Help please. My first black powder firearm.

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Thread: Help please. My first black powder firearm.

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Superhouse 15's Avatar
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    Help please. My first black powder firearm.

    I just picked up a "Philadelphia Derringer" pistol in a trade. A little research tells me it is a Spanish made kit. Whoever assembled it was no artist, but it is clean and reasonably free of rust and corrosion.

    My problem is I have absolutely ZERO experience with black powder or muzzleloading of any kind. I know a .440 ball fits down the barrel and with a patch should be tight enough to work. A .451 ball won't fit at all. I have a brass powder measure that can be set to "10" which I assume means ten grains of powder. Am I correct to assume it is by volume and not weight, since the test charge I threw (of some old FFFG powder laying around the shop) did not actually weigh 10 grains on my Dillon scale? I have some round patches lubed with some kimd of grease (found in the miscelaneous box with the powder) do I need more? Fancier? I have some caps, but they won't fire on the gun. The spring seems plenty strong and they are a tight fit on the nipple. The caps will spark and pop when I crush them with a dowel rod (in frustration I tried that on the floor of the range). One cap actually fired on like the 10th try and it split open. Can I rule out bad caps? How? Would changing the shape of the nipple likely help (say by sharpening the tip or bevelling it)? There are some larger caps in the shop, they don't fit my nipple and I asume they are for a rifle, the tin says "musket caps", can these be made to safely work? The caps I'm using have a label that's all in German. I also have a small bag of #6 shot, would a cardboard wad under and over a small shot charge be unsafe in any way?
    Try not to screw up so bad they name the screw up after you. (Station 15 saying)

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    Member Array supv26's Avatar
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    Do not try to shoot it if you do not know what you are doing!!! I would take it to a gun smith to determine the caliber then get with someone who has done black powder. Black powder does not measure/weigh the same as smokeless. The caps should POP loud when hit with the hammer. Those should be No. 11 caps. Stay away from the shot charges until you know exactly what you are doing.
    It's not the destination, it's the journey.

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    VIP Member Array Superhouse 15's Avatar
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    I am a gunsmith and I have some metalic cartridge reloading experience. I have access to all the various accessories and accoutrements in the shop where I work, although most are used. I've been working with guns for 19+ years, and when I was handed this gun I realized I had never experienced a muzzleloader.
    Try not to screw up so bad they name the screw up after you. (Station 15 saying)

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    Member Array Rasher's Avatar
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    Ok let me see if I can help, 1st-yes its measured by volume never weight-never exceed manu. load specs, BP and related substitutes are far more volatile(under pressure than most people think).2nd-dont play with the nipple-just go ahead and by new they are cheap($5 for 2 at my store) and new caps make sure they are both #11 if you want a hotter spark you could also use "musket" caps and nipple but they are harder to find and more money but not alot. And with a pistol you want to use the finest powder you can get(FFFF) it does help.3rd-shooting bird shot out of a pistol is basically done how you described as long as its not a revolver(I wouldnt recommend that ever, with blackpowder guns, thats just something IMHO)4th-ball and patch work just about the way you described just make sure of the caliber of the gun-your a smith put some calipers on it, also keep in mind you could also shoot sabots thru it too, more money than ball and patch but cleaner since you dont have to deal with bore grease, agian making sure of dia. dont force anything down the tube, if its hard going down it will be hard coming out could make for a bad day at the range.

    I wanted to say too that never mix caps and nipples 11s with 11s and mustket with musket.

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    Member Array rglyons's Avatar
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    First, take your pistol to the shop and fit new caps to the nipple you have. Old caps are not reliable. Same with old powder. Buy a pound of powder and if any is left over after a year, get new powder.

    The way the old-timers measured their powder was to place the ball on a piece of paper and slowly dribble powder on the ball until covered. Yeah, I know, not scientific, but that was the way they did it. If it was me, do that and use half to two-thirds of the powder measured until you see how the gun does and work up from there. When you find the best load, get a replica flask and cut the tip to the load.

    Before you shoot, put your ramrod into the empty barrel and make a mark on it (I always used a magic marker) at the muzzle of the barrel. This will be your "empty barrel" indicator.

    Always use eye protection!!!!!! Sometimes the cap splits and can send small pieces of brass toward your eyes! I speak from experience! I still have a piece of brass embedded on the right side of my nose close to my right eye. That was from 40 years ago.

    You can use either FFFF or FFF powder in a .44 cal pistol. The more F's the finer the powder.

    Be prepared to clean the barrel and oil the bore and barrel after EVERY session. Black powder is corrosive and causes rust almost immediately. An old-timer taught me to use car wax on all metal after cleaning, and I still do it today on all my gun finishes.

    You may be starting on a fun hobby! I would advise you to buy a book on muzzle loading to learn all the ins and outs.

    Good luck and be safe!
    Yeah, My old CCW 9 MM is nicknamed "Barkey"
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    and my 12 Ga S x S Coach gun is "Boomer"
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    We're old so we can get away with that.

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    VIP Member Array Superhouse 15's Avatar
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    It worked! I fired it today, first with a couple of blanks with a cardboard wad, then a charge of shot, then a ball. No surprises.

    I had to email Dixie Gun Works to find out what threads for the nipple, turns out they knew, but don't stock them anymore. Three WalMarts, a Dick's, and two local gunshops later I had new caps and nipples. Not counting gas money and the aggrivation of dealing with a certain local gunshop I spent another $20, doubling my cost in the gun.

    After all that, I could only find one ball, after I fired it I cleaned up with Windex, #9, and silicone lube. I greased the threads on the nipple with anti-seize and wiped everything down clean..... Then I found the rest of the balls.....

    Thanks for all the help in giving me a new stinky and dirty hobby for 2011! Happy new year.
    Try not to screw up so bad they name the screw up after you. (Station 15 saying)

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    VIP Member Array hogdaddy's Avatar
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    Sounds like you got a 45 cal. What size patch do you use .10 or a .15 ?
    H/D
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogdaddy View Post
    Sounds like you got a 45 cal. What size patch do you use .10 or a .15 ?
    H/D
    In that short a barrel I would use the .10 size. The extra agravation of raming the .15 patch down won't equal any more accuracy.

    Just a response to the OP's suggestion to modify the caps - never ever try and modify a percussion cap. Bad accident waiting to happen there.

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