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Black powder revolver newbie questions

This is a discussion on Black powder revolver newbie questions within the Black Powder forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; For Christmas I got my Dad an .44 caliber 1851 Pietta repro black powder revolver. We have cleaned it, fired some caps on otherwise unloaded ...


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Old January 20th, 2017, 01:57 PM   #1
 
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Black powder revolver newbie questions

For Christmas I got my Dad an .44 caliber 1851 Pietta repro black powder revolver. We have cleaned it, fired some caps on otherwise unloaded cylinders to clean out the passageways, etc. But I'm confused about a couple of details.

1) One manual says use .451 balls, another says .454 balls. The local shooting store had those two sizes plus .457. They also had patches that were 0.010 thick, as well as 0.015. I understand (I think) the concept that every gun will like a particular combination, but I'm willing to sacrifice a little accuracy for a little easier loading for my father (he's 81).

2) It seems like many favor using a wad over powder, then a ball, then maybe lube over that (although it seems that may be both redundant and unnecessary). If you use a wad, do you still use a patch with the ball?

In summary, I'm trying to avoid buying supplies I won't use, and I'm looking for a good starting recipe for wad (yes/no), ball diameter (which one), patch (both yes/no and thickness). I'm an avid reloaded, so I can sort out the powder recommendations easily enough. Thanks for the help.



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Old January 20th, 2017, 03:29 PM   #2
 
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I shoot 2 BP pistols, a Uberti 1860 colt 44 and a Uberti 1858 Remington 44. The round balls I use usually shave a little lead off when seating them. Off hand I don't remember the ball size. I do use a wad over the powder tho plus a little Crisco over the balls when seated. I load fffg Goex BP. The important thing to remember when seating the ball is to be sure it is seated down to the powder and slightly compressing the powder. The grease over the ball plus the wad will prevent multiple charges going off at one time. Also, sometimes a spent cap will lodge itself preventing the cylinder from turning. I give my guns a good 'flick' to kick out any loose spent caps.
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Old January 20th, 2017, 03:45 PM   #3
 
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You never use a patch with a revolver. Just a ball and lube or a wad. Major Tom said it right. Also, go buy a blackpowder book and read it good.
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Old January 20th, 2017, 04:06 PM   #4
 
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I always used 454 or 457. I got best results with 457.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 02:57 AM   #5
 
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I have 3 Pietta cap-n-ball revolvers. I shoot .454 lead balls. I use 30gr. Goex blackpowder for targets and 35gr. for full power loads. Lead balls seated firmly on powder and covered with Crisco or Borebutter. Very thorough cleaning done immediately after shooting.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 05:27 AM   #6
 
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Good advice above.

The round balls are almost pure lead (dead soft). They should seat in the cylinder with just a little bit of lead shaved off as they are seated. It doesn't really matter what diameter they were to start with as long as they can seated with a little lead ring shaved off as they are forced into the cylinder throats. At that point they will be whatever diameter the cylinder throat is ! The lead ball needs to be a little larger diameter than the cylinder throat but not so large that it is difficult to seat.

Patches are never used with cap & ball revolvers.

Many people apply Bore Butter or Crisco over the ball and that method has been employed for about as long as Cap & Ball revolvers have existed. I tend to get better accuracy with a greased wad under the ball than with grease applied over the ball.
Pick which method you like, they both work.

I prefer real black powder over the BP substitutes.
I've never seen a conical bullet that would shoot as accurately as a round ball. I've also never found a commercially produced round ball that could match the accuracy of the ones I cast myself. That's probably a function of the cast round balls being dead soft and slightly larger diameter than the factory produced ones.

Learn how to clean your revolver. Be sure to removes the nipples from the cylinder from time to time and grease the threads before re-installing them. Failure to do that will eventually result in the nipple seizing in the cylinder and that's a big problem. Windex is handy for quick cleaning at the range (the ammonia and soap are the key) and hot water is still the best method for cleaning the bore at home. Don't immerse the gun in water but do run hot water through the bore. After the gun is clean, be sure to thoroughly oil the gun to prevent rust.

ENJOY YOUR NEW TOY !

Last edited by Petrol and Powder; January 21st, 2017 at 05:30 AM.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 06:51 AM   #7
 
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I started shooting BP when ammo was nonexistent. I make my own roundballs and wads as I don't get to get out to shoot as often so it gives me another aspect to keep me busy.

My RB are .454 pure lead. I make my wads with a mix of beeswax and oil. And I played around and found a nice light and accurate load that booms enough but doesn't waste a lot of powder for just plinking. It's enjoyable but messy.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 08:09 AM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stubert View Post
You never use a patch with a revolver. Just a ball and lube or a wad. Major Tom said it right. Also, go buy a blackpowder book and read it good.
Can you recommend a good book? I'm happy to buy one--in fact, I'd really like to read one.
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Old January 21st, 2017, 03:54 PM   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 64Chevy View Post
Can you recommend a good book? I'm happy to buy one--in fact, I'd really like to read one.
No book... just go to Curt's website. Don't pay attention to the guns he prefers... I have Ruger Old Armies... Colt '51 Navies... Colt '60 Armies... Colt '61 Navies....

