Tighter the better for PRB?

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After a couple years of shooting military paper cartridges I am curious how accurate I can be with smoothbores(!) using patched round ball so I bought some ball at the manufacturer recommended size for PRB who even includes a recommended patch thickness.

I’m sure there must be a dozen variables here but, when using PRB, is a good general statement “the tighter the better” in the bore?
 
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Whether smooth or rifled, I’m personally not a proponent of “the tighter, the better”. I try to strike a balance between consistent accuracy and ease of loading(without swabbing) between consecutive shots. I find that a good lube(ie. TOTW Mink Oil) is essential.
Shown: My .62 cal. Fowler using a .60 LRB, .015” lubed patch. Easy loading and accurate for at least a dozen shots, no swabbing.
CB266DA7-37ED-4F11-8B9F-52162F5219F1.jpeg 2F3C7E24-8357-402C-821B-791877F151DC.jpeg
 

Loyalist Dave

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I think that you will find that a very tight fitting, bare ball, will shoot better than a patched ball in a smoothbore. The patch in the rifle evenly folds with the folds going into the grooves, while the patch on a musket ball does not fold the same way each time, and this cause variation when you are trying to eliminate it.

You might also experiment with paper cartridges and make them so they just fit within the musket bore, and then a ball that just fits inside, so that the paper walls of the cartridge uniformly hold the ball in the same position in the barrel when you shoot. This is what the Select Marksmen in the British army did with their muskets and the ammo that they each made to fit their particular musket, to get the accuracy. They had to swab every few shots when using their specialized ammo, as did the rifles of the time.

LD
 

Uncle Miltie

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Tight ball and patch combinations are a product of the gamesmanship at Friendship over the years. Tight ball and patch combinations weren't used in the old days like they are today.
 
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Whether smooth or rifled, I’m personally not a proponent of “the tighter, the better”. I try to strike a balance between consistent accuracy and ease of loading(without swabbing) between consecutive shots. I find that a good lube(ie. TOTW Mink Oil) is essential.
Shown: My .62 cal. Fowler using a .60 LRB, .015” lubed patch. Easy loading and accurate for at least a dozen shots, no swabbing.
View attachment 163200 View attachment 163201
Nice shooting!
 
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I think that you will find that a very tight fitting, bare ball, will shoot better than a patched ball in a smoothbore. The patch in the rifle evenly folds with the folds going into the grooves, while the patch on a musket ball does not fold the same way each time, and this cause variation when you are trying to eliminate it.

You might also experiment with paper cartridges and make them so they just fit within the musket bore, and then a ball that just fits inside, so that the paper walls of the cartridge uniformly hold the ball in the same position in the barrel when you shoot. This is what the Select Marksmen in the British army did with their muskets and the ammo that they each made to fit their particular musket, to get the accuracy. They had to swab every few shots when using their specialized ammo, as did the rifles of the time.

LD
Currently using the “historical” size for my balls but measuring my exact bore on all guns, and adjusting cartridge size, is in my plans. Thanks!
 
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If you go too tight you run the risk of cutting the patch on the rifling, plus they get difficult to load after a couple of shots if your not cleaning after each shot.
 
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Tight ball and patch combinations are a product of the gamesmanship at Friendship over the years. Tight ball and patch combinations weren't used in the old days like they are today.
Accuracy had a whole different meaning back in the day. With precision guns, scopes, aerodynamic bullets, range tables and laser range finders ect one big hole at two hundred yards is more then possible, it’s a standard
And we try to get that using two century old technology. We can’t get there but it’s the standard in the back of our mind.
Back in the day accurate was a gun that hit the target or very near it seen with open sights, and poor open sights at that.
Today at a smoothbore shoot one is striving for an accuracy never considered by shooters two centuries ago
A British official in HBC in the late 1840s told new men coming to Canada to get a smooth bore, as he said that out to sixty yards it will shoot as well as a rifle, and that was about the maximum one shot at game.
Well any rifle shooter that knows his gun, and is a good shot will on average shoot a smaller group at sixty yards with a rifle compared to a smoothie, but shooting game one could not offer any advantage.
When Britain showed off its new Baker rifle the shooter shot some fine targets, and everybody ohhed and awed over it.
Fine shooting it was, and I would be proud of it, but it sure wouldn’t win a ribbon at state or National shoots, might not win at the local beer drinkers and smoke makers club.
This isn’t to knock getting the best you can from your gun, and we try ideas they never knew.
I mostly shoot traditional or a PRB in mine, but accept that I’m not getting the very best I could if I upped my game. At least twenty years ago when I shot a rifle better then I can today. However I could up my game and not do any better in the way I use my gun.
 
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Several years ago, I ordered a bore sized mould (.618" - .619") from Jeff Tanner for my GRF 20ga. trade gun on the assumption that a bore sized RB would be more accurate than the smaller patched RB's I'd been using (.598", Lee Precision mould & Tanner mould; .603", Lyman mould, all with .014" and .018" patches). What I discovered, at least at 25 yd. really surprised me. Here's what I found from my gun:

1) Bore sized balls, i.e., .618", required a hard OP wad + greased felt wad + a thin wad atop the RB with 65 - 80gr. FFg for accuracy that approached a patched RB.

2) Rolling that .618" RB between two coarse files increased its diameter to .619" which was enough to eliminate the need for the hard OP and thin wad over the RB, but a greased felt wad was still required. I.e., the .619" RB just stayed put. OTOH, accuracy with 65 - 80gr. charges of FFg was the worst of the three (best accuracy was with a patched RB; see below).

3) Smaller RB's, i.e., those cast from another Tanner mould (.597"), a Lee Precision mould (.598"), or a Lyman mould ( nominally .600", but is slightly out of round so that diameter is between .600" - .603") and either a .014" (compressed measurement) or .018" patch (again, compressed measurement) and 65 - 80gr. FFg were the most accurate from my gun @ 25 yd.

4) 50 yd. accuracy with a larger ball will require more powder, a repeatable "cheek weld," and a great deal of experimenting with the kind of wads you'll need to use, and that includes hand rolled tow wads atop the powder charge and the RB.

I've attached two photos below of PRB accuracy from the Lee and Lyman moulds @ 25 yd. The Lee RB result is on the left.
 

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Brokennock

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Neither of my smoothbore flintlock guns like tight patch/ball combos.
Both are 20 gauge
One shoots a .610 ball sandwiched between wads best of all, with a loose patch ball combo of .595 ball and .010 patch and a thin overshot card between powder and prb being a close second.
The other likes a .610 ball on top of a dry felt wad on the powder and a nest of lubed tow on top of that, then the ball, then a thin card to hold it in.

Smoothbores don't follow rifle rules.
 

hanshi

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A relatively tight load is best for accuracy in my rifles. By "tight" I mean a very snug load that still can be seated safely with the wood ramrod. But the .62 smoothbore, I found, was not that crazy for tight loads. My regular load was a .600" ball from a Lee mold patched with .012" flannel. "Kinda snug" but super easy to seat. Anywhere from 60 grns of 3F up to 75 grns gave small groups and this was my deer load and deadly accurate at 50 yards.

When I cast the same ball using WW the ball measured around .606". I used it for "bare ball" loads. And this load was also showing fine accuracy at 50 yards but just not equal to the prb but only by a small margin. I've posted this photo before it shows a nice comparison between a prb and an unpatched ball.
Bare ball is on the left and the prb is on the right. These targets are fairly typical for both loads. Having a rear sights also helped immensely.

DSC00453.jpg
 
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