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Thread: My First Muzzle Loader.....What Do I Need to Get Started?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    My First Muzzle Loader.....What Do I Need to Get Started?

    Maybe the admins can make this into a "sticky" after a few add their inputs?

    NOTE: Shooting black powder can be dangerous as is any shooting sport. If you are not sure what to do try to find some help and at all times go slowly, keep the muzzle pointed away from your head and ONLY PUT THE PERCUSSION CAP ON WHEN READY TO SHOOT! The steps noted below are gathered from many sources, including "old timers", Ned Roberts book and my own mistakes!

    The question comes up now and then so what do I need if I decide to try this muzzle loading and black powder idea? Here is what I tell the folks at the range in San Diego:
    - A rifle, preferably a 45 or 50 cal Hawken such as T/C that you can find on Gun Broker for several hundred since you might not like this at all and don't want to be out $$$$$$ and you can always use it for experimenting. In the beginning, don't worry about twist rate, number of rifling grooves, type of sights, etc, etc. You just want to have a reliable starter gun. As far as I know, even in the great state of CA with all our gun foolishness, NO FFL is required even on modern reproductions as long as they can NOT use a cartridge at all.
    - Rods, cleaning w/jag, patch puller and a separate ram rod as ramming the patched ball in as this usually breaks the wooden rod that comes with the gun after a while.
    - Round balls of appropriate size (ask the seller) and some commercial pre-lubed patches. The pre-lubed patches will get you started and then you can make your own from pillow ticking or linen.
    - Powder flask and adjustable measure with that little funnel so you know how much to add and the funnel keeps you from spilling that expensive black powder.
    - Cleaning patches of appropriate size and some cleaner and oil. Many use Windex as a cleaner and CLP as the oil. Remember we are just starting out here so you can actually use boiling water like they did in the 1800s.
    - Nipple wrench and a some pipe cleaners to clean the fire channel.
    - Tool for pulling the wedge so you can pull the barrel.
    - Spare nipples, make sure the thread size is correct.
    - Some sort of carpet or rubber piece to sit the stock on while the gun is standing upright. Also some sort of holder for the barrel while standing up is handy.
    - Ball starter and a rubber mallet to start the ball. You may not have to use the mallet to start and/or seat the ball depending on how tight the fit at the muzzle is. Some rifle barrels have what is called "choke" so the muzzle will be tight and the ball and patch will loosen as it goes down the barrel. Better to have and not need it than.........
    - Black powder and percussion caps. I would stay away from substitutes when starting out since you want the real smoke and smell and get a couple tins of caps. Most rifles use #11?
    - Some wax or linseed oil to keep the wood looking nice. I wipe my stocks monthly.

    When shooting: make sure barrel is clear to the bottom by the metal sound of the ram rod then mark it with some tape to tell you when it is empty. Make sure the set trigger is adjusted right and you do not have to normally have to cock the hammer to test the trigger. Make sure half cock works and full cock works and the hammer stays back when setting the rear trigger. Fire a couple caps with barrel pointed near the ground to see the dust move and then wipe the barrel with a dry patch to see the residue.

    Load the powder flask from the 1 pound can, then adjust the measure to the load you want to use. Use the flask to load the measure. Pour it in the barrel using the little funnel. Place a patch (one only) on the muzzle and then a round ball. Press the starter on the ball to get it going and use your hand or mallet to get the ball going. Fully seat the ball and there should be a distance between the muzzle and the tape line you added earlier. Get the rifle aimed down range and ready to shoot then fully cock the hammer and set the rear trigger. I do this in case the trigger adjustment has moved the the hammer falls and you do NOT want a cap on the nipple. If all is well, put the cap on, aim and touch the front trigger. There should be a loud bang, lots of smoke and you'll be surprised how little kick there is. Everyone around you will holler and swear about the smoke but now you're hooked! Some shooter wipe with a wet and a dry patch after each shot, some do not so try both methods.

    For cleaning, there are as many methods as there are black powder shooters. Personally I use the 3 part cleaner, I.E. alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and Murphy's Oil Soap in equal parts. A couple times a year I also use boiling water as explained in Ned Roberts' book and you have to be very careful not to burn yourself. To do this I pull the barrel and plug the nipple hole then support the barrel vertical with a towel wrapped around the barrel. This works well if the barrel has a "patent breach" as they are hard to get into. Dump whatever you use and refill and then wipe with patches until clean. I use some CLP, others use other oil or Bore Butter to "season" the steel. Store the rifle muzzle down so the nipple and fire channel do not fill with oil.
    Last edited by oldracer; 11-16-2015 at 09:37 AM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    I picked up a T/C last week for $160.00 in 50 cal, and then another one Unfired built from a Kit for $180.00 today in .45
    They are out there , you just have to look around.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Mauser48's Avatar
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    ^^^ I'm envious of you! Good post man. I'm about to start and this was the info I needed. What brand of black powder do you recommend?
    Currently loading 223, 257 roberts, 25-06, 30-06, 8mm mauser, 7.5x55 swiss, 7.62x54r, 40 s&w, 38 special, and 12 gauge.

