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Old March 30, 2011, 10:57 PM   #1
osallent
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First experience shooting black powder

Last night I made plans to go in the morning to shoot my new revolver. As I laid in bed, I turned the TV on to Spike TV. They were showing a program called "1000 ways to Die," and it showed the story of one man who put an excessive black powder overload on a flintlock pistol, only to have it blow up, destroying his hand and sending shrapnel into his leg, severing his femoral artery and killing him. Images of this kept replaying on my mind all night, and I even dreamed that this happened to me.

I woke up this morning dreading the experience. I tried to come up with excuses not to make the trip to Trail Glades (the outdoor range here in Miami). I thought about how much I love my hand, and living in general. But at last, having no more excuses I could think of, I decided to man up and take a risk. I got to the range, put my 15 grains of powder and loaded the six balls into the cylinder. By this time I was a nervous wreck, sweat was starting to pour down my forehead. I made peace with my poor hands, closed my eyes, and squeezed the trigger hoping I'd still have my hands when I opened my eyes ( I know, this is poor shooting on my part, but I was that nervous.)

I barely noticed the shot, it was no worse than .22LR as far as recoil is concerned. And best of all, I still had my hands and my femoral artery was just fine. I had a blast...even though I only fired 24 balls. I had so much fun with it that I invited one of my friends to come with me to the range on Friday so he too can experience black powder shooting and hopefully join me in this new hobby in the future.

I can honestly say that you are not really a gun fanatic until you've loaded black powder and a ball into an old fashioned firearm and shot it at least once. Others may disagree, but I see black powder shooting as the ultimate way to connect with the origins of the firearms that I love so much, and to connect with the spirit of my ancestors who would have used these fine firearms to put food on the table. I can't believe I was missing so much and that I neglected black powder firearms for so long. I feel pretty silly about it.

I'm even considering obtaining a black powder rifle and following in the footsteps of my forefathers and going hunting for some meat the old fashioned way. No plastic stocks or modern scopes, just man, nature, and a good old fashioned piece of steel and wood in my hands.
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Old March 31, 2011, 12:38 AM   #2
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Amen!
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Old March 31, 2011, 03:22 AM   #3
Bill Akins
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Welcome to our love of history, the experience and the addiction
BP guns are like potato chips. You can't be satisfied with just one.

You did use either lubed felt or "wonder wads" under the balls and over the powder didn't you? Or else greased over the tops of the balls? Another way to prevent chainfires from the front of the cylinder (they are possible on the back cap side too) and my favorite and least greasy/messy way to load is to put about 1/4 inch of cornmeal over the powder before seating the ball. 1/4 inch of cornmeal is just as, or even more of an effective firebreak than the lubed wads or grease over the balls. No greasy mess and less expensive too. You can also use grits in place of cornmeal.

It is possible (although highly improbable) that after firing several times, that most of the grease over the balls will be blown off by the barrel to cylinder gap blast and a chain fire could ensue by fire igniting a granule of powder squeezed between the ball and the cylinder wall. It is also possible (although improbable) that if a few granules of powder got on the edge of a wonder wad and also got between the ball and cylinder wall, that they could ignite and get past the wonder wad to chain fire the load. Again, highly improbable, extremely rare, probably never happen....but possible.

But it would be even more highly improbable than the two previous improbable scenarios that any barrel to cylinder gap fire is going to get past a 1/4 inch of compressed corn meal. Just be careful to keep the cornmeal level over the top of the powder and don't shake the revolver and let the powder mix with the cornmeal before you seat the ball. Once the ball is seated the cornmeal will be compressed and held in place by the ball and will not mix with the powder but will stay in place over the top of the charge, which forms a very effective firebreak. This is how I always load now and I never have a problem and am so much more happy not dealing with a greasy mess or the expense of lubed wonder wads. You can of course use more than 1/4 inch of cornmeal if you like, and some people like the ball closer to the forcing cone and some believe it improves accuracy by the ball being at the top of the chamber. I couldn't say for sure about the accuracy improvement though.

