Breechldrs Questions on the 56-56 brass cartridge load

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Hello again: First off. Thanks to all on input and replies on my picture posting of my Sharps & Hankings.
I have been in a struggle getting a cartridge built for this very fire-able rifle. Info on loads and such is hard to come by -- and when you get such info, it never matches with past info. I realize most of you are collector's and never think about shooting a collectable. I respect that big time, but this one can and will be shot and used to the degree that it does function. It's life was either faked or placed in storage. None the less, it is ready for a test run.
As said above. Info is lacking and does not always jive.
Mine slugs at 54 cal bore, and chamber cast is 56-56 straight. I found a Spencer bullet that fits the bill for 54 cal with the smaller tail to fit the .520 inside diameter case of the 56-56. It measures .524. Nice press fit and (does) chamber.
My question is: Wikipedia seems to have the most overall info, yet the powder charge does not match. They say it took 42-45 gr BP by volume I assume.
Pics will be included I hope. But I loaded light for first run at 35 gr with one card with compression and was spot on to the cut rim for diameter difference.
3 total and 1 with 40 gr with no card. I did measure weight on the 40 volume and it was 37.0 gr. It will have a black mark on it in the pics. It did not seat to the ring. Could Wiki be off on their #'s per powder load?
I'm looking for any help I can get on actual 56-56 loads for the Sharps & Hankins Navy. Once again, the trick is.... this is an odd duck. It is not a 52 cal or 50 cal. as so many were. They all used the 56-50 case which was longer and could handle the powder as said. The 50-56 case will fit nicely in my chamber and I could use the case with a neck expander and enjoy the room for the powder charge spoken of. But Dixie does not make a 56-50 case set up for the rim fire conversion.
Yes --- I know! My hole, and I crawled into it. Not a problem, I get that. I'm just asking if anyone out there can give me some real specs on powder load for the 56-56 cartridge, or a direction to follow. I'm kinda on the figure of a miss print or wrong info. If the brass is the correct length and full top is at 43 gr and the info says 42-45 was the charge. There is something wrong. The last pics are of the final. The one with the black mark is the 40 gr with no card and it would not fit to the cut edge for diameter difference. Oops! forgot to mention. Pics 2 and 3 should show the trim cut. It goes from the stem being .524 to the bullet diameter at .544. It's a small mushroom style bullet. It's odd - but true. If all my #'s did not match. I would say it's a miss-match. All I ever see about the Navy 1862 rifle is 52 cal and some at 50 cal. Army also for that matter. Yet the Spencer bullet mold tells some story. I just don't know how they connect.
Thanks again to all.

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Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
First off, I've never reloaded for a Spencer, so take everything I say with that in mind. I have reloaded for 45-70 and like you, I could never get 70 grains of powder in the case. I've read your question twice and both time came away that the question you're asking is, "why can't I get as much powder in my case as the originals?" There are several reason for this:

1. Your brass case doesn't hold the same volume of powder as the original's did. I don't know what an original Spencer case was made from, perhaps it was copper, but your modern case is thicker than the original, therefore it doesn't hold as much powder. You also are using a cut down .22RF case for ignition, which wasn't used in the original, and that too takes up room in the case that would otherwise be used for powder. Also, you're fiber wad is taking a some space.

2. In addition to #1, perhaps the granular size of your powder is larger than the original powder? I can tell from your pictures of your loaded rounds that you're compressing the load somewhat; were the original loads also compressed? In my 45-70 loads, I had to compressed my loads by 3/8 of an inch in order to get 68 gr of 2f into the case. Don't try that much compression!

3. Is the bullet you're using a direct copy of an original? Like a .22RF, you're bullet has a rebated base, which fits inside the case, and perhaps your bullet fits into the case deeper than an original?

