Inspired by this thread.
How many of you shoot black powder? Do you prefer single-shot rifles? Single-shot pistols? Revolvers? Which caliber(s) do you like? What do you like about shooting black powder? What don’t you like?
All save one of my black powder firearms are Colt’s revolvers. Some are Colt 2nd- and 3rd-Generation, but most are Uberti. The one non-Colt is an Ethan Allan pepperbox. I bought it in kit form. I’ve never finished it, but it’s close. The barrels have been blued. All I have to do is take it apart and work it over with a fine file to loosen it up, and sand and finish the stocks. I’d like to get a percussion Lyman .50 Plains Rifle someday.
My revolvers are predominantly .36 caliber. I have one .44 (a Walker) and a couple of .31s (Colt and Uberti Colt 1849 Pocket Pistols). I’ve only fired the Navies (.36).
I like the ‘ritual’ of shooting black powder: Measure the powder (by putting a finger over the flask’s spout, working the lever with my thumb), pour it into a chamber, put the ball on top, rotate the cylinder so that the ball is under the ram, seat the ball with the ram, top the chamber with lubricant when they’re all loaded (to prevent flashover, and to make it easier to clean later), put a percussion cap on each nipple. I like the smoke when I pull the trigger. Nothing like smoke after a bang. The Navies are well-balanced and pretty darned accurate. There’s little recoil, and they don’t seem to be as loud as modern pistols using smokeless cartridges. I normally load them with 15gr. FFFg, which makes them very economical.
But what I like most about shooting black powder is knowing the history of their use in the Old West. It’s amazing to me that people fought wars with these things. I’m reminded of a Steve Earl song where he sings: My very first pistol was a cap and ball Colt / Shoot as fast as lightning but it load a mite slow / Load a mite slow I soon found out / It can get you into trouble but it can’t get you out. When I shoot black powder I think of how people lived. No running water, no indoor plumbing, chopping wood to heat a cabin they built by hand, a ten mile trip taking an entire day, mountains and prairies and rivers and trees and for the most part being able to go wherever one wishes. Even with a replica, it’s like handling history.
One thing I’ve done to make loading a little faster is to make combustible cartridges. I soak cigarette papers in a mixture of potassium nitrate and water, cut rolling papers to size and soak them for a while, then lay the papers out to dry. I brush off the excess saltpeter and roll them around a lead ball and brass tube, gluing them with a glue stick. I pour the black powder down the tube, remove the combustible cartridge, and glue the end down. (I probably don’t have to bother nitrating the already-nitrated rolling papers, but what the heck.) At the range all I have to do is put the paper cartridge into a chamber and crank down the ram. It takes some time to make the cartridges, but it’s a lot quicker to load at the range.
I don’t much care for cleaning afterward. It’s not hard, but it’s a little messy. I take the barrel off of the revolver and remove the cylinder, then remove the nipples from the cylinder. I clean everything (including the frame) with the hottest water I can stand with dishwashing gloves on and dishwashing soap. I use a regular cleaning brush and swab on the barrel and cylinder. After a good rinse I dry everything with paper towels. I normally just blow out the nipples after cleaning them, rather than firing caps in them. Everything gets a nice coat of oil, and the revolver is reassembled.