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Coppermine Stats
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  Burn rate Chart
ReloadingHere is a listing of the various burn-rates for current powders available for reloading.

1. Norma R-1
2. Vihta Vuori N310
3. Hodgdon Titewad
4. Accurate Nitro 100
5. Alliant Bullseye
6. Accurate Solo 1000
7. Scot Red Diamond
8. Alliant Red Dot
9. Alliant Promo
10. Hodgdon Titegroup
11. Accurate No. 2
12. Alliant American Select
13. Winchester AA Plus
14. Hodgdon Clays
15. Vihta Vuori N320
16. Ramshot Competition
17. Scot Royal D
18. Winchester WST
19. Hodgdon HP38
20. Winchester 452AA
21. Scot 453
22. Winchester 231
23. Ramshot Zip
24. IMR 700X
25. Alliant Green Dot
26. Hodgdon Int. Clays
27. Vihta Vuori N330
28. IMR PB
29. Accurate No. 5
30. Scot Pearl
31. Winchester 473AA
32. Hodgdon HS-5
33. Winchester WSL
34. Alliant Unique
35. Hodgdon Univ. Clays
36. Alliant Power Pistol
37. IMR SR-7625
38. Hodgdon HS-6
39. Ramshot Silhouette
40. Winchester WAP
41. Vihta Vuori N340
42. Winchester 540
43. Alliant Herco
44. Winchester WSF
45. IMR SR-4756
46. Scot Solo 1250
47. Vihta Vuori 3N37
48. IMR 800X
49. Accurate No. 7
50. Hodgdon Longshot
51. Scot Solo 1500
52. Ramshot True Blue
53. Vihta Vuori N350
54. Vihta Vuori 3N38
55. Hodgdon HS-7
56. Alliant Blue Dot
57. Winchester 571
58. Vihta Vuori N105
59. Accurate No. 9
60. Ramshot Enforcer
61. Scot 4100
62. Alliant Steel
63. Alliant 2400
64. Vihta Vuori N110
65. Hodgdon Lil Gun
66. Norma R123
67. Hodgdon H110
68. Winchester 296
69. IMR SR-4759
70. Vihta Vuori N120
71. IMR 4227
72. Accurate XMR 5744
73. Alliant 410
75. Vihta Vuori N130
76. Winchester 680
77. Norma N200
78. Accurate 1680
79. Vihta Vuori N133
80. Hodgdon H4198
81. IMR 4198
82. Scot Brig 4197
83. Accurate XMR 2015
84. Scot Brig 3032
85. Alliant RL7
86. IMR 3031
87. Hodgdon Benchmark
88. Norma N201
89. Scot Brig 322
90. Hodgdon H322
91. Ramshot X-Terminator
92. Accurate 2230
93. Winchester 748
94. Alliant RL10X
95. Hodgdon BLC-2
96. Accurate 2460
97. Hodgdon H335
98. Ramshot TAC
99. Hodgdon H4895
100. Accurate XMR 2495
101. Alliant RL12
102. IMR 4895
103. Scot Brig 4065
104. Vihta Vuori N135
105. Hodgdon Varget
106. IMR 4064
107. Accurate XMR 4064
108. Accurate 2520
109. IMR 4320
110. Norma N203
111. Vihta Vuori N140
112. Vihta Vuori N540
113. Accurate 2700
114. Ramshot Big Game
115. Alliant RL15
116. Hodgdon H380
117. Winchester 760
118. Scot Brig 4351
119. Hodgdon H414
120. Vihta Vuori N150
121. Vihta Vuori N550
122. Accurate XMR 4350
123. IMR 4350
124. Hodgdon H4350
125. Norma N204
126. Ramshot Hunter
127. Alliant RL19
128. Vihta Vuori N160
129. Vihta Vuori N560
130. IMR 4831
131. Scot Brig 4831
132. Norma N205
133. Accurate XMR 3100
134. Winchester WMR
135. Hodgdon H4831
136. Norma MRP
137. Alliant RL22
138. Winchester 785
139. Hodgdon H450
140. Accurate Mag Pro
141. Vihta Vuori N165
142. Winchester WXR
143. IMR 7828
144. Accurate 8700
145. Hodgdon H1000
146. Ramshot Magnum
147. Alliant RL25
148. Hodgdon Retumbo
149. Hodgdon H870
150. Vihta Vuori N170
151. Vihta Vuori 24N41
152. Hogdon 50 BMG
153. Vihta Vuori 20N29

Posted by DallanC on Monday, January 16, 2006 (23:25:18) (10147 reads)
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  High Pressure!
ReloadingHi Hunters, a cautionary tale. I live and hunt here in England and have reloaded for my 25-06 and now 6.5-06 for the last ten years. The rifle is a Sako TRG-S action which now has a Krieger stainless 26 inch barrel chambered 6.5-06. My sporting rifle has never had commercial ammunition through it, even when it was a 25-06; (I had it re-barrelled as a 6.5 two years ago). I chose 6.5-06 for the available bullet selection.

Hunting in England for small deer I could use a 120 grain Sierra, for instance, and in Scotland I use the 140 grain Game King for the much larger Red Deer. I have also used Speer, Nosler and Hornady bullets very successfully. Seeking to reduce the powder load for use on the smaller species, (we have Roe, Muntjac and Chinese Water deer), I reduced my powder load, Viht N160, down to 45 grains and filled the rest of the case to the base of the neck with coarse semolina. I have a photo which shows the result on the first shot, with a normal case for comparison. The bolt had to be hammered open!

I am grateful for the strength of a Sako three lug action and very embarrassed by the incident, as I must have loaded several thousand rounds, target and hunting, with no problems. The photo shows major brass flow into the extractor slot, a popped primer and a distorted primer pocket. When I have worked out how, I will send the photo. The ridiculous thing is that 45 or 46 grains of Viht N160 drives a Sierra 120 grain soft point very accurately at about 2700 fps, a sensible load by any standards. Moral:- Don't mess with something that works!
Best wishes to all for 2006,

Posted by moritz on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 (21:18:09) (7816 reads)
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  One step to far
Hunting StoriesI was about 26 years old, when I found myself cross country skiing in Pennsylvania. The day was not a typical February winter day, gray sky about 10 degrees, slight breeze and snowing. The snow was falling with enough force to lend a very quiet day and obscure my movement. Following game trails for about 5 miles I came to a marsh. It was called Levenson’s Meadow, I don’t know who Levenson was.

The “meadow” was created by a very deep channel of slow moving water. Erosion had done it’s work over the past centuries and created the channel but also an extensive wetland. The Hummocks and grasses kept the area mostly clear of people not wanting to get wet. This cold winter had in fact frozen the marsh and channel into what seemed like a solid sheet.

The snow increased its intensity and soon visibility was only about 50 feet. I looking through the trees, down into the marsh The creek channel was clearly free of hummocks and grass. One push and I was off. Leaving the trees the snow seemed to intensify further obscuring my visibility. Crossing the hummocks was fairly simple on the skis but once I made it to the channel I was able to move with a smooth and determined gait. I spotted some movement ahead of me and stopped. For some reason I was along the edge of the channel next to the grasses when I saw the otter. It would dive under the ice swim back and repeat this seemingly endlessly, until it came up with a trout. Soon there after I discovered I was watching two otters not one. I watched the two otters long enough to decide I could get closer. Slowly moving forward the otters did not notice my presence or didn’t care. As is usual one step to many and they were off. I stood and waited for a good while longer, thinking I could out wait them.

