Black Powder Rifle Accuracy System

In My Opinion Only

Over the twenty some years I have received a variety of questions from my subscribers, many repeatedly, as the world of black powder changes and new people join as the old timers begin to fade away. A wise westerner has suggested that I establish a Question and Answer section as a sort of post graduate course where these questions can be posed and answered according to how in my experience I solved them.Many of the following topics are addressed in detail in the System that I sell and this section is intended for those who had read and who have practiced the suggestions in my System. If you have not experienced the System you are still welcome to read this but will probably miss quit a bit. The only new questions I have received during the past 6 or 7 years have been from non-subscribers who wonder if the System can help them with inline rifles. I will not comment on things I’ve only heard about without pointing out that fact. I will begin with probably the most common question I received over the years.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (Q&A)

JAGS

Q — I’ve read and been told that a rifle barrel will get shot out after 1500 to 2000 rounds have gone through it. Is this something I should worry about?

A — I’ve read that as well, however, my own experience doesn’t bear that out. I have fired multiples of those rounds through two particular barrels with no falling off of accuracy. We use soft brass jags so that when they rub against the rifling, they won’t hurt the rifling. The rifling, on the other hand, tends to wear down the jag and over a period of time, say 1500 to 2000 shots, becomes enough smaller that it doesn’t do as good a job wiping the barrel and begins to leave a layer of the crud that bakes on and makes your ball/patch combination gradually to tight for your barrel resulting in declining accuracy. This makes a person think the barrel is no longer a good barrel. When everything is going well and you are very pleased with your groups, measure the width of your jag and write it down and when your barrel begins to misbehave, measure your jag and see if there has been a change.


Q — How big should a jag be?

A — I liked my jags with two of my wiping patches to slide smoothly down a clean barrel with just the weight of my arm. As I was shooting .45 caliber rifles I would buy .50 caliber jags and turn them down little by little ‘till they would perform in the above manner.


Q — When you say you “Turn down” the .50 caliber jag to be a better fit how do you do that without a lathe?

A — Look at the section of the System titled Black Powder Arts and Crafts for the Unskilled, Undertooled and Unconfident and you’ll find directions for making a very unprofessional device from a drill, a vise and a few cheap items from the hardware store.


Q — I started shooting a T/C encore (Inline Rifle) .50 cal. last year. So far I have only used pyrodex and triple 7 pellets behind powerbelt slugs. Will your accuracy system publication have anything to offer in this scenario, or is it primarily for those who shoot patch and ball? Thanks for your time & for the interesting cleaning info.

A — There are a number of variables to control in achieving accuracy. Size of ball, weight of ball. Type of powder, amount of powder. Fit of patched ball in the barrel or fit of conical. Degree of slickness of the patch or conical lubrication. Thickness of the patching. Condition of the barrel and so forth. With the traditional rifle you can exert a certain amount of control over just about all except gusty cross winds. With the inline used as advertised you can choose one, two or three pellets: all choices made at a factory. If you are using sabots your choice was also made at some factory, You can’t add a few thousandths of an inch or cut back a touch. Your decision has been made by someone else just the same as if you were shooting cartridges. I am not bigoted about inlines. The inline rifles are great for people who don’t have the time or desire to work up a load, or that small voice that calls for accuracy. The rest of us are considered to be nut cases but we’re nothing compared to the bench rest riflemen.


Q — Supposin’ I decided to experiment with granulated (not pelletized) forms of powder but still kept to powerbelts, sabots or conicals. Would your info then be of help to me?

A — If you switched to using a powder instead of pellets you would then be able to adjust your powder charge in small increments which might be of some help in getting a more precise load, which in turn might tighten your groups. You would, however, still be at the mercy of the sabot manufacturer and the conical manufacturer to get it right. You would still have no way of adjusting the fit of your load in the barrel. If you are getting good groups with your current set up, stick with it. Consider yourself lucky. The only way to adjust your load’s fit would be to get your conicals and sabots from a different source until you found one that was perfect for your rifle. I have had quite a few inline subscribers switch to granulated powder, and patched round ball with considerable success. This surprised me as I felt that the fast twist of all or most inlines would cause the patched round ball to be ripped from the lands and grooves causing a flyer. Apparently the trick is to use lower powder charges.


Q — I have been having some trouble with an underhammer which fairly good groups but when I ran out of my old lube, the groups opened up consideably. No matter which goo or lubrication I use I keep getting a 3 inch or so group at 50 yards. What would be the best lube to use here?