I can understand your question of why you can't get more powder into your cases, but I wouldn't be too concerned with the reasons why. 35 grains of powder is plenty to do what you want to do. And remember that your shooting a gun with 150 year old metal, and it's not a bad idea to reduce the stress from firing the gun by backing down the powder charge. I wouldn't try to increase the charge by compressing the load too much. In my experience, compressing the load does help with ignition, but I assume that doing so also increases pressure. Keep in mind that the most accurate loads are usually not the most powerful loads.

How do you keep the .22 case in the head of the Spencer case? I assume there could be some blow-by in this area?

Be safe, and let us know how it shoots.
 

Kirk Womack

Private
Joined
Jun 29, 2019
Location
Brookville, Indiana
Black powder acts differently than smokeless powder. All the old black powder cartridges that I've ever seen had a tightly compressed powder charge. About 40gr of 2f should be accurate and safe. It should also compress better.
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Thanks Booner and Kirk for your input. I gave it the test firing today and all went awesome in my book. I had the 4 rounds and chose the 40gr ff load for the strength test and fouling shot. The other 3 had 35gr ff. Coward but smart, first shot was with a heavy towel over the breach area. No aim, just clear and fire. It hit the berm at the 100 yard mark and erupted in AZ sand. Next 3 were at 30 yards with a 10" paper plate as target. Got the edge of the plate 1" in with the 3rd shot. Shoots high which I expected.
All in all. The day went well. The Sharps & Hankins is once again re-born.
The primers showed no blow-back, the case took no damage from the firing pin. All fired and struck the 22 primer spot on. Nice work Dixie on your case making. Fouling was more than I wanted to see but expected with the rim-fire and primer case although trimmed, it still does stick out a tad into the case. You have no center fire or fire hole with this set-up. Ignition is far from perfect, but does indeed work. I think I might try the fff powder next. I understand it burns a little hotter and might give me a cleaner burn rate? I'm going to keep it simple and small at the 35gr per volume. Recoil is sweet and a pleasure to shoot. I was wishing I had loaded up more.

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Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Thanks Booner and Kirk for your input. I gave it the test firing today and all went awesome in my book. I had the 4 rounds and chose the 40gr ff load for the strength test and fouling shot. The other 3 had 35gr ff. Coward but smart, first shot was with a heavy towel over the breach area. No aim, just clear and fire. It hit the berm at the 100 yard mark and erupted in AZ sand. Next 3 were at 30 yards with a 10" paper plate as target. Got the edge of the plate 1" in with the 3rd shot. Shoots high which I expected.
All in all. The day went well. The Sharps & Hankins is once again re-born.
The primers showed no blow-back, the case took no damage from the firing pin. All fired and struck the 22 primer spot on. Nice work Dixie on your case making. Fouling was more than I wanted to see but expected with the rim-fire and primer case although trimmed, it still does stick out a tad into the case. You have no center fire or fire hole with this set-up. Ignition is far from perfect, but does indeed work. I think I might try the fff powder next. I understand it burns a little hotter and might give me a cleaner burn rate? I'm going to keep it simple and small at the 35gr per volume. Recoil is sweet and a pleasure to shoot. I was wishing I had loaded up more.

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Can you use. 22 blanks or does it have to be a cut down rimfire round?
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Can you use. 22 blanks or does it have to be a cut down rimfire round?
Good question and I can only share what I know. Dixie makes the brass and recommends the use of 6mm in size 22 blanks. I ordered the 100 lot the same time I ordered the brass for the just in case purpose. I had been told that the blanks were to hot and could send the bullet on an early journey. I have never used them because they did not fit tight enough for my want. But I have only loaded and shot 4 rounds so far.
Other complaints were the blanks expanded outward and were hard to remove.
Myself? I might give them a spin now that I've shot a few rounds. Hotter could be good for me per a cleaner burn. The loose fit? I only tried a few and unfairly condemned them. It's not like they fell out, I just wanted a tighter fit. As seen in my pics, I had no blow back at the primer. Maybe with the expansion from the blanks, the same seal will happen?
Thanks for your question Booner, it raised an eyebrow for me. I need a cleaner burn. It never hurts to try and to top off what you ask without asking. Prep with bullet and powder removal, then packing the case with tissue to trim for length is very time consuming.
However you get there safely. The reward is awesome in the long run. It's been 6 hours plus and I still can't stop smiling.
I do plan on loading some with both primers now that you have my curiosity up and running. Might be a week, but I'll get there.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I'm sure someone over on the N-SSA website would be able to help you out with your reloads. I thought for sure someone had given you a link to their website. I'd check with them about using blanks.
But just to be clear, you are taking a. 22 rimfire cartridge and either removing the bullet or cutting the case below the billet?