The snow was still falling but the wind had gone still the snow was accumulating on my jacket such that I was now almost completely white. It was time to head back when I decided to go look at the hole the otters were using as I go closer I noticed that I could not see the water directly under the ice. My mental recognition of the ice condition was just a half a step behind the cracking and water rushing up my legs. I managed to grab a handful of grass as the water came up to my neck. The predicament was made difficult by the 2 meter skis I had on. What allowed me to get so close is what was holding me back now. I rolled on my side and brought one leg up at a time. Eventually getting clear of the slow moving water recovered my poles and prepared for a long walk back. I had been skiing on about ½ inch of ice almost 2 inches above the water!

Immediately my skis iced up. I discovered that heavy skis were better than breaking through the ice every step. With my skis back on I started back to the cabin. The good news it was mostly up hill travel, the bad news was the last mile was all down hill. The worse news, it was snowing harder and getting colder. The wind had started blowing again. Climbing hills with cross country skis is a fairly easy task. With the proper wax, applied you can climb just about anything. However, skis need to stay dry. As Ice forming on them covers the wax and results in a very sticky situation. With the combined weight of my wet cloths and ice and snow covered skis I was tired and cold.

I decided youth pulled me through that one easily enough. The next time I might be much older and less able. From then on I always had with me the bare essentials for winter survival. Two heavy duty trash bags, with strike anywhere matches, a piece of pine molding and a space blanket and a pocket knife.


Posted by longwalker on Friday, December 09, 2005 (23:14:14) (2452 reads)
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  Quest for a Dream, Non-typical Mule Deer
Hunting Stories
2005 BookCliffs Deer hunt

I've always wanted a non-typical mule deer. Something about those heavy horned critters with points jutting out every which way filled my dreams for years. Honestly, I thought I might run into a typical with a sticker point but nothing truly "non-typical".

Back in the end of 2003 I decided to abandon my attempt to draw a Utah Paunsagaunt or Henry Mountains deer tag. Sure there are some unbelievably big deer there but the odds of drawing it were so poor I decided it would be 10+ years before I drew a tag. I had a lot of bonus points so I decided I'd rather try for some easier to draw areas and perhaps hunt them twice in the time it would take to draw for one of the premium areas.

In looking over the state areas map I settled on the Utah Bookcliffs. Years back they let an overabundance of hunters hunt the unit and it was decimated... but lately they have slowly been bringing the area back by restricting the amount of hunters allowed in there. In looking over the draw odds I noticed I was just a couple points from being guaranteed a tag. That sold me on it, I would apply for it for the following 2004 season.

I was disappointed when I got the "UNSUCCESSFUL" message and even more so when I later found out I had a 1 in 2 chance to draw it. That's ok, I knew I would be virtually guaranteed a tag for the 2005 season if I stuck with it. Sure enough, at the first part of July I got my result back "SUCCESSFUL" for the Utah Bookcliffs Any Weapon hunt (ie: rifle).

I immediately began tracking down every friend or person I knew who had hunted it to get information on how and where to hunt a unit I'd never even been to. What was interesting is everyone informed me that the Bookcliffs deer herd is quite interesting in that it migrates north as the winter approaches. I also learned that during the Archery, Muzzleloader and finally Rifle seasons, the herd would be in completely different areas, all dependent on weather and other factors.

I planned a scouting trip out there in August and on a tip from a guy who knew the area and had pictures of terrific harvest's from years past, visited an area he swore I would not see a single thing in... but that it would be crawling with deer come rifle season. His words were prophetic, I did not see hide nor hair of a deer, not even a track at the countless waterholes I stopped to check out. It was slightly worrisome but he assured me the deer would be there come hunting time.

As the season got closer, I began packing up probably 5 times a much gear as I would have needed, just in case of emergencies. I thought I was well prepared but in hindsight I wasn't even close.

The Utah Bookcliffs is a remote area... some of the most remote and unexplored country in the continental United States. It is tough country... you learn to bend to it or it will break you.

My initial plan for the hunt was drive out Thursday morning and establish camp, then scout Thursday evening, Friday morning, relax Friday afternoon maybe shoot some rabbits, then continue scouting Friday evening. I figured I would have a good idea where to be come Saturday morning and the beginning of the hunt. It was a good plan... but in actuality, the nightmare was about to begin.

Thursday, the commute from hell

I headed out Thursday morning according to plan and arrived at the end of the paved road around 1pm, so far so good! I traveled a whopping 6 miles when I heard my trailer tire blow. Ah crap! Well I had thrown in a floor jack and star wrench and I had spare tires so I figured it would be a 30 min pain then I'd be off. I jack up the trailer and try to budge a lug nut... it wouldn't move! I tried more and more, but none would break free! Momentary panic set in, then I got an idea. I took the handle off the floor jack and duct-taped it to my star wrench forming a 'cheater' of sorts. I climb under the trailer and lay into it and was rewarded with it grudgingly turning! YAY! The day is saved... I keep working with it but after a minute I notice something odd. It didn't seem like the nut was backing off the stud. I had a horrible sinking suspicion and put a finger around on the backside of the hub and felt the stud end and turned the nut... ah hell, sure enough the stud was stripped! I was so screwed as I knew nothing short of a cutting torch was going to get this thing off.

With nothing else to do while sitting in the middle of absolute no-where I tried to loosen the other 4 lug nuts. One by one they all came loose without stripping the stud. Soon a oil field truck came by and stopped to give me a hand. He didn't have any equipment other than a cell phone but ended up staying with me for 3 hours while we got things resolved. We used his cell phone to call my brother who actually was out in the Bookcliffs helping me scout, we reported my location and he said he would come back to help but would be over an hour away.

We sat there pondering what to try... vicegrips on the stud, patching the hole, all failed. Suddenly we see a truck coming along down the road and they guy helping me says 'hey that's a pipe welder truck, they will have a torch on it!'. I wave and the guy stops. I inform him of the situation and he immediately climbs out, fires up the torch and cuts off the stud. I thank him with a lot of gratitude and he says 'ok is that it?' I say yep, I have a spare tire, the other lugs are loose so I can get the flat off. He says ok good luck and takes off down the long dusty road.

I climb back under and begin taking off the other 4 lugs... they grudgingly unscrew until they get right to the end of the stud then they tighten down... I put a tad more elbow grease on one and suddenly the stud strips! Oh lord please stop with the bad luck! I tell the original guy who stopped to help what happened and he couldn't believe it. I work at the other nuts and got 2 off, but another stripped as well.

Son of a .....

In retrospect I should have pulled the hub and let the welder weld the studs to the hub... but I didn't so I was totally screwed now. We wait another 30 min and off in the distance I see a white dodge hauling butt towards us, I say 'looks like by brother' ... he gets within 300 yards doing about 60 when I hear BAM FLAPFLAPFLAPFLAP and he begins to fishtail, sliding right up within 20 yards of my truck. He blew a $200 Michelin E rating tire... had a 5' rip right through the sidewall.

