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Reloading for 1873 Antique
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August 13, 2023 - 1:30 pm
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I just acquired my first antique firearm, the Winchester 1873. Mine was made in 1882 and was told the barrel is a 7 out of 10 condition. I reload all my ammo, and this gun is chambered in 44 WCF. Was planning on both smokeless powder and occasional black powder for some fun. I know the limits with smokeless powder, but if I was going with black powder, should I be limiting the charge? I know black powder you normally load right to where the bullet compresses the powder. I know these guns originally were designed to handle these sorts of loads, but will this old link system be able to handle the same load today? I know all antiques are different with tolerances, but this one seems to be fully intact. But old iron? I don’t know. LOL! Any insight would be appreciated. 

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August 13, 2023 - 2:39 pm
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RaptorAddict said I know black powder you normally load right to where the bullet compresses the powder. I know these guns originally were designed to handle these sorts of loads, but will this old link system be able to handle the same load today? I know all antiques are different with tolerances, but this one seems to be fully intact. But old iron? I don’t know. LOL! Any insight would be appreciated. 
  

If the brl is 7 out of 10, odds are it’s been well cared for.  Modern solid-head cases can’t even hold as much powder as the original balloon-head cases, so don’t know how you could go wrong with a full case of BP. 

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August 13, 2023 - 5:33 pm
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I’ve shot several of my old 73’s with smokeless, either old factory loads or my own reloads with no issues. The link system is not a issue when firing the gun. Its weakest when operating the lever so if something jams or you get a stuck shell is when they crack the hinge.

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August 13, 2023 - 9:54 pm
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Black powder is going to be fine as long as the gun is in good shape.

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August 14, 2023 - 3:41 am
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Awesome advice! Yeah I’ll most likely be loading smokeless powder, but if I’m gonna enjoy the real deal, might as well go all original (somewhat) with the ammo. 

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August 14, 2023 - 12:56 pm
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RaptorAddict said
Awesome advice! Yeah I’ll most likely be loading smokeless powder, but if I’m gonna enjoy the real deal, might as well go all original (somewhat) with the ammo. 

That will include the fun of cleaning with water from the muzzle.

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August 15, 2023 - 2:44 am
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RaptorAddict said
Awesome advice! Yeah I’ll most likely be loading smokeless powder, but if I’m gonna enjoy the real deal, might as well go all original (somewhat) with the ammo. 

  

Do you cast your own bullets? One of the secrets of bullet casting is that the best designs don’t lend themselves to commercial casting so it’s quite easy to cast better bullets than you can buy. 
Clarence, someday I’ll have to show you how I clean a BP rifle. Quicker and easier than smokeless. Six cotton patches, a few squirts of diluted Windex with vinegar and a few drops of oil. A revolver takes a bit more time but this IS the Winchester forum. ?

 

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August 15, 2023 - 9:13 pm
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clarence said

RaptorAddict said

Awesome advice! Yeah I’ll most likely be loading smokeless powder, but if I’m gonna enjoy the real deal, might as well go all original (somewhat) with the ammo. 

That will include the fun of cleaning with water from the muzzle.

  

Which I do multiple times per week. I don’t find it difficult.

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August 16, 2023 - 12:18 pm
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Forgive my ignorance, but black powder residue is best cleaned with water??? I was gonna research cleaning methods, but I’m all ears on this one. 

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August 16, 2023 - 12:41 pm
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RaptorAddict said
Forgive my ignorance, but black powder residue is best cleaned with water??? I was gonna research cleaning methods, but I’m all ears on this one. 

  

Yes, HOT water is best, mixed with a little dish detergent.  If the water is hot enough, the bore will dry quickly.  The old water-based GI bore cleaner made when corrosive-primers were in use is good, because it contains a water-soluble oil.

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August 16, 2023 - 12:51 pm
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Actually I use warm water to avoid flash rust from hot water.

Lately I have been cleaning with windex with vinegar. 

What ever you use it’s about a 10 minute job.

C&B Revolvers I clean under the sink with warm water running out of the tap. I scrup with a bore brush during the ordeal. Clean up there isn’t bad either.

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August 16, 2023 - 1:10 pm
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TXGunNut said

RaptorAddict said

Awesome advice! Yeah I’ll most likely be loading smokeless powder, but if I’m gonna enjoy the real deal, might as well go all original (somewhat) with the ammo. 

  

Do you cast your own bullets? One of the secrets of bullet casting is that the best designs don’t lend themselves to commercial casting so it’s quite easy to cast better bullets than you can buy. 

Clarence, someday I’ll have to show you how I clean a BP rifle. Quicker and easier than smokeless. Six cotton patches, a few squirts of diluted Windex with vinegar and a few drops of oil. A revolver takes a bit more time but this IS the Winchester forum. ?

