Sunday, May 21, 2023

Goex Update

Yesterday I got an email from Maine Powder House stating the following:

Yes, in case you have not heard, GOEX production date was pushed back again.

GOEX dealers were informed the new projected production date is end of June. If they are able to make this happen, this means they will not start shipping product out to dealers until earliest August. GOEX has also informed us prices will be going up, but they have yet to give us a new price list.

Schuetzen and Swiss containers are here in the US, however their prices have gone up 17% and 22% respectively. This price increase was a surprise to all of us...including the distributor. Current prices listed as of the date of this email DO NOT reflect the 17% & 22% increases.

Maine Powder House current inventory on black powder is very low. I will be working with the Schuetzen/Swiss distributor on a new order, however it will be a limited order due to the anticipation of GOEX getting back in business sometime this fall.

Check the website for details as I will keep that up-to-date for everyone.


My $0.02:

With Goex availability pushed back yet again, if you need black powder I recommend buying Scheutzen, Swiss, or Graf's house brand (made by Scheutzen) from MPH, Powder Inc., Grafs, or whoever else might have it in stock. If you shoot a gun that works reliably with it, don't turn your nose up at Pyrodex or Triple 7, either.

Weird Stuck Ball

Today I had an weird experience with a stuck ball in my plains rifle.

I went to one of my clubs to shoot their woods walk course. I used my normal target load: 55 grains of Goex FFFg black powder, .490 round balls wrapped in .020" patches lubed with Mr. Flintlock, and a CCI No.11 cap. Normally this would allow me to shoot at least 25 rounds with no bore swabbing.

But after about 12 - 15 shots I went to reload and could not get the ball to go more than about 8" down the bore no matter how hard I tried. It simply would not go any further down.

If I didn't have the correct tools to pull the ball that would've been the end of my day. However, I had a ball screw and a T-handle that screws into the other end of my ramrod.

I recommend the collared ball pullers sold by Track of the Wolf. They are sharp and will easily screw into the soft lead of the projectiles used in muzzleloaders. The brass collar around the screw keeps it centered in the bore. See here:

The other accessory that makes it possible to more easily pull a ball by yourself is a T-handle that screws into the other end of your ramrod. Of course, this requires your ramrod to have threaded fittings on both ends.

Once again, Track has what you need:

I keep one of the aluminum T-handles in the back part of my shooting pouch.

To pull the ball today I attached the screw and handle, screwed into the ball, then inverted the rifle and held the T-handle down with my feet. I then gave the rifle a tug upwards and it popped the ball free.

If the bore is really crusty you may want to swab it before trying to pull the ball. Also, if it is really stuck, pouring some oil down on top of it may ease extracting it.

This is another reason to make sure that the threaded ferrules on the end of your ramrod are pinned in place. Without a cross pin there's a high likelihood you'll pull it right off the rod.

Anyway, I got back to shooting after I ran a couple cleaning patches wet with Mr. Flintlock down the barrel, followed by a dry patch. Since swabbing can force wet fouling into the flash channel, I popped a cap before loading, to ensure it was clear.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Made a Couple of Brass Drifts

This afternoon I went out to the shop and made a couple drifts from some square brass stock, for use with Colt-style percussion revolvers and also rifles on which the barrel is held on with a key or keys.

Naturally, I could have made these with a file but a milling machine, even a small one like my Grizzly G8689 makes it a lot easier. Don't ever let anyone tell you the table top machines are useless.


Pietta 1860 Army Sheriff Range Report, and Two Useful Accessories

Last night I took a new Pietta 1860 Army Sheriff's Model percussion revolver to the range. Overall, I am quite pleased with the gun. Timing and lockup are tight, wood-to-metal fit is excellent, and overall it's a fine looking and shooting piece.

