Author Topic: Getting Started  (Read 562 times)

Offline BenC

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Getting Started
« on: July 17, 2017, 01:00:27 AM »
I have a muzzle loading side-lock rifle stamped "KENTUCKY - JAGER - MADE IN ITALYĒ  It is also stamped ďCAL.  44Ē and I'm trying to find out:

- what actual diameter projectile it uses.  Iíve checked it with calipers and the bore has a diameter just shy of 0.455Ē and the diameter from land to land is 0.446Ē
- what percussion cap it uses. 
- what I need from a ramrod (mine is missing)
- the correct way to load it (Iíve gathered the ball not being seated on the charge is bad)
- how to work up a load.  In particular, what a safe starting charge is but also signs of over pressure. 
- the pros and cons of different types and grades of black powder substitute. 
- How to clean it
- if there is any factory service information for my rifle
- And finally, what are the safety rules with a muzzle loader?  Iím solid on Col Cooperís 4 rules but there is clearly more to ML safety than that.  Iíll be hunting with it and want to know how to safely carry it loaded too.

Iím not expecting folks to answer every question and am happy to read up on my own.  Iíve been lurking on the forum for a while but I havenít found these specifics.  I know there are books but I donít know which ones to trust.

I have a solid centerfire and rimfire background and am feeling pretty cautious as I see how much I donít know about black powder.

Thanks!

Offline Natureboy

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 02:44:42 AM »
  OK--I'll take a stab at answering your questions.
   1.  The bore diameter is more than likely as shown, .44. The easiest to load would be a .430 ball.
   2.  The cap size is probably #11.  Most modern cap locks use that size.
   3.  For the ramrod, it's most likely 3/8.  Go to a hobby shop and get some short lengths of wooden rods, in 5/16, 3/8, and 7/16.  Try them out, and then buy the proper hickory rod from a place like Track of the Wolf.  Most of them come with a brass fitting on one end, and most are threaded in 10-32 (for the jag you'll need for loading and cleaning).  You should also have a muzzle protector, which is a short collar that prevents the dirty ramrod from abrading the barrel, a nipple pick, and maybe a ball puller "just in case."  It's best to have both ends of the rod with the brass fitting, pinned to make sure it doesn't pull off inside the barrel.
   4.  The correct loading procedure is simple--pour a measured amount of powder down the barrel (NEVER from the horn), followed by a lubricated patch and the right size ball.  There are myriad formulae for the lube--some use spit like I do (I put a pre-cut patch in my mouth after working up a good amount of saliva, while I measure and pour the powder), but Lehigh Valley Lube, Mr. Flintlock--probably the same formula--and Hoppe's #9 Plus work well.  You would benefit from using a "short starter," which would have a short brass cup for initial starting, and a longer (8" or so) rod for ramming the patched ball down a bit.  Then, use your full-length ramrod to push the ball all the way down, in short increments to avoid breaking the rod and jamming it into the palm of your hand.  Make sure the patched ball is well seated on the powder, and it also helps to make marks on the ramrod, showing when it is properly loaded and when it is unloaded.  That helps to avoid the dreaded "dry ball."  Any space between the patched ball and the powder will be dangerous.  I have a handle on the end of my range rod, and give it a firm pat to make sure the ball is firmly seated.  I see people slamming the rod down numerous times, but that probably deforms the ball.
   5.  Get one of the graduated powder measures, which will show amounts in 5-grain increments.  For a 44, you might start with 50 grains.  Using a bench rest, shoot at least 3 rounds, and see how tight your group is.  If it's pretty wide, and you haven't been flinching, pour in 55 grains, then 60 and so on.  The groups should tighten up, and when they start to get loose again, you'll know the best load.  The variables are ball size, patch thickness and lube.  Questions, questions, questions.  Try 10 oz bull denim, available at most fabric stores, like JoAnne's.  I've tried a lot of different fabrics, and the 10oz bull denim works best for me.  It has to be 100% cotton or linen.  I pre-cut my patches, although some folks cut the material in strips, holding them in their mouth like I do the pre-cuts.  Pre-cut and pre-lubed makes it simple, but spit is free.  For a 44, 1 inch square will probably work OK.
   6.  BP substitute?  Not advisable, unless you can't get the real thing where you live.  If you're shooting black powder, use black powder.  There are lots of posts on this forum about how the synthetic powders ruin barrels, are hard to clean, and are slow to ignite--they don't work well in a flintlock, for instance.  BP comes in grades, and the most common are 2f and 3f.  In a short-barreled gun, 3f might work best.  It creates higher pressures than 2f, which works best in long barreled, large bore guns.
   7.  Cleaning--here again, there are as many opinions as there are lubes and patch material.  Most say that plain cold water works as well as anything, but only for real BP.  Most use alternate wet and dry patches, and whatever you use, keep pushing them in and out until they're totally clean.  If you use water, you probably should follow with WD40, to disperse the water.  Then use a rust-inhibiting oil, like RIG.  Check the barrel with clean patches in a couple of days, looking for rust, which can form very quickly.  I check my guns every week, even if I haven't been shooting.  You can also use solvents, like Track's or "Muzzle Magic."  Then, you won't need the WD40, but you should still use the rust inhibiters.  I don't know what your gun is like, but many cap locks have a "drum" with the nipple screwed into it.  If the drum has a clean-out screw, you can push pipe cleaners though to make sure it's clean, and some people dissemble their guns, put the breech end in a bucket of water, and flush the water in and out.  That cleans the drum and nipple, but be sure to use the WD40, and store the gun for a while muzzle-side-down so everything drains out.
   I'm sure that if I've forgotten anything, other members will chime in, for this forum is full of very knowledgeable and helpful folks.  Good luck and welcome to the wonderful world of black powder!
   8.  Safety rules are largely the same at most ranges, but BP clubs usually insist that you load at the bench, and don't prime until you're at the firing line, with nobody standing in front of you.  Keep your barrel pointed up or downrange.  If you join a club, they'll fill you in, and watch you to make sure you are proficient.  Some public ranges have BP areas.  If you shoot at a range with the rest of the "suppository" shooters, expect some looky-lous and questions.  You might convince someone to look into a BP gun for themselves!
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 02:56:23 AM by Natureboy »

