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Thread: Black Powder Loads

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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Default Black Powder Loads

    I got several PMs about my flintlock as this is known to be the ONLY firearm I hunt with, the most asked question after where I buy my muzzleloading equipment is about the loads I use.
    I have been shooting black powder guns for longer than I care to admit. Now on loads if you hang around black powder shooters for any length of time you will find that there are more answers to that question than grains in a can of powder. Or as my side kick likes to say, "It depends." So if it depends, then perhaps I can help with what it depends on. The first thing that it depends upon is whether you are target shooting, and this includes plinking, or hunting. The difference is really obvious. You never have to worry about a target running off, and targets taste terrible no matter how you cook them. Let's start with target shooting. Now the objective to target shooting is to produce the tightest group possible. Notice I said group and I did not mention score. You tighten up the group and the score will come with it. In fact there is a primitive match where the winner is determined by the tightest group. There are four components to every black powder load, the powder, the patch, the lubricant and the ball. Varying any one of these can greatly affect your group. Let's assume that you have a new .50 caliber percussion rifle. You've picked this rifle because the caliber is suitable for target shooting, plinking and hunting deer sized animals. Your first decision is what caliber ball to pick. With a modern gun the manufacturer will usually recommend a caliber. This is a good place to start. With a custom gun or such, measure the bore with a caliper and select a caliber about .005" less than the bore measurement. Now I am assuming that you already have a safe place to shoot, a comfortable bench to shoot from and, the gun will at least print on paper. If you are an excellent shot and never miss then you can skip the bench. I have only met one person like that and she out shot me all day long. The first thing you want to do is wipe the barrel and then fire a couple of caps, muzzle pointed to the ground, to clear any oil from the barrel. Next you must decide how much powder to use. For target shooting the best bet is to start low and work your way up. I'd recommend a starting charge of 45-50 grains for a fifty caliber. Yes I know it's light, but I have never had to a shoot an angry charging target. This is a starting load. Your next step is to select a patch and lubricant. I'd start with a .010 or .015 patch. Use cotton material only. Save the exotic stuff for the idiot down the road. Lubricate the patch, start the ball and patch down the bore and seat them with your ram rod. My lubricant of choice is spit. Works good but at times the patches taste terrible. Kind makes you wonder where they've been. One thing about spit, it's tough to run out of. Okay, now you're ready to shoot. Before you shoot, remember, you're not interested in anything but your group. If you're on the paper, your doing fine. After each shot wipe the bore with a damp patch, then a dry patch. When you reload, try to seat the ball with the same pressure each time. Make sure the ball is seated on the powder. (A marked ram rod is handy for this.) Don't beat the ball into the powder, just seat it firmly. After shooting five good shots that means no flinching, eyes open, etc., collect your target. Here is where the fun begins. By varying your load, patch, and lubricant you can adjust your group size. Some guns shoot best with tight patches and grease lubes, other do better with looser patches, spit lube or lighter loads. The secret to success is to experiment and be consistent. Now I can help guide you on some of this, but the rest you have to do yourself. In my experience most black powder guns do well with a snug patch and ball combination. Snug is when the ball and patch can be started by hitting your ball starter with a sharp smack from your open palm. If you're a lady, a light tap from a plastic hammer head. If you have to beat the ball and patch in, then your deforming the ball. A good way to judge is to retrieve your patch, although this nearly impossible at a well-used range. Look for cuts in the patch, a sure sign that the patch is too tight. Also look for burned edges, a sign that the patch was too loose. Anything in between is good. I always start by varying my powder load, usually in five grain increments. I like to shoot five to eight shot groups. After each group I remove the target and mark the load, patch, lubricant on the target. These become my reference points and records. Ideally as you work through heavier loads, you will see your group tighten up and then widen. Sometimes you have to try lighter loads, but usually it works the other way. When you get to the point where the group widens, then the previous load was the best. Shoot another group at the best load to verify your assumptions. By the way I have never had a target charge greater that 70 grains in a .50 caliber rifle. If the gun has a lot of recoil then your way too heavy. Lighten the load. After I have determined the powder charge, I start varying the patch and ball combination. Depending upon how tight the original combination was, I might try slightly heavier patch material or a different type. Sometimes a pillow tick seems to work better than straight patch material. If I see an improvement, using my best powder load, then I try a lighter patch and slightly large ball. Or at times I go the other way. Each gun is different. Finally I vary the lubricant. Remember always try to remain consistent and keep a record. Working up a load is an easy but time consuming process. Of course and trip to the range is better than yard work. It may take several trips to the range to get close and a lot more to get the ultimate group. But with your gun holding a 3/4" group at 25 yards you'll be one step closer to that 50-xx score.

