Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shot My Cabela's Traditional Hawken Today

The last couple of times I've gone shooting it's involved charcoal burning and I've really been enjoying it. So, today I hit the range with my Cabela's Traditional Hawken, which I haven't shot in awhile. The rifle was made by Investarms in Italy, and is basically the same thing as a Lyman Trade Rifle with the addition of a cap box on the stock, double set triggers, and availability in lefty persuasion, which mine is. Checking the Cabela's website, it looks like they now carry a similar rifle made by Pedersoli, but not the same one I bought several years ago.

My load today was a .490 round ball, pillow ticking for a patch lubed with T/C Bore Butter, and 80 grains by volume of 2Fg Goex black powder. My rifle is a caplock, and I used CCI Number 11 caps.

I put around 20 shots through the gun. In the past I've alway wiped between shots: 2 sides of a wet patch followed by both sides of a dry patch. Today I decided to try just one side of a wet patch followed by one side of a dry patch. The wet patches were cut from T-shirt material that I'd moistened with water ahead of time and kept in a Ziploc bag. The dry patches were flannel patches sold as gun cleaning patches. This combo worked well to keep the fouling in check and I was able to load the gun easily, and allowed me to get more rounds downrange in less time.

I did experience one failure to fire. After about 10 shots the cap failed to set off the main charge. I tried a second cap but no dice. Thinking I'd dry balled, I removed the nipple and used my flintlock priming flask to dribble some 3Fg down into the bolster, put the nipple back in, and capped the gun. When I shot it, it recoiled the just like there was a full powder charge. The patent breech must have gotten really fouled, which was a first for me with this gun. (This is an example of why having a flintlock priming flask can be handy, even if you're shooting a percussion rifle.)

I shot OK today, nothing to write home about. All shots were offhand and I kept them in about a 6" group at 50 yards. I made my last shot count -- at an 8" gong which I hit squarely.

After I got home I finished cleaning the rifle by dismounting the barrel and putting the end in a bucket of hot water with a drop or two of dishwashing soap, then pumped the water through for a few minutes. This was followed up with some dry patches, then I sprayed WD-40 down the bore to make sure it was dry, wiped that out, then left it with a coat of FP-10. Petroleum-based lubes don't belong in a black powder gun's bore when you're shooting, but they are good to protect it in storage. I don't buy into "seasoning" muzzleloader bores. They are steel, not cast iron. As long as you get the petroleum products out before you load, you're good to go.

One thing I'm not happy with on this rifle are the sights. The front is a plain bead, which I could live with. However, the rear sight is awful. It's adjustable for windage and elevation but there is some slop in both the windage and elevation. Worse, the rear blade is shaped like a shallow "V" express sight. I am going to replace them with a Lyman set from Track of the Wolf that includes a fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear, also with fiber optics. Far from traditional, but now that I'm in my late 40s seeing plain metal sights isn't getting any easier.

After dinner tonight I removed the rear sight. This involved removing the elevation screw, driving out the roll pin on which the sight leaf pivots, then removing the two screws that attach the base to the barrel. One of the screws stripped so I had to drill it out and use a screw extractor. I used my mill for this. Here is how I used the drill chuck to apply downward pressure on the screw extractor held in a tap wrench.

I ordered the replacement sight set along with several other items from Track, and expect to get them towards the end of next week.


EgregiousCharles said...

Ah, but the seasoning doesn't depend primarily on the substrate, it depends on the oil. (Though the substrate is important of course). In seasoning a cast iron pan or steel, what you are making is a very early, brownish version of a baked enamel finish by polymerizing an organic oil with heat. I've done it with mild steel by simply cleaning it, coating it with linseed oil, and baking in the oven; made a beautiful hard rust-resistant coat for a costume component that I forged and then wore and sweated on. (Flaxseed is supposed to be really good too as far as food oils go.)

In a black powder bore, I image what you are creating is a constantly worn and renewed, thin baked enamel coat on the inside of the bore. In that case, linseed might be best there too because it makes the hardest enamel; but it might be not be as good at cutting powder fouling and stuff.

Another component of seasoning a black powder bore will presumably be burnishing; you can polish a steel with a somewhat softer material and slowly polish the tiny pores closed, which hugely reduces rust. I've done this with a steel wire wheel brush on carbon steel knives; it takes a long time and it's hard to know when you're done. It gets a slightly greyish tone. Doesn't work the same polishing with a harder material like an abrasive no matter how fine because that makes tiny scratches instead of smoothing them.

Dave Markowitz said...

One problem with trying to season a rifle bore is getting a uniform coating. So, even if you could season a steel rifle bore with something like flax seed oil or linseed oil, I doubt you could get a coating as uniform as you'd want for maximum accuracy. A better way to keep black powder fouling in check is to ensure that the petroleum products are removed before shooting, then use a suitable patch lubricant, and wipe the bore every so often with a wet patch followed by a dry patch.

AIUI, Thompson-Center used to be a big proponent of rifle bore seasoning in their manuals, but have dropped it in more recent editions.