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Bart Slade

Black Powder Reloading

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Posted (edited)

Howdy y'all!

 

So I'm a very green greenhorn, just getting into CAS and have never done much shooting in the past...so I'm brand new to all this.

 

I'm pretty interested in reloading cartridges with black powder though - in .38 special (for my 1851 Navy conversions), .45 colt (for my Henry rifle), and 12 gauge (for my coach gun).

 

I'm looking for some advice - are there any reloading guides that specialize in black powder, or would I just be looking for a general reloading guide?

 

My hope is that I can take advantage of everyone's knowledge here and buy the right guide (and equipment) the first time around.  

 

Thanks all!

 

---Bart Slade

Edited by Bart Slade

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I started with this book.  Fadala covers everything a new blackpowder shooter needs to know:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Blackpowder-Handbook-Sam-Fadala/dp/0873492943/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/132-4650760-1997360?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0873492943&pd_rd_r=14cc3d0d-8ed8-11e9-b737-0999600a03f4&pd_rd_w=t7MTJ&pd_rd_wg=8baj5&pf_rd_p=588939de-d3f8-42f1-a3d8-d556eae5797d&pf_rd_r=TPM4FYJJXTS5VKXBCZVV&psc=1&refRID=TPM4FYJJXTS5VKXBCZVV

 

There is much expertise in this forum and on other online forums.  But a reference book like the above is an efficient way for a beginner to get started.

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This is going to be easy. I too was where you are just a few months back. I loaded .38 special for my 1851 and 60 conversions. I also loaded .45 for my Walker conversion and just started brass shot shells. 

I fill the .38 and .45 cases full up with just enough space so that the seated bullet compresses the powder. 18g +/- in the .38 - 35g +/- in the .45. Some pards like to lighten the load and add filler but I don’t see a need in the .38. 

You will need black powder lube and a good bullet to carry that lube to keep the fouling soft. 

The shot shells I load by hand. With about 55g and 7/8 oz of shot. 

Never going back to smokeless. 

 

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Welcome!  Before you buy anything (else), I’d suggest you attend a local match or two.  Ask around for a reloading mentor, preferably someone with experience loading black powder cartridges.

 

I’ll throw this out; real black powder requires a “black powder compatible” lube on the bullet, but some of the substitutes (American Pioneer Powder for example) work fine with the harder lube that is often found on commercial cast bullets, and with coated bullets.

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2 minutes ago, Abe E.S. Corpus SASS #87667 said:

Welcome!  Before you buy anything (else), I’d suggest you attend a local match or two.  Ask around for a reloading mentor, preferably someone with experience loading black powder cartridges.

 

I’ll throw this out; real black powder requires a “black powder compatible” lube on the bullet, but some of the substitutes (American Pioneer Powder for example) work fine with the harder lube that is often found on commercial cast bullets, and with coated bullets.

THIS X2:excl:

 

Reloading real BP, is not the same as smokeless powder.

OLG

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Goex 3f will work well in all that you want to load for ...

A good Black Powder Lube like SPG , Lyman Gold , Pioneer or the like is needed, and easy to use ...

 

Enjoy

Jabez Cowboy

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I follow this method, though I've stopped using a drop tube as I've found it isn't necessary.  This method uses stuff you can get at a local hardware store, though you might consider buying pre-made black powder lube:

 

Part 1 - Bullet Prep:

 

 

Part 2 - Loading the Case

 

 

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Bart: Loading data ...

38 Spl - 158gr bullet - 16gr FFFg - 870 fps

45 Colt - 247 gr bullet - 42gr FFg - 750 fps

45 Colt - 255gr bullet - 40gr FFg - 770 fps

12ga, 2 3/4 - 1 1/4oz shot - 92gr FFFg - 1050 fps

A must read for black powder with more shot shell data including brass hulls ... http://www.tbullock.com/bpsg.html

Enjoy the Smoke :D

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35 minutes ago, John Boy said:

Bart: Loading data ...

38 Spl - 158gr bullet - 16gr FFFg - 870 fps

45 Colt - 247 gr bullet - 42gr FFg - 750 fps

45 Colt - 255gr bullet - 40gr FFg - 770 fps

12ga, 2 3/4 - 1 1/4oz shot - 92gr FFFg - 1050 fps

A must read for black powder with more shot shell data including brass hulls ... http://www.tbullock.com/bpsg.html

Enjoy the Smoke :D

 

Hey John Boy, are you sure about those powder charges for the .45 Colt load? I have trouble getting 35gr into a .45 Colt case, with enough room to seat a bullet.

