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The Trials & Tribulations of Black Powder Shooting


GAVNO
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Well.... This has inspired me.

I have to drive over to Norfolk tomorrow to get upholstery supplies. Its only a couple more miles to get to the Marine range. :beer!: I'll take my Lyman Plains Rifle and Traditions Hunter pistol and stuff over there for a lunch time range break.

 

This'll be fun!

 

I'll show those guys with their AR15's a thing or two! :feelssogood:

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In "the good old days" when our Civil War shooting group (not re-enactors) would hold matches at military bases, it was a standard show to put eight men with CW muzzleloaders against two Army guys with M14's, M16's, etc., shooting at 32 clay pigeons mounted on a sheet of cardboard. Whoever downed their 32 first won. Single-shot muzzleloaders against semi-autos with 20 round magazines. You can guess who creamed who! :beer!:

 

Sarge

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I stopped at that marine Range during lunch today.

 

Had a mix of Federal Agents and us old retired guys there. Soon as I uncased them I had guys around me acting like kids. Something about old style black powder firearms brings out the best in folks much as our sidecars do.

 

I loaded up the pistol with 25 grains of fff and a patched lead ball. Rammed it home and set the cap in position.

Ba...BOOOOM!

 

About a foot low at 25 yards. But I was expecting that as the front sight was made 20 thou taller than the rear. So I got busy with the file I brought with me. Had guys watching me and cracking up smiling.

 

Set it up for another shot. Just a few inches low this time. There is almost no recoil. Just a soft push as it slowly goes off. I filed a bit more off and it shot a nicely centered bullseye at 25 yards. Moved the target in to ten yards and shot a couple more. Still pretty well centered. These balls may be .50 cal, but balls don't weight as much as bullet shaped projectiles. They seem to shoot pretty flat.

 

Now I tried the rifle. Set the measure for 60 grain loads of ff powder. Same patched balls as the pistol takes.

Got an even bigger Ba...BOOM this time! Damn, but this is fun! I found myself grinning ear to ear after every shot. It hit about 3" below the bullseye at 25 yards. But well centered. Still no real 'recoil" as you'd get fron a center fire hunting rifle. The weight of that long hex barrel absorbs any recoil. You just get that big satisfying Ba-boom and the cloud of smoke heading down range.

Took a second shot with the rifle. It went off kind of soft. More of a burp than a big Ba-boom. The guy in the lane next to me swore he saw the ball bounce once down the range and then as it bounced back up it went through the bottom of the target paper. I probably didn't have that one rammed down well enough. It does fire better with a firm shove on the ram to set everything home.

I was more careful with the next shot. Nice big ba-boom and it went right through the X on the bull! I think the previous owner had it set up for 25 yard Turkey shoots or something. The next couple shots showed me it was perfect at 25 yards.

 

In a whole hour I took 12 shots! Not much ammunition expense there. BIG grin factor though. This was my first time shooting black powder. It was a hoot. I'm hooked. I was really proud of how well that kit pistol came out. And it shoots as well as it looks. A very fun target pistol at 25 yards.

Things I learned.

Total strangers will yell "Arrrrrg!" after they see a black powder gun go off. It brings out the inner child/pirate in everyone.

BP guns have a delay factor much as sidecars do. They are not for the anti social.

A hard steady smooth ramming motion gives the best shots.

Both guns are equipped with double set triggers for target use. But I am used to service rifle type triggers. The trigger pull was too light for me using the double set feature. I'm just not used to it. Only a half pound of pressure to set it off after you set the rear trigger. About 5-6 pounds pressure if you just pull the front trigger without using the double set. I actually made my best bullseyes when I didn't use the double set.

 

I've gotta get back to customer work now. But I'll boil up water this evening and give those tubes a good scrubbing and then a swabbing with Ballistol to store them until the next range trip.

 

Gratuitous pics of my Traditions Pistol and Lyman Rifle.

 

 

Arrrg indeed! :beer!:

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The first time I had my 1863 Sharps to my range, I had my paper cartridges loaded with 45gr ff. This was the prferred load of the PO for target shooting at 100yds. I fired five round down range, but had to wait awhile to walk down to check my target for fear of beating them downrange and shooting myself in the butt! The 45gr ff load was embarrassing, no self-respecting buffalo hunter would ever fire a load that had no perceivable recoil! My rifle has set triggers too. The firing sequence is click (set trigger), snap (firing trigger releasing the hammer to hit the musket cap), slight pause-BOOM, longer pause, WHACK as the bullet slams into the steel trap. Four very distinct noises, and a whole lot of fun. I've upped the load to 75gr ff to make it more "authentic", I' haven't yet loaded to the 90gr ff max. Very different POA/POI between the loads.

I have a pound of "777", but I haven't loaded an yet. Do you have any experience with it? I use Trailboss exclusively in my .45 Colt, It is a very nice shooting powder, you just get shorted the wonderful plume of BP smoke.

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I'm not really into guns at all, having played with them (everything from a 9mm pistol to a 155mm Howitzer) for 15 years during my period of military service, but I do find this particular thread fascinating. I'm liking this whole idea of black powder shooting, it appeals to the Renaissance Man inside of me and it seems to be a bit of an art form. Please carry on with the posts and pics!

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RDN,

 

90 grains of FFg? Woosie load! (In a .45, not really! Just kidding ya!) My two .62's both take 120 grains of FFFg. The Stutzen is a delight to shoot but the NW Indian Trade Musket, with its narrow, flat buttplate, is as deadly at the rear as at the front!!

