Ammo 1853 Enfield - Improving Accuracy

Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I am getting very bad accuracy from my p1853 Enfield, despite it still having visible rifling. Benchrested, I get a 20" spread at 50 yards (EDIT: in all directions, not just windage or just elevation) many bullets don't even hit the paper at 100 yards. How can I improve the accuracy?

20190317_121543.jpg


I have ruled out a poorly clamped/fitted barrel in the stock. Despite putting a thin bristol board between the barrel and the stock, or some tape between the barrel and the barrel bands and tightening the bands to the max, I have gotten minimal to no improvement in accuracy...so I don't think the barrel fit in the stock (many refer to this as "barrel bedding") is the issue. I have begun to suspect that the Minie ball I am using is too narrow, and is bouncing around in the barrel before it leaves the barrel. How can I prove that? Should I try to patch the Minie using paper or cloth and see if that improves the accuracy? Are there any pre-made Minie's for sale of a larger diameter that I can test before I go and buy another mold? Should I try a patched round ball and see how that works?

These are the specs I am working with:
  • I have the double-25 proof marks, so it was manufactured as a .577 caliber
  • I am using a Lyman .575 Minie Ball mold, and I cast using pure lead.
  • bullet lube is 50-50 mix of beeswax and Crisco (works great!); fouling isn't a problem even after 60 shots (but is that because the Minie is too narrow?)
  • I have tried firing with various powder loads; 60 grains FF is my standard, but I have tried less (45-50 grains) and as much as 68 grains
In theory, the .575 mold is the perfect diameter, BUT:
  • when I measure the inside tip of the barrel, the caliper reads .594
  • if I insert the caliper 3/8" into barrel, I get a reading of .585
I realize there likely has been some barrel wear, but the rifling looks reasonable (do you agree based on the picture?), so I expected better accuracy. I'd be happy with an 8" group at 100 yards (is that unrealistic?). I'd love to use this old beauty to hunt deer. What is your advice on things to try in order to get better accuracy?
 
Last edited:

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
I am getting very bad accuracy from my p1853 Enfield, despite it still having visible rifling. Benchrested, I get a 20" spread at 50 yards, many bullets don't even hit the paper at 100 yards. How can I improve the accuracy?

View attachment 342637

I have ruled out a poorly clamped/fitted barrel in the stock. Despite putting a thin bristol board between the barrel and the stock, or some tape between the barrel and the barrel bands and tightening the bands to the max, I have gotten minimal to no improvement in accuracy...so I don't think the barrel fit in the stock (many refer to this as "barrel bedding") is the issue. I have begun to suspect that the Minie ball I am using is too narrow, and is bouncing around in the barrel before it leaves the barrel. How can I prove that? Should I try to patch the Minie using paper or cloth and see if that improves the accuracy? Are there any pre-made Minie's for sale of a larger diameter that I can test before I go and buy another mold? Should I try a patched round ball and see how that works?

These are the specs I am working with:
  • I have the double-25 proof marks, so it was manufactured as a .577 caliber
  • I am using a Lyman .575 Minie Ball mold, and I cast using pure lead.
  • bullet lube is 50-50 mix of beeswax and Crisco (works great!); fouling isn't a problem even after 60 shots (but is that because the Minie is too narrow?)
  • I have tried firing with various powder loads; 60 grains FF is my standard, but I have tried less (45-50 grains) and as much as 68 grains
In theory, the .575 mold is the perfect diameter, BUT:
  • when I measure the inside tip of the barrel, the caliper reads .594
  • if I insert the caliper 3/8" into barrel, I get a reading of .585
I realize there likely has been some barrel wear, but the rifling looks reasonable (do you agree based on the picture?), so I expected better accuracy. I'd be happy with an 8" group at 100 yards (is that unrealistic?). I'd love to use this old beauty to hunt deer. What is your advice on things to try in order to get better accuracy?

Several questions first-
1) Is this an original or repop?
2) What caps?
3) Have you had the bore measured accurately?

Does your bore have leading deposits. That's easy to remove, just wet it down a couple times a day with Kroil soaked patches, then bronze brush after about a week. The Kroil is a very effective penetrating oil that will lift the lead out of the bore. Also from your description, it does sound like you're using way too small a minie.

My P58 Parker Hale shoots 2in at 100yd with iron sights with an RCBS Hogdon with extended base plug in the mold. Bullet designs absolutely affect accuracy. Experiment. My P58 also has a verified .575 bore. I have other muskets with as high as .581. Ammo for the .575 will NOT shoot well in the .581.

