• This community needs YOUR help today. We rely 100% on Supporting Memberships to fund our efforts. With the ever increasing fees of everything, we need help. We need more Supporting Members, today. Please invest back into this community. I will ship a few decals too in addition to all the account perks you get.



    Sign up here: https://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/account/upgrades

How tight to patch a ball

Muzzleloading Forum

Help Support Muzzleloading Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
I haven't read every single post, but in scanning over this thread one factor I have not seen mentioned is that the caliber or bore size of any given barrel is the nominal size. Your .58 may not be .580". I have a CVA Big Bore Mountain Rifle which, as near as I can determine without unbreaching and slugging it, is about .572". The barrels from the now-defunct Green River Rifle Works were notoriously undersized. I have a Hawken John Bergman built for me around a NOS Green River barrel which was nominally .54 caliber, but appears closer to .53. These also had some choke built in, so it is even tighter than that near the muzzle.

I think you just have to try some different balls and patches and see what works. No need to fear shooting a smaller ball if it is hard to load, or a larger one if it feels too easy.

Notchy Bob
 
No, I don't think a round ball in a rifled bore is ever responsible for the gas seal, but just opinion based on what little I've learned so. It's my understanding it's the patch responsible for the seal, but I could be wrong. Some people shoot bare balls, but I don't remember offhand whether they were shooting rifles or smoothbores. so I suppose it's one of those "it depends".
Probably not, I'm new to this, trying to get an understanding, so farr, I understand the compressed cotton fibers of the patch become the seal, but it's pressure from the ball pushing them down into the recesses of the rifling grooves and compressing them against the barrel walls.
 
....but it's pressure from the ball pushing them down into the recesses of the rifling grooves and compressing them against the barrel walls.
Sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Though, when you've recovered and examined some shot patches, I think you'll suspect the pressure of the burning powder does contribute. How much I don't know. That's just what they look like to me, anyway. ;)
 
Last edited:
I haven't read every single post, but in scanning over this thread one factor I have not seen mentioned is that the caliber or bore size of any given barrel is the nominal size. Your .58 may not be .580". I have a CVA Big Bore Mountain Rifle which, as near as I can determine without unbreaching and slugging it, is about .572". The barrels from the now-defunct Green River Rifle Works were notoriously undersized. I have a Hawken John Bergman built for me around a NOS Green River barrel which was nominally .54 caliber, but appears closer to .53. These also had some choke built in, so it is even tighter than that near the muzzle.

I think you just have to try some different balls and patches and see what works. No need to fear shooting a smaller ball if it is hard to load, or a larger one if it feels too easy.

Notchy Bob
Agreed. My "Frankenrifle" with the Douglas barrel is about .4515, if not .452; the other (consensus here is that it is a DGW Tennessee Mt. Rifle) is more like .449, or less - only 1 out of 5 Hornady swaged .440 balls will fall down that barrel, got some .433 balls to try in that one. Lots of experimenting in my future once this weather decides it ain't gonna blast us with a blizzard any more... Oh, and the R. Miller smoothbore is.623. Had to double patch that one with what I had till I found some thicker stuff and bigger balls...
 
I haven't read every single post, but in scanning over this thread one factor I have not seen mentioned is that the caliber or bore size of any given barrel is the nominal size. Your .58 may not be .580". I have a CVA Big Bore Mountain Rifle which, as near as I can determine without unbreaching and slugging it, is about .572". The barrels from the now-defunct Green River Rifle Works were notoriously undersized. I have a Hawken John Bergman built for me around a NOS Green River barrel which was nominally .54 caliber, but appears closer to .53. These also had some choke built in, so it is even tighter than that near the muzzle.

I think you just have to try some different balls and patches and see what works. No need to fear shooting a smaller ball if it is hard to load, or a larger one if it feels too easy.

Notchy Bob
Ok, I'm not a machinist, bud have a flat / ball micrometers, an did my best to measure the actual barrell.

It measures 0.940" flat to flat.

Flat to top of lands = .225" × 2 = .450"

Flat to bottom of grooves = .213" × 2 = .426"

So.... .940 - .450 = .490" make it .49cal

.940 - .426 = .514" groove to groove.

.514 - .490 = .024/2 =.012" depth of rifling.

So now we have real numbers.
 
JD, all I can say to that is, with my .32 Crockett Squirrel Rifle I can start the patch/ball using my thumb IF its .015" ticking from October Country. I use TOTW Mink Oil for lube. Its a bit tight of a fit and it takes a little bit of thumb pressure to do so, but its done quite a few times per week lately while out squirrel hunting.

JFG one day I tried .018" ticking with Mink Oil. It was very difficult to get the patch/ball started so, if memory serves me correctly, I used a short starter. The reasons why I did not stick with the tighter patch/ball was three fold.