Offline PPatch

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 03:25:10 AM »
Welcome to ALR BenC. :D Wear eye and hearing protection, when you are shooting it is best to not have anyone near you on the lock side of the gun - high-speed metal sometimes fly off those caps.

If you can't get real black powder then Triple Se7en substitute powder has a reputation for burning pretty clean - ALWAYS clean your gun by the end of the day it was shot, even if that was only once. With real black powder water is all you need to clean, with a substitute you'll want something like Hoppe's #9 bore cleaner.

Good job Natureboy.   ;)

dave
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 04:14:24 PM by PPatch »
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Offline Smoketown

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 03:44:30 AM »
Any of these look similar?

https://www.google.com/search?q=KENTUCKY+-+JAGER+-+MADE+IN+ITALY&rlz=1C1RNPN_enUS411US491&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQwsWZio_VAhWG2D4KHRGMDLIQsAQIMQ&biw=1680&bih=935#imgrc=_

Your ram rod 'could' be metric too.

If you have a set of dial calipers, measure the thimble ID's.   ;)

Cheers,
Smoketown
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Offline BenC

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 07:53:26 AM »
Thanks for the responses.  This is really helpful!

https://www.gunauction.com/buy/8288829

That looks exactly like my gun.

Great point about the thimbles.  They measure 3/8".

I was under the impression that actual blackpowder was a low order explosive vs a propellant like smokeless and was more dangerous, requiring special handling.  I love the idea of actually using the real stuff and water being a solvent is really cool.  I've seen folks get ahead of their knowledge, done it a time or two myself, and put themselves in needless jeopardy.  I just want to check in on that.

Can I get BP at places like Bi-Mart or Cabelas?

The barrel is 35" long.  Is that considered a long barrel or a short barrel?

When I'm in the woods hunting, do I carry it loaded without a cap or install the cap and keep it half cocked?

I'm really looking forward to shooting this rifle.

Thanks again for all the help!

Offline Don Steele

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2017, 12:07:49 PM »
Welcome Ben.
Looks like you've gotten a lot of great information for a beginner already. I'm going to repeat one line from Natureboy's post because it's importance is not immediately obvious to someone starting out but is CRITICAL to safely enjoying blackpowder shooting:

"Make sure the patched ball is well seated on the powder, and it also helps to make marks on the ramrod, showing when it is properly loaded and when it is unloaded."

Let's talk about bore fouling for a moment. There are a lot of factors that affect bore fouling, and I'm not going to attempt to write a comprehensive treatise on the topic here. Suffice to say that as you shoot, there's a good possibility that fouling will build up in your rifle's bore. That buildup will make it more difficult to seat the ball on the powder with each successive shot. To combat that buildup, wipe the bore between shots with a damp cleaning patch (not one of your shooting patches). JUST damp, not dripping wet. Follow with a dry patch, and you'll be ready to load again. 
Your post doesn't reveal your location but if you're in the U.S., I'm also going to recommend that you contact the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association in Friendship, IN to find the club closest to where you live and try to get over there and begin the learning process with folks that can provide hands-on help.
To a couple of your specific questions:
1.) A 35 in. bbl. is fine. As you learn more about this sport, you'll read about barrels from 28" out to 46", and everything in between.
2.) Black Powder is a low order explosive. Some special handling is necessary ( re-read my comments above on ball seating for example). Real blackpowder can be hard to find at retail outlets. In my personal experience, Hodgon Triple 7 works just fine with a caplock. If you wind up shooting that product until you can acquire real BP, ignore the recommendation they print on the label for a 45 cal. load. That's intended for an inline, with a sabotted bullet and you won't need anything like the 100 gn charge they suggest to enjoy your rifle.
3.) When I hunt with my caplock, I do carry it loaded, with a cap on the nipple, at half-cock. Other folks may do it differently. That's how I do it, but let's not worry too much about hunting at this point.
ENJOY...!!!

