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Thread: How to get started with Black Powder

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    How to get started with Black Powder

    So how does an ignoramous such as myself get started with black powder? I thinking a day at the range with black powder in a .327 Fed Mag and a Uberti .45 Colt would be fun. Are these even options?
    *
    So for those interested in the why - I like tinkering, and making my own black powder would make it all the more enjoyable. I may even reload primers for use with black powder.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy tmanbuckhunter's Avatar
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    I personally wouldn't load the 327 fed with black but there is nothing that says you can't. Buy some black powder, get some soft bullets, lube them with the proper lube, and get to shooting. It's really not that hard.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy Castaway's Avatar
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    For the 45 Colt, it’s pretty straight forward:
    1. Buy black powder (3f or 2f)
    2. Make sure bullets are lubed with a black powder friendly lube
    3. Place powder in case to where bottom of bullet is (2.2 cc dipper works well)
    4. Seat bullet
    5. Shoot
    6. Clean with water. Hot works best, soap helps although neither are necessary.
    7. Dry
    8. Oil with non-petroleum based oil. Ballistol, jojoba oil, olive oil, and Break Free are some that work well.

    For rifle cartridges, add a drop tube and compression die. Wiping between shots helps with accuracy. Deprime bass before dumping in water solution that has
    a few drops of Dawn. Shake, dry and tumble or ultra sound brass and dry.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master

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    SPGs loading manual gives good information as does Mr Wrights Loading and shooting the paper parched bullet a beginners guide. Not a lot of actual data but better is the how to sections.

  5. #5
    Boolit Bub Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's Avatar
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    One very different aspect of loading black powder is that you load to fill the case (less the space for the bullet). With smokeless you have a range of weight of a particular powder that is safe in a particular cartridge. It felt very weird initially to not need load data to reload black powder cartridges.

  6. #6
    Boolit Bub ScrapMetal's Avatar
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    If you want to test things out without investing in reloading gear you can buy some pre-loaded black powder cartridges from https://www.buffaloarms.com/ Their stock is a little low at the moment but you could call and see when it will be available.

    -Ron
    Who is John Galt?

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    The only 'data' you need loading BP is to fill the case with powder, compress slightly with a pencil or something that fits the case mouth more closely, seat the boolit lubed with BP lube, crimp, and shoot. I'd start with the .45 since you are replicating the original load - no mystery there. Use FFFG or FFG either one, the former will provide a slightly more powerful load.

    Read what Castaway said, twice. Load your ammo and shoot, enjoy the big boom and the smoke!
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    What is the difference between FFFG and FFG powder? What does the number of “F” mean?

    I know where I can get F powder. Is this the same as FG, and is it acceptable for initial tinkering if it is the only grade of black powder available? Would I be better off trying a black powder substitute first?

    I definitely look forward to the big boom - that’s why I load with Longshot powder now.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy Castaway's Avatar
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    The number of “F’s” designate grain size. Greater numbers mean finer powder. The caliber generally determines the size with 45 being in the transition zone for 2F and 3F. Fine powder, 4F, is used to prime flintlocks because it ignites so easily. In your 45 Colt, 1F will go boom and the bullet will be launched down range but not efficiently. If that’s all you can get, I say go for it. On the other hand, don’t use 4F in a 45 Colt case. There are exceptions for 4F applications, but you’re working with a 45. As far as substitutes go, the only advantage they offer is they can be sold across the counter without the storage requirements imposed on black powder.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy


    foesgth's Avatar
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    You have been given good advice in the above posts. The only thing I would add is to get an properly size piece of dowel or other rod to compress the powder. Put a mark on it so you end up with the same compression. If you like BP you will probably end up getting a compression die. There are lots of recipes on this site for BP lube.
    Nothing gets rid of tension like shooting your old computer with a 10 gauge.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    Thanks everybody!

  12. #12
    Boolit Bub
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    Get hold of your local SASS cowboy action group at one of your local clubs/ranges. Ask members their for their advice and to show you some hands on reloading of BP pistol cartridges.
    Support Our Troops
    Semper Fi

  13. #13
    Boolit Master


    GregLaROCHE's Avatar
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    Clean your brass as soon as possible after shooting it.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    What Castaway and others have said is good rule-of-thumb info. To add a couple more:

    Leave no airspace between boolit and powder, same as in muzzleloaders. Unlike smokeless powders, you can't really overload a modern case with BP in the same way that doing so with smokeless can put pressures in the red zone, but empty space between boolit and powder makes for inconsistent performance. Elmer Keith started out with BP in vintage revolvers, but he didnít blow one up until he ventured to grind BP fine as flour to get the maximum powder into the balloon-head cases in use back in those days. IIRC, he was using heavy boolits as well. Good BP performance benefits and becomes more consistent with some compression of the powder, usually 1/16" is good, more or less. Just keep it consistent for all your cartridges. How much powder? For cylindrical cases, the method I use is to measure the inside depth of the case and record the measurement. Then I settle in as much BP as will fill the case all the way up, weigh the powder, and divide grains by case depth. This gives me ďgrains per inchĒ. The powder I need will be: (case depth - length of boolit shank inside the case + .0625") x (grains per inch) = expected load. This may seem the long way around the barn, but it's a reliable way to predict how much compression I'm putting on the powder. BP from different lots or manufacturers will vary performance a bit, so I experiment with variations in grains of powder and degrees of compression to get the desired performance. Load a few and see how they act on target.

    BP-friendly lubes: Commercial lubes intended for smokeless wonít serve well here, but BP-compatible lubes are easy to make or buy. Thereís a whole category on this site with a vast selection of formulas, from simple to complex, but a central rule of thumb is to avoid recipes calling for or containing petroleum oils. It doesnít play well with BP fouling. Interestingly, petroleum waxes like paraffin, including liquid parrafins can be used (Ballistol). Half paraffin and half sheep tallow is one used before there was smokeless powder, but itís pretty stiff. A simple one is Emmertís, a.k.a. 541, 5 parts beeswax, 4 parts vegetable shortening, 1 part vegetable oil melted together in a double cooker at 140-170 degrees. Donít overheat it or it will tend toward brittleness at room temp. You can vary the ratios as desired to adjust how solid the stuff is. I like it as is and it pan-lubes pretty well if you donít want to commit a lube-sizer to its use. In a lube-sizer, it flows fine without heat. I also made a smeary-soft version like lip balm for use on cylinder pins in C&B revolvers.

    And, yes, clean that brass. Throwing them in a container of dish water for later attention is a good start.

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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