The story of a beautiful day of blackpowder hunting in Braggia, Italy, featuring some well know faces of the blackpowder hunting World.
How to measure blackpowder accurately? That’s an interesting question for all of us blackpowder shooters I think. And the answer is sometimes controversial. Some say measuring by weight is the only accurate way, and measuring only by volume is the evidence of a careless shooter. I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle.
To have a clear view on this topic we first have to understand the working principles of the blackpowder. First of all blackpowder is not a compound but a mix of various ingredients like coal, potassium nitrate and sulphur. The process of making granulated blackpowder did not change too much in the past centuries. The strength and quality of the powder will depend on the quality of the ingredients, the mixing ratio, and size of corns.
The black powder particles do not explode but burn on the outer surface, while large amount of gases are generated. Therefore the more surface you have, the more gas the charge generates. So if you measure by volume and replace the 2Fg powder with 3Fg powder using the same volumetric measure you will have more gas, more pressure, and higher muzzle velocity.
The weight of the powder can change in time. It can absorb moisture from the air, so the particles will be heavier than when you first opened the box. So if you only rely on the scale, your volume can be different in June, than it was in February from the same box of powder. And more volume means more particles, more particles mean more morning surface, and more burning surface means more gases, higher pressure and higher muzzle velocity. So the question is obvious: should we just forget the scales and stick with volumetric measures?
The answer is simply no, because measuring by volume can be inaccurate. If you use ladle style measure, the charge will depend on how the powder settles. If you use a bench mounted volumetric measure the charge will also change depending on how much powder you have in the container. If you use a powder flask, the same thing happens: the more powder you have in it the more it will compress the charge in the spout. In this case it also matters how strong you push your finger on the mouth of the spot: the volume will be reduced if the finger pressure is harder.
My method for having consistent loads is the following:
1st Always use your volumetric measure to fill 5 of your vials.
2nd Weight these charges on a traditional scale and determinate the average.
3rd Now use your volumetric measure to weight your charges but check each of them on the scale as well. You can use any digital or analogue scales, but avoid the cheap low quality ones, stick with scales designed for weighing powder.
4th Add or remove some powder is necessary to have exactly the average load weight. A trickler is a great help in this job.
This method guarantees you will have the equal volume, and measuring all charges by weight as a second step is used to check the consistency of the work.
This method offers exceptional accuracy regardless of the season, but I also have to tell you that I only use this method for the most important occasions. But remember: the volumetric measure is the key of the project not registering the weight of the charge. For everyday practice and fun shooting I stick with skipping the scale check part of course.
The complete method
- Check if the gun is unloaded.
- Put the hammer in half cock, release the loading lever and pull the axis forward to remove the cylinder from the frame.
- Unscrew all the nipples.
- Remove the grip panels by removing their screw.
- Loosen the main spring screw located at the front side of the grip frame.
- Use a brass rod and hammer to push out the strong end of the main spring from it recess.
- Unscrew the screw of the trigger guard and remove the trigger guard.
- Unscrew the screw of the trigger spring and remove the spring.
- Unscrew the screw of the cylinder stop and trigger and remove the parts.
- Unscrew the screw of the hammer and push the hammer downward.
- Unscrew the screw of the hand and remove the hand, now you can remove the hammer by moving it upwards.
- Unscrew the screw of the loading lever and remove the part. Now you can remove the cylinder axis.
- Put all the metal parts in hot soapy water for at least a minute.
- Use an old tooth brush to clean powder residue from the surfaces.
- Use a bristle brush to clean the barrel and the cylinder chambers.
- Dry the metal parts. The hotter the water was the easier this job will be. You can use a hairdryer for this purpose. Use dry patches to wipe any remaining water from the barrel and chambers.
- Apply oil on all external and internal surfaces, but do not overdo it in the bore and in the chambers.
- Use PTFE tape to cover the threads of the nipple and replace them into the cylinder.
- Apply a light coat of heat resistant grease to the axis of the cylinder and remount it.
- Assemble the revolver following the reverse of the sequence above. Hint No. 1: Always check if the cylinder stop is withdrawn when you replace the cylinder so you can avoid scratching the surface. When remounting the cylinder do it from the right side of the frame, and try to rotate it a bit, so the ratchet on the back will push the hand in. Hint No. 2: When replacing the main spring be careful: put a pencil between the front part of the frame and the spring. Now with a little tension push one corner into its recess. Use a wooden hammer to push it into its place completely.
The fast method
It is not necessary to completely disassemble the revolver after each shooting sessions. It is enough to clean the cylinder, barrel only, wipe off the residue from the outer surfaces, and apply some oil to the trigger mechanism ans surfaces. The cylinder and bore needs complete cleaning. The best way is to remove the cylinder and the loading rod, and submerge the barrel into hot soapy water with the muzzle pointing down, so only the bore will be under water. Leave it like this for a minute and use a bristle brush to clean the bore and chambers. The rest of the process is the same as described before.