That said, here's a list of conditions for accurate minie ball shooting-

1)Bullet MUST be about .001 of bore size. Bore size MUST be accurately measured.
2)Bullet MUST be pure lead
3)Good quality powder. I shoot Swiss and Old Eynsford for accuracy
4)Good quality caps. RWS are best, followed closely by Schutzen. Avoid CCI reenactor grade like ebola
5)Lube- lots of opinions but my testing showed 50/50 beeswax/lard best in my P58
6)Powder- I get best accuracy with Swiss followed closely by Goex Old Eynsford charge level of 42gr 3f. Yes, you can use 3f.
7)Nipple (cone) condition. If it's "shot out" a new one is in order. If yours is original, of course keep it, but for shooting put in a new one.

For a supply of sample bullets to try call this guy-
He's a member of the N-SSA, as am I, and we shoot these guns in competition. He can definitely help.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Its an original p1853. The caps are a mishmash of stuff I have bought at shows...not sure how relevant the cap is once the powder ignites (are you concerned about minimizing time to ignition?). How do I get an accurate bore measurement? We use GoEx powder. No lead deposits...I clean the bore thoroughly using a 20 gauge shotgun bronze bore brush. You seem very knowledgeable...what's your opinion of the rifling from the picture?
 

rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
In theory, the .575 mold is the perfect diameter, BUT:
  • when I measure the inside tip of the barrel, the caliper reads .594
  • if I insert the caliper 3/8" into barrel, I get a reading of .585
Considering that your measurements show that the bore is getting larger near the muzzle, I can't help but wonder if you aren't getting some gas blowing by the projectile during that last 3/8" that upsets the flight, especially if it is only marginally stable to begin with. I know that merely having a nick in the muzzle can cause accuracy problems, having one that gets larger seems problematic to me.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Poorjack gave you some good advice, but have your measured a couple of your cast rounds?
Just because the mold says it's. 577 doesn't mean it's casting a bullet of that size. If you inside bore diameter reads 0.585 and your bullet mikes out to 0.577, then I'd say your bullet is about 8 to 10 one hundred too small.
Contact the guy that Poorjack told you about to see if you can get some mini's of various diameters to find out what shoots best out of your musket.

To find out what the inside diameter of a barrel is, this is what I did, and it's not for the faint of heart. Get yourself two hardwood dowels slightly undersized of your barrel. Cut one so that's it's 10-15 inches shorter than your barrel. Grease/oil the bore of your barrel and drop the shortened dowel down the bore. Take a minie and cut the skirt and nose off of the bullet; you want it to look like a lead plug, about a half inch long. Insert the plug into the barrel and push it down until it rests up against the dowel. Take the second dowel and put it into the barrel until it rests up against the lead slug. Cut it off a few inches longer than the end of the barrel. Hit the end of this dowel hard enough to spread the lead plug out so it fills the diameter of the bore of the musket. Get a ball puller, put it on the end of your range rod and pull the slug out. Now you can measure the slug to find out what your barrel diameter is. Simple, huh? That's the way us Bubba gunsmith's do it.

Even if you don't try this method, you need a range rod for loading rounds and that will accept various types of jags on it, including a ball puller, the type that looks like a wood screw. Sooner or later you'll need it. I don't like the idea of removing the breach plug especially on an original gun unless it's the absolutely the last option.

You can also take your range rod and put a cleaning jag on the end and wrap some four ought (0000) steal wool that's been saturated in a light oil and clean the devil out of the barrel. The steal wool won't damage the metal of the barrel and if you use a penetrating oil, like Kroil, over the period of several days, you'll remove and lead and/or crud.

Good luck with what ever you do.
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
Its an original p1853. The caps are a mishmash of stuff I have bought at shows...not sure how relevant the cap is once the powder ignites (are you concerned about minimizing time to ignition?). How do I get an accurate bore measurement? We use GoEx powder. No lead deposits...I clean the bore thoroughly using a 20 gauge shotgun bronze bore brush. You seem very knowledgeable...what's your opinion of the rifling from the picture?

Knowledgeable- I compete with the North South Skirmish Association with Civil War era guns for accuracy and speed. I'm also a certified NRA Muzzleloading Instructor, but hey, what could I know? :D

Caps absolutely can affect accuracy as they are part of your speed of ignition, how the charge is ignited and how much initial pressure is generated. Yes, all other factors equal, caps are also a BIG part of the equation.

Without resorting to a machine shop, bore can be measured using pin gauges available on Amazon. You don't need an entire set. From what you've measured already, I'd say you need .585 .583 .581 and possibly .579. Process- put a short brass rod or similar weight into the barrel that is way under bore size so it can slide by gravity. Then use the pin gauge to check the diameter of the bore. If 585 is too big and 583 too small, your bore size is .584. If .583 fits and 581 is too small, your bore size is .583-.582. If the pin "sticks" and you can't remove with finger effort, turn the muzzle down and let the weight you put into the barrel "bump" it out.

