They look like rimfire cartridges, but they are not. These cartridges used Benet Priming. The cases were drawn from soft copper, not brass. The priming material was applied to the top surface of the base of the case. An Anvil Plate was pressed on top of the priming material and held in place by a cannelure (the crimp near the bottom of the case). When the firing pin struck the center of the cartridge, the copper base deformed and the priming material ignited as it was compressed between the copper case and the Anvil Plate. As you can see by the cutaway, there was more interior space in these cartridges than with modern cases, more even than a balloon head case. These are the rounds that could fit 40 grains of powder inside.

    [​IMG]




    This next photo is a comparison of a Balloon Head case to a modern Solid Head case. Once cartridge manufacturers got away from Benet priming and started using Boxer priming, this is what cartridges looked like when cut open. They are called Balloon Head cases today. You can see how much more powder capacity there is in the 45 Colt Balloon Head case on the left, compared to a modern Solid Head case.

    [​IMG]



    I have never loaded Balloon Head cases with Black Powder although I do have some and it would be an interesting project some time. But suffice it to say, it is tough to cram 40 grains of Black Powder into modern 45 Colt cases without compressing the dickens out of it, and personally I consider it to be overkill. I get plenty of smoke and recoil by putting in enough powder so that when the bullet is seated it compresses the powder by about 1/16” – 1/8”.




    FFg vs FFFg

    There used to be a generally accepted standard that FFg was good for cartridges 45 caliber and larger, FFFg was good for cartridges 45 caliber and smaller. Either was good for 45 caliber. When I first started loading cartridges with Black Powder I was loading 45 Colt and 44-40 with FFFg, and restricted my use of FFg to 12 gauge shotgun (which I will get into at another time). After a while I got tired of keeping two granulations of Black Powder around, so these days I use FFg for everything. If I were to load 38 Special with Black Powder I would use FFg for it to.

    As a general rule of thumb, all other things being equal, you can expect somewhere between 60fps to 100fps more velocity when using FFFg instead of FFg in these cartridges.


    The Correct Amount of Powder

    OK, so here we are. We have seated our primers, we have a supply of bullets with a BP compatible lube, and we have our powder, FFg or FFFg, whichever we choose. All we need to do is determine how much powder to dump into the case to achieve the ‘magical’ 1/16” – 1/8” of compression.

    For our initial attempts, we need a tool that will help us arrive at some consistent charges. I like to use dippers. Lee makes a very affordable set of graduated plastic powder dippers.

    http://leeprecision.com/powder-measure-kit.html

    Here is a photo of a few Lee dippers as well as a couple of custom made dippers using a cartridge case filed to length and soldered to a brass wire. Notice how these Lee dippers are permanently stained. They have been used to dip out a lot of powder over the years.

    [​IMG]




    In this photo I have scratched a line on a 45 Colt case indicating where the base of a PRS 250 grain Big Lube bullet will be when it is fully seated.

    [​IMG]




    In this photo I have made a little ruler with a stick, indicating the depth of the seated bullet.

    [​IMG]




    With the assistance of my lovely wife and her long fingernails, this photo shows the little ruler inserted into a case that has been charged with powder. The base of the little ruler is buried about 1/16” – 1/8” in the powder. That’s it. That is the perfect charge of Black Powder for my particular bullet.

    [​IMG]




    In actual practice, try several different dippers to see which one dips out the amount of powder you need. That’s why the Lee set comes in so handy. The dippers are labeled in Cubic Centimeters (I guess Lee has not gotten around to labeling them for milliliters yet. They are the same). Choose the dipper that gets you the closest to the ‘magical’ 1/16” – 1/8” of compression. It does not have to be perfect, just choose the one that gets you the closest. If you want to weigh the charge, for reference, pour a dipperfull onto your scale and weigh it. That’s all there is to it.

    Remember, we are talking about real grains of weight here, not that silly grains/volume business. If you want a volume measurement, use what is molded right on the dipper, Cubic Centimeters. An internationally recognized unit of volume.

    A couple of side notes about the dippers. If I am loading using dippers, I will pour out maybe half a pound of powder into a coffee cup. Remember, we are dealing with a dangerous explosive here, so no smoking, and no sources of ignition anywhere in the vicinity. I take my dipper and scoop it through the powder just as if I was scooping out ice cream. Pull up a heaping dipper full. Then with your free hand take a small section of index card or something similar and scrape off the excess, level with the top of the dipper. Allow the excess to fall back into the coffee cup. That is the best way to get a consistent amount, time after time. No tapping the dipper to level the charge, no pouring in any extra. Just scoop and scrape every time. Scoop with the same motion each time to keep your charges as consistent as possible. I use a small RCBS powder funnel to pour the powder from the dipper into the case, so I don’t spill any. If I am loading a bunch of cartridges I will stand the empty cases up in a loading block so I can pour powder into each case, one after another.

    Be methodical, go from row to row, and of course make sure there is powder in every case before seating bullets.

