The Los Angeles Handgun, Rifle, Air Pistol, Hunter/Field Pistol Silhouette Club

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A collection of comments and articles on the many aspects of bullet casting by various cast bullet shooters
Cast Bullets For Beginner And Expert
SECOND EDITION, 2007 - Joe Brennan

Chapter 6.6.4 Loading And Reloading With Black Powder

About Black Powder

Black powder comes in "F"s, where Fg or "one F" is the coarsest = biggest grains, progressing through FFg, FFFg to FFFFg or "four F" = very fine small grains.

In very general terms, F is used for the largest bore rifles and big smooth-bore guns; FFg is used for big bore rifles and pistols, FFFg is used for small caliber rifles and pistols, and FFFFg is used for priming charges in flintlock guns.

Black powder is said to almost explode rather than burn like smokeless powders, so some suggest that shooters should limit the amount of black powder kept on hand and/or store black powder in an outbuilding rather than in the house. I have kept as much as four one pound cans of black powder in the cellar without any problem, but it takes only one surprise to make a convert. Or a corpse.

There are several substitutes for black powder on the market now, such as Pyrodex and Triple 7; both Hodgdon products. I have used Pyrodex and it seems to work just like black powder. Opinions differ about these black powder substitutes; some shooters claim that they aren't as accurate as black powder; others claim wonderful accuracy with the substitutes.

Some say that Pyrodex, and maybe other black powder substitutes, is more corrosive than black powder. One shooter says that Pyrodex exhibits the characteristic that after cleaning and oiling the gun, some remaining fouling rusts the barrel.

Black powder, and to some degree the substitutes, is very corrosive in gun barrels. The residue or fouling is said to be "hygroscopic", a highfalutin word meaning that the fouling absorbs water out of the air. It also contains a lot of salt residues from the gunpowder. This water/salt fouling mixture is what so corrosive, causing rust. Cleaning should involve a lot of very hot water and patches and then thorough oiling. This isn't a problem, just takes a little time and elbow grease.

There is a lot of agreement among shooters with the Thompson Center (TC) story that petroleum based cleaning products should not be used with black powder or the substitutes.

TC sells special "Bore Butter" lubricant and a cleaning product.

Paul Brasky: "You can make moose milk(patch lubricant) from 5-7 parts water to 1 part water soluble machining oil with a capful of Mr. Clean/Lestoil added. It will also clean your bbl."

44Man: "Don't use any smokeless solvent in the BP barrel. Clean with plain water, Birchwood-Casey BP solvent, Simple Green mixed 50-50 with water, Anti Freeze mixed 50-50 or any other type made for BP. Once clean it will rust fast so run hot water through it, dry it and coat the bore good with something that will prevent rust. (The anti freeze mix is the best to keep rust down, but make sure you still oil.) LPS-3 works good as does Birchwood Sheath, Ballistol, M-Pro 7 CLP or even a good gun oil."

R. J. Talley: "Clean using simple hot water and dish soap. Cheap and really effective. With the hooked breech on that gun simply remove the barrel wedge and remove the barrel. After removing the nipple, set the breech end of the barrel in a bucket filled half way with very hot water and a teaspoon of dish soap. Take a patch and wrap it around a cleaning jag and then pump it up and down in the bore. You will feel the water flushing through the barrel. Then, change over to clean soap-free hot water and do the same again. Run a couple of dry patches through, let it sit 10 minutes or so to dry completely and then coat with either Balistol or Crisco. Wipe the exterior down with a damp rag, oil with any good gun oil, (petro based is OK here) reinstall the nipple and you're good to go. Water and BP are brothers. Nothing cleans it as well nor is anything better at removing fouling. Some guys make their own lube using Crisco and bees wax or lamb fat and bees wax. I've used both and both are very good. The easy route is to buy some TC lube. It works well."

A product called "Ballistol" is frequently mentioned; it is not petroleum based and is recommended for cleaning and then oiling/preserving BP guns. Ballistol may be successfully substituted for the water soluble machining oil mentioned above.

Black Powder Cartridges

In the black powder world the word "cartridge" has three meanings.

First is the cartridge made for muzzle loading military or hunting rifles and for the revolvers. This is a paper device meant to hold the powder and ball and speed up reloading. In the case of the military rifles it was ripped open with the teeth, the powder was dumped down the bore, the paper followed, and the bullet was rammed home on top of the powder and paper. The revolver cartridges were placed in the chamber and rammed home.