Also, remember to ALWAYS load the chambers with a powder measure, NEVER directly from the powder flask. Or else that show you saw and your dream could come true. Again, improbable that a glowing ember would be in your chamber on reloading (if not using cigarette paper or nitrated paper homemade cartridges)...but still possible and it only takes once....to blow that flask like a grenade.





.
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Last edited by Bill Akins; March 31, 2011 at 03:56 AM.
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Old March 31, 2011, 05:32 AM   #4
Andy Griffith
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Hey Bill, are you trying to make cornbread in a sixgun? Grits are made for eat'n with eggs, bacon, corned beef hash and biscuits- not for shoot'n. (But they'll work for shoot'n...they just taste too good! ) Use cream of wheat instead- it tastes nasty!
I've used cornmeal once with grease in a 1860- and it was a mess!

Either lubed wads or just grease is the way to go- but grease is far cheaper.

Just get a grease dispenser from Dixie Gun works and leave the other mess at home- it saves a whole lot of trouble. Do take a towel and some water and even soap with you if the range doesn't have facilities- if they do, just take a towel as your hands will get greasy and nasty from shooting.

If a towel isn't handy, use your shirt tail.
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Old March 31, 2011, 07:59 AM   #5
wogpotter
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Hand sanitizer & paper towels, or baby wipes work well to degrease hands as well.
Can't do nothing about the BP smell though you just live with it infecting innocent strangers with the addiction as you pass them in the street!
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Old March 31, 2011, 09:11 AM   #6
AirForceShooter
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Ever want to see pure joy?

If you're shooting and there's a kid about 12 or 13 looking at your smoke gun and there's pure lust in his or her eyes and you ask if he or she wants to shoot a cylinder.

Watch their face as the first round goes off.


AFS
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Old March 31, 2011, 10:18 AM   #7
Bishop Creek
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Quote:
I can honestly say that you are not really a gun fanatic until you've loaded black powder and a ball into an old fashioned firearm and shot it at least once. Others may disagree, but I see black powder shooting as the ultimate way to connect with the origins of the firearms that I love so much, and to connect with the spirit of my ancestors who would have used these fine firearms to put food on the table. I can't believe I was missing so much and that I neglected black powder firearms for so long.
You nailed it!
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Old March 31, 2011, 10:53 AM   #8
osallent
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Thanks for the tips Bill. I was using some of those wonder wads that you place after you've put the powder in, and then seat the ball on top of.

I had no idea about the possibility of some ember remaining after firing that could come in contact with the powder during refill. Thanks for letting me know. I'll make sure to check for that in the future and take the steps you suggested.
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Old March 31, 2011, 11:07 AM   #9
orangello
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I recently shot my new-to-me percussion revolvers for the first time. All went well, nervously well, until i handed it off to my nephew to try; his second cap didn't seem to pop with gusto. Nephew looked at me like "what now", to which i responded with a "rutro" and a shrug before telling him to keep it pointed at the target and wait in case of a delayed shot. I then took the revolver & put on another cap before finishing the cylinder off.

I've found that most things in life require a little fear or danger, or at least the anticipation of the possibility of some, to make them really fun.

You might wish to consider one of the sidelock, single-shot, muzzle-loading pistols; i have really enjoyed my sidelock's simplicity (thanks to a recommendation from a member of this forum). There is something very satisfying in the loading and firing of just that single shot, like a personal, 50 caliber cannon.
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Old March 31, 2011, 01:29 PM   #10
ClemBert
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Kewl...just remember, even though you now have the sickness you are a survivor...all body parts accounted for.