 

Mike

  

I don’t cast my own bullet, but I am very curious of the best diameter for 44WCF to use. Heard somewhere to use a bigger diameter, but I assume it depends on the rifle itself due to a worn state. 

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August 16, 2023 - 1:23 pm
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Brooksy said
Actually I use warm water to avoid flash rust from hot water.

Lately I have been cleaning with windex with vinegar. 

What ever you use it’s about a 10 minute job.

C&B Revolvers I clean under the sink with warm water running out of the tap. I scrup with a bore brush during the ordeal. Clean up there isn’t bad either.

  

Agreed, have been known to use “moose milk” (diluted Ballistol) but the Windex is much more convenient. I take a bit longer on my revolvers mainly because I don’t get to shoot them much and I enjoy taking my time cleaning them. A properly lubed and sized bullet leaves no residue other than lube and powder residue and it just doesn’t take much to remove that residue. It can be a little messy but it comes out easier than jacket material and smokeless powder residue.

 

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August 16, 2023 - 1:31 pm
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Raptor Addict-

Your bullet diameter is best determined by YOUR RIFLE’S bore diameter but most commercial cast bullets run a couple thousandth’s over the nominal bore diameter of .429”. I don’t shoot the 44WCF but I have heard a few of the very early guns saw some variance in bore diameter. Haven’t been able to document that but one of the first rules of bullet casting is to measure your bore diameter. 

 

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August 16, 2023 - 3:56 pm
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Kirk, do as Mike said.  Slug the bore and shoot a bullet that is about .001″ larger than the groove diameter of the slug.

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August 16, 2023 - 4:32 pm
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Chuck said
Kirk, do as Mike said.  Slug the bore and shoot a bullet that is about .001″ larger than the groove diameter of the slug.

  

That’s the ideal solution, but if you’re restricted to commercially available bullets, it may be impossible.

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August 16, 2023 - 4:39 pm
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clarence said

Chuck said

Kirk, do as Mike said.  Slug the bore and shoot a bullet that is about .001″ larger than the groove diameter of the slug.

  

That’s the ideal solution, but if you’re restricted to commercially available bullets, it may be impossible.

  

And then maybe not?  There are a lot of people that make cast lead bullets.  He should at least slug the bore.

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August 16, 2023 - 5:24 pm
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Chuck said

clarence said

Chuck said

Kirk, do as Mike said.  Slug the bore and shoot a bullet that is about .001″ larger than the groove diameter of the slug.

  

That’s the ideal solution, but if you’re restricted to commercially available bullets, it may be impossible.

  

And then maybe not?  There are a lot of people that make cast lead bullets.  He should at least slug the bore.

  

It really doesn’t take much to cast a few bullets. Moulds like the ones some of us collect probably rode around in saddle bags wrapped up with a loading tool 120 or more years ago. OTOH you could someday find yourself with four furnaces, three dozen moulds, a dozen sizing dies, a turkey fryer converted to a melting pot, two lubrisizers, an assortment of gas checks, a pile of ingots and a few buckets of wheel weights. It happens.

Wink

 

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August 16, 2023 - 6:17 pm
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TXGunNut said
Raptor Addict-

Your bullet diameter is best determined by YOUR RIFLE’S bore diameter but most commercial cast bullets run a couple thousandth’s over the nominal bore diameter of .429”. I don’t shoot the 44WCF but I have heard a few of the very early guns saw some variance in bore diameter. Haven’t been able to document that but one of the first rules of bullet casting is to measure your bore diameter. 

 

Mike

  

The bore diameter variance is a real thing.  Rate of twist is too. Let’s continue with the .44WCF example.  My Lyman loading manual indicates they used two rifles for load development:  a Winchester Model 92 and a Marlin Model 94.  They measured the groove diameter and twist for each rifle:

Winchester – .432 and 1-20″

Marlin – .436 and 1-36″

On the topic of groove diameter, convention wisdom is slug your bore and when shooting cast bullets, select bullets that are about .002 over bore diameter. 

Applying that here, .434 bullets for the Winchester and .438 bullets for the Marlin?  Good luck getting those rounds to chamber. Confused

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August 16, 2023 - 8:18 pm
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That could certainly be a problem, Steve. Must admit if I had a 44WCF with a bore as big as Lyman’s folks ran into I’d give serious thought to jacketed bullets. I love my cast bullets but I also know many .429” jacketed pistol bullets have a very soft lead core and thin copper jackets. With proper persuasion from the appropriate powder charge they tend to bump up and fill even an oversized bore. A cast bullet of wheel weight alloy will bump up a bit but generally not as well as a jacketed pistol bullet. A softer alloy will bump up better but 20-1 is a bit pricey and I tend to save it for my BPCR’s and other special projects.

 

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