Here's a link. https://www.n-ssa.net/vbforum/forumdisplay.php/8-Civil-War-Small-Arms
I'd post a question to them about your reloading.
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
I'm sure someone over on the N-SSA website would be able to help you out with your reloads. I thought for sure someone had given you a link to their website. I'd check with them about using blanks.
But just to be clear, you are taking a. 22 rimfire cartridge and either removing the bullet or cutting the case below the billet?

Here's a link. https://www.n-ssa.net/vbforum/forumdisplay.php/8-Civil-War-Small-Arms
I'd post a question to them about your reloading.

Thanks for the link Booner. I will check it out. I'm using CCI 22 short CB
I put a angle cut just below the exposed bullet with a small hacksaw. That helps for easier bullet and powder removal. I then pack a small amount of tissue paper into the case. Then just clamp the neck with needle-nose vice grips mounted in my vise and use my dremel cut off to trim to the length desired. Kinda crude but works for me

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Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Thanks for the link Booner. I will check it out. I'm using CCI 22 short CB
I put a angle cut just below the exposed bullet with a small hacksaw. That helps for easier bullet and powder removal. I then pack a small amount of tissue paper into the case. Then just clamp the neck with needle-nose vice grips mounted in my vise and use my dremel cut off to trim to the length desired. Kinda crude but works for me

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You're using CCI .22 shorts.
A bit of trivia; CCI,(Cascade Cartrage Inc. I think that's their name), got their start years ago by first making blanks for the fastener industries. The blanks were used to drive nails into concrete.
I see on their website that their blanks will work in any gun that shoots shorts, long, and long rifle .22 rimfire.
BTW, they use crushed glass in their primer compound to help with ignition.

I've been averaging shooting over 10,000/year of .22 long rimfire for the past two years, but not CCI unfortunately. Their products aren't accurate enough for what I shoot.
 

Kirk Womack

Private
Joined
Jun 29, 2019
Location
Brookville, Indiana
Thanks Booner and Kirk for your input. I gave it the test firing today and all went awesome in my book. I had the 4 rounds and chose the 40gr ff load for the strength test and fouling shot. The other 3 had 35gr ff. Coward but smart, first shot was with a heavy towel over the breach area. No aim, just clear and fire. It hit the berm at the 100 yard mark and erupted in AZ sand. Next 3 were at 30 yards with a 10" paper plate as target. Got the edge of the plate 1" in with the 3rd shot. Shoots high which I expected.
All in all. The day went well. The Sharps & Hankins is once again re-born.
The primers showed no blow-back, the case took no damage from the firing pin. All fired and struck the 22 primer spot on. Nice work Dixie on your case making. Fouling was more than I wanted to see but expected with the rim-fire and primer case although trimmed, it still does stick out a tad into the case. You have no center fire or fire hole with this set-up. Ignition is far from perfect, but does indeed work. I think I might try the fff powder next. I understand it burns a little hotter and might give me a cleaner burn rate? I'm going to keep it simple and small at the 35gr per volume. Recoil is sweet and a pleasure to shoot. I was wishing I had loaded up more.

