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Thread: 40/85 Ballard Pacific

  1. #1

    40/85 Ballard Pacific

    New here. Just thought I would post a question. I have a Marlin Pacific Ballard Browning Brother's rifle chambered in 40/85. This is the last gun in two collections, inherited, that I have not shot. I have searched for cases, but have found none for cheap. So, I ordered twenty from Rocky Mountain Cartridge. The rifle is in good shape and plan to hand load the RMC with 3 grains of Unique, 80 grains of 1f topped with a paper wad, then a 330 grain .408 cal. Belted and lubed cast lead bullet. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Lead pot's Avatar
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    My advice is to forget the duplex load for that Ballard.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    That is very good advice.

  4. #4
    Okay, thanks.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Reverend Al's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Not sure why the other two posters have advised against the duplex loading since they didn't say why, but I'm assuming that your Pacific is a JM Marlin marked gun and not an earlier "cast" action? I duplex load my JM Marlin Ballard Pacific in .40-90 3" Ballard with about 5 grains of SR4759 and then fill the rest of the case with black. I add one lubed card wad and then seat the bullet to lightly compress the load. Works fine for me and it helps to keep the brass and bore cleaner so that I don't have to swab between shots. Rather than spend so much on custom brass you can make good "shooter" brass out of 9.3x74R cases (I used Norma cases) and they form perfectly. I anneal about 1/2 way down the cases, then fire-form using about 8 grains of Nitro Trap 100 shotgun powder (since I have lots of it), 1/4 sheet of toilet tissue, bulk yellow cornmeal to the case mouth, and then another 1/4 sheet of toilet tissue to hold everything in place. I use a wooden dowel to press the tissue wads in place. They fire form about 3/4 of the way straight initially and fully form on first firing with a cast bullet. You have to ensure that the extractor is seated fully flush to the chamber before loading a cartridge to ensure that the slightly undersized rim will extract properly after firing, but it works reliably in my rifle and I've had no extraction problems what-so-ever. Enjoy shooting your rifle ...











    I may have passed my "Best Before" date, but I haven't reached my "Expiry" date!

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Lead pot's Avatar
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    Reverent Al I could show you pictures of the vintage Ballard and modern reproduction Sharps of these rifles that had smokeless powder involved iin these large capacity cartridges. I have heard from many people say that I have been shooting these for a very long time loaded like this. One just the night before we sat in camp at the range talking about these rifles using smokeless and he also said "I been using this load for years" Well the very next day that rifle just about 15 feet from me when I was blow tubing my rifle I was looking at this shooter getting ready to shoot the off hand target I saw that Ballard's barrel twisting in the air and wood flying and the scream of pain from this person just about loosing her hand.
    It's bad enough that the shooter gets hurt or worse plus also hurting the person next to him.
    This is all I will say about this topic.
    Kurt

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lead pot View Post
    Reverent Al I could show you pictures of the vintage Ballard and modern reproduction Sharps of these rifles that had smokeless powder involved iin these large capacity cartridges. I have heard from many people say that I have been shooting these for a very long time loaded like this. One just the night before we sat in camp at the range talking about these rifles using smokeless and he also said "I been using this load for years" Well the very next day that rifle just about 15 feet from me when I was blow tubing my rifle I was looking at this shooter getting ready to shoot the off hand target I saw that Ballard's barrel twisting in the air and wood flying and the scream of pain from this person just about loosing her hand.
    It's bad enough that the shooter gets hurt or worse plus also hurting the person next to him.
    This is all I will say about this topic.
    Kurt
    Kurt
    What was the smokeless load and what else was in there ?? I agree with ya on loading these big BP cases with smokeless - and all the BS with wads - cornmeal - pillow stuffing and whatever .....thats trouble looking for a place to happen - but is a whole different deal than using three to five grains of SR4759 or 4227 under a full case of black - safety wise I would chose the duplex any day. This is a comparison between oranges and pumpkins - we ought at least recognise the difference here.
    That said I am continually amazed by how many stupid people there are around the place, many of em SEEM to be quite sensible too, I guess its easy enough to see that 3 to 5 grains get translated into ten and those two (proven safe) duplex powders changed to some leftover Red dot or WST - hurryups in the loading room turn something safe into a kaboom - all of which would not happen with a straight blackpowder load.