Second is the cartridge made for breech loading rifles such as the early Sharps, that is put into the chamber whole. These are made of (nitrated) linen or paper, sometimes with combustible paper.

The plan for the Sharps linen cartridge was for the block to shear off the rear of the cartridge as it was closed; exposing the powder to the percussion cap or other primer.

Third is the brass cased cartridge as we know it today, as used in the later Sharps, Maynard and Remington rolling block rifles for example.

Black Powder Charges, Weight vs. Volume

It has been said that with BP, for accurate shooting, consistent charge volume is more important than consistent charge weight. The explanations have to do with the BP absorbing water, and/or the BP having "fines" = very small grains. 

Does Black Powder absorb moisture out of the air?

I experimented with GOEX FFFG twice.

The powder gained 7% and 8.4% in weight in 24 hours in a container with 1/2" of water in the bottom, powder in a bowl.

The powder returned to it's original weight in six hours in a dry atmosphere.

Dry powder would not gain weight outside in a very humid Florida atmosphere.

I conclude that black powder will not absorb (much) water in any reasonable environment.

"Historically, black powder has always been a volume measurement. Pioneers didnít carry powder scales with them to measure the amount of powder to pour down their rifle barrels.

However, to obtain good accuracy from black powder, one other factor is pivotal when loading a firearm. That factor is compression.

With muzzle loading firearms, the amount of powder used was a resultant of how much velocity the shooter wished to obtain. In reality, the muzzle loading firearm provides an unlimited chamber with the only velocity limit being how much powder can be burned within the barrel.

Cartridge firearms using black powder alter that concept because they have a very limited chamber capacity. Increasing the powder amount and the compression; substituting a finer granulation of powder or decreasing the weight of the projectile will provide additional velocity. Those changes will also affect accuracy more in a cartridge rifle than they would in a muzzleloader.

The initial advice given to any new muzzleloader is usually to start with a low powder charge and keep increasing it until you get the desired accuracy for a desired distance. The second instruction should also be to maintain the same amount of compression for each loading. Long-range muzzleloaders often use a spring-loaded device that fits over the end of their ramrods to easily show them the amount of compression they are applying. Straight-line force limits the amount of compression they can achieve.

Black powder cartridge loaders on the other hand, have unlimited compression available to them through the use of compression dies in presses with compound leverage. Is that a benefit? All nineteenth century black powder cartridge manuals unequivocally state that when loading cartridges, the powder should be compressed but not crushed. When heavy compression was required, the manuals recommended using powders that were specifically created for the government using heavy compression and not sporting rifle powders.

Following the guidelines of the nineteenth century manuals Iíve had very good success loading black powder cartridges. Volume and compression are the criteria I use to develop a quality load. I first determine the maximum overall length that my cartridge may be and still fit into the chamber. Then I determine the weight of a powder charge on a scale that will give me a powder column of a height that will allow me to add the desired compression I want. The compression amount will vary with the powder granulation and manufacturer. I use the weight of the powder (to get as close as possible) the volume I desire for THAT PARTICULAR LOT OF POWDER. That brings us to the weight versus volume issue.

Each lot of black powder will not weigh the same amount per volume as other powder lots. You have suggested that one reason for the difference is the water content and I wonít go into that issue because it has already been debated in this thread. Two factors not touched upon are the density of the charcoal used in making the black powder and the amount of compression used to force the water out of the mixture to form the cake. 

The type of wood selected to make the charcoal affects charcoal density. In addition, the amount of moisture the wood had access to during its growing cycle also affects its density. A dry growing season provides a more dense wood than a rainy growing season. Nature controls the wood density.

Black powder is a mechanical mixture and water is a major part of the manufacturing process. The water is forced out of the powder mixture by a pressing process. If the mixture is compacted very hard to extract the maximum amount of water, the process is considered hard pressing. Lesser pressure results in light pressing which produces a less dense powder cake and a powder that is less dense.

It is not uncommon to get powder from two different lots that will be very close in weight and volume. However, I have experienced volume variations of a quarter inch while obtaining identical charge weights. The black powder cartridge shooter who wishes to maintain accuracy should weigh the powder charges to obtain a specific volume. Once that ideal volume is determined, the weight of future powder lots should be adjusted to provide that ideal volume. I advocate weighing the powder charge because unlike the muzzleloader, the cartridge rifle has a very limited chamber. Depending upon your skills with a powder measure, a significant weight deviation can also result in a significant volume deviation. Remember that the powder is initially dropped into a chamber or charge tube (one volume measurement) and then into the cartridge case (a second volume measurement which might not be identical to the first)." feather on ASSRA

"I've shot with shooters in State; National; and World Championships and have found that some weigh charges, while others measure by volume when loading black powder cartridges.

