Author Topic: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners - thoughts added 1/1/2022  (Read 1865 times)

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
I see regularly folks asking for what size ball and patch they need.  The main thing is understanding the concept, then doing a tiny bit o' math.  I was taught muzzleloading by an engineer who also shoots successfully at Friendship each year.  I am simply sharing here what was taught to me through his practice and analysis.  Beats guessing and hoping. 

First, check your bore size.  For simplicity, I am going to use a .50 caliber as an example. 

Bore  =  .500 inch
Grooves  =  0.012 (for example)
Bore + one groove each side  =  .500" + 0.012" + 0.012"  equals  .524" total to "fill" with patch and ball. 

This is the absolute minimum to seal that bore and groove combination.  If the bore is not sealed, you'll get blowby, patch flame cutting, and velocity variations.  Velocity variations do nothing to help accuracy. 

Take .524" from the above math, and subtract a .490" roundball size for example.  Therefore, .524" - .490" = 0.034". You need to fill that .034" with patching on each side wrapped around the ball.  That leaves a minimum of 0.017" patching material needed to seal the bore. 

My personal preference is to have a patch thicker than the minimum, that gives some fabric compression as it goes down the bore. This way the patching is driven down into all parts of the grooves improving the seal.   The better the seal, the better the consistency and reasonably the better the accuracy. 

I use The Minute-Men untreated 100% cotton canvas for my patching.  It is extremely tightly woven, and you cannot see any sunlight through it holding a fire patch to the sun after firing.  Great material.  Not inexpensive, but it is worth the money you pay.  Cloth at JoAnn Fabric is certainly not cheap these days either.  I have added the M-M contact info below (calling in evenings works best).  I never use pre-lubed patching from companies because in my experience the lube breaks down the cloth integrity, resulting in burned & blown patches and bad accuracy.

Always try to recover your fire patches, and check for burn-through holes, blown-apart cloth, and scorching.  Studying your patches is like plugging your car into an OBD II scanner.  Diagnostic information results.   

I have worked with a deeply grooved bore (like .016" or deeper), did not like it and never came to a successful resolution as to sealing that bore.  If you get a ball big enough to shove a fat patch down into a deep groove, it is rough to start and load.  I never did work it out to my satisfaction, and do not work with that barrel any more. 

I am sure someone will jump in here saying they shoot a .490" ball in a .50 with a .006" thick prelubed patches and it shoots great. Folks' definitions of "shoots great" vary wildly.  I like to see shots touching at 50 yards in a group if my eyesight does its job.  I cannot always do that for sure (I bet Daryl and Taylor can), but it is my personal goal.  Some folks figure if they can hit a paper plate at 50 yards, it is good enough for deer hunting and therefore "shoots great".  Overall, the better the sealing and fit of the ball & patch, the greater the potential for good groups and accuracy.

A compromise that was shared with me for a hunting load is to load the first shot patched tightly with mink oil lube (so it doesn't foul the charge or hurt the bore), and have your backup patches thinner for fast, easy loading with a wood under-barrel ramrod for the second shot.  The chances you need gilt-edge accuracy for that fast loaded follow-up shot is greatly reduced compared to that all-important first shot. 

Also, test your loads at 50 and 100 yards.  25 yards is okay to see if you are on the paper, but a small group at 25 yards means little.  Even a smooth bore can shoot small groups at 25 yards.  50 yards is a good test to see if your loads really have potential.  The same with 100 yards, but eyesight can come in to play at 100 yards for my eyes. 

I use homemade "cheater" targets made of poster paper to help me see and minimize error due to my aging eyes.  See below.  The point of the triangle sits on top of the front sight, therefore the group should be at the point.  The outlying shot was the first out of the clean barrel as I was developing loads, but that could have been my fault aiming or running the trigger too. 

Just some thoughts here with the intent that it might help someone starting out.  God Bless,   Marc





« Last Edit: January 01, 2022, 06:55:20 PM by Marcruger »

Offline rich pierce

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 16560
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2021, 01:35:49 AM »
Informative. Thumbs up.
Andover, Vermont

Offline Tim Crosby

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 15527
  • AKA TimBuckII
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2021, 02:23:23 PM »
 That is the best how and why on developing a load I've seen.

