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Old March 1, 2014, 03:38 PM   #1
spacecoast
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Minimum required for BP pistol shooting?

I would like to try my hand at a few rounds of BP shooting and am seeking info on the minimum supplies I will need to get started. I have a Remington New Model Army revolver (original, from 1864) that's in good shape. I also have a tin of approximately 70-80 Remington No. 11 percussion caps, but that's it.

I know I will need .44 cal lead balls and some kind of powder, and I believe some kind of sealant for the chambers to prevent chain firing, but is there anything else? My thoughts are to load one chamber and fire it to make sure I have the right formula, and then perhaps shoot a cylinder or two's worth of rounds the next time I go to the range.

Beyond that, I don't know where I will go with it, but I think that will suffice for a first try. I also understand that hot soapy water will suffice for cleanup afterward.

What do you recommend?
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Old March 1, 2014, 05:15 PM   #2
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Aside from powder, cap, and ball, I consider this to be bare minumum.
-Some form of lubrication. Either a soft lube like Bore Butter smeared over the ball or a lubed felt wad like Wonder Wads beneath the ball and over the powder. The main purpose of this is to keep fouling soft. Preventing chainfires is a secondary function, but if you're using the right size ball (.451 or .454) chainfires are almost impossible.
-Either an adjustable powder measure or powder flask. Flasks can use various spouts sized to fit whatever you're shooting. .44 cals typically take between 25 and 40 grains.
-Nipple wrench. You don't need it to shoot, but you will need it for cleaning.
-Cleaning kit. You really only need a jag, but you can get a Hoppe's .45 cal pistol cleaning kit that has a bunch of goodies for about $15.
-A good set of screwdrivers. Don't go buggering up the screws on your original Remington.

I clean using hot water, no soap. I never really found it necessary. Even cold water will work.
You will also need to oil the gun after cleaning. Preferably something not petroleum-based, as that tends to worsen fouling.

Good luck.
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Old March 1, 2014, 07:45 PM   #3
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"minimum required"??? Ahhhh . . . the only minimum requirement that I know of is to be as crazy as the rest of us!

Sounds like you got a pretty good handle on it . . . only problem is, once you smell the sulphur . . . it just gets worse! Enjoy!
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Old March 1, 2014, 07:51 PM   #4
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Quote:
only problem is, once you smell the sulphur . . . it just gets worse! Enjoy!

Mmmm suuulpher.
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Old March 1, 2014, 08:18 PM   #5
spacecoast
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Kappe -

Thanks for the info, are you saying that either a .451" or .454" ball should work? And what kind of powder would be best to start? Does powder weight/volume vary by brand (like smokeless) or are they pretty much all the same? I need to look at flasks and powder measures to see what my options are. Obviously, in this gun I will favor the lighter loads. We have a new Bass Pro near us and I think they carry a lot of BP stuff.

I do have a nipple wrench (purchased from Bass Pro), but I don't think the nipples on this Remington are going anywhere as the gun has sat unused for probably 40 years. I soaked them in oil but haven't been able to budge them with a wrench. Is it absolutely necessary to remove the nipples for cleaning?

I have regular gun oil for after cleaning - presumably that is OK?
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Old March 1, 2014, 08:58 PM   #6
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cleaning

Quote:
Is it absolutely necessary to remove the nipples for cleaning?
No.

Pete
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Old March 1, 2014, 09:22 PM   #7
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I remove my nipples probably after every 5 shootings or so, just to keep them loose so that the can be removed and they don't get frozen.

If they are already frozen, well, I guess that's that. You can try making a mixture of 50/50 acetone/transmission fluid and soaking the cylinder in that. Might loosen up the nipples.

Quote:
are you saying that either a .451" or .454" ball should work?
The only way to know is to either mic the chamber or load a ball. When the ball is pressed into the chamber it needs to shave a small ring of lead from the ball all the way around. This is how you know you have a gas-tight fit. If you shoot undersized balls you are inviting a chain fire.

My Uberti Walker likes a .457 ball.

In my opinion, if you are going to load and fire one chamber, you may as well do them all.

I recommend 20 grains of 3F black powder, some cream of wheat filler, and pack the ball down on top of it.

Steve
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Old March 1, 2014, 09:36 PM   #8
Kappe
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All literature I've read on cleaning cap & ball revolvers involved removing the nipples. I do not know what problems might accrue from not being able to remove the nipples.

You got the skinny from maillemaker on ball size.

Regarding powder, powder measures are calibrated for real blackpowder. Pyrodex is a volumetric equivalent substitute.
Most every other blackpowder substitute is not a volumetric equivalent to BP. Triple 7 for instance is 15% more powerful than BP.
Either FFFg or FFg grades can be used for your revolver.

