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Old April 7, 2006, 06:55 PM   #1
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So you want a cap and ball revolver?

So you have a new cap and ball revolver?
Here's how to wring the best accuracy from it. You’ll want to print this out, it’s long and will require frequent referral.

Buy some JB Bore Compound or Iosso Bore cleaner. These are pastes, very mildly abrasive, designed to clean bores without harm. Put this paste on a patch that fits snugly and work it back and forth in the bore until the patch becomes a loose fit (usually six to 8 passes).
Do this at least a dozen times. This will remove factory preservatives and help smooth the bore somewhat.
If the chambers are rough, this may also be done but do so by hand. Resist the temptation to chuck your cleaning rod in a drill; you can too easily enlarge the chamber.
After the bore or chambers are smoothed, remove the paste with patches wet with Ronson lighter fluid. Lighter fluid evaporates without leaving behind deposits.

In my experience, FFFG black powder has been the most accurate propellant in .36 and .44-caliber revolvers. I've tried FFG and Pyrodex P and not found it as accurate.

Use Wonder Wads, as sold by Ox-Yoke, or punch your own wads from stiff felt. A 3/8 inch punch is perfect to create .36 caliber wads. Use a .45-caliber wad punch for the .44 revolvers. In metric, this would translate to about 9.5mm and 11.25mm wad punches.
Old cowboy hats are a good source of stiff felt. Look in thrift stores for old hats. Some hardware stores sell wool felt on a roll, for use as window insulation. Whatever the felt, it should be at least 1/16th of an inch thick and preferably 3/8 inch.
Don't use the felt sold in hobby shops, as it's too limp. Check the label on the felt, much of it is partly or wholly polyester (plastic) which will deposit melted plastic in your bore.
If you’d rather not bother, Wonder Wads are okay but do not use them as-is. In my experience, they lack sufficient lubricant to work properly. Soak the wads in melted lard, mutton tallow, bacon grease or any other natural (animal or plant) grease. Don’t use petroleum greases, they create a hard, tarry fouling when mixed with black powder.

The best wad lubricant I've found is listed in a 1943 American Rifleman magazine. It is made of:
1 part paraffin (I use canning paraffin, sold in grocery stores)
1 part mutton tallow (sold by Dixie Gun Works)
1/2 part beeswax (available in hardware stores as a toilet gasket)
All measurements are by weight, NOT volume.
I use a kitchen scale to measure 200/200/100 grams of ingredients, which will nearly fill a quart, wide mouth Mason jar.
With the jar filled, place it in three to four inches of boiling water (the safest way to melt greases and waxes) until all ingredients are thoroughly melted. Stir with a clean stick or disposable chopstick.
Allow the lubricant to cool at room temperature. Placing the jar in the refrigerator may cause the ingredients to separate. When the lubricant is cool and solid, screw the jar lid down tight and store it in a cool, dry place. This will keep dust and crud out and keep natural moistures in.
This lubricant is also excellent for other black powder applications: patch grease, lubricating fiber shotgun wads and as a bullet lubricant in muzzleloaders or cartridge guns.
In fact, it’s all I use. I no longer buy commercial black powder bullet lubricants such as SPG or Lyman Black Powder Gold. This recipe is as good or better and much cheaper.

Canning paraffin is the hard, translucent wax sold to melt and pour over preserves, such as jams and jellies. Use canning paraffin only. Who knows what’s in old candles, especially the scented variety? But if old candles are all you can find, use them.
Some sharp-eyed black powder shooters may see paraffin among the ingredients and gasp because paraffin is a petroleum product, and petroleum products cause hard, tarry fouling. However, a chemist told me that paraffin lacks the hydrocarbons of other petroleum products, which appears to be the offender.
The paraffin is necessary in this recipe because it stiffens the wad, which helps it scrape fouling from the bore.

Sold by Dixie Gun Works in Tennessee, you may also find it if you live in sheep country. Mutton tallow makes a superior product. I’m told that unlike beef lard and other tallows, mutton tallow contains lanolin. I’m unsure about this, but it makes a difference in the lubricant.

For about 100 .36 or .44 caliber wads, melt two or three Tablespoons of lubricant in a clean tuna can at a low temperature. There's no need to cook the lubricant, just melt it. Add the wads. Stir them in the melted lubricant until thoroughly saturated. Cool at room temperature.
I carry the wads to the range in the same can, with a plastic pet-food lid snapped on. Store them in a cool, dry place with the lid snapped tightly.