A — Please read A Consistant “Dry” Patch Lubricating System again that deals with lubrication. Like you, I once was convinced that slicker must be better. On the other hand, a somewhat circular 3 or 4 inch group at 50 yards indicated to me that either: 1) There was not enough powder used in the charge; or 2) the patching was too thin, allowing a certain amount of the propelling gases to go by the projectile which equates to a weaker load just like not using enough powder. Then, one day I noticed that a previously precise load is now opening up to groups presented by examples 1 and 2 above. What could be causing that? “In finding out what caused this, and how to prevent it, I developed the patch lubrication system I describe in the System. If you will try it, you will not go back to the old grease-pit approach.”. Reread the above mentioned paper and see where by careful experiments I demonstrated to myself that “slicker” is not better. Qute the opposite is true.


Q — How do you manage to instill graduated amounts of lubrication into your patching?

A — Reread the second column on page 2 of The Consistent “Dry” Patch Lubrication System. Its all there and should easy to follow. In the material provided I suggest that you use water soluble oil. Manufacturers of products sold under that title have been changing their formulas and I now suggest using Ballistol which seems to work exactly the same way. Ballistol can be found in most good gun stores or you can find it on the internet in spary or liqud formulations. Buy the liquid form.

LOAD DEVELOPMENT & APPLICATION

Q — In developing a load, how should one conduct his experiments.

A — Be consistent, shot after shot. If you are working up your powder charge, change only the amount of powder. If you change two things, you won’t know what caused the change in where the ball hits. Fire five shots for each change. Some suggest only three shots but I never felt that few would tell you as much as five. If you are still getting flyers from off balance balls. 3 shots won’t tell you much.


Q — You stress “Consistency.” What should the rifleman be consistent about?

A — Everything. Everything you do will affect your target. The way you load should be the same shot after shot, that’s rather obvious. Less obvious is that you should be consistent in how you stand and how you hold your rifle when shooting offhand. Where you balance your rifle when shooting off the bench. How tightly you hold the butt of the rifle into your shoulder. Shooting a rifle is an exercise in a complicated combination of a variety of physical laws and if you change any one of them it will show up on your target, or your deer for that matter.


Q — How is the best way to eliminate a bruised shoulder?

A — By holding the butt of the rifle quite tightly into shoulder. If there is any space between butt and shoulder the rifle will hammer back. If there is no space, the butt will shove you back. Shoves don’t create bruises. For accuracy, you should always hold the butt tightly into your shoulder as part of making yourself a stable gun emplacement.


Q — Why do you insist on a quick wipe between shots?

A — During that now bygone era of trials and tribulations, I noticed that people who didn’t wipe between shots would suffer progressive difficulty in loading, usually after the 3rd shot. The 5th shot would be loaded with a heavy hammer and very unseemly language. How, I asked, could it be that after each shot the difficulty became worse and worse? It would indicate that the barrel was getting tighter and tighter and therefore harder and harder to load. Something very hard was building up in the bore. Had to be. Sometime later, after a bunch of experiments, I came to the conclusion that the first shot left a layer of soft crud in the bore. Easily removable soft crud. If the barrel was unwiped the 2nd shot would leave another layer of soft crud on top of the first layer, however, the 2nd shot baked on the soft crud from the 1st shot. This baked on layer, In the grooves is not so easily removable. It resembles bakelite if any of you remember bakelite. Still unwiped the 3rd shot bakes on what soft crud was left by the second shot and so forth. By the fourth and fifth shot it lies there in your barrel hard as cinders and you have to pound. The ball patch combination you have so carefully selected is now too large for your diminished bore size, So then you clean rather thoroughly again and restart the process all over. By wiping the bore between shots with a reasonably tight damp wiping patch and jag combination you remove the soft crud and the the bore remains the same size as far as the ball patch is concerned, because you have removed the soft crud so it can’t bake on. If this lamination of hard baked on crud does NOT occur, why do we have the progressive difficulty in loading? Any suggestions for another reason? There are products that state in their ads that you can fire all day without wiping. My fear of these products is that they may be way too slick for your particular rifle barrel and thus allow the ball and patch to be 30 yards downrange before the powder has done its thing of building up to the right amount of compression for your particular rifle barrel. I like a patch lubed with the exact amount of slickness that is just right for the barrel in question. I have found it, and a one time wipe, in and out, between shots can give you amazing accuracy. If, of course your patch is the precisely right thickness. I heard from a subscriber who noticed that his accuracy had all gone to hell when he broke his ramrod and switched to a different jag which was a hair smaller. Because it was smaller, using the same thickness of wiping patch, he was leaving a thin layer of that soft crud which, as described above, was baking on to his bore even though he WAS wiping between shots, although with a smaller, less efficient jag. I believe he was soon back to using the earlier jag mounted on a repaired ram rod.


Q — Do you mean I should clean the barrel between shots?