Most regular gun oils like Rem Oil are petroleum based. You can use it, but it'll bind with the fouling once you start shooting. In essence it does the opposite of what the lube is supposed to do. Instead of keeping it soft and goopy, it creates a hard tar-like substance and is harder to clean.
I recommend Ballistol if you can find it.
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Old March 2, 2014, 07:29 AM   #9
spacecoast
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Quote:
The only way to know is to either mic the chamber or load a ball. When the ball is pressed into the chamber it needs to shave a small ring of lead from the ball all the way around. This is how you know you have a gas-tight fit. If you shoot undersized balls you are inviting a chain fire.
The chambers of my Remington seem to range from .447" up to .451", so if I want to shave a small ring of lead it seems I might want to go with the .454" balls.

Here's my shopping list:
  • .454" lead balls
  • FFFg or FFg powder
  • Powder measuring device (flask or ??) - look for 20-25 grains
  • Bore butter or wonder wads
Anything else?

Last edited by spacecoast; March 2, 2014 at 07:40 AM.
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Old March 2, 2014, 08:59 AM   #10
Rifleman1776
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Quote:
what kind of powder would be best
Real black powder in 3Fg grade.
Your charges will be in the 20 to 30 grain range.
Good luck.
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Old March 2, 2014, 10:12 AM   #11
Driftwood Johnson
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Howdy

I see you have an original, not a reproduction.

I suggest buying a few diameters of ball and seeing what works best. Be sure the balls are pure lead, no tin or antimony added. You want pure lead so they are soft enough that they will size into the chambers without putting too much stress on the loading lever. Hornady makes swaged lead balls in a variety of diameters.

It's going to be a bit of a guessing game to get the exact right diameter for your chambers. If you have an inside measuring micrometer, that would be ideal, but they do not grow on trees. Using the inside measuring jaws on a caliper is inherently inaccurate with small holes. When the ball is squeezed into the chamber, you want a nice even ring of lead shaved off. The more lead that is shaved off, the better, as that adds length to the seal. But you don't want to be shoving so hard that you damage that antique loading lever.

Lastly, I stopped putting lube on top of the balls in my C&B revolvers many years ago. Instead I use lubricated felt wads between the powder and the ball. Once I discovered Wonder Wads I stopped putting Crisco over the balls. In case an errant spark makes its way past a void in the lead to steel seal, a 1/4" thick felt wad makes a better spark arrester than a thin, partly melted bit of runny goo. I find that extra lubrication is unnecessary, and the felt wad scrubs out some of the fouling as it goes down the bore. There are those who are concerned that the lube from a lubed wad will adulterate the powder, but I have not found that to be a concern, as long as I fire the load relatively quickly. I would not put a loaded C&B revolver with lubed felt wads away in the safe for any period of time, but I wouldn't put a loaded revolver away anyway.

You might want to try firing a few caps with no powder or ball, to make sure they fit. Caps come in a variety of sizes and they are not all standardized. One company's #11 caps may or may not fit the same as another company's #11 caps.

You want enough powder in the chambers so that the ball is compressing it. Too little powder and the ball will stop at the smaller diameter in the chamber without compressing the powder. You want slight compression and no air. Listen and feel for the crunch when you seat the ball. Of course if you have a wad in there, you will not feel a crunch.

The adjustable powder measures with the sliding bar marked in grains are good enough for C&B. No, not all powders weigh the same, different brands weigh different amounts, but generally speaking an adjustable measure will work fine.
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Old March 2, 2014, 11:38 AM   #12
spacecoast
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After church this morning I made a quick trip over to Bass Pro. Below are the results. No .454" lead balls to be had, but at least there was a place on the shelf for them. I'll check back later, hopefully they aren't as hard to get as .22 ammo. I didn't see any Ballistol or Wonder Wads or real black powder (or shelf space for any of these).

I was tempted to invest in the Traditions loading stand ($25), but thought I could probably get by without it for one range trip.

The revolver powder measure accommodates up to 50 grains, so that seems like a safe bet, but before I break open the powder, is this OK or should I hold out for real FFFG black powder?

I also have an old flask that presumably will work for transporting powder to the range. Two questions -

What's the best way to get the powder in the flask?

The flask has a pretty tiny hole at the end, does black powder flow freely enough to use that for pouring into the measure?


Last edited by spacecoast; March 2, 2014 at 11:51 AM.
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Old March 2, 2014, 12:24 PM   #13
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You actually need very little. Powder, a measure, grease, balls & basic rod/patches cleaning supplies should do you

However (& it's a biggie) part of the fun is collecting all the $5.00 "Unearthed Arcana" to quote the old D&D games, that's 1/2 the fun. Based on that you're probably going to eventually end up with a collection like this:
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Old March 2, 2014, 12:25 PM   #14
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The Pyrodex is fine but you won't see real black on a shelf, you have to ask for it. The spout should unscrew from the flask and get a small funnel for filling. Real bp will go through a fairly small hole but Pyro is bulkier so it depends on just how small the hole is. Make sure there's no oil left in the chambers before you load it or you will be doing some major cussing. You might even want to pop a cap on all six before loading.
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Old March 2, 2014, 12:29 PM   #15
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You can actually buy a cap for the original powder container that also has a funnel built in to allow pouring into your measure. You could possibly use it as a dual function pouring spout for both measure & powder flask.
It looks like this:
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Old March 2, 2014, 01:24 PM   #16
spacecoast
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Wogpotter - thanks for the suggestion, I'm thinking maybe an empty squeeze bottle with a spout similar to what you show would be a good temporary powder container too, and would allow me to fill the powder measure. I'm pretty sure the flask I have won't work, the hole is really small, smaller than a nipple opening.
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Old March 2, 2014, 01:36 PM   #17
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Wow, you actually found Remington primers! They're pretty hit or miss in many locations.