A loading stand that holds the revolver upright on the range table is best. It allows you to get a better "feel" for how much pressure you're applying to the wad and projectile. It also holds the revolver securely in an upright position if you need to interrupt the loading process.

Add a measured powder charge to each chamber.
I've found that 20 grs. of FFFG is a good starting load in my .36 caliber Colt Navy and Remington, and 30 grs. is good in the Remington and Colt .44 revolvers. For the 1862 Colt Pocket in .36-caliber, use 15 grains of FFFG.
Place a lubricated wad over the mouth of each charged chamber, then thumb-press the wad slightly below the mouth of the chamber. Now, seat each wad firmly onto the powder charge. Don't crush the powder; just seat the wad firmly against it.
There are good reasons for seating the wad separately. First, should you forget to add powder to the chamber, it's easier to remove a felt wad than a stuck ball. Secondly, this gives you a better feel for how much pressure you're applying. Thirdly, it makes it easier to seat the ball.

Use a .380 inch ball for the .36 caliber, and a .454 or .457 inch ball for the .44 revolvers (the Ruger Old Army requires a .457-inch ball).
I purchase .380 inch, sprueless balls from Warren Muzzleloading at so I don’t' have to deal with the sprue left from cast balls.
If you use cast balls, the sprue must be up and centered before ramming.
Many black powder manuals suggest .375 and .451 inch balls for these revolvers but they typically are not as accurate. The larger balls create a wider bearing surface for the rifling to grip, which aids accuracy.

For less than maximum loads, I sometimes use a little corn meal on top of the wad. Wipe it slightly below flush with your finger. Use corn meal; Cream of Wheat does not compress so it's not as forgiving if you add too much. The use of corn meal is not mandatory but for light loads it’s suggested.

With wads seated firmly on the powder in each chamber, it's time to seat the ball.
With the rammer, seat the ball firmly on the wad. The ball should be large enough that the chamber shaves a ring from it.
If you don't get a ring of lead, it may be that your chamber mouths are so chamfered that a ring is not cut, or that you need a larger ball.
Seat the ball firmly into the chamber. If the first ball takes too much pressure to push in below flush, add less corn meal to the other chambers.
The ball should be seated just slightly below flush of the chamber. If it is seated too far into the chamber, the ball has a long jump before it engages the rifling in the forcing cone. This long jump can affect accuracy.
The ball MUST be seated firmly onto the wad, or corn meal if you use it. There must be NO space between ball, wad, corn meal (if you use it) or powder. A space creates a dangerous condition that may markedly increase pressures.
By using a lubricated wad, grease over the ball is not usually needed. I live in the Utah desert where temperatures may get to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.5 Celsius) with less than 6 percent humidity. On such days, I've found it useful to add lubricant over the ball but these days are not frequent so I rarely do so.
The same lubricant as used for the wads may be smeared over the ball with a Popsicle stick, to avoid messy fingers.

I’ve yet to find a conical bullet as accurate as a lead ball. The Lyman 37583 bullet, intended for the .38-55 rifle, is often used for .36 caliber revolvers but it’s hard to seat straight. This is a common problem with many conicals. They lack a rebated rim that will slip into the chamber and align the bullet before ramming.
The Lee and Buffalo Bullet designs have this rim but I still haven’t found them as accurate as a ball. Conical bullets must be lubricated before seating. The above lubricant works quite well, or you can use Crisco, Bore Butter or my favorite commercial lubricant, CVA Grease Patch.

With all balls seated firmly in the cylinder, it's time to cap the revolver. I like Remington No. 10 or 11 caps in my revolvers but use CCI on occasion. The Remingtons fit my revolvers' nipples better .
I can't tell you which size cap to use; you'll have to find that through trial and error on your nipples. The cap should fit snugly on the nipple, and "bottom out" so that the tiny bit of priming compound in the cap rests against the cone of the nipple. If it doesn't go down this far, use the larger cap.
If the cap is loose on the nipple, use the smaller cap.
Whichever cap you use, squeeze it into an oval shape so it clings to the nipple. This will keep it from falling off during recoil or handling.

"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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Old April 7, 2006, 06:59 PM   #2
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So you want a cap and ball revolver? Part 2

Continued from, "How to Properly Use a Cap & Ball Sixgun."