    Now this is only my way of thinking, if you ask another longrifle hunter (and by that I mean (blackpowder) they will most certainly have their own thoughts. Another good wolf pack member to ask would be FVR as I know he has a nice looking muzzleloader, or Medicine Wolf cause he, like me, only hunts with flintlock muzzleloader.
    Beo,
    Last edited by Beo; 11-13-2007 at 12:59 PM.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.


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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Default Guide to Muzzleloading Accuracy

    Many beginning blackpowder shooters find they are unable to achieve the accuracy they expect from their muzzleloading rifles. Here are some areas I think you should check out.

    Sights - Be sure they are firmly mounted, some factory sights have extreme movement of the rear sight blade as they come from the factory. Check the mounting screws. If the are loose, tighten them up. Be careful. Use the right size screw driver and do not over tighten and strip the threads.

    Scopes - If you just gotta have a scope mounted on your rifle cause you can't shoot like a real me make sure it is proper for a muzzleloading firearm, not just any airgun scope, crossbow scope, or small bore rifle scope. Be certain the mounts are solid and there is no scope movement.
    Tip: Apply a small amount of clear silicone sealer to the scope rings before installing the scope. Tighten the scope rings enough to snug the scop, but not all the way. Wait 24 hrs., then finish tightening the scope. Your scope will be firmly mounted in its own perfectly fitted silicone sleeve. The excess sealer can be rubbed of with your finger or a toothpick.

    Bullets (cause your an in-line junkie and not a true muzzleloader ) Match your bullet to your rifling. Since there is no one answer to the question "which bullet is best", try several different bullet types to find what's best for your particular rifle. As a rule of thumb, barrels with a 1 turn in 66" rifling will do best with round ball; 1 turn in 48", round ball or conical bullet; 1 turn in 38" or faster, conical bullet. When shooting a patched, round ball, you can change ball diameter and patch thickness. Tighter is usually more accurate; however, more difficult to load.

    Tip: Round ball shooters. Remember that your patch material, thickness and lube are as important as the ball size. Keep trying combinations until you get the best accuracy. Watch for cut or burned patches. These denote a problem.

    Powder - Adjust your powder charge. Within the limits of safety, you may find one charge more accurate than another. Check manufacturer recommendations, but in general, a well made and well maintained rifle should perform well with 80 to 100 gr. 2Fg black powder for hunting, 50 to 60 gr. for target shooting. Fire a series of 3-4 shot groups, doing everything the same except varying the powder charge 5 gr. per group to determine what charge works best for you. A 100 gr. powder charge may have a lot of knockdown power, but if your rifle does not shoot accurately with that charge, the knockdown power won't mean a thing.

    Except when using "Black Canyon Powder", don't pack the powder charge heavily. The projectile must be seated on the powder charge, but you will get better accuracy and ignition if the powder is not hammered into a lump. Black Canyon Powder on the other hand, must be heavily compressed to work properly.

    Cleaning - Always clean between shots. A damp patch swabbed through the bore will promote safety and accuracy.

    Nipples - Check the size of the port in your nipple. Replace nipples that have been burned out.

    Flints (cause your a mans man and do it old style - Check the size shape of your flint. Make sure that your flint is held securely in a in the hammer jaws. Use a small piece of leather to pad the flint in the hammer. Check the position of the flint. Experiment with different positions, even turning the flint upside down. Look for a large quantity of sparks, placed in the center of the pan. If the sparks do not hit the center of the pan, then see a competent muzzle loading gun smith and have him help you adjust the hammer angle.

    Patch/bullet lube - Pre-lubed patches or bullets held over from one season to the next may dry out if not properly stored, leaving no lubrication factor which in turn reduces accuracy and makes loading difficult. Replace or relube.
    Last edited by Beo; 11-13-2007 at 12:53 PM.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

  3. #3
    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Default What Is The Range Of My Muzzleloader?

