Author Topic: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?  (Read 30188 times)

Offline bones92

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I ran across this:  http://www.chuckhawks.com/flintlocks.htm

I know Chuck Hawks is well-respected in many circles, but I have never read or heard about not seating the ball firmly against the powder.

I'm curious as to the collective opinion of this forum.   Please do not worry about offending me with basic knowledge; I have yet to actually fire a flintlock, so I welcome all guidance.

Thanks!
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FrontierMuzzleloading

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2015, 12:34:18 AM »
I thought it might be Pauls work.

I tried it years ago where you just seat the ball against the powder once you feel it touch. It made no difference and I just find it easier and more consistent to seat it with my upper body weight. Works for me so I stick with it.

Offline smokinbuck

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2015, 12:44:39 AM »
Over the years I have read a number of things written by Paul. Much of it I found should be taken with a grain of salt and much was his opinion. If you read what has been posted you will find a number of statements that are,at least, questionable and others that are wrong based on common sense or practice. I'll stick with what has worked for most of us for a long time. To me success is measured by results.
Mark
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Offline Natureboy

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2015, 02:39:28 AM »
  On this forum, "Pletch" has done some amazing research, supported by slo-mo video, that contradicts some of the
opinions in the referenced article.  He has found that flinters fire at the same rate as cappers, and also that the priming powder seems to fire the gun quickest when banked towards the vent.  My flinter used to ignite poorly with its straight hole drilled in the barrel, even at 3/32", so I had a Chambers' "White Lightning" liner installed and haven't had a FITP since.  No need to pick the vent.  As for the "snob" appeal of the flintlock, I think it's just plain fun to mess around with flints, primer, etc, and that little puff of smoke brings my mind back to the 18th century. 

Offline Topknot

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2015, 03:25:14 AM »
Bones,getting back to the question that you asked, It has always been my loading practice to slip the patched ball steady and firmly on the powder. No bouncing the rod trying to pack it more . Once you get the patched ball within 3 or 4 inches of the breech just smoothly push the ball on to the powder in 1 stroke with medium pressure. You dont have to use your full upper body weight. just use your upper arm and shoulder muscles.What you need to acheive is consistency in every thing you do in the loading process. Do everything the same way every time.

                                          topknot
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 03:28:52 AM by Topknot »
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Offline bones92

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2015, 03:59:05 AM »
OK, thanks gents.  I suspected this may have just been one guy's opinion.  I'm sure it works well for Chuck Hawks (Paul?).  But it's not necessarily the only way to load a flinter.

I do plan to practice consistency by using a marked rod.
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Offline WadePatton

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2015, 04:38:01 AM »
Bones92

There is a video link posted on here 5 or 12 times that features a pair of our very own, out on a trail walk (competition), doing their loading.  It's very short and they are simply loading as they do several dozen times nearly every weekend. You can learn a lot from watching the vid.  You'll have to replay a few times in order catch everything-as they are loading simultaneously.

I do as Daryl does, (I forgot what HJ does) and that is to open-handed "slap/tamp" the charge once the ball is home.  The ball starter has a shallow hole in it for resting the "knob" atop the loading rod to provide a fat surface to strike.  It's easy to get a consistent loading pressure for non-bench work this way.

It's much faster to see it than to say it.

I also learned to quit flipping the stick.  In the video you'll see it both ways-suit yourself and your application (rod configuration).

I'll bet either one of this pair (and many more here) has burned a truckload more bp than Mr. Hawks (no offense to him, i've read all his stuff too).   The video has come up under various contexts so I'll let you "get familiar" with the various ways to search this site.  ;)  At least one of the contexts is when we're discussing loading without (ever) wiping (but actually, loading is wiping with the proper combo).

Cheers.
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Offline Stormrider51

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2015, 08:57:12 AM »
Paul Vallandingham was a fixture on at least one BP forum for many years.  He was a well known advocate of black powder shooting until his death.  I often disagreed with much of what he opined and much of what I don't agree with is in that article.  It starts with the implication that David Crockett and Daniel Boone both led settlers into Kentucky and goes downhill from there.  That said, his statement about not putting too much pressure on a powder charge is accurate although his rationale is incorrect as is his limiting it to flintlocks.  The truth is that you should strive to run the ball down onto the charge with the same amount of pressure each time.  Consistency makes for accuracy and consistent pressure on the powder charge is part of that equation.  So it makes sense to run the ball down until it makes contact with the powder and stop.  Applying more pressure will begin to crush powder granules and this changes the burning rate of the powder.  It's sort of like using FFg but converting a varying portion of the charge to FFFFg by crushing it.  The more pressure applied to the ball, the more granules are crushed.  It doesn't have anything to do with oxygen, only the size of the granules being ignited and their burn rate.  I knew one bench rest shooter who would run the ball down to a marked ring on his loading rod and then give the end of the rod three taps with a small mallet "to seat the charge".  Given his groups I couldn't argue with his technique.  It must have been consistent.