    [​IMG]





    A side note about the Lee dippers. They come with a slide rule that states how much powder each specific dipper dips out. Take it with a grain of salt. Not all brands of Black Powder weigh the same. Dipping out a specific volume of one brand will probably give a different grain weight of powder than another brand. That’s just the way it is with Black Power, different brands usually weigh a different amount. The numbers on the Lee slide rule do not take that into account.

    I put this chart together a number of years ago as a rough reference for the dippers I use most often for my Black Powder cartridges. You can see how the charges thrown by a specific dipper will vary from brand to brand. This information is pretty dated, Elephant is not made anymore. Also, powder weight can vary over time, and from lot to lot. So this chart is a rough guide, but I keep it around just for reference.


    [​IMG]




    For what it’s worth, I use the 2.2CC Lee dipper for both 45 Colt with the 250 grain Big Lube PRS bullet and 44-40 with the 200 grain Big Lube Mav-Dutchman bullet. But that is because I have determined those charges will give me the ‘magic’ 1/16” – 1/8” of compression with those specific bullets. Your results may vary. So be sure to do your homework and determine the proper amount of powder for your cartridge and your bullets. It only takes a few minutes. And if you want to know how much your charge weighs, then weigh it.


    By the way. As I was going through photos for this essay I came across this one. I have never used one of these for loading Black Powder cartridges, but if you have one from loading Cap & Ball, and want to use it for cartridges, it should work fine. Adjust the plunger for the ‘magic’ amount of compression and have at it. Personally I prefer the dippers because I think they offer more flexibility.

    [​IMG]




    Primers:

    When I first started loading Black Powder in cartridges I remember reading that Magnum primers were best. Absolutely unnecessary. Standard primers are fine. Black Powder is easier to ignite than Smokeless, and a standard primer gives off enough heat and flame to ignite it. A magnum primer may increase pressure a bit, but it is not necessary. Standard Large Pistol Primers are fine for 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40, 44 Russian and 38-40. They should work fine for 44 Special, and any other cartridge that takes Large Pistol Primers. I don’t load 357 Mag nor 38 Special with Black Powder, but if I did I would use standard Small Pistol Primers. Winchester Primers say on the box that they are for standard and magnum loads, so they are fine. I usually use Federal primers these days because some of my guns have light hammer springs, and Federals light off more easily, but that is a discussion of another time. I have used Federal Match primers in a pinch when I couldn’t get their regular primers, they work fine, they are just more expensive.


    Reloading Equipment:

    I don’t intend this to be a primer on reloading. Hopefully you are already familiar with loading cartridges with Smokeless powder and have developed good loading practices. You can load Black Powder cartridges with any standard reloading dies. I suggest you limit your Black Powder cartridge loading to a single stage press at first. I do most of my BP loading on a progressive press, I’ll discuss that in a minute.


    Wads and Compression Dies

    In the Black Powder Cartridge Rifle (BPCR) world, most shooters place a card wad between the bullet and the powder. They also usually use a separate compression die to compress the powder before seating the bullet. The idea is to avoid deforming the base of the bullet by compressing the powder directly with the bullet, and to protect the base of the bullet from the hot combustion gasses for maximum long range accuracy.

    For my CAS BP cartridges I do not do either of these things. I compress the powder by seating the bullet down on top of it. Accuracy has always been good enough for me. I did an experiment once regarding accuracy with a card wad between the powder and the bullet. I loaded up a batch of 44-40 both with and without a card between the powder and the bullet. Then I fired a bunch of groups out of my Uberti 1873 rifle from a rest at 25 yards. As far as I could tell, with my admittedly terrible eyesight, I could detect no significant difference in accuracy with either variation. I also detected no evidence of deformation of the base of the bullets when I recovered a few from the berm. So I opted for the simpler of the two. I always compress the powder directly with the bullet as it is seated, without the addition of a card in between. Just simpler.

    We talked in the bullet section about lube cookies and all that jazz. I haven’t done that for years. You are welcome to try, but I will caution you. Be sure to allow for the extra volume taken up in the case by the wads and lube cookies. A bunch or years ago a friend could not figure out why he was having trouble with his BP 45 Colt rounds in his 1873 rifle. They were not feeding properly and were jamming. When I took a look at his rounds I could see the bullets were not seated properly in the crimp grooves. I asked him if he had allowed for the extra volume of the lube cookie and the other card wads. He had not. The soft lube cookie was exerting enough pressure over time to shove his bullets out of the case a bit, overcoming the grip of the crimp, and causing feed problems in his rifle.


    Fillers

    One thing that newcomers to Black Powder cartridges need to understand is you are going to go through a lot of powder. It’s not like you are putting 3.5 grains of Whiz Bang into the case. Figure roughly 35 grains of powder in a 45 Colt. Doing the math, 7000 grains per pound divided by 35 grains per round, you are only going to get about 200 rounds per pound of powder. That’s one tenth of what you will get with a pound of Whiz Bang. So some folks like to stretch their powder a little bit further by adding fillers. Or they might be trying to reduce the recoil a bit by adding filler and reducing the powder charge. My only experience with fillers was a bunch of years ago. I was using corn meal of all things. These days, most guys in CAS are using Grits or other cereals for filler. The idea is still the same. Allow for how much volume of both powder and filler you need to get the ‘magic’ compression of 1/16” – 1/8”. When I was using corn meal for a filler, I used two dippers. One for the powder, and a little teeny one for the corn meal. What a pain, I gave that up a long time ago. Just like lube cookies and wads, it was not worth the extra effort to me to save a little bit of powder by adding the extra step of stuffing filler in.