There seem to be a few in each group that turn in some impressive scores.

I measure by volume and only weigh several thrown charges to write down the data.

I measure the gap in the powder measure so that I can reset for that exact charge the next time I'm loading that particular cartridge. By setting the powder measure to .001" on the gap you are pretty well assured of throwing the same volume the next time that you reload. You must keep pretty good notes for each rifle that you load for, as each is an individual in its own right.

If you switch from one "lot" of powder to another "lot" of powder, though it's the same manufacturer and the same grade of powder, it will be a different load.

 Some of the shooters that are going to the big matches and using some of the black powder made overseas claim that they don't have that variation from "lot" to "lot." Me, I'd rather buy American powder, if we don't support our one last manufacturer and it goes out of business it makes it that much easier to cut off our supply.

Each different "lot" of powder must be worked with to find the right combination for your particular rifle.

There are many different cast bullet designs out there to choose from, some have worked for me, while some have not. 

In preparing for a big important match my shooting partner suggested trying a can of his "lot" of powder that had been exceptional for him. It worked out much better than the "lot" I had been using. In calling the manufacturer, I asked about a recent "lot" that had come out with as identical results from their testing as the earlier "lot." I was given the recent "lot" number and gave a distributor friend of mine a call, he checked his magazine and found that he still had some from that "lot" in stock and my order was placed.

To make a long story short, the powder arrived and loading it exactly as I had using the can of powder that my friend gave me, it didn't work the same. By varying the charge with an additional few grains, the load came together nicely.

I place a card wad over the volume measured powder and then run it through the press utilizing a compression plug. The bullet rests on the card wad and retains the same OAL.

The method mentioned in the old loading manuals talks about using a scoop to dip into the powder and then scraping the top off, before pouring the powder into the shell.

Even the early Duplex powder measures dumped charges that were volume measured.

In going to a long weekend match I'd take 400 rounds and sometimes come home with nearly that many empty shells to clean.

Volume measure for black powder works, as does weighing each charge for some shooters.

 I'll probably continue to volume measure for my shooting pleasure, but you can weigh yours and we'll go to the range to enjoy the day burning black powder together. My all your shots be center hits!"
Remington Raider, ASSRA

"I loaded up some loads and shot them over a chronograph and recorded the load and taped that on a glass pint wide mouth jar and covered the jar with window screen and set it on a shelf out in the machine shed for several months to see what happens to black powder sitting open with extremes climate changes.

After a couple of months I loaded some rounds and shot them over the chrono graph again and found the same velocity's within 3 or 4 fps + or - as before the powder was left out.

Now mind you I don't have the test equipment as a test lab has to measure the moisture level but my test told me enough that I wont worry about leaving a can of powder open for a day or so. "Kurt on MSN BPCR.

BP has varying densities.

" I have come to the conclusion that the reason b.p. is recommended to be measured by volume is because not all black powders have the same density. In other words an = volume of Goex and Swiss typically do not weigh the same, and there can even be differences between lots. For example, if I set my powder measure to dispense a certain volume, these are the actual weights in grains of the powders / lots I have on hand:

  • Goex FFG = 40.0

  • Kik FFG = 38.2

  • Swiss FFG = 45.

I have found the best thing to do, is to determine what volume is required for my particular application. I shoot a fair amount of .44-40 and .45 Colt b.p. cartridges.

If I'm using Goex, I like a volume that will require a compression of .18"-.20" on a settled powder charge. If I'm using Swiss, I shoot for about .06-.10 compression of a settled powder charge.

Once I have determined the volume needed of a certain powder, I will weigh it for reference. Then, when I load additional cartridges using that same powder and lot no., I will double check the actual weight to make sure that the powder measure is set for the correct volume.

I can then choose to either weigh each charge or load directly from my powder measure set at the required volume.