Your rifling looks ok and serviceable. I always ask about leading as it can be a problem caused by previous owners of guns who liquidate the gun thinking the gun is incapable of accuracy when the it's the owner who's incapable. :D
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
My thanks for everyones advice so far.

Considering the rifling, I think it is capable of much better accuracy, so we are not selling off our Enfield anytime soon. My son and I are both quite capable shooters, so it isn't us that's the problem, either....especially bench-rested.

I highly suspect its the diameter of the Minie that will make the difference. Until I can get an accurate bore size, and appropriately sized Minies, is there any value in testing with cloth-patched Minies? With a patch, would you expect the accuracy to increase?

I have measured the Minies we molded. They are .575 as per the mold specs.

I will try contacting the guy that Poorjack recommended for various Minie sizes. Any other advice will be greatly appreciated!
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
My thanks for everyones advice so far.

Considering the rifling, I think it is capable of much better accuracy, so we are not selling off our Enfield anytime soon. My son and I are both quite capable shooters, so it isn't us that's the problem, either....especially bench-rested.

I highly suspect its the diameter of the Minie that will make the difference. Until I can get an accurate bore size, and appropriately sized Minies, is there any value in testing with cloth-patched Minies? With a patch, would you expect the accuracy to increase?

I have measured the Minies we molded. They are .575 as per the mold specs.

I will try contacting the guy that Poorjack recommended for various Minie sizes. Any other advice will be greatly appreciated!

At this point, I'd get a supply of properly sized minies and known good caps. Come on over to the North South Skirmish Association. We shoot Civil War era guns in competition including artillery. Yup, we shoot cannon in live fire competition. The owner of this forum is N-SSA and if you're somewhere in the eastern US, odds are we can hook you up with some members.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
You may have to size your Minié/Burton balls. I would switch to 3f. Most people I know who shoot Miniés use smaller charges of FFFg, although certainly the FFg is what was used "back in the day." Is the muzzle crown OK? Check to ensure that it is. Easy enough to get it re-crowned, I'd think.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
You may have to size your Minié/Burton balls. I would switch to 3f. Most people I know who shoot Miniés use smaller charges of FFFg, although certainly the FFg is what was used "back in the day." Is the muzzle crown OK? Check to ensure that it is. Easy enough to get it re-crowned, I'd think.
There's no visible damage to the Crown. We had considered that...its good advice though.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
NSSA competition/shoots sound fun...alas, I live in Canad-istan, so its not an easy option, unless there are events in Western New York or along the south shore of Lake Erie.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
My thanks for everyones advice so far.

Considering the rifling, I think it is capable of much better accuracy, so we are not selling off our Enfield anytime soon. My son and I are both quite capable shooters, so it isn't us that's the problem, either....especially bench-rested.

I highly suspect its the diameter of the Minie that will make the difference. Until I can get an accurate bore size, and appropriately sized Minies, is there any value in testing with cloth-patched Minies? With a patch, would you expect the accuracy to increase?

I have measured the Minies we molded. They are .575 as per the mold specs.

I will try contacting the guy that Poorjack recommended for various Minie sizes. Any other advice will be greatly appreciated!
I've never shot a cloth-patched minie, but I have shot round balls out of my reproduction Enfield with good results. I think the ball was 0.570 and I tried various patch thickness until I found a combination that worked. I would say if you can fit one of your minies with a 0.01 thick patch down the bore with minimum effort, that should tell you something about the size of your mini. So why not try it? If a cloth patch is too thick, use a greased paper patch.
The fact that the mouth of the bore is so much larger than the measurement you took 3/8" down the bore I don't think should concern you too much. I'll lay money down right now that the base of your bullet isn't perpendicular to the axis of the bore when you shoot it, and when it leaves the muzzle the base is not parallel to the bore.
So try shooting a cloth-patched round ball or minie out of that musket. You might find that it shoots pretty accurate, and you might learn something. The original bullet for your Enfileld shot a paper patched bullet.
 

Tin cup

Captain
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Location
Texas
I am getting very bad accuracy from my p1853 Enfield, despite it still having visible rifling. Benchrested, I get a 20" spread at 50 yards (EDIT: in all directions, not just windage or just elevation) many bullets don't even hit the paper at 100 yards. How can I improve the accuracy?

.