The session was not without it's difficulties, however. A couple years ago I'd made up 50 paper cartridges loaded with a Hornady .454 ball on top of 25 grains of 3Fg Hodgdon Triple 7 black powder substitute, and had half of them left. The T7 came from a bottle that I bought several years ago. I've read that once you break the seal it begins to deteriorate, but up until now I haven't noticed any problems with it.

I loaded the first cylinder with the paper cartridges and I could only get two to go off, even with recapping. So, I pulled the cylinder out, removed the cones on the unfired chambers, and put about three grains of black powder in each using the flintlock pan primer I keep in my BP revolver shooting box in case I dry ball.

Previously, none of the paper cartridges I've made have had ignition problems, no matter if they were loaded with Triple 7 or black powder.

After reassembling the gun and recapping the chambers, all of them went off.

I have 19 of those cartridges left along with a flask full of the remaining Triple 7. The next time I shoot the gun I'll try them with a black powder initiator charge in the bottom of the chambers. I hate to waste powder.

After I switched over to loose ball and Scheutzen 3Fg black powder and a felt wad lubed with pure neatsfoot oil, the gun gave me no more issues. I fired 5 or 6 cylinders full, with all my shots going into one hole at 7 yards. Elevation was dead on but I was shooting a little to the right, which was probably me pushing the trigger a little.

The cylinder arbor was lubed with Lucas white lithium grease. I've found this to be an excellent lubricant for that purpose. After 30 to 36 shots the cylinder was still turning freely.

The other accessory worth mentioning was a slip-on handle for the loading lever that I made from a short section of PVC pipe a little longer than the lever. The short levers on the "sherriff's model" percussion revolvers make seating the required oversized ball somewhat difficult. The short section of PVC made it a lot easier.

Like my 1851 Navy Sheriff, the 1860 Army Sheriff is a fantasy gun. Colt never made such a piece although it's possible that guns could have been so modified by users or gunsmiths. Porter Rockwell, the Mormon Avenger was known to carry a Colt cut down to snubbie length with the loading lever removed and a new front sight fitted.

Regardless of whether short percussion revolvers are historically correct, they are fun to shoot and easier to carry afield than their full length cousins.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Installing a New Front Sight on a Pietta 1851 Navy

Several years ago I bought a Pietta 1851 Navy Sheriff's Model .44 caliber percussion revolver. It's strictly a fantasy gun in that Colt never made an 1851 Navy with this short a barrel, nor did they make them in .44. All real Colt Navy revolvers are .36s, with the exception of a very few experimental .40 caliber guns. Regardless, it's a fun little gun but severely handicapped by the factory front sight, which is a miniscule brass cone that's both hard to see and too short, resulting in the gun shooting very high at pistol ranges.

So today, I fixed that by cutting a dovetail in the barrel and installing a taller blade front sight that I'll be able to actually see and also can file to zero the piece.

Here's what the factory front sight looked like, along with the rifle front sight I modified to use:

I have a Grizzly G8689 mini mill. I first used it with a 1/8" end mill to cut the old sight flush with the barrel. Then I cut a slot a bit less than the width of the top of the front sight base. I cut the slot 0.07" deep to match the thickness of the front sight. (The mill has digital readouts fitted to allow me to make precise cuts.)

Then I used a 3/8" dovetail end mill to turn it into a dovetail. You can see the factory hole for the original front sight in the dovetail.

Using a couple files and trial and error, I fit the new sight to the barrel.

I left it extra tall so that I can use a file to raise the point of impact to the point of aim. I'll probably zero it with a load of a .454 ball on top of 30 grains of 3Fg black powder. After it's zeroed I will shape the front of the blade and cold blue it.

Aside from the front sight I plan to slightly enlarge the rear sight notch in the hammer nose, and replace the factory nipples with Tresos that have small flash holes for less blow back and cap fragmenting. An accessory I plan to make is an extension to slip over the loading rod for better leverage. That's not needed on the full length guns but this will benefit from that. Those without machine tools can purchase one from Slix Shot.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Update on Percussion Cap Availability

Here's a video update on the availability of percussion caps, from the NRA convention.