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I'm glad it went well! Keep us posted on your experiments!
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Thanks again to all that look and join in. Not a lot of shooters out there but do have some with interest as for my project.
To refresh the new lookers. 1862 Navy Sharps & Hankins with a 54 cal bore. Subject is: firing and shooting. Look for past posts to see pics of the rifle.
I think I left off with 4 test fires for the strength and well being.
I hope to get the pics right and they should include my new testing since last time.
The bullet I found to work per case and bore was .403 in weight. Thinking that was a bit heavy. I drilled the tail and reduced the weight to .352
With thoughts of the minie ball concept for expansion. I filled the cavity with lube, then put a needle threw the card in hope to get gasses into the cavity.
I made 5 each with the same powder charge of 35 grains per volume of ff German black powder.
I marked the lighter bullets with red paint on the nose.
The test for chronograph was 735 fps for the heavier .403 bullet, and 772 fps for the lighter .352 bullet.
I then had 4 rounds each left and to be fair. I rotated the shooting and swabbed the bore with soapy water at half way.
These were done at 30 yards. The top plate which is 10" belongs to the heavier bullet. The lower plate is the the lighter bullet. POA was at the very bottom of the plate on all shots.
The heavy stayed consistent. The blue strike on the plate was after the bore swab, it's mate hit the white also.
The lighter and faster messed with bullet only struck the plate after the swab. The first 2 were off.
These are only my tests and I'm not good on trigger pull. But the results tell me to stay with the heavy bullet for more testing.
The win is: Total of 14 rounds fired without a problem. Dixie should be paying me, but I'm very pleased with their cases.
If possible. All old guns of history should be brought back to live again.

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lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Hello to all: More testing and that is what this post is about in the long run.
First off I must stress the fact that these old guns should not be fired unless you have good knowledge and approval from a certified gunsmith. They are old, the metal lacks in strength. Never ever think pyrodex or smokeless powder will work.
On with my testing:
Primer testing only. All else is the same. Results are in the pics and as follows.
1st pic is the soot compare on the case. Left side is the 22 blanks recommended by Dixie and purchased from Dixie.
2nd pic is the primer seal and contact. The seal was better, but the firing pin strike was deeper and would impact the cut shoulder just a tad with the blanks. Plus removal of spent blank primer was very troublesome. Note: the soothed cases were first fired brass. Case to chamber expansion always helps when dealing with the same gun only.
3rd pic if I have it all right will be the target test. The top target is with the 22 blanks. 1 foul shot was made into the berm before testing. Hence, the 11 made cartridges all together. The blank primers did not fare well. All shots were done at the bottom of the plate. I knew it would shoot high, so POA was at 6 o'clock. I wet swabbed the bore after the first test and dry patched it to give it a fair chance.
The bottom plate, also high, was way more consistent. The cut 22 short CB CCi primer wins out for me anyway.
It's just testing guys. I have arrived at my goal. I will reload now and save this gem for special occasions only. No reason at all to stress it out. Light loads it has always been. But it does shoot, and most of all. It was the big hit at the AZ range today. Funny that I was not included in the photo shoot. It was all about the rifle and the cartridges. I'm good with that. Collect and or shoot. I judge none and respect all. Just be safe and be smart. Study study and study more. 1st step could kill you, 3rd step as well. There is no such thing as knowing it all. PS: last pics should be the barrel shots after cleaning. I does get a little worse future down but the more shot, the more it cleans up.

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Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Thanks for the link Booner. I will check it out. I'm using CCI 22 short CB
I put a angle cut just below the exposed bullet with a small hacksaw. That helps for easier bullet and powder removal. I then pack a small amount of tissue paper into the case. Then just clamp the neck with needle-nose vice grips mounted in my vise and use my dremel cut off to trim to the length desired. Kinda crude but works for me