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2 minutes ago, Smokey Dave said:

 

Hey John Boy, are you sure about those powder charges for the .45 Colt load? I have trouble getting 35gr into a .45 Colt case, with enough room to seat a bullet.

 

Compression Die :D

 

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1 minute ago, Tyrel Cody said:

 

Compression Die :D

 

 

Absolutely! But it seems that load would be a lot hotter then 750 FPS too. I'm pretty sure the original .45 Colt loading for the Gov't, was 40gr under a 250gr bullet good for over 900 FPS. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. :P

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2 minutes ago, Smokey Dave said:

 

Absolutely! But it seems that load would be a lot hotter then 750 FPS too. I'm pretty sure the original .45 Colt loading for the Gov't, was 40gr under a 250gr bullet good for over 900 FPS. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. :P

 

Yeah, but I bet modern chronograph's measure more accurately than they did in 1873.

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1 minute ago, Tyrel Cody said:

 

Yeah, but I bet modern chronograph's measure more accurately than they did in 1873.

 

 

Ain't no doubt 'bout that.

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Data is from the Goex BP Loading Dataes. Hodgdon got these charges from British Curtis & Harvey when they were selling BP cans marked "Made in Great Britain"  These are not Goex Powder charges.  And they have never determined Goex charges

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And what suggestions for machines; will a Dillion 1050 work for 38 spl?

what about shotgun shells? Will a spolar work? Or a Dillion SL900?

and are these machines easy to set up as a beginner?

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Posted (edited)

Howdy

 

First off, if you are going to be weighing your powder, you need to know that not all Black Powder weighs the same.

 

Here is a chart I made up a bunch of years ago specifying the weight of the common powder charges I use for Black Powder cartridges. The column on the left is for the different dipper sizes in the Lee Dipper set.  You can tell this is an old chart because Elephant powder is not made anymore. These are just approximations, the data may have changed slightly over the years. I do find this chart to be more accurate than the sliding chart that comes with the Lee dipper set. These days I use FFg Schuetzen for everything. The 2.2CC charge is what I use in 44-40 under a 200 grain bullet and for 45 Colt under a 250 grain bullet. I do not try to stuff 40 grains into my cartridges, the amounts I show are what will fit into modern solid head cases and be compressed about 1/16" to 1/8" when the bullet is seated. That is plenty of powder and smoke for me. The 4.3 CC charge is what I use in 12 gauge shotgun. Sorry, I don't load 38 Special with BP, so I cannot help you there.

 

BlackPowderWeights_zps5bea048d.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the most common dippers I have used over the years, plus a couple of custom dippers made from empty brass cases.

 

Dippers_zpstsykyy7m.jpg

 

 

 

 

Years ago I did all my loading on this old Lyman Spartan press. I still use it for my 45-70 BP loads, but these days I load all my BP cartridges on a Hornady Lock & Load AP progressive press.

 

Lyman%20Spartan%20Single%20Stage%20Press

 

 

 

 

 

Primers: Contrary to the opinion of some, Black Powder is easier to ignite than Smokeless powder. You can use any brand of primers for Black Powder cartridges and you do not need Magnum primers. I usually use Federal Large Pistol primers for 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40, 44 Russian, and 38-40. You can use any brand of primer for BP shotgun shells too. I usually use Winchester 209, but any brand will do.

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the days when I was using dippers, this is how I poured my powder into my cases. The proper way to use a dipper is to scoop the powder into it just like you were scooping ice cream out of a container. Use a consistent motion to keep your charges consistent. If you want accuracy, do not shake or jiggle the powder. Instead, scoop up a heaping dipper full and level it off with a stiff piece of card stock.

 

Ready%20for%20Dipping_zpsqw6uudel.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

You can use any brand of press to load Black Powder cartridges, all you have to do different than loading Smokeless is allow for some method of adding the BP. I do not recommend using a regular Smokeless powder measure with Black Powder. Here is one of my Hornady presses all set up for loading some ammo. That is not the standard Hornady powder measure, that is a Black Powder measure from Lyman.

 

Notice I am quite anal about this. My cases have been set out in loading blocks of 50 rounds each. You can't see it but my bullets are also arranged in groups of 50, so I can keep track if I have a hiccup of exactly how many bullets I have seated vs how many primers I have used, vs how many pieces of brass I have used. This can come in handy if you get confused at some point.

 

Hornady%20LampL%20BP%20Setup_zpsssgqze3f

 

 

 

 

I don't use dippers for most of my BP loading anymore, I buy old Lyman powder measures whenever I can find them and I remove the powder measure drums. I preset the drum for specific powder charges for the various cartridges I load and pop them into my Lyman BP measure as needed.