Storm

Offline Larry Pletcher

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2015, 03:11:37 PM »
There is much of what Paul says that is untrue. (At first I used a different word but changed out of respect since Paul has passed.)  He insisted that a flint pan is burning before the flint edge comes to rest.    When challenged Paul would say that other shooters made this judgement by eye.  Have any idea how one could tell by eye if the pan began burning before the flint stopped moving? 

I have 80+ slow motion videos that show this simply is not true.  I have measured the time it takes to ignite the pan, time from pan ignition to barrel ignition with photo cells and a computer.  In tests done with Gary Brumfield's prompting, I used infrared gates to separate the phases of time for a pan to ignite. Roughly 2/3 of a flint ignition is AFTER the flint stops moving - sparks are in the powder and we're waiting for the priming to ignite.  (In case you wonder, the fastest lock I ever tested took .0299 seconds from sear strike to pan ignition.)

Look over the lock timing articles at www.blackpowdermag.com  Human senses are terrible tools to measure lock time.  Also check out the video section to see locks in slow motion.

Regards,
Petch
Regards,
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Offline bones92

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2015, 05:35:39 PM »
Great input, gents.  I appreciate it.

It's hard to imagine such quick ignition in a flintlock, but it reinforces my opinion that the common myths about the shortcomings of flintlocks (slow to fire, inaccurate beyond 80 yards, etc) are the ramblings of the ignorant.
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Offline Stormrider51

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2015, 05:56:28 PM »
Pletch - Thank you for your fascinating work.  It is the standard reference I send people to when disagreements come up.  It's hard to argue with hard data.  You and Dutch Schoultz greatly influenced my shooting techniques.

Bones92 - Give a flinter a try but be warned.  A good flinter, built and loaded correctly, will spoil you for anything else.

Storm

Offline axelp

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2015, 06:34:12 PM »
One important thing to consider is that you do not ever want to leave a void between powder and ball. I have noticed sometimes after shooting in certain conditions that I get a ring of fouling down in the breach area slightly above the level of the powder charge. This can give you a false idea that the next ball is seated on the powder when in actuality it is not all the way down on the charge… So unless I apply a certain bit of pressure, I will not always know if my ball is seated all the way. But I am not fond of pounding the ramrod onto the charge-- I just want to make sure there is no void, and the same pressure is used every time. I usually listen or feel for a slight crunching.

Consistency is key whatever you do.

In bp cartridge shooting, they use a drop tube to load the powder so it settles better, and a compression die that compresses the powder so the bullet can seat at the correct over all length. Some use quite a bit of compression, some don't. Whatever give you best accuracy. This needs to be done the same every time in order to get the same shooting results. That is what I have been taught anyway.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 06:35:54 PM by Ken Prather »
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Offline Dan'l 1946

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2015, 07:05:09 PM »
  I didn't know that Paul had passed. I used to have on-line discussions with him and enjoyed them. I didn't always agree with him and he could be curmudgeonly at times, but then so can I.
  I always develop a load until I'm satisfied with its accuracy and then mark the ramrod with the seating depth that was best. I seat the ball firmly but not to the point where the charge is crushed. It works for me in both percussion and flint muzzleloaders.
                                                      Dan

Offline hanshi

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2015, 09:32:08 PM »
I PM'd with Paul a good bit before his death.  He had a great store of knowledge; but, unfortunately a lot of that knowledge simply wasn't so.  It made sense to me to just seat the prb until I could hear the slight "crunch" of ball touching powder.  I try to do that every time.
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Offline Daryl

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2015, 06:43:00 PM »
As Wade mentioned, that loading video of LB and I has been over-exposed here a number of times. I have posted it to different threads pertaining to the varying aspects of shooting. What is most important about the video - or rather the normal commentary with it, is consistency in loading - you must load consistently - every time the same, to obtain the best accuracy.  I load exactly the same, or rather attempt to load that way.

An old friend of mine, now passed away, Lester H. Hawkes, taught me as a young kid in Smithers, B.C., that fully 50% of a muzzle loader's accuracy is consistency in loading it. He 'taught' me this in 1972 and I've never forgotten it. It was very good advice indeed.

In my .40, loading only to touch the powder vs. loaded with the flat palm 'rap' on the starter's know over the rod, made for 100fps drop in speed and double the shot to shot velocity variation.  Doubled shot to shot vel. spread means less consistency when loading. Less consistency means poorer accuracy. It's true.
Daryl

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Offline bones92

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2015, 09:12:33 PM »
Would someone mind posting the link to that video here?  I cannot find it...