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As a suggestion. Use a wet rag to keep that cap cool. That thing might go off from the heat generated by saw heat. Be safe.
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Thanks again to all that look and join in. Not a lot of shooters out there but do have some with interest as for my project.
To refresh the new lookers. 1862 Navy Sharps & Hankins with a 54 cal bore. Subject is: firing and shooting. Look for past posts to see pics of the rifle.
I think I left off with 4 test fires for the strength and well being.
I hope to get the pics right and they should include my new testing since last time.
The bullet I found to work per case and bore was .403 in weight. Thinking that was a bit heavy. I drilled the tail and reduced the weight to .352
With thoughts of the minie ball concept for expansion. I filled the cavity with lube, then put a needle threw the card in hope to get gasses into the cavity.
I made 5 each with the same powder charge of 35 grains per volume of ff German black powder.
I marked the lighter bullets with red paint on the nose.
The test for chronograph was 735 fps for the heavier .403 bullet, and 772 fps for the lighter .352 bullet.
I then had 4 rounds each left and to be fair. I rotated the shooting and swabbed the bore with soapy water at half way.
These were done at 30 yards. The top plate which is 10" belongs to the heavier bullet. The lower plate is the the lighter bullet. POA was at the very bottom of the plate on all shots.
The heavy stayed consistent. The blue strike on the plate was after the bore swab, it's mate hit the white also.
The lighter and faster messed with bullet only struck the plate after the swab. The first 2 were off.
These are only my tests and I'm not good on trigger pull. But the results tell me to stay with the heavy bullet for more testing.
The win is: Total of 14 rounds fired without a problem. Dixie should be paying me, but I'm very pleased with their cases.
If possible. All old guns of history should be brought back to live again.

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Doing a nice job.
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Thanks Rebforever: Got both replies so far. Hope to hear more from you and there should be more postings available.
The tissue works fine. Hard pack and have to dig it out after the cut is made. No problem saying that the learn did come with experience. Had a few numb fingers with the learn process.
I post not to promote, but to educate is all.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Thanks Rebforever: Got both replies so far. Hope to hear more from you and there should be more postings available.
The tissue works fine. Hard pack and have to dig it out after the cut is made. No problem saying that the learn did come with experience. Had a few numb fingers with the learn process.
I post not to promote, but to educate is all.

Instead of cutting the cases with a hacksaw, you might try a small pipe cutter; the kind that has a cutoff wheel in it and you tighten it down to cut into the pipe while twirling it around the pipe. I've got a small one, and if my shop was cleaned up I would know where it is and could show you. it's real small, made for butting 1/4 inch copper tubing, but maybe still too big for what you're doing.
On my '74 Sharps in 45-70, the gun has a long chamber, so much so that with a standard 45-70 round inserted, the bullet and case were not supported by the lead (throat) of the barrel. An old boy that had been shoot black powder cartridge for years told me that the cartridge case needs to be long enough so the end of the cartridge needs to be just a 0.001 of an inch short of the lead and the bullet engraved by the rifling. (this is in a modern Sharps repro shooting only black powder and a 30-1 lead bullet-- I wouldn't do this with a smokeless round as there could be too much pressure when fired). I purchased some 45-90 cases and using the pipe cutter I spoke about above trimmed the cases so they were just shy of the lead or throat of the chamber. After doing this I loaded up some rounds so the bullet engaged the rifling about 1/2 way in it's first driving band on the bullet. An immediate improvement in groups size, because now there was no "jump" in the bullet and it was fully supported by the lead, so it enters the rifling square. Again, I wouldn't "cram" a smokeless round into the chamber like this due to pressure issues, but with black powder, and a modern reproduction gun, it's safe to do so. The nice thing about using the pipe cutter, you get a nice, smooth beveled cut on the new mouth of the case, and if your reloading that case, when you put it in a die, it takes that bevel out with no problem.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Thanks Rebforever: Got both replies so far. Hope to hear more from you and there should be more postings available.
The tissue works fine. Hard pack and have to dig it out after the cut is made. No problem saying that the learn did come with experience. Had a few numb fingers with the learn process.
I post not to promote, but to educate is all.

And looking at the pictures of the end of your barrel, it sure looks like it has a liner installed. If so, that would explain why it's a .56 diameter instead of a .52 or .54.