Online oldtravler61

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2017, 04:26:25 PM »
  BenC you have received good advice. When your starting out one rule I follow is. Never load more than double the caliber for a charge.
  Example: 40 cal= 80 grains, 50 cal 100 grains. Etc
 Second rule is remember this little sentence Black,white then grey an everything is okay.
 Black for the powder, white for the patch, an grey for the round ball.
 Simple saying but in fifty years of shooting Bp guns. Never dry balled one yet.
 
  Also Ben go slow an learn the sport. There many on here that are willing to help you. Enjoy Oldtravler

Offline PPatch

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2017, 04:43:36 PM »
One place real BP can be obtained is through Graf & Sons, they are located in Mexico Missouri. While you can buy a single pound five pounds is more practical due to hazardous materials shipping charges. https://www.grafs.com/retail/catalog/category/categoryId/3501

You will want to put in some range time with your new rifle in order become familiar with shooting it, AND, to go through the paces for zeroing a muzzleloader. Basically the first step in learning what charge and ball and patch combination your gun shoots best with is to shoot for grouping first, then once you know the charge and ball combo that shoots the tightest group at the range you expect to take game with you can adjust your sights to bring the gun to zero at that range. Begin at 30 yards or so in order to know where your gun prints at that range then move on out to your expected hunting distance to continue the process of zeroing the piece.

That .44 will probably use something like (around) 50 to 80 grains of powder to group well, the only way to know is to shoot it. Substitute powders, while more problematic to ignite, burn hotter than real BP, so the charge using a substitute powder will be somewhat lower.

The process will be something like this...

- Fire a few shots close in to see where the rifle is hitting, move the target further out, fire again for the same reason.

- Once you know where the gun shoots closer in move the target out to hunting distance and begin firing for groups.

- Beginning with a lower powder charge (40 grains maybe) shoot 3-5 shot strings of a rest. Expect the groups to be scattered.

- Raise the charge in five grain increments after each string, note if the groups are getting tighter. After they tighten up, and as you add more powder to each string, you will observe the groups opening up.

- Return to the powder charge that get the best groupings.

- Now you are ready to zero, keep shooting that "best group" charge and begin to adjust your gun sights to bring the rifle to zero.

Now you know what to expect from, and have confidence in, your muzzleloader and what charge/ball/patch combination works at your expected hunting distance. Along the way you will have gained a lot of experience in handling the gun.

dave
 


« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 08:34:02 PM by PPatch »
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Offline hanshi

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2017, 06:04:35 PM »
Welcome to the forum, BenC.  The other posts have pretty much covered your inquiries.  I'll just add a few things.  I have a tight bore .45 and it does well with a .440" lead ball even though the mfg recommends a .435" ball.  It works fine with a .015" ticking patch and about any lube.  The barrel, IMHO, could be classed as "medium" length.  Black powder can be ordered in "lots" and will be, even with hasmat fees, cheaper than purchasing an individual can.  "Powder, Inc" is a good place to check out for that.  A 3/8" wood rod, not a dowel, will work but may need the the end tapered in order to fit down in the rifles drill hole.  I'd start with a 45 grain charge of 3F.  If you plan to deer hunt with it, many states have a minimum charge of 50 grains for that purpose (Va. and Ga.) for instance.
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Offline Natureboy

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 07:58:51 PM »
  I like OldTraveller's bit about "black, white and grey."  Many muzzleloader shooters repeat the mantra:  "powder, patch, ball."  At the range, I place my horn, measure, patches and balls on the table in that order.  Old guys can be forgetful.

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 10:05:11 PM »
Get in touch with a local black powder club. Best to have hands-on experience and teaching.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 01:09:13 AM by rich pierce »
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Offline Marcruger

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2017, 12:48:54 AM »
Just adding my affirmation on the following:

No fake black powder.  Only genuine black.  You won't be disappointed. 

Keep cleaning your barrel until no black shows up.  I don't go home until my bore is clean. No sense in ruining a rifle. 

The next day, or two days after cleaning and oiling - go back and oil it again.  For some reason a light film of rust forms after you clean a rifle.  That "back up next day" oiling takes care of things. 

Find what load your rifle likes, THEN adjust the sights. 