    Enjoy shooting and collecting milsurps!

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Ball starter and a rubber mallet to start the ball.
    Absolutely not on the mallet. If you need to beat on the projectile to get it to start down the barrel, either the ball is too large or the patch is too thick.

    I'm coming to believe the short starter isn't really necessary either. As Ric has pointed out numerous times, you don't find them in original possible bags. They have been foisted off on the unknowing public as necessary since at least the mid 1970's though.

    Robert

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Lead Fred's Avatar
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    Windex, NO, CLP, Hell NO. Oil and burnt black powder make SLUDGE, not any fun to clean out.

    Get yourself some Thompson Center 1000+ products. Number 13 cleaner, bore butter, and presoaked patches is all you will ever need.
    I have sworn on the altar of GOD eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
    Thomas Jefferson

    " Any law that is NOT constitutional is not a law" James Madison

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I had a short note about the starter and mallet possibly not needed. I expanded than some and as I noted some barrels have some choke in them and starting is hard. The barrels on 3 of my custom made Hawken rifles are this way and about 75% of the shooters are our matches use a mallet and short starter? Better to have it and not need it than......

    As for the real stuff, I use Goex FFG and buy it from Coonies. If you search there are sources where you can buy 2 or 3 pounds to get started and this also depends on how much you want to have on hand. The BATFE says 50 pounds or less in one reg and 1 pound in another reg and in another it says it depends on the local regulations! I did call our local fire marshal and he had no idea, finally he said "to store it safely"!

  7. #7
    Boolit Master



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    most people thinking about their first muzzle loader need to get as informed as possible by both reading and learning from the right folks who've been down the ml road for decades, and then carefully assess both their and the guns requirements.

    for commercial 'traditional' side locks, add in a .22 brush for cleaning out the patent breech that they all seem to have.

    if at all possible, use REAL black powder of an appropriate granular size.

    there's at least some amount of uniqueness to each muzzle loader with regards to ball and patch sizing that will require a bit of experimentation.

    for a hunter or plinker or woods walker, there shouldn't ever be a *need* to hammer down a patched ball.

    i'll go further to say there is NO need for a ball starter - there is no historical record of 17th, 18th or 19th century "ball starters". if the barrel and ball and patch require a ball starter, either the patch is too thick or the ball is too large, or both.

    clean up is water or water laced with a bit of water soluble oil (ballistol or nappa), nothing else ever reequired.

    i would never ever again buy a traditional side lock where the breech plug can't be removed - that eliminates traditions, cva and a bunch of other offshore ml's, particularly those that originate from spain.

    imho, the current best value for an in-the-cheap ml is still the lyman (invest arms) trade rifle, either flint or cap.

    the above is the tip of the ml iceberg .........

  8. #8
    Boolit Master



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    there are huge physical and aesthetic differences 'tween 18th and 19th century replica muzzleloaders and those contraption modern zip gun inlines. same as there is with real honest-to-goodness black powder and subs, and those pellet powder thingies. all are quite diff'rent in many ways!


  9. #9
    Unless you plan on dressing-up like someone that just arrived off the Mayflower, get yourself a ball starter. Makes loading a-bit easier.

    Oil in my opinion is much better and more fool-proof than bore butter. If you make a mistake using oil, wait.... there is no possible mistake when using gun oil.

    If you make a mistake when applying bore butter, you will get a rusted barrel. When it's time to hunt, remove the oil with 91% rubbing alcohol in a small spray bottle, often found for a $1 on sample racks at Walmart, Meijer.......etc.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by Pyro&Black View Post
    Unless you plan on dressing-up like someone that just arrived off the Mayflower, get yourself a ball starter. Makes loading a-bit easier........
    for hundreds of years of muzzle loading weapons for hunting and warfare, there was never such a thing as a "ball starter". there really is no need for such a tool, it only adds more gear and more steps to the loading process. take the time to find the correct patch thickness and ball diameter for any specific front loader barrel.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Ah you guys, remember this is about a new beginner and getting them to shoot for a few trips to the range. As noted in one of the posts taking the time to find the right sized ball and patch might be more than a raw beginner wants to do? They want to see what this is all about AND have some fun with this whole black powder shooting idea. Also not in some of my items I said "better to have and not need than not have it and need it". Also note that most "starter kits" have a ball starter included BUT I did not mention just to buy a starter kit.

