View Full Version : To compress or not, tis thee question

07-01-2006, 01:16 PM
New to cartridge black powder...I just got a pedersoli sharps and shaver sights, my second day with this stuff...I got it shooting one hole groups at 50 yards, I Know I should test farther out, But I am just figuring out lube and powder etc...anyway, question is, If only using a drop tube and slight compression under the bullet seating.and groups are this good now should I still try a compression die ?. I know there is probly not a firm answer, just looking for expierenced opinions..Thanks


07-01-2006, 02:21 PM
Goex is usually considered to need compression, Swiss is considered not to need compression. Your rifle will let you know what works for it.

07-01-2006, 04:14 PM
Compression does not hurt Swiss either. A lot of the shooters are using 74 gr's in the 45-70. It all depends on your gun and boolit.
You are wasting time, lead and powder at 50 yd's because you will learn nothing at that close of a range. 200 is the minimum and 500 is better.

07-01-2006, 05:37 PM
Well, I did learn the rounds I made are with in 14 FPS of eachother over my chrono..at 1120 FPS, ....I can hear the powder crunch pretty good at 65 grains of Goex 2F, using a Lee 500 grain bullet, no wad card yet, have to get some...I dont know about 70 grains...unless you guys are doing some serious crunching and compression....THat 1120 probly needs to come up too huh ? to around 1250-1350 ??
any recommendations on wads ? Poly or Veggie ? .060 ?..going to order a compression die and wads tonite..

07-01-2006, 05:52 PM
If you're really serious about black powder cartridge loading and shooting, you ougth to consider a subscription to Black Powder Cartridge News put out by Steve Gerbe with articles written by top shooters in the sport. For instance, in the latest issue there's the third installment of a three part article about compression and whether to or not. Too much information to capsulize here. This issue also has a good article by another shooter that talks to dulplexing with black on black but it also deals some with compression for a baseline to compare the duplexed loads to. Like 44man says, it's highly variable with good results attained from all sorts of combinations. I'm shooting 71 gr of Swiss 1 1/2 with .240" compression in my 45-70 with good results right now, so I'd be one of those who can say it doesn't hurt to compress Swiss.

07-01-2006, 05:54 PM
Thanks, I got a free copy coming for evaluation...still waiting on it.

07-01-2006, 07:57 PM
Technical Information


07-01-2006, 10:00 PM
Go to this url and then to the bottom of the page and download Chuck's guide at the bottom. It is a good introduction.


Jerry Liles

07-01-2006, 10:01 PM
Oops! I forgot to mention choose "Guns and Ammo" from the bar on the left and then go to the bottom of the page.


07-01-2006, 11:01 PM
Going to the plastic .060 wads made a dramatic improvement in accuracy in my Browning BPCR .45-70 load. YMMV.

07-02-2006, 09:02 AM
Man....This new Lee mold is a piece of crap !....I am getting wads , compression die and a Lyman mold...I just measured bullets from 3 different alloy mixes....they all measure .450 + or - 1, then rotate the bullet 90 degrees and get up to .460....I'm not even going to try to replace it...I'm surprised I got the groups i did with this thing..looking at the new lyman postel bullet, with tapered bands...

07-02-2006, 10:20 AM

I'm from Ga too, about 20 miles west of Hotlanta.:mrgreen:

I asked a friend that has had a lot of time in BPCR and got a lot of cryptic answers that didn't tell me anything. So I asked the guy that is building me a custom Flintlock ( Thank You RedFoxy, My Lovely Wife). He's in his 80's and don't have time to BS.

He told me , where legal he used a duplex charge of pistol powder under his Holy Black and reduced the charge of black,too.

