Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Picked up a few things for the Zouave

Last Saturday I ordered a few things for the Zouave from The Possible Shop, and they arrived today.

First off was a lace-on sling made by October Country. It's a simple, two-piece carrying strap that's 1-1/4" wide, which will help distribute the 9 lb. rifle's weight. (Last week I'd bought an 1861 Springfield sling off eBay but it's too long for the shorter Zouave.) Since I am not reenacting this will work just fine and still looks 19th Centuryish.

Along with the sling I got a Treso musket nipple and one to take #11 caps, both made from AMPCO bronze. The musket nipple needs to be turned down slightly to take Scheutzen musket caps but the #11 nipple is actually a little small. CCI #11s are loose and would need to be pinched to stay on. RWS 1075 Plus caps fit snugly, however. The main reason for getting the #11 nipple is in case I ever need to use homemade caps.

Finally, I also got another bottle of Hoppe's No.9 black powder patch lube and solvent, and some bulk pillow ticking and .020" patch material. These of course are not just for the Zouave.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Shot the Zouave Today

I shot it today with .562 and .570 PRBs, and a few .575 Minies. Just some offhand shooting from about 35 yards. The first three shots were on top of 50 grains of Goex FFg but after those I bumped it up to 60 grains. For ignition I used Scheutzen musket caps.

The .562s load easily with a .020" patch while the .570s are a tight fit with the same, but once started seat easily on the powder. The .570s were noticeably easier to load with 0.018" pillow ticking patches.

I lubed the patches with Hoppe's No. Plus and the Minies with Bumblin Bear Grease that I smeared on with my fingers. I didn't need to wipe the bore until after I was done.

The Minies loaded easily as well. They are from Track of the Wolf, were cast in a Lyman 575-213 mold, and should weigh about 510 grains (well over an ounce).

With the 60 grain service charge it's only doing about 950 - 1,000 FPS. On a sunny day you can see them go downrange. However, because of the weight they have a ton of momentum. During the Civil War, if these struck bone in an extremity it meant amputation if the poor guy didn't die from shock. Even with today's medicine the result would often be same. People talk about the "high powered 5.56mm bullet used in AR-15s," but it's nothing compared to a Minie ball.

Recoil of the patched round balls and Minies was pretty mild in the ~9 lb. Zouave. I'll probably just use round balls if I take it hunting but bump the powder charge up to 70 or 80 grains, mainly to flatten the trajectory. At close range even with 60 grains a patched ball would have a good chance of blowing right though a Pennsylvania whitetail, but loading it hotter will make it easier to hit past 50 yards due to less drop.

Incidentally, that's a .45 caliber rifle to the left.

I'm used to shooting rifles with set triggers so the military trigger of the Zouave took some getting used to, but overall I'm really happy with the gun. Offhand accuracy was good but of course I'll both bench it and shoot it offhand at 50 yards to see what it's really capable of. But it's looking promising for use during the early antlerless deer season here in PA.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Borescoped my Zouave Rifle

Tonight I used my cheap USB bore scope to inspect the bore on the Zouave. It's in good shape for a 37 year old muzzleloader

This is the breech. The black spot at about 3:00 is the flash hole.

There is some minor surface rust about 6" above the breech face, but it's not bad.

After scoping the bore I ran some Hoppe's No.9 down and will let it soak until tomorrow.

On a Mac, PhotoBooth works to watch video as the camera goes down the bore and to grab stills. I didn't have to install a driver or any other software.

I bought the scope in 2017 from Amazon. The unit I bought is no longer available but they have an assortment of others. Mine requires the use of a USB A to USB C 3.1 adapter to work with my MacBook Air. It will not work with an Apple 3-in-1 dongle, but it works fine with this Amazon Basics model.

This model of borescope is very similar to mine but the connector is USB C, and it comes with a USB A adapter.

Zouave Maintenance

One of the risks you run when buying a used gun is that it will need mechanical attention. When I got a couple replacement nipples for the Zouave from Track of the Wolf I noticed that the threads on them were the correct pitch (M8-1mm) but the threaded portion was longer than the nipple that came with the gun. When I tried to install one it would not screw all the way in. When I looked inside the bolster it was evident that the threads needed to be chased.

