View Full Version : basic black powder

Nanaimo Barr
June 26, 2002, 05:37 PM
we have a Lyman "deerstalker" percussion cap rifle in .54 caliber on trial to see if my wife wants to get into black powder. what do we need to get (powder, caps etc etc) to get up and running enough for her to try it. we don't want to spend a lot on stuff we don't need if she doesn't want to get into it.

and what is the difference between Pyrodex and Black Powder?

Jim Watson
June 26, 2002, 06:00 PM
Black powder is the old tradtitional saltpeter, sulfur, charcoal blend. Pyrodex isn't. It is said to contain those ingredients, but it is mostly some kind of proprietary propellant.

Black powder is rated as an explosive for shipping regs, Pyrodex is a propellant and ships like smokeless.

In the gun Black powder builds up fouling and requires very careful managment to allow sustained fire. For best shooting you can wipe out with a wet patch, then dry, after every shot. The last few days I have been watching a friend who is very experienced in Black Powder Cartridge Rifle shooting with a Sharps single shot go through a lot of trials to get his CAS Marlin lever action to keep going with Black. Pyrodex reaches a stable condition in a few shots and quits building up.

Black powder fouling is somewhat corrosive and should be cleaned out ASAP with water or a water-based cleaner. My guy uses Windex All-Surface Cleaner with Vinegar. Pyrodex fouling has been reported to be very corrosive under some conditions and should be cleaned out PDQ with water or a water-based cleaner.

Nanaimo Barr
June 26, 2002, 08:23 PM
ok, I think we'll go with Pyrodex (it just sounds like less of a hassle) can it be used to load metalic cartridges as well? (she shoots CAS and if she doesn't like the Muzzle loader I would like to be able to use the powder for CAS .38/.357)

June 27, 2002, 01:06 PM
Pyrodex can indeed be used for cartridges...check out Hodgdons' website for loading info.

Nanaimo Barr
June 27, 2002, 01:36 PM
ok, thats answers that question, thank you both.. still trying to figure out the bare basics to go out and try this thing through

4V50 Gary
June 27, 2002, 02:01 PM
What do you need?

Get the MaxiBall from Lyman to simplify things. Why MaxiBall? Well, with roundball you have to consider several sizes and then figure out the patch and powder combination that works best for that particular size roundball. With the MaxiBall, you figure out what powder charge works best and you're good to go.

Second, get a powder measure and a powder flask or horn. An adjustable powder measure is best while you're trying to figure out what charge works well. Always load from the measure and never from the horn or flask. Don't want a handgrenade in your hand.

Third, with respects to post shooting servicing of your Deerstalker, get a jag, stuck ball puller and a worm. The jag is used for cleaning the bore after you're finished shooting. The worm (looks like a pig's tail made o' wire) is used to remove stuck patches. You also want to get a nipple wrench so as to be able to remove the nipple for cleaning.

Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Sight the gun so that it's dead on at 75 yards. Learn to hold over/under for longer and shorter distances.

BTW, I prefer blackpowder over pyrodex. Guess I'm old fashion but I like the smell of rotten eggs (blackpowder) over dirty socks (pyrodex). There's also Cleanshot (another substitute) that I have but haven't tried yet.

Nanaimo Barr
June 27, 2002, 09:16 PM
ok, are we talking a powder messure like the one on my reloading bench?

we're just looking at getting enough gear together to give this a try. we don't want to invest in a lot of the "fiddly bits" if she isin't going to like it. (I got my eye on a FN FAL..)

what should I get for patches and does it need lube? (we know almost nothing about black powder, what little I do know came from the Sharpe novels

Jim Watson
June 27, 2002, 09:37 PM
Not a powder measure like you have on your loading bench for smokeless. Measure makers worry a lot about sparks off of steel rotors, static from plastic hoppers, and who knows what all setting off black powder, which is capable of actual detonation, unlike smokeless. A muzzleloader measure is just a brass cylinder, some with a sliding adjustment, some with a little funnel attached. You can make a dipper out of a empty case with a handle glued or soldered on. Or just use various empties as measures, pouring into them out of a flask (You can get nozzle caps to use the powder can as a flask, no need to buy a horn or brass flask.) Calibrate by weighing.

Patches for round balls should be good stout fabric of natural fibers, cotton will do nearly as well as linen, but use pillow ticking, pocket twill or some such, not a soft cleaning patch. No synthetics whatsoever. You can lightly grease a patch with Bore Butter or even Crisco - not a petroleum product - or, for target shooting where you are going to load and fire right away, a spit patch will work as well or better. Just pop the patch in your mouth and roll it around until it is well dampened with saliva.

Get a Dixie Gun Works catalog, there is a lot of sensible advice in it.

June 27, 2002, 09:59 PM
Black don't smell like Chanel #5. More like the inside of an outhouse! :)

The advice to use a maxiball vs. a round ball is OK for a seasoned shooter but if the little missus doesn't like the snot kicked out of her the RB is a lot more comfortable esp. w/ a brass crescent buttplate! Reason: Ball weighs about 1/2 of a same diameter maxiball.

A good gun store will carry a line of BP products, usually Thompson Center or CVA. Both make patches for the various bore sizes and Hornady, Speer, etc. make the round balls as well as T/C and CVA. That and some Bore Butter or spit for patch lube, a powder flask and measure (merely a properly sized thimble) plus caps will put you in bidness.

Have fun!

