Chief Factor - Staff Writer







































































Taking the time to do it right.

This article continues to deal with target shooting, beginning with the loading procedure for patched round ball.

First, pour an appropriate amount of powder from your container (powder horn, etc.) into the measurer. Start with a volume of powder that is ten grains less than the caliber of gun you are going to load. Close the container, then pour the powder down the barrel Place a dry, pre-cut, patch, lubed with spit, centered over the muzzle. Place a ball centered over the patch. Start the ball into the muzzle with the short side of a short-starter. Then, using the ramrod, push the patched ball down until it seats firmly on top of the powder. It's best to use a ramrod that is six inches longer than your barrel. At this point the load is firmly seated. After you determine which load you will be using most often, take your pocket knife and score a very shallow ring around the ram rod right at the top of the barrel. This way you will always be able to tell when your gun is loaded (some folks even have a ring for two or three favorite loads). It's also wise to have in your bench box an oak block of wood that fits the palm of your hand with a hole drilled half way through to help you seat your ball with good force.

Firing procedure:

Make sure the backstop is adequate to stop the ball and that area is clear. Set the trigger if applicable, pull the cock or hammer to rear to engage full cock notch, prime the pan for a flint or place a cap on the nipple for a percussion lock.

Mis-fire causes:

Dull flint, flint alignment; bad cap; caps stuck in hammer pocket; cap not firmly seated on nipple; dry ball or ball and powder not in proper sequence; damp powder.

Tools and methods:

Napping hammer to sharpen dull flints,; nipple wrench to remove nipple to "prime" behind ball to get rid of a dry ball; ball puller if all else fails or if you consider a bad load too dangerous to shoot out ( reason is charge amount unknown or charge has been in the firearm for an unknown time); 4 F dispenser to put powder into flash channel.


One twist means one 360 degree revolution. Thereís a lot of arguments about whether to have a fast twist or a slow one. The twist will affect results when finding the "group." A fast twist is considered one 360 degree turn in 48" of barrel length. A single 360 degree turn in less length ( 1 in 32" or 1 in 20" ) would still be considered a fast twist. A slow twist is considered one 360 degree turn in more than 48" of length. One 360 degree turn in longer lengths like one inch in 54," 1 in 66", or 1 in 70" are all considered slow twists. No single twist is applicable for all calibers. Conical balls often shoot better out of a faster twist barrel than will a round ball. A round ball will usually shoot better out of a slow twist than a conical will.


The faster the twist the more spin to the projectile and the higher the velocity the more spin to the projectile, High velocity plus a fast twist equals a chance of possibly stripping the lands. Pistols have a very fast twist ( 1 in 20" ) But the charge is comparatively small so velocity is low. The aerodynamics of a round ball gives it a low ballistic coefficient ( 490 = .056 / 530 = .061 /535 = .062 ) A round ball doesnít require a lot of spin to stabilize.

Relationship of velocity and mass;

Means that the charge (amount of powder) determines velocity of a given weight. The greater the charge, the higher the velocity, the greater the charge, the more recoil. Therefore a large charge in a light rifle will result in a very uncomfortable recoil.

Getting the right load:

Start with the granulation and volume previously suggested. Don't overdo the amountó start small ( remember - powder first ) patch and ball combination, which is the most important aspect of the load. Use your patch and lube of choice. It is okay to load the patch and ball using the ramrod only. Again, as in an earlier article, the kind of lube is up to you but I suggest one of these: Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion (yellow botttle ) Thompson Center # 13, Hoppes # 9, or Moose Milk ( 3 oz each, water soluble cutting oil and Murphy's Oil soap in 32 oz container, balance is water). Your choice of lube will have an affect on the frequency of cleaning and accuracy. Solvent based lubes can burn and that is really not good.


Load powder and follow with lubed patch and ball. Seat the patch and ball firmly on the powder with the ram rod, (six inch grip on rod) and fire at the target. With each successive shot, increase the patch thickness until a short starter is needed to start the ball into the muzzle and then back-off to the previous thickness so you can use the ramrod only.

Bench Work:

To finding the group rig a solid rest to hold the firearm. For a target a black cross on a white background is best.

At 25 yards aim at the cross point each time a shot is made. Shoot three to five shots.

Strikes only need to be on the paper at this time. An accurate group has all strikes in the same hole. Increase the charge five grains with each session. When the group spreads, back off to the previous charge. The one in 48 twist will have only one charge that will result in the best group; the slower twist may have a greater charge spread so that only the elevation will change. Thatís why you are shooting off a bench at this time.

Sighting in:

Trajectory is an arc in relation to line of sight. Different charges will affect trajectory meaning that one charge will be the most accurate ( my opinion).


When the group is acceptable adjust windage to hit the vertical line, then if you are satisfied move the target stand to 75 and then 100 yards and fine tune for windage.


There are two distances from the muzzle that will be center or zero. All other distances will be either high or low from center depending on whether they are closer or farther from the muzzle. A six o'clock hold on a one inch circle at 25 yards is the preferred sight picture for target shooting. Only practice will help you determine the actual required elevation.


Some sights are adjustable for both windage and elevation while others are called "fixed open sights." Some contests in our sport do not allow adjustable sights or they may be allowed if taped down. Fixed open sights do not allow for "on the spot " sight adjustment.

This information should help you to get your lady or a youngster on target enough to start competing. I thank the Colorado State Muzzle Loading Association for their help on this.

Now, go burn some powder!

Howdy Davis


Page 9

updated  05/10/2010


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