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15 Comments

  1. “However, the high burning temperature of black powder can shorten the life of plastic shells.”

    The remedy for plastic shells are full length brass case- shells, yet there is another way as well. These must however be drilled out to accept the 204 shot shell primers. Pryodex is the easiest and safest substitue that could be easier to find, but FF is the black power to use. FFF is too fine and fast and may be used calibers less than 50, such as .410 shotgun. Reloading using either the high or low brass part of modern plastic shells, the plastic removed, leaving the brass that holds a 204 primer, the shotgun can be then load from the breech, just like a muzzle loader. Load data is in drams can be converted to grains of power, yet black power is loaded not by weight, but by volume. Black powder loaded by volume, ideally could have the lead shot loaded by the same volumn measuring device, to provide the best pattern. Too little shot, and there could be a hole ‘blown’ in the pattern. And lead ball could be created over a camp fire.

    Because 12 or 20 guage is so prevelent, I believe it is worth knowing how to use the most versatile firearm you may already have, and that is your breach loaded 12 ga that could be any shotgun, be it a single shot NEF, Stevens, or even Remington 870.
    I’d do my homework throughly before try this at home.

    1. 22lrreloader.com has reloading kits for 22lr,22mag,precussion cap makers,and a four component primer compound to reload primers and percussion caps. These will help you to be a self sufficient reloader in the event that there becomes a time when ammunition becomes unavailable or very limited. Flintlock firearms are also a good option and were state of the art for more than 200 years. YouTube has a lot of information on making modern primers for cartridges.

  2. Question for the author: have you loaded original black powder metallic cartridges like .30-30 WCF, .45 Colt and .45-70 govt with black powder and modern primers with good and SAFE results?

  3. If you need percussion caps for a muzzle loader and don’t have them, you might try finding a Tap-O-Cap cap maker. You take a strip of aluminum from a pop can, slip it in to the device, strike it with a hammer and out pops a perfectly formed cap. Add a punched out toy cap pistol cap (like the rolls of caps I used to play with) and gently place in the cap with a small punch or whatever. Works very well with sometimes a misfire if it is damp. I bought mine at Dixie Gun Works. Not a bad backup device.

  4. I’ve tried black powder in a .357 magnum without problems. The best cartridges for black powder are either straight-walled or have a slight shoulder/taper, like the .38-40, .44-40, etc. Mike Venturino writes about how “smoky” .45 Colt is because of its straight cases: the empties come out looking grungy because they don’t seal the chamber completely the way the old black powder cartridges like .38-40 do.

    Modern, bottleneck cartridges are generally a poor choice, as you’ll have trouble getting the case full.

    The one safety note with black powder cartridges: the case must not have any air space in it! You can use wads or other things that take up space, but most of us fill the case enough that the powder will be compressed about 1/16″ when the bullet is seated.

    Black powder gives lower pressure than smokeless, in most cases. It should be safe to load a modern firearm, like a .357 Mag. or a .44 Mag. or .45 Colt with black powder, as long as you leave no empty space in the shell.

    Pete’s right about the empties. Drop them in a jug or jar of water, preferably with some NON-AMMONIA Windex in it or a little dish detergent. A lot of bp cartridge shooters keep this container with them at the range and put them in right after shooting, to keep the fouling from attracting moisture that attacks the brass, and to make cleaning much easier later.

    Tunnel Rabbit is right about powder size: my FFFg powder is suitable for calibers up to around .45 or .50. I have some brass hulls, and I’m looking forward to working up loads for a single shot .410. It’s actually a very inexpensive cartridge to load for, and the brass shells use pistol primers, IIRC.

    Most of my black powder experience is with arms designed for it, like the Remington New Model Army in the lead photo.

  5. Tunnel Rabbit is right about powder vs caliber: FFFg powder is suitable for “smaller” calibers…up to .45 or .50 caliber. I have some .410 all-brass shells that I’m looking forward to trying with black powder in a single shot.