  8. #8
    Boolit Bub
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    I must ask, do those of you advocating duplex loads find black powder difficult to ignite? That has never been my experience.

    Dave

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave T View Post
    I must ask, do those of you advocating duplex loads find black powder difficult to ignite? That has never been my experience.

    Dave
    Dave
    NO it lights easy - there maybe extenuating circumstances though
    1)For many years we battled with smokeless designed cast bullets that did just not carry enough lube to function properly - (and decent blackpowder molds are still a minority with most makers) so you fouled out after a few shots , spent the evening scrubbing lead out of the barrel.
    2) for a period of 15years most (or at least a lot of) Aussie blackpowder shooters subsisted on a diet of dirty chinese fireworks powder - it worked but it sometimes was not fun
    Duplex loading was an easy fix for both (those excuses have pretty much gone away now but the easy fix idea hangs about)
    You will get 100 FPS or so increase in velocity over the normal black load so there would be an increase in pressure - it seems nobody has tested that - instead we have stories of blown up guns - nodody wants to admit the possibility they made a mistake in their process (like the auto press fouled up and double dosed or they used a wrong powder or - or - or ) so the blow up gets blamed on the basic idea. Use good powder, a proper designed boolit, plenty of the right type lube = dont need to duplex load.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    For what its worth here, I would wait on the duplex loading for now. Its always there if you think you need it. A good load of decent BP should make that rifle shine as in the old days.
    What I would recomend is start with a case full of Black powder uncompressed and no air space with a .060 wad and 1 or 2 tracing paper wads and seat the bullet. Lube the bullets with a good BP lube emmerts or SPG. Measure the rifling twist and use a bullet of appropriate length for it. Work up from here adding 2 grns powder and compression as you go. I believe a good BP along the lines of Old Ensforde 1 1/2F or Swiss 1 or 1 1/2f at the optimum compression should make for a very accurate load.
    Also keep in mind cases ( by maker and production) can vary in capacity due to wall thicknesses, and shape of case head in the case. The old balloon heads held more than modern and lather bored may be thicker in the body than formed.
    I don't believe with these 2 powders a duplex loading is needed. Use a standard rifle primer ( I use a lot of rem 9 1/2s in BP loads). A light neck tensionor as shot and a light taper crimp to just set a light neck tension.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    Safety, like any other regulatory program, can become a “growth industry” where more and more strictures are piled on until one can’t do anything, so therefore, one is absolutely Safe.

    Ken Waters loaded hundreds of smokeless charges in dozens of antique black powder rifles and never blew any of them up. Dozens of other gun writers did so too. A careful handloader can do the same now. A careless one can blow up anything, antique or modern.

    The Quigley has been going on for 27 years now with an average of 500 or so shooters every time, banging up over 100 rounds apiece in practice, sight-in and the Match itself. From my observation, at least half of them shoot smokeless loads, and probably some who shoot black powder shoot duplex loads. In all this time, exactly two rifles have blown up.

    Making generalizations from those statistics as to the suitability of smokeless loads in general in antique rifles in general is like that story of the first two Model Ts registered in Kansas (or somewhere) that were involved in a head-on collision with each other. “You’ll nevvir git me into one of thim jalopies; nossir!”

    I dunno; maybe I’ve just outlived my time. My load development and loading procedures follow Elmer Keith’s dictum that you approach the process like a three-legged coyote trying to get the bait out of a Number 3 Newhouse. But I do see a lot of “Anybody got any good loads?” questions posted on the Internet by people who apparently trust anonymous strangers more than powder and reloading equipment manufacturers with their guns, hands and faces. So maybe 21st Century handloading is now becoming a risky thrill ride rather than a careful, logical stepwise procedure.

    Such people, to me, ought to shoot nothing but factory loads and hang their antiques on the wall to admire. Handloading and shooting are risky, but risks can still be managed. I don’t expect my guns to blow up, and I don’t expect to have a head on collision on the way to the range. It could still happen, of course, but I do everything I can to minimize the chances, and I don’t sit home and avoid the risks.

