Black Powder Muzzle Loading is unique. It’s messy, smoky and fun! Plan to wear old clothes both shooting and cleaning up. You WILL get dirty. But it smells and looks like shooting in the really old days. Surprising accuracy can be achieved with pistols and rifles like the Ruger Single Action, Stainless Steel (highly recommended) revolver like the Civil War Days. It’s strong, well machined and fun to shoot and clean up. The old time, pirate version is bright metal, rusts fast and is for the shooter who wants a muzzle loader cheap, but fun. You have to clean it up really well and oil it to keep rust down. Note: Black Powder is measured by volumn and not weight. All loads shown are from books and are volumn. But, it is close. With Goex FFFg Black Powder, 50 gr. by volumn also weighs 49.7 grains. Using 50 gr. of Goex FFg Black Powder, 50 gr. weighs 50.5 grains. As you see, it is very close, but with some other powders, there is likely to be a larger spread between volumn and weight.
I have been deer hunting with a Harrington and Richardson .45 cal modern muzzle loader with a break open action to put the percussion cap on it…and I had a bad experience. I had shot the gun, carefully cleaned it and used cleaning solution in the bore. I didn’t get all the solution out and I didn’t fire a few percussion caps to dry it before loading. What happened on a hunt was sad.
I loaded it up with a big charge of black powder, nice mini-ball bullet and ready to shoot. I waited in the early, cold November day and saw a fine multi-point buck at about 40 yards. I carefully aimed and fired. A short “poof” but no explosion or bullet. The deer was still there. I hastily put on another percussion cap and fired again. The same thing. “Poof!” The hunt was over and I lost a good deer because the powder right next to the nipple of the percussion cap was full of oil from the gun cleaner the night before and would not have fired under any circumstances. I sure learned from that. After cleaning your gun, put it up….that’s fine. But before you charge it with powder for that first shoot, fire a few caps on the nipple to clean out the bore and chamber of any oil and residue to make sure it is ready to deliver a hot fire to the powder load in the chamber.
Amount of FFg/FFFg in cases by Weight (Volumn is preferred)
On my BlackPowder Loads page, you will find various amounts of black powder will work in most firearms. It’s convenient to have a “scoop” for the powder charge you want as powder horns are expensive and work for only one amount of powder. I have seen an adjustable brass volumn measure and that is certainly something you want to have. You can fill an empty shell case level with black powder and have the following amounts (BY WEIGHT):
|.38 Special||25.0 gr.||25.5 gr.|
|.357 Mag.||27.5 gr.||28.0 gr.|
|.45 ACP||27.2 gr.||27.8 gr.|
|.44 Mag.||38.5 gr.||40.0 gr.|
|.45 Colt||44.0 gr.||46.0 gr.|
If you wish, you can solder a small handle on the side of the brass case to make it easier to scoop up charges of black powder. For a custom amount, just start trimming off sections of the brass case for smaller amounts until you have just the amount you want.
If you wanted 52 grains for a rifle load, you might cut down a .357 mag case to 26 grains and use two scoops of powder for each load. It is very easy with the cases to trim them down to a custom load. With black powder, you will find it is not as critical as smokeless powder charges in cartridges.
How to Load Black Powder
The most traditional is a rifle with a lead ball. You simply dump the proper amount of charge down the barrel. Then with a cloth “patch” which can simply be an old scrap T-shirt, you put it over the barrel and force the lead ball in the bore until the top of the ball is even with the mouth. Then, cut the cloth patch with a knife. Next, take the ramrod and push the lead ball all the way down till it hits the powder. Never leave an air gap. All that’s left to do now is prepare the priming charge. Most muzzle loaders have a hammer and nipple, over which you put a percussion cap (just like a primer in a cartridge). This is called the “caplock” type of gun. You are ready to fire. Between rounds, some kind of lubricant like Crisco or just plain spit, is used because the black powder residue will make future loads difficult without it.
With the flintlocks, it’s the same, except you have a piece of flint rock that hits a steel plate and causes a spark to set off a very fast burning powder that will ignite the black powder in the bore of the gun. FFFFg (four F’s) is usually used for the primer.
With the revolvers, you can load up all six cylinders and fire them when you desire. After loading the charge and ball, it is good to put some lubricant over the ball to sort of seal it in the chamber and later lubricate the round when it is fired. Crisco is often used for this, but there are a lot of other lubricants that people use. You usually use a round ball that fits tight in the cylinder, so no patch is needed. There are some sized, lubricated, over-powder wads that work nicely as a lubricant and are not as messy.
Lyman makes many, many kinds of bullets for muzzle load shooting, they can be lubricated or not, and some use a patch while most do not. They fit tight in the barrel and have rings or groves that give a good powder seal when shot. These regular pointed or rounded bullets in a rifled barrel of a muzzle loading rifle are amazingly accurate.
Clean up is with good old hot soapy water. It cuts black powder residue quickly. There are a number of cleaners on the market that do a good job too. You can also just use a cleaner like Hoppe’s #9 if you wish. Always lubricate the entire gun and bore after cleanup to avoid rusting.