Chief-Factor - Staff Writer


The North American Frontiersmen


Smoke Signals

Nov./Dec. '09




By: Howdy Davis

Next time you feel like going to the range take along that black powder shotgun. These are a few hints to help get you on track. All of this refers to a 12 gauge.

Problems to be aware of:: Wind and water. High humidity can cause mis-fires, heavy hammer fall / long lock lag time, or pan flash. Spend time with the gun to correct these problems. If you are shooting a cap or a flint gun the procedure is the same as far as setting up to shoot..

PRIMING: Fill the pan with 4 f. You can use 3 F in a pinch, but if you do, work the grains down into the touch hole with your vent pick for added "insurance." Level the pan - don't stack powder up against hole. To avoid having the barrels crud up you could use small amounts of cornmeal on top of your powder charge when loading: it will help to clean the barrels and give you more shots between cleanings.

Before shooting wipe the barrels to remove oil and moisture.

Safety:: Always place ram rod in the barrel not being loaded so you don't double load. Mark the ram rod when you have a barrel loaded. I do mine by scoring a ring around the ram rod. This will give you a constant load and is an aid in making sure you donít have a double load.

Full choke is demanding and rough to shoot. A gun with an improved cylinder is a forgiving friend.

Light loads dispense shot rapidly. Heavier charges hold pellets together for longer shots. Too strong a charge can litterly shoot holes through a pattern. The target should be a 4x4 sheet of cardboard and shot at 25 yards. I like to make my targets 4 ply. When I get my pattern to penetrate at 25 yards. I then move it out to 40 yards. At both these distances I will count the number of holes to see if this load is worth while.

Lead shot for upland game, steel or bismuth shot required for waterfowl. Steel shot is a must for waterfowl and may require a larger charge for greater distance and velocity. (Like 100 grains ).

Wads over powder and one over shot produces a better pattern with # 5 shot than it did with the smaller # 9 shot at a range of 25 yards. Use the equivalent of 70 grains of 2 Fg to one ounce of shot as a kind of rule of thumb. Tuck away this thought: larger shot size in your load compromises the number of pellets to hit the target.




For longer distance (as when shooting pheasants ) the number in shot size goes up. Switch from skeet to trap loads or go to 7 1/2 and also use the tighter choke.

Use a # 9 size pellet for a maximum. pattern density. As part of the equasion this is the smallest, readily available shot size. Number 9's will be 0.08 inches in diameter and the weight is 0.8 grains. There are 579 pellets per ounce. At 1200 FPS muzzle velocity each pellet will have 2.4 ft. lbs at the muzzle and 1.1 ft. lbs., at 20 yards. A good goal to work towards. At 20 yards. any pellet from 9 on up would supply sufficient energy to knock down a bird.

Most shotguns donít perform well with over # 6 shot. Regular Pyrodex does not perform well in shotguns.

FFg, Pyrodex RS, CTG granulations all worked well and produced a nice pattern, Fg did not have quite the velocity.

Powder and shot variations: Never use 3fg nor more powder than recommended.

Test your gun: Try 12 gauge - shotgun load is 90 grains of FFg behind 1 1/4 oz. of shot. Try 80 grain and. use a pattern board and see what happens.

When buying shot ask about hardness - it will vary from very soft to extremely hard. Magnum lead shot from Ballistic Products is sold as " extra hard" It has high antimony content for dense patterns. Bismuth steel shot offers more density than straight steel, this is important ( steel & B 1 will damage the older black powder shotguns). Another point is that steel pellets lose velocity very quickly. If youíre in a situation were you must use steel be sure and do a bit of testing at a range.

Sight in: You have to consider the center of pattern versus point of aim plus density and consistency of pattern at the shooting distance desired. Count the number of pellets in the target at the distance you wish to reach. One pellet in the head should do the trick but you should try for more!

General notes:12 Gauge: Use 2Fg powder and clean shot. Use wads of fiber felt. For most applications use the same shot as you would use for small game; 7 1/2 or 6. Be sure and use # 5 for turkey. Put a shot card on top of the shot - they are made from felt and cardboard. A reminder that most wads are used for shotgun cartridge shells and are liable to be slightly loose in open barrel shotguns. You might want to check with Dixie for exact sizes

Patterning Shotgun: Again, use a 4X4 ft. pattern Target. Example: draw a 30" circle and place the target out at 40 yds. A full choke should put 70% of the pellets into the 30" circle. Example = A 1 oz. # 6 shot contains 225 pellets. 70 % should place almost 180 pellets in the 30" circle. Modified choke will drop to 50%, and an improved choke 40%.

Woodcock or Grouse = 60 grs. of 2 Fg. plus one ounce of # 8 shot.

Pheasant = 70 grs. of 2 Fg and one ounce of # 6 shot.

Turkey = 100 grs. of 2 Fg and one ounce of # 5 shot.

Wads = 0x Yoke wonder wads = 12 gage.

I hope this will help you on your Shotgun Journey. I will be back with more with blackpowder shooting.





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