BTW, don't forget to make sure you have that powder compressed. No air gap between the ball and the powder or else KABOOM! Just a reminder 'cause those lil' mouse fart loads ain't filling up them chambers on their own so you gotta make some breakfast when you shoot with COW or grits.

p.s. Good job!
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Old March 31, 2011, 03:00 PM   #11
Foto Joe
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I will quote the following as fact:

At least 99% of first time Black Powder shooters actually survive the experience. Welcome to the world of those who actually know how their gun works and why.
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Old March 31, 2011, 03:11 PM   #12
Hardcase
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There's one thing that you absolutely have to do after firing off a cylinder of BP: you've gotta whoop up a storm and then laugh your head off. It's absolutely required.
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Old March 31, 2011, 05:04 PM   #13
Bill Akins
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Quote:
Andy Griffith wrote:
Hey Bill, are you trying to make cornbread in a sixgun? Grits are made for eat'n with eggs, bacon, corned beef hash and biscuits- not for shoot'n. (But they'll work for shoot'n...they just taste too good! ) Use cream of wheat instead- it tastes nasty!
If only my chambers were big enough I'd put some collard greens and black eyed peas down them too!

Quote:
Andy Griffith wrote:
I've used cornmeal once with grease in a 1860- and it was a mess!
Seriously, all kidding aside, using the grease with the cornmeal was your mistake. Just use the cornmeal without grease. Try it, you'll like it. No grease at all to have to deal with.



.
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"This is my Remy and this is my Colt. Remy loads easy and topstrap strong, Colt balances better and never feels wrong. A repro black powder revolver gun, they smoke and shoot lead and give me much fun. I can't figure out which one I like better, they're both fine revolvers that fit in my leather".
"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".
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Old March 31, 2011, 11:00 PM   #14
Andy Griffith
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I put the cornmeal between the ball and the powder, and then put grease on top of the ball. I'm certain there was no chance of chain fire, but the stone ground meal kinda made the action feel scratchy- kinda like itchy clothes when you were a kid.

Hmm...I like that idea! A cylinder shaped dutch oven!!!!
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Old March 31, 2011, 11:18 PM   #15
Bill Akins
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Andy, that's because you put grease over the balls and then after firing the cornmeal mixed with the grease, stuck to the grease, and then made your action feel "scratchy". Next time just use the cornmeal and don't put grease over the balls. The cornmeal is dry and will just blow off and not stick if you don't use grease. The cornmeal will also help blow out any BP fouling in the barrel from a previous shot. I used to use grease over the balls as a firebreak too, but once I discovered how well the cornmeal does as a firebreak on its own without using any grease over the balls at all....I was hooked.

Try the cornmeal again only without the grease over the balls this time Andy, and I'll bet you will never use messy grease again.


.
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"This is my Remy and this is my Colt. Remy loads easy and topstrap strong, Colt balances better and never feels wrong. A repro black powder revolver gun, they smoke and shoot lead and give me much fun. I can't figure out which one I like better, they're both fine revolvers that fit in my leather".
"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".

Last edited by Bill Akins; March 31, 2011 at 11:27 PM.
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Old April 1, 2011, 09:42 AM   #16
Rifleman1776
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I didn't see the TV show you mention. But, I do have to think there were issues involved not discussed. My guess is that the "black powder" loaded in that pistol was a modern reloading powder black in color. And/or the barrel was plugged and/or the barrel was already weakened. I never say never so I won't say it is impossible to overload a muzzle loading firearm to the point of bursting but, really, it almost is. (when using only one projectile)
If I see a mistake in what you did it was to proceed without enlisting the help of an experienced bp shooter. That kind of help is as generously given as it is valuable. Do look for experienced shooters to help you. And, it will add to your enjoyment. Second best, coming here for tips.
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Old April 1, 2011, 10:41 AM   #17
Hardcase
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The TV show is worth taking with a ginormous grain of salt. It recreates incidents "based" on actual events. I watched a couple of episodes and saw one incident that I had read about. Safe to say that they had added some and omitted some for the sake of entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not a documentary series, that's for sure.
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Old April 4, 2011, 10:43 AM   #18
Andy Griffith
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The problem is, I've got a lifetime supply of grease. The cornmeal gets made into cornbread, muffins, cornmeal pancakes and best of all- cornmeal gravy.

I'll just stick with the grease. Plus, it does smell like bacon and it attracts other shooters.
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