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Old December 10, 2008, 09:56 PM   #1
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Shooting Black Powder?

Hello, Just a little help please. I was given a rifle, it is a .50 cal. carbine style, looks to be in fine condition. Seems to be well made. It has no manufacture name on it, but does say, Ardesa Spain-50 cal Black Powder only on the barrel. I would like very much to try this gun and possibly use it for deer season.
My question is proper loading techniques, powder loads, ect. and so on.
There seems to be no end to misleading the info out there and no clear answer to what load to use. I will be firing round ball ammo.
I do use my black powder revolver for plicking and such, so I am familiar with shooting BP. I am trying to be cautious and not damage any one or thing with my rifle. Any good help is welcome!
Thank you, Jim
"Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not."
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Old December 10, 2008, 10:44 PM   #2
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Well, that's a caution not to use smokeless powder. You certainly can use a substitute such as Pyrodex or Triple 7.

I'm assuming that it's a sidelock percussion rifle (not a flint lock and most likely not an inline.)

You didn't mention whether the gun was in use before it was given to you. You definitely want to be sure it's shootable. Make sure to clean the gun from top to bottom. Check the bore, be sure it's totally empty and clean and smooth (no rust, or caking). That includes removing the nipples and making sure they are clean and clear. Use a nipple pick to clear them and wash them good. When that's done, make a note of where the ramrod meets the muzzle. That will be your empty mark. If you have never cleaned a BP rifle, I can send you a PM and some detailed instructions, just LMK.

Once you're sure it's totally clean, you want to fire two or three caps (most likely #11) to clear the nipples. Then you might want to load with 90 grains of FFg equivalent (i.e. Pyrodex RS) and your 50 cal ball and mark your ramrod at the muzzle to show where one load gives you. It'll be a safety check for you to know whether there is a load in the gun or if it's empty, or even if there are two loads in there! Then you're ready to see how it shoots.
You may want to go up or down on the powder charge a bit (10 gr) and see if it shoots better or worse.

You can also use sabots or bore sized bullets like PowerBelts and see if you like the way those shoot compared to a round ball. They should behave better, but you'll want to see for sure.

Besides you get to shoot a lot and make a lot of smoke and noise! what's better than that?
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Old December 11, 2008, 03:20 AM   #3
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Once you've determined the gun is empty and clean you need to find the twist rate. Hopefully you have a patch jag. Run a tight fitting patch to the bottom of the bore and with a felt marker or tape mark it at the muzzle. Pull it out slowly and let it turn with the rifling. When it turns a quarter turn measure the distance between muzzle and mark and multiply x 4. That will be your twist rate. 1:48 is a good twist for PRB and conicals. 1:66 is PRB only. Anything faster than 1:48 is going to be conical only. If you have a rate that will take PRB's you'll need .490 balls and .015 lubed patches. Start with about 70 grs. of powder and go up in five gr. increments to 100 grs. You should find a load it likes in there somewhere.
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Old December 11, 2008, 12:48 PM   #4
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If it is a Hawken style it is probably a 1:48 twist and will do well with the patched round ball.
I have killed 7 deer with just such a gun and the round ball is a great deer slayer.
Use 80 grains of ffg black powder.
Get pillow ticking and Old Zip patch grease from
I cut a couple dozen patches and put them in a bowl with a little Old Zip.
Microwave for 15 seconds and let cool, the patches are lubed.
Then I store them in an old metal shoe polish can.

Good luck!
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Old December 11, 2008, 04:16 PM   #5
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Here is a picture of said rifle. It has never been fired. I have checked and fired caps only. Thanks for the advise, you all have made some good points, and I will be making smoke with it soon.
"Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not."
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Old December 11, 2008, 04:47 PM   #6
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That looks like a Frontier rifle that was also sold in a variety of calibers by both CVA and Traditions.
Ardesa made sidelock muzzle loaders for both companies and still does for Traditions.
There were rifle, carbine and smoothbore versions offered.
That model has been discontinued by those U.S. importers for over a decade at least.
I think that you're very lucky to have an unfired one. But I'll bet that it won't be much longer before its virgin status is lost forever.
Thanks for the picture and let us know how it shoots.

Last edited by arcticap; December 11, 2008 at 05:03 PM.
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