Percussion Muzzleloader Newbie questions

Discussion in 'General Muzzleloading' started by Smokestack, Aug 23, 2019.

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  1. Aug 23, 2019 #1

    Smokestack

    Smokestack

    Smokestack

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    Hey there. Very new to this, so please go easy! I'll finally have everything for shooting my rifle after a month or so of scrounging up supplies. Just waiting on the black powder itself, which I should be getting tomorrow.

    I purchased my first black powder/muzzleloading firearm last month. Its a Pedersoli P53 Three Band rifled musket, I had an opportunity to purchase an original earlier, but the seller wasn't too keen on the idea of me putting rounds through it. So I figured getting a modern reproduction to start out with would probably be the safest bet to get introduced to this kind of thing.

    I've been doing a fair bit of research from youtube videos and other forums, but there are a few things i'm still not quite sure on.


    First off would be on ammunition. Finding .577 rounds were a bit of a pain up here. I have ordered molds specific for my rifle, but I wanted to grab a bunch of premade rounds to get started since it'll be some time before I can get my casting equipment together.

    I ordered some .578 hollow base bullets from a Canadian supplier (Jetbullets.com) since it was pretty much the only thing readily available at the time. A few other forums have suggested it should be fine, but I want to be double sure about a few things.

    A lot of folks really drive home not having a gap between the powder and the projectile, and I fully understand that. The bases on these look pretty deep (About 2/3rds deep as the bullet is long), and i'm not sure if that would be a problem. Should these be fine with just powder and lubed bullet? Or should I use a card/wad in between the charge and the bullet to make up for the open space between the powder and bullet cavity? I'm guessing that ramming the ball down would compress powder into that cavity, but I would like some input on that. I have also heard of folks filling that gap with bullet lube.

    Also on sizing. I do have a sizing die coming in tomorrow to bring it down to either .577 or .576 by Pedersoli. I've tested putting a .578 round into the barrel (Not enough to lose it at least) and I've found that the .578 doesn't have all that much trouble getting thumbed in. It almost feels as if its a perfect fit to the barrel itself. Would these be fine to shoot at .578 even if its considered oversized to the bore? I know that sizing them makes for ease of loading, but I am curious what I should be looking for to bring as much accuracy to the rifle as possible. I know I'll have a lot of experimenting with sizes/charge to achieve that, but any rule of thumb information would be much appreciated! Pictures of the projectiles are shown below.

    Another thing is on the weight of the projectile. These are all cast and weighed out to .578 at 425 grains of weight. The manual suggests I should be using a .577 620gr projectile, which won't be available to me until I get my casting supplies together. With the lighter weight of what I have, should I be setting my charge to a specific volume/weight with the lighter projectile? And if so, what kind of charge should I use to start shooting at for the first time? The manual suggests 60, with a max of 90 grains with the suggested bullet. While I see a lot of forums suggesting 40 grains to start, what would be considered too low of a charge?

    Lastly, on the idea of shooting in succession. Is there a period of time I should wait before reloading the rifle with powder after taking a shot? I'll be using Goex FFg as my powder. I just want to be able to play things safe for my first time.

    Thankyou for reading, I do apologize for the jumble of questions here, but I figured i'm in the best place for getting solid answers on this kind of stuff!


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  2. Aug 23, 2019 #2

    hawkeye2

    hawkeye2

    hawkeye2

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    First a minie is loaded directly on the powder without anything under it. The hollow base cavity won't create a safety hazard. The hollow base is to allow the minie to expand into the rifling and you should not add anything to the base with the intention of making it expand, the explosion does that quite nicely. A 620 grain projectile is far heavier than you need and is heaver than the Civil War minies. 500 grains or less is optimmum. 60 grains of 2f was the service charge and is quite a heavy load in itself. 90 grains is way over the top unless you are going for elk. 40 to 55 grains of 2 or 3 f is a comfortable load and you will find you best accuracy in that range. Use a fairly stiff lube in the groves, one that will stay on the bullet for loading. A beeswax based lube is best. In the North-South Skirmish Assn. team matches we have to shoot 3 (or more if you can do it) rounds a minute to be competitive but I recomend you take your time and enjoy the experience. When you get the gun in hand measure the bore and size your minies to .001" to .002" under that. Don't believe the manufacturers printed specs regarding bore size.
     