Following his lead I used 5.5 gr of Bullseye under 55 gr of 3 F (My gun seems to like it better than 2F) I too am using the Lee 500 gr bullet. I lube and size it in a 450 sizer, that has had ALL of the alox lube removed first !!!!! Sized to .457.
I loaded 40 of these when I went to a shoot the wife and I host in Tx. I knew my 100 meter zero was good. So with some help from a Marine DI (Mortar Man)and a retired Border Patrol agent we got good zeros for 300 and 500 meters. Using some cheaters math I got my rear sight setting for 1000 meters. First shot was low (Forgot to return the rear sight stick to vert.) next 2 hit the creedmore Buff at 1000 meters solidly.

I have read all the old stuff from the buff hunters, and they would cast their bullets at the fire, lube them with tallow and hammer as much BP as they could get into their cases and still get the bullet down in there. I have also read about Pope et al that shot some of the finast BR groups ever with BP guns and other than good equipment and parts we dont have, they didn't go to the Black Magic extremes that new BPCR shooters do.

I still feel that it is a percision sport, but I shoot long range rifle and have since the 50's and the tolerances that some folks go to for this one leave me cold. If the lee bullet is that bad how come it shoot so good? Let your gun tell you what it likes.

Yes, you do need to shoot out further that 50 to tell anything.

My set up: Uberti Hi Wall 45-70, Lead loads only. Lee 500,350 molds Plain base.
Cast 15:1 lead tin. Sized .457 in lyman 450 sizer with spg lube. Cases RP fireformed then neck(Partial full length sized, bulletdepth sized only). Fed standard LR primers. 5.5 gr bullseye ( warning try Unique first, this is a HOT LOAD)
55 gr of GOEX 3F ( use expansion plug set to compress only enough to seet bullet with out pressure) a card wad ( cut from old school paper tablet backing) a felt wad soaked in melted SPG, over that. Seat boolit to clear rifling and shoot.

Since these are target boolits and rifle is a single shot I do not crimp.

It's still a fun sport and as such I intend to have fun with it. Now I'll go to a shoot and tell everyone how hard it is to gett all my boolits at +-.1 grs like the rest do, but you and I will know the truth.[smilie=1:

BTW: I cast HOT and seperate all bullets +-2 gr ( 2 gr out of 500 is better % error that the +-.2 I use in my 172 gr match bullets).

Good Shooting,

TwoTrees and RedFoxy in West Ga.:castmine:

07-02-2006, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the reply...I really cant say why this lee bullet shoots, But I swear this thing is 450-460...it wobbles when I roll it...I did run through the sizer and that knocks it down some...

P Patcher
07-02-2006, 12:15 PM
I hate to see a guy get all frustrated over a mold. The best thing for you to do would be to ship it to me and let me handle all the stress. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it.


07-02-2006, 04:34 PM
ehegehee.....good un....I ordered the lyman...and will ship this back to Lee...maybe I can get a good one from them, and it sure wont hurt to have 2 for the 45/70..just burns me up...thing being off this much, like it was made in CHINA ur sumtin.geeeeeeeeeez

07-02-2006, 08:55 PM
G'day again Harpman;

Sorry to hear of your frustration with the LEE mold, these things can and do happen. It may have been one which slipped past the QC.

From what I have read in your posts you seem to be going along OK, I would just like to suggest that once you achieve a load which will shoot to a reasonable standard, use it as a comparison against which you compare all changes made to your loads. But only make one change at a time that way if it is worse then your standard you can back up a little and try something else.

Compression:- I must agree with what the others have said here, it can be good for you or it can be bad and how much. These are all variables, IMO when you have the projectile in the correct position for your rifle, it is what you do with the space behind the projectile that will make all the difference on target.

Do not be disappointed by the velocities your are recording as IMO no two rifles will achieve the data published in the manuals (Exactly as printed). I have trouble fitting 70 grs of powder into my cases; to do so means a lot of compression (and I can hear the granules crunching).

In the sport which you have chosen to pursue; you have just taken the first steps on what is a long and possibly tedious road which has it's own excitment and rewards. There will be set backs and elation along the way BUT remember always keep looking forward.