    That said, I find duplexing only becomes a preferred option for me after the caliber in question gets smaller than .38-55 or so. This is why the established black powder guns in the old days were large bores; the .38 was the benchrest caliber, the .32-20 could fire enough shots for the rancher and woods loafer and the .32-40 size (until Pope and others started duplexing) was for the Shuetzen shooters who “liked their beer and liked their luck.” The small .25 caliber blackpowder cartridge was cutting edge technology equivalent to the wildcat smokeless developments in the 1930s.

    At or above .38 caliber, with straight black, I can do more shooting than cleaning; smaller, the reverse happens, so I use the “nitro priming” (strictly according to established procedure) to blow the gunk out of the small-diameter barrel so I can continue shooting. However, this doubles the time I take in loading, because I look into the empty cases to check for stray ceramic cleaning chips, look again to see the level of 4759, and again for the height of the charge of black powder. I wouldn’t click-clack an Ideal #6 powder measure, stuff a boolit in the case and go shooting; I use Lee scoops for the priming charge and a #5 for the main one.

    I realize in this litigatoratory age, where everything that happens is everyone else’s fault, that I can’t make specific recommendations, but if I wanted to try duplexing in a rifle in good condition, I would do so, myself. Must be the daredevil in me.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Reverend Al's Avatar
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    From memory I think that the described blow up of a Ballard at one of the competitions was eventually credited to an accidental double charge of smokeless powder? I do not shoot smokeless only loads in my Ballard. In my case I am diligent in my reloading and I hand weigh my very light "kicker" charge of SR4759 with my RCBS Chargmaster and then add the black powder charge to the case using a hand hand, muzzle loading style adjustable volume powder measure. Duplex loading with very LIGHT charges of a medium burning rate of smokeless powder is a recognized loading practice that dates back to the Schuetzen target era when they were using smokeless powders that were nowhere near the quality and consistency of today's powders. This common practice has been described in print by Ned Roberts and other folks of the era who knew what they were doing and never had a problem from it. I definitely don't overdo it and the charge that I'm using has been used and well documented by many other folks who successfully shoot these original Ballards, and again mine is also a later production JM Marlin Ballard, not one of earlier and weaker "cast" actions that might have been stressed beyond their limits with full charges of smokeless powder. In the end, as always, the decision is up to the individual and I for one will continue to use the safe and successful low pressure duplex load that I have developed for use in my JM Marlin Ballard which was carefully worked up using modern, high quality brass cartridge cases. Just my 2 cents worth ...
    I may have passed my "Best Before" date, but I haven't reached my "Expiry" date!

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    The pictures of both blow ups were on this site very recently,and the Ballard fail was blamed on the use of a cast iron action.Marlin used cast iron,as well as forged actions,depending on caliber(and price ,obviously)......The Sharps was a modern reproduction,and the barrel was the failed part.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    Safety, like any other regulatory program, can become a “growth industry” where more and more strictures are piled on until one can’t do anything, so therefore, one is absolutely Safe.

    Ken Waters loaded hundreds of smokeless charges in dozens of antique black powder rifles and never blew any of them up. Dozens of other gun writers did so too. A careful handloader can do the same now. A careless one can blow up anything, antique or modern.

    The Quigley has been going on for 27 years now with an average of 500 or so shooters every time, banging up over 100 rounds apiece in practice, sight-in and the Match itself. From my observation, at least half of them shoot smokeless loads, and probably some who shoot black powder shoot duplex loads. In all this time, exactly two rifles have blown up.

    Making generalizations from those statistics as to the suitability of smokeless loads in general in antique rifles in general is like that story of the first two Model Ts registered in Kansas (or somewhere) that were involved in a head-on collision with each other. “You’ll nevvir git me into one of thim jalopies; nossir!”

    I dunno; maybe I’ve just outlived my time. My load development and loading procedures follow Elmer Keith’s dictum that you approach the process like a three-legged coyote trying to get the bait out of a Number 3 Newhouse. But I do see a lot of “Anybody got any good loads?” questions posted on the Internet by people who apparently trust anonymous strangers more than powder and reloading equipment manufacturers with their guns, hands and faces. So maybe 21st Century handloading is now becoming a risky thrill ride rather than a careful, logical stepwise procedure.

    Such people, to me, ought to shoot nothing but factory loads and hang their antiques on the wall to admire. Handloading and shooting are risky, but risks can still be managed. I don’t expect my guns to blow up, and I don’t expect to have a head on collision on the way to the range. It could still happen, of course, but I do everything I can to minimize the chances, and I don’t sit home and avoid the risks.