Ok yea, this day is just getting WAY better all the time...

Then I notice his back window of his truck is broken out, he shakes his head and says the strap broke that was holding his ATV in place so it rolled forward and broke out the rear window! UGH!

So we replace his tire with his last spare then look over the trailer. He was in disbelief along with us that 3 of 5 studs stripped (I was also in a panic the rest of the weekend incase we blew a tire on the other hub... I mean if one side is defective the other probably is too right?). We decide to draw the trailer 2 miles back the way I had come to a well site and hide it and my truck out of site while we made a run to Vernal for parts. It was late afternoon about this point so I was worried about stores closing. We got the truck stashed with the trailer barely making it... totally destroyed that rim LOL. We make the run to Vernal arriving there right at 6pm where my brother is able to work out a deal at a closing tire store for another spare but unfortunately no-one was open with trailer parts so we returned to my truck.

We unhook the trailer and leave it while I take my truck and camper and head for the spot I want to camp. My brother followed me. We went slow, not wanting to blow another tire and arrived at a good campsite around 10pm. So much for getting there early and scouting that evening! I tell my brother 'screw the atv's, lets just crash for the night'. He says nah, lets go get'em. I said geeze its over an hour back down there then another hour back. We wont get to sleep until midnight or later. He says ya that's about right, now lets go get them. I shrug and say well ok, then help him offload his atv. We drive all the way back down there, 20 mph so we don't get a flat, load up my spare into his truck while I drove the other one back. Its now 12:30am and we finally have both atvs to camp and I am beat like you wouldn't believe... my brother was worse, he'd left to drive out there at 5:30am the previous morning. We quickly fire up the heater, set alarm clocks then crash for the night.

Friday, opening day Eve

6:30am Friday morning the alarm goes off. We get ready, fry up some sausage and hash browns then take off as the sun was just hinting at a sunrise. This was the area I had scouted the previous august with zero deer... almost immediately we began seeing deer. I was very relieved let me tell you. The migration had started and the deer were definitely moving in. Within a mile or so of our camper we saw our first 4x4 buck, right off the side of the road. We travel another 20 miles or so, counting another 10-15 4x4's and misc other bucks. Things were definitely looking up!

Sadly I noticed we had forgot to fill up my atv on gas before we left for the morning, having burned most of it the prior evening while I drove it back. Grudgingly we started back for camp around 9am. Amusingly that ended up being one of the biggest strokes of luck of the weekend!

While on the way back, we suddenly notice a really nice wide 26' 4x4 buck. He was 300 yards away and very obviously rutting and following a doe. We sat there on a major road, on atvs, clearly in sight and this fool of a buck walked up within THIRTY yards of us! My brother snapped a couple pictures of it.

The deer eventually walked right past us, across the road and was gone. We sat there talking about it when 2 guys in a truck drove up. We sat there chatting for a minute when my brother exclaims 'Geeze look at that one!' I turn and there is a 28' 5x6 walking past us at 80 yards, also headed into the same area as the 26' buck went. We knew this was a good area, if nothing else it had the bigger deer. We chatted with the guys in the truck for a while then we parted ways and returned to camp.

Trailer repair 101

We had a quick lunch then headed back to fix the trailer. We arrived and pulled the whole hub off (I should have pulled both in retrospect) and returned to vernal where we were able to get the hub repaired. We also bought two new bigger, better, heavier tires. The trailer store owner literally laughed when he saw the blown tire... he said 'boy guys, these are just bia ply tires... they are just big bouncy balloons and you guys are out driving on needles out there in the bookcliffs!' He dug out two new steel belted radial tires on rims and said 'you really need these'. I bought them without question. Amusingly the guy was incredibly friendly and actually charged me for the rims only... NOTHING for the work repairing the hub and he threw in a tube of grease to lube the bearing with for free. It is nice to run into very nice people in life. Me and my brother both talked about the 'quality' of people we met out there... truly some of the best selfless people I've ever run across.

We returned to the trailer, re-installed the hub, put on one of the 2 new radial tires and headed out for camp. Its now 4pm Friday afternoon and arrived in camp with the trailer and all our gear. My brothers now put 300 miles on his truck just helping fix the trailer.

So we relax for half an hour or so then head out to scout for the evening. We decide to try a more remote area and saw a lot of deer but the bucks were a lot smaller. Very few 4x4's and nothing bigger. We talk things over and decide that come first light the next morning, opening day we would be up on top where we saw the bigger deer. We figure a lot of other hunters would hunt from camp up to where we would start, if we didn't see anything we could always hunt out way back down.
Fix-a-flat anyone?

With the following days plan decided on we head back to camp. After probably 3 miles my brother comes along side me on his atv pointing down and I see his now completely flat tire. We are over 20 miles from camp.

Ugh. I offer to drive it but he declined and took off, hanging off the left side to minimize the weight on the flat. We arrive in camp an hour later, and fix some dinner and get ready for the next day.

I make absolutely sure both my atv's are full on gas as well as bungie on a spare can of gas. Due to my brothers ATV having a flat I am happy I decided to bring both mine and my wife's... I just had a feeling to take a spare atv, it was good I had. We set our clocks 30 min earlier just to be sure we have enough time.

We joke that we absolutely have to have used up all the bad luck in the world by now and all that will be left is good luck. Ironically that actually more true than not.

Opening Day, Its here!

We get up early opening day and have another of my famous sausage and hash brown breakfasts then I load my gun into my atv and we head out. It was a beautiful morning, more stars than you can count, and no real dust from previous vehicles... it seemed we were indeed the first ones headed up on the mountain. A 20' wide 2x2 runs across the road in front of us and my brother yells to me 'so you want that one?' I just smile and we keep going. We arrive where we saw the 2 big bucks the morning as dawn was approaching. We scour the area with spotting scopes and seeing nothing, we start traveling hill to hill, working the area with our spotting scopes. We soon see a nice rutting 24' wide 4x4 running with a bunch of does and some other misc bucks. He would be a shooter any other place than the Bookcliffs opening day. I tell my brother we are looking for the next class up, hopefully something non-typical with trash points.

We split up, keeping in contact with radios and we each see tons of deer, lots of small bucks but nothing remotely worth wasting 7 years of drawing time on. We meet back up and start to work our way to lower elevations. We begin to see more and more hunters so we split up and work our way down small jeep trails, glassing canyon after canyon.

I get down in a very pretty 'deer'y' looking canyon that must have held at least 75 does as I hiked down to a ledge where I could see better. Suddenly my brother yells over the radio 'HOLY CRAP DUDE, I'M LOOKING AT THE BUCK OF MY DREAMS, GET OVER HERE'. He gives me directions to get to him and I run back up from the ledge I was on to my parked atv and take off.