Key points:

  • Per Ethan, CCI produces caps in seasonal runs. Next run is in June, reaching shelves in July/August.
  • No real updates on Remington or RWS caps.

My $0.02 is that I recommended stocking up after they become available this summer.

Sunday, April 16, 2023


Last week my membership to Boulder Valley Sportsman's Association was approved. Today I went there and shot the woods walk course. While the camaderie of the matches held there is great, sometimes it's nice to have the range to yourself, as I did today.

This is the first station, with a turkey head and a metal strap to shoot at. Today I took two shots and the turkey and manage to miss both. At the last match I shot at the strap and hit it, which earned me a Mulligan.

The rock in the foreground is where you shot from.

Here are a few other stations, zoomed in so you can see the targets.

The round target with the cross cutout in the center is the one I missed at the last match. I banged it good today.

I forgot to take a picture of the last station, which has the longest target. It's a rectangular steel gong set out at 82 yards.

And a couple pics of the Slotter rifle* in its natural environment, my shooting pouch, and powder horn.

One thing I noticed today is that I definitely spill more powder with the horn than when I use my Peace flask with a Treso free flow spout. This is a mid-19th Century type rifle so a flask is suitable, anyway.

Today I tried out some .480 balls in .020 patches lubed with Mr. Flintlock. I've had the balls for a while so they're a bit crusty but they shot fine.

Accuracy with the .480 balls was good enough so that out of the 25 shots I fired, 22 were hits. Loading was really easy. The muzzle of my rifle is coned and I'm able to seat them below flush with just my thumb. I did not need to use my short starter all day.

After I got home and finished cleaning the rifle I relaxed out back with some Wild Turkey 101 and a Baccarat cigar.

Sure beats working!

* I bought the rifle from Track of the Wolf, who advertised it as a "California" rifle. It's actually a pretty good replica of rifles made for the California trade by Slotter of Philadelphia, PA.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Ball Starter Holders on Shooting Pouch Straps

When loading and shooting a muzzleloader from a shooting pouch, the less stuff in the pouch the better. The more stuff that's in the bag, the more you have to rummage through when reloading. Many shooters who use a ball or short starter store it on the bag strap when not in use.

The shooting pouch I have from The Leatherman came with such a holder sewn to the jute strap. However, as a lefty, it's on the wrong side of the strap because I have the bag slung across my right shoulder, hanging on my left hip. The October Country bag I've been using with my halfstock percussion rifle didn't have anything on the strap. I fixed up both bags today.

This is the short starter holder that came on the Leatherman bag:

And here are the holders I added to both bags today:

They are simply pieces of 1-1/4" wide leather strap folder over and held in place with Chicago screws. Rivets would work just as well. On the Leatherman bag, I used one of the existing holes in the strap while I punched a hole in the October Country bag strab. A drop of blue thread locker on each Chicago screw ensures that they will stay together.

The leather I used is fairly thick and rigid, so the holders stay open when the starter is removed, and they don't flop around when inserted. I made them snug enough so that I don't need to worry about losing the starter but it's still easy to remove.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Alpineaire Black Bart Chili Review

Back in the fall I bought two packages of Alpineaire Black Bart Chili from Amazon Prime. Today I decided to try one for lunch.

To prepared it, pour two cups of boiling water into the bag, mix, and then let sit for 10 - 12 minutes. Then mix it again before eating.

I let it sit for at least 12 minutes, mixed it up, and it looked like this:

It came out a bit soupier than I'd like. The texture was typical for reconstituted freeze dried meals. It was fairly spicy.

Because it was so soupy, after I ate half I tried adding some parched corn flour to it to thicken it a bit. Not recommended. I didn't care for the resulting texture.

Overall, I'd recommend it and will probably buy some more for my camping/emergency prep food stash.