Use a standard 25-yard pistol target, at 25 yards, and a benchrest. The backing around the target should be out at least two feet in each direction, to reveal any stray shots. This is best done with a piece of large plywood, at least 3 feet square, with the surface covered by butcher paper and the target in the center.
Colt percussion revolvers, original and reproduction, almost always shoot high at 25 yards, as much as 12 inches above point of aim.
Most Remington replicas shoot low at 25 yards. This is good, because all you have to do is file down the front sight until point of aim. But file it down slowly, a lick or two at a time. If you file down too far, you'll have to replace the front sight.
But before you do any filing, find the most accurate load then adjust your sights to that load.
If the revolver hits above the point of aim, you can either add height to the front sight or file the sighting groove at the rear deeper. In Colt revolvers, this means filing a slightly deeper notch in the hammer nose but you typically can't get it much deeper without the frame blocking the view of your front sight.
Also, if you file a deeper notch in the hammer nose, you'll also need to widen the notch a bit to more easily see the brass bead front sight.
You may reach a point where the Remington's front sight cannot be filed down any farther, when the plane of the barrel interferes with sight picture. If this occurs, you'll just have to aim a little higher or lower, depending on what is needed.
Do NOT do any filing on an original revolver; you will reduce its monetary value.

Grasp the revolver with two hands and let your hands rest on the sandbag or rolled blanket. If the revolver is placed on the rest, or touches it, you may experience flyers because the revolver doesn't recoil naturally if it contacts the rest.
Use Birchwood Casey Sight Black on your sights. This places a sooty surface on your sights and eliminates glare, which is especially bad with the brass bead on Colt front sights. A lit candle stub will place soot on the sights too. BUT keep that flame well-away from all powder and caps. Obviously, don't do this with a loaded cylinder in the revolver!
Bring a small notebook with you and note the load, type of powder, type of projectile, size of projectile (.375 or .380 inch?), caps, weather, wind, distance and whatever else you deem important. This will save you a lot of duplication and help you find that perfect load sooner.

Use ear and eye protection when shooting percussion revolvers. Cap fragments can fly off and most revolvers are very loud. If your club denies you the use of eye and ear protection in order to preserve Western authenticity, find another club. Your sight and hearing are not worth their petty aesthetics.

I’ve been shooting cap and ball revolvers for nearly 35 years. It took me that long to learn or stumble across the above. Print this out and file it away for future reference. What I’ve related is not an absolute; it is intended as a guide. Each gun, like its shooter, is an individual and has particular likes and dislikes.
Happy shooting!

Copyright 2003 by Gatofeo. No use without permission. Posted to the Firing Line by the author, in 2006.
"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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Old April 7, 2006, 08:02 PM   #3
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If this forum has stickie posts, this would be a good one.
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Old April 16, 2006, 02:29 PM   #4
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I was thinking the same thing. This post, and part 1 also, should be "stickied" at the top.
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Old May 28, 2006, 05:08 PM   #5
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Sight Blacking.

For sight blacking I still use the same kit I used in the Army in the UK. A 7.62 empty case with a piece of cotton cloth soaked in gun oil stuffed in it so that only a small 'wick' protrudes. Light the cotton and you will get a beautiful sooty flame! When bleackened, extinguish the 'wick' by placing an empty 9mm case over it. This also acts as a cap and keeps the cotton moist with oil.
Simple and cost effective!!
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Old May 30, 2006, 05:57 AM   #6
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Lawsy, man! Where in the world have you been? I thought you it is good to see you. Posted with you over on Graybeard!
You, Sir, are right on about the cap and ball pistol. Way to go! And it should be stuck!

Big Marsh
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Old July 23, 2006, 09:07 PM   #7
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Hello all

I don't mean to be a pooper, but, in your article, you suggested that people shoot with a sand bag. My suggestion is to shoot closer to start (10yards max) and without a sandbag so that a person actually learns to shoot. A person needs to figure out what they are doing wrong and right. If they go through a routine everytime, they will figure out what not to do. Many hunters for example, make the mistake with modern guns and sandbags. When in the field, there is no sandbags to put a rifle accross to make that nice shot. People need to learn to rely on themselves first.

Nothing against the writer of the article. I am mearly adding my 2 cents worth.

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Old July 26, 2006, 11:25 PM   #8
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sounds to me like he is no teaching someone to shoot but how to setup - sight in a cap and ball revolver Seems to be good info I think it is more posted towards people how already know how to shoot pistols just have neve shot black powder like me
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Old July 27, 2006, 05:41 AM   #9
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Zeroing/grouping for loads etc and learning to shoot/shooting are two completely different things. I am not going to zero a rifle or a handgun standing unsupported, I am going to shoot off a rest to get it close and then work from there. I believe that is what this article is about, getting the gun right not the shooter to use correct breathing, holding the gun, stance etc.