 

Lyman%20Powder%20Rotors_zpsn86qdwb0.jpg

 

 

 

 

Here is a batch of 45 Colt being loaded on my Hornady press. Notice how brand-spanky new shiny the brass is. After being fired once my brass never gets this shiny again.

 

shiny%20cases%2045%20colt_zpsacqcxo9q.jp

 

 

 

 

A close up of a bunch of 45 Colt rounds being loaded.

 

BP%20Loading%20on%20Hornady%20LampL_zpsa

 

 

 

 

I load all my BP shotgun ammo on a simple little MEC Jr. Yes, I do dip the powder into my hulls when loading BP shotgun ammo. This method is much slower than loading BP on a progressive machine, I can only crank out about 4 boxes per hour this way, but that is the way I like to do it.

 

MEC%20Jr%20Setup%20for%20BP_zpsrmjsefzy.

 

 

 

 

Most guys like the convenience of using modern plastic wads with BP shotgun ammo. I prefer to go the old fashioned route with separate wads that I buy from Circle Fly. You can buy the same wads from Track of the Wolf. This photo shows my 4.3CC charge of FFg Schuetzen, a 1/8" thick over powder card, a 1/2" compression wad, 1 1/8 ounces of #8 shot, and a 1/16" over shot card. I put in the over shot card because with this charge my crimps are a little bit concave, and a few pieces of shot can escape if I don't add the over shot card. Not pictured are the standard Winchester 109 primers I use.

 

Shotshell%20Components_zpsrl71zpfq.jpg

 

 

 

 

It is best to soak your fired brass in water fairly soon after firing it. You don't have to drag a jug of water around the match with you, back at the car is plenty soon enough. If you wait 24 hours before soaking it your brass will start to turn green from verdigris. I fill a jug with water and a squirt of dish soap at home before I load up my car for a match.

 

Brass%20Soaking%20cropped_zpscrowywoc.jp

 

 

 

 

The sooner you remove your brass from the jug the better. Leave it a few weeks and it will be stained pretty black. I try to rinse off my brass within a few days of a match. I use a standard kitchen sieve to rinse my brass. I dump the brass into the strainer, pour off the water, dump the brass back into the jug and refill the jug with fresh water. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. Repeat four or five times. By that time you will have dissolved and rinsed away 90% of the fouling. Notice I did not say neutralize as some guys do. You ain't neutralizing (changing the pH) of anything, you are dissolving and rinsing away the fouling.

 

I set my brass out to air dry on cookie sheets lined with paper towels. I used to heat them in a warm over, but I don't bother any more, I simply let the brass air dry for a couple of days before I throw it in the tumbler.

 

not%20very%20shiny%20once%20fired%20bras

 

 

 

 

After it has been fired once and reloaded, my brass never gets new-shiny again. it stays pretty stained. Here is a batch of 44 Russian being loaded in brass that has been fired a few times. I always say shiny brass does not shoot any better than stained brass, it is just easier to find in the grass.

 

44%20Russian%20Loads_zpstyy1n1zy.jpg

 

 

 

 

I could rinse out my shotgun hulls and reuse them, but I don't I just throw them away after being shot once with BP.

 

 

Forget about a drop tube, you don't need it for revolver ammo and pistol caliber rifle ammo. I only use a drop tube when loading 45-70.

 

Drop%20Tube_zpsv0vx6dya.jpg

 

 

 

 

Pan Lubing. The guy in a video above demonstrated Pan Lubing. I used to pan lube regular Smokeless bullets years ago.  The problem was the skimpy lube groove on most hardcast Smokeless bullets usually does not carry enough lube to keep the barrel of a rifle coated with soft lube for its entire length, the bullets usually run out of lube the last six inches or so of a rifle barrel. Which means swabbing the barrel a few times during the match, or adding stuff like lube cookies under the bullet. When I discovered Big Lube bullets I completely stopped messing with pan lubing and lube cookies and all that stuff. Big Lube bullets are designed with a huge lube groove to carry enough lube to keep the longest rifle barrel lubed with soft lube its entire length for an entire match.

 

Here is a big batch of 44 Mav-Dutchman bullets I cast up a bunch of years ago.

 

Box%20of%20Mav-Dutchmans_zpsrkfvhwxt.jpg

 

 

 

 

And here is my Star lube sizer I used to lube size my bullets with SPG bullet lube.

 

Star%20Lube%20Sizer_zpsx4vvhzit.jpg

 

 

 

These days though, I don't cast my own bullets anymore because my supply of pure lead dried up. I buy all my Big Lube bullets already sized these days from Springfield Slim. 