     Works every time"  W30WCF on the CBA forum

About Fines

"The relative amount of "fines" in powder is something that varies with brand. I use Swiss almost exclusively and for all practical purposes, it doesn't have any fines. Some of the less premium brands I suspect have more. Some folks have discussed "screening" their powder to eliminate the fines. High wall Jack on MSN BPCR

"A lot of shooters are now putting their powder through brass sieves in order to removed fines from the likes of GOEX and Elephant brands." Jeff Brown

"I can only offer the following experience that I had with one lot of powder. This particular lot of powder had numerous fines throughout every can.  When a charge was poured through a drop tube into a cartridge case, all the fines would be at the mouth of the case. Because they were lighter than the specified granulation, their progression through the drop tube was slower than the larger, heavier granules. What was actually produced was a duplex load of 2F powder against the primer and an unmeasured 4F charge against the base of the bullet. Targets shot at with this ammunition showed patterns and they werenít even close enough to be called groups. The powder only became usable after I sifted the fines out of each container." feather on ASSRA

Short Range Round Ball Muzzle Loaders

Most agree that for short range muzzle loading round ball shooting, charges dispensed by volume work just fine.

"Keep in mind RB shooters can and do measure by volume, when a grain difference doesn't affect the accuracy, it's just too dang easy to go by volume." Dave Goodrich

'The statement "I recognize that the precise volume or wt. of BP isn't critical, or so I'm told" is correct when used on muzzle loaders because the ball or bullet is always rammed down to contact and stop against the powder. It may or may not be true loading BP cartridges." Black Prince on Cast Boolits

BP and Target Muzzle Loaders

"In my experience BP in a round ball off hand muzzle loader 2 gr makes little difference on the target, however in a round ball bench gun gr can make a difference at 50 or 100 yards.

Now a slug gun is a different beast; 1 or gr can and does make a difference; it can make a 10 ring group into an X ring group at 200 yards, I have seen a half grain do the same, though that has only happened a couple of times in 18 years. Temperature and humidity is crucial in a slug gun as they are the most temperamental guns I have ever shot, must be why I love shooting them. Most of the slug gunners weigh their charges, while round ball shooters use volume measure." Ed Stutz

"I used to weigh my charges for my Rigby ML and, after a year or two, switched to volume charges with no discernable result.

I used Pyrex glass test tubes with cork stoppers which made for easy use on the range. I always loaded down a dry tube (after wiping one wet, one dry per shot) with a small funnel soldered to it.\

I also went from weighing and swaging to just weighing the bullets, again with no discernable loss of accuracy." Miles Fenton

"I have seen it suggested that volume measuring is sufficient is done CONSISTENTLY as BP burns relatively inefficiently so minor variations are of little consequence." Jeff Brown

Black powder cartridges

"In a cartridge, volume is more important. The amount of space filling the cartridge will have a greater affect on accuracy than the weight of the charge. Weight matters, volume is a hold over from the old days when everyone carried a powder horn with a measure attached. You will find that most shooters who are serious are weighing charges for a match." Dave Goodrich

"Years ago, when I got my second lot of elephant powder I loaded it by weight and came up with a charge that was much smaller in volume than I got from the previous lot. The new lot was denser. Instead of having .15" of compression I loaded the same weight and got about zero compression. It shot terrible.

As I upped the charges it shot better and better. Maybe a coincidence, but when my charge was the same volume as I had for the first lot, I got the best accuracy. In establishing an accurate load for lot #2, volume was a much more important factor. It doesn't always happen that way, but it does often enough to get folks thinking volume is everything.

However, once a volume load is established, I'm still going to weigh each charge - again, because my volume throws are not consistent enough in weight for me." Al on MSN BPCR

      "What is important is that the powder column, no matter how you measure it, is sufficient to make a minimum of contact with the bullet base. If you use a wad, it counts as part of the column. If you compress the powder, you'll have to factor that in. Don't worry about powder absorbing moisture. Take reasonable care of it and you'll be fine. Take reasonable care in your loading techniques and procedures and you'll be fine. Leave an air space between the bullet base and the powder and you may not be fine." Black Prince on Cast Boolits

"Since granules of BP vary in size much more than smokeless (unless screening your BP) the concern is to have the proper volume so as to seat the bullet without any air space. It can be 58 grain or 60 grains by weight, as long as the volume is the same per cartridge. Better BP's are more consistent in weight/volume ratios. Screening is even better." WBH on Cast Boolits

"I would also say that from a PRACTICAL standpoint, there will NOT be a measurable difference on the target when charges vary by as much as 0.2 grains or a bit more in weight... IF... powder compression is kept constant.

However, when charge volume variations cause a powder compression change, then we see immediate changes in MV and group size in rifles. This is likely due to the primer brisance getting through the powder column differently when there is a change in the grains interstices.