A Mild disclaimer about my brother. He's a mule deer fanatic. He spends a lot of time filming deer on winter ranges, does taxidermy professionally etc etc., He's really good at field judging them so when he says a buck is nice, it is really nice. He knew what I wanted to find... or should I say hope to find, so when he hollered out that he found a shooter, I knew it would be one. I finally find the road over to him and saw him, which ironically was about 400 yards from a major road. I pull up and he's very close to shaking. He immediately says see those 3 deer over there, the closer two are does, the farthest one is the buck, just shoot it now... DO NOT LOOK AT THE ANTLERS!

LOL he thought I would take a look at his antlers, get buck fever and miss it.

Deer of my dreams at 150 yards.

Well I dig out the gun and jack in a round then settle the crosshairs on the farthest deer. Its in deep sagebrush from my angle and his head is down while he feeds. The other two deer I could clearly see their heads and knew they were does so I held on the 3rd and continued to watch it. I wasn't going to shoot unless I knew it was a buck. After a good minute or so, with my brother getting more and more giddy and saying, 'trust me its big enough, just shoot!' the deer I'm watching suddenly lifts its head and I see the top of his rear tine's branching out all over, I could see he was pretty wide and heavy. Because we were in clear sight only 400 yards from the main road, a road a lot of people are now driving up and down frequently, I squeezed the trigger and at the report of the rifle, the deer dropped from sight.

My brother took a deep breath and said 'if that's not something you want you have my permission to kick my butt'. We talk for a moment then walk over to take a look at him. I couldn't believe it as we got closer to it. I saw the antler rising up out of the brush and knew it was pretty wide. As we got even closer I saw the mass of the horns and began to see the trash hanging off the right side.

WOW! It was amazing to me. Sure people kill bigger stuff but darn it, most people don't kill anything near this big in their lifetimes. He had nearly everything I had hoped for in a non-typical buck. Nice heavy mass on the antlers, true trash points branching out all over, not the little sticker point stuff some deer get. His bases were amazing, heavy with lots of sticker points coming off it, all rough and gnarly with bits of pinion pine wood embedded in them from rubbing and tearing up trees. His cape was perfect, no flaws and absolutely beautiful. His neck was completely swollen up from rutting. He looked huge.

It took a while of looking at it before I could bring myself to leave long enough to grab a camera and return. We spent a good 20 minutes or more prepping him and taking good pictures. For me it's a deer of a lifetime and one I wanted good pictures of to remind myself of for years to come. After a few minutes of shooting pictures a truck drove past with 3 hunters in it. They saw the antlers and cameras and came over for a closer look. They were suitably impressed. Then 2 ATV's came by with a father son duo, they saw all the people gathered up and came down for a look see too. Then if that's not enough another guy and his son came walking down through the sage and came over to take a peek.

Everyone congratulated me and I could see the excitement in their eyes knowing that there are some nice deer out there and they had a good chance of running into something nice as well. Slowly people returned to their hunting, we finished our picture taking and began to take care of him.

The ride back to camp was moderately anti-climatic. I had expected to hunt the 9 days of the season plus the 2 days of scouting. To be finished by 9:30 am and headed back to camp felt strange. But I have to admit I spent a lot of time looking at the shadow of the antlers behind me, as they were cast off to my right on the return trip. I felt like I was 14 again having taken my first buck.

I never thought I would fulfill my Non-typical mule deer dream... but after nearly endless bad luck, it seems fate rewarded us with just enough good luck to fulfill a dream.

His main frame is a 5x6 with several more trashy points at his base giving him a 8x8 points (counting eye guards etc).

Pictures are worth a thousand words, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves

Me and my brother Mike

Brother Mike

From a distance, it gives you an idea of what he looked like

Look at the shredded pinon pine in his bases

Truely the hunt of a lifetime. Thank you everyone who helped out!


Posted by DallanC on Thursday, October 27, 2005 (03:56:01) (5375 reads)
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  The Gutless Field Dressing Method
Field Dressing / Animal Care
Warning: This article covers graphic content not suitable for children or the squeemish

I learned this method of dressing animals on a Wyoming Pronghorn hunt. Antelope meat is VERY good, but only if you take care of it immediately. This means getting it on ice ASAP! I started quartering the animals with the "gutless" method and getting them on ice. Boy since we started doing this our antelope have never tasted better. I've gotten alot of "woah" and "how did you do that???" from other hunters or landowners when they see me take a critter apart in a couple minutes and deposit all the good eats on ice. Also, who really wants to gut a stinky antelope? LOL not me.

The "gutless" method can be done two ways, either by skinning the legs before removal or skinning them after removal. Personally I usually remove the quarters with the hide on to keep the meat cleaner, then skin each leg out after.

You can start with either the loins, front or rear quarters. There is no right or wrong way to do it. I usually do one sides front, same sides rear, flip the animal followed by the remaining front and finally the remaining rear. Then I cut out the loins and call it good.

For this example I also took pictures of how to cape an animal (for another guide) so the front quarters at least are already skinned. Hide on or hide off the legs, it really doesn't mater for the actual extraction of the quarters.

Lets begin. With the animal on its side, grab a frontleg and lift it up and away from the body. Place your knife into the "armpit" and cut right in the crease, angling slightly towards the ribcage. Cut away the meat, cartilage where it meets the ribcage. There are no bones in the shoulder of deer or elk that attach the front legs to the ribcage, its all held together with muscle and cartilage!

Keep lifting the leg as you continue making cuts as needed to free the leg.

Continue working your way across until the leg comes free from the ribcage. Most of it will cut free very easily, some cartilage can be stubborn but a good sharp knife will get through it.

Once the leg is free take care of it how you wish, either into game bags, coolers, panyards or whatever. You can even debone it now that its free and is actually alot easier to work with (hang it in a tree so you dont have to bend over while working with it).

Depending on the size of the animal I'm dressing, I'll either process an entire side then roll it over and do the other, or you can do the fronts then the rears. The order is largely irrelevant. Here I am continuing with the other front quarter only because for the caping guide I skinned out the other leg and wanted to get it in the cooler as soon as possible, antelope is time critical when it comes to getting the meat cooled quickly. Generally I remove one entire sides quarters before flipping it over.

As with the other front leg, pull up on the leg and cut away the meat and cartilage along the ribcage where it attaches.

Continue carefully until it comes free. Once it does, store as needed.

Thus far it should have been amazingly easy! Those front quarters come off with very little effort. The hinds are slightly more tricky, but they come off nearly as easy!

Be aware that some states require proof of sex remain attached to the hind quarters, if this is the case in your state split the scrotum in half and leave half attached to each hind quarter!!!

Ok lets begin by talking about how to do the hind quarters. These are attached to the pelvis by a hip bone and socket. Inside of the ball and socket is a tendon that must be cut. It isn't terribly hard, but I recommend in doing this for the first time, you just take your time. After doing it once, any future animals will seem easy. Also I really recommend you use your finger or thumb to feel around where the bones are so you don't dull your knife too much. There is also a bone at the top of the pelvis that we need to cut around, it is easily felt with your fingers to identify and then cut around.

Start by having someone lift the leg up off the body, or tie it to a bush / tree to keep tension on it. This frees up both hands and makes things alot easier. You can at this point skin the quarter before removal, or after. I chose to skin it after.

