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Progress In Ladder Testing Black Powder 44-40 Rifle
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February 21, 2024 - 1:12 am
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Seriously, the rifle has very fine sights, such that I became very comfortable using them last time out. They are extremely precise. I didn’t realize how precise they are yesterday, and didn’t really try to exploit them, but rather tried various sight picture styles because I’ve never had that kind of experience before with iron sights and I didn’t trust my perceptions. Now I do. I believe that I can concentrate and hold my sight picture during the squeeze in a repeatable fashion, so that even if I am only aiming at the six o’clock point on the tiny 100 yard roundel, if I let the rifle bark the projectile will hit the same point again and again—if I do my part that is. Also, no gusty winds, but the winds are predicted to be headwinds at 3 to 4 mph with temps dry in the low 60s. I always go the earliest I can, so if I make some good groups I’ll try and enlist one or two fellow shooters to pose for a selfie with the target, but quite often I’m the only one out there. Still, if I do manage to make some good shots on one occasion, I’m certain I can repeat the experience another time for witnesses.

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February 21, 2024 - 1:28 am
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James-

if you can maintain a six o’clock hold on a small aiming point at 100 yards with your background in precision shooting all we need now is a very good rifle and a load it likes. I may have one but it’s a bit of a ringer. It’s a hard used 92 in 32-20 that I had relined awhile back. When it came home a modern tang sight and Lyman 17 showed up and found their places. It’s quite the shooter at fifty with a little dab of lead and a few grains of powder. I’m thinking a nice 38-55 or 32-40 1894 with tang sights may be just the ticket.
No pressure. 

 

Wink

Mike

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February 21, 2024 - 2:50 am
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When it came home a modern tang sight and Lyman 17 showed up and found their places. TXGunNut said

For accuracy testing on bullseye targets, aperture front sights are far superior to everything else, & most important, deterioration of visual acuity due to age doesn’t greatly impair their effectiveness, as it does with blades & beads.

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February 21, 2024 - 3:00 am
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clarence said

When it came home a modern tang sight and Lyman 17 showed up and found their places. TXGunNut said

For accuracy testing on bullseye targets, aperture front sights are far superior to everything else, & most important, deterioration of visual acuity due to age doesn’t greatly impair their effectiveness, as it does with blades & beads.

  

Clarence-

I can see the sights quite well, especially with the magic eye drops my optometrist gave me. Problem is the target center is a pink (or gray) blur. My current strategy is to fill the front aperture as best I can and hope for the best. With the right size target center and front aperture I can manage respectable groups but quite honestly if I can’t see the edge of the target center it’s a struggle and my eyes tire quickly.

Youth is wasted on the young, indeed. Youngsters these days want to play sniper with optics unheard of when we were young. I hope they learn to appreciate iron sights before they’re too old to use them. 

 

Mike

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February 21, 2024 - 4:20 am
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TXGunNut said Clarence-I can see the sights quite well, especially with the magic eye drops my optometrist gave me. Problem is the target center is a pink (or gray) blur. My current strategy is to fill the front aperture as best I can and hope for the best. With the right size target center and front aperture I can manage respectable groups but quite honestly if I can’t see the edge of the target center it’s a struggle and my eyes tire quickly. 

Not that perfect clarity wouldn’t be preferable, but if the blur is circular, not distorted into an odd shape by astigmatism or some other visual problem, it shouldn’t make a huge diff optically, though it might psychologically; maybe if you stopped struggling to see the “edge” clearly, your eye-fatigue wouldn’t set in as quickly.  (Believe me, I’m VERY familiar with eye-fatigue!  50 rounds, & I quit!) The ap insert should be large enough to allow an ample margin around the “blur.”  It’s a mistake to think an ap only slightly larger than the blur is more “accurate.”