    Keep the ideas coming along and remember this is for a total black powder beginner.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master



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    sorry, save from someone who really knows about prb ml's, there are no short cuts to learning what size patch and ball will make for a pleasant and fun first range visit with a new ml. those who don't have a clue need to take a hammer with them, besides the ball starter. most use either too large a ball or too thick a patch, or both. what a shame.

    if anything can be gleaned from a thread like this, it's that all newbies to muzzleloaders would be far better off having a qualified mentor.

    this will save lotsa time, mistakes, lost dollars. there's much to understand and learn. more than one good way to skin the ml cat, too.

    be glad to help anyone, any time ....

  13. #13
    Boolit Master



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    imho, with regards to prb selections for a newbie with a traditional muzzleloading long gun (flint or cap), and to make that first range visit a total fun success, here are my muzzleloader start up recommendations ....

    it's always best to have a knowledgeable one-on-one mentor.

    use the smallest ball diameter. i.e., for a .50 caliber that means a .490 ball ... or for a .54 caliber use a .530 ball.

    acquire and take a selection of 100% cotton patch material thicknesses - .005, .010 and .015

    to lube patches, keep it simple for starters, use spit.

    use quality, real black powder in the long gun makers recommended granularity. all bets are off if yer loading with any kinda sub. sorry if that offends some folks.

    load a volume charge of powder that's on the low end of the long gun makers suggested charge range for your model and caliber.

    for that first shot, use the lower end powder charge, the thinnest patch and smallest diameter ball. that prb should slide down the tube nicely with just a good push of the rod - that's the idea, be concerned with performance and accuracy later (though one can easily be surprised with their easy start load).

    ignition is a whole 'nother matter ........

  14. #14
    Do NOT use spit, unless you plan on doing some rust-inhibiting soon after. There are all kinds of patch lubes available that will protect your bore as the shots pile-up. Spit is like water.... an enemy to our MLs, unless you are following-up those water habits with things to remove the water afterwards and stop the flash rust.

    Spit also contains body acids and body salts, bad for your bore. Do not use spit. This is not the 1800-1900s.... even early 2000s anymore. Technology is so great today. Buy some prelubed patches. Use anything that won't cause rust. Do a search on Google on homemade remedies that won't cause rust to your bore, should you not clean it soon after firing it.

    My patches are bought prelubed. One is mink oil-lubed and the other bumblin' bear grease.
    Last edited by Pyro&Black; 11-15-2015 at 01:47 PM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master



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    spit will work just FINE at the range and one less thing for a newbie to fret over. spit is the defacto common "lube" that when used with a patched ball that will IMMEDIATELY be fired will NOT rust, pit or corrode the tube.

    i don't use spit and prefer either dry lube 1:6 ballistol:water or sheep tallow. i don't use patches, only patch strips that are cut at the muzzle which insures the patch material will be concentric. a newbie doesn't need to employ either, but instead needs to concentrate more on a well fitting prb and good ignition.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master swathdiver's Avatar
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    Stick with the natural stuff and not modern gun oil, it does not mix well with black powder.

    Bore butter is easy to make, it is simply 5 parts extra virgin olive oil and 1 part beeswax. One can clean, protect and shoot with it if they want to keep things simple.

    3 Parts Mutton Tallow and 1 Part Beeswax was the Army's 1855 lubricant recipe for conicals and can be used to grease patches.

    A Mixture of Ballistol and Water is known by many names and can be used in place of the above save for conical lube.

    Dutch Schoultz's "The System" explains and provides recipes for some other highly effective shooting and cleaning lubes; the best $20 you'll ever spend on shooting.
    "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." - John 3:18

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    I use spit. Works great for me. been using it for almost 40 years with no ill effects and it has been used for over 200 years. I think if it was bad some where along the line, it would be commonly known by now. If you aren't going to shoot right away then you need a lube that won't dry out. A good muzzle loading book would be the first thing I would recommend getting. Nobody wants to read any more but it answers allot of questions before they have to be asked.
    Aim small, miss small!

  18. #18
    Boolit Master


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    Thanks for posting this Oldracer, in more than 40 years as a certified insructor trainer, this is a very concise short course in getting a beginer started.
    BTW, I have two match barrels the 40 uses a .40 ball and .0020 patching the 50 uses a .505 ball and .0020 patching if you want to find out what the barrels can do. I use a brass ball seat and mallet, then a short starter and mallet. The ball then goes down with a range rod.
    Don't buy nuthing you can't take home

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  19. #19
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by rfd View Post
    most people thinking about their first muzzle loader need to get as informed as possible by both reading and learning from the right folks who've been down the ml road for decades, and then carefully assess both their and the guns requirements.


    I think rfd nailed it.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    rfd is right on about reading the books first.

    but a little off on the ball starter. there have been old possible bags found with ball starters in them. and they used a short starter with a loading block also.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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