I have ruled out a poorly clamped/fitted barrel in the stock. Despite putting a thin bristol board between the barrel and the stock, or some tape between the barrel and the barrel bands and tightening the bands to the max, I have gotten minimal to no improvement in accuracy...so I don't think the barrel fit in the stock (many refer to this as "barrel bedding") is the issue. I have begun to suspect that the Minie ball I am using is too narrow, and is bouncing around in the barrel before it leaves the barrel. How can I prove that? Should I try to patch the Minie using paper or cloth and see if that improves the accuracy? Are there any pre-made Minie's for sale of a larger diameter that I can test before I go and buy another mold? Should I try a patched round ball and see how that works?

These are the specs I am working with:
  • I have the double-25 proof marks, so it was manufactured as a .577 caliber
  • I am using a Lyman .575 Minie Ball mold, and I cast using pure lead.
  • bullet lube is 50-50 mix of beeswax and Crisco (works great!); fouling isn't a problem even after 60 shots (but is that because the Minie is too narrow?)
  • I have tried firing with various powder loads; 60 grains FF is my standard, but I have tried less (45-50 grains) and as much as 68 grains
In theory, the .575 mold is the perfect diameter, BUT:
  • when I measure the inside tip of the barrel, the caliper reads .594
  • if I insert the caliper 3/8" into barrel, I get a reading of .585
I realize there likely has been some barrel wear, but the rifling looks reasonable (do you agree based on the picture?), so I expected better accuracy. I'd be happy with an 8" group at 100 yards (is that unrealistic?). I'd love to use this old beauty to hunt deer. What is your advice on things to try in order to get better accuracy?

I just got some of these:
Enfield .550 bullets.jpg

I got 36 of these maching pressed, .550" diameter wood plugged Pritchett Balls from https://www.papercartridges.com/pritchett-bullets.html. You can order ready made cartridges too: https://www.papercartridges.com/enfield-paper-cartridges.html I form my own pretty much like the originals.

Kevin Dally
 

1860man

Private
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
I have a Lorenz, that use to shoot tumbling bullet. After a lot of cleaning the size needed was 583-4. I am luckey that I can size up bullets to the size I need. 50 GRS 3f bees wax crisco. 50 yard group 3 touching
 

Dave Hull

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Location
Northern Virginia
All good advice from folks above. I have fired my 40 year old 1855 Springfield, with 3" shot groups out to 300 yards, and manage to hit paper with 1842 smooth bore regularly at 75 yards (especially with the 42, a task which is becoming more difficult as I now need cheaters to see anything under ten feet.)

I went back and reread your opening comments "I get a 20" spread at 50 yards, many bullets don't even hit the paper at 100 yards. How can I improve the accuracy?" A 20" spread at 50 yards, in every direction, sounds like it may be a firing technique issue over a mechanic issue. Over the years I have fired dozens of older weapons which had minor issues such as worn lands and grooves or bent sights. In all cases of a mechanical defect, rounds struck in a tight group, albeit off the 10 ring by many inches. I also spent some time with some fellas live firing who experienced some of the same issues you mentioned. We discussed the necessity of maintaining the same check to stock position, stable firing platform, catching the correct sight picture, trigger squeeze and breathing. Guys who were all over the paper, found their shot groups tightening, after just a few minor adjustments. Not saying that is the case here but when trying to drive nails, you have to eliminate as many variables as possible.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
All good advice from folks above. I have fired my 40 year old 1855 Springfield, with 3" shot groups out to 300 yards, and manage to hit paper with 1842 smooth bore regularly at 75 yards (especially with the 42, a task which is becoming more difficult as I now need cheaters to see anything under ten feet.)

I went back and reread your opening comments "I get a 20" spread at 50 yards, many bullets don't even hit the paper at 100 yards. How can I improve the accuracy?" A 20" spread at 50 yards, in every direction, sounds like it may be a firing technique issue over a mechanic issue. Over the years I have fired dozens of older weapons which had minor issues such as worn lands and grooves or bent sights. In all cases of a mechanical defect, rounds struck in a tight group, albeit off the 10 ring by many inches. I also spent some time with some fellas live firing who experienced some of the same issues you mentioned. We discussed the necessity of maintaining the same check to stock position, stable firing platform, catching the correct sight picture, trigger squeeze and breathing. Guys who were all over the paper, found their shot groups tightening, after just a few minor adjustments. Not saying that is the case here but when trying to drive nails, you have to eliminate as many variables as possible.
I am certain that the inaccuracy is from undersized minies bouncing around in the barrel. The Minies we are using are .575. I just used a pin-gauge technique and determined the tightest diameter in the bore is 0.586. I will be testing with larger Minies and expect the accuracy to increase. Trust me when I say that my son and I have good shooting mechanics. I won't be able to test the larger Minies anytime soon, but when I do I will report back.
 
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