My own tests indicate that with a given size BP charge a slight variation in compression of the "settled" powder column height does affect chrono speeds in a small but measurable amount. Therefore in order to obtain minimum variations in MV it is vital to start with a reasonably consistent charge volume not having more than 0.2 gr. to perhaps 0.3 gr. weight difference between charges." Dick Trenk Yahoo BPCR


My conclusion, after reading the responses to the question on various forums, is that what matters is the load column height; the height of the powder and wad/s and bullet.

Consistency here, with powder VOLUME constant even if powder weight varies, gives best accuracy.

With long range and target muzzle loaders capable of fine accuracy, including slug guns; the powder weight is more important. In these guns, the load column height is controlled as the gun is loaded, by the shooter.

I think that the volume vs. weight controversy results from varying densities of BP within a brand as lots change, and between brands of powder.

I think it's all about those varying densities and the need to maintain constant and proper column height and compression in cartridge rifles; and has little or nothing to do with water.

How to reload black powder cartridges

Black powder is an explosive, unlike smokeless powder. If a pile of smokeless powder is ignited, then it burns. If a pile of black powder is ignited, then it explodes. (I'm told.) Great care must be taken in storing and handling black powder. It is said that black powder should not be metered through a powder measure with a plastic hopper because the plastic could generate static electricity and a spark, exploding the powder. To solve this problem, Lyman makes a black powder measure with a metal hopper. Iíve thrown thousands of charges of black with a Lyman 55 powder measure with a plastic hopper, with no explosions. Maybe Iím just lucky.

Cartridge cases and rifle barrels shot with black powder will corrode if they are not cleaned right after use.

I drop fired cases into a plastic jug of water with some vinegar added. When I get home I decap the cases and wash them in soapy water, rinse and dry; and have no problem with case corrosion.

I clean the rifle barrel with patches wet with a solution of water and dish soap, and then oil the bore. When I get home, I clean the gun again with Marvel Mystery Oil, and have no problem with bore corrosion. (I think other bore cleaners would work as well as the Marvel Mystery Oil, but they donít smell as good.)

It is generally but not universally agreed that cartridges loaded with black powder should have no air space between the powder and the bullet. It has been reported that high pressures and damaged rifles can result from this air space. For safety, do not leave any air space in your cartridges.

Fairly soft cast bullets are used in black powder cartridges. Bullets of 20:1 lead: tin or softer are frequently reported. I have had reasonable results shooting bullets cast of wheelweights in black powder rifles.

Black powder leaves a lot of residue or fouling in the barrel after firing. This fouling will quickly destroy accuracy if it is not dealt with. The fouling is hygroscopic = loves to absorb water, and varies in hardness with the humidity of the air. Wiping the bore with a wet patch after each shot will solve the problem, but is sort of inconvenient and takes time. Using proper lubricants in proper quantities can minimize but not eliminate the fouling problem. The hot lubricant at this time is ďSPGĒ lube, many shooters swear by it. It has been rumored that SPG lube is Darr lube.

Many shooters use a ďblow tubeĒ to soften the fouling between shots. The blow tube is a cartridge case with a piece of plastic tubing finagled onto the primer end of the case. The primer hole is drilled out much larger. After the shot the blow tube case is put in the chamber, and the shooter blows a set number of times through the plastic tube and on through the barrel. The water in the breath is absorbed by the residue, which is softened and blown out of the barrel on the next shot.

Black powder burns more consistently, and accuracy is improved if it is densely packed into the case. Many shooters use a ďdrop tubeĒ to increase powder density. A drop tube is commonly a 30Ē piece of metal tubing with a funnel on one end. The bottom end goes into the case-only into the mouth of the case-and the powder charge is poured into the funnel. The difference between using the drop tube and not using it can be readily seen; there can be a difference of an eighth inch or more in the height of the powder in the case.

Some shooters compress the powder charge in the case using a die or some other mechanical arrangement. A wad is used over the powder before compressing it.

Various materials and thicknesses of wads are used over the powder. Materials include card (like postcard or cereal box), cork, plastic and grease. Some shooters contend that a grease wad should be separated from the bullet base by a card wad, lest the grease wad stick to the bullet and affect accuracy. A grease wad should always be separated from the powder by a card wad. Wads can be made with the appropriate arch punch from your good hardware store, or can be purchased. Grease wads can be punched out of the sheet of grease with the cartridge case mouth-these sheets of grease can be purchased or made with an extruding machine. I have made grease sheets by melting the grease in a big frying pan, dipping the bottom of a Pyrex cake pan in the grease and taking the Pyrex pan out and letting it cool upside down in the refrigerator. When the grease is cool I remove it from the Pyrex pan with a putty knife, making a pretty big sheet. Some experimenting is required and the Pyrex pan must be cool.

