Load development?

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1BadDart

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I've built a .40 Virginia rifle for 25 yard offhand matches and need to work up an accurate load combination. What's you load development process?

Thanks, Justin
 

cositrike

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I would find out the actual calibre of the barrel. Then start off with a ball 10 thou smaller and a 15 thou patch. About 40 gr of 3f.
shoot 5 then raise the powder charge 5gr and shoot 5. Try 5gr less as well. Then try a bigger ball if you feel the need and a thinner patch. Then the opposite. Somewhere in there will probable be the sweet load
 

1BadDart

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The bore measures .401" and my unwashed ticking treated with a 5-1 mix of water/ballistol measures .016" dry, washed measures .019" dry. So, far I've shot it 33 times with 55 grains of Schutzen 3F and the .016" ball/ patch combination mentioned above. I do have some .400" balls too.

Thanks, Justin
 

Rock Home Isle

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I spent the better part of 3 months getting my .40 calibre shooting accurately. It’s now a ragged hole, 5 shot group at 50 yrds.

I caste up both .390 & .395 RBs, and a couple different thicknesses of pillow ticking. I pre wash my pillowing ticking and dry it on high heat. I want the fabric to shrink and the weave to be dense and tight.

All shooting is from the bench. I shoot 5 shot groups starting at 25 yrds, until I find a group of loads that are nice and tight, preferably single hole groups. Then I move out to 50 yrds, and retest those loads again…looking for the best group.

When I’m shooting a new gun and developing loads, I look very closely at patches fired from the gun. Should the patches look burned, & torn…I Lapp the barrel with either valve grinding compound on a cleaning patch or a tight fitting piece of scotch—brite, polish the bore right up. I also closely inspect the muzzle of the firearm…ever since Covid hit, I’m finding poorly finished muzzles on barrels. I’ve had to re-crown 2 guns this year…my .54 calibre Corelian barrel and the last one was my brand new .40 calibre.

Once I have good groups at 50 yrds…then I move out to 100 yrds and then I adjust my sights. I like to be dead-on or a bit high at 100 yrds. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, so I find myself more and more settling on 1 1/2” high at 50 yrds.

When I’m done with my initial sighting-in…I caste up some .375 & .380 RBs, and I get a couple different thicknesses of denim and cotton canvas. Then I start the process all over again, looking a good squirrel load…the .40 calibre lends itself quite nicely to accurately shooting undersized balls at low powder charges…
 
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Ben Meyer

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I shoot 5 shot groups at 50yds from a bench for load development. Looking for the tightest group. I change ONE variable at a time, measure the group, write it down/take notes, and shoot again. I swab the barrel between shots to keep fouling consistent.

Things/variables to change:
-2f or 3f
-powder brand
-powder charge(change in 5gr increments)
-ball diameter
-patching material(compressed thickness)
-patch lube(LOTS of options)

It all boils down to many hours at the range. Once you find "the load" your gun likes, adjust the sights to put that tight group where you want it.....and never change a thing ever again. Stock up on the winning components.
 

hanshi

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My .40 with a canvas patch, Hoppes BP Lube and 40 grains of Goex 3F was extremely accurate at 50 yards with an MV of near 1700 fps. At 100 yards a charge of 60 grains shot as good as I've ever been able to shoot at that range. MV with 60 grns was around 2145 fps.
 
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When working up a load for a new gun I Always start with Ball, patch , lube, and powder charge, Changing one variable at a time. I start with about 5 grain powder under caliber (Example 40 grain for a 45 caliber ) and work my way up by 5 grain increments.There is mo short cut.
 

dave951

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I do what the previous guys do and in addition, I weigh every bullet and keep them within .1g. I also weigh each powder charge and only go up in 3gr increments. I feel the a 5gr increment is large enough to miss a possible node where the group starts to tighten.
 

Ben Meyer

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Would you mind posting a pic of or a link to the scale you use to weigh them? That's the next thing i plan to do. I buy them pre-made from a reliable source, but I still look at every one before loading. Rarely, there's an imperfection you can see, which I'm sure would cause a weight difference.

I do what the previous guys do and in addition, I weigh every bullet and keep them within .1g. I also weigh each powder charge and only go up in 3gr increments. I feel the a 5gr increment is large enough to miss a possible node where the group starts to tighten.
 

dave951

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Would you mind posting a pic of or a link to the scale you use to weigh them? That's the next thing i plan to do. I buy them pre-made from a reliable source, but I still look at every one before loading. Rarely, there's an imperfection you can see, which I'm sure would cause a weight difference.
I just use a digital scale for reloading. Nothing fancy.
 