Leaning proper shooting techniques is something that cannot be learned from reading articles but imho it is taught by a qualified instructor and practiced almost endlessly to be instinctive and then refined continually.

Gatofeo's final words say everything ...
I’ve been shooting cap and ball revolvers for nearly 35 years. It took me that long to learn or stumble across the above. Print this out and file it away for future reference. What I’ve related is not an absolute; it is intended as a guide. Each gun, like its shooter, is an individual and has particular likes and dislikes.
Happy shooting!
Bow and Gun Hunting Illinois
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Old July 27, 2006, 09:35 AM   #10
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I have to disagree with the idea of it being bad to use sand bags or some sort of bench rest for hand gun shooting .. i`m no pro .. although i did shoot expert in the military pistol and rifle .. and the proof is in the pudding ..
shooting your hand gun from some sort of rest will give you more confidence in your pistol .. it`ll let you see the gun is capable of shooting much better than you and it`ll give you a goal to work towards .. with out that confidence in the piece you are shooting .. one tends to blame their lack of experience on the weapon . I`ve seen this happen with new shooters more than once get an idea from the bench what kind of groups your pistol is capable of shooting first .. then work free hand towards this goal . I think you`ll find some of those shots some call flyers aren`t that at all .. it`s lack of holding steady .
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Old August 18, 2006, 10:03 AM   #11
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So where is "So you want a cap and ball revolver - Part One" posted????
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Old August 21, 2006, 12:17 AM   #12
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Part 1; how best to use a cap & ball revolver

Here ya go Wayner I tracked er down...on another site.

Sticky this address to if you like folks, it goes with Part 2.
"I Smoke Black Powder" "Favor an 1858 Remington"
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Old August 21, 2006, 10:28 AM   #13
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Thanks Smokin.
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Old August 21, 2006, 02:32 PM   #14
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Anytime Pard!
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Old March 28, 2007, 10:34 AM   #15
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Thought I'd post the No.1 Part...

Figure that link may not last forever and we'd rather have it posted here anyway - see copyright stuff at the end - mods, do what you deem correct with this (but I'm thinking this is the same as having a link really) (Gatofeo?):

(from Highroad board posting):

Gatofeo wrote:

Some of you may profit from my 30 years of shooting cap and ball revolvers, so I've written a long treatise on how best to load them and what you need.
This is long, so you'll want to print this out for later reference.

1. When you first receive your revolver, familiarize yourself with its operation. Particularly important is learning how to completely disassemble it down to the last screw and part because you'll need to do this later for cleaning.
Use a good quality screwdriver that fits well in the screwheads. This will prevent burred screw heads down the line. Some nipple wrenches have screwdrivers on them, but they almost all fit poorly and should not be used.
Most bores of new black powder revolvers need smoothing. Buy some JB Bore Cleaning Compound (in a little white plastic jar) or Iosso Bore Cleaner (in a white metal tube) and work this into a patch that will fit snugly in the bore.
Work this back and forth for a polishing effect. I would suggest at least a dozen patches of this treatment for a new bore. After six or so patches, you'll notice that the bore is noticeably smoother.
You may also smooth the chambers in your cylinder with the same treatment. Do this all by hand; a drill or other machines can remove metal too quickly.

1a. BEWARE OF BRASS FRAMES: Unless you wish to replicate what a few Confederates carried, steer clear of brass-framed guns. Brass is not as strong as steel and will get stretched over time with the pressures of firing. Also, in my experience, brass-framed guns are simply not as well-made as their steel brethren.

2. Black powder is usually more accurate in these revolvers than Pyrodex. I don't know why, but that's been my experience. However, considering that every firearm is an individual, with its own likes and dislikes, it behooves you to try both under careful conditions of comparison.
I use Goex FFFG in all my black powder revolvers.
If you can't find black powder in your area, then try Pyrodex P or any of the other black powder substitutes. I haven't tried any of the newer black powder substitutes and cannot comment on them.

3. Use lubricated, felt wads between the ball and powder. During hot days of low humidity, I also put lubricant over the ball in conjunction with the wad. I've found that the extra lubricant during dry conditions keeps fouling softer and helps accuracy.
Well-lubricated felt wads may leave an exceedingly clean bore. NEVER use smokeless powder in any black powder arm. Period.

