1863 Musket & Revolvers: Bullet widths, lube, wads Questions related to.........

cannonball59

Cadet
Joined
Nov 29, 2020
I have done a lot of searching on various websites, watched videos, etc. It seems the information I am seeking is only partially answered as people don't explain in detail. I see and read different opinions on how things should be done. So I am posting this to see if anyone can provide better answers.

1) Rifled Musket Bullets: I am aware of three 58 caliber widths..... .575 .577 .58 How do you determine best width for a barrel without tools? It is my understanding that the bullet has to be snug. Were round balls also used?

2) Lube & wadding:

Is lube ONLY used to help with loading? Does it help when the projectile is fired?

It is my understanding that with a revolver, lubed wads are preferred to prevent a random spark from ignighting another chamber. I have seen videos with people only using powder and ball AND powder, lubed wads and ball. Can a ball be lubed? If not, is that why balls should be used with lubed wads? If a bullet is used and lubed, then is the lubed wad not needed?

I see videos of people using lubed bullets and powder only with muskets. Is a wad really necessary?

I believe I have been clear enough with my thoughts and questions. Thank you in advance for any comments or answers.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
I have done a lot of searching on various websites, watched videos, etc. It seems the information I am seeking is only partially answered as people don't explain in detail. I see and read different opinions on how things should be done. So I am posting this to see if anyone can provide better answers.

1) Rifled Musket Bullets: I am aware of three 58 caliber widths..... .575 .577 .58 How do you determine best width for a barrel without tools? It is my understanding that the bullet has to be snug. Were round balls also used?

Conical musket balls - Minié expansion bullets or Lorenz/Wilkinson compression bullets - should be sized .001 - .002 inches under bore size for the best accuracy. Measuring this is difficult without tools. A set of machinist's plug gauges in .001 inch increments between .575 and .581 works best and is not expensive. Once you've determined the bore diameter you need a push through sizing die to properly size the bullet. A properly sized bullet will help scrape powder fouling out of the bore.

Patched round balls may be used, but they are not authentic with a rifle musket and they are not as accurate as the conical bullets.

2) Lube & wadding:

Is lube ONLY used to help with loading? Does it help when the projectile is fired?

Good lubrication on the sides of the bullet softens the powder fouling from the last shot, making the musket easy to load during a string of fire. If you can't easily load and shoot 100 rounds in a shooting session you balls are not properly sized and you are using poor quality lubricant. I would recommend Old Trapper's MCM Lube which may be obtained from North East Trade Co., 1980 John Brady Dr., Muncy, PA 17756. Don't fill the base of a Minié ball with lubricant. All that does is muck up the powder charge when the gun gets hot. Crisco is often recommended. Don't use it. It is a poor lubricant to tends to promote cook offs. Avoid lubricants with a petroleum base.

I see videos of people using lubed bullets and powder only with muskets. Is a wad really necessary?

No wad is required, and wads should not be used. [There are exceptions: the Whitworth and the Muster 1851 Swiss Federal Rifle, but they are not commonly used here.] Smoothbores are another matter, but I don't believe you are asking about them.

It is my understanding that with a revolver, lubed wads are preferred to prevent a random spark from ignighting another chamber. I have seen videos with people only using powder and ball AND powder, lubed wads and ball. Can a ball be lubed? If not, is that why balls should be used with lubed wads? If a bullet is used and lubed, then is the lubed wad not needed?

The ideal load with the revolver is the powder charge, two well lubricated felt wads [Wonder Wads work well], and a TIGHT fitting round ball. The ball should shave lead when loaded. You will not have a chain fire loading in that manner. The balls, per se, are not lubricated. Never load the revolver with just the ball over the powder, even if you've rubbed some grease on the ball.

The modern mantra is to cover the mouths of the chambers with grease to prevent chain fires. If you examine the gun when you've used this technique, by the third shot most of the grease has been blown off of the mouths of the remaining cylinders. When my great, great grandfather with the 8th Illinois Cavalry was out in July and August in Virginia, the grease would have melted off of the chambers before he had gotten a hundred yards down the road. But, the Federal Army used pre-made pistol cartridges most of the time.