1BadDart

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Thanks guys. I hadn't shot a muzzleloader much in well over 30 years, so I've been shooting to get familiar with the rifle, mostly at 50 yards. I can say at 61 my eyes aren't what they used to be, the front sight is clear, so that's a good thing.

Justin
 
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I've built a .40 Virginia rifle for 25 yard offhand matches and need to work up an accurate load combination. What's you load development process?

Thanks, Justin
While Dutch Schoultz has passed away, his daughter is maintaining the web site and Dutch's system for developing accurate, on target loads for a muzzle loading rifle is a very good development method and worth the $25 for the 94 pages of information.


You have measured the land to land diameter. Measure to determine the groove depth to help in making a preliminary decision for the patch thickness and get a feel for how much compression of the patching will be required. Get a good volumetric measure to make sure you are getting consistent quantities of powder.

The most important part of the load development process is to practice shooting the load at targets.
 

LME

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I shoot 5 shot groups at 50yds from a bench for load development. Looking for the tightest group. I change ONE variable at a time, measure the group, write it down/take notes, and shoot again. I swab the barrel between shots to keep fouling consistent.

Things/variables to change:
-2f or 3f
-powder brand
-powder charge(change in 5gr increments)
-ball diameter
-patching material(compressed thickness)
-patch lube(LOTS of options)

It all boils down to many hours at the range. Once you find "the load" your gun likes, adjust the sights to put that tight group where you want it.....and never change a thing ever again. Stock up on the winning components.
Your best advice is change one thing at a time if you try multiples things at once you will be chasing your tail. I have narrowed it down some by starting with the recommended load for the rifle then start tweaking. Tight patch, correct powder load and a steady hand an eye! I have also found that a lot of work has been done for us in books on B.P. rifles.
 
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I would wash your ticking. Unwashed material has what they call fillers in it. Plus it will fit the bore better and around the ball better. In my opinion.
With my 40’s I always started with 40 grains of 3 f. But I’ve used 2F.
Generally I end up using more powder. Around 50 grains.
But each rifle has its own preference for loads. So you need to find that fir yours as well.
 

Rock Home Isle

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I would wash your ticking. Unwashed material has what they call fillers in it. Plus it will fit the bore better and around the ball better. In my opinion.
With my 40’s I always started with 40 grains of 3 f. But I’ve used 2F.
Generally I end up using more powder. Around 50 grains.
But each rifle has its own preference for loads. So you need to find that fir yours as well.
I himmed & hawed with my .40 calibre, finally settled in on 40 grains of fffg. The gun was inconsistent with its accuracy…so I looked at the crown. The crown was very thin an lopsided. I recrowned the muzzle and wonder of wonders…40 grains was exceedingly accurate; groups opened on either side, but only slightly
 

1BadDart

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I have a strip of washed ticking with a 7-1 ballistol/water mix to try the next time I shoot. I learned years ago on the hot rod that changing more than one thing at a time will lead to a lot of tail chasing.

Thanks guys. :thumb:
 

Cpt Flint

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The average of three groups, each one three shots, has proven many times to give a more accurate depiction of the rifle’s capabilities and less of the human error.
The rest of the recipe is a Rice barrel and a Chambers lock.
 
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I have no quibble with the above advice, but sometimes, in a rifle at least, a slightly thinner patch and a slightly larger ball can be highly accurate. E.g, I've struggled for years with my Isaac Haines (Chambers) FL, using a .530" home cast RB and a .018" pillow ticking patch (as per Rice's instructions). While the rifle is reliable and the trigger pull great, gilt-edged accuracy just wasn't there. As I had a Lee Precision .535" RB mould (.537" in fact), I tried that with .014" patching. Accuracy was better, but starting and seating that combination was hell. Not long ago, I decided to "mic." that RB with a thinner patch (.011" - .012") and found that theoretically at least, it would work. Range testing confirmed that. Here's a photo of yesterday's range session, 10 shots from a rest, .011" - .012" twill patch* lubed with 1 Ballistol : 6 water and loaded wet. The powder charge was 70gr. GOEX FFg.
In short, powder charge, brand, granulation really didn't make much of a difference, but, as you can see below, RB diameter and patch thickness certainly did.

*Sew Classics twill, purchased from Jo Ann Fabric.
 

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