Armory, Self Defense, And EDC > Black Powder and Primitive Weapons

advice for a black powder newbie

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I don't own a muzzleloader and I've never used one.  I became interested in muzzleloader rifles when I started thinking about melting lead wheel weights to cast bullets.

this seems like a great survival opportunity, but I don't know alot about the subject so I need the ask the pros a few questions.

1. would wheel weights be a great source for making my own ammunition?

2. how difficult is storing black powder?

3. what are the dangers (exploding obviously ) to storing black powder?

4. how long can you store BP?

5. what are some affordable entry level BP rifles that aren't junk.  I've noticed muzzleloaders seem to be expensive, thought they would be less expensive.

6. any other things a newb like me should know

I can say,as black powder is 20 years in my past,that it is fun and dirty and can be an interesting hobby.

1 Wheel weights are a good metal when paper or cloth patches are used, I used scrap plumbing pipe and wheel weights.

2. Water/moisture,sunlight,static and to some extent storage time ...are your enemy...I have used some 'real' FFFG ,fine grained,black powder that was over 8 years old. BUT in many states,I can speak for mine,you are limited to ONE POUND in residential storage and many stores do the same ,with only one pound on the shelf as the stuff is not like smokeless powder is explosive without the containment of a cartridge and chamber.

I suggest,if your concern is the future,that you think of how even 100 plus year old cartridges still fire well...that you look into loading,or just learning to SEAL cartridges with lacquer and store from heat,moisture,light and temperature variance in a proper storage area. I use surplus ammo and find that properly stored cartridges will outlast you as even my 45 ACP practice ammo has mostly 1942 and 1945 head stamps as most military cartridges were lacquer sealed back then...this is what I credit with longevity and viability of the shells.

My preferred BP weapons were RUGER 44 pistols,CVA or Thompson Center 36 44,and 50 cal rifles,though most any with a rifled barrel will do fine.
I also note the 38 special projectiles work great in 36 caliber black powder weapons, the 148 wadcutter and hollow base wad cutter were favorites.

To add to what Carl said:

--- Quote from: womule on May 28, 2017, 11:13:41 PM ---4. how long can you store BP?

--- End quote ---

Black powder has become a general term which can mean two things, original black powder and black powder substitutes (e.g. pyrodex).  Original black powder can store for very long periods of time.  Archeologists have dug up black powder firearms hundreds of years old and the powder loaded in them still worked.  Black powder substitutes on the other hand are much more likely to go bad especially if not stored in a temperature controlled environment.  Also, many of the substitutes are hygroscopic and if not stored in absolute water tight containers will absorb moisture from the air.

--- Quote from: womule on May 28, 2017, 11:13:41 PM ---2. how difficult is storing black powder?
3. what are the dangers (exploding obviously ) to storing black powder?

--- End quote ---

Original black powder is an explosive which lights much more easily than the substitutes.  So it is potentially much more dangerous.  Black powder should never be stored in a metal container (otherwise known as a really big grenade).   It should be stored in either a properly designed wood (best) or cardboard (o.k.) box.  If you are just starting out, the best thing to do is when you go to buy your first "can" of black powder (which now will be waterproof plastic) is ask the retailer if they still have the cardboard box it came in (usually holds 25-1 lb containers and has the flammable/explosive stickers on it).

--- Quote from: womule on May 28, 2017, 11:13:41 PM ---5. what are some affordable entry level BP rifles that aren't junk.  I've noticed muzzleloaders seem to be expensive, thought they would be less expensive.

--- End quote ---

There are many great BP rifles.  They fall under three general classes: production rifles, production kits (which you put together), and custom rifles.  Custom rifles can go into the many thousands of dollars.  They are as much fine works of art as they are functional firearms.  You are looking for rifles for survival purposes so you are looking at production rifles or kits.  Just starting out a pre-built rifle would probably be best so you can learn how it operates before trying to figure out how to put one together.  You then have to decide on what type of rifle you want.  There are two primary types:

Traditional.  These are flintlock or percussion cap ignition rifles of the designs used from the 1700s through the 1880s (when cartridge guns almost completely took over).  These rifles use iron sights (either fixed or adjustable) and long barrels (32 inches+).  The long barrels were very important in their day for economy purposes.  They allow less powder to be used to achieve the same bullet velocity than a shorter barrel.  With a traditional rifle you will generally be using a patched ball as a projectile (though other options exist).  The sweet spot is typically 40 to 45 caliber which again saves on powder but has very good knockdown.  Some larger game however, can benefit from a larger caliber in the 50 to 54 range.

Modern.  These are rifles that were designed to take advantage of the muzzleloading hunting seasons that were originally set up for the traditional rifles.  Their form is more like a modern rifle allowing the use of scopes, modern triggers, and safeties.  And their barrels are shorter making them less efficient on powder use but handier to carry.  To ignite the generally larger powder charges they tend to use more powerful primers, specifically 209 shotgun primers.  They also 'break down' for much easier cleaning.   While they will shoot a 45 to 50 caliber bullet but aren't nearly as efficient as the traditional.  Where they really shine is in the use of modern, copper jacketed projectiles.

Regarding costs, for traditional rifles the used market is where the action is.  They tend to not be abused as the more modern rifles are.  I recently bought at our annual club auction an unused Thompson New Englander 50 caliber in box with 200 bullets, 300 percussion caps, a can of pyrodex, a package of pre-cut patches, and a tube of wonder lube for $125.

For modern rifles there is a stronger case for buying new.  They tend to be abused and oddly (given their easier cleaning capability) tend not to be cared for.  You will often find them shot after a hunting season and not cleaned which is a big no-no.  The best time to buy a modern rifle is towards the end of the muzzleloading season when the big box stores drastically reduce them.  Walmart in particular seems to want to clear out inventory and it isn't unusual to see 50%+ markdowns.

All this said, personally I believe that the underhammer percussion rifle is the very best survival BP firearm.  The underhammer was the last generation of traditional muzzleloaders created before cartridge rifles took over the market.  Historically they are hugely important as they were the product which made interchangeable parts manufacture a reality.  They use very few parts so are easy to keep operational.  They have faster ignition and are less likely to have the hammer snagged by a branch, etc.   And since the ignition takes place under the barrel, they are more pleasant to shoot and are less apt to cause bad habits like flinching because the ignition takes place under the line of sight.  Alas, the last mass produced version was done by Numrich Arms and discontinued a couple decades ago.

You asked about 'rifles' but there is also a strong prepper case to be made for smoothbores because of the flexibility of loads (ball, shot, buck & ball, etc).  But I didn't go there because you asked specifically about rifles.

If you tell us what your intended purpose is, we could make a better recommendation of traditional vs. modern and which brands/models to look for.

Liberty...Karma for great post.

You asked about wheel weights for lead. The old rule of thumb was " if you can cut it with your thumb nail you can shoot it " . This was patch and ball.


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