how tight are your balls

Discussion in 'General Muzzleloading' started by old ugly, Apr 9, 2019.

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  1. Apr 9, 2019 #1

    old ugly

    old ugly

    old ugly

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    now I'm sure this has been discussed before but I'm getting patch material ready and curious to find your thoughts on this.
    I'm talking about rifle not smooth gun. and a lubed patched roundball.

    I don't like beating on and struggling with the ball to get it started in the muzzle so I use a fit that I can start with the long end of my short starter and a quick push with my palm. infact almost able to force it in with my thumb.
    when I used to shoot smooth gun I never carried a short starter but that's a different story.

    I see people beating on the ball with goofy gavels/hammer things and fighting with short starters to get the ball started in the bore. I would think this is not good for the shape of the projectile but I don't know. seems like lots of grief.

    so I have a few questions.
    -how was the ball started in the old days in a rifle?
    -was a short starter used in the 1700s ?
    -what is the proper way to start the ball in the muzzle?
    ou
    tom
     
  2. Apr 9, 2019 #2

    Barrie Dale

    Barrie Dale

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    I moision my patchs with a small amount of water, just before useing my small starter to get the patch and ball down the barrel for about 3-4" and then my long steel rod. Up here we never use the wooden rods that come with the guns. They break too easy so most of us here leave them at home or in the gun case.
     
  3. Apr 9, 2019 #3

    old ugly

    old ugly

    old ugly

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    yeah, ramrod type and usage is a big different area for discussion.
    lots of people use metal rods, for me its cumbersome.
    I've never had an issue with a gun supplier wood ramrod(maybe lucky maybe I load to loose).
    I did a stupid thing a long time ago and made one from a dowel and of course it broke.
    I never carry around a metal rod , I have one at home I use for cleaning tho.
    ou
    tom
     
  4. Apr 9, 2019 #4

    bang

    bang

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    If it starts with thumb pressure its5too loose.
    If you have to pound on it, it's too tight.
    A non brusing palm strike to starter is sufficient.
    Should ram smooth but snug.
     
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  5. Apr 9, 2019 #5

    Carbon 6

    Carbon 6

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    I load tight enough to need to use a ball starter but not so tight as to break a wooden ramrod.
     
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  6. Apr 9, 2019 #6

    Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave

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    so I have a few questions.

    -how was the ball started in the old days in a rifle?

    From what we can tell, it was pressed into the muzzle, perhaps with the butt of a small knife, and the remaining patching material was cut off, or if precut patches were used the ramrod was then employed. It may also have been small enough with a thick enough fabric (or perhaps greased, braintan leather) that the shooter could start the ball with heavy thumb pressure.

    -was a short starter used in the 1700s ?
    NOT that we can tell...but we do know they appeared in the 19th century. They were very much recommended for use in the early part of the 20th century, as is evidenced by books such as Ned Roberts' The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle.

    -what is the proper way to start the ball in the muzzle?
    I've always started mine with the sprue up, forced into the muzzle tight with the butt of my patch knife. Then rammed it home with short strokes of the ramrod; my hand only about a fist width distance from the muzzle to keep from flexing the ramrod too much.

    I just bought two boxes of ".52 caliber" ball last Sunday at the gunshow…, to try with some really thick linen canvas in my .54 rifle. One box was hand-cast and was actually .510 (when I later checked it with the micrometer), which the seller once used in his .52 rifle, and the other is commercially made .520, and I will use that. The .510 I will probably melt down and recast as .530 ball. IF the commercially made .520 doesn't work, I will simply recast that too...;)

    LD
     
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  7. Apr 9, 2019 #7

    Ames

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    I'm the same when I load, except....I push with the starter to start the ball. Never found a need to smack it at all. Even snug ones I just push.
     
