Powder Accuracy ?
Hi can any one shed some light on this ?
Is it more accurate to weigh your powder, or measure by volume ?
Answers with explanations would be useful
I've measured out 777 by volume and found a difference in weight ?
I also haven't been shooting long enough to know if accuracy has changed between the two methods
Looking forward to your thoughts
Pete & Jane
All substances - note use of the term - used as propellants with a small p - like Black Powder, are designed to fill a container of a certain capacity. As such, they are measured by volume. However, the volume of 'stuff' also has a weight, which is measured in grains avd. So a case of a certain size, when it also holds the bullet, actually contains a measure of powder that measures, fer'instance, 70gr.
Soooooooo, what I have been doing for many years, is to initially weigh a BP charge on a good set of scales of one kind or another - your choice - pour into a powder measure, and then adjust it so that the charge is level with the top. That results in the volume of powder that you require, and also provides a repeatable weight by volume, of that particular grade of BP. I use the word stuff since BP is NOT a propellant, but a Class 1 explosive, unlike the numerous BP substitutes, that are classed as propellants.
In addition to requiring more application of contact heat to ignite them, hotter caps is the usual way, these substitutes also physically weigh LESS than an equal volume of BP, which is why you must reduce the amount that you use by the figures given in the manufacturers' data book.
Approximately 10% for any of the grades of Pyrodex, and 15% for Triple 7 and Cleanshot. So a 30gr load of BP in your revolver will occupy the same space when you use Pyrodex P, but it will only weigh 26-27gr. That same load in Triple 7 will only weigh 25gr, or thereabouts.
The substitutes are also more efficient in the production of propellant gases, or 'vigorous' in physical terms, so that they will produce a higher velocity than an equal weight of BP. I've chronographed my BP loads of round ball in my Ruger Old Army, and the load I settled on about 25 years ago that works well for me is 26gr of Pyrodex P - that gives me around 885fps. The same VOLUME load of FFFg BP gives me around 795fps.
Hope that helps.
Thanks for your reply, it sort of helps, I also have a ROA
Would it not be more accurate to weigh each load?
Surly this will take out variables when measuring by volume, like different particle size, settling of the powder, and relying on your eye to see when the vessel your using is full
It would be a ball ache to do this at the range, but you could do this in advance at home using little vials.
Does anyone use this method? Or would you just not notice any difference in accuracy ?
Pete & Jane
Nearly everybody uses this method, as the loading of BP or anything else directly into the chamber of a revolver or barrel of a single shot handgun or loose-loading rifle or any other kind of loose-loading firearm is not permitted on a range for safety reasons. In international competition it is actually prohibited, and will lead to instant removal from the firing line. Like others do, I load up my vials beforehand, and then, if they are all used up, as they were this morning at our guest day, I refill them from the spout on the flask - but NOT straight into the gun.
Originally Posted by Pete & Jane
I also make up cartridges, using Rizla cigarette papers and a cartridge-making device - each one contains the powder and a ball and just drops into the chamber and them gets rammed in by the loading lever.
OK, here is the skinny from somebody who knows ALL about shooting BP guns - apologies for the length, but at least I didn't have to write it or do the research - my grateful thanks the Greg Nelson of the Percussion Revolver Yahoo Group over the Great Water -
Gunpowder Grades and Percussion Revolver Performance -
The Percussion Revolver Yahoo Group
For those interested in useful information over historical details, I will get straight to the point. Gunpowder grades have enormous impact on percussion revolver performance. For example, 30 grains of GOEX FFg under an Army Revolver's 0.454" round ball will have lower velocity than 30 grains of GOEX FFFg; 30 grains of GOEX FFFg will have lower velocity than the 30 Grains of FFFg Swiss Black Powder. The difference in Swiss and GOEX is that Swiss is a Sporting Grade black powder, while GOEX is a Rifle Grade black powder. The lowest grade of black powder performance is Musket Grade, (also called Government Powder). Rifle Grade black powder has a faster combustion than Musket Grade, and Sporting grade has a faster combustion rate than Rifle Grade black powder.
There was a special grade of Sporting black powder that disappeared in the mid-1870's, and it is critical to our knowledge of the true capability of percussion revolvers. It was called "Revolver Powder" in the 1850 to 1875 era, and its formulation was for the percussion revolver's unique combustion characteristics.