A — No, just a quick wipe to remove the soft crud left in the barrel after each shot. This soft layer from each shot is baked on by the following shot, if left there, but is easily wiped out when it’s fresh.


Q — When hunting I don’t think I would like to have to wipe between shots.

A — If you need a quick second shot, don’t wipe for the quick shot. Wipe after the second shot using a slightly spit dampened patch. I doubt you’ll need a quick third shot.


Q — I wipe with a wet patch and follow it with a dry one to remove the excess moisture. Is that the right thing to do?

A — Your wet patch can and will allow excess water run down the barrel to the breech. The follow up dry patch probably won’t remove all that excess water. The excess water will be quickly absorbed by the powder of you next load and will not fire. This will give you a weaker powder charge at best and a misfire at the worst. This precaution is particularly important for rifles with a “Patent Breech’ as this type of breech allows the powder to go into the very rear end of the breech which is smaller than the rest of the rifle and if the excess water runs in there, and it will, there is no way that your follow-up dry wiping patch will get in there to remove the moisture.


Q — Well how wet should the wiping patch be?

A — Just wet enough so the patch doesn’t get stuck in the barrel. You’ll have to play with this to see how little you can get away with.


Q — How does that ramrod actually work?

A — On muzzleloaders where you can’t push the wiping patch all the way through you get the head of the ram rod, the jag, all the way to the breech, preferably pushing as little as possible of the black powder residue into the breech because the real cleaning takes place when you pull the rod back out. The excess material of the wiping patch will gather in the narrower neck behind the head of the jag and bunch up when you pull back on the rod. This bunched up material gets thicker as it bunches up and wipes the grooves fairly clean on the way out.

TARGETS & AIMING FROM BENCH AND FIELD POSITIONS

Q — Do you have any advice on aiming?

A — Not really, there are too many different sights. Open, peep or aperture, scope and I think you pretty have to work on that by yourself. Ask people for advice etc. To me that’s a large part of the fun of a new rifle. Remember that in aiming as well as loading, consistency shot after shot is most important. There is one piece of advice that I have given that has been very successful for a lot of people I have coached. To shoot accurately with an accurate rifle requires focus. There is nothing but you, the sight picture and the target be it a deer or a spot on a piece of paper. Ignore all distractions and Follow Through. As humans we have the ability to focus on a variety of things at the same time. When we take a step with our right leg we are already preparing to follow that step with one with our left leg. We do this unconsciously and give no thought to it. Now, whether we are shooting at a deer or just a target we are unconsciously thinking about the next thing we are going to do, such as reloading the rifle or standing up to look through your spotting scope or giving the rifle that quick wipe between shots. You see, when you do this, your mind is not totally focused on your shooting. So what you need to do is aim your rifle and then keep it aimed right on through the shot and afterward. Stupid? Sort of. Waste of time? Not really because when you are aiming you are preparing to aim just as tightly on the target after you fire. The result is that you are focused on aiming exactly, instead of thinking about what you will do next. Both before and just after firing, focus on the target without distractions. This “do what you are doing while you are doing it” approach is as simple as it is simple to achieve, but it will really increase your accuracy.


Q — Do you have any recommendations on which are the best targets to use?

A — Use the smallest target you can still see clearly at the distance you are shooting. It focuses your eye more precisely. The larger 100 yard targets are fairly impossible to miss at 50 yards but your group will be larger than you desire because while the large target is easier to see, it is less likely for you to determine the center of the target plus your front sight tends to get lost against all that black. I suggest that you make Xerox copies of the template I sent out with the System. I was able to use these rather small targets at up to 100 yards with rapidly declining vision. Some rifles come with the front sight set up for a “six o’clock hold”. This is an arrangement where the top of the front sight is supposed to be just touching the bottom of the big black circle so that you don’t lose the front sight against the black background. The bullet, or ball, will hit a few inches above the point of aim. I have heard so many people with new rifles complain that the rifle hits high. That’s because they are aiming at the center of the target with a rifle that is set up for a six o’clock hold. If you have such a rifle and want to hit where the top of the front sight is aimed, filing the front sight down will raise the point of impact. Do this filing a little bit at a time with test shots in between because if you remove too much metal it is very hard to un-file that front sight.


Q — I have an opportunity to buy a used rifle at an affordable price. What should I look for?

