Swiss vs. Pyrodex in my .50

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Nov 22, 2007
Lincoln, NE
I've always shot Pyrodex RS in my .50 percussion muzzleloader (an old CVA Sharpshooter - traditional style, side lock that I picked up dirt cheap about 10 years ago). I recently ordered some Swiss 1.5 for my 45-70 and decided to give it a try in my .50. My rifle shoots pretty well with 70 grains of Pyrodex, so I tried the same load of Swiss.

I went to the range today and the first thing I noticed was the ignition was almost instantaneous, just like firing a centerfire rifle. With Pyrodex it's always been more of a pop..........BANG. But with the Swiss, there is no perceivable lag.

I was very disappointed in the accuracy at first. My groups with the Swiss were 2-3 times as big, which puzzled me since I saw a huge improvement when going to Swiss with my 45-70. I was shooting a .490 round ball with a .15 patch lubed in Wonder Lube 1000. I also noticed there was very hard fouling down toward the breech, so hard that after a couple of shots it was very difficult to seat the ball on top of the powder without running a cleaning patch through first.

After a little cursing and head scratching I decided to try changing my lube. I stuck one of the patches in my mouth to moisten it while I was measuring powder for my next charge. After switching to the spit-lubed patch I noticed loading between shots was much easier. I was able to go about 10 rounds before seating the ball got difficult. But, the big improvement was in accuracy. I was able to keep 5 shots in about 3 inches shooting offhand at 50 meters, which for me is pretty good. Better than I usually shoot, anyway. I'm guessing a lot of that is due to the MUCH faster ignition time, which gives me a lot less time to stray off target after the trigger has been squeezed. Also, the Swiss is a LOT hotter, which I also saw in my 45-70. Impact is probably 3-4 inches higher.

So, I guess the point of the story is if a particular load doesn't work, try changing 1 thing at a time and you just might be pleasantly surprised. The only bad thing is I have a couple cans of Pyrodex to get rid of now, and the Swiss I was hoarding for my Sharps is going to need replaced sooner.
I recently had a similar experience going from RS to Goex FF-- fouling was much harder, and my usual practice of not swabbing between shots (been using .495 and lubed .015) was a disaster-- huge problem seating the ball. Now I fully understand other people's complaints and having to swab all the time. I'm going to experiment some more with real black FF. Maybe I should get some Swiss as it's supposed to burn cleaner.

I've not had a problem with RS hang firing though. Usually I get instant ignition with RS (as you put it-- just like a modern cartridge) with only the very rare delay of roughly 80 to 100 ms. Don't know-- maybe it's a difference in the nipple, the cap (been using CCI "Magnum" #11) the flash channel, the degree of fouling, the seating pressure...
A lot of folks have discovered that real black powder fires easier and quicker than Pyrodex and is generally more accurate. With the right lube, it usually doesn't foul as badly either. That took me a while to realize.

The rest of the accuracy issue is load development. Powder charge weight, patch thickness, ball diameter and lube are the most important variables here. Most of the time when someone complains about an innacurate muzzleloader, it can be traced to a charge that's too heavy. Max charges are rarely the most accurate.

Secondly is usually a poor fitting patch or one that's too thin. Takes a bit of tinkering to find the right combo, but to me, that's the fun part anyway!
> A lot of folks have discovered that real black powder
> fires easier and quicker than Pyrodex....

It does, but a lot of folks haven't tried Triple Seven. ;) Apparently because of its coating it can be difficult to ignite in a flinter, but it's an outstanding reliable propellant in my percussion rifles and pistols. After a day's shooting, the only carbon on the weapon is around the nipple from the caps. I've no complaints about the accuracy of 777, either. It's worth a try.
I burned through a couple cans of 777 and was underwhelmed. I got crud rings that didn't clean up with water like they said. In fact it took a heckuva lot of scrubbing. I got a bit more velocity, which isn't all that important to a round ball shooter like me, but I didn't get as much accuracy, which is the only thing that is important to me. It did seem to perform nicely in revolvers though. All in all, I'll just stick to black.
Regarding the spit lubed patches, I'm assuming they wouldn't be a good idea for hunting, as they'd dry out while waiting for a shot?

I think I need to experiment some more to see if there's anything that works as well as "natural" lube.
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