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February 21, 2024 - 7:18 am
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I appreciate the issue you gentlemen are confronting. The quiet, desperate heroism we each of us demonstrates as we confront our aging and find ways, workarounds, anything to just be able to keep at it is beautiful. This morning my vision will be clear enough to run this test; not easily, I too get tired of the concentration, but it’s doable. These sights remind me of Quigley Down Under; they are killing machines, or rather, they make of the gun a remorseless, implacable killing machine. I’m just there to hang on and point it at the things it can legitimately kill, without getting into trouble. Kinda like walking my pittie, sometimes; have a forged harness, not cast!. I appreciate hearing about the 94, I’ll know where to look. Boy, I tell you, this SASS thing is sure pricey! I need to match my wardrobe to my alias, buy cowboy boots, spurs, maybe chaps, western pants, western shirts, neckerchiefs, a jacket or vest, and a hat-no straw hats allowed if you’re going to compete. The Uberti I wanted was running at $2200 on Guns.com; thank goodness this one showed up to save me from that! I can go stainless Ruger Vaquero or Pietta SAA for a second sixshooter; then I’ve gotta find a coach double for another thou. Clothes are cheap at about $750 – $1050. Ruger a friend would like me to buy is $800, Pietta is about $500. If I shop in Mexico I can save on boots and hat and keep the price of entry to under a thousand. Oh, I forgot, another holster will set me back $160 from Mernickle; add another $200 for ammo belts (3!). I need to fashion some kind of wagon or cart to travel with and carry my gear around from stage to stage. Reloading dies, powder, bullets, primers, cases, bore butter and add in a MEC for the shotshells. Now dress the wife! Right now, I think that last part is on hold. She thought it sounded like fun, but now it’s beginning to sink in, and bite. Patience. Cool 

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February 21, 2024 - 8:55 am
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After I do this today, I’ll have satisfied my curiosity about the new gun, and while I’m saving up for reloading dies, bullets, more primers, and my forum membership, I’ll go and practice offhand with my sixshooter. Strictly between 15 and 25 yards, shooting “Duelist” mode (aim, cock and fire one-handed) I’ve got the old man shakes. That sucker is heavy! I have to let the sights first line up and then drift across the sight picture and squeeze when the target (6 o’clock hold, again!) and the sights converge briefly. Don’t jerk! Squeeze. . . So far, I’m able to keep a cylinderfull on the target roundel. That’s the best I can do offhand; when I was ladder testing on the bench I routinely achieved 1.2″ groups at 15 yards, and 2″ at 25! Parallax was the enemy then, since the benchrest is a single point of contact and moving my head wipes out any particular sight picture. Oddly, the parallax issue should disappear in offhand shooting, as long as my hold acquires a degree of muscle memory. Hence, the practice time requirement. I reload like my wife crochets. it calms me and I relax and get into a rhythm. Good thing, too, cause with shotshells I’ll have three reloading regimes to manage in short order (actually, I probably will take my sweet time getting there!).

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February 21, 2024 - 7:06 pm
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TXGunNut said

steve004 said

For me, MOA accuracy in a lever rifle – or any rifle with fairly crude open sights – would not be possible.  I know people who shoot sub-MOA groups in vintage rifles (e.g. the Krag) but they are using receiver sights with fine front beads.  

  

Steve-

Like anything else Winchester, never say “never”. I’ve seen pretty remarkable accuracy from some old 94’s, including some with less than perfect bores. At one time I could crowd the 2” mark at 100 yards with receiver sights so an exceptional shooter with an exceptional rifle and a carefully developed load could possibly pull it off. 

 

Mike

  

I’m not saying some rifles aren’t capable of the accuracy discussed, rather the sights are simply too crude to sight that finely.  Mike – the key to you point above has much to do with, “receiver sights.” Cool

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February 22, 2024 - 12:57 am
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All right, All Y’alls were right, and I was wrong (WRONG! so wrong). My go to target sheet has 6 – 12″ roundels in 2 rows, 3 ranks. Only the central 6″ is shaded, the rest is white with concentric circles at the inches moving out from center. At 100 yards, the shaded roundel is smaller than the head of a carpet tack, maybe a straight pin. I’ve boasted about the sights being fine, but they still need to register on some kind of orb so I can locate the same aim point again and again in my sight picture. Simply not possible, the targets are swamped by the front sight post. I may as well have been shooting with my eyes closed. Complete waste of time.  So much for Zen. Hard to know what to do now; I mean, obviously I might well be able to go forward with an aperture sight, as y’all have suggested with all patience for my stupidity and hubris. But, , , what am I doing it for? I’m not hunting, if I’m just CAS I don’t need it. There’s mention of long range competition as well, but I’m not familiar with any in my state. That doesn’t stop me with benchrest however (so. . .?). It’ll take some ponderin. Now, while I save up for the next stage, black powder ladder testing, I’m going back to my sixshooter and the endlessly frustrating single handed offhand drills. I bought my holster from Mernickle on January 18, but I just checked and he’s got 10 to 14 weeks to complete it! I’ll be drawing from my belt for the foreseeable future!  

