6. Use a separate powder measure or flask with screw-on powder measure to charge the chambers with powder. Trying to guess the amount of powder by looking at its level in the chambers is very inconsistent.
After charging the chambers, seat a felt wad (commercially available or hand-punched) with your thumb into the mouth of each chamber. Then seat the wad firmly onto the powder with the rammer in a separate operation.
It's much harder to seat a ball if it also has to push the wad down and compress the powder. This resistance can deform your ball. Also, should you forget to put powder in a chamber, and seat the wad, it's easier to remove a felt wad than it is a tightly gripped ball.
.36-caliber wads may be cut from stiff felt with a 3/8-inch hole punch. Cut .44 wads from a .45-caliber wad punch, sold by Buffalo Arms of Sandpoint, Idaho.
The limp felt sold in hobby shops is unsuitable for wads. I use the nail-on felt weatherseal sold by Frost King of Mahwah, N.J. or Sparks, Nev., and sold in most hardware stores. Sold in a 17-foot roll, 1-1/4" wide and 3/16 inch thick for less than $4, this will provide you with hundreds of wads.
Whatever you use, ensure it is truly wool felt! A lot of felt is polyester --- a plastic that will leave melted deposits in your bore that must be scrubbed out. Go with wool!
After seating all wads, seat the balls. Each ball should be tight enough to shave a small ring of lead from its diameter upon seating. If it doesn't, a larger ball may be needed.
In the chambers of my own Colt Navy, the standard .375 inch ball is nearly a slip-fit. Therefore, I use balls of .380 inch for a proper fit. Warren Muzzleloading of Arkansas (www.warrenmuzzleloading.com
) sell excellent, sprueless .380 inch balls.
If you're using cast balls that have a sprue or teat from casting, center this sprue UP in the cylinder. It is difficult to get the sprue mark perfectly centered in the chamber, when viewing from the side, so I remove the cylinder when possible for this operation, if I'm target shooting at the benchrest.
In my Navy, I can set three sprued balls in place with a light tap from a brass hammer (never use ferrous metal, as it may cause sparks). This light tap keeps them in place and from falling out when I replace the cylinder.
Then I replace the cylinder into the Navy and seat the three balls with the rammer. My Remingtons will only allow two balls at a time to be tapped in because the frame is in the way.
If possible, use a mould that doesn't create sprues (Lee makes them), or use swaged lead balls. It will eliminate centering the sprue mark.
7. Don't change components indiscriminately.
Caps differ remarkably. I have had my best grouping with Remington No. 10 caps in the Navy, and CCI No. 10 caps in the Remington .36 and .44 calibers. Some nipples prefer No. 10 caps, others prefer No. 11. If the cap is a snug fit and bottoms out on the nipple, that's the one to go with.
Some of the Colt Dragoon and Walker replicas are made for the No. 12 cap, as were the originals. This cap is difficult to find but I recently saw some Remington No. 12 caps in new packages; apparently production has been resumed.
I pinch the cap together a bit, into an elliptical shape, to make it cling better to the nipple. I wish some manufacturer would market elliptically-shaped caps. Revolver and rifle shooters usually pinch their caps, so why have them round?
Use lead as soft as possible, pure lead if you can find it, if you cast your own. Harder lead bullets are not nearly as accurate and are much more difficult to ram down into the chamber.
But if wheelweight lead is all you can find, use it. It's not hard enough to cause damage when seating. I once used it when it was all I could get. Accuracy was fine, but it caused leading in my revolvers (the only time I've seen that happen).
8. Buy a revolver-loading stand. This holds the revolver upright while loading and gives you a much better "feel" for how much pressure you're applying to wads and projectiles as you seat them. It also stores the revolver upright, in a safe position, if you're not quite ready to fire.
9. Do not use greases or oils that are petroleum-based. The older black powder manuals suggest using automotive grease over the chambers of revolvers. Don't do it. Petroleum-based greases somehow create a hard, tar-like fouling when combined with the black powder.
The proper grease or oil is animal or vegetable-based, such as Crisco, canola, beeswax, sunflower, commercial lard, mutton tallow and similar substances.
An exception appears to be canning paraffin, used to seal jars of preserves. I've used it for a number of years in a lubricant recipe and it has never caused the hard, tarry fouling associated with petroleum products, though paraffin is decidedly a petroleum product.
I'm told that canning paraffin lacks the hydrocarbons of other petroleum products, which is apparently the culprit.
My own patch, wad and bullet lubricant is a 19th century recipe, found in a 1943 issue of the American Rifleman.
The recipe is:
1 part paraffin (I use canning paraffin, found in grocery stores)
1 part mutton tallow (sold by Dixie Gun Works)
1/2 part beeswax (available at hobby and hardware stores)
All measures are by weight, not volume. I use a kitchen scale to measure 200 grams of paraffin, 200 grams of mutton tallow and 100 grams of beeswax. This nearly fills a quart Mason jar.
Place the Mason jar in a pot or coffee can with about 4 inches of boiling water. This gives a double-boiler effect, which is the safest way to melt waxes and greases.
When the ingredients in the jar are thoroughly melted, stir well with a clean stick or a disposable chopstick. Remove from water and allow to cool at room temperature. Hastening cooling by placing in the refrigerator may cause the ingredients to separate.
This creates a lubricant nearly identical to commercially available black powder lubricants, at a much cheaper price.
To use, place a small amount of the lubricant in a clean tuna or pet food can. Melt in a shallow pan of water. Drop your revolver wads or patches into the can and stir them around with a clean stick until all wads or patches are saturated. Allow to cool then snap a plastic lid (available in the pet food aisle) over the can and store in a cool, dry place. This keeps dust and crud out and retains the lubricant's natural moistness.
I don't bother to squeeze out the excess lubricant from patches or wads but use them as-is.
This is an excellent bullet lubricant for all black powder uses. I also use it for patches in my .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle, and lubricating cast bullets for my .44-40 and .45-70 rifles. I've tried it with .357 Magnum bullets at up to 1,200 feet per second and it prevents leading. I haven't tried it at a higher velocity with smokeless powder.
I like the addition of paraffin in this bullet lubricant, because it stiffens the felt wad, which scrapes out fouling better.
I've used the Ox-Yoke Wonder Wads in the past and they're good, but lack enough lubricant for my likes. I soak them in the above lubricant.
With a well-lubricated wad twixt ball and powder, you can shoot all day without ever swabbing the bore, unless it is exceedingly hot and dry. In this instance, I place a bit of natural grease over the ball to augment the wad's lubricant.
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Copyright by "Gatofeo" 2003. Printed by permission.
"And therein did I see an ugly cat. Blue smoke. Brimstone. Holes in paper. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- the prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566).