Begin by cutting along side the penis, back towards the rear of the animal.

Take short careful strokes.

Cut the skin towards the front of the hind quarter, and begin cutting the meat downward towards the hip and body. Be careful to keep your knife away from the belly area as we don't want to puncture anything.

Right in the middle of the leg is the leg / hip bone socket. You will be able feel it with your fingers. Moving the leg back and forth will also allow you to identify where this socket is. Cut the meat away around it, exposing the socket itself. With some minor pressure pulling on the leg, the socket will open up allowing you to cut the tendon inside (visibly right at the tip of the knife)

Carefully cut any muscle or cartilage around the ball and the bone should pop free from the socket.

Next identify the pelvic bone that sticks out, it will be easily found by feeling around with your finger. If not continue to cut the muscle away until you do. Here I am pointing to the tip of it with my finger. You will want to cut around this bone to free the rest of the hind quarter.

Here you can clearly see the pelvic bone exposed. Continue to cut the meat away from the hip.

A few more careful slices and the entire quarter comes cleanly off. Process it further how you want.

Flip the animal over and repeat for the other side.

Cut along the penis down until you reach the ball joint. Carefully cut the muscle around the joint until the ball begins to pull out, cut the tendon inside.

Continue to cut the muscle until you reach the pelvic bone, then cut carefully around it.

Continue cutting muscle away from the pelvis until the quarter comes free. Process as needed.

Thats it! Not terribly hard was it? We are not done yet however, the best eating part still needs to be removed, the tenderloins.

Removal of the tenderloin / backstraps. As with the other steps, it can be done at any point but I usually leave it for last.

Begin by cutting the skin enough you can access the tenderloin. Next cut along the spine from the hip up towards the shoulder.

Using your fingers, carefully pull the loin away from the spine, and carefully cut the meat loose in small tiny knife stokes. This isn't a job to rush so take your time. It is hard to get it started, but once you do it comes off quite easily.

Repeat for the other side of the loin.

That's pretty much it! After a couple practice tries you should be able to do a deer or antelope within 10 minutes or so... yes it is that fast. The great thing is if you have a gutshot animal, you have almost zero chance of getting the fluids on your meat.

The downside to this method? Well there actually is one... the Fillet Minion. It is located inside the body cavity opposite the tender loins. For small animals like antelope I don't feel its worth the effort to remove. For deer I always remove it as its my most favorite cut of meat. For Elk its not even a question, I'd rather have that cut than any other.

You can extract it either by traditional field dressing or you can remove it actually after doing the gutless method but its fairly tricky. I do not have pictures of how to do this but you position the animal on its belly with the back in the air. Cut along the spine from where the last rib ends back towards the pelvis. Be very careful you dont puncture the internals. You can then reach up in the hole and cut free the Filet. Repeat for the Filet on the other side. I'll be blunt, this is tricky stuff. You better have a good idea of what the Fillet Minion is, how its attached and how to cut it free. This is good knowledge to have but best learned by removing it from traditionally field dressed animals.

***Disclaimer: Since I released this guide I've recieved several points of critism, thats perfectly fine, everyone has an opinion. A few points are well justified and worth bringing up.

1) Keep as much hair as possible off the meat. Sounds like a no brainer but in reality things are not so simple. The day this antelope was shot it was incredibly windy, gusting up to 35mph. Antelope hair is extremely brittle and dislodges easily, add in some high winds and thats why you see hair on the meat. I was able to wash off these quarters about 30 minutes later when we got back to the ranch house. Hopefully you dress your animals in better conditions.

2) If you touch the animal anywhere with a hand, do not touch the meat. Again this is a means to reduce contamination. Wearing several sets of laytex gloves would help when you need to transition from touching the leg to touching meat.

3) Proof of sex. Some states require proof of sex remain attached to the meat. This is easily done by splitting the scrotum in half and leaving it attached to each hind.

4) Knife cuts. If you cut from under the skin to the surface, you will cut less hair and have less problems with hair getting on the meat as well as making it easier for a taxidermist to hide the cut marks.

Good tips, thanks for those who suggested them!

Copyright 2005,

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 (02:58:04) (60185 reads)
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  Fork Horn Buck
Hunting StoriesFork Horn Buck

During the second week of the South Dakota East River deer season My son and I found ourselves deer hunting while the inlaws were in town from Long Island. The Friday after Thanksgiving for some reason always is a cold, windy, snowy, rainy, and early. We were moving at 5:00 am and in the tree line well before first light. As windy and cold as it was I chose to find a “sheltered” spot on the ground.

Round about first light I could hear the first sounds of the moving deer. Three does moving through the wood. They appeared somewhat stressed, so I let them pass. Sure enough a little while latter I heard the tell tail sounds of hunters walking along the section line.

If they saw me they made no eye contact and just walked on by. I waited another 40 minutes the only movement came from squirrels and mice.

Now my son had taken tree stand and waited in the not soon forgotten cold of a South Dakota November wind. I heard the report of a small rifle and was sure it was him. Then another shot and another and finally a forth. I wasn’t so sure it was him but thinking the worst I moved from my spot toward him. Hoping I would find him with the deer down, but expecting to have to track a gut shot deer.

When I found him he had the deer out of the trees and on it’s back. Really a good sight. I unloaded and asked him if he was unloaded, he was. I noticed right away there was considerable amount of blood on the bottom of the chest. Not a particularly unexpected sight when hunting from a tree stand. As we both got ready to dress the deer I asked him to tell me how it came to be. It seems the deer came up on him from behind. Those pesky hunters had driven the does and this small Fork-Horn toward Martin’s stand. He then tells me the deer stopped not 15 feet from the stand and just stood there looking East whence he came. Martin told me about the beating of his heart and the shaking and the breathing. He waited until the deer moved and looked West the direction which we had been traveling. He knew now was the time, raising his rifle he placed the sights just to the left of the spine behind the left shoulder. Shot one. Nothing happened. Martin thinks he must have missed. So he shoots again at the same spot. Again nothing happens. No tail drop no jump just standing there. After the third shot he is beginning to second guess himself. So he holds back a good ways and fires the forth shot, at which time the fork horn drops. As excited as he was he knew to wait a while and let the deer die in peace.

The first three shots while not directly hitting the heart did virtually drain the deer of blood, both lungs and one major artery ventilated. The forth shot however broke his back and wrecked both side of the back strap in that area. He asked me why the deer didn’t just drop when hit the first time. I explained to him “deer and all wild game just don’t give up that easily”. The Fork Horn knew something had happened to him but didn’t know what.

I congratulated him on his follow through. While he was embarrassed about all the shooting I explained to him he did the right thing. You shot at the deer. Sure of your shooting ability you rightfully knew you hit him. Not wanting to track a wounded animal you continued to shot until the deer was down. I was proud of him and he knew it. $1.96 worth of bullets proved to me he was ready to hunt on his own. My only problem, I have to much fun hunting with him.


Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 (21:27:30) (2346 reads)
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  The Beast that did not get away.
Hunting StoriesIt was an early September morning. I rolled out of my bed after a long nights rest where I was dreaming of the hog that I was looking for and making the perfect shot. I stumbled around trying to get ready for this hunt but my mind was still on my dreams. As I walked down the steps looking at all of the trophy mounts that adorn the walls of the lodge, my guide asked if I have everything and informed me on where I will be sitting.

