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

  1. #21
    Boolit Master Mauser48's Avatar
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    Just because they didn't issue ball starters doesn't mean there not necessary. When the AR-15 first came out they said it didn't need oil so they didn't issue it. Look how that turned out.
    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!

  2. #22
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by bob208 View Post
    ... 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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mauser48 View Post
    Just because they didn't issue ball starters doesn't mean there not necessary. When the AR-15 first came out they said it didn't need oil so they didn't issue it. Look how that turned out.
    gentlemen ...

    i have a goodly keen interest in early 18th century colonial america, and its wars through the end of that century. and so i've read extensive historian documents and have spoken with historians who have all claimed there is no evidence that "ball starters" were ever found within the 18th century and prior. nor has there been evidence of such devices at least within the continuing, but waning, golden age of the flintlock era of the early 19th century.

    but as we all know, there are always exceptions to common beliefs - particularly within an era where documentation and examples are hard pressed to find.

    so i'm greatly interested in the particulars of any historically documented ball starter data - what date or date range, and where? this could be extremely interesting and revelatory news!

    the best theoretical knowledge of flintock use from the early 19th century and back, way back, indicates that ammunition was -for the most part- a "loose" fit in rifled barrels, not a "tight" fit, and that patch material -cloth or flax tow or grass or leather or leaves or etc- promoted the easy use of the firearm's ram/cleaning rod. it is also proposed that more than often no patch material 'tween powder and ball was used, or that tow or other organic material was used after the ball to keep it in place, due to its somewhat loose fit (by today's standards). nor would it be feasible for an 18th century shooter to extract a tight ball from a barrel when they dry balled, as well they must have.

    the absolute 18th century warfare goal was rate of fire, and therefore also the concept of ease of use, as a firearm was for survival/sustenance, not for sporting use. smoothbore muskets and fowlers were the rule, not rifled barrels.

    considering that the majority of firearms -both long guns and hand guns- were smoothbores that allowed both ball(s) and shot to be fired, both ammunition types required a loose fit within the barrel. check the rate of fire with a brown bess musket, and its firing procedure.

    so, from my investigative searching/reading, having a barrel bore that expected a "tight" fitting ball, or patched ball, was not the goal of such arms as that would be quite detrimental to its use for both warfare and hunting for provisions. unlike our muzzleloader use in the 21st century, the flintlock long gun of the 18th century was an important life saving tool that absolutely needed to exhibit reliable use.

    imho, all of this can carry true today. one can expect at least reasonably good accuracy from a prb that doesn't require a starting rod before the ramming rod is used, let alone a hammer to pound the ball down the barrel's throat. just takes a bit of patch thickness and ball diameter testing.

  3. #23
    Boolit Master
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    It would appear the intent of this original post has been lost on some members so please go back and read the title AND how I wrote the list of items. Some are needed and some are not and some are better to have and not need. So it seems we are to far in details that apply after someone has decided that "hey this is fun, maybe I'll stick with it" and not gotten worried if they have an item that some feel are not needed. SO please stop the picking of nits and quit acting like my beginning computer students who argue weather a MAC is "better" than a PC when they both allow you to get to Castboolits and have fun! Otherwise I'll ask the moderator to lock the thread.

  4. #24
    Boolit Master


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    i honestly think a thread like this will provoke the responses rendered so far, no matter what. muzzleloading, like many things in life, is too subjective for a detailed point list that all will agree upon. but it was a nice and thoughtful try in helping out newbies.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob208 View Post
    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.
    Darned few had them. A friend had a collection of 94 original bags. Not one ball starter in any of them.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
    John Taylor - "African Rifles and Cartridges"

    Forget everything you know about loading jacketed bullets. This is a whole new ball game!


  6. #26
    Boolit Master


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    most of the 18th and early 19th century rifles that exist today have coned muzzles. some of these "funnel ends" went down almost 4" into the bore, eliminating the rifling. typically the coning was perhaps 1/8". this was done to enhance thumb seating of the loose patched ball, or probably more often from a loading block.

    still would be extremely interested in seeing a ball starter from the 18th or even 19th centuries. what i've read in my research indicates ball starters (and 4f in the pan, for that matter) are early to mid 20th century "inventions" and have nothing to do with the reality of daily life and warfare in previous eras.