Percussion revolvers are capable of excellent ballistic power, IF used with black powders and substitutes that can perform at the level of a 19th Century "Revolver Powder". My testing shows that Hodgdon 777 FFFg performs close to the level of a 19th Century "Revolver Powder". That is the "Three F-G" 777, not the "Two F-G" 777. The Hodgdon 777 brochure recommends using 777 FFg in cartridges, and does not list 777 FFFg as a powder for cartridge use, so the Hodgdon 777 FFFg formulation is clearly very potent.
In recent tests of an Uberti Remington Army percussion revolver, only 23 grains of a Swiss Black Powder roughly equivalent to "Revolver Powder" launched a 216-grain conical bullet at 940 fps. That performance approaches the power level of a 45 ACP +P load. The 23-grain charge was chosen because it was common in original combustible cartridges using bullets in the 210-grain range. The Swiss "Revolver Powder" equivalent actually outperforms Hodgdon 777 FFFg by a small margin.
The recent Remington tests, using Swiss Black Powder and 777 FFFg, demonstrated high conical velocities with relatively small powder charges. It seems very likely, that when properly loaded, the Army .44 revolvers could probably kill a grizzly with one or two properly placed shots, as reported by eyewitness Captain Randolph Marcy in his book THE PRAIRIE TRAVELER published in 1859.
There is the useful information. What follows are the historical detail:-
When I first began shooting percussion revolvers back in 1972, the only black powders available were DuPont and Curtis & Harvey. Pyrodex production was still several years in the future. The 1970's Gun Press reported that Curtis & Harvey was fairly consistent but DuPont outperformed it charge-for-charge.
My first percussion revolver was a Ruger Old Army. I quickly acquired a Lee 2-cavity mould # 456-220-1R, casting a 220-grain round-nose conical. I cast my first batch of conicals and eagerly began testing them for accuracy and power.
I soon discovered that Curtis & Harvey FFFg was lacking in performance. With a 30-grain charge the 220-grain, Lee conical would barely penetrate two 2X4's. A 45 ACP 230 grain FMJ from a Colt 1911 Government Model would easily penetrate three 2X4's. I was very disappointed in the Ruger's performance. At the time, I assumed that percussion revolvers were very underpowered compared to modern ammunition.
In 1975, I bought the LYMAN BLACK POWDER HANDBOOK. The ballistics data listed in LBPHB for the Ruger Old Army and the .44 Army revolvers revealed very anemic performance. GOEX and Curtis & Harvey 33 grain charges of FFFg gave velocities of only 780 fps and 709 fps respectively, to a lightweight 190-grain conical bullet. The .44 Army revolvers were a bit better. Using a lightweight conical of only 155 grains, a 28-grain charge of FFFg, gave 861 fps with GOEX, and 785 fps with Curtis and Harvey, as listed on page 77 of LBPHB.
Eyewitness reports from the Western Frontier and the American Civil War clearly indicated that the percussion revolvers were accurate, deadly and powerful handguns, capable of easily killing large animals such as horses and grizzlies. In his classic book SIXGUNS, Elmer Keith wrote of percussion sixguns killing grizzly bears and buffalo, and talked impressively of the accuracy and good stopping power of the Colt Navy revolvers at close range with the pure lead round ball over a full powder charge.
Based on my mid-1970's percussion revolver tests, and the tests of Lyman and the articles of numerous gun writers of the 1970's, it was hard to believe the actual historical reports of percussion revolver performance. The amazing stories I had read from history, the stories of buffalo killed, and of cavalry horses dropped with the percussion sixgun, were all apparently simply tall tales, and did not seem possible. Either the eyewitness reports from the past were lies, or we were doing something wrong in our loading of these 19th Century weapons in the late 20th Century.
It turns out that we were doing something wrong. First, we were loading black powder inferior in grade-for-grade performance to the excellent black powders available in the middle of the 19th Century. In addition, we were also missing a special high-performance grade of black powder available in the 19th century called "Revolver Powder", and also known by the names of "Cartridge Powder" or "Number One Pistol Powder". "Revolver Powder" formulation was for the unique combustion requirements of the percussion revolver, particularly in combustible cartridge use.
American Powder, Hazard Powder, Laflin & Rand, and other American gunpowder producers of that era produced "Revolver Powder". Such "Revolver Powders" were originally available from roughly 1850 to 1875. From the mid-1870's onward, black powder formulations were for metallic cartridge use, so the production of "Revolver Powder" apparently tailed off or ended at around that time.