I like patching by "The Minute Men".  Heck of a stout product they make.  No need for me to look further.  Others opinions may vary. 

Read this section of the forums.  There is a LOT of good advice therein.  Check posts by Daryl.  He's great about sharing what he knows. 

Best wishes, and God Bless,   Marc

Offline FDR

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2017, 04:07:31 AM »
If you have a "Bass Pro Shop" within driving distance they have black powder in their /guns/reloading section. You will have to ask for it at the gun counter.

Fred

Offline BenC

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2017, 05:13:23 AM »
Wow fellas.  That is solid info and should set me up for a while.  Thanks!

One more question, I noticed in my reading here that BP grains are measured in volume.  How do you all like to measure it out?  Do you have a small pouring container you scoop into with calibrated scoops?  That seems a little fiddly so I'm guessing there are better steps.


Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2017, 05:45:57 AM »
Buy your self an adjustable powder measure from one of the ML suppliers as black powder is usualy measured by volume. Never pour black powder from the can into the barrel, always pour from the powder measure.

Offline WadePatton

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 06:23:08 AM »
Wow fellas.  That is solid info and should set me up for a while.  Thanks!

One more question, I noticed in my reading here that BP grains are measured in volume.  How do you all like to measure it out?  Do you have a small pouring container you scoop into with calibrated scoops?  That seems a little fiddly so I'm guessing there are better steps.

Yes, as directed-get an adjustable measure and develop your load/s.  Once you find the proper recipe for any one gun, you can make a fixed measure for that gun.
Hold to the Wind

Online Steve-In

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2017, 04:22:33 PM »
Welcome to the forum and welcome to muzzle loading.
Post where you are from, it may help get you some personal mentoring.
Call around to all of the gunstores in your area and ask for black powder.   Cheaper than driving around.
A pound or more of black powder is no more dangerous than a can of gas or a propane tank you may already store in your garage, probably less so.
Steve Neher

Offline BenC

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2017, 07:45:26 AM »
I'm in the Portland OR area and am a member at Tri-County.

Thanks again for all the help!

Online bones92

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2017, 06:27:21 PM »
Welcome, Ben.  Muzzleloaders are one of the most enjoyable shooting genres (IMHO).

Great advice you have been given.  You can likely order a rod from Track of the Wolf or Dixie Gun Works that will have the brass ends already.   You can also find one-piece rods that are somewhat better suited.  They are made with steel and usually have a ball or handle at the end to make things easier (and at our club, the handles hang from nails in the rafters above the loading bench).

In any case, it is wise to mark your rod.   Mark it empty, so you know when the rifle is unloaded.   And when you find a good load, mark it with powder only, so you know if you have seated a ball or not.  Sounds crazy, but sometimes I get interrupted in the loading process, and I don't recall if I've loaded a PRB (patched round ball) or not.    Then mark it with a PRB loaded.

Make sure you have a bullet puller, patch puller (worm) and a proper sized jag every time (and make sure they are threaded to fit the rod... some are 8/32, some are 10/32).  You can buy adaptors from Track of the Wolf. 

Also, fire a couple caps through an empty rifle before loading.  This can clear any oil or debris in the bolster.   Put the muzzle next to grass when you pop the cap... you should see a bit of movement from the pressure of the cap.

I have found that if I am reloading immediately after firing, I don't have to swab most rifles between shots.  But if you let that residue sit a few minutes, it starts to accumulate and harden, and a damp cleaning patch on a jag is needed.

Lastly, be aware that as you swab the bore, some fouling gets pushed down to the bottom of the barrel.  Eventually, these can obscure the flash hole, and even make your rod markings seem a bit off.   A lot of guys here don't use them, but you can buy a scraping jag (like a cleaning jag, but with a flat bit, like a screwdriver instead).  These can be helpful in scraping out fouling at the bottom of the barrel.   

Offline Jim Jackson

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2017, 06:56:36 PM »
Hi Ben,contact the Muzzle loading director at Tri County,they have shoots there and should be able to give you some hands on help in shooting your gun.I know Douglas  Ridge has monthly shoots and I am sure Tri County does also.
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Offline Natureboy

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Re: Getting Started
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2017, 08:26:55 PM »
Hello again, Ben.  I also live in Portland, and I'm a member of the Barlow Trail Long Rifles.  We are a "mountain man" club with our own range, just east of Sandy.  Our range isn't as nice as Tri-County, but we have fun doing various shoots on the second Sunday of the month.  We had a challenge match with Tri-County and I was really impressed with how the place has improved since my father and I were members in the 60's.  I enjoy playing "dress up" and getting together with other BP shooters, although shooting by myself at a range is fun, too.  If you want to talk sometime about all the info that's been freely given, let me know and we can shoot the breeze, or black powder, if you wish.