View Full Version : Are the wads really necessary in blackpowder cartridges?

October 30, 2001, 08:14 PM
I have a Ruger #1S in .45-70, and while I'm waiting for my Rolling Block Creedmoor project to be finished, have decided to try some blackpowder loads in the #1. I can get 60 grains of Goex FFG into a magnum rifle primed Remington Nickel-plated case, using a modified aluminum ski pole as a drop tube. I loaded an Ox Yoke Wonder Wad under a Meister cast 405gr bullet, slightly compressing the blackpowder charge.

Range day with the Ruger and the blackpowder loads was rather fun. It's a really gentle push, as opposed to a sharp kick, even my 5'2" girlfriend shot off a dozen rounds. Off the bench at 50 yards, I had no problem keeping the rounds inside an inch, albeit way high of the bullseye. The wind was blowing the clouds of smoke straight back into our faces, we looked like miners after 50 rounds.

The powder fouling stayed soft and really didn't start to crud up the bore until after about 10 rounds. A wet patch with Ed's Red wiped the bore clean enough to resume shooting. After about 30 rounds, I had to use a copper bore brush to clean out the hard fouling that began to accumulate an inch or so from the muzzle. But even then it wasn't really that big a deal, the whole shooting session was literally a blast.

As well-lubed as some of these big cast bullets are, what trouble could I expect if I skipped the over-powder wad in lieu of even more black powder? I experienced zero leading in the Ruger, will this change? Or is the wad actually acting as a gas check/wiper, cleaning the fouling as the bullet goes down the barrel?

Also, using my Lyman cast bullet handbook, I loaded some duplex loads as an attempt at perhaps cleaner burning charges and less cleaning between rounds. I stayed on the conservative side of the load data, even though the Ruger falling block is one of the strongest actions. I get to try these out this coming Sunday, I'll report back and let folks here know how well they worked.

Mike Irwin
November 1, 2001, 02:03 AM
What can you expect?

From my experience, probably some leading, depending on the hardness of your bullet, increased hard fouling, and a quicker drop off in accuracy (possibly after as few as 5 shots).

In the past I've actually used a tightly fitting felt over-wad on top of the powder, scooped some soft lube into the mouth of the case, and then seated the bullet on that as a way of dealing with hard fouling on really dry or hot days.

The wad does have some cleaning effect as it travels down the barrel, but I don't think that it's all that much of one.

The grease grooves on the bullet really don't deposit that much lube down the barrel as the bullet is going past, and depending on the shooting conditions, can quickly lose any effectiveness.

I've been in shooting conditions where I actually had to start gooping lube on the FRONT of the bullet, in addition to what is in the grease grooves and in the wad between the bullet and the case.

Really, don't skip the wad. You'll get at most 2 to 5 grains more BP into the case, if that, but you'll likely quickly start to have probelms because of it.

November 1, 2001, 05:47 AM
Here try this:

Mike Irwin
November 1, 2001, 04:36 PM
From the Webpage that RAE linked...

"Just because your shooting a PPB doesn't mean that you can skip lubing the bullet. If you do, you just might wear the barrel out a lot faster
than you had planned."

The paragraphs that follow it are loaded with information on wads and grease cookies.

November 1, 2001, 11:35 PM
don't leave any open air space in the casing.
Black powder or Pyrodex doesn't burn right if it's loose.

Mike Irwin
November 2, 2001, 10:20 AM
"Don't leave any airspace..."

Always good advice.

It's not the fact that the powder won't burn correctly, at least not black powder. BP burns at a constant rate whether it's under compression or not.

Airspace can, however, result in a ringed chamber, which is never a good thing.

Cap n ball
November 2, 2001, 10:41 AM
The hot expanding gases are what pushes the bullet down the bore. A good tight wad will prevent most of the gas from leaking around the bullet and help keep the muzzel velocity consistant for accuracy.
The use of a damp patch or swab about every four or five shots will really help keep fouling from getting out of hand as well as extinguish any glowing bits of powder residue prior to your next load.

November 4, 2001, 09:38 PM
Ok, call me a glutton for punishment, but I loaded and fired no less than 70 rounds of .45-70 in my Ruger #1 today, and I really don't feel sore or anything.

I segregated the loads by powder type, using the same bullet for each.

The first batch, which I had fired a week ago, were the Dillon/Meister 405gr cast flat nose bullets, atop an Oxyoke Wonder Wad, 60 grains of compressed and drop-tubed Goex FFg, Remington nickel-plated brass, and Federal 215 Magnum primers.

Very comfortable shooting load, lots of wonderful smoke, but more of a "thunk" than a "bang" upon firing, and shot somewhat low at 50 and 100 yards. Lots of fouling in the bore, I couldn't chamber a fresh round after firing three of them, so cleaning was essential.

The next batch used the same brass, bullet, wad, and primer. This time, the case got a charge of 5.0 grains of WW231 over the primer, before a main charge of 50.0 grains of drop-tubed Goex FFg was added.

Wow! Nice "bang" sound, still lots of smoke, but the bullet impact was considerably closer to point of aim. And, when the fired round was extracted, there just a very light dusting of soot in the bore, nothing at all like the full BP loads. I like 'em!

Ok, next batch used the same brass and bullets, but with a standard Winchester Large Rifle Primer, and 36.0 grains of IMR3031. This is considered a light, "Trapdoor" load, so I figured it was a great place to start for my Ruger #1 and work my way up the load data.

"BANG"! Ok, a little bit more recoil, but not bad, quite tolerable. Groups are now where the scope was boresighted. No smoke, but it smelled kinda funny. Extracting the fired round revealed a bore with a bunch of unburned IMR3031 granules all the way down the tube.

Ok, so the duplex loads were a kick in the pants, I'll have to do more of those on the reloading bench. But the IMR3031 leaves a bit to be desired , I dunno if it needs a stouter charge for more complete combustion, a hotter magnum primer, or if I should just give up on that powder for 405gr cast bullets and try something else.

Accuracy was actually pretty good with the Dillon bullet and the duplex and smokeless loads, I had no problem keeping groups under an inch at 50 yards, so I am quite pleased with the Ruger falling block rifle...

Mike Irwin
November 5, 2001, 12:10 AM
Oh yeah, you've discovered duplexing.

It makes black powder burn a LOT cleaner, thus leaving a lot less soot.