Possibly, you may find it interesting to look into obtain some of the books written on the subject by Mike Venturino and Paul Matthews or others I am not aware of who have been where you are now and written about it.

I know the books by Paul Matthews and he covers alot of what worked for hom and others aswell as what did not.

Best of luck and see you somewhere further down the trail.

:drinks: Cheers for now,


07-02-2006, 09:38 PM
Thanks John...I have been reloading smokeless, but this sure is different.I have a couple books..( Ned Roberts is one) ..One thing I been wondering about..When the powder is compressed say .350 do they mean from the point before tube dropping ?...I notice a big difference in height from tube dropping, dont seem like ya could compress it too much after that, especially near a third inch more..All I read, I still havent seen this clarified yet, it all just says tube drop and compress so much, but never found where anyone said compress from which starting point...maybe dont matter though, I will compress to the point where my bullet ends up just touching the lands..with the Lee 500 , I am getting about 62-65 grains with out a wad, I tried 70 without a wad and it bulged the case so much, it wouldnt chamber all the way...seems like when my wads come, I may only get 59-60 grains in with the Lee 500...I am new to this, but that just dont seem like much....I am determining my grains AFTER I over fill my measure and tap 12 times, and fills to the 65 mark ...any comments ?....going to reread my books too, these are for sure the kind that need to be read more than once to retain anything usefull.

07-02-2006, 11:25 PM
I have droptubed and seated; compressed and seated; droptubed, compressed and seated, all produced some change in the result on target (some good most bad). You can drop tube then compresss; some will tell why do both when one should be sufficient.

The theory about the process of the drop tube, is the granules sort them selves in some sort of and order while falling through the air and as a result occupy a reduced but ordered volume of space in the cases. One thought line on what happens says that the powder sorts itself by grain size; I have a little problem with this as every time I drop tube powder, a portion is still in the measure at the top of the tube while the first of them are landing in the case.

Compression is basically forcing the powder in what ever order it lays in the case to occupy a reduced space in the case. There is an amount of air space within a powder charge and all you are doing is forcing the powder to occupy this space, this process may result in the breaking up of some granules which in itself is a change in powder burning rates IMO.

I can not speak for what your rifle will like best but would not rule out trying as many options as possible to find the best loading method for your rifle. All firearms seem to me atleast, to be individuals just like us humans; we agree and like certain things and dislike other things.

My suggetion would be to try various charge weights under as many different load conditions as possible; droptube and seat; compress and seat; droptube, compress and seat.
As I said in my previous response;
IMO when you have the projectile in the correct position for your rifle, it is what you do with the space behind the projectile that will make all the difference on target.

How much powder you fit into that space will depend on the methods you use to put it there, the projectile/wad combination you use and the method you use to MAKE it all fit together.

On a personal note:- for me half of the fun has been the trails to achieve my aim, that includes the failures and the successes. Once this phase is done then the next part of my journey begins; to repeat my successes at longer ranges. (Yes, I am doing all my testing out at 90 metres and some will tell you it is a waste of time at that range; it is what I have available and it is only the start.)

On another note: Wads, I purchased a 1/2" wad cutter from the hardware store and punch mine from the "wax" cardboard milk cartons (Flavoured Milk style). These are approximatel 1.2mm (less than 1/16") thick and I seat them with the compression tool or a brass seater rod. For me, These have done the job without problems since I started reloading BPCR, they seal very well.