The bottom groups shows promise. This is at what, 50 yards-- with iron sights and off a rest I assume?
I've reached an age when I only shoot with a scope off of bags. (sigh).
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Thanks Booner for your replies. I use a dremel cut off wheel to trim the case for length after the bullet is removed. I would though like to see or hear more on your tool set-up. A smoother and straighter cut would be nice and I only use the small hacksaw for the quick angle cut to ease bullet and powder removal. It just takes a few angle cut passes and the bullet comes out and then I dump the powder. I'm not sure I would want to be using a cutoff wheel for that part of the process.
Sending an copy paste from Wikipedia. The Spencer 56-56 and some others were not named as were rounds like the 45-70 with cal and powder. The 56-56 is outside case measurements. It is a straight wall case with base just past the rim and case mouth both being .560
No taper like the 56-50 which I think was named for the 56 base and 50 cal. I could be all wet also on this subject also. This is the reason I had such a hard time finding a bullet. The Spencer Bullet I found with S&S Firearms has the bullet diameter at .545 and the base, stem, or tail. is .522. The ID of the 56-56 mouth is .520, so it makes for a nice press fit. 1 lube ring is in the case, with 1 on the exposed larger end. You can see the two different diameters in the pic.

The nomenclature of Spencer cartridges were unique. Unlike later cartridges such as the .44-40 Winchester and .45-70, where the first number indicated caliber and the second the charge weight, the .56-56 refers solely to the case. The first 56 is the diameter of the case at the base .56 inches (14.2 mm), measured just past the rim, and the second 56 is the diameter at the case mouth, also 0.56 inches (14 mm). Later versions of the cartridge included the .56-52, .56-50, and .56-46, which had varying degrees of taper in the cases, to accommodate smaller diameter bullets. All of these cartridges are rimfire primed. The actual bullet diameter of the .56-56 varied between .54 and .555 inches (13.7–14.1 mm), depending on ammunition manufacturer. The .56-52, made by Spencer, and the .56-50, made by Springfield, differed only in the degree of crimp, with the .56-50 having a greater crimp; both fired 350 grain .512-inch (13.0 mm) bullets. The .56-46 fired a 320 to 330 grain .465-inch (11.8 mm) bullet.[1]

I think what your seeing that looks like the barrel being sleeved is the front sight mount or ring. The Navy models had this removable sight for the leather sleeve install and removal. My bore slugs at 54 and my chamber is what casts for the the 56-56 straight wall case. Once again, I could be wrong and not seeing the possible sleeve that you mention. I had heard some of these were sleeved, but it was to fit them for the more popular 56-52 and 56-50 cartridge rounds.

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Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I wanted to resurrect this thread to correct something I said about the carbine. I don't want someone who might come upon this thread in the future and come away with the incorrect information on this gun based on something I said.

After looking at a picture of the muzzle I commented that it appeared that the barrel had been relined. After looking a other pictures of the gun, what I thought was a relined barrel was actually how they mounted the front sights to the barrel. I no longer think the barrel has been relined.

Lawyer Dagger, have you done anymore shooting with this gun? I find what you've done to resurrect this carbine to shooting condition pretty interesting. Not many people would go to the trouble to get the gun back into shooting condition.
 

lawer dagget

Private
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Thanks Booner for your reply correction. Yes indeed I have done a little more testing and have now a total of 35 test fires with 0 problems.
The Dixie made brass makes it all possible to shoot rim fire once again.
I must stress again. Do not do this unless you have a gunsmith check your gun out first.
I have more to post but not at this very moment. Just different results is all. Interest and input is always nice too hear and I'm sure you will understand if I don't see interest, I will only be posting for self gratification. I'm not in this for that purpose. Learn learn learn is what I see this site as. That means my shoulders are big and I like negative also.
Thanks again Booner for interest and support. All are welcome to join in. The Good Bad and Ugly.
 
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