The second cause of chain fires in a revolver is loose percussion caps. The cap should be lightly crimped so that it fits the nipple tightly. If a cap(s) comes off while you are firing, fire from another cylinder can get into the exposed nipple(s) and cause a chain fire.

You really need someone who knows what they are doing to work with you. Web sites and videos are only as good as the knowledge - or lack thereof - of the people who made them.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 
Last edited:

cannonball59

Cadet
Joined
Nov 29, 2020
Also, I forgot to mention: For a 1863 Springfield 58 cal rifled musket, is the recommended powder grain 50-55? And why the difference? And a Remington 44 cal 1858 revolver....what is the grain of powder?

Black powder vs black powder substitute: Would the measurements be the same? Thank you
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
Also, I forgot to mention: For a 1863 Springfield 58 cal rifled musket, is the recommended powder grain 50-55? And why the difference? And a Remington 44 cal 1858 revolver....what is the grain of powder?

It depends on the granulation and manufacturer of the powder you use. North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) shooters normally use FFg or FFFg grades of powder, and you would use a little lighter charge of FFFg than FFg. If you were using Swiss rather than GOEX powder you would also use a little lighter charge. The guns also have a sweet spot with a powder charge that they like. Pick FFG or FFFG. Start off with 45 grains and measure out test charges at 2.5 grain intervals. See what the gun likes and refine the load from there.

For revolver it depends on the distance you are going to shoot. For 25 yards, 15 grains of FFFg with a little Cream of Wheat filler over the powder and under the wads will work. My experience at 50 yards is that you need a service load, and I shoot 25 grains of Swiss FFFg.

Black powder vs black powder substitute: Would the measurements be the same? Thank you

We are required to use black powder in N-SSA matches and in Muzzle Loaders Associations International Committee international matches and I consequently have no experience with black powder substitutes.

After you shoot, clean your guns carefully with proper cleaning materials. Black powder fouling is hydroscopic and very corrosive. From your questions you need someone who knows what they are doing to be your guru.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Also, I forgot to mention: For a 1863 Springfield 58 cal rifled musket, is the recommended powder grain 50-55? And why the difference? And a Remington 44 cal 1858 revolver....what is the grain of powder?

Black powder vs black powder substitute: Would the measurements be the same? Thank you
At one time (and they still might do it), Pyrodex listed on their container not to use their product on original black powder guns.
I don't know about the other substitutes.
Real black powder, Goes, Swiss, etc. are safe to use in older and modern black powder weapons, provided of course the weapon is in good condition and safe to shoot.
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
Also, I forgot to mention: For a 1863 Springfield 58 cal rifled musket, is the recommended powder grain 50-55? And why the difference? And a Remington 44 cal 1858 revolver....what is the grain of powder?

Black powder vs black powder substitute: Would the measurements be the same? Thank you
Service charge in a musket was 60g 2f. In N-SSA competition, we typically use 2 or 3f. My competition load is 42g 3f Old E, beeswax/lard lube. Difference in powder charges are directly related to accuracy and power needs. In a minie rifle, too much powder can destroy accuracy and too little wont reliably get the bullet stabilized. I have shot the load I’ve listed in my musket for over 60 shots straight with no loss of accuracy. What Don says is correct
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
Black powder vs black powder substitute: Would the measurements be the same?
I didnt see an answer to this Q.

It has been a long time since I’ve fired true Black Powder. If my memory serves me correctly, the load would be equivalent. However, I usually selected a load that I felt was best for my gun and distance and whether it was loaded for hunting.