1. No appreciable difference in accuracy was detected.

2. The patch/ball was too tight for thumb starting and I do not like using a short starter in the woods.

3. The patch/ball was a tight fit all the way down until seated against the powder charge. That sealed the deal for this ole boy. If it took that much pressure to seat the patch/ball with a clean bore, I knew a second shot would be very difficult to do out in the woods.

To be clear, I am quite certain there are ML out there that requires a short starter to get the patch/ball started in the muzzle. Other than ordering a Woods coning tool to ease such a situation, I must use a short starter for my .54 GPR with the load I have worked up for it.

However, had found any reason to stick with a tighter patch/ball combination in my squirrel rifle I would have done so.
Ed and I shoot nearly the exact combination in our Crockett rifles. One difference is I shoot just a few more grains of powder. We’ve talked at length about our set ups. My accuracy is spot on. I don’t need to use a short starter until maybe my 10th or 11th shot and then it’s not much. Mine actually eased up again after 13 and I went back to just using my fingers.

Anyway, I ordered my patches through October country (mentioned in a previous post).

Good luck on your pach quest.

Anthony
 
I postulate that as pressure increases, at some point, the flow of lead would create the seal, fill the grooves, and begin to flow before and aft, elongating the ball into a cylindrical shape.
Your over thinking it. Your only is to focus to the patch variable as some magic wand and that "ticking" is the one cotton that can be used.
That's the fallacy. Do you still have a sample of that 18 patch that was shared?
As posted in this thread is the works of Dutch Schoultz. You should get a copy, it's still available.
Denim, a micrometer and a fabric store is your friend.
Following Dutch's teachings will give you the approach you need, but you have to follow his method,, completely.
That is what was shared with you.
I know your barrel.
Use Ballistol. 1-6/1-7
I am #238.
 
Okay, let's say you improve your group shooting from a bench at 50 yards by an inch. What size group do you shoot off hand at the same distance? Can you tell the off hand difference between the improved and unimproved group? Showing groups shot while changing patch material without actually working up a load for both thicknesses is misleading.
 
Okay, let's say you improve your group shooting from a bench at 50 yards by an inch. What size group do you shoot off hand at the same distance? Can you tell the off hand difference between the improved and unimproved group? Showing groups shot while changing patch material without actually working up a load for both thicknesses is misleading.
Good point. Comparisons need to be done without any variance in factors that affect them or their magnitudes in between. Offhand shooting introduces a pretty large magnitude variance factor.
 
Good point. Comparisons need to be done without any variance in factors that affect them or their magnitudes in between. Offhand shooting introduces a pretty large magnitude variance factor.
Yes, that is why the variables of the firearm and it's load should be found while on the bench.
Once the tool, aka; the gun and it's load variables are found and defined.
Then the shooter can learn how to shoot.
That's olde school. Is it different today?

Does anyone expect to be a decent offhand shooter while developing loads shooting offhand for an offhand rifle?
What world is that?
:dunno:
 
I shoot side by side with an ex International shooter and he firmly believes in the patch being so thick that the ball needs to be pounded down the barrel, me, I like it to be tight but not that tight. I’ve found that my underhammer Ardesa (pistol) prefers a snug patch without pounding!
It’s .40” cal and I use a .395” ball with a 012” or 015” patch over 10.5 grains of Swiss 1. Not tight but a whole lot more accurate than I am!
 
I have looked over the posts on this and if this has been mentioned I apologize. In all machining endeavors there is something called tolerance. Simply stated it is how much a dimension can vary and still be acceptable. To hold bore diameterers dead on you probably couldn't afford the barrel. I would think that plus or minus .003 would be in the realm of reality.
 
One really can't fill the grooves so tightly with patching to make a total gas seal. The ball would have to be the groove diameter and even the small surface area at the circumference is still not a perfect seal.

Now to find patching material. The most consistent I have found is the #40 cotton drill cloth available at JoAnn Fabrics in the utility cloth section. This is not a high demand fabric and some of the sales people can have a hard time finding it. It can be called Utility Drill Cloth and be in the shelves with the muslins or onsnaburg fabrics. Wash it several times to remove the sizing that makes the fabric stiff and dry on high heat to tighten the weave more. I like drill cloth better than pillow ticking.
 
Your over thinking it. Your only is to focus to the patch variable as some magic wand and that "ticking" is the one cotton that can be used.
That's the fallacy. Do you still have a sample of that 18 patch that was shared?
As posted in this thread is the works of Dutch Schoultz. You should get a copy, it's still available.
Denim, a micrometer and a fabric store is your friend.
Following Dutch's teachings will give you the approach you need, but you have to follow his method,, completely.
That is what was shared with you.
I know your barrel.
Use Ballistol. 1-6/1-7
I am #238.
Ok, advice taken. Yes, still have a sample of the patch material I was given, went to JoAnne's with a micrometer and found a 100% cotton tightly woven canvas like cloth the same thickness, tested it today and it worked well, was getting 1560fps with a 50gr charge, accuracy was about 2-3 inches at 50yds, and recovered patches all looked as if they could be used again. I mixed some 1:6 Ballistol and water in a small spray bottle and used it, Oh, and I bought the book off ebay and plan to read it when it gets here.
20240118_235327.jpg
 
Last edited:
and plan to read it when it gets here.
That's good.
Read it 5 times, dump the spray bottle, read the papers 5 times more
Follow the papers, don't deviate, just do what he says.
If there is a question, go back and read again,, honest.
I mean that with all respect. You can do it,, point is do it, just like it says.

