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Old May 5, 2005, 12:06 AM   #1
No Name XII
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Join Date: January 19, 2005
Location: C/U, IL
Posts: 116
Qs about BP Shooting

Just want to know what is involved in metallic cartridge black powder shooting that makes it different than modern rifle shooting. It seems like it would be a lot of fun, but reading up on it, there is a lot that I don't know, and terms that I have never heard. Like grease cookie. Also, it kind of sounded like you can just jam as much powder into a cartridge as will fit and you will be fine (I know the second number is how much will fit in, but is it also the max load? Is the load as dependent on the bullet weight as for smokeless powder?). Is this the case or was I misinterpreting? Does black powder burn slow enough that you don't get high pressures or what? Can you fire shorter cartridges of the same caliber in a longer chamber, say 45-90 in a 45-120 chamber, or 50-70 in a 50-100. If so, is there a limit on the safe difference in length. It also sounds like you have to lube the bullet, is this true? I'm sure all these questions sound stupid, but I'm kind of interested in doing something a little different, which I happen to know nothing about.
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Old May 5, 2005, 08:46 AM   #2
Jim Watson
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Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 14,208
The best internet source of information I have seen is at:

And the Shiloh Board at

The 'SPG Lubricants Black Powder Cartridge Reloading Primer' is a worthwhile book, as is Mike Venturino's 'Shooting the Buffalo Rifles.'

To cover a few of your questions,
The correct load for a BP cartridge is with the case full up to the base of the bullet, usually (not always but usually) plus some to give a compressed load. The exact load and the degree of compression have to be determined by shooting for each individual cartridge and rifle. One old timer says to start by dumping a case level full of loose powder and weighing it. (Ignore all the business about "grains of volume" in little brass scoops, most serious BPCR shooters weigh their powder charges and the rest use benchrest quality measures and techniques.) Then add that weight of powder to a case slowly through a long drop tube (two or three feet of tubing) from a funnel so as to settle the powder as much as possible. Then compress the powder enough more to allow for seating the bullet normally. That is a STARTING point. There is usually a lot of refinement possible.
Chamber pressures for such a BP load will run in the 20,000+ PSI range. You will not likely overload a sound rifle with black without really obvious and ridiculous cramming in of powder.
Shooting short cartridges in a long chamber is physically possible and was often done before the old cartridges were being reproduced. It will not do anything good for accuracy, and there is no reason for it now. You can properly feed almost any rifle that was ever made. It won't always be cheap, but it can be done.
The powder charge weight given in the old designations is seldom used these days. Modern brass is thicker and just won't hold as much powder at a normal level of compression. A .45-70 is usually shot with 65-68 grains of powder, for example.
Lube the bullet? Dang right. You must have lube, the right lube, and plenty of it to keep black powder fouling soft. The hard colored wax on bulk commercial cast bullets is no good at all. SPG brand is good. Some shooters use a grease cookie - a disc of bullet lube under the bullet to add lubricant, but it is not always necessary. Most target shooters use a blow tube to moisten the fouling between shots. Either that or run a damp patch down the barrel every shot.
Most BPCR shooters are bullet casters. There are not many places to buy good quality cast rifle bullets and they are not cheap when available. I would cheerfuly pay the price of a Sierra MatchKing for a cast bullet that would hold up at 500 metres, but the actual cost, when you can find them, is two or three times the price of a good jacketed bullet. It is all hand work.

I have barely scratched the surface, I see I have not mentioned wads or case and gun cleaning. Read the above article and get the details.
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