Sunday, July 18, 2021

More Black Powder Shotgun Shell Loading

The shotguns that I shoot the most lately are a Remington Rolling Block single shot that was converted from a Swedish military rifle, and a Baikal MP-310 over-under. The Remington is a 20 gauge with a 2.5" chamber while the Baikal has 12 gauge 3" chambers.

Most of the ammo I've been shooting has been black powder handloads with fiber wads in Magtech all brass shells. The Remington is a BP-era gun but of course the Baikal is proofed for smokeless. The main reason for using fiber wads is because my shooting has been on a friend's property and he doesn't want a bunch of plastic wads littering his field when we shoot clays.

One reason I like loading BP shells is that it's simpler. I don't need to worry about specific wad/powder charge/hull/shot load combinations. I prepare "square loads" using an equal volume of powder and shot, as is done with muzzleloading smoothbores. In 20 gauge that means using a Lee 4.3cc dipper to give me ~62 grains of powder and 7/8 oz. of shot. I have also used that for 12 gauge, which gives a light kicking load that will still bust clays if I do my part.

Pyrodex can be loaded similarly.

Cleanup is a bit more involved with BP than smokeless, but because you're dealing with a smoothbore is not onerous. I use a nylon bore brush wet with water to break up the fouling, then sweep it out using a cotton flannel patch using the brush as the jag.

If you use Pyrodex, be advised the fouling is actually more corrosive than BP fouling, so be extra careful when cleaning.

One way to speed cleanup is after say, 25 rounds of BP loads, is to shoot a smokeless trap load through the barrel. This blasts out almost all of the BP fouling.

If you're wondering how removable choke threads might be fouled, in my experience it's not a problem. AAMOF, tonight I pulled the choke tubes from my Baikal over a week after having put 50 BP rounds through it. The choke tube threads had been generously lubricated with white lithium grease. There was no sign of corrosion, and indeed no sign of fouling on the threads.

Naturally, if you run BP or Pyrodex shells through a gas operated gun, you're looking at a complete teardown afterwards. For break open guns or even pumps, cleaning isn't bad. I imaging that bolt action shotguns wouldn't present problems when cleaning afterwards, either.

To load the shells I use the "nail and dowel" method as described by Mike Beliveau in this YouTube video. It's not fast but I can do stages in batches and I'm not blasting through hundreds of rounds.

Rather than the method of priming by driving the case down onto the primer, I also have two antique tools for repriming, one for each gauge. I've found that they work better for seating No.209 primers in modern hulls than they do seating large pistol primers in the Magtech cases. The Magtech brass seems to have tight primer pockets. That's OK, IMO, because it means they'll take longer to expand and become useless.

The antique priming tools were purchased via eBay. 12 gauge tools are pretty common but the 20 gauge are less so. I had to setup a search with automated email notifications to finally get ahold of one.

Anyway, I have a brick of Winchester 209 primers and about a hundred Remington 20 gauge empties, so yesterday I decided to trim them to length so they'll chamber in the Rolling Block, and prime them.

That was easier said than done. I trimmed them using a pipe cutter with the case slipped over a dowel for support, but it's not really sharp enough, so I had to finish each case with my Swiss Army Knife.

So last night I placed an order with Ballistic Products, Inc. for their Trim Doctor tools, which is designed to easily cut plastic shotgun hulls using a utility knife blade as the cutter. This should work better than the pipe cutter.

While I was giving BPI some money, I also ordered a bag of 500 Federal once-fired 12 gauge hulls, and suitable wads and cards for reloading both 12 and 20 gauge plastic hulls with BP and non-plastic wads. (Plastic hulls have a smaller inside diameter than the Magtech hulls so I need different wads.)

Black powder loads are hard on plastic hulls so I'm expecting to get only 1 or maybe 2 shots per hull. That's fine because using them means I don't need to worry about rinsing and tumbling them, unlike the all brass cases.

If you like black powder and you like shotguns, combining the two is fun and easy.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Mini Tool Kits

 This is an informative thread on Arfcom about mini tool kits that might give you some ideas.

This video by Brett at SurvivalComms is in a similar vein but focused more on commo:

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Gun Culture of the Konyak Naga

 I recently learned of the Konyak Naga hill tribe of northern India and Mynamar (Burma). Apparently, guns are a big part of their culture and they make them themselves.

The Konyaks' guns seem all to be single or double-barreled muzzleloading shotguns with percussion locks. They make their own powder and caps.

There are a couple Youtube channels with information about the Konyak Naga gun culture that I've been watching lately.

This video has an overview of their gun culture:

Target shooting at a pig's skull suspended from a tall pole (apparently the object is to cut the string holding the skull):

And this one shows how they make percussion caps:

Finally, this video shows how they make gun powder:

I find this fascinating just because I am into black powder and muzzleloaders, but it also gives a glimpse of what's possible with primitive tools, a lot of skill, and patience.