A — Beware the bargain rifle. You’re at a Gun Show with goodies everywhere. You see a particularly handsome rifle so you pick it up. Admire the heft and general feel of the rifle, probably sight in a light bulb across the room. Then you, being the careful purchaser you are will work the lock to see if it will cock, and if its a flintlock, you may dry fire it a few times to see how it sparks. Bravo, a regular Fourth of July; sparks everywhere but mostly in the pan where they should be. So you begin to dicker. There’s one more thing you should look at. Ask the dealer if you can run a patch or two down the barrel. If he says “No” just walk on by. If he says “Yes” put two wiping patches on the jag and slowly push it down the barrel. If it goes smoothly down all the way then you can consider dickering on price what with it being a “Piece of junk” you are lusting after and being broke what with the wife leaving you with the kids and losing your job and all the other postures involved in the dicker and him telling you it was used only once by quadriplegic little old lady. On the other hand, if in pushing the tight patch and jag combination down the barrel, you notice that the rod drops a half inch or so and then continues slowly down the barrel you are looking at a ringed, or bulged barrel. You do not want that rifle. The usual place to find that ring is about six inches down where the short starter usually places the ball. The rifle was short started but the ball wasn’t seated down on the powder. Firing the rifle with the ball only part way down will give you a ring like that and the barrel is probably ruined. A gentleman who purchased the good looking .50 caliber TC Hawken found a ring very close to the muzzle, about 6 inches down and then again down where the rear sight is attached. The only solution is to have the barrel re-rifled to .54 caliber or securing a new drop in barrel. Neither of these are cheap to do. This practice of checking out the inside of the barrel is of particular value when you find a rifle for sale at a pretty reasonable price. The dealer either knows about the rings or he’s selling it because it never shoots well. In the first case he’s guilty of a fraud, in the second case he’s innocent of evil intent but doesn’t know squat about Black Powder rifles. The bulges are rarely visible on the outside of the barrel.


Q — I have been getting fairly tight groups but noticed that I was getting a flyer every 5 or seven shots with equal weight balls. What could be causing that?

A — It could be caused by drastically changing the face of the ball to where it is not aerodynamically sound for passage through the air between you and the target. If you are using precut patches there is a hard to explain flaw in using them. Careful observation showed me that although I placed the precut patch exactly centered on the muzzle, pressed the ball, sprue exactly centered, as hard as I could to have the lead begin to engage the lands through the material so it would stay centered on short starting that more frequently than one would desire, the patching on one side would go in further than it did on the opposite side. If this is slightly off center no big deal. If it is off center enough not to have a solid band of the patching material all around the “belt” of the ball you have blow-by with all its negative effect on accuracy. If you are into perfect patches, you cut them at the muzzle after the ball is pushed very slightly below the muzzle face. I thought people did this to look Macho or Olde Tymey. I was using precuts at the time. After I switched to cutting the patching off at the muzzle, I had no more flyers from this cause. An examination of fired muzzle-cut patching showed that there had been a perfect patch every time. And not only that but you look Macho and Olde Tymey.


Q — What do you mean by equal weight balls”?

A — Youve neglected one of the more important parts of the System. Read the second column on page 4 of the Accuracy section. That and the Dry Lube System should prevent flyers forever.


Q — I have been told that I “cant” (tilt) my rifle when aiming which affects my accuracy. what would you suggest?

A — There are front sights with a bubble lever which you might install. You’ll be able to see that the rifle is held straight up by keeping the bubble centered. A very intense experimenter named Ed Wosika has come up with the target pictured below at exactly half size as a 100 Yard target that should eliminate your tendency to lean your rife one Gun______________ Bullet___________________________________ Powder____________/_____gr Project__________________________ way or the other. The angle of your front sight would be immediately apparent. The half size target pictured here might be good for 50 yard shhoting.


Q — You strongly recommend working up a rifle’s load shooting bench rest. How should I support the rifle during this kind of shoting?

A — Aim your rifle in the usual way in the off-hand position. note where your supporting hand is holding the rifle-usially at the balance point. That is the same place on the stock that should be resting on the sand bag or whatever you are using to brace your rifle during your shooting. Remember we are trying to learn how your rifle shoots without your personal swaying about affecting the result. Keep the butt firmly in your shoulder.


Q — You indicate that the cloth patch should take up any slack between ball and barrel wall. Does this mean I can use smaller balls with a thicker patch?

A — You might try it and see if it works. I have always thought and practiced in using the largest ball I can load without the need of a hammer. The more lead of the ball we can force into the grooves of the rifling the better. To do otherwise would be placing too much reliance on the cotton cloth to grip the ball in the grooves and the cotton would be more exposed to the fire produced by the powder’s explosion.


This is the extent of my research into past questions and my ansers hat I have unearthed so far. Should any new questions arise I will ad them to this list if I feel they deal with a common problem not covered above, within the System or on my web site. Some of my experience has led me to conclusions that are considered controversial. I am not soliciting arguments just outlining the conclusions reached in over 9 years of experiments.