Nanaimo Barr
June 27, 2002, 11:14 PM
most of the gun stores around here don't carry black powder gear, (most of the gun stores around here carry damn little of anything)

I'll have to keep checking around. from what I have found I haven't seen any of the maxiballs (not that I would know what I was looking at).

it looks like pyrodex (seems to be half the price of the "real" thing), I know I can get that.

can anyone recomend a good website for a newbie to black powder?

June 28, 2002, 06:51 AM
I think Midway has BP accessories. I know Cabelas does. www.cabelas.com

Do a search using Black Powder on their website. Good luck! :)

BTW. A .54 uses .530 round balls. If you buy the balls and patch from the same mfgr (like T/C) you will do well I'm sure.

Nanaimo Barr
June 28, 2002, 08:46 AM
hmm, this is starting to turn into a production, guess I'm too used to "buy gun, buy bullets, shoot bullets"

my Doctor is into Black Powder, gotta see him today anyways.he would know who carries what localy.

then I need to figure out how to load and use the darn thing safely. I thank you all for your help

Jim Watson
June 28, 2002, 09:12 AM
I think you need some reference materials; it is awful hard to learn a new activity one question at a time here or with your doctor or a storekeeper. "Figuring it out" is really a hard row to hoe. Maybe there is a comprehensive muzzleloading www site. I like books.
There are the Lyman Blackpowder Manual and the Gun Digest Blackpowder Manual. The Midway "Pigskin Library" has them. I will again recommend the Dixie Gun Works Catalog. Some of its information is a bit dated, but there is stuff to read (and to buy) you will see nowhere else.

Nanaimo Barr
June 28, 2002, 10:32 AM
thanks Jim, already got a Dixie gun works catalog on order. I'll talk to my doctor about it as well, he's into black powder. one question at a time sure isin't working.

4V50 Gary
June 28, 2002, 11:39 AM
The powder measure doesn't have to be any fancy or expensive piece of equipment. Many buckskinners make their own out of a piece of antler tip or discarded tip of a cow horn. Before they do though, they find out what powder charge works best for their rifle and then bore out the tip such that it holds exactly the desired charge. Think of it as a spoon or dipper that you level off and nothing fancy like a reloading set-up.

If you choose to go the round ball route, it takes a lot of time for load development. You vary the thicknesses of your patches, diameter of the ball, and the powder charge. You're going to be filling out a chart to show which combo gives you the best accuracy. That's why I said go with the easier maxi-ball since you won't have to mess with patches. Just one ball and varying powder charges. Much easier & faster and besides, the 1:48 twist of the Deerstalker likes Maxiballs.

Nanaimo Barr
June 28, 2002, 11:41 AM
I hope my wife appreciates all this effort you guys are putting in.hehehe

I'll ask around town and see if anyone has those maxiballs.

June 28, 2002, 04:15 PM
Maxi-Balls may be sold as "conicals" or any variety of trade names such as "Buffalo Bullets",etc.
We generally use the maxiball term for a conical bullet with a solid base. A minie ball has a open skirted base (like a shotgun slug)
BTW, they are considerably more expensive than patched round ball. Unless you make them yourself
This is about a $25 investment+ a good source of pure lead. I make 3-400 at a time. One batch of this size lasts quite a while, and pays for all of the equipment in one fell swoop of savings.
PM me for details. BTW, check out Sam Fadala's book on blackpowder shooting. It's available at Amazon,B&N,etc.

4V50 Gary
June 28, 2002, 04:33 PM
Go to http://www.lymanproducts.com and you'll find a listing of their moulds. If you want to cast your own, do it in a well ventilated area (I do mine outside). You'll need a melting pot, mould (with handles) a spoon (to skim off the junk) and some beeswax. You may also want to get a sizer that can be used to both size and lube the maxiballs (conicals).

Check out some used bookstores to see if you can buy a book on basic blackpowder shooting. Sam Fadala's book is good and so is the Lyman Blackpowder handbook. That little Lyman manual that should have come with the gun is packed with lotsa good info. BTW, I got the basics from Lyman's BP handbook when I was in my teens and read it as I progressed from BP pistol, to percussion rifle and finally flintlock.

June 28, 2002, 05:09 PM
CVA (Connecticut Valley Arms) also has a website w/ good info. Whatever way you go I can't see you spending less than $40-50 to fire your first shot. If you find the phone # of Lyman I'm sure they will send you the owner's manual to the rifle in these product liability conscious days. Even more so as a reputable company (which Lyman is) would want you to get the most out of your rifle. You may become a future customer...

The maxiballs (T/C's name) come in a 20 pack and cost pretty dear, something like a medium sized metallic cartridge (c. $8) but again I think the lady would prefer the kick of a round ball. It's your call.

Suggest you look into this forum a little. There are some real down home baccy-chawin buckskin wearin hombres that forgot more than I know here. :)

July 2, 2002, 06:21 PM
Does the advice given above about loading from a measure instead of from a flask also apply to Cap N Ball revolvers ?

I've been loading mine directly from a brass flask with either the 20 or 30 grain spout installed.

Is there more risk of a spark or something loading from the brass flask to the steel cylinder ? and you reduce it by pouring from brass flask to brass (or antler/bone/plastic) measure and then from that to the cylinder ?

Now I can't get that image of 'loading from a hand grenade' out of my head !

Thanks in advance, for your help and advice,

Nanaimo Barr
July 2, 2002, 08:51 PM
we thank you all, it's become moot.. car repairs and new medications took up all the spare cash...