Daryl, thanks for your input.  It makes sense.

Perhaps what Paul was trying to say was to avoid hammering the PRB overly tight on the powder... seems I've seen videos of people packing the ball down pretty hard.  In fact, I think I've read that the more pressure against the powder, the better (for MV and accuracy).

I think I will seat the PRB firmly with a couple taps on the end of the rod.  More importantly, I'll use a mark on the rod (as I already do with caplock rifles).

I wonder if anyone has ever rigged a stopper on their ramrod....  I.e. a fixed ring around the rod that stops the rod (and thus the ball) at the exact same spot every time.   Or perhaps a cylindrical cup that slips over the rod and contacts the muzzle once the rod is precisely where it should be.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 09:15:43 PM by bones92 »
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Offline smokinbuck

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2015, 10:30:59 PM »
Bones,
A mechanical stop on the rod would work the same as if you mark your rod with a ring, line or whatever. BUT, A mechanical stop would have to be checked regularly, during a match, to insure it doesn't come loose and move, thus changing your loading proceedure.
Mark
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Offline bones92

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2015, 11:01:20 PM »
True... which is why the capped cylinder idea is probably better...  like capped tube that is cut to the right length so that when slipped over the rod, you just tap the cup the last inch or so until it touches the muzzle, and you have a precise seating depth on every shot.

Would be easy to make, too.  One could probably use an empty 45-70 case trimmed to length.
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Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2015, 02:40:44 AM »
As has been already said, consistant loading is the main thing here, but it almost sounds like you are over engineering the process. I think you will do just fine loading to your ramrod mark without using any gizmo, dodad, or thingmajig. Its been done that way for hundreds of years. Good luck whichever way you do it and have fun.  ;D

Offline Larry Pletcher

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2015, 03:25:31 AM »
I did a compression test in part to test Pauls theories. We used a collar on the ramrod to raise the amount of compression in1/16" increments. Below is a link to our tests:

http://www.blackpowdermag.com/load-compression-and-accuracy/

Our goal was to see if percussion and flint responded to compression differently as Paul suggested, or if they both responded to compression in similar ways.

Regards,
Pletch
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Offline D. Taylor Sapergia

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2015, 04:35:06 AM »
...ball FIRMLY on the powder is all that is necessary for optimum performance.

Something to note regarding marking your rod or putting a stop on it;  as you continue to fire your rifle, especially on a small bore like a squirrel rifle, the fouling in the breech area/powder chamber, continues to increase little by little, diminishing the area where the new propellant can rest.  This in effect, raises the mark on your rod a little at a time, until by the end of the day, say 60 rounds, your ramrod, though seated the same way as on the first shot, will show its mark above the level of the muzzle, perhaps by as much as 1/4"  It would be a mistake to try to compress the charge just to get the rod down to the mark.

So while not ignoring the mark, use it as a quick reference to show that you are in the vicinity of seating your load.  Providing you're not trying to load through a rough or heavily fowled bore, you'll know when the ball is on the powder.
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Offline JTR

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2015, 07:18:46 PM »
I did a compression test in part to test Pauls theories. We used a collar on the ramrod to raise the amount of compression in1/16" increments. Below is a link to our tests:

Regards,
Pletch

Wow, from Pletch's results it looks like without compression ( at least with a flinter) you're leaving about 1/2 inch of accuracy on the table!

True, one gun, one test, but none the less...

John
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Offline Habu

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2015, 11:31:16 PM »
Something to note regarding marking your rod or putting a stop on it;  as you continue to fire your rifle, especially on a small bore like a squirrel rifle, the fouling in the breech area/powder chamber, continues to increase little by little, diminishing the area where the new propellant can rest.  This in effect, raises the mark on your rod a little at a time, until by the end of the day, say 60 rounds, your ramrod, though seated the same way as on the first shot, will show its mark above the level of the muzzle, perhaps by as much as 1/4"  It would be a mistake to try to compress the charge just to get the rod down to the mark.
Not disagreeing with what Taylor has written here, in the past I've seen extended shooting result in the powder column being stretched out just as he describes.   

However, in some testing over the past year, I seemed to be seeing the breech fouling reach a "steady state", where the fouling did not seem to increase in volume with further shooting.   This was in a .52 cal rifle; has anyone noted something similar in smaller bores?

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2015, 11:37:51 PM »
I wonder if this fouling ring at the breech end of the barrel can be more or less pronounced by what components, powder,patch,lube, powder brand and granulation a person uses.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Is it correct to avoid ramming the ball down too much on a flintlock?
« Reply #24 on: April 09, 2015, 11:44:32 PM »
I wonder if this fouling ring at the breech end of the barrel can be more or less pronounced by what components, powder,patch,lube, powder brand and granulation a person uses.

Exactly!

Mad Monk