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February 22, 2024 - 2:39 pm
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Ordered the reloading dies for 44 WCF. Still need to get the bullets, otherwise will be ready to go. I was watching The Cinabar, and the host did Rockwell hardness tests of representative Winchester barrels from the 1860s through to WW II. It seems that Winchester stuck pretty much to a single steel across that span of time, a mild steel roughly equivalent to a slightly-strengthened SAE 1018. If a gun is marked “Nitro” or “Silver Steel” then it is alloy, but for both black powder and smokeless it was found that the original steel was just fine with cast bullets. They specifically introduced alloy steel in calibers where jacketed bullets were common or required, as in certain hunting loads, as the combination of heavy smokeless charges and jacketed bullets eroded the rifling on the mild steel barrels otherwise. Still dosing the magazine end cap with Kroil, but so far nothing induces it to loosen and come off. I still couldn’t load more than a single cartridge at the side loading gate yesterday. It loads and cycles just fine, but if I try and insert a second cartridge it jams about 3/4 of the way in, and I need to screwdriver it out again. I checked the magazine and the follower is free, and there is no ammo in the magazine, but there must be something blocking the magazine just a ways in there past what I can see or reach with a brass rod from the breech end. All other gun functions are flawless.

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February 22, 2024 - 3:13 pm
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Chuck, sorry I missed your post. Yes, for smokeless ladder testing I select a bullet, then a seating depth (I usually go with Bergers and heavy-for-caliber, seated initially at a soft jam in the rifling). Now I select a 10- or 12-level set of charges going down from 15% above published maximum. Each step is 0.30 grains. There will be  at least one decided null in the 2-shot groups at each level. I then explore at 0.10 grain intervals around the nulls, again using 2-shot groups. Then I test the best and near best with 3 shot groups and decide on a winner from that batch. If nothing really makes my beanie propeller jive, I move the seating depth, usually by at least 10 thousandths of an inch. Repeat. Then change bullets, powder, etc. as needed. remember, your useful ACCURATE barrel life may only be 1000 rounds, so nothing is ever chased into its lair, but inferences are made from observation. Then in competition the final testing takes place and you either win or you observe your performance with an eye to winning next time. Now, with black powder, I have stayed within the technology. I can eyeball a unit measure of 2 1/2 grains on my powder measure, so I use that unit. I’m constrained by requiring no air space inside the cartridge, and the need to use a dimensionally-identical filler, such as a fiber overpowder wad to take up space. That eliminates a major source of load to load variation, the use of loose fillers. My compression is never less than 1/16′ and never more than 1/4″ and obviously I used a heavy crimp short of buckling the case mouth. Start with cases all the same length.

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February 22, 2024 - 6:46 pm
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James Popoff said
Chuck, sorry I missed your post. Yes, for smokeless ladder testing I select a bullet, then a seating depth (I usually go with Bergers and heavy-for-caliber, seated initially at a soft jam in the rifling). Now I select a 10- or 12-level set of charges going down from 15% above published maximum. Each step is 0.30 grains. There will be  at least one decided null in the 2-shot groups at each level. I then explore at 0.10 grain intervals around the nulls, again using 2-shot groups. Then I test the best and near best with 3 shot groups and decide on a winner from that batch. If nothing really makes my beanie propeller jive, I move the seating depth, usually by at least 10 thousandths of an inch. Repeat. Then change bullets, powder, etc. as needed. remember, your useful ACCURATE barrel life may only be 1000 rounds, so nothing is ever chased into its lair, but inferences are made from observation. Then in competition the final testing takes place and you either win or you observe your performance with an eye to winning next time. Now, with black powder, I have stayed within the technology. I can eyeball a unit measure of 2 1/2 grains on my powder measure, so I use that unit. I’m constrained by requiring no air space inside the cartridge, and the need to use a dimensionally-identical filler, such as a fiber overpowder wad to take up space. That eliminates a major source of load to load variation, the use of loose fillers. My compression is never less than 1/16′ and never more than 1/4″ and obviously I used a heavy crimp short of buckling the case mouth. Start with cases all the same length.

  

James, I’m still a bit confused? What are you changing in your black powder loads from one group to another?  

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February 22, 2024 - 6:54 pm
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Oh, and Chuck, although I measure my powder levels from a starting point 15% greater than the published maximum charge, I DO NOT start shooting there. I start shooting at the lowest level of powder charge, and go up watching for pressure signs at all times, until I may elect if there are no pressure signs, to go at and over the maximum published charge weight as high as the 15%. Just wanted to make that clear, as I’m sure you understood also.

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February 22, 2024 - 6:57 pm
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James Popoff said I’m constrained by requiring no air space inside the cartridge, and the need to use a dimensionally-identical filler, such as a fiber overpowder wad to take up space. That eliminates a major source of load to load variation, the use of loose fillers.