I did not have an M8-1 tap or die so I ordered a set from Amazon Prime and it came today. When I got to working it was apparent that the threads were pretty well boogered but after awhile I was able to clean them up.

Aside from the bolster, the replacement nipples' threads could have been better so I chased them with the die that came in the set. To do so I held each nipple by its square shank in my vise and put the die in the holder from my big Harbor Freight set. Now they both screw in and out easily.

While I was in the bolster I also noticed that there was a crusty buildup in the bottom near the flash channel. That cleaned up using a small twist drill bit turned in my fingers.

Tomorrow I should get to shoot the Zouave. I'm bringing a variety of components: .562, .570, and .575 round balls, .575 Minie balls, and .018" and .020" patch material for the round balls.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Refining my Woods Walk Loadout

Today I shot the woods walk at Boulder Valley with this rifle, getting 18 out of 20 targets. The top three shooters all got 18 but they place shooters based on how early in the course the misses were, so I took 3rd place. I'm extremely happy with how I shot today. I used 55 grains of Goex 3Fg for all targets except for a gong out at 82 yards. I bumped up my powder charge on that one to 70 grains for a flatter trajectory, aimed dead on, and hit it.

Last week I wore partially period correct clothing. I was feeling lazy today and just wore regular clothes. The other guys who normally wear PC clothing didn't today, I guess the laziness is going around.

Each woods walk I shoot in is a shakedown run and I continue to refine my loadout. Today I used my Peace flask with a Treso free flow spout on it. (I bought the spout at Dixon's yesterday.) This was faster and easier to dump powder into my measure compared with my powder horn.

I used the same double bag shooting pouch as last weekend, but this time I had only patches and balls in the front pouch. My cleaning kit and nipple primer were in the rear pouch while my capper and powder measure were in a jacket pocket. If I'd worn PC apparel I would have kept the capper and powder measure in a belt pouch.

Instead of using a ball bag, I dumped the balls into the front pouch. This made them a lot easier to retrieve, instead of fumbling to get into a separate ball bag. I wouldn't do this for hunting or an kept my extended trip in the wilderness, but for a woods walk it works well.

I also got to try out my PCP Pro Polish capper for the first time. This gets two big thumbs up from me. Since it's 3D printed plastic it wouldn't be acceptable at an event requiring everything to be period correct, but it was inexpensive and worked perfectly with CCI No.11 caps.

I ordered two of them on February 27th (one for me, one for my brother) and they arrived on March 10th. Not bad for mail from Poland. The cost was 120 PLN which came out to about $32 and change.

The reason I wanted to try the Polish capper was that the Ted Cash capper shown above was driving me nuts with caps flipping over the last time I used it. I'll have to try it with RWS 1075s but the CCI No.11s were a pain in the neck. I'm perfectly satisfied with the Polish capper.

Today I was really glad that the barrel wedges on my rifle are captive. About halfway through the shoot I noticed the rear wedge hanging all the way out. If it had fallen out it would have surely been lost. The wedge on my Cabela's Hawken is not captive, which I'll fix. Cutting a slot in it will be simple with my milling machine. Then I'll make a pin from a nail and inlet it in the stock behind the escutcheon.

They also announced that they've added another shoot at Boulder Valley on April 2nd, which is great.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Traded Into a Zouave Today

Today I took another trip up to Dixon's and wound up trading my Pedersoli Brown Bess carbine for a Euroarms Remington 1863 Contract Rifle, AKA Zouave. Although about 12,000 of these were made by Remington during the Civil War, it's unlikely that any of them saw service. They are called Zouaves nowadays because somewhere along the line someone thought they were made for Union Zouave units. Regardless of whether they were ever used in service, they are a relatively handy example of a rifle musket.

It goes perfectly with the Zouave flask I just picked up. :)

This one bears a date code of AP, which translates to 1986. The stock shows some dings but the metal is in great shape and the bore is excellent. It's a .58 caliber and was intended to shoot Minie balls on top of 60 grains of powder. Back in the 1970s my father had a Zoli Zouave and got best accuracy with patched round balls. From what I can find, the Euroarms Zouaves have a 1:66 twist so I suspect that it, too will shoot better with a PRB. In any case, I have a couple of suitable ball sizes and some Minies to try.