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  3. Aug 23, 2019 #3

    dave951

    dave951

    dave951

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    Ditto on what Hawkeye said.

    I'm also in the North South Skirmish Association. Just for point of reference, a group of us worked at a Scout camp last summer teaching marksmanship and muzzleloading and we used "Zouaves". Bore size on each musket was 579-580. We cast RCBS Hogdons and sized them accordingly. That minie is about 380gr. Charge was 45g 3fg Schutzen with Schutzen caps, lube was 60/40 beeswax/lard. I was able to run the gun for over 40 shots straight without wiping and no loss of accuracy. Did that on three occasions, so get the load balanced and it will run and run and run. No need for gobs of powder. Also, avoid CCI reenactor musket caps like ebola. They're horrible for accuracy. RWS or Schutzen, experiement to see what works best. Powder should be real deal black only. Top accuracy is with Swiss or Old Eynsford. Also, NO cards/wads needed.

    Another comment- Utoob videos can be a very poor source of information on minies. There's lots of reenactorisms on there that are not factual or true, like slapping the ramrod down on the bullet. That's NOT necessary and if it is, your lube isn't balanced with the charge AND you're damaging the nose of the minie. Again, read the 1st paragraph, the Zouave loads we used only required a stroke of the ramrod with a light tap at the bottom. No slam pounding.

    Enjoy the journey, you've got a gun that is very capable of fine accuracy if you learn to load it right.
     
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  4. Aug 23, 2019 #4

    jrmflintlock

    jrmflintlock

    jrmflintlock

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    Casting does not take too much equipment. I started with an old heavy skillet and a big spoon I pinched a grove into that I found at a thrift store. I replaced the plastic handle with a wooden one and went at it!!

    I don't know much about the rifle you are talking about, but the advice posted so far looks good!

    Good luck and have fun! Keep us posted on your progress and success!!
     
  5. Aug 23, 2019 #5

    Kansas Jake

    Kansas Jake

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    I too started casting with a steel pan, gravy ladle for pouring and melting the lead on a camp stove. I didn't even have a wood handle on the spoon but wore a heavy pair of lined winter leather gloves. One caution, don't wear synthetic fibers around casting. Make sure your clothing is cotton, wool or leather and you have on a pair of leather shoes. Spilling molten lead on a running shoe is guaranteed to get you running. Also, a face shield or at least safety glasses are a must.
     
  6. Aug 23, 2019 #6

    bang

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    Projectile diameter you choose should be according to your barrel measurement. Barrels are different. My 58 Zouave shoots a .575 mini. Pops in with thumb pressure. The .578 is a rascal to get started but will ram but the fit is unnecessary for the round. A .570 ball is too tight so I use .562 and .020 patch. Such is the slight undersized bore.
    If the .578 start easy and ram easy you are good to go.
    As Hawkeye2 stated it's the skirt expansion that engages the riflings. The body of the mini just needs to stabilize it.
    Different minis will perform with varying charges. The one I'm using typically works well between 60 and 70 gns. It's a matter of the thickness of the lead at the skirt. Thin less thick more. If you use too less it will probably not group well. Too much and they will walk.
    Work your load up little at a time till accuracy starts to drop then back off to the amount that gave best.
    That's what has worked for me.
     
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  7. Aug 23, 2019 #7

    hanshi

    hanshi

    hanshi

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    +2 for Hawkeye. I used to cast my own ball and minies for a rifle I no longer have. 60 grains of powder with either ball or bullet was my everyday load for plinking and hunting. IMHO that's all you need.
     
  8. Aug 23, 2019 #8

    Smokestack

    Smokestack

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    Thanks a ton for all the replies!

    Unfortunately, It seems I got the worst primers at the start. I've got a couple tins of CCI musket caps, so I guess i'll have to dig for a source for more quality ones. Will the CCI ones be fine to use in the meantime? And on that note, what about them detracts accuracy? Do they take longer to ignite the powder or something?

    Another question I have is on bullet sizing. I've been trying to run my 578 minie balls through this sizer without much luck at all. The manual suggests using hand pressure to run them through but I feel as if I need to use a press or a hammer to even make any sort of progress. I have lubed the bullet (I'm using Wonderlube1000+) and it barely budges through the sizing element in the tube. The sizer itself is a Pedersoli .577/576 set. I'm wondering if the bullets I was sold were some sort of alloy or too stiff to use the sizer with. Hopefully not. I am hoping to atleast sling a few rounds down range, would using them at the .578 size be fine up until I figure this out? Or is it absolutely important I get these sized first?