    Tim

Offline old george

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 570
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2021, 07:44:41 PM »
Thanks for a simple yet informative description on load building.

george
I cannot go to Hades: Satan has a restraining order against me. :)

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2021, 08:27:35 PM »
I am glad that this appears helpful.

One additional thing I would add - pillow ticking is a traditional patching material.  A lot of folks seem to gravitate to that because of this historical aspect.  My experience is that today's pillow ticking is far inferior to pillow ticking of 200 years ago.  The modern ticking I have seen if often inadequately dense in its weave.  You can see light through it.  That is why I noted canvas, which is often very densely woven and tough.  Tough is very good in patching material. 

Also, make dead sure that your patching is 100% cotton.  Polyesters and such are basically plastic, and getting molten plastic out of your muzzleloader bore is nothing to take lightly. 

God Bless,   Marc

Offline MuskratMike

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1640
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2021, 12:36:32 AM »
Marc: I agree with everything you just posted. I hope the many "new" shooters I see here take the time to really read this post. Thank you for posting it.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
Keep your eyes on the skyline, your flint sharp and powder dry.

Offline Daryl

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12109
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2021, 01:51:08 AM »
Good stuff Marc.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline AZshot

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 369
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2021, 02:44:22 AM »
I appreciate this, and need to buy some more balls.  The patches that allow a loading with my current ones are burning through somewhat.  But I have 2 boxes of balls and hate to put them aside.  I know I used some thicker patches one load, and it was so tight I about got the load stuck halfway down.  That scared me, and I've been living with some burn through.  The patches I use are made for muzzleloading, ostensibly pillow ticking.  They load fairly easy for 5-6 loads, then I wipe the bore. 

But my main problem has always been trying to measure a bore with calipers (been shooting muzzleloaders since the 70s, but had a long break) down to the thousandths.   It just doesn't seem precise, trying to measure groves that sometimes aren't opposite of each other, and getting the lands is even more difficult.   So I do the "try it and see how tight" method.  Then see if it's burning through.  That's what I've always done anyway. 

With my calipers and old eyes, I am getting .484 groove to groove.  Getting .446 lands (bore).  If I measured right.  So .019 groove depth, I guess.   Doing your math I would need a .022 patch, but I've been using a .013 patch.  However, it's tight already, Not sure if I could fit a .022 down the bore, but I'll try. 

The patch material has to compress to .003 with my above.  That's 6 times the nominal patch thickness.  Is that doable?  What I was going to do was get smaller balls, and thicker patches.  It seems I'm at the bitter end of how much you can compress cotton...maybe going to the next smaller ball and recalculating will give me an easy to load, but bore-sealing setup. Does anyone make a .436 ball?  .440 seems the norm.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2021, 03:53:42 AM by AZshot »

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2021, 09:03:46 PM »
Hello AZshot.

I hear you.  That is what I ran into with that one barrel I described.  It had deep grooves (around 0.016") and I could never find a combination where I could use a fat enough ball to push the thick-enough cloth patching down to the bottom of the groove.....and still get the combo down the bore.   I would try a smaller ball and thicker patching and see if that helps.  Are you using a range rod or a wooden ramrod?  For developing a tight load that will seal that bore, I'd lean on a range rod.  Also, make sure your crown is smoothly radiused like Daryl demonstrates.  That helps ease a tighter load into the muzzle.  Try some slippery wet lube too, like Mr Flintlock or Hoppes Black Powder formula. 

That is why I personally do not care for deep grooves.  A lot of .0.012 or shallower grooves have won a ton of matches.  Other than the deep grooves looking "cool" I do not see the point. 

I forgot to mention above to always wash your patching cloth thoroughly to get rid of the sizing that is in the cloth before use. 

I have sketched up here a section of barrel bore with deep narrow grooves.  You can quickly see how hard it would be to coax a piece of cloth down into the bottom of those grooves.  One rifling type that apparently works well for deep grooves is very narrow lands and wide grooves. 

I prefer shallow square bottomed rifling as it is much easier to find a good load combination in my experience.  I have shot a couple of shallow-grooved round-bottom Colerains that shoot like a house afire though.  I think it is the depth more than the groove type that causes troubles.  I have not found either round bottom or square bottom bores to be easier to clean up.  Both about the same. 