    Interestingly enough, when you compress the powder you are not compressing it uniformly throughout the entire charge. I discovered a long time ago that if I pulled a bullet and dumped the powder, I had to pick through a thin ‘crust’ at the top of the charge to dump out the powder. That’s where the powder compressed, just the very top of the charge, the rest was uncompressed. The same thing happens if you add filler. You pour in the powder, then you pour in the filler. When you seat the bullet it is actually the filler that gets compressed, the powder down below remains uncompressed.

    One other thing about fillers. A few years ago some guys on the SASS forum mentioned that cereals inside a cartridge was not a great idea. It seems that over time the cereal can expand from moisture, actually compressing everything more than when the bullet was seated. So if you are going to use fillers, it might be a good idea to shoot them up soon, and not allow them to ripen too much.



    Drop Tubes

    [​IMG]


    Here is the one small point where I disagree with Mike Venturino. In his books he has photos of using a drop tube for his cartridges. A drop tube is a tube about two feet long. The idea is you pour the powder charge into a funnel at the top of the tube and allow gravity to pack it into the case. BPCR guys use drop tubes all the time, and I do too when I load 45-70. The drop tube allows the powder to fill the case more consistently, for a more consistent burn, and gravity makes it pack in a bit tighter, so you can fit more powder into the case.

    I do not use a drop tube for my normal BP rounds. Just a dipper, or a BP measure if I am loading on my progressive press. The Colt in the photo is only for a sense of scale, I do not use the drop tube for most of my BP cartridges.


    Reloading Equipment

    As I said earlier, I do not intend this essay to be a primer on reloading. There are plenty of books for that. But as I mentioned earlier, if this is your first time stuffing Black Powder into cartridges I suggest you do it on a Single Stage press. This is my old Lyman Spartan press that I learned to reload on. This is the type of press I suggest you use for your first adventures in Black Powder Cartridge loading. When I use my single stage press I seat my primers using a hand primer seating tool, then I go through the normal reloading steps on this press.

    [​IMG]




    Most of the time though, I load my Black Powder cartridges on a Hornady Lock & Load AP progressive machine. I’m sure a Dillon machine would work fine too, I just happen to have the Hornady. I usually load about 200 or 300 rounds at a time, and I don’t have the patience to load them on a Single Stage press.

    However, I do not use the standard powder measure that comes with the Lock & Load machine. I mount a Lyman Black Powder powder measure on my Hornady press when loading Black Powder on it. I do not recommend using a conventional Smokeless powder measure with Black Powder. There are those who will poo-poo me on this, but remember my photos earlier of the old Italian Thunder Boxes. This powder measure is designed specifically for Black Powder. The internal moving parts are brass, not iron, so there will be no mechanical sparks generated. And the hopper is aluminum, not plastic, so it will not build up a static charge.

    Here is a photo of my Hornady Press with the Lyman Black Powder measure installed. Yeah, I get a little bit compulsive about the setup. All the cases go into loading blocks. That way I can keep track of exactly how many cases I have loaded vs how many bullets.

    [​IMG]





    I buy old Lyman powder measures at white elephant tables at gunshows whenever I can find them. I use the rotors for my Black Powder loads. I have each one set for the powder charge for a specific cartridge.

    [​IMG]





    This set up requires me to remember to throw the handle on the powder measure by hand for each load, it is not hooked up to the linkage of the press.

    [​IMG]




    Here is a photo of 45 Colt cartridges being loaded on my Hornady press. You can see they are progressing through the deprime/resize, belling, powder charging, and bullet seating steps. I keep plenty of light on the press so I can peek in and make sure there is actually powder in each case before seating a bullet.

    [​IMG]


    But as I said, for somebody’s first experience loading Black Powder in cartridges, a single stage press would be best.





    I just couldn’t resist. Here’s what it’s like to fire 45 Colt Black Powder rounds out of a Colt.

    [​IMG]




    Next Time: Clean up after shooting Black Powder in cartridge guns
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
    drobs, 792mauser, RPRNY and 4 others like this.
  24. dickydalton

    dickydalton Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,732
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Thank You, Sir.
     
  25. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2,355
    Location:
    Idaho/Washington border
    I used to shoot BPCR competitions with an Uberti 1885 Winchester high wall clone n .45-70 govt. when I lived in AZ. A whole lot of fun. I shot it in the silhouette matches and borrowed my dad's .45-90 for the 1000yd matches.

    That was a few years ago but I still have my Uberti... Now I just cast bullets for my .45 Colts and semi-auto pistols.
     
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