    That said, I find duplexing only becomes a preferred option for me after the caliber in question gets smaller than .38-55 or so. This is why the established black powder guns in the old days were large bores; the .38 was the benchrest caliber, the .32-20 could fire enough shots for the rancher and woods loafer and the .32-40 size (until Pope and others started duplexing) was for the Shuetzen shooters who “liked their beer and liked their luck.” The small .25 caliber blackpowder cartridge was cutting edge technology equivalent to the wildcat smokeless developments in the 1930s.

    At or above .38 caliber, with straight black, I can do more shooting than cleaning; smaller, the reverse happens, so I use the “nitro priming” (strictly according to established procedure) to blow the gunk out of the small-diameter barrel so I can continue shooting. However, this doubles the time I take in loading, because I look into the empty cases to check for stray ceramic cleaning chips, look again to see the level of 4759, and again for the height of the charge of black powder. I wouldn’t click-clack an Ideal #6 powder measure, stuff a boolit in the case and go shooting; I use Lee scoops for the priming charge and a #5 for the main one.

    I realize in this litigatoratory age, where everything that happens is everyone else’s fault, that I can’t make specific recommendations, but if I wanted to try duplexing in a rifle in good condition, I would do so, myself. Must be the daredevil in me.
    nothing daredevil about that - safe and careful loading procedure - and you will come to no harm doing it

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reverend Al View Post
    From memory I think that the described blow up of a Ballard at one of the competitions was eventually credited to an accidental double charge of smokeless powder? I do not shoot smokeless only loads in my Ballard. In my case I am diligent in my reloading and I hand weigh my very light "kicker" charge of SR4759 with my RCBS Chargmaster and then add the black powder charge to the case using a hand hand, muzzle loading style adjustable volume powder measure. Duplex loading with very LIGHT charges of a medium burning rate of smokeless powder is a recognized loading practice that dates back to the Schuetzen target era when they were using smokeless powders that were nowhere near the quality and consistency of today's powders. This common practice has been described in print by Ned Roberts and other folks of the era who knew what they were doing and never had a problem from it. I definitely don't overdo it and the charge that I'm using has been used and well documented by many other folks who successfully shoot these original Ballards, and again mine is also a later production JM Marlin Ballard, not one of earlier and weaker "cast" actions that might have been stressed beyond their limits with full charges of smokeless powder. In the end, as always, the decision is up to the individual and I for one will continue to use the safe and successful low pressure duplex load that I have developed for use in my JM Marlin Ballard which was carefully worked up using modern, high quality brass cartridge cases. Just my 2 cents worth ...
    Al I had better chrono results (more consistent) with 4227 than Sr4759 (the SR was old tho could have been the difference) I was using a LEE scoop measure for the Smokeless and weighing the black.

  16. #16
    The Pacific Ballard 40/85 is marked "Marlin Fire Arms Co. New Haven Ct. USA Ballard's Patent Nov. 5 1861" on the left side plate. "Browning Bros. Ogden Ut." on the top of the barrel. And the serial number is 26619 on the bottom. How can I tell if it is an earlier cast model?

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    If you look inside the reciever ,you can see the cast surface....the cast reciever is also cored out in places where the forged one is solid....I would think a genuine 40/85 would be a forged reciever......and it wasnt just the early ones were cast.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    If one shoots double rifles and has spent time in Grahame Wright's book, from Kynoch and the Birmingham Proof House one can see duplex loads listed that have lower proof pressures AT original factory ballistics, IF, as bent ramrod and Rev. Al have mentioned, they are put up with some sense. Would a large capacity American case be any different? Last I checked internal and external ballistics didn't really care what language was being spoken.

    My experience has been that once a black powder charge goes over about 80 grs. a duplex load can make a barely usable load an accurate load. In addition to bent ramrods "Elmer Keith dictum" my philosophy has always been to use the least amount of smokeless to achieve the desired results. So far the most I have had to use is about 8% of smokeless to the BP charge. Unless memory has completely failed me 10% is generally the recommended maximum. I have had some success with various powder fouling control measures with heavy charges of BP but they've all required a lot of hoops be jumped through. My experience has been that powder fouling control measures have worked quite well in the smaller bores, 38 and down.
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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