  7. #27
    Boolit Master
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    Actually I find this all very fasinating. I have a under hammer that has a 1 in eight foot rate of twist with a 4:1 groove to land ratio. "Forsyth rifling" perhaps? Any how I can drive that ball home with my ramrod and today just for fun I shot three shots off hand at 75 yards and all three were within 4" the gun will outshoot me. So a smoothbore I would think the last thing you would want is the ball to me all marked up and deformed.

    58 caliber by the way.

    By by the way thanks for the history lessons it is interesting.

  8. #28
    Boolit Mold
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    One word of caution never ever use smokeless powder in a ML'er marked black powder only that is an accident just waiting to happen. Contrary to all the warnings there those who still try it.

  9. #29
    Boolit Master


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    a newly "printed" document about traditional muzzleloaders that some may find of interest, enjoy ...

    About Traditional Muzzleloaders

  10. #30
    Boolit Master
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    This debate about priming horns, priming powder and short starters is not new here nor on other forums. Here's an interesting exchange on another site.
    http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/...?topic=19243.0

  11. #31
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    my opinions of 18th century firearms - i apologize for it's length and perhaps boring content if you decide to read further ....

    for the most part, i do believe that the predominant long arm of 18th century america was the smoothbore - fowler or musket, call it whatever ya like, they're all the same, just un-rifled tubes.

    smoothies were mandatory for the military for ease of use and rapid rate of fire. there is historical evidence that rifles were not even allowed for army/militia volunteers and certainly not for any "regular" army soldier. rifled barrels were at best used for special military situations such as "sniping" and scouting, and also longhunting, where rate of fire was not the main issue and accuracy at distances beyond 70 yards or so were important. rifled barrels for hunting became more of vogue as medium to large game in the nor'east were literally wiped out by native americans who harvested pelts to purchase their firearms, and game required longer distance shooting. rifles were of more use as the rev war ended and the golden age of the flintlock rifle pretty much took off. these are the trad muzzleloading firearms most talk about and covet, and all are well past the 18th century settlement and primary conflict eras.

    as such, and from 18th century recordings and existing firearm examples, most fowler and rifle barrrels were coned. this 1/8" to perhaps 4" coning made loading patched and unpatched balls easier, for a faster rate of fire. a coned barrel needs no ball or short starter, where balls are thumb seated. i cone the barrels of my rifles and smoothies, just to make ball starting (patched or not) lots easier, and makes for easier ramrod use.

    i should add that tightly patched or un-patched balls would be very detrimental for 18th century use as a weapon. whether a fowler or rifle is used, and life is on the line, you want to load as fast and accurately as possible. an easy seating and rammed patched ball will have more than enuf accuracy to get the job done. to an 18th century hunter or minute man, the thought of needing a hammer to bang down a patched ball would mean there was a serious problem with the load itself.

    i have no dog in this argument about using or not using a shorter ball starter. maybe such devices existed in the 18th century; no one knows for sure so far, and i dunno or care about its possible 19th century use. the average inhabitant of 18th century america (99% were farmers of one type or another, out of pure necessity), particularly in its settlement and colonial conflict periods and up and down the east coast, would use a smoothbore. the fowler just made more far practical sense from every perspective, and rifles were in the smallest of minority. this goes against the hollywood thinking of most folks, where the premier colonial firearm for sustenance and protection is not the "kentucky" rifle, it's the farmer's fowler, and for the most part of the 18th century that farmer became the militia, and that militia became the continental army.

    the use of a priming horn just wasn't used in the 18th, and perhaps 19th, centuries. there was no 4F powder, let alone 3F powder. 2F at best, and i think even that was scare if not rare. your one horn both loaded and primed. and truthfully, there was no need for the fine stuff because the coarse powder got the job done, as history bears out. did some folk mortar and pestle the coarse powder finer? i don't know of any records of such happening, but maybe it was done, who knows for sure, but i doubt it.

    none of this matters today in the 21st century. not many care what was used in the 18th century, nor feels the need to emulate the firearms of that era or how they were fed and cared for. using whatever you think works best for you will always be the right thing for you, as it's all good one way or another if it's fun. thank gawd we don't need our muzzleloaders in a conflict ... so far!
    Last edited by rfd; 01-17-2016 at 07:42 AM.