I would make sure the old pistol is safe to fire and if it may be wiser to retire it to preserve its collector value. A little shooting here and there may be all right but if you jump in to BP with both feet it may be time to look at replicas.
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Old March 2, 2014, 04:09 PM   #18
wogpotter
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You don't have to have a flask. Just use the original with the spout & pour into the measure to load the chambers. Just remember to pop the plug back into the opening in the spout between loads to prevent sparks getting into the powder jar!
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Old March 21, 2014, 08:13 AM   #19
spacecoast
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Finally got the balls and also found the wads online from Cabelas. Prices seemed pretty reasonable at $15 for the balls and $10 for the wads.

Not having a flask, I plan to use the appropriate size dipper to load the chambers. From this chart - http://www.curtrich.com/BPConversionSheet.htm - it appears that I need to use a 1.67 cc dipper for a load of Pyrodex P equivalent to 25 grains of black powder.

Does that sound correct?

Another question - now that I have the wads, is there any reason to keep the Bore Butter or can I return that to Bass Pro?

One more question - I plan to load and shoot a single chamber, then load and shoot all 6. Presumably I can force the balls almost into the chamber with my fingers and then finish seating them with the gun's loading lever. I understand that I don't add the caps until the cylinder is back on the gun, the chambers are loaded and I'm almost ready to fire. Any problems with that logic?


Last edited by spacecoast; March 21, 2014 at 08:19 AM.
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Old March 21, 2014, 09:28 AM   #20
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.

I like common household Crisco lard as a sealant in the front of C&B revolver chambers (after the powder/ball are seated).

http://d2sagvik43u0ky.cloudfront.net...nds/crisco.jpg

I apply it with a screwdriver blade (acting as a spatula) to all chamber fronts - the Crisco keeps the powder fouling very loose, delaying a bore build-up of fouling & easing cleanup.


.
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Old March 21, 2014, 10:49 AM   #21
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You shouldn't need to remove the cylinder to load it. Its designed to load in the revolver.

I thought you had a powder measure? set that to the volume you want & just fill it from the powder container. By all means use dippers, but check the volume with the powder measure. Then use that to pour into the chambers.

Put the hammer on 1/2 cock & drop your measured powder into the chamber just before the bottom of the frame. Seat a wad & then the ball on top of that. Turn the cylinder just enough to bring the loaded chamber in line with the built-in rammer & ram the powder/wad/ball home fully. I usually leave the lever down after this as it locks the cylinder for loading other chambers.

As you're loading one at first just cap the loaded chamber, then rotate the cylinder til the loaded chamber is just to the "upwind" side of aligning with the barrel.
Bring the hammer back to full cock to prepare for firing.

When you load all 6 do the 6 powder/wad/ball loads for all then go round again capping. Take care to always keep all body parts astern of the chamber mouth.

I'd keep the bore butter, not to put in front of the balls, with the wads that's a belt & suspenders thing & not needed. BUT (there's always one of them) but to lube the axis pin, rammer pivots & so on. Its more a grease lube than anything & oil is too thin & will be blown off immediately allowing fouling to bind up the cylinder rapidly. The greasy texture of the bore butter will hold in better giving more shots.
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Old March 21, 2014, 12:18 PM   #22
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wogpotter -

Thanks a bunch for the procedural help, I plan to shoot it tomorrow morning and will post a range report assuming I and those around me survive.

One more thing - when finished, do I do anything special with the gun to facilitate later cleaning or just plan to remove the grips and soak everything in hot water when I get back home?
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Old March 21, 2014, 12:59 PM   #23
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The tools

Before you tear it down for cleaning be sure you have a proper set of drivers/bits. Yes, just about any driver from your tool box will work, but improper drivers will also wreak havoc on the screw heads. If they're already buggered you could make a bad situation worse. Also if the nips are stuck that bad I would consider a complete tear down, soak, clean and inspection prior to firing. Take your time. A few days soaking is way better than a nip busted in haste. Proper firearm tools are worth their weight. Good luck! That would be a hoot to shoot.
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Old March 21, 2014, 01:24 PM   #24
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Powder, cap, ball are the minimum.

You should also make a powder measure. Use a brass cartridge case and glue it onto a stick. A powder flask or horn. You can make a horn from horn and wood. For a filler (safety), use old cornmeal or farina. That's what I used for years. Grease is nice and I brought along Crisco put into a small tin or jar with an ice cream stick as an applicator.
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Old March 21, 2014, 02:45 PM   #25
wogpotter
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You shouldn't need any soaking as such.
I use hot soapy water to clean, a hot clear water rinse & thorough dry with a hair dryer followed by an immediate oiling.

I usually just remove the grips, pull the cylinder & unscrew the nipples.
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