Welcome to the forum and a new addiction.
Pin gauges are available on Amazon. You don't need the entire set. Before ordering, if you have a dial or digital caliper, check your bore size to get a ball park number. Example- if your bore measured .577 on the caliper, get pins in .574, .576, .578, .580. They're like $5ea and should be a Prime item. Then to check your bore, put a half inch fishing sinker or something similar that is about .500 into the bore (more on why later). Use your .576 pin first. If it is loose, then try .578. If .578 is too tight, then your bore is .577. If .578 is too loose, try .580, then you know your bore is .579. Don't try for anything more than a slip fit. If one sticks, no worries, just turn the gun muzzle down and the weight you put in the bore before starting will "clunk" it out for you. This size range of pins covers about any of the 58s out there except some that are waaaaay oversize and they do exist.
You didn't mention who made the gun so I'll throw out a generality, most repros measure large. I don't care what it says on the barrel or any literature Luigi sent with it. Measure and verify. That doesn't mean you can't make it shoot very, very well, it means you have to know what you are working with.
Once you get a good measurement, then time to look for a mold to start with. Lots of folks like Lee cause they're cheap and sometimes work. I have exactly one Lee mold in my pile that gets regular use and I have one more as a back up. You would know, it's a 58cal type that shoots exceptionally well in my Parker Hales and it's now discontinued.
Don't bother with any substitute powders. They all have issues in minie guns. I suggest 1) Swiss 2) Old Eynsford (a Goex product) 3) Schutzen or regular Goex.
I have two main lubes I use and each works best with a only one bullet design I shoot in competition. The Parker Hales like beeswax/lard (settled on after a couple hundred rounds of experiments) and the 62 Colts like beeswax/olive oil. As 5 different skirmishers, get 12 different answers.
I would also like to point you to a large community of people who shoot these guns in competition and can make them shoot like you wouldn't believe- the North South Skirmish Association. We have a forum where you can get real answers on what makes them shoot and not a reeactorism hearsay. There is also a N-SSA member down you way that is extremely well versed in muskets. His screen name is RaiderANV.
As said before, thanks for your service and many in the N-SSA are also prior service.
At first, I wasn't sure what you wanted info about---reenacting or buying a rifle.
I won't add to the above advice about selecting a bullet size. But I can give you some tips about molding your own.
I taught myself how to mold lead balls. I tried using the replica brass bullet molds that really had no handle at all. After many trails and errors, I have the procedure down pretty good, even though I don't have to do this but once a year or more.
You can go the old route and use a Pot and Dipper.
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But I recommend an electric furnace which drop hot lead out the bottom when you lift the lever. You will still need the Pot to transfer melted lead or to store it for next time.
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The only other thing you need is some candle Wax. Drop a pinch into the melted led and it will start to smoke and burn off the dross. Use an old spoon and skim off the black crude and you will think you have melted Silver.
TIP: Just so you don't have to learn this the hard way.
When dropping the candle wax into the melted lead, make sure you don't have wet hands. If one drop of water falls and hits that melted lead, it will Pop! out and leave a permanent tear-drop scar.
PS: I'm retired and also a VietNam- era Vet.
Will try the calipers and possibly a machine shop.......and thanks.
Basically I was asking about how to verify the exact bore size of my barrels so I will be able to cast my own minie balls. I have never done any casting and will want to cast as close to my bore size as possible allowing .001-.002" for windage. I do have an electronic dial caliper.I picked up a nice electronic calipers for around $35. I would recommend you get one as there will be times you will want to check the quality of your mold process or check ID's etc. Last week, I needed to re-tap a 6-1mm thread and I was too cheap to buy a set of metric taps. My auto mechanic didn't have taps that small but I happen to have a neighbor who rebuilds 4-wheeler engines and he cleaned up my threads.
With all those guns you have, I'm still a little confused about what you were asking. I was also posting to another thread where a guy was just starting out learning how to load and fire a BP weapon. So my reply was addressing how to get started with molding your ammo.
After owning a replica Zouave rifle, I got rid of it because my ammo was not sized for it. So I can't help you much there the ammo that I shoot now is patched ball or I will stuff a saboted hollow point if I want to blow up a rabid turtle.
I live outside of Mempfis now, but I lived 12 years in Fort Worth. Both of my kids were born there.
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