Some shooters use a filler between the bullet base and the top of the powder for shooting reduced loads. Since there can be no space between the powder and the bullet base, some filler is required if a reduced load is desired. (Shooting fully loaded 45/70 cartridges with 525-grain bullets wears on me very quickly.) I have used Cream Of Wheat as a filler with good results for reduced loads.

There are substitutes for black powder that donít require the expensive shipping of black, and are less corrosive and safer to store. The most common is Hodgdon's ďPyrodexĒ. These substitutes can generally be used volume for volume for black, but read up on the substitute before using it. In some matches these substitutes are not allowed.

ďDuplexĒ loads have a small priming charge of smokeless powder put in the case first, followed by the main charge of black powder. A smokeless charge of ten percent of the black powder charge is often used. Duplex loads burn much cleaner than straight black powder loads, and frequently are more accurate. I have used H110, RX7 and SR4759 as priming charges; I thank any but the fastest powders will work well. Again, in some matches, duplex loads are not allowed.

The overall length of the cartridge is established by trial and error. Youíve got to fiddle with the amount of powder and the height of the powder column in the case affected by the drop tube and/or compression, the wads used, and the bullet. The cartridge has to be short enough to fit in the gun and be removed without pulling out the bullet. The cartridge should be long enough to have he bullet near the rifling.

The beginner might start with FFg black powder and a well-lubricated bullet, with a card wad over the powder. Keep the bullet tightly on top of the wad and vary the charge to find the maximum practical overall length. Wet some patches with soapy water and push a patch through the bore after each shot. Shoot the next shot with the bore wet. WRITE IT DOWN, and experiment from that base.

Water-Proofing Black Powder

Ken Mollohan

All black powder is hydroscopic, and will absorb moisture from the air to one degree or another. (See above discussions.) The cry of ďKeep your powder dry, boysĒ wasnít just good advice for Daníl Boone or the colonial Minutemen, it was an absolute necessity. Damp gunpowder either burnt very poorly, or it didnít burn at all. Picture yourself facing the enemy with a gun that wonít shoot and nothing but a bayonet to fight and defend you and yours with - especially if the enemy had dry powder, and their guns WOULD shoot.

Though modern guns are vastly superior in materials and tolerances, they still depend (for the most part) on exactly the same BP propellant. And it is still just as sensitive to moisture as it ever was. A flintlock isnít the best choice for hunting in rainy weather - and I speak from sad experience.

Iím not too philosophical when Iím annoyed. I have a tendency to try to do something about the problem if I can. And I thought I could fix this problem too. I was a paint chemist, and I had access to a huge inventory of commercial chemicals and materials to work with. Pigments are used for many purposes in paints, and there is an incredible variety of types and properties. One type is called ďArc SilicaĒ, and itís available from companies like Dupont and Cabot. Itís strange stuff. A bag holding five pounds of arc silica is bigger than the average guy. ďFluffyĒ isnít able to even give you an idea how light it is. And interestingly enough, it comes in grades with all sorts of properties. One of them is the ability of some grades to provide waterproofing. I recall one advertisement that said that you could just dust a bit of this grade of arc silica on a page of newspaper, and use it for an umbrella in a driving rainstorm. And by golly, it really worked too!

So I took a small dish of FFFFg, and stirred a little bit of hydrophobic arc silica into it. It completely disappeared, and the powder looked unaffected. So I spread it out in a thin layer and added a drop of tap water. It beaded up like Iíd put it on waxed paper. I thought about this a bit, and scrapped the edges up to form a low containment dam, and poured more water in. It just set there. I waited about four hours, and there was no apparent change. The water just sat there, and the FFFFg seemed to ignore it. So I touched the powder off, and it burnt completely, and the water then scattered. But the powder actually burnt out from underneath the layer of water, showing that it hadnít been affected.

The really neat thing is that this stuff will waterproof your pan, frizzen and flint too! Just dust them with a little arc silica on a bit of tissue, and you can laugh at the weather. And still, it doesnít affect cleanup: Soap will enable water to remove it nicely.

Some caveats: It doesnít take a whole lot of arc silica to do the job. You CAN overdo it. I once tried to see just how much arc silica I could get on the granules. Why? I donít know! Waterproof is waterproof. Maybe I thought it would make it ever better. I donít know, but I did it, and the powder took quite a bit. But when I tested the heavily treated granules, I found to my surprise that they were harder to ignite.