Opening the door to the outside, all I could see was stars. It was still dark out in this early morning and made it a little dificult to see where you are going. We started out walking through a gate and down a path that leads to the timber. My guide told me to just keep walking and you will be alright. When he told me that, all I could do is wonder why. A few more steps and I suddenly found my self surrounded by snorting and squeeling beasts.

Just keep walking replied my guide. So I tredged on.

Finally we came to a hill and I was able to see a little better now that my eyes have adjusted. My guide directed me in the direction on the stand I was going to be perched in. I stopped and asked " You are not taking me to the stand?" "No" replied the guide "but as long as you dont stop and try to do anything, you will be ok."

So I started down the hill and through a small area of open land to my stand. As I was walking I could see shadows every so often run in front of me and also along side of me all of the time thinking of what my guide told me. As I walked even closer to my stand, I could not help but think "what if one of them has a change in attitude?" My heart was beating a little faster than I had expected.

As I drew closer to my stand, I could make out the shadow of a tall structure. My stand at last and safety for these beasts.

As I reached out for the first rung of this structure, my right knee came in contact with something for a split second and I heard a grunt. It was a hog. I scamped up the ladder rungs hoping not to slip and fall.

I made it to the top and perched myself facing the open field with the tree line behind me.

It was getting lighter by the moment and I could see shapes.

An hour has past now and I was wondering if anything would pass by. All I could think about was my dream and hoping my Hog will pass by.

I heard a shot off in the distance, it was my friend. I thought, "ok he got his and now it is my turn." My guide came to me thinking it was me but no. I have not fired a shot. He radioed to the other guide and asked if Bruce got one. No, he missed because a small twig lay in front of his barrel that he could not see. My guide told me to sit for awhile and I will be back around lunch time.

As I watched him dissapear into to tree line just right of where I was, I heard noise come from the left tree line. I turned and looked, here comes a sow with her babies down the trail these beasts made. Stopping in front of my stand to mill around, one of the little piglets looked up. I thought "Yes you know I am here, now go away." Off they walked. At that moment I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye. It came closer and got bigger. When I had full sight, I realized this might be my beast.

Coming even closer and finally stopping in front of me. He picked his head up a little and turned so I could see him better.

It was him the beast of my dreams. He turned again milling around in front of me. My heart started to race. I had lowered my rifle and put my sights on him just behind his shoulder and above his chest. It seemed like an iternaty. I made no noise what so ever so I would not spook him. Right before I exhaled, the beast raised his head, turned and looked right at me as if he knew I was there. He then lowered his head not to mill around but as if he was there for a reason. For Me! I took my shot and all I could see was smoke from my Black Powder Cartridge Rifle.

What I have seen when the smoke cleared was shocking.

Just behind where this beast stood was a hole but no beast. I thought "I had to of hit him. He was only 10 yards away."

My guide immeredged from the tree line and asked if I hit the pig. I climbed down and shown him where the beast stood.
Looking around we found a trail of a crimson liquid. I knew now that I hit him. We walked very slowly not to lose the trail and finally there was the beast. He ran about 110 yards from where I shot him. Being cautious just incase this animal did not pass, I chambered another round. My guide said he is gone. How do you know for sure? He told me it was a perfect shot. How can you tell? There was a hole on one side about the size of my finger and on the other side was one about the size of a silver dollar.

We got the beast back to the lodge and started to dress him out. The guide said " I will show you that it was a perfect shot."

He pulled out this dark red mass that looked like the heart. On one side was a hole no bigger than my finger and on the other side, well there was nothing but shredds of flesh. A perfect shot.

I sat there waiting to hear if my friend had shot one yet. Think to my self this is
my dream hog and he knew it was his time.

I thanked the Lord for this " Beast that did not get away."

By Joseph Sloan

Posted by jes66 on Saturday, August 27, 2005 (17:47:08) (8366 reads)
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  Praire Morning
Hunting StoriesPrairie Morning

The dark sky is full of the musky smell of vegetation while the sucking sounds of my steps unleash the mash bottom. How many times have I almost fallen in the black cold water of the slough. My cold hands untangle the carefully wrapped and weighted lines as decoy bag slowly decreases in size.

Surprisingly I am not rushed, false dawn is still twenty minutes away.

The moist cold of the slough is penetrating. It seems to draw you in like no other place. Watching the sunrise over cattails is no less a spectacle than watching you child take their first steps.

The sounds of the marsh wake you before the warmth of the first light. The flights of wood ducks and teal as they descend on the decoys are unmistakable. They arrive from behind in a rush of wind. Only the residents of the marsh know them by sound. Soon the mallards and gadwalls, they arrive with much more confidence as the woodys have blazed the way.

Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 (21:07:12) (2259 reads)
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  Blue Elk's Muzzleloader 101
Muzzle Loading(Blue Elk , has helped many fellow hunters. He published articles and tested muzzleloaders for many of the major manufacturers. He passed away 2 years ago, I believe of cancer. The following may be a long read, but it is a wealth of information concerning muzzleloaders.)

Muzzleloader 101
Written by Rich Dunkirk (Bluelk)

As I posted earlier here is the beginning of the Chapters on Muzzleloading. I hope I don't bore you.

Chapter 1: Getting Started

One of the things that I have noticed about the discussions I have read so far on this board concern the use of Pyrodex pellets vs. loose powder; accuracy problems; good quality rifles vs. bad quality; what is the best gun etc.. I think a lot of you are missing several major points about muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunting. Let's go through these 1 by 1 and discuss them.

#1. Anytime that you purchase a muzzleloader (ML) and are trying to get it to fire accurately, the only thing that you should be worried about when it comes to a powder is synthetic or real blackpowder (BP); not whether pellets are better than loose. The reason for this is that as little as 5 grains of powder can make a difference in how accurately you deliver the bullet to the target. You should work up a load that can consistently deliver the bullet to a 6" target under whatever potential conditions you might find while hunting. First decide on which bullet you are going to use. Due to state laws you may be restricted to patched roundballs; or you may be able to shoot conicals or saboted pistol bullets. When you select the bullet make sure you are selecting a bullet that the manufacturer consistently makes exactly the same all the time. There are an awful lot of bullets out there that are as inconsistent, from box to box, as anything you can imagine. On a regular basis I see as much as .004 to .005 difference in the outside diameter of the same brand of bullets from the same manufacturer! The best round ball ammo that I have found comes from Hornady. The best conicals I have found are from Precision, Black Belt, and Power Belt. The best sabots I have found are from MMP, who by the way, manufacture sabots under private label for many companies. Most of the pistol bullets that we use in the sabots are of pretty good quality. When you select a sabot bullet consider hom much mushrooming the bullet is going to do. If your kill zone shot is consistently into bone you might not want a bullet that mushrooms a lot. You want that bullet to shatter the bone on impact, not mushroom a huge amount. Remember that when a bullet mushrooms it is loosing velocity and penetration potential.