The information concerning "Revolver Powder" revealed itself as I was researching the ammunition actually used in the active percussion revolver era of roughly 1847 to 1875 I will detail this research in later articles for those of you interested in the actual details concerning "Revolver Powder" and the manufacture of that black powder grade. Listed at this article's end are several references, for those interested in further details.
In the article immediately to follow, I will be testing Uberti's new 2007 production of the Remington New Model Army, and the tests will include a Swiss black powder that is very close to 19th Century "Revolver Powder, and actually outperforms the Hodgdon 777 FFFg recommended earlier, using identical powder charges measured volumetrically.
In the article to follow the Uberti Remington test, I will compare modern black powders and substitutes to 19th Century gunpowder. That article will clearly demonstrate what revolver-grade black powder is, and explain why. That article will also go somewhat against modern thinking and "Expert Advice" concerning the loading of percussion revolvers. However, the written and pictorial evidence from the 19th century concerning revolver-grade black powder clearly demonstrates what it is, regardless of the thinking of the "Experts" of today.
(ABHBP)A BRIEF HISTORY OF BLACK POWDER PRODUCTION
William Knight (2003) Short paper on technical description of gunpowder grades, available at "thunder-ridge-muzzleloading.com"; at home page bottom, click on "All you'd probably want to know about black powder"
(AMCA) AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS of COMBUSTIBLE AMMUNITION
Terry A. White (2002) [Pgs 75-108]
(CCF)COLT Company Flyer, dated "January 1, 1858"; [Ray Riling research reprint]
HODGDON 777 (2002); Hodgdon company brochure
[Loading Notes: Cartridges]
(LBPHB) LYMAN BLACK POWDER HANDBOOK
C. Kenneth Ramage, editor (1975)[Pgs 70-81]
(PAP) PERCUSSION AMMUNITION PACKETS 1845-1888
John J Malloy; Dean S. Thomas; Terry A. White (2003)[Chap 1,3,4; Apdx C]
(RBRF) ROUND BALL to RIMFIRE, Part 3 (Federal Pistols & Revolvers)
Dean S. Thomas (2003) [Chapters 1 through 4]
Elmer Keith (1961) [Chaps 1 & 10]
(TG) THE GUN
W. W. Greener (1974 Bonanza reprint of original 1910 edition)
[Chap 22; black powder granulation picture on pg 552 very enlightening]
(TPT) THE PRAIRIE TRAVELER
Captain Randolph B. Marcy (Reprint of the 1859 Edition)
thanks tac it should make some interesting reading
Originally Posted by tacfoley
I'd be interested to learn more about this Rizla cartridge making device please? I'm intrigued!
It's a tapered mandrel made out of any hard material - usuall lignum vitae or hard nylon or similar - that material does'nt matter a hoot. You use it form the shape of the cigarette paper by wrapping it aound the mandrel, glue it, fill it with the powder charge and enclose the end over the ball. Loading, you just push the whole shebang into the chamber and use the loading lever to push the ball in as usual. The paper, being nitrated, takes the flame of the percussion cap very well and it all goes bang like usual.
Originally Posted by Buckle
The mandrel/former was made by one of our members to look 'zackly like the original item - a spiffy turned knob at the end holds a nipple pricker, too.
Orange papers work best, BTW. The thinner the better.
Hope that ehlps.
Originally Posted by tacfoley
Thanks for that Tac. Now I have some dumb questions, but on the pretence that I'll be a fool forever if I don't ask them here goes!
So there's no wad then? You form the cartridge, add the propellent (pyrodex P for me at the mo'), put a ball on top, twist the end, load and fire?
Most of the guys who shoot BP revolvers at my club smear some lard like substance (preferences vary) over the front of their cylinders before firing - is this necessary with paper cartridges? (This isn't something I subscribed to as preferred to use lubed wads).
And lastly - is there any chance of a photograph so I could shamelessly reverse engineer one!!
Any help gratefully accepted!!
Wad? What for? To make Ox-Yoke rich? Never used a wad, just like the old-timers never used a wad either. But I DO use an over-ball gloop when I'm not shooting cartridges. Since 1977, when we moved to Germany, I've used stuff called E45 [here]. It is an emulsified non-greasy hand/skin cream - being an emulsion it just washes away when you clean your gun and takes all the crud with it.
With cartridges I don't use anything, just like the original shooters didn't either.
Thanks for the replay Tac - a trip to the tobacconist is in order then!
E45 comes from Boots, not a tobacco store.
Originally Posted by Buckle
email/PM me and I'll send you the pics I took last night.
you can get E45 type products in places like Poundland
@Buckle - read your email.