Another caveat is that this was all a long time ago. I donít remember proportions, and I donít remember exactly what grade of arc silica I used, but Iím pretty sure it was from Cabot. Thatís probably not too important, because suppliers come and go, as do product grades. There are probably other manufacturers now, with other hydrophobic arc silicas. Just look them up on the internet, and check out their product listings. Samples are usually free for the asking, and even a little will go a loooong way! Take a priming flask worth of FFFFg and stir in perhaps a quarter teaspoon of whatever you happen to get. Once itís well stirred, drop a few granules into a glass of water. If they dissolve, add a little more and try again.

Ken Mollohan

Making And Lubing Patches

Spotted Pony on Cast Boolits, R. Dale McGee

Now as memory serves, one important function of a lubed patch (or greased slug) was help keep fouling soft for easier removal. Being close to a small town, the local sporting goods store has a very small inventory of any BP supplies hence prime interest is in mix it yerself. For many years I've used Crisco, beeswax mix & just recently started adding a bit of olive oil all heated in a dbl boiler & allowed to cool. at room temps 75 to 80 (love our wood stove lol) its solid but soft enough to be worked with fingers if necessary.

  • 4 oz Crisco by weight

  • 1/4 oz beeswax

  • 1 or 2 tsp olive oil

Then to lube patches I lay out a piece of Plexiglas I use, & smear enough of the lube on a hunk of my patch material with a plastic scraper, to penetrate the material well yet not be messy. fold the material in several layers and smooth it with said scraper and lay it in the freezer for a few minutes before using my patch cutting punch to punch out my patches. 4 or 5 raps on 6 layers laid on a hardwood scrap and the patches come out clean as a whistle.

Being the cheap errr uhhhhh frugal person that I am, I've come up with a nifty patch cutter too, I found a piece of hard steel, thin wall pipe 1 1/8" id, laying around in the shop, cut off about 6 inches, beveled one end at about 45, & sharpened it with a Dremel & welded a plug in the other end, to add some weight and give a hammer surface to strike without mushrooming the pipe end. it works like a charm. Spotted Pony on Cast Boolits

I am going to address preparing patch material. I "borrow" my wife's rotary cutter (designed for precision cutting of cloth for quilts, etc). It looks kind of like a pizza cutter but is literally razor sharp. I buy a yard of proper patch material (100% cotton and I prefer sail cloth or pocket drill). You really need to take a micrometer to the fabric shop to get the proper thickness. Then I lay out the material on a cutting board and cut strips clear across the material. Their width will vary depending on which caliber they are intended for (make a trial run of small pieces before you commit to the whole yard)

After you have the strips cut, take a putty knife and press on the semi solid lube. It is desirable to coat the entire surface with as thin a coat as possible. After you have the strips completely finished, roll them up, put a small number of them in a zip lock bag (be sure and leave the bag open so any moisture can escape). Put them in the microwave for 10-20 seconds (start slow and experiment). The microwave will melt the lube and it will be distributed perfectly through the cloth strip rolls. Be careful as you do not want to overheat the lube, nor start a fire, etc.

After they come out of the oven, store them in zip lock bags to keep them clean and so they will not dry out. Use as you would any patching material (lay over the muzzle, push the ball in flush with muzzle and use a patch knife to remove excess).

I currently use Wonderlube or Bore Butter for lube. Use just enough lube to saturate the cloth - you don't want any lube to "stand proud" of the cloth.

One more thing - you cannot depend on the manufacturer's label to guarantee that it is 100% cotton. There is a simple test. Ask the clerk to cut a sliver off the bolt of cloth that you are interested in. Tell them you are going to take the sliver outside to test if it is 100% cotton. Go outside, light the sliver of cloth with a match or lighter. If it melts at all, it is not 100% cotton. It should all burn leaving no or very little residue. THAT is 100% cotton. Then go back inside and buy the cloth.

I just use the strip, cutting the patch at the muzzle of the gun when I load. If I were hunting, I would consider a round patch, pre-lubed, to speed the process. However, it you use my method with a loading block, you don't need to carry extra patches or fool with round patches for hunting. So, that's what I do.