Now that you have selected the bullet that you want to use, it is time to select your propellant (powder). There are advantages to both synthetics and BP. The synthetics on the market right now today tend to be susceptable to moisture (with the exception of one), but also do not create as much residue (fouling), so are easier to clean. BP burns hotter, produces more muzzle velocity, grain for grain, when compared to synthetics, but does produce more fouling. It is also slightly more corrosive than synthetics. Decide which LOOSE powder you want to use. Run a patch or 2 down the barrel and make sure that you have all the moisture and/or oil out. With either a .45, .50, or .54 I recommend that you load your first 3 bullets with 75 grains of powder, set your target at the 25 yard line, use a 6" bullseye target, and load your weapon. Don't forget; powder first, then bullet!! This may sound silly, but more than once I have seen it done just the opposite. Select a firing position, either standing, sitting, kneeling, or prone. I would suggest that you select the position that you think you will be using when you hunt. This will probably be the standing or sitting position. Bring the rifle up to your shoulder and fit it in securely. Take a deep breath and let it out. Bring your rifle muzzle up so that you align your sights on the bullseye. Take another breath and let it half out. Slowly, while contacting the trigger with only the pad of first joint of your trigger finger, SQUEEZE the trigger. Do the absolute best that you can possibly do to hold the sights dead onto the bullseye. When the gun fires if you know in your "heart of hearts" that you did not buck, jerk, flinch, or wander off of the bullseye then lay your rifle down and observe where the strike of the bullet is in regards to the bullseye. If you feel that you could have bucked, jerked, flinched, or wandered off target then totally disregard where the bullet went; but if you know you did the best job holding your sight picture then consider that 1st shot as exactly where you aimed. Clean your rifle with a wet patch, and then dry it with another patch. Notice, that I did not say a wet solvent patch: just a wet patch! Repeat the same procedure as with the 1st shot until you have shot 3 rounds that you know you could not have done a better job of holding your sight picture. If you have any shots that you feel you could have done better with TOTALLY DISREGARD those shots. You may have to go through 5 or 6 shots before you know for sure that you have done your best on 3 rounds. If you have done this you should have 3 holes in a fairly consistent pattern on the target. If they are not in the bullseye, which is very likely, don't be concerned, AND DON'T CHANGE YOUR SIGHTS! You are not trying to hit the bullseye right now. All that you are trying to determine is whether the rifle shoots straight. Believe me, there are many rifles out there that don't. We will get into Chapter 2 on a later post. Thanks.

Chapter 2: Zeroing your rifle

Ok, now you have 3 holes in the target and all of them are in approximately the same area. Clean your rifle again, and make sure it is dry. Select 3 more bullets, but this time increase your powder charge by 5 grains. You should have 80 grains. Go through the same routine of holding a good sight picture, clean between each shot, and disregard any "flyers", or shots that go astray. You may, or may not, see this group of shots in a different location than the 1st group of 3 good shots that you made. Keep working up in 5 grain increments until you have a 3 shot group as close to the bullseye as possible without moving your sights. If you are shooting real heavy bullets you may want to start out at 90 grains of powder instead of 75.

If you are shooting through a chronograph you will want to record your bullet speeds for each 5 grain increase. If you see your bullet speed drop off then I would go BACK to my previous load. Don't forget that what you are trying to achieve is the fastest most accurate powder/bullet combination.

Now it becomes decision time. This is where you have to be absolutely honest with yourself. If you are counting holes that are in the target that were the absolute best that you could do, then you have to make a decision. That decision is this: if the holes are not in the bullseye then you have to decide how you want to put them there. There are 2 methods: 1 is to increase your powder load by another 5 grains, or move your sights. If you have been totally honest with yourself I would first try another 5 grains of powder, particularly if with your last increase of 5 grains your bullet strikes got closer to the bullseye. If they got further away from the bullseye I would move my sights. Don't forget: MOVE THE REAR SIGHT THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION FROM WHERE YOU WANT THE BULLET TO HIT. IF YOU wanT TO MOVE THE STRIKE OF THE BULLET TO THE RIGHT, MOVE YOUR REAR SIGHT TO THE LEFT. DO JUST THE OPPOSITE IF YOU WANT TO MOVE THE STRIKE OF THE BULLET TO THE LEFT. Now it is time to experiment. Take 3 more bullets and go through the same routine. Clean after every shot; hold your sight picture as tight as possible; and disregard the "flyers".

Now, how much do you move your sights? Look at the instruction booklet that came with your rifle, or scope, and it will tell you how much each mark, or click, moves the strike of the bullet at what distance. If 1 click, or mark, moves the bullet 1" at 100 yards, then you should factor that in for the distance that you are shooting. Make sure you understand the formula before you move the sights and then act accordingly. It is only through this tedious, time consuming, trial and error method that you will consistently place your bullets in a 6" circle at 100 yards. If you can get them closer, then by all means absolutely do so. If I can't get 3 rounds in a 3" circle at 100 yards something is wrong.

Now this is what makes ML fun. Factors that can influence how your powder and bullet perform are not limited to you and your ability. The ambient temperature is a factor (bullets move around more when it is hot), heat of your barrel (don't get it too hot. That is why I said to lay your rifle down and clean it between shots), and obviously wind is a big factor. Don't try to zero in a rifle on a real windy day unless that is the norm for your area. Try to zero in early in the morning, or early evening. The winds tends to not blow as hard at these times.

THE ONLY THING YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH DURING THIS ZEROING IN PROCESS IS TO GET THE GUN TO SHOOT WHERE YOU POINT IT! This is the only way you are going to get confidence in your weapon, and yourself, and know just exactly what factors influence the strike of the bullet. As much as humanly possible you want to eliminate all of the variables except for the human ones. One thing to keep in mind is this: EVERY MUZZLELOADER MADE SHOOTS DIFFERENTLY THAN EVERY OTHER ONE. You can take 2 identical guns, same barrel, same stock, same sights, same bullet, same amount and type of powder, same weather conditions AND THEY WILL SHOOT DIFFERENTLY. No two (2) muzzleloaders are alike. "DO NOT TAKE YOUR BUDDIES SETTINGS AND MAKE THEM YOURS." Sight in YOUR rifle. The one thing that most folks forget is that even though the rifles and conditions might be the same, there is 1 huge difference, and that is the fact that there are 2 different people standing behind 2 different rifles! No two (2) people have the same eyesight factors, nerve factors, or physical build. These are all factors that enter into what powder to use, what bullet to use, and what kind of sight to use. What works for 1 rifle probably will not work for another one. It might be close, but this ain't horseshoes. You don't wear your buddies underwear, at least I don't think you do, so don't use his settings for your rifle!

Chapter 3: Working up your hunting load

-OK, now you should have 6 holes in your target that represent the very best that you could do. If not, keep working on it, and do yourself a favor and don't stop until you have a good tight group of 3 shots. Lay your rifle down and go out to the target. Paste up all of your holes. I personally don't like to use bright colored pasties because they tend to draw my eye. I use natural colored ones, or masking tape. Move your target out to 100 yards. Clean your rifle and dry the barrel with several patches. What we are going to do now is fine tune your setup.
You are going to work up a load for the species that you are going to hunt. A heavy load for elk, a lighter load for whitetail/blacktail, a load for black bear, and a load for grizzly/brown bear.