Also, I tested reducing my powder charge and adding filler. That was always cumbersome so I loaded with a full load or 5 grains less.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
With Pyrodex, the load was the same volume, not weight, as a black powder load. I don't know about the other substitutes but I would assume it would same something about what charge to use on it's container.
Let me just state that I don't care for the substitutes. Pyrodex is pretty corrosive in itself, produces toxic fumes, it's fowling is pretty hard and needs a higher ignition temperature to make it ignite. I guess they have a purpose in the modern muzzle loaders, the kind that looks like model rifles and wear scopes, and use shotgun primers to make them go boom. But I'm old school and I like my muzzle loaders to use flint for ignition and use real black powder like it's been done for hundereds of years.
 

29thWisCoG

Private
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
1) Rifled Musket Bullets: I am aware of three 58 caliber widths..... .575 .577 .58 How do you determine best width for a barrel without tools? It is my understanding that the bullet has to be snug. Were round balls also used?
You can use a no-go "pin" gauge to get a decent idea on the size of the bore, these gauges can he had on amazon for about $5 a piece and are a good investment... for the rifled musket the minie ball is sized 0.001 or 0.002 inches less than the barrel, and you can use simple push thru sizing dies for this.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
We usually load the Remington 1858 with 30-40 grains FFF blackpowder. Its a real beast at 40, not for the faint of heart. Attached pic shows my buddy firing at least 30 grains...
IMG-20180925-WA0000.jpg


Here is a sequence of pics taken at dusk...from cap ignition to final recoil.
VideoCapture_20210530-113530.jpg
VideoCapture_20210530-113321.jpg
VideoCapture_20210530-113418.jpg
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
I'm using as cast .685 all-lead "wad-cutter" Minie/Burton bullets from a Moose Mould without sizing in a re-lined Bob Hoyt .687" barrel of an original rifled and sighted Model 1842 musket made in Springfield, MA in 1851 with good results for skirmishing.

Also, a Mississoli/Pedersippi rifle in .58/ .577 with un-sized .575 Minie/Burton balls, all lead. I need to fix the knocked off front sight on that one.

I mix my own lube in a double boiler. I am getting better results even in Texas with a half-and-half mutton tallow to bees wax ratio with just a drop or two of olive oil added. I used to use the Civil War-era lubricant recipe for historical accuracy reasons, but it is way too thick and sticky. I use FFFg Goex black powder for Minie/Burton balls. FFg for musket balls in a smooth-bore. The charges can be a great deal smaller than the service loads were. Your shoulder will thank you.

Patched round balls were used in .50 and .54 caliber U.S. rifled arms using many deep rifle grooves and a particular rate of twist. So, for example, the .54 Model 1841 percussion "Mississippi" or Yaeger rifle used a .530 ball in a sewn patch and a heavy rammer for a seven-groove barrel. A Civil War Minie/Burton ball rifle barrel has three shallow and wide grooves, which are tailored for use with those kinds of bullets only. So accuracy would suffer with a round ball. It could be done, however.

Good luck and good shooting to you! If you can find skirmishers in your area, they can be a great source of info on getting an accurate load together for your rifle or cap and ball revolver. A .36 cal. "navy" type revolver won't fit more than 17-grains behind the ball in the cylinder, if I recollect correctly.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I'm using as cast .685 all-lead "wad-cutter" Minie/Burton bullets from a Moose Mould without sizing in a re-lined Bob Hoyt .687" barrel of an original rifled and sighted Model 1842 musket made in Springfield, MA in 1851 with good results for skirmishing.

Also, a Mississoli/Pedersippi rifle in .58/ .577 with un-sized .575 Minie/Burton balls, all lead. I need to fix the knocked off front sight on that one.

I mix my own lube in a double boiler. I am getting better results even in Texas with a half-and-half mutton tallow to bees wax ratio with just a drop or two of olive oil added. I used to use the Civil War-era lubricant recipe for historical accuracy reasons, but it is way too thick and sticky. I use FFFg Goex black powder for Minie/Burton balls. FFg for musket balls in a smooth-bore. The charges can be a great deal smaller than the service loads were. Your shoulder will thank you.