Yes, you may use this in the book - permission granted. I appreciate being asked, however (just want to know what goes in under my name for posterity. Dale53

How To Make Combustable Paper Cartridges

Harry Eales, ASSRA

Making nitrated paper isn't difficult, all you need is a few ounces of Potassium Nitrate. Dissolve this in a small quantity of hot water until no more will dissolve. (a saturated solution). Pour this concentrated solution into a plastic or metal dish, a photographers developing dish is handy. Obtain some 'onion skin' typing paper and soak each sheet in the tray and hang them up to dry, much like photographers did with developed film. Let it dry and then cut it to the required shape to make the cartridge.

Make a slightly tapered former, and wrap the nitrated paper around it once with a slight overlap and lightly glue the seam.

I found it helpful when making such cartridges for a .577 Enfield ML to tie the top of the paper cartridge into a bullets grease groove with a single strand of strong cotton thread. Needless to say, but keep the treated sheets well away from anything that could cause them to ignite. Have fun.

A word of caution though in their use especially in Muzzle loaders. If there are smoldering remnants of the case left after firing, a new cartridge may go off when loaded. That's why they had wet sponges used between rounds on the old muzzle loading cannon. Better safe than sorry, especially in today's world where Lawyers are always ready to sue.

I suppose a wet or rather damp, lambs wool mop down the barrel on the end of a ramrod between shots, wouldn't come amiss, and it would help soften any powder fouling present.

Cartridges For Muzzle Loading Rifles

Ned Roberts

Turn a hardwood cylinder about .012" to .014" smaller than the bore of the rifle and about 6" long.

Roll a piece of wrapping paper about .003" thick and 3.5 inches long around this cylinder and mark the paper where it makes two complete laps. Cut the paper off at this point, unroll it and place it on a piece of tin. Mark the tin and cut the tin to shape to make a tin pattern for cutting the pieces of paper for the cartridges.

Use the tin pattern and a sharp knife to make the papers, six to eight thicknesses of paper can be cut at one time. 

Roll a piece of the paper on the cylinder and paste the end down with gum arabic mucilage.

Slip the paper tube off the cylinder and allow it to dry.

After a supply of tubes has been made, slip one over the cylinder nearly to the end.

Place a round ball with the sprue up inside the tube. The tube should extend about 3/8" over the ball.

Twist the end of the tube, tie the end with a white thread and slip the tube with the ball inside off the cylinder.

Place a lubricated, correctly sized felt wad in the tube, over the ball.

Pour a measured charge of powder behind the wad and ball, into the tube, and finish the cartridge by twisting the end of the paper cylinder and tying it with red thread.

Then, with a small brush, apply a light coat of beeswax to the front end of the cartridge in which the ball is held, in order to facilitate loading and take the place of the oiled cloth patch.

When loading, the end that was tied with the red thread is grasped in the teeth, the end of the paper torn off, the powder poured down the bore, and the rest of the cartridge pushed down onto the powder with the ramrod.

When loading these cartridges with the conical bullet for the rifle. the end of the tube was attached with gum arabic mucilage to the base of the bullet and dried with the point of the bullet extending from the tube.

How To Make Black Powder Paper Cartridges For Reveolvers

timuchin on THR

Here is everything you need. FFFg Goex in the flask, 30 grain spout. French light rolling papers(cigarette rolling papers), though any will do. Some just work better than others.

Place ball in paper (sprue towards front) about 3/4th of the way down.

Roll paper around ball and MOISTEN where it touches ball



Moisten entire front end of paper and twist shut gently.


  Pour in powder.


Moisten the gum along the entire length of the paper. Gently press the paper together so it sticks. Overlap the end of the paper away from the ball a little bit so that the edge of the paper runs at an angle away from the ball. This will form the cartridge into a cone as you shake down the powder.

Grab the end of the paper away from the ball and shake gently to settle the powder. Moisten the entire length of the paper past the powder and begin to twist the paper closed. The powder will form the paper into a cone shape. Continue to twist and shake until the powder no longer moves. This must be done gently.

This is what it should look like when you are done.

Clip the tails off, and you have a paper cartridge.

45 ACP boxes are perfect for storage.

This works best if you let the paper dry after each time you moisten it. If you are rolling 20 or 30 at a time, the first one is dry by the time you do the last one. Pouring the powder in, moistening the side, and twisting it closed are all done at the same time, in that order.

Any questions, give me a holler. Cheap cigarette papers will work, but are more fragile, don't burn as well, and just more difficult to deal with.

Drop right in a 58 Remington. Colts are kind of a pain though, due to the rear of the frame being thicker, and all around less clearance for loading.

Once you get used to loading these at the range, it's just as fast as ejecting the empties and reloading a Single Action revolver.





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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned.

Always consult recognized reloading manuals.


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