 

http://www.whyteleatherworks.com/BigLube.html

 

As for a book, I found the series of books put out by Mike Venturino a bunch of years ago to be very helpful when getting started with Black Powder loading. Mike gives a very good description of loading cartridges with Black Powder in all his books; Shooting Sixguns of the Old West, Shooting Colt Single Actions, and Shooting Lever Guns of the Old West. Mike's book Shooting Buffalo Guns of the Old West is more specific to the big single shot buffalo rifles. Some of these books were out of print for a while, but it appears they are all available again on Amazon now.

 

 

Any questions?

Edited by Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283
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Driftwood - your post is an amazing transfer of knowledge that should be appreciated by every novice migrating to shooting black powder.  You desire a Big Thank You :D

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10 hours ago, T-Square said:

And what suggestions for machines; will a Dillion 1050 work for 38 spl?

what about shotgun shells? Will a spolar work? Or a Dillion SL900?

and are these machines easy to set up as a beginner?

How many rounds do you need a year?  The equipment you quoted will produce large numbers of high quality reloads -probably more than a single shooter needs.  If you are loading for a family or shooting clays this equipment will serve you well.  Like DJ I load my BP shotgun shell on a MEC Jr that easily meets my family's needs for BP shotgun shells.  You can do will less costly equipment.

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Awesome post Driftwood! Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.

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Driftwood,

 

After reading your post I don't understand why you never have enough loaded ammo for the next match :huh::D

 

Willy

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Thanks to everyone for the advice!

 

Looking forward to shooting with real gunpowder at some point.  Some point soon that is.

 

Shot my first match on Sunday - and it was a blast (even being 2nd to last place).  Can't wait to try it with smoke in my face.

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Posted (edited)

So ....... Without initial weighing, how does one determine how many "Grains" of powder a given measure or scoop throws??

 

If a scoop throws "X" cc of a given powder, what determines how many grains of powder "X" cc equals??

Edited by Colorado Coffinmaker
Fix spell check spel

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That's why I don't bother to weigh it - it's irrelevant. That's one of the beauties of BP loading, just fill the case to accommodate the bullet and you're done.

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Or just buy regular lead bullets, use a substitute like Triple Seven or APP and load on a Dillon 550 or 650.

 

I use a MEC Jr. for shotgun with Pyrodex in the hopper.

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On 6/17/2019 at 12:53 PM, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

So ....... Without initial weighing, how does one determine how many "Grains" of powder a given measure or scoop throws??

 

If a scoop throws "X" cc of a given powder, what determines how many grains of powder "X" cc equals??

 

You weigh it!

 

I only use the chart I posted as a reference. For my CAS loads it does not really matter. Those drums stay set, and I know by referring to the chart how much the charges actually weigh. But it is only for reference. If I were to change from Schuetzen FFg to some other powder, the volume would remain the same, but the charge weight would vary. Again, for CAS it does not really matter.

 

Long range precision shooting is a different story. There the actual amount of powder, as well as the amount of compression counts. Since I am blind as a bat and can barely see a target beyond 50 yards it really does not matter for me. If I cold see halfway decently, it would be a different story.

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We about need a whole separate forum to cover the process of loading cartridges and shot shells with black powder.  

 

I'm thinking guys that have loaded black powder muzzle loaders and cap and ball revolvers make the transition to loading cartridges and shot shells with black powder easily.   They know the fundamental principles - never leave an air space, compression,  lube, clean gun and cases after shooting.   

 

For guys that start from the experience of loading smokeless,  there are published information on weights and pressures to follow and they try to apply that same methodology to black powder but can't find the same guidelines.  They ask for help and are confused to find that everyone loading black powder is doing it differently and there is no discipline.  But black powder loaders are using the same simple procedures.   

 

If you go at it with the mindset of loading a muzzleloader but containing all the cap, charge, bullet, and lube in a small capsule, you'll do fine. 

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I put together a post on Black Powder Cartridge reloading on another forum a couple of years ago.

 

I never got around to shotgun with BP, but you might find this interesting:

 

https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/shooting-black-powder-in-cartridge-guns.821193/

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Driftwood  :lol:

 

I Knew that/Know that.  Just some of the folks "new" to loading for BP get real confused when we talk about loading by Volume verses Weight.  Besides, when I get bored, it's kinda fun to be annoying :D

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That’s exactly where I got so confused. 

When I loaded shot shells I scooped. When I loaded .45 and .38 I weighed each charge for consistency. I filled the case up without filler so it really is moot. The last time I loaded cartridges I just found that scoop that worked.

when I made paper cartridges I scooped. When I load percussions as I have been lately I use flask spouts according to the caliber and gun. 

Volume not weight finally makes sense. 

 

 

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Yet another video on loading black powder shotgun shells. 

 

 

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