Don’t understand why you don’t merely fill case with 1X BP, eliminating need for filler.  Seems to me you’re making it unnecessarily complicated.

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February 22, 2024 - 6:59 pm
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James Popoff saidStill dosing the magazine end cap with Kroil, but so far nothing induces it to loosen and come off.
  

Heat it with a hair dryer.  If that doesn’t work, next step is one of those pocket-sized propane torches just a little larger than a cig lighter.

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February 22, 2024 - 7:13 pm
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James Popoff said
Oh, and Chuck, although I measure my powder levels from a starting point 15% greater than the published maximum charge, I DO NOT start shooting there. I start shooting at the lowest level of powder charge, and go up watching for pressure signs at all times, until I may elect if there are no pressure signs, to go at and over the maximum published charge weight as high as the 15%. Just wanted to make that clear, as I’m sure you understood also.

  

Yes, I understand.  With my modern target guns I start somewhere below max, maybe 1 or 2 grains. I shoot 3 shot groups and go up .3 grains at a time until I see the first sign of pressure.  Then I back off and test the nodes until I find the most consistent one.  Most loading manuals are conservative when it comes to what the real max load is.  I fire form the bottleneck cases to the point the shoulder is moved forward to where there is almost 0 headspace.  I then size the case to have .002″ of headspace.  With increased case volume you reduce the pressure.  So this allows you to increase the powder load and retain the same pressure.  I have several loads that are over published max.

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February 22, 2024 - 9:28 pm
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With black powder ladder testing I had a limited number of powder levels. Consulting my notes I used 27 1/2 grains, 30 grains, 32 1/2, 35, 37 1/2 and 40 grains of FFFG Goex in 45 Colt cases with a 255 grain Keith-type SWC projectile, The limited number of levels was dictated by the need to eliminate air spaces in the cartridge with either powder or filler, and the uniform filler I used was a fiber overpowder wad in the 27 1/2 and 30 grain cartridges, The rest had sufficient powder to compress without using any filler. So I changed powder levels from group to group. I’ll follow the same strategy with 44-40 cases. My sixshooter likes 32 1/2 grains; I’ll see what the rifle likes.

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February 23, 2024 - 3:18 am
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Still learning, Clarence. I only started BP what, 6 weeks ago maybe. I pulled the Colt 2nd Gen 1860 Army out of the safe and started shooting it, using the Pyrodex P which was all I could find when I bought it a year or so ago.  I had to start somewhere so I went with internet wisdom and rules of thumb from Youtube channels such as Blackie Thomas’ Shaman’s Forge and Mike Beliveau’s Duelist’s Den, both excellent places to start. Everything I do now is just common sense extensions of those initial ideas. I’ve only ever heard of using 1F in a pistol cartridge case one other time, in passing, on Youtube Everything Black Powder, and so it hasn’t occupied top of mind. Now that you’ve mentioned it too I shall give it another look going forward. Shucks, it was a big step out of my comfort zone to reach out and buy 2F Swiss to try as well as my usual 3F. Lots to test and plenty to discover.

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February 23, 2024 - 7:15 am
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Also, Clarence, of course. Heat will often do it. Picking up a hair dryer today. Unwilling to have any open flame in the shop with my powders stored here too. I now think this obstruction, which is quite solid and immovable by feeling with my dowel up the loading gate, has reduced the rifle to a single shot. Who knows how long over the past 134 years it’s been thus. That accounts for the excellent barrel, as well as the storage damage, as we tend not to remember guns we don’t shoot and it was neglected to have acquired its rust damaged areas. I’m guessing I’ll find something unorthodox, such as a lipstick inserted by a child, or a simple mistake in ammo so there is a live round of some wrong caliber stuck in there.

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February 23, 2024 - 11:15 am
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OKAY I’ve figured it out. This is an eyesight thing, not a rifle thing. My range uses a big HP printer to make and sell their proprietary targets. I need to request from them or else scour the internet and take delivery of a 36″ roundel, having an inner roundel under shading of 12″ diameter. Then my sights will work again as I can put them on the same part of the circumference and expect the bullet to go there. I’m assuming these dimensions will work with my eyes, but certainly there is no constraint on roundel size, for example, 48.” I would venture a guess that many, many rifles whose owners expect a 6″ group at 100 yards are actually capable of MOA under those circumstances. In fact, I look forward to congratulating the first rifleman to achieve MOA with iron sights at 100 yards using a larger target roundel, if I don’t happen to be able to arrange it within a short-enough span of time.

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