    Also on the dies itself. It seems I forgot to get myself some mold grips for this setup. The molds themselves are Pedersoli brand, but i'm curious if the grips would be interchangeable among the brands?

    Thanks again everyone, you're all a wonderful help.
     
  9. Aug 24, 2019 #9

    dave951

    dave951

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    Your Minies could be from a hard alloy. Unless you get them from CWBulletman on the Lodgewood site, I'd be skeptical. Most of us in the NSSA use a single stage reloading press.

    Not sure about your lube. Anything petroleum based will be a nightmare. I'd stick with beeswax/lard.

    CCI reenactor caps are weak leading to erratic ignition meaning varying pressure levels meaning adverse effect on accuracy. They USED to be the best before some reenactor shot an overloaded musket and got a piece stuck in him and he sued CCI who knuckled under and greatly weakened the caps. They're fine for blanks but garbage for accuracy.
     
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  10. Aug 24, 2019 #10

    dave951

    dave951

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    IIRC Pedersoli molds also work with RCBS handles. Not sure though.
     
  11. Aug 24, 2019 #11

    hawkeye2

    hawkeye2

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    The Lee 6 cavity mold handles are inexpensive and work with all the blocks that I'm aware of. Wonderlube 1000 should work OK but there are better lubes. Lube the ninies before sizing. When I use a push through sizer I start them nose first and use and old all wood short starter in the base. A smack on the starter with my palm pops the mini right through.
     
  12. Aug 24, 2019 #12

    bang

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    Not knowing if your gun is new,
    Are the primers going off?
    If they are then possible the channel is dirty to near clogged.
    If not does the hammer have good forceful fall?
    Is the hammer hitting squarely on the primer?
    Slow ignition causes hesitation of firing.
    It's important to stay on the gun till it goes off. Hesitation can cause you flinch, raise or otherwise move your head or other body movement that will cause accuracy to be off.
    One account of hesitation I found was when using a 2ff powder. Switched to a 3fff and it stopped. The 2ff was not getting enough in the channel. Other can be the dirty near clogged channel or nipple issue. If you swab before shooting and between shots could be too wet of a patch leaving moisture in barrel and channel. If you swab use just damp patch. Use cleaning jag and just enough patch that it goes in without scrubbing but bunches and scrubs coming out. This way you don't push fouling down in the barrel. I use a nipple that allows me to use #11 primers and have no issues with ignition. When I load the charge I tilt the rifle so the channel is down. Seems to help powder get in the channel. Whether it does or not I don't know cause I haven't taken the nipple out to see if it does. All I know is there are no issues with ignition.
     
  13. Aug 25, 2019 #13

    Smokestack

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    I managed to locate a set of Lee 6 cavity handles in country here, should have them in next week. Thanks again for the tips!

    I'm starting to think that these bullets are indeed an alloy. The seller doesn't disclose what it is specifically, despite it being their 'soft cast' line. I've managed to work around 40 minie balls down to .576 with a bit of force, but the swaging isn't exactly center to the ammunition. I'm suspecting that my accuracy is going to suffer a bit from that. I'm going to have to either make or try and find some sort of press that will deliver more central force down over the sizer, since I went with a rubber mallet approach to get them through for this batch. I have 160 rounds left over, so I have plenty of room left to correct the issue, and by the time i'm done with the lot, I'll have everything to start casting my own.

    I haven't fired the rifle yet. This weekend has proven to be pretty busy on my end, and it's been raining like you wouldn't believe. I'm hoping the weather will be more agreeable in the following weekend. I'll certainly be looking into getting a #11 primer nipple for my rifle, as it seems that CCI Musket cap primers are the only ones readily available in Canada at the moment. I'd prefer keeping to the traditional style, but until I find a source for better primers I'll likely have to stick with #11' until then.

    Thanks again for the replies everyone!
     
  14. Aug 25, 2019 #14

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    Lots of good info here.

    Thanks to all the contributors, as I am pretty much in the same boat as the OP, as a newbie to percussion.
     