Patched round balls were used in .50 and .54 caliber U.S. rifled arms using many deep rifle grooves and a particular rate of twist. So, for example, the .54 Model 1841 percussion "Mississippi" or Yaeger rifle used a .530 ball in a sewn patch and a heavy rammer for a seven-groove barrel. A Civil War Minie/Burton ball rifle barrel has three shallow and wide grooves, which are tailored for use with those kinds of bullets only. So accuracy would suffer with a round ball. It could be done, however.

Good luck and good shooting to you! If you can find skirmishers in your area, they can be a great source of info on getting an accurate load together for your rifle or cap and ball revolver. A .36 cal. "navy" type revolver won't fit more than 17-grains behind the ball in the cylinder, if I recollect correctly.
What type of skirmishing do you do?
In the 80's I was in the N-SSA, but now that I live in Missouri, they don't have teams wear of the Miss. River, although I do see they have at least one team in TX. Are you on one of those teams?
I'd be interested in skirmishing again, as I had a great time doing so.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Yes, there is a Texas skirmisher's association, and most guys have been very active in the N-SSA. I've yet to make it to Winchester VA, but I've certainly driven past it... Perhaps later in the coming years?

There were Texas teams that were quite competitive, particularly in the arcane arts of smooth-bore competition. Most of the skirmishers I've run up against are using the Potsdam Prussian muskets that were converted to caplock. These have a small rear sight. I'm using a smooth-bore barrel installed in place of my rifled and sighted Model 1842 barrel. I've got a problem-child frankenmusket flintlock too, but I've not used it in a skirmish. At least yet.

I'd hope there would be some skirmishing groups or clubs in Missouri... I'm best at team rifle musket, but everything else is a mighty steep learning curve. I did alright with a Charlie Hahn-converted Sharp's reproduction "Beecher's Bible" carbine... Making the combustible cartridges is a challenge there...
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I'm using as cast .685 all-lead "wad-cutter" Minie/Burton bullets from a Moose Mould without sizing in a re-lined Bob Hoyt .687" barrel of an original rifled and sighted Model 1842 musket made in Springfield, MA in 1851 with good results for skirmishing.

Also, a Mississoli/Pedersippi rifle in .58/ .577 with un-sized .575 Minie/Burton balls, all lead. I need to fix the knocked off front sight on that one.

I mix my own lube in a double boiler. I am getting better results even in Texas with a half-and-half mutton tallow to bees wax ratio with just a drop or two of olive oil added. I used to use the Civil War-era lubricant recipe for historical accuracy reasons, but it is way too thick and sticky. I use FFFg Goex black powder for Minie/Burton balls. FFg for musket balls in a smooth-bore. The charges can be a great deal smaller than the service loads were. Your shoulder will thank you.

Patched round balls were used in .50 and .54 caliber U.S. rifled arms using many deep rifle grooves and a particular rate of twist. So, for example, the .54 Model 1841 percussion "Mississippi" or Yaeger rifle used a .530 ball in a sewn patch and a heavy rammer for a seven-groove barrel. A Civil War Minie/Burton ball rifle barrel has three shallow and wide grooves, which are tailored for use with those kinds of bullets only. So accuracy would suffer with a round ball. It could be done, however.

Good luck and good shooting to you! If you can find skirmishers in your area, they can be a great source of info on getting an accurate load together for your rifle or cap and ball revolver. A .36 cal. "navy" type revolver won't fit more than 17-grains behind the ball in the cylinder, if I recollect correctly.
I read somewhere that in theory, the Colt 1851 Navy can take up to 27 grains of blackpowder, as long as you aren't using wads. The cylinder might look a bit full but the powder compresses as you ram the ball down. That being said, I don't think I have ever used more than 25 grains.

Here is a link to some information on loads for various .36 and .44 revolvers. It mentions Colt's recommendations as well as Union and Confederate "typical" loads, etc.

https://www.n-ssa.net/vbforum/archive/index.php/t-1237.html
 
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