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Old March 22, 2011, 08:19 PM   #17
Senior Member
Join Date: October 1, 2004
Location: Remote Utah desert
Posts: 224
Doc Hoy: I have no idea how many Colt 1860s the Confederates used. The specification of 250 gr. bullet over 30 grs. powder was taken from the February 1975 issue of the American Rifleman, as I noted in the beginning of the post.
That article cites, "an official Confederate publication ..."

I haven't purchased Wonder Wads in some time. Not since I found Durofelt on the internet, and bought a sheet of 1/8" thick hard, wool felt that will ultimately provide me with about 8,000 wads -- for about $27 as I recall. Durofelt is a fine company, and offers free shipping within the U.S. lower 48.
Even with a punch factored in, I can make wads for well under 1/2 cent each.

I use a 3/8" inch wad cutter (or hole cutter for gaskets, depending on how you look at it) for my .36 caliber revolvers. For the .44 cap and balls you can use a sharpened .45 Long Colt or .45 ACP case, or purchase a .45-caliber wad cutter from Buffalo Arms, as I did.
Brass cases eventually become dull. The Buffalo Arms cutter doesn't, if you use the end of a small log and cut into its end grain, as I do.

I prefer using wads over straight grease cookies. Force of habit, I guess. But also, I suspect that the hard wool wad helps scrape fouling from the bore as it passes. Purely my suspicion, but since I began using a properly lubricated felt wad I've seen a marked decrease in fouling in the bore.

I can't specify how much pressure to apply when seating a ball, other than to say, "seat the ball firmly on the powder."
However, there is no need to bear down hard on the seated ball; doing so may crush the individual powder kernels and affect its burning rate, which could affect ignition or accuracy.
Myself, once I feel a "grittiness" to the powder under the ball, I stop. I often hear or feel a crunching under the ball, indicating that I've reached the seating limit. You certainly don't need any more than this.
As long as your seating pressure eliminates any possibility of an airspace between ball and powder, you're good.

The airspace between ball and powder may create an unsafe condition. The physics and mechanics of WHY this is true, I don't fully understand. Suffice to say it exists, and has been documented a long time.
It's a puzzlement because you can load a small amount of smokeless or black powder in a cartridge case, load a ball on the end of the case, and fire that ball without a problem. Recreate the same conditions in a rifle or revolver, using black powder with a space between the powder and ball, and pressures soar.
I can't explain it. I just know that leaving a space between powder and ball in a black powder gun can be catastrophic.
When I meet my maker, I intend to ask him why this is so ... sometime after asking him, "Was I just imagining that Wanda Berkowitz came onto me in the high school library, or did I blow a heck of an opportunity?"
A man's gotta have his priorities, ya know ...
"And lo, did I see an ugly cat. Smoke. Brimstone. Holes in parchment. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- The Prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566)
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