    Again just my opinion, ask FVR or Medicine Wolf what there's is.
    The question asked was "What is the range of my muzzleloader?" but in my opinion should be "What is your effective range."
    This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions, and one to which there is no absolute answer. To test your own effective range, fire several shots at a 8" square target at various ranges. The square is a rough representation of the kill zone of a deer. If you can keep 8 out of 10 shots in that target you are still within a practical hunting range. With many variables taken into account, 100 yards is the practical limit with a round ball. Due to the inefficient nature of a round ball as a projectile, the energy levels fall off rapidly at long range. Various conical bullets may be more efficient or carry more energy at longer ranges, but you are still dealing with a low velocity bullet compared to most modern firearms. Beyond 100 yards, drop (the distance between the point of aim and the point of impact) becomes significant, so the shooter must be able to judge the distance to the target very precisely and be able to raise the point of aim enough to compensate. While we've all heard those "long shot" stories, and while some of them may even be true, we must still say that for the average hunter 100 yards is the limit. I usually recommend that an Eastern hunter sight in an inch or two high at 50 yards. This will allow a dead center point of aim from 0 to 80 yards. Beyond 80 yards or so you will have to start "holding over" (aiming high) to allow for bullet drop. Since the vast majority of reasonable shots on Eastern white tail deer are well within 80 yards, this works well. This is a variation of the three-sixes rule of hunting. Your effective range is a combination of you and your rifle. You should know where your limitations lie. The rule is simple and to the point. You are out of range when you can no longer keep six out of six shoots in a six inch circle. Your effective range will also change dependent upon whether you are shooting off hand or from a rest. A good hunter will take the time to find his effective range from a variety of shooting positions.

    But this is just one man's opinion.
    Beo,
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

  4. #4
    missing in action trax's Avatar
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    Default chatty arncha?

    Beo...buddy yer gettin' to what Volwest would have been if he'd been talkin' about the bush LMAOOOO....
    some fella confronted me the other day and asked "What's your problem?" So I told him, "I don't have a problem I am a problem"

  5. #5
    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Ohhh sorry guys.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    missing in action trax's Avatar
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    NO! Dawg, I was kidding, that's good info! Keep it coming, LOL.
    some fella confronted me the other day and asked "What's your problem?" So I told him, "I don't have a problem I am a problem"

  7. #7
    Senior Member FVR's Avatar
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    Loads depend on the gun and so do the distances.

    The shorty GPR 50, I'm shooting 70 grains of 3F which equates to 90 grains of 2F which gives me a great load. As far as distance, I can inside a small pie plate at 100 yds, but would not take that shot on game. Reason, my barrel is too short. When I was shooting a full 33" 50 cal. barrel, yes, no doubt about it. I will limit my shots with the shorty to max 75 yards.

    Now my baby, the 45 cal. Lancaster with the 44" barrel, I'm shooting again 70 grains of 3F. I was shooting 50 for awhile and just did not get that crack that I like so much. The 70 grains does it for me. As far as distance, staying in the 75 yard max range. Even with the longer barrel, it's still a 45.


    Black powder lead balls don't give the "shock" that modern rifle rounds give and at extended ranges, this could equal wounded and lost game.

    NOW, I am planning on building a 50 cal. with the trad. 33 plus inch long barrel, I would take a 100 plus yard shot with this rifle when I worked up a load of about 110 grains of 3F. This going to be my elk gun, when I make it.

    I do powder down to 50 at rendezvous in the 45, but not on the 50. 70 grains is alot in an old 1950's made 45, but for hunting it's a must.


    Chris Miller wrote two great articles back (April 2003) for MuzzleBlasts; Realize your rifle's potential, and Improve your marksmanship (April 2002).

    I can make copies and send them out if needed.
    Last edited by FVR; 11-13-2007 at 05:39 PM.
    Can't cheat the mountain, pilgrim.
    Mountain got it....

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    Senior Member FVR's Avatar
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    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    Here is a pic of "Shorty."

    It was a full size GPR basket case. Came in pieces, in a box for 25 bucks. The barrel is cut down right after the only rod holder.

    Short and accurate. The long gunners always gave me a hard time until I would cut a card, match, and string. Then they kept the comments to themselves. Well, not really.
    Can't cheat the mountain, pilgrim.
    Mountain got it....

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