There are SO many here that will say "Oh, Yeah, It works great, but you should do this or do that,"
Just do what the papers say. Should take you about a year.
Work it, I'm #238.
 
I shoot muzzleloaders because their simple and I don't like overly complicated things.
I shoot .015 pillow ticking and a .562 ball out of .58, and I didn't "find" that combo.
Its a smaller ball so I knew it would easily work,so I bought the mold. The patch, .015 it loads easy.
70 grains of 3f, I prime with my main horn then as well to keep it simple.
I usually shoot a 9 or 10 out of 12 on our woods walk course so I'm not changing anything.
I haven't shot a deer yet that it didn't pass through, I've shot 4 with it, I built it last summer. Good enough for me!
 
I shoot muzzleloaders because their simple and I don't like overly complicated things.
I shoot .015 pillow ticking and a .562 ball out of .58, and I didn't "find" that combo.
Its a smaller ball so I knew it would easily work,so I bought the mold. The patch, .015 it loads easy.
70 grains of 3f, I prime with my main horn then as well to keep it simple.
I usually shoot a 9 or 10 out of 12 on our woods walk course so I'm not changing anything.
I haven't shot a deer yet that it didn't pass through, I've shot 4 with it, I built it last summer. Good enough for me!
Am so happy for you
I shoot muzzleloaders because their simple and I don't like overly complicated things.
I shoot .015 pillow ticking and a .562 ball out of .58, and I didn't "find" that combo.
Its a smaller ball so I knew it would easily work,so I bought the mold. The patch, .015 it loads easy.
70 grains of 3f, I prime with my main horn then as well to keep it simple.
I usually shoot a 9 or 10 out of 12 on our woods walk course so I'm not changing anything.
I haven't shot a deer yet that it didn't pass through, I've shot 4 with it, I built it last summer. Good enough for me!
Am happy for you 😊 this is a hobby, we each choose our hobbies for our own recreational needs, and most get out of it, what they choose to put into it.

It sounds like it's meeting your's, congregations, you're blessed.🙏
 
@JDBraddy, it looks as if you may have found the elusive drill cloth at JoAnn's Fabrics. Their canvas material is good too.

On your ticking patches I see a little bit of wear from the lands. The red stripe shows some cutting that could be associated with the crown being sharp.

Here's some of my recovered patches from my 36 cal SMR (unknown maker).
IMG_4578_SMR_R.jpg
 
I have always thought, based on tons of internet information, that a tightly patched ball will provide more accuracy and velocity. I guess I've been lucky in a sense. I started with .018 patches and a ball .010 less than bore. Several .54's with .530 ball and .018 patch are accurate and have a good velocity that I expect. I have one .50, and the same applies - a .490 with .018 patch is accurate with good velocity. This includes caplocks and flintlocks.

I've got two items that are newer additions that this does not apply to. A .58 caliber rifle using .570 ball and .018 patch is hard to load. The accuracy is just "on the paper" at closer range and non-existent at long range. The other is a .45 single shot with the same story. A .440 with .018 is hard to load with poor accuracy and dismal velocity.

Finally the stubbornness wore off and I started with different patches. In the .58 rifle, I used a .015. It was somewhat easier to load and the accuracy and velocity increased. Dropping down to a .010 patch, the accuracy and velocity increased yet again. The high velocity out of a string was still a bit higher with the tighter patch but the SD went down to single digits with the .010 and the average loss was only 54 FPS.

I did the same with the .45 and found the .015 were much easier to load. Accuracy increased exponentially and velocity stayed the same. Dropping to a .010 patch, the accuracy increased to a one-ragged-hole group and the velocity is still the same average.

All the patches had the same lube. For my experimenting I used the same powder and charge that for all the combos.

So, while some of you already know this, for me I debunked what was apparently a myth that I fell for. Each rifle needs a ball/patch combo that it likes. The tighter patched ball does not always increase velocity or accuracy! I hope at least one person having a similar experience reads this and tries a thinner patch. My intent is to save you frustration that I put up with for so long.
I got my initial patch tightness advice from a Lyman Manual probably 40-50 years ago and it has served me flawlessly all this time. The advice was a tight weave ,cotton fabric, thick enough to leave it's pattern in both land and groove imprinted into the lead ball after seating.
 
Back
Top