  12. #32
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    According to this cap & ball video - tight fitting patches & balls were used in Jager Flintlock rifles in Europe. Soldiers were issued wooden hammers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrhRT9yx4YE

  13. #33
    Boolit Master


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    i'd seen mention of that in readings about the later 18th to early 18th centuries, particularly with the later caplock rifles.

    while the short barrelled jaegers had that 200+ yard military accuracy over the 70+ yards of muskets, the ball hammering was a speed loading method as opposed to the short starter hammering some target shooters employee in this century. flat hammering a round pure lead ball will deform it. using a hammered concave ball starter, as used today, will better preserve the ball's round shape. in any case, there is no doubt that the tight patch fit aided long range accuracy.

  14. #34
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    I think directly using a hammer on the ball to load is the "norm" in international competition

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYCuim8M3ao

  15. #35
    Sharpsman
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    Hammer the ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by HPT View Post
    I think directly using a hammer on the ball to load is the "norm" in international competition

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYCuim8M3ao
    I don't think beating on a prb is a good idea but it appears to be a commonly accepted idea! Using the right patch thickness might take a little time but Wally World has a lot of fabrics they sell! Shooting a ML is gonna require PATIENCE and for those that don't have it then they should maybe take up 'pitching pennies'! Once the prb is deformed such case may be that the world's best marksman wouldn't be able to keep a shot on his next door neighbor's schitt house wall!
    Last edited by Sharpsman; 02-06-2016 at 11:06 PM. Reason: Added info

  16. #36
    Boolit Master


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    patience and testing, is really what it's all about with an ml rifle (or smoothie!) and a prb. there is combination of cast ball diameter and lubed patch thickness that will allow just the use of the ramrod to achieve a consistently good benched rifle accuracy at 25, 50 and even 100 yards.

    this is what the 18th century man employed - patience and testing - to provide the accuracy he required for sustenance, protection, and warfare - two qualities that overall are sorely lacking in this fast-food 21st century.

    then again, who really cares? if hammering a prb down the tube makes one a happy camper, then so be it! this trad ml thing is sport, and it should be a FUN sport, not drudgery. if pounding a short ball starter and 4f in the pan rocks your world for the ultimate in consistent accuracy, then all is truly good - for you! enjoy!

  17. #37
    Sharpsman
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    Bore diameter is one thing...groove diameter is another! Some rifles have shallow grooves...others fairly deep! For those with deep grooves patch thickness needs to be of a dimension so that not only can the ball be started if lubed correctly but the patch material needs to be of sufficient thickness to seal off the gas in the grooves to prevent 'blow by' and to protect the ball! My combination requires a ball starter and accuracy is consistent and excellent!

  18. #38
    For cleaning use water, it works great. I used to use ballistol and water, than went to water, now I'm back on ballistol and water using a 10:1 water/ballistol mix. Maybe it's not historically correct, but it wont hurt to get a ball starter when you're guns dirty and the ball wont start easily. You can make your own bore butter with tallow and beeswax or crisco (messy) pariffin, a number of things.
    Do not use a petroleum based oil, that's why ballistol is good, the petroleum will make the powder residue into a tar. If you use remoil or a oil like that with petroulem in it, just make sure you dry all the parts before you shoot it. Get a hardened steel nipple wrench, you can pick one up for around $12-$15. DO NOT get the traditions one thats around $8, the metal's so soft it strips really easy. There are a number of good videos on black powder firearms on the internet, the best in my opinion by Mike Belvieu, who goes by duelist 1954 on his youtube channel.
    You can make your own black powder, your own caps, and your own balls.
    Making powder is easy, there's a thread here about it as all of you know. I don't use that method though, I mix it in a rock tumbler, wet it with water, screen it, let it dry, and shoot it. Just started making compressed black powder which will be commercial grade if I do it right.
    I just started making percussion caps, the primer I used was a roll cap, a pinch of black powder, and another roll cap, and they worked good.
    I hope this helps!
    Last edited by BlackPowderBen; 03-11-2016 at 09:51 PM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check