The front sight appears to be a taller replacement intended for competition use. It'll give me plenty of metal in case I need to file it down to raise the POI.

Something I thought was interesting is that it lists a maximum powder charge on the barrel, but it's in drams. 3-1/2 to be exact. That translates to 95.7 grains, probably more than I'll ever shoot.

The nipple unscrewed easily but the flash hole looks a bit enlarged. I put in an order with Track of the Wolf for 2 spares and few other odds and ends.

The ramrod is made from brass and has male threads on the end. Along with the gun I got a Treso adapter that allows me to use standard 10-32 accessories. Naturally, I found that I already had one when I got home; I'd bought it to use with the Bess I traded in today. Oh well, 2 is 1 and 1 is none.

The stock is one of the blandest pieces of wood I've seen on a gun. I may strip it, stain it darker, and finish it with BLO. I think it has some kind of polyurethane on it now.

Assuming it shoots well it's a definite candidate to use during PA's early muzzleloader antlerless deer season, which allows caplocks. (We have a flintlock-only season after Christmas.) A .562 or .570 patched round ball should be very effective on Pennsylvania whitetail.

Tomorrow I'll be shooting a woods walk and using my plains rifle, so I won't get to shoot this rifle until next week at the earliest.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Peace Flask

In the mid-19th Century powder flasks became popular for carrying gun powder, supplanting the use of powder horns.

I just got this Pedersoli-made Peace flask AKA Zouave flask in from Dixie Gunworks, to go with my plains rifle. Dixie sells the cord separately in 20 foot hanks. I'll use another piece of it on a powder measure. I'm planning to use this at my next woods walk.

These flasks were developed before the Civil War for issue with the M-1841 "Mississippi" rifle. The "Peace" moniker comes from the clasped hands motif. Modern shooters have also called them "Zouave" flasks based on the mistaken belief that they were issued with the Remington M-1863 contract rifles, but none of those actually saw service during the war.

The flask holds about 12 oz. of powder and the spout measures out 60 grains. That works out to about 77 shots per fill. I'll probably cut down the spout to hold 55 grains.

Back in the 19th Century it was common practice to pour the charge into the gun directly from the flask. Nowadays that is frowned upon because if there is a spark remaining in the bore, it can ignite the entire flask right in your face. Doing so at a sanctioned shoot will get you an invitation to leave, AAMOF.

So, when I use this I'll decant the charge into a separate, fixed measure which will then be used to load the rifle. I plan to use a 70 grain measure made from deer antler. That way, if I want to bump my powder charge up a little for long shots on woods walks it's simple enough to do so.

Treso, the maker of powder flask spouts, nipples, and other black powder accessories, makes a short free flow pour spout that screws into powder flask heads. I may eventually get one of those.

Incidentally, when I got the flask today it had what looked like some kitty litter rattling around inside. I'm sure this was left over from the manufacturing process. To get all of it out I had to remove the head which is held on with three set screws. If you ever need to do this you'll need a precision screwdriver and do it over something to catch any screws you drop, which will probably happen due to their tiny size.

Finally, Dixie Gunworks was hit hard by COVID a couple years ago and experienced many shipping delays. They still seem to be having staffing difficulties. With all that, I ordered the flask and cord on Saturday, March 4th, and got it today Friday the 10th. So, they are doing better with speedy shipping.

Mike Beliveau (duelist1954) Being Harassed and Could Use Our Help

Mike Beliveau (duelist1954) is a YouTuber who puts out a lot of good content, primarily black powder related. A local zoning official is falsely claiming that he's operating a shooting range business on the rural property where his films most of his videos. Mike needs help to pay for the legal expenses of his zoning appeal. He first needs to exhaust the administrative process before he can sue the township in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

Here's a link to the GoFundMe, to which I contributed:

If an official in a rural PA township can get away with something like this, nowhere is safe.

Friday, March 03, 2023

My California Rifle is Really a Philadelphia Rifle

In doing some more online research it looks like my "California" rifle would more appropriately called a Philadelphia rifle. It appears to be inspired by rifles built by Slotter & Co. of Philadelphia, PA during the mid-19th Century.  They made a lot of rifle, some of which were shipped to A.J. Plate of San Francisco for sale in that market.

As a Pennsylvanian sitting about 5 miles from the Philly line, this works for me. :)