4. Snap at least two caps on each nipple before the first loading. This blows all crud and oil out of the nipples and chamber.

5. Hot, soapy water is best for cleaning these revolvers. I've tried all kinds of wonder cleaners but still return to hot, soapy water. I fill a plastic basin half full of water, put in a chunk of Ivory soap (it floats, so you never have to search for it), and while the water is getting soapy I disassemble my revolver down to its last screw and part. Don't forget to remove the nipples from the cylinder.
Everything but the wooden grips go into the water. An assortment of small, stiff, plastic brushes aid cleaning immeasurably. Pipe cleaners and Q-tips are good too, for reaching those tight spaces inside the frame. I work up a good lather on my brushes before cleaning each part. The soap really cuts grease.
Pipe cleaners fit perfectly inside the nipple cone. A quick twist of the pipe cleaner in the cone, underwater, will clean it quickly.
Purchase a small, plastic colander to fit in your basin. When you've finished cleaning the part, separate it from the rest by placing it in this submerged colander. Keep all of your parts under water until the final rinse later. If you take them out, they will rust in minutes.
When all parts are clean, move to the kitchen sink.
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting, usually about 150 degrees, and leave the oven door slightly open.
Put a sink-stop with built in strainer in the sinkhole to catch any parts that might escape the colander. Rinse the parts in the colander under hot, tap water.
Immediately pat parts dry with paper towels. Run at least three dry patches down the bore to remove any moisture. Each cylinder chamber should get at least two dry patches.
Give a quick puff of breath through each nipple, from the flat end. This will blow out any water in the nipple.
Puts all parts (except wooden grips, of course) in a low metal pan and place in the warm oven. Leave in the oven at least 30 minutes. This will drive any moisture out of the metal parts.
While the parts are still warm, cover well with olive oil, lard, tallow, Crisco or any commercially made black powder lubricant. Vegetable or animal-based oils are best for black powder, as they reduce fouling. These warm parts will soak up these natural oils quickly. Don't be afraid to reapply. These will season the metal and prevent fouling from sticking so readily.
I saturate a clean patch with tallow or Crisco and push it down the bore. A hot barrel will soak up a lot of this natural grease but that's good.
A non-petroleum grease on the cylinder pin (Crisco is good) will keep the cylinder from binding from fouling. The revolver may be stored with this grease on it; Crisco doesn't seem to dry out like other natural greases. I also like to lubricate all screw theads with Crisco or beeswax; it makes them easier to remove later after a long firing session.
Wooden grips can be cleaned with a damp cloth to remove black powder fouling. Allow to dry for a bit, then apply lemon oil (available at the grocery store) to the wood, inside and out. This will keep the wood from drying and warping.
When reassembling a Colt revolver, ensure the wedge is tight in the frame. I tap my wedge with a small nylon-faced hammer until the cylinder begins to drag when rotated. Then, I give it a couple of small taps OUT until the cylinder revolves freely again.
A Colt-design cap and ball revolver will not shoot nearly as accurately if the wedge is comparatively loose. If you can push it out with your fingers, it's much too loose.

continued in next reply (too long for one)

Copyright by "Gatofeo" 2003. Printed by permission.
"And therein did I see an ugly cat. Blue smoke. Brimstone. Holes in paper. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- the prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566).
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Old March 28, 2007, 10:36 AM   #16
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Part 1 of Gatofeo stuff cont.