  15. Aug 25, 2019 #15

    bang

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    If you don't think the bullets are pure lead don't use them. If they are pure lead but are like .002 - .003 over bore you still should be able to start them with thumb pressure. If they have alloy it will be difficult. Even when casting you can get +/- .001-.002.
     
  16. Aug 25, 2019 #16

    Smokestack

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    I sent an email to the maker to get some clarification on the materials used, will update when I get a reply. Some of the descriptions on the site suggests pure lead, but I am not entirely sure.

    The molds I have on hand should be throwing them at .577 but we'll see. Will certainly do some measuring to find out.

    On the note of measuring. What is the best way to measure the lands/grooves of the bore of my rifle? Do I need a special tool or would calipers be fine to use?

    Thanks
     
  17. Aug 25, 2019 #17

    dave951

    dave951

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    You don't need to measure both lands and grooves. You need to measure minimum bore size, ie lands only.

    Get some pin gauges off Amazon. You'll only need a couple sizes, they're like about $6USD. Get 580, 578, 576, and 574. To use, put the 574 in your bore FIRST. Then use the others as "feeler" gauges. If 576 will go in but 578 won't you know the bore is about 577. If 578 will go but not 580, then you know about 579. The 574 in the bore is in case you get the feeler stuck. Turn the muzzle down and let it act like a tap hammer to get the stuck gauge out. Regardless, if you're careful, that shouldn't happen.

    On the molds and actual bullet size, get a cheap set of dial or digital calipers from Harbor Freight. They're accurate enough for what you're working with.

    To size the bullets, get an arbor press if your sizing dies aren't external threaded. If they are threaded 7/8x14, then you're in luck, get a cheap, single stage reloading press and you'll not have any more issues sizing if the minies really are pure lead. I've picked up a couple used presses for less than $40USD at swap meets just for this purpose.

    IF you're getting into casting, one of the best sources for lead is the scrap yard. Look for old shower pans pulled out of buildings or Xray room lead. Any doc's office with an Xray machine has the walls backed by a layer of lead. When the place gets remodeled, they move the machine, etc, the lead winds up in the salvage yard and it's about as pure as you'll get short of Roto Metals. One other source if you can find it, Nuclear Medicine transports isotopes for radiological procedures in lead containers and they're often a single use item. Because they're made of pure lead, they don't "pick up" the radioactivity, but still they get tossed after one use. Scrap yards and ingenuity are your allies.
     
  18. Aug 25, 2019 #18

    dave951

    dave951

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    Another word on casting- Lee molds, while attractively priced, you get what you pay for. They're delicate and easily damaged. There is only one Lee mold that I have kept in my mold collection as it's a 575 version of the old Rapine Trashcan. That bullet is a full wadcutter design and stupid accurate at 50yds, like single hole for 5 shots. However, it suffers from stability much past 75yd. And wouldn't you know it, Lee has discontinued that mold so when both of mine go bad, I'll probably have to have one made.

    Of the minie molds, I'd start with the RCBS hogdon with tall base plug or the Lyman 575213. Both are solid performers. NOE also makes a version of the RCBS and they make great molds. There are a couple more listed on our site-

    http://www.n-ssa.org/sutlers

    Pretty much anybody you would ever need to know for Civil War musket stuff is in that list.
     
  19. Aug 25, 2019 #19

    bang

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    I have 17 lee molds. Most over 20 years. Still throw good projectiles today.
     
  20. Aug 25, 2019 #20

    Smokestack

    Smokestack

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    The bullet sizer is pretty long and doesn't fit within my RCBS reloading press. That was my initial idea, but that didn't work out. I'll see about finding an arbor press locally. Hopefully something that is tall enough to accommodate the length of this bullet sizer/swager I have. Its a Pedersoli make for clarification, as are the molds I had purchased.

    If the pedersoli molds don't hold up, i'll certainly look into getting the brands you had mentioned. I've put a ton of money into this stuff already and I'm going to see how long I can make these last, unless the results are too poor at the end of the day. We'll see, as I still have yet to actually try things out.

    I'll check my local machine shops here to see what they have available for the pin gauges, which shouldn't be a problem I don't think. Will order if needed!

    I'm at the scrap yard quite often with my line of work and have talked to some of the folks there about getting a haul of lead from them. Will likely have a good supply of that in the next week or so.
     

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