Homemade Percussion Caps

The current crazy ammo supply situation has even extended to black powder shooting supplies, including percussion caps. Although I was able to pick up a 1200 count sleeve of RWS 1075+ caps from MidwayUSA earlier this year, I wanted a fallback option as well.  So, in early January I ordered a #11 cap maker and a packet of Prime All from It took about a month to come in due to their backlog.

To go with the cap maker I bought a 12" x 30" roll of .005" thick copper foil at Amazon. This is a bit thicker than the beverage cans recommended by the cap maker's manufacturer.

After the cap maker came in I punched out about 100 cups. I am able to do so by hand but it's much easier using a mallet.

Anyway, the cups sat until yesterday. Instead of using the Prime All compound, I charged about a dozen with some Scheutzen 3Fg black powder topped with two toy caps, secured in place with a drop of Duco cement. It's a nitrocellulose laquer that acts as a binder, waterproofing agent, and is flammable.

I used a scoop made from a large pistol primer cup glued to a piece of bamboo from a chopstick to put the black powder in the caps.

Last night I tried the caps in my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer. I used them with Triple 7 as the main charge. I wanted to see how they'd do with a propellant that has a higher ignition temperature than black powder.

They worked pretty well. The first cylinder was charged with 20 grains by volume of Triple 7 3Fg, a lubricated wad, and .454 ball. All chambers ignited easily and the caps didn't fragment.

I then tried some paper cartridges with the same powder charge and ball but with 0.5cc of cornmeal filler. These must develop a higher chamber pressure, because I noticed that the gun was harder to recock due to the caps deforming more. Also, in this cylinder I had one misfire where the cap popped off but the main charge failed to ignite. It went off with a second cap but there was a noticeable delay. I think the nipple was clogged.

The Rogers & Spencer with my homemade caps on the nipples. I used a Delrin punch that I use for pushing out the wedges on Colt-style guns to seat the caps on the nipples. They are tighter than RWS 1075+ or Remington No.10 caps on these nipples.

I also shot two more cylinders tonight with 20 grains of Scheutzen 3Fg BP and RWS caps.

I regard this experiment as a success. I'm getting a 1/8" hole punch so I can more easily get the toy caps off the paper roll, which will speed production. I also need to try the Prime All compound.

Making percussion caps is tedious. I don't expect to make a whole bunch but I want to have the capability, just in case.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Lithium Battery Price Hikes and Shortages

 This announcement was posted on March 1st by NKON, a large supplier of batteries in the Netherlands. (Link goes to FB so you might need to login to see it there.)

Most of my lithium battery supply is from Battery Junction. I've found that they often have better deals than Amazon.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cap and Ball Revolver: Round Ball vs Conical Bullet

 This video from Paul Harrell provides a good comparison between round balls and conicals in percussion revolvers (in this case fired from a Ruger Old Army).

A few comments:

The conicals he used appear to have been cast from a Lee mold. They are similar in form to modern round nosed bullets that have been loaded in cartridges since the late 19th Century.

Conical bullets used in cap and ball revolvers in the 1850s and 1860s were generally more pointed. This would increase penetration but reduce terminal effectiveness because the bullet would be more prone to slip through tissue rather than punching a larger diameter hole.

Nowadays, more effective conical designs are available, intended for hunting, e.g. Kaido Ojaama's design, which has a wide, flat meplat.

In his book Sixguns, Elmer Keith recounted that Civil War veterans that he knew as a boy stated that round balls were more effective for antipersonnel use than the pointed conicals of the period.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Combustible .44 Caliber Paper Cartridge Target Loads

 Today I finished up making another batch of paper cartridges for my .44 cap and ball revolvers.

For these, I used permanent end papers AKA curling papers for the tubes and the end caps. This paper seems a little easier to work with than cigarette rolling papers and is cheaper, under $5 delivered for a box of 1,000.

As before I used .454 round balls. The powder charge in this batch is reduced, however, at 20 grains of 3Fg Triple 7 measured using the 20 grain spout on my flask. Because of the lesser amount of powder, I added 0.5cc of cornmeal filler, to ensure that I get enough compression.

The first picture shows some rounds in various stages of construction. The top two in the leftmost row have been charged with the powder and filler, and have balls dropped in. The third one down has the powder and filler, while the 4th has the funnel from my Guns of the West kit inserted, ready for the cornmeal. Finally, the one on the bottom has powder only. (Click on each pic to enlarge.)

And two completed cartridges:

I've noticed recently a lot more interest online in making paper cartridges for percussion revolvers. I suspect that this is driven at least in part by the current ammo shortage situation, driving folks to take another look at their cap and ball sixguns to get some shooting in. Paper cartridges allow you to get a lot more shooting in during a range session than if you load with loose powder and ball.

In some of these discussions I've seen comments about how making the combustible cartridges is tedious. To a certain extent it is, which is why I break it up into batch jobs. I'll make up some tubes until I have 50. At a later time I'll get around to loading them. Done this way it's not really any worse than loading metallic cartridges on a non-progressive press. At least with this I don't have to recover, clean, resize, and decap my brass. The overall amount of work is probably less, in fact.