  8. Apr 9, 2019 #8

    45man

    45man

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    I shot target for years and was usually first or second place. I use tight and one karate smack on the starter. I found the ball must be engraved by the patch material .005" by the grooves. Even .002" difference in patch thickness can change accuracy. I used a .500" ball in my .50 caliber with a .012" patch and my .54 uses a .535" ball and a .022" patch.
    Lube is important and Young Country has been the best with well over 200 shots a day without wiping the bore at all. I seen it get fouled some and tighter so the next patch was smeared with more Young Country to push the fouling to the ball. Hit the exact same place. In roughly 66 years I have shot every lube ever thought of and the difference is measured in feet, not inches.
    I think back when I started and would take my rifle to Wes and Dan Kindig's log cabin. They used a ball measure to get the bore size and said use that size ball. .45 used a .450". Douglas barrel.
     
  9. Apr 9, 2019 #9

    old ugly

    old ugly

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    Cool! Good info, makes sense to me, I can not envision people of old fighting so hard to load their guns. Ball and patch so tight one has to beat it with a hammer to start it and then pound it down the barrel with fears of breaking the ramrod.
    Thanks
    Ou
    Tom
     
  10. Apr 9, 2019 #10

    Larry (Omaha)

    Larry (Omaha)

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    Tom,
    Just do what you like, provided it gets the results you should for a muzzleloader.
    As you know muzzleloaders are like women, they are "all" different. I have a friend that used a loose patch/ball in a cheap old rifle and beat the pants off me almost every time. It worked for him, but not for me. I like a thicker patch with a slippery liquid lube, that takes a good palm thrust to start.
    Flintlocklar:D
     
  11. Apr 10, 2019 #11

    Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave

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    The problem though is that the question is soooper tough to answer with any certainty...,
    There were no readily available manuals on how one should best load rifles to be the most accurate ...,
    By and large our barrels are pretty much rifled the same way, either square grooved or rounded grooves, and the lands and grooves are about the same widths..., and the depths differ between "shallow and deep" today, but even those two are pretty much standardized depths. Back then each rifling machine probably had a different cutter, and the depth and width and twist and number of grooves was up to the guy rifling the barrel.
    We, today, know not only to experiment with different loadings, but we also have the resources to reach out and obtain the supplies to conduct these experiments, when the rifleman of the AWI had to do with either hoping the mold he got with the rifle was a "good fit", or the ball he bought was..., plus having a good supply of the proper thickness patching material in an age when the spinning and the weaving were all done by hand.
    THAT is a LOT of variables.....
    So..., one guy might be able to jam the ball flush with his muzzle by using thumb pressure, and the next guy might be seriously pushing hard on his bullet and patch with the butt of his knife..., and either rifle might be quite similar in accuracy.
    ..., and the next time our two riflemen resupply themselves, the lad with the easy-to-start load might be contending with much thicker patching material, and the fellow using heavy force to start his bullet may find slightly thinner patching material....

    LD
     
  12. Apr 10, 2019 #12

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

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    Serious, super serious target shooters use a very tight combination, often utilizing a false muzzle and a ball of diameter equal to or greater than bore diameter land to land. This may improve accuracy by 10%. For example a 5 shot group in 0.8” at 100 yards versus 0.88” at 100 yards. The same barrel, with no false muzzle, and a chamfered muzzle, may shoot a tight load 0.005” under bore ball and a thick patch into 1.2” at 100 yards for example. This load would require several smacks of a short starter then slide well. Same barrel, chamfered at muzzle, may shoot a ball 0.010 under bore diameter with a patch that stays intact, into 1.5” at 100 yards and that would load easily.

    Meanwhile many old men with old eyes and non-target sights celebrate a 3” group at 100 yards. I know I do.
     
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  13. Apr 10, 2019 #13

    Grimord

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    Meanwhile many old men with old eyes and non-target sights celebrate a 3” group at 100 yards. I know I do.[/QUOTE]

    I'm happy to get 4" groups at 100 Yards. Most of the time I can't even see the target at that range. Old age, and eyes, are the detriment to us Black Powder shooters.
     