 

Gummiente,

 

There is something different about BP shooting that feeds the soul. And it attracts shooters like Urals attract cyclists. BP is messy, inefficient, smelly, hard to clean and incredibly slow to load. It can also be incredibly accurate; to the amazement of "modern" shooters that get their butts whipped by BP shooters.

 

155's? You haven't lived till you touch off a CW 3" Ordnance rifle or, MUCH better yet, a CW mortar throwing a bowling ball-sized projectile in a great big, lazy arc that you can easily follow with your eyes! Now THAT is satisfying!!

 

Sarge :beer!:

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Sarge-

90 gr ffg is a lot,but not too bad. My Sharps is .54 cal, so it holds a lot too! These days the big up side to BP is the expense. Your cyclic rate of fire is S....L....O....W...... Bullets are fairly inexpensive, better if you cast them yourself. Unfortunately the BP itself is starting to be pricey due to not many carrying it any more. Still, a whole lot cheaper that buying centerfire cartridges.

 

R

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155's? You haven't lived till you touch off a CW 3" Ordnance rifle or, MUCH better yet, a CW mortar throwing a bowling ball-sized projectile in a great big, lazy arc that you can easily follow with your eyes! Now THAT is satisfying!!

 

Sarge :beer!:

 

 

Meh, I dunno 'bout that. Pulling the lanyard on the breech of a 155mm Howi with a 12' barrel and then wandering off for a nap while it launched a 90lb projectile on a ballistic arc that resulted in the total obliteration of everything within a 100' radius at the impact point 7 miles away... well, that was just the bee's knees for me. :feelssogood:

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Meh, I dunno 'bout that. Pulling the lanyard on the breech of a 155mm Howi with a 12' barrel and then wandering off for a nap while it launched a 90lb projectile on a ballistic arc that resulted in the total obliteration of everything within a 100' radius at the impact point 7 miles away... well, that was just the bee's knees for me. :cool:

 

Ah, but the joy of CW mortars is you get to see both ends of the enterprise. The target is a stick a couple hundred yards away from the firing line. The object is to put your balls as near your stick as possible. BOOM! Up, up, up, up, up then slowly over and down, down, down, down, down. THUD!

 

One of our guys had an artillery range at his farm where we practiced for competition until one neighbor (there is always one) raised sufficient hell. So, what did Big John do? He went out and built himself a FULL SIZE medieval trebuchet! Had to use his full-size farm tractor to cock it! A ball to shoot and the numbnuts neighbor couldn't complain about he noise.

 

Sarge :wino:

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Sarge-

90 gr ffg is a lot,but not too bad. My Sharps is .54 cal, so it holds a lot too! These days the big up side to BP is the expense. Your cyclic rate of fire is S....L....O....W...... Bullets are fairly inexpensive, better if you cast them yourself. Unfortunately the BP itself is starting to be pricey due to not many carrying it any more. Still, a whole lot cheaper that buying centerfire cartridges.

 

R

 

When I started, $15 bought you a five pound bag of powder. Most guys bought 25 lb kegs as we burned so much in practice. (Shooting Civil War muskets is totally different than roundball guns. Not unusual to fire 100-150 rounds in a day.) I had to give up CW competition because the smoke of 800 (yes, 800) muskets going off at once was too much for my crummy lungs. A little BP smoke now and then from a single rifle, however, is OK so my black powder supply has lasted me a long time. Anyhow, hate to think what a keg costs these days!

 

Sarge :wino:

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When I did the clean up I followed some good advice and used boiling water and detergent. Dang, but that really cuts the grime fast! Had to use a welders glove as a pot holder as the barrels got so hot so fast! Did the hot soapy scrubbings and then boiling rinses. Water flashed off fast. No rust. Then I did normal cleanings with swabs and brushes and Ballistol oil.

The new pistol cleaned up fast.

But the old Lyman rifle apparently hadn't had this kind of a thorough cleaning in a while. More hot soapy brushings just got me more residue. The rinses finally came out clean. Barrel was hot as heck to the touch! (They only got warm during shooting.) Then I cleaned it with Ballistol oil. Looks squeaky clean now!

Its a bit of trouble to have to fire up a camp stove and coffee pot of water, but not too bad once I had the procedure down.

 

120 ffg would be like a max load for my rifle. 60 ffg worked great at 25 yards. I'll try up to 80 ffg at 100 yards. But I don't want to go higher. With patched balls and the slow barrel twist, hotter loads actually lead to less accuracy from what I read in my manuals.

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120 ffg would be like a max load for my rifle. 60 ffg worked great at 25 yards. I'll try up to 80 ffg at 100 yards. But I don't want to go higher. With patched balls and the slow barrel twist, hotter loads actually lead to less accuracy from what I read in my manuals.

 

What are they calling "slow twist"? Most rifles I know of in the Thompson Center/Lyman "Hawken style" are 1:48" which, for muzzleloaders, is a moderate-fast twist to stabilize elongated bullets but still work with round balls. (Modern firearms are often in the 1:10" to 1:12" range.) BP rifles designed specifically to fire round balls only are usually considerably slower twist, 1:66" and up. If your barrel is in the 1:60 to 1:72 range you can fire round balls with some quite heavy loads accurately. If your barrel is in the 1:48 range, accuracy will go to pot with too-high loads with either round balls or elongated bullets.

 

All this, of course, only applies on Tuesdays and Thursdays under the Full Moon! :wino:

 

Sarge

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