6. Use a separate powder measure or flask with screw-on powder measure to charge the chambers with powder. Trying to guess the amount of powder by looking at its level in the chambers is very inconsistent.
After charging the chambers, seat a felt wad (commercially available or hand-punched) with your thumb into the mouth of each chamber. Then seat the wad firmly onto the powder with the rammer in a separate operation.
It's much harder to seat a ball if it also has to push the wad down and compress the powder. This resistance can deform your ball. Also, should you forget to put powder in a chamber, and seat the wad, it's easier to remove a felt wad than it is a tightly gripped ball.
.36-caliber wads may be cut from stiff felt with a 3/8-inch hole punch. Cut .44 wads from a .45-caliber wad punch, sold by Buffalo Arms of Sandpoint, Idaho.
The limp felt sold in hobby shops is unsuitable for wads. I use the nail-on felt weatherseal sold by Frost King of Mahwah, N.J. or Sparks, Nev., and sold in most hardware stores. Sold in a 17-foot roll, 1-1/4" wide and 3/16 inch thick for less than $4, this will provide you with hundreds of wads.
Whatever you use, ensure it is truly wool felt! A lot of felt is polyester --- a plastic that will leave melted deposits in your bore that must be scrubbed out. Go with wool!
After seating all wads, seat the balls. Each ball should be tight enough to shave a small ring of lead from its diameter upon seating. If it doesn't, a larger ball may be needed.
In the chambers of my own Colt Navy, the standard .375 inch ball is nearly a slip-fit. Therefore, I use balls of .380 inch for a proper fit. Warren Muzzleloading of Arkansas ( sell excellent, sprueless .380 inch balls.
If you're using cast balls that have a sprue or teat from casting, center this sprue UP in the cylinder. It is difficult to get the sprue mark perfectly centered in the chamber, when viewing from the side, so I remove the cylinder when possible for this operation, if I'm target shooting at the benchrest.
In my Navy, I can set three sprued balls in place with a light tap from a brass hammer (never use ferrous metal, as it may cause sparks). This light tap keeps them in place and from falling out when I replace the cylinder.
Then I replace the cylinder into the Navy and seat the three balls with the rammer. My Remingtons will only allow two balls at a time to be tapped in because the frame is in the way.
If possible, use a mould that doesn't create sprues (Lee makes them), or use swaged lead balls. It will eliminate centering the sprue mark.

7. Don't change components indiscriminately.
Caps differ remarkably. I have had my best grouping with Remington No. 10 caps in the Navy, and CCI No. 10 caps in the Remington .36 and .44 calibers. Some nipples prefer No. 10 caps, others prefer No. 11. If the cap is a snug fit and bottoms out on the nipple, that's the one to go with.
Some of the Colt Dragoon and Walker replicas are made for the No. 12 cap, as were the originals. This cap is difficult to find but I recently saw some Remington No. 12 caps in new packages; apparently production has been resumed.
I pinch the cap together a bit, into an elliptical shape, to make it cling better to the nipple. I wish some manufacturer would market elliptically-shaped caps. Revolver and rifle shooters usually pinch their caps, so why have them round?
Use lead as soft as possible, pure lead if you can find it, if you cast your own. Harder lead bullets are not nearly as accurate and are much more difficult to ram down into the chamber.
But if wheelweight lead is all you can find, use it. It's not hard enough to cause damage when seating. I once used it when it was all I could get. Accuracy was fine, but it caused leading in my revolvers (the only time I've seen that happen).

8. Buy a revolver-loading stand. This holds the revolver upright while loading and gives you a much better "feel" for how much pressure you're applying to wads and projectiles as you seat them. It also stores the revolver upright, in a safe position, if you're not quite ready to fire.

9. Do not use greases or oils that are petroleum-based. The older black powder manuals suggest using automotive grease over the chambers of revolvers. Don't do it. Petroleum-based greases somehow create a hard, tar-like fouling when combined with the black powder.
The proper grease or oil is animal or vegetable-based, such as Crisco, canola, beeswax, sunflower, commercial lard, mutton tallow and similar substances.
An exception appears to be canning paraffin, used to seal jars of preserves. I've used it for a number of years in a lubricant recipe and it has never caused the hard, tarry fouling associated with petroleum products, though paraffin is decidedly a petroleum product.
I'm told that canning paraffin lacks the hydrocarbons of other petroleum products, which is apparently the culprit.

My own patch, wad and bullet lubricant is a 19th century recipe, found in a 1943 issue of the American Rifleman.
The recipe is:
1 part paraffin (I use canning paraffin, found in grocery stores)
1 part mutton tallow (sold by Dixie Gun Works)
1/2 part beeswax (available at hobby and hardware stores)
All measures are by weight, not volume. I use a kitchen scale to measure 200 grams of paraffin, 200 grams of mutton tallow and 100 grams of beeswax. This nearly fills a quart Mason jar.
Place the Mason jar in a pot or coffee can with about 4 inches of boiling water. This gives a double-boiler effect, which is the safest way to melt waxes and greases.
When the ingredients in the jar are thoroughly melted, stir well with a clean stick or a disposable chopstick. Remove from water and allow to cool at room temperature. Hastening cooling by placing in the refrigerator may cause the ingredients to separate.
This creates a lubricant nearly identical to commercially available black powder lubricants, at a much cheaper price.
To use, place a small amount of the lubricant in a clean tuna or pet food can. Melt in a shallow pan of water. Drop your revolver wads or patches into the can and stir them around with a clean stick until all wads or patches are saturated. Allow to cool then snap a plastic lid (available in the pet food aisle) over the can and store in a cool, dry place. This keeps dust and crud out and retains the lubricant's natural moistness.
I don't bother to squeeze out the excess lubricant from patches or wads but use them as-is.

