Ball size in smooth bores

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Roundball2319

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Good day to all. I hope everyone is well.
Question for you all that shoot round ball out of a smooth bore. When shooting bare ball with cards how tight do you like the fit of the ball to the barrel? What do you find gets the best accuracy?
 

Grenadier1758

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As most of the answers to questions about ball size and loading information will begin with the "It depends" as the start of the answer.

With bare ball, the size will depend on how much fouling is in the barrel. You have also neglected to let us know what bore size you are shooting. Another aspect of the "It depends" part of the answer.

With smooth bores it is less likely that wiping between shots is anticipated. A bare ball can be close to bore size. With a patched ball you want the ball to be bore diameter less twice the compressed thickness of the patch. To load without a short starter then the ball should be 0.005 to 0.010" less than twice the compressed patch thickness.

A bare ball suggestion for load development would be 0.010" to 0.005" less than bore diameter.
Method 1: After loading the powder, start two over shot cards about a ball diameter into the bore. Load the ball and a final over shot card and run that stack to the breech. This method will scrape the fouling down the bore to be on top of the powder.
Method 2: Make a loose wad of tow or nest of jute or hemp twine about twice to three times the size of the ball with a very little bit of oil and after loading the powder, wrap the ball in the nest and start it in the barrel. Put a smaller nest on top and ram the wrapped ball to the breech. Use of the tow nest will allow for more shots before the bore needs to be wiped of fouling.

Sadly, I can't tell you which load will be more accurate. Your smoothbore gun will have to tell you.
 

tenngun

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We often note people who shoot true bare ball often shoot higher charges then people shooting patched ball or a fiber wad the ball can be nested in. The theory is the hot gas cushions the ball and higher velocity gets it to the target before it goes astray.
Back in the earth seventeenth century at least one shooting competition shot smoothbore at two hundred and fifty yards and rifles at over three hundred. I wonder what they were shooting
 

smo

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Look over on page 7 of this smoothbore forum, there was quite the discussion on this back then..
I shoot a .642 bare ball from a 653 bore.
As Tenngun says, it may take a little more powder, but I haven’t noticed this at 50 yards or less ..
Longer ranges I’m sure would require more powder to help with the trajectory of the heavy ball.
 

Griz44Mag

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I have shot bare ball out of both my smoothbores, replicating the standard military load in my Long Land musket.
They shoot OK, but the best accuracy always comes with a lubricated patched round ball sized close to bore using a fairly tight loading.
Shooting "the way they used to do it" back in the day is fun, but most often not the most accurate.
Since very few of us will ever get to volley fire with a hundred or so others in a 1700's battle formation and at an opposing target line of the same size, I opt for accurately hitting a paper target with one ball at a time!
 

Roundball2319

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I am shooting a .56 cal T/C barrel that was pitted and I cleaned up. It is now around .565 cal. I have a .562 lee mold. As I cast them they do not drop down with out a ram rod pushing them very lightly down the bore to the breech.
 

smo

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They may prove too be to tight once your bore is fouled.. have you measured a poured ball from the mold?

Target is from 25 yards benched... my gun shoots low & left. The hole at the 7 o’clock position is with me aiming dead center of the bullseye.. the other 4 are using Ky windage..
If memory serves me, I was shooting a bare ball on top of 70 grns of ffg, but it could have been fffg. Both loads seem too shoot equally well.... I’ve gotta’ get this barrel tweaked... soon. I really don’t like using Ky windage...

I have tried several patched ball loads in my gun, none of which come anywhere near the accuracy I get from un patched balls.
 

Cruzatte

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Good day to all. I hope everyone is well.
Question for you all that shoot round ball out of a smooth bore. When shooting bare ball with cards how tight do you like the fit of the ball to the barrel? What do you find gets the best accuracy?
My Track of the Wolf Fusil de Chasse does well with 2¼ dr FFg, .610" ball, and a wad of some sort, either tow, or stiff paper. (dr is an abbreviation for drams)
 

Maven

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I am shooting a .56 cal T/C barrel that was pitted and I cleaned up. It is now around .565 cal. I have a .562 lee mold. As I cast them they do not drop down with out a ram rod pushing them very lightly down the bore to the breech.
I have one of those and recently discovered that tow wads fore & aft + a .550" ball (Lyman mould) is surprisingly accurate. I should add, in the final analysis, you have to experiment with patch thickness, ball diameter, powder charge and maybe granulation, whether to forego the patch and use over powder and over shot wads (card stock or tow), and how you hold and aim the gun (e.g., "cheek weld"). Btw, patch thickness is less critical in a smooth bore than a rifle as the patch really has no rifling to "expand" into.
 

Grenadier1758

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Both are good and make good quality molds. You need Lyman handles for the Tanner Molds and you have to cut off the sprue with a side cutter. The Callahan molds are iron and need some cover or heavy leather gloves as the handles get very warm. The Callahan molds have the Sprue cutter built in.
 

smo

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Rush Creek Roundballs sells various sizes as well as Eddie May .. sorry I don’t have Eddies contact info, but I’m sure someone here does..
He’s in Georgia.
 

Griz44Mag

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Both are good and make good quality molds. You need Lyman handles for the Tanner Molds and you have to cut off the sprue with a side cutter. The Callahan molds are iron and need some cover or heavy leather gloves as the handles get very warm. The Callahan molds have the Sprue cutter built in.
The Lee handles will also fit both of these molds. And they are half the price.
 
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