I am no expert on shooting these guns, but try to pay attention when I hear the "why" behind a gun and shooter that get great results.  I've stored away those good pieces of information, and also learned from my mistakes what not to do. 

Again, I hope this material helps folks.  God Bless,   Marc



Offline hanshi

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5069
  • My passion is longrifles!
    • martialartsusa.com
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2021, 12:31:21 AM »
Marc, I started working up loads by using the exact math procedure you posted quite a few years ago.  It does work with most barrels as you mention.  Three barrels I shoot are radius groove .016" deep and three that are square cut .012", or there about.  The unbleached canvas I use measures about .023" to .024" compressed; denim is similar in thickness.  This means the rb .50 gets roughly .014" groove compression, if my numbers are correct.  But I also use the same loads in the .45 square cut .012" barrels for .022" compression; again assuming my arithmetic is correct.  The fired patches are normally reusable.  For some reason both denim and the thinner canvas duck are a little stiffer to seat with the wood rod. 

One .45 barrel is also radius cut like the .50 and loads very easily.  At the range I lube with Hoppes BP Lube mainly and TOW mink oil from time to time.  In the woods it's mink oil exclusively.  I virtually always load with the wood ramrod because I have no use for any load that's difficult to seat with the underbarrel rod.  In the bush only the wood rod is available to use.  Due to ra I no longer have much hand strength and can't manage tough-to-seat loads. 

Great post, by the way.
!Jozai Senjo! "always present on the battlefield"
Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.

Offline oncewas

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2021, 10:01:11 AM »
I tried to look up TheMinute-men.com and get some idea of pricing but I couldn't find them on line. Do they no longer have an online store? Are they phone orders only? I would like to check them out but can't at present. Thanks

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2021, 08:34:41 PM »
I do not think the website is up any more.  Ron usually answers the phone if I call after work hours. 

Think of how Tip Curtis used to work. Call him and tell him what you need. 

He carries untreated and Teflon treated patching in various thicknesses.  I find that Ron's stated thicknesses are correct when checked with a caliper.  Once washed well, the cloth thickness increases a little.  For example the .015 untreated cotton canvas will fluff up to .017 when washed twice and dried. 

I buy the untreated cotton canvas, and find it to be incredibly tough and densely woven cloth.  I have bought several yards ahead.  I am afraid of the day he retires and I cannot buy it any more. 

I am thankful my target shooting friend David put me onto The Minute-Men patching early on.  I have compared many other types of patching against it over the years, but none are anywhere close to as good.  I have a whole bag of lesser patching materials that don't get used. 

I hope this helps.   God Bless,   Marc

Offline Darkhorse

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1544
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2021, 09:43:57 PM »
Another possible source for good patching material is Eastern Maine shooting supplies  https://www.emshootingsupplies.com/#/
I was looking for patching material of a tighter weave with more integrity than what I was able to obtain. I remembered this company and decided to check them out. I ordered a bulk order of .015 pillow ticking material. When it came in there no stripes like regular pillow ticking but it did have a much tighter weave. I have shot this extensively in both the .40 and .54 with great results on target, plus it loads much easier than my older .0185 ticking. I do have a few yards remaining from an old purchase of pillow ticking, this is the good stuff. My first load when hunting is this old ticking. Subsequent loads are with the easternmaine .015
The reason I say "possible" is I haven't used enough to know whether or not a new order will be the same quality as what I'm now using. I recently received an order of cleaning patches and a few jags, and some new patch lube to try. It seems good but I've yet to actually use it.
American horses of Arabian descent.

Offline Daryl

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12109
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2021, 02:54:39 AM »
If you live in the States, look no further than Joane's Fabrics.  8 ounce, 10 ounce , 11 ounce and 12 ounce Denim should cover all needs
for patching material.

Denim is a very strong (locked-stitch-type) weave.
I measure 8 ounce at .018" to .019" compressed.
I measure 10 ounce at .021"
I've never been able to get 11 ounce here in PG, but Joanne's lists it.
I measure 12 ounce as .025" with a mic and .030" with calipers.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline RMann

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 78
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2021, 07:12:30 PM »
Thanks Marc, you provide such good, practical details for us beginners, and first rate sources!  I sometimes visit that part of Ohio's Amish country, and will make an effort to visit Ron at the Minute Man. I'm always looking for the small specialty shops over the big chains, if possible.  But Daryl's additional advice is helpful too.  I sure learn from y'alls trial and error, and taking the care to pass on your findings.   R Mann

Offline Hutch

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 164
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2021, 03:51:10 AM »
That is some great info!! I love the why and not just "this is the right way, do what I say".  One question, it may have been asked above, I'm stuck on a cut fiber job and glancing through really fast, how does one go about accurately measuring the grooves?