This is an excellent bullet lubricant for all black powder uses. I also use it for patches in my .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle, and lubricating cast bullets for my .44-40 and .45-70 rifles. I've tried it with .357 Magnum bullets at up to 1,200 feet per second and it prevents leading. I haven't tried it at a higher velocity with smokeless powder.
I like the addition of paraffin in this bullet lubricant, because it stiffens the felt wad, which scrapes out fouling better.
I've used the Ox-Yoke Wonder Wads in the past and they're good, but lack enough lubricant for my likes. I soak them in the above lubricant.
With a well-lubricated wad twixt ball and powder, you can shoot all day without ever swabbing the bore, unless it is exceedingly hot and dry. In this instance, I place a bit of natural grease over the ball to augment the wad's lubricant.

continued in next reply...

Copyright by "Gatofeo" 2003. Printed by permission.
"And therein did I see an ugly cat. Blue smoke. Brimstone. Holes in paper. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- the prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566).
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Old March 28, 2007, 10:38 AM   #17
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Part 1 of Gatofeo stuff continued again....

Guess this is kinda long


10. Find your most accurate load by firing at regular targets, at a known range (usually 25 yards) and keep meticulous notes. I use a large sheet of plywood as a holder, covered in butcher paper. Then I place the target in the middle of this. Having such a wide area will reveal any tell-tale flyers that show a load is inaccurate.
Holes in the white paper can be covered with a bit of cheap, narrow masking tape. Holes in the black may be covered with black target pasters (available at gun stores) or black electrician's tape.
I keep notes of each session, showing date, temperature, components, wind direction in relation to which direction I'm shooting and other factors. It's amazing how much this can mean down the road.
Many shooters think, "I'm just going to plink with it and I don't want to go through all that bother."
Perhaps. But you still want to hit that can, don't you? A little tedious work at the beginning will determine your most accurate load --- and result in a lot of cans lying label-down in the dust.

11. Check the tightness of your screws regularly when firing. I've lost screws that backed out from recoil. The Colt designs are particularly troublesome for this. The screws in the loading lever of a Colt design are particularly prone to jump ship and find a new home in the grass or rocks. They are exceedingly difficult to find.
A cheap metal detector will pay for itself in found screws and missing cartridge cases from modern guns --- if all those .22 rimfire cases common to shooting areas don't confuse it.

12. Colt revolvers, whether original or reproductions, shoot high. They were made to hit dead-on at about 75 yards. My little Colt 1862 Pocket Model hits dead on at about 100-yards! Its groups cluster about 10 inches above the point of aim at 25 yards, from a benchrest. My Colt Navy hits about 6 inches high at 25 yards.
Reproduction Remingtons have tall front sights and shoot low because of it. This must be intentional, to allow you to carefully file down the front sight, thus bringing the group up to hit dead-on at 25 or 50 yards (whichever you prefer).
However, do this filing at the range and only one or two swipes at a time on the front sight.
My Remington .44 shot about 14 inches low when I first got it. I've filed the front sight a bit, bringing it to shoot about 6 inches low at 25 yards from a benchrest.
I'm doing one pass of the file at a time to slowly bring it up. It's tedious work, but it assures that I'll have it dead-on eventually.
However, watch not only your sight alignment as you file but the appearance of the barrel. In some revolvers, the view of the frame in the sight alignment will interfere with the view of the front sight. If this is the case, you simply have to stop before the front sight is obscured, and aim low to compensate.