  14. Apr 10, 2019 #14

    hanshi

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    All I have to offer is that I generally use ball .010" under bore dia; this is because that's what I have available. But I use thick patches and the loads are tight yet the wood ramrod seats the prb quite nicely and safely. But in my .45 I also shoot some .445" along with .440" ball; and they both seat and shoot the same. Polishing the rifle crown goes a long way for easy loading with tight loads.
     
  15. Apr 11, 2019 #15

    Sidney Smith

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    When i use balls that are ten thousandths under, they go in without too much difficulty using .018-.020 patches. When I go up to balls that are only 5 thousandths under, using the same patches, they load pretty tight. So with the latter I only use them on a fresh clean barrel. I normally load a 5 thou under ball and patch as my first shot on deer, then if I need another, as I did last season to finish the doe I had shot, I load a ball that is 10 thou under. Marked difference in accuracy using 5 thou under balls vs ten, at least for me anyway.
     
  16. Apr 11, 2019 #16

    biliff

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    .562 ball in my .58 Colrain Barrel, .530 ball in my .54 Colerain and Pedersoli Mortimer barrels, and .318 ball in my GM .32 all with the same drill patch material that measures around .018". Ranges from not quite able to start with my thumb to needs a short starter for sure. No hammers or beatings required. They all slide down just fine with the rifles wooden ramrod. Pretty sure caliber has something to do with how tight you can easily go. Smaller ball is just easier to swage a bit.
     
  17. Apr 11, 2019 #17

    rafterob

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    Need to consider your end game. Is it to win the target match or be able to knock something down? For target finesse a tight ball-patch combination will yield best accuracy and you may have to use something to tap the ball in with. I have a small mandrel that is conformed to the ball and a firm wrap with a leather mallet gets it seated. But I don't do that for non-paper target shooting. I use a looser load that I can start with my short starter. I would think during frontier days even that would have been a pain in the rear, so a load that you could start with thumb pressure would be the most efficient.
     
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  18. Apr 11, 2019 #18

    tenngun

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    One answer to this question is related to temperature. Lubes can get hard in cold weather and be oily in warm. Your load at near freezing may feel tighter then seventy or eighty degrees.
     
  19. Apr 12, 2019 #19

    Rat

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    I believe in two kinds of accuracy. Hunting accuracy, and target accuracy. For target accuracy you need tight combinations, false muzzles, short starters voodoo and ju-ju and all that. For hunting accuracy you don't. For hunting accuracy, all you need is to be able to keep them on a paper plate at 100 yards. Paper plate being a 9" group or circle. Most of us want better than that, for hunting, and strive for better, as we should, but really we are kidding ourselves if we think we "need" more than a six inch group, at 100, for hunting.

    I think the old timers understood that better and used looser ball and patch combos, for that reason...even though we love to hear the tales of the frontier dude nipping the head off a turkey at 300 yards. I shoot a .600" ball in my .62, which I think runs about .614", I think...maybe .618", (colerain barrel, what are they supposed to run?) and have it patched so that I can thumb press it into the muzzle, and ram it down a clean barrel easy. A 4" (or 5") group is fine with me, and leaves me no excuse if I miss a big game animal at 100 yards. I have also shot it with .575" balls, and a denim patch, and it still kept them on the paper plate, in a group, rather than a pattern, at 100 yards.
     
  20. Apr 12, 2019 #20

    Tanglefoot

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    There appears to be a considerable amount of earned wisdom in this thread already. I've been doing this a while and I tend to load a ball that's 0.005" under bore size for the first shot and carry patched and lubed reloads that are 0.010" under bore size in a small loading block --- When I'm hunting. Shooting in a match, it's 0.005" under bore size for all of my loads, unless it's a Stake Shoot, and then it's back to the hunting method. Different setup for smoothbore, of course. I either use a short starter or the butt end of my patch knife handle, to save wear and tear on my paws. Footnote to "45man": Use that YCA#103 sparingly. William closed the business and there ain't no more. I've still got a couple of jars, but when that's gone, it's all she wrote. Too durn bad --- #103 was one of the very few products that lived up to all it's claims and then some, and it was the best patch lube I ever used.
     
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