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Finally, after about 20 years.


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Old 07-16-2017, 04:31 PM   #1
sharps4590
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Default Finally, after about 20 years.

I don't know if interest any longer exists in load development for old cartridges and rifle. It used to so I'll throw this out there if anyone has an interest.

About 20 years ago I acquired a British double rifle by E.M. Reilly with Henry rifling in 500 BPE. The rifle came with loads of brass, cast and jacketed bullets, dies and data for a NFB load. No data was provided for BP. As I prefer to do things as they were originally done I set out to find an acceptable BP load, never successfully.

Those who are familiar with the cartridge and Henry rifling had admonished me for years to paper patch the bullet. For whatever reason I have been loathe to do so until recently. A few months back I decided that I was going to make the rifle shoot or sell it and purchase something more to my liking and that I understood. I really like the rifle but the Henry rifling has always given me fits of apoplexy.

With the help and advice of a couple friends we calculated a template for the paper patch and I made one. Everyone who PP's recommended .002 vellum for patch material and I found some at Staples. I won't describe the looks I got at Staples walking around with my calipers measuring the thickness of paper.... I ruined at least two sheets of paper learning how to patch the darn things and finally got to where I could actually do it without one of many unfortunate things happening. I can think of at least 100 ways NOT to patch bullets and probably discovered a few new ones.

I tried several different loads, none successfully. Knowing the old rifles were accurate in their hey-day I dug around and found a description of how they were loaded some 130 years ago. My problem was barrel condition, i.e., powder fouling. All signs pointed to the fouling being under control save one, accuracy. The first two shots at 50 yards from a right/left always hovered just above or below 2 inches and centered with subsequent shots opening the group to 6, 8 or even 10 inches. Ok, if it likes the first two rounds what's wrong with the succeeding shots? Only thing I could think of what that blasted Henry rifling simply did not like the way I was controlling the fouling. Somewhere in the dim, distant recesses of my memory I had believed I had been here before. Finally I remembered the way I defeated the fouling issue was to duplex the load.

The 500 BPE original load was 136 grs. of BP under a 340 gr. lead bullet. That's a lot of powder to control the fouling of, especially the BP we have today, even the good stuff such as Swiss and Olde Eyensford. My load was 120 grs. of the old GOEX Ctg. with a beeswax base over powder wad, a 1/8 grease cookie of SPG lube, a .020 card wad then the aforementioned Lyman bullet sized from .515 down to .501 in two steps, paper patched and the patch lubed with SPG before seating the bullet. 10% of a fast burning smokeless powder is generally considered about as hot as fella should go although in matches the Canadians used to allow up to 30% smokeless under black. I have never had to exceed 8% to clean up fouling. I decided to try 8 grs. of SR-4759, a powder I've had excellent results with in duplexing, then reduce the BP charge a commensurate amount.

Everything was made ready this past Friday and yesterday afternoon I assembled the loads. My intent was to shoot them this morning after the British Grand Prix. Fortunately events matched intents and I put the loads on paper this morning.

Back to the title, FINALLY I have an acceptable BP load for the old double rifle. It isn't straight up black powder but it's close enough. It doesn't shoot with the NFB loads but will keep the first three R/L combinations slightly under 4 inches, offhand at 50 yards. NFB loads will consistently hover slightly above or below 2 1/2 inches, cast or jacketed bullets. Not bad for a 130 year old rifle. I wouldn't accept that from ANY of my single shot BP rifles, original or reproduction, even at 300 yards, let alone 50 yards. However, given all the years and loads I've tried in this rifle over the last 20 or so years I believe I'll accept it. It will literally flatten, floor or bowl over anything from moose on down....


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Old 07-16-2017, 06:28 PM   #2
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You put a lot of thought and work into getting these old guns to work again.
When you go to shoot these rifle or any rifle you are building a new load for, how do you shoot it?
remotely? like behind a wall and tie a string on the trigger in case it blows up?
talk someone else in to pulling the trigger?

I might be afraid to stand there and see how it shoots, the first time.


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Old 07-16-2017, 06:41 PM   #3
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Congratulations.

Are you shooting PP with the duplex?
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Old 07-16-2017, 07:28 PM   #4
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'fish, with the BP stuff if the rifle is in good condition, I can't see how, there would be any problems. Duplexing, if one stays below the 10% mentioned, nearly always produces lower pressure than the original BP loads. It's one of those quirky interior ballistics things that doesn't make sense but is true. Smokeless cartridges I do a lot of footwork before dumping the first powder charge and when I do I'm confident in the load and the rifle. So, I sit down at the bench and pull the trigger. 40 years of working and playing with old stuff doesn't hurt either. A fella learns a lot....hopefully.

Thanks Mule....no need to get in a hurry with anything...lol!!! Yes sir, the bullets are PP'ed. Patching is as big a pain in the tail as I expected but it obviously works with this rifle. Henry rifling with its itty-bitty, sharp lands and hugely wide grooves was designed, intended for paper patch bullets. It shoots grease groove, cast bullets and jacketed bullets fine over smokeless but put the same bullet over black and things go south immediately. How I wish this rifle had Enfield rifling.

I do think the load could be improved with some tinkering but for the time being I'm going to be satisfied with what I finally have. Maybe in a few months I won't feel so worn out by the rifle and will give it some more thought.
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