Shooting cap and ball revolvers is a fascinating, fun hobby. To keep everything together, buy a large fishing box with plenty of compartments. As time goes by, you'll find yourself adding more items and gadgets to the box. You may also buy other revolvers in different calibers, each requiring their own wads, balls and caps.
Aside from caps, balls, lubricants, wads and powder add the following to your box:
Small notebook and pencils.
Push-tacks for targets.
Fine-tip felt pen for writing on targets you wish to keep. The felt tip shows up better.
Length of wooden dowel, to tap out a stuck bullet. For the .36-caliber, use 5/16 dowel. For the .44, use 7/16 dowel.
Small brass mallet.
Plenty of pre-cut patches for cleaning.
1/8" brass rod, about 5 inches long. If you get a ball stuck in a chamber without powder, remove the cylinder from the revolver and the nipple behind the stuck ball. Insert the brass rod where the nipple was and tap out the ball.
Small spray bottle of soapy water for quick swabbing.
Masking tape and black electrician's tape or target pasters.
Q-Tips and pipe cleaners.
Nipple wrench.
Various powder measures. Lee makes a dipper set that is very good. I have an excellent pistol measure that adjusts from 10 to 30 grains in 1-grain increments. Alas, I can't remember who made it.
Good-sized rag to wipe hands.
Pistol loading stand.
New nipples, set of six. I always replace nipples as a set. This way, if one starts to go bad I can figure the others are not far behind.
White grease pencil, to number chambers on the cylinder. This can show you which chamber is the most accurate or bothersome at the range, yet it's not a permanent marking. White grease pencils are found in stationery stores. They're often used to mark the back of china plates, and such.
Sight Black by Birchwood Casey. This spray-can puts a thin layer of jet-black carbon on your sights. This is particularly useful on Colt revolvers with their brass bead that glares in the sun. Sight Black is easily rubbed or washed off.
Film container to put scrap lead in. I save my lead shavings and any recovered balls for the melting pot. Stingy me, I know!
Spare parts such as mainspring, trigger spring, screws, wedge and so on. This can save you weeks of waiting for a new part.

It took me years to learn much of what I've offered here, much of it through trial, error and "Hey, why couldn't I? …" I have no doubt you'll learn something new from it and you may even disagree with something but it's offered to advance the sport of cap and ball revolver shooting.
I'm still learning, after nearly 35 years of shooting cap and ball revolvers. I expect I'll lie in my grave and mutter, "Damn, why didn't I try that?"

Copyright by "Gatofeo" 2003. Printed by permission.
"And therein did I see an ugly cat. Blue smoke. Brimstone. Holes in paper. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- the prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566).
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Old June 6, 2007, 08:13 PM   #18
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A cheap metal detector will pay for itself in found screws and missing cartridge cases from modern guns --- if all those .22 rimfire cases common to shooting areas don't confuse it.
Even cheaper is a magnet on a handle. They're sold at hardware stores for cleaning up nails at construction sites, and while they won't pick up brass they will find tiny screws in tall grass.
"People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society." Marko -
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Old December 14, 2007, 12:54 PM   #19
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O.S.O.K. Thanks

I would like to thank you for this thread and all the great info contained within. I will be a new BP shooter the day after Christmas I think. anyway this is just the kind of info I was looking for when I stumbled onto this sight. Again I very much appreciate your taking the time to post this info. Any suggestions on books dealing with practical shooting loading and cleaning of percussion bp revolvers?
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Old December 26, 2008, 04:51 PM   #20
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Thanx Gatofeo
Even after years of BP shooting, I still learn new tricks of the trade from posts like these. I am new to Fireingline and to the wisdom found here. Keep sharing your wisdom and experiences. It is a help to this weary shooter.
The parting shot...
"Those who hammer their guns into plows, will plow for those who do not." Thomas Jefferson
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Old December 28, 2008, 11:16 PM   #21
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And,don't forget,them guns CAN kill!Just because they are old styles does not mean a thing!
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Old April 6, 2009, 07:35 PM   #22
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you ain't kidding, they can kill- more Americans died in the Civil War, than any other war in US history- because both sides were Americans- but all those Americans died from black powder arms

think about that one
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Old April 6, 2009, 07:42 PM   #23
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you ain't kidding, they can kill- more Americans died in the Civil War, than any other war in US history- because both sides were Americans- but all those Americans died from black powder arms
More died from disease than bullets.
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Old June 2, 2009, 08:52 AM   #24
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died from disease, after being shot with bullets- the wound itself was not life-threatening in many cases

but the infection that set in, was

i.e. gangrene, or pneumonia from laying down too long, or from the general filthy conditions of the field hospitals and medical procedures of the time

i.e. amputations done with nonsterile surgeons' tools
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Old June 6, 2009, 01:18 AM   #25
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More died from mumps, chicken pox, typhoid, cholera than from battlefield wounds, bullets, shots and sabers.

We're way off topic.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
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