One thing to remember: there is no substitute for accurate shot placement. You can have the biggest bullet, 200 grains of powder, but with lousy shot placement all you are going to do is wound the animal and make it suffer. So what we are doing right now is making that gun shoot where you point it.

The very best piece of equipment that you can use during the process of sighting in, and working up a load, is a chronograph. A chrony is an electronic device that you set about 1-1/2 to 2 feet in front of the muzzle of your rifle while you are sighting in. It measures the speed of the bullet while the bullet travels through the "traps" of the chrony. It does not technically measure the muzzle velocity because muzzle velocity is measured directly at the muzzle. Because of the gap between the muzzle and the chrony what you are technically measuring is the speed of the bullet.

Let's talk about velocity for a minute. Most centerfire (CF) rifles shoot their bullets in the range of 2800-3500 feet per second (fps), while the fastest that I have ever seen a muzzleloader (ML) bullet travel is about 2400 fps. Normally, though, a ML bullet is traveling in the range of 1500-1800 fps. Because a CF bullet travels so fast it creates an aerodynamic shock wave immediately in front of the bullet. As the bullet just begins to penetrate the skin of the animal the shockwave is the first thing that enters the animal. The shockwave produces tremendous trauma to tissue and that coupled with the mass and velocity of the bullet is what does all the damage. On the other hand, a ML bullet, because it is traveling at a much slower speed does not have the shock wave. As it penetrates the hide it very rapidly accumulates tissue and pushes that forward into the animal. There is an exponential increase in the amount of tissue accumulated the further it travels through the animal. This is called the "wound channel". The accumulation of tissue combined with the "shrapneling" effect of any bone that is hit is what does all the damage. The weight and mass of the ML bullet are a critical part of how large the wound channel is. The largest wound channels I have ever seen have been produced by Black Belt, Power Belt, and Precision bullets. I have seen them regularly produce wound channels in excess of 8" across! Saboted pistol rounds produce a good wound channel, but in my experience it is not as large as that produced by a solid lead conical. Research done by by 2 of the "card carrying" experts on ML bullets and their effects, Al Marion and Alan Shenogle, indicate the tremendous effects of these solid lead bullets. All of this technology is for naught, though, if you do not produce the wound channel in the kill zone. Don't forget: the kill zone on a deer is 6" at 100 yards, and for an elk is 12" at 100 yards. To emphasize what I am saying cut out both a 6" and a 12" circle of cardboard, paint it a bright color, and take it 100 yards away and take a look at it. That is your kill zone!

What you now have to do is put together a load that moves your bullet at the fastest speed possible and still be in the bullseye, or wherever you are aiming at i.e., 1" above the bullseye etc. This is why you have been adjusting your powder charge in order to move your bullet as close to the bullseye as possible before moving your sights. Once you have achieved the fastest speed possible with the bullet/powder charge combination you can now move your sights to bring yourself dead on. You should not have to move your sights very much, if at all. Chapter 4 later.

Chapter 4: Why I don’t like Pyrodex Pellets

One of the really great things about muzzleloader (ML) hunting, that I like, is that I can custom tailor a load that exactly fits my situation and rifle. Unlike in centerfire (CF), where some pencilneck is sitting at a desk and making the decision as to what weight of bullet, what configuration of bullet, what kind of powder, what amount of powder, and what type of bullet is best for me in my situation when he knows nothing of my situation. With ML I can choose every ingredient that makes my situation work. All that bullet manufacturers in CF do is reach a compromise. What we do in muzzleloading is tailor each component to our individual situation and firearm. I want to be able to know in my mind that I have put together a combination that is going to give me the results that I want, and if I don't get those results I want it to be as a result of something I did, not something that some obscure individual sitting somewhere at his desk has done. That is why, so far in this converstion, I have said to decide what bullet you want to use, and what powder you want to use, and then adapt both to YOUR situation. Let's talk about powder. I know what I am going to say is maybe not going to sit right with some of you, but let's let the chips fall where they may. My purpose, as moderator, is not only to help solve problems, but in some way help make more folks better hunters. This means respecting and treating the resource (animals) with respect and not make them suffer anymore than absolutely necessary. By swiftly and effectively downing an animal with as accurate a shot as possible we have fulfilled that objective. Being a moderator also means that you explore all possibilities, and listen to input from everybody. A moderator is more like a marriage counselor, than a preacher.

I have never seen a ML or CF rifle where the trajector of the bullet was not greatly affected by 30 or 50 grains of powder. The amount of powder, and type, have tremendous effect on the path of the bullet, so consequently, on the accuracy of your shot. Let's put it right up front. I DO NOT LIKE THE IDEA OF PELLETS. WHETHER THEY ARE 30 GRAIN, OR 50 GRAIN, AS THE ONLY INCREMENTS OF POWDER THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO ME WHEN I TRY TO SIGHT IN A RIFLE OR PISTOL. If you have been having problems with accuracy, or you want to increase the speed of your bullet, and the only choice that you have is to increase, or decrease, by 30 or 50 grains, you are being seriously mislead. You have now subjegated yourself to the same position as a CF hunter. You have become a slave to the ballistics, and lack of accuracy, that 30 or 50 grain increments of powder provide! You are letting somebody at that obscure desk somewhere tell you that you can get the results you want by adjusting your powder load in those increments. IT ONLY WORKS IN A VERY SMALL NUMBER OF CASES. I hate to say this, but they have made a lot of new hunters feel like they can just throw a couple of pellets down the barrel and they are good to go! What is the biggest reason you use pellets? Usually it is because you are lead to believe that they are easy to load and control. You have forsaken assembling the best load that you can that will treat you and they animal in the best way possible. You have gotten frustrated because you aren't really getting the accuracy that you want or need. All of us are guilty of rationalizing poor shots. When we do this we start using "Kentucky windage" far too much, or start moving our sights all over the place and end up with a worse situation than we started out with. I know as sure as God made little green apples, that some of you are going to come back and say I'm all wet; but if you are honestly getting the accuracy that you want under all circumstances by increasing or decreasing your load in 30 or 50 grain increments then you are the very rare exception to the masses. You could be cheating yourself out of one of the real pleasures involved in ML's. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In only shoot .54's. Why? Because by adjusting my bullet weight, type, and powder charge I can hunt anything from a 1,500 lb. grizzly to a 75 pound javelina. Show me 1 centerfire rifle that can do that. Better still, show me 1 person shooting pellets that can adjust his or her load as finitely. Don't let the ease of pellets override the necessity of taking the time to work up the absolutely best load you can by increasing or decreasing your powder charge in 5 grain increments. If the only option you have, when sighting in, is to increase or decrease your powder charge by 30 or 50 grains then, saidly to say, you are a shooter who is hoping like the devil to hit the kill zone when the gun goes off, rather than being a hunter who know exactly where that bullet is going to hit. If you take the time to work up a load with loose powder, and continue to use it when you hunt, then you don't have to guess where the bullet went when you squeezed the trigger.