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2021, 04:59:51 PM »
I generally go with what the manufacturer says is the groove depth.  Of course, they could be off a little in their cutting of any particular barrel groove.  The intent is to get in the right range of patching thickness, and then read the recovered, fired patches to see if you are indeed sealing.  On the opposite hand, if your patching is too thick and the grooves too shallow, you'll know by struggling to load.  I hope this helps.   

"I love the why....."  Me too Hutch.  That is the engineer training in me.  I started from what another engineer and shooter taught me, and only changed one thing at a time, and that only if I found something that worked better. 

God Bless,   Marc

Offline Nessmuck

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 421
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2021, 03:57:53 AM »
I generally go with what the manufacturer says is the groove depth.  Of course, they could be off a little in their cutting of any particular barrel groove.  The intent is to get in the right range of patching thickness, and then read the recovered, fired patches to see if you are indeed sealing.  On the opposite hand, if your patching is too thick and the grooves too shallow, you'll know by struggling to load.  I hope this helps.   

"I love the why....."  Me too Hutch.  That is the engineer training in me.  I started from what another engineer and shooter taught me, and only changed one thing at a time, and that only if I found something that worked better. 

God Bless,   Marc



Just like drag racing….change one thing at a time..then make a pass.  Thanks for the patching material guy…Gonnah get some.

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners - Lube thoughts added
« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2022, 06:54:42 PM »
I am resurrecting this post from six months ago, in light of all of the patching and lubing questions that are regularly popping up. 

In regards to patch material, I keep reiterating to folks that The Minute-Men untreated canvas patching is extremely densely woven, and holds up under the worst conditions.  No, I have no financial interest in the company, but do use the product all the time.  See the photo of the label above.  The email and website don't work, so just call him in the evenings. 

That patching will save many trips to Joann, and in the long run cost you less that buying several different materials to try.  I use the .015 and .018 thicknesses.  Once washed, they are .017 and .020 respectively.  I never get a burn-through or a blown patch, and can hold the patch up to the sun after firing and see no light coming through.  I went to the range with an ALR friend yesterday, and he got to see the patching first-hand.  He is planning to order a yard. 

A friend long ago gave me the gift of knowledge about the patch material, and I am just trying to pay it forward. 

Another thing I'd like to mention is lube.  I see a lot of folks comment on experimenting with all manner of materials as lube.  I ask the question, "What are you going to remove that burned-on lube with once fired?"  If you use water to clean up, will it actually remove baked on wombat grease?  I said that tongue-in-cheek, but the question is very real. 

When loading, I am looking for something slippery to aid a tight combo to go down the bore.  The slipperiest I have found is the Hoppe's Blackpowder Cleaner.  Right behind it is Mr Flintlock.  Both are wet lubes.  I settled on Mr Flintlock, as Bill Knight wisely told me Mr Flintlock is the one cleaner that removes graphite from the bore (LVL too, but it is out of production).  Clearly, Mr Flintlock as a lube does not put something down the bore I cannot clean out with Mr Flintlock. 

If you just want to experiment, that's all good.  If you want to start with something that is proven, go with Mr Flintlock lube on The Minute-Men canvas patching.  It will save a lot of time and effort.  You can use that time for fine tuning. 

Best wishes to all for a much-improved new year 2022.   God Bless,   Marc

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3284
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners - thoughts added 1/1/2022
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2022, 07:00:09 PM »



Offline Daryl

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12109
Re: Patching Thickness and Ball Size For Beginners - thoughts added 1/1/2022
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2022, 12:39:30 AM »
If using material purchased by the yard, ripping a strip, lubing it, placing it over the muzzle, seating a ball flush with the muzzle's crown, then pulling that ball out again and having a look at it,
it should show as Lyman does/did, in their Black Powder Handbook, December 1974.

.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V