:drinks: Cheers for now,

07-03-2006, 10:27 AM
There are so many things that are just a waste of time or a labor of love depending on how you feel. For instance, aligning the boolits in the case, the case in the sizer and chamber, etc. Not worth the effort! Weighing 540 gr boolits to within 1/2 gr. Now that is stupid! You will remelt 3/4 of your boolits. I don't bother weighing anymore at all and can't see a difference. I depend on my casting technique for good boolits. Drop tubing or right from a measure or vibrating, doesn't make a difference if every case has the powder at the same heigth before compressing. How much a powder has to be compressed, again it doesn't mean much. What is more important is what boolit velocity is the most accurate for the choice of boolit and what the rifle likes. The choice of wads, they are not magic nor will they change anything except the amount of compression needed which might go against the velocity the gun likes. Saying a .060" wad shoots better then paper or a .030" wad means the amount of powder and compression has changed, changing the velocity.
The most accurate load I ever shot was some loads my friend gave me to try. His Postell was too small in diameter for my barrel and I never got them to shoot before. I put 5 in one ragged hole at 100 meters (about 1/2") and he used wasp nest paper for a wad. I didn't have much so I tried .005" manila paper and they shot the same.
He sometimes has to hurry to load for a shoot and just dumps powder right from the measure and uses no wad. The next time he uses the drop tube and a paper wad. He doesn't see good but he shoots good and I have seen him time and again put 5 shots into one hole in the dirt backstop at 500 meters. He is deadly on turkeys but can't hit the pigs. For every change he has made loading, I never, ever see him shoot different.
The most important things are that the boolit fits, is the right length for the twist, is shot at the velocity it and the barrel likes, ignition is good with the proper primer for the powder and a good lube is used.
The lube is one thing that can make or break any load. I have been doing a lot of testing and found that just a lube change can turn a tack driver into a shotgun real fast. It doesn't matter if you blow tube or wipe either.
I spent years doing all the little nitpicking stuff I read that has to be done and I never gained one single target from all of the work. More important is the ability to read and adjust for conditions. This just takes a whole lot of shooting, much more money and time then I can afford.
The same as the guys that hit 8 chickens all the time. They shoot 200 shots at them on practice day and dry fire for hours at a time. There is no secret load that hits the chickens! (or any of the steel) It is the greatness behind the gun!
So when I read a powder has to be compressed .250" or .340" or .500", I snicker. Every gun, powder and boolit is different. Why bother even measuring the compression? Dump the powder, put in a wad (or none), compress (or not) and seat the boolit to touch the powder. See if it shoots! If it doesn't, change ONE thing at a time until it shoots better, then change ONE more thing at a time.
The only thing I can say about wads is that if you change them, you have to work the entire powder charge for each change in wad, any of them work with the proper load.

07-03-2006, 01:26 PM
I agree with 44man. Here's my take on it. If you need a little compression to reach the velocity that your gun likes, then compress. Simple isn't it?

I take my cue on what not to do from trapshooting. Within the ranks of trapshooters are some of the most superstious guys on the planet. Some are real shooters and can hit clays with dirt clods if need be. However, the sport is riddled with sour-pussed, fat-a$$#d, wannabes who have more money than time to practice. These guys can be real *******s. In stead of shooting a lot, they gab alot, buy the latest gizmo and mine excuses for missed birds. Every time one of these idiots spouts off, I just think back on the old timers I've seen bang away with box-stock model 12s, shooting perfect 100s time and time again. Or, I recall the kid with an 870 full choke I watched smack 200 straight one afternoon, chewing gum, listening to rap and joking around. His secret, he practices a lot.

So, should you compress? try it. If it works, do it. If not, don't. I wouldn't spend a lot of money chasing it. It ain't the Holy Grail of accuracy. Cast good bullets and disgard or set aside for plinking, the obvious dogs. Use good powder, GOEX, Swiss. Be a clean freak, it might not make a better cartridge but it will permit you to be more uniform. Use the same technique for powder charging each time. Which technique you use is up to you. Do what works. Find a good BP lube and stick with it. Try the established comercial lubes first. See what the winners are using and then use that too. Then, after you have a known good load, fiddle with the lube if you like. Do not get sucked into the idea that you need something else or your gun won't shoot. That's like boating, a hole into which you toss money.

07-03-2006, 02:36 PM
good posts gents,...I learned alot about lube with my muzzle loader, and took that to the cartridge lube...not the same lube, just useing the things I learned..I already returned my lee mold to midway and ordered the other stuff I need, including the lyman postel 535..thinking about trying the soy wax too..I been reading where it works as good as bees wax for a base in the lube...you guys try it yet ?