I shoot '51 Navies... my ROA's have never been fired....

Tryin' to buy a couple of '58 Remingtons....

Here's his website. A true Vietnam War hero... Curt Rich (SASS alias Captain Baylor)... he was shot all to hell in the war, disabled... but he is here to help you. A great man.

Black Powder (& Substitutes) for Dummies

Sure hope you appreciate this great man and his contribution our sport....

hr
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Old January 22nd, 2017, 08:05 PM   #10
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Friend and I used to own replica cap & ball revolvers. He had the 1851 Navy and I had the 1858 Army. We shot both .451 and .454 balls and conical from them. At first I never did the whole sealing thing with wads or grease until I heard about what a chain fire is and it scared me to the point where for awhile i would only load and shoot 1 chamber at a time. Anyways, I adopted the Bore Butter and was back to shooting all 6 chambers again. I used to cast my own balls and make my own powder. The scrap lead I would melt was never pure as it mostly always had 50/50 solder in it. Being that the balls ended up being an alloy instead of pure lead, it took a bit of strength to seat them, but the end result was a ball that was light enough to get a good velocity and hard enough to make clean holes in the sheet metal targets we used.

So yeah, for an 81 year old, I'd recommend .451 PURE LEAD balls. Those soft balls will seat like a dream.
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Old January 23rd, 2017, 01:57 AM   #11
 
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Continuing the topic on round ball diameter and alloy:

If the ball is exactly the diameter of the cylinder throat it will not seat properly. It must be a bit larger than the throat so that a little bit of lead is shaved off as it is seated. This results in a ball with band around the center that is the diameter of the throat. If you use a larger diameter ball you will end up with that band being a larger section. Think of a cylinder shaped projectile with hemi-spherical ends. Obviously if you increase the diameter of the ball too far beyond the diameter of the throat you will be unable to seat the ball. That cylindrical band on the ball is the section of the ball that actually engages the rifling but there's not lot of advantage to increasing that surface area. The rifling of a cap & ball revolver has a very slow twist rate and it doesn't take much to stabilize a round ball (a sphere is light for it's diameter and doesn't require a lot of spin rate to stabilize).
Because the round ball must be forced into the cylinder throat and the fact that black powder produces relatively low pressures, a dead soft alloy is your best bet for round balls. A dead soft ball will "bump up" and obdurate the bore at lower pressures than a harder alloy. Ideally the barrel grove diameter should be slightly smaller than the cylinder throat diameter so that the ball will completely seal the bore during its travel down the barrel.

The purpose of the lube over or under the ball is to soften the fouling deposited with each shot. As for preventing chain fires, I'm not going to engage in that discussion but I will say the jury is still out on that. I will say that you can get about one full cylinder's worth of bare lead balls through a cap & ball revolver before you will have problems. If you use lube over the balls or lubricated wads under the balls; it's possible to fire several full cylinders before the fouling becomes a problem.
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Old January 23rd, 2017, 04:40 PM   #12
 
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For the beginner...

Here's what they are talking about when the say "Shave a Ring of Lead".



This is what happens when you shove a .457" ball into an Old Army. Be sure to flick the lead ring off as you go, it can jam things up if it gets caught in the moving parts.

And another tip...

Loading the pistol isn't really HARD, but it's a hand full to hold the pistol in one hand and do all that other stuff with the other hand.

This stand is 15 bucks on trackofthewolf.com



Now you can use two hands to load. It's easier and quicker.

Last edited by Fast Frank; January 23rd, 2017 at 04:55 PM.
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Old January 24th, 2017, 01:51 PM   #13
 
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There are other loadin' stands... this'un shown from the great, Curt Rich... he don't make'em... he's like me, uses 'em.




I have two loadin' stands... neither like Captain Baylor's... but mine are just as stout and can easily push a .457 ball into a .44 cylinder. Easily carried and will a lifetime...


.
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Old February 15th, 2017, 09:49 AM   #14
 
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Thanks for all of the replies--we have .454 lead balls that are easy enough to seat, but are shaving a lead ring, and when removed they show a nice flattened area where they obturated to the cylinder.

Next question--I haven't been able to find the correct cut black powder, but I do have some Pyrodex pistol powder. The info with the gun says the max load of Pyrodex is 28 grains. What is the lowest minimum load that is acceptable? I don't want a ball to stick in the barrel, but I'm curious what a reliable minimum would be.

My dad has a set of old Lee dippers, and I brought over one of my powder scales. He has dippers that yield 14 gr, 15 gr, and 23 gr of Pyrodex. Of those three which would you suggest I start with?
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Old February 15th, 2017, 10:10 AM   #15
 
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You will get a kick out of shooting black powder firearms been doing so off and on sense 1959 and they are a hoot. I shoot a 1860 .44 caliber Colt that I bought in 1959 and still enjoy doing so. They do require more cleaning, no question but are really neat.
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