    Black powder is safe in modern cartridge guns, as long as you load the cartridges with NO AIR SPACE IN THE CARTRIDGE. Most people full the case enough that seating the bullet compresses the powder slightly, about 1/16th of an inch. You don’t want to crush the powder. I’ve loaded .357 Magnum with black powder with no problems. Black powder — loaded correctly — produces lower pressures than a modern gun is made to handle.

    Best cartridges are straight-walled, or the slightly tapered cartridges of the black powder era, like .32-20, .38-40, .44-40, or .45-70. Straight cases may not seal the chamber well with bp pressures, resulting in “smoked” cases. Some shooters anneal their cases before starting with bp for this reason.

    Pete’s right about putting cases in water — maybe with a little dish detergent or NON-AMMONIA Windex in it. This keeps the bp salts from attracting moisture and attacking your brass. A lot of shooters bring a water jug or jar to the range. It makes case cleaning easier later. By the way, the water will be full of bp fouling and will be nasty. Dump it outside, not in the bathroom sink!

    Most of my black powder shooting has been with arms made for it, like the Remington New Model Army I’m shooting in the lead photo.A

    1. To quickly clarify for those already in the know, and to verify this method with those more experienced. As this pertains to use in a shotgun, use the black powder type, or weight of the various substitutes not to exceed widely accepted maximum load data in drams, and weight of the shot.

      https://www.chuckhawks.com/blackpowder_volumetric.htm

      Loading by weight will make the load consistent from shot to shot, thus be more accurate. However BP does not make a good precision load because of moisture content, and other variables. Once one has settled on a good load, we can make our own dipper, and load by volume. The old rule for FF for shotgun is powder charge measured by volume, should be about the same as the shot if loaded by only way they could way back then, by volume to produce the best shot pattern possible. Too much powder, or not enough shot, will cause a hole in the pattern. Loading by volume in this day and age is not only field expedient, but good enough for BP in a shotgun, once the load is calibrated to original BP loads.

      We can use modern reloading techniques, and modern BP equivalents to improve accuracy and reliability in shot patterns, and it also allows us to use the various BP equivalents that are Goex FF to 777, and everything else, and some that can be substantially lighter, or more efficient than real BP. My experience is limited to only some experimentation with shotgun. I wish I had time to learn more, but perhaps someone can speed up the process…. Please correct me if I am off base here.

  6. I have loaded 12 ga shells with BP many times, works great.. I used new once fired Win AA’s, but only one time, and with a 1oz shot wad.. They will do very well out to the average range of standard shotgun range.. but your advise on getting the wad down on the powder is a primary objective.. I used 35-40 lbs of wad pressure, and a 209 shot gun primer.

  7. For what it is worth the 303 British was originally a Black powder round with a 200 grain round nose lead bullet on top of a slightly compressed 3 F loading. The loading that stopped the Zulu’s you know 🙂

    I’ve done it for reenactments and sport hunting, works very well. Also I have loaded 30-30’s in black powder in much the same way as British 303. More than a few White Tails fell to that loading. Yes, it was the “First” smokeless powder but has plenty of case for 3F black powder. Again lead round nose loads. The British Army used hot water from their field tea pots as primary cleaning.

    A Remington 44 Army loaded with conical bullets and full military loads I have used to hunt NC wild Hogs successfully. Never chrono’ed it but it has plenty of wallop.

    And yes shotguns can be reloaded with it also. So it “Burns” plastic shot shells? I reload the cheap 7.5 shot bulk loads. Makes a decent slug load.

  8. Re: non-ammonia windex

    I was taught to clean BP with cheap auto windshield fluid, sounds like the same thing but you can probably get the windshield fluid cheaper.

  9. If you purchase the 1858 Army (not Navy) revolver, you can load all six chambers because the hammer has a resting notch between two of the chambers. Don’t purchase the Navy revolvers from Civil War replicas due to it needing a tool to break down the gun. The Army is what we shoot and has once step to remove the cylinder.

    I’m used to shooting a .45 magnum but be sure not to pack overage in powder due to the gun blowing off your hands.

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