07-03-2006, 03:14 PM
Might take a look here too, if you have'nt already.

07-03-2006, 05:22 PM
All I can say is that it is the hardest shooting sport but also the most fun.

Black Prince
07-03-2006, 10:25 PM
Dang it, my last post here didn't register. You boys are giving Harpman the unvarnished truth. BTW Harpman, I'm in Georgia too. There is so much mumbo jumbo BS about shooting black powder that I see people all frustrated about it to the point they just quit shooting it. It need not be that way as all of you have said.

I started down that road of weighing my bullets, orienting my cases and bullets and yada, yada. Then I said enough of this crap! This is supposed to be fun and I am NOT going to make work out of it. I began getting bullets from all my buddies that shoot 45 caliber bullets and loading them to find the magic bullet. I shot about 10 different bullets. They all printed about 1 1/2 to two inches. I was looking for the load that would make my rifle shoot into one inch.

Now if I had been shooting smokeless powder and had that same result with a rifle, I would say the rifle was only capable of 1 1/2 to two inch groups. Wal DUH!! Why not the same thing with a black powder cartridge rifle? So I take my same loads and go to a shoot that Two Trees and I go to and shoot my loads in other rifles. Walla!! Some rifles I shot that coveted one inch group and some shot my loads into three or four inches.

It isn't my bullets or loads and it isn't that I cast my bullets out of various alloys and it isn't that I use or don't use a drop tube. Dang it it is my rifle shooting bullets as good as it is capable of shooting and I am going to have to either live with it or get another rifle. Since I only have 700 dollars in this Taylor (ARMI SPORT) '74 Sharps replica, I am happy with the way it shoots and am not going to spend another thousand bucks to get bullets to go into a half inch or inch less group. That is just a LITTLE expensive real estate if you ask me.

So as 44 Man has so eloquently stated, take a lot of the hosus pocus stuff with a grain of salt. And as Two Trees said, the buffalo hunters used moulds made of soap stone and remelted lead they dug out of a dead buffalo that day. They didn't have sizing dies. They didn't have powder measures or drop tubes and they made their living shooting what they loaded. Some days they lived or died according to their accuracy in shooting indians. It was pretty dam important that they shoot good on any given day and they did it without all of the crap that we hear about that we must do to shoot well today.

Most of it is baloney so shoot your rifle and have fun doing it. It shouldn't be an aggravating process and it is supposed to be fun. If it isn't, lie down and rest. You may be tired. I'm so happy that I'm above ground and able to shoot anything that this crap does not bother me much. If I can make noise and smoke on the firing line and keep the other shooters awake, then I'm doing just fine.

You boys play nice and have a great 4 th of July holiday.

07-04-2006, 02:14 AM
I'm with Black Prince. Most try to make it much harder than necessary. I've had five sharps, three Trapdoors, and a couple Martini Henrys. All shot well, with no special fussing. Proper size bullet, decent lube, card wad, slightly compressed loads work.

07-04-2006, 04:55 AM
twotrees is rite let your riffle tell you what it likes i like twotrees size my lee 500r at .457 and i get realy good groups.

07-22-2006, 04:55 PM
When I began loading for BPCR I bought some Lee moulds. In very short order I switched to Lyman (for stock) and Paul Jones (for custom). All my Lee moulds are for sale right now on AA for $5. They are not worth anything for more than the 50 yards you spoke of. Hand dip a good steel mould and you will never go back. Also, IMO never buy a BB mould. They ain't worth a damn either. The more square the base is the more accuracy you will attain. Good luck with our wonderful sport.

I am currently manufacturing and marketing a new BPCR lube in it's testing trials. If anyone would like a sample for testing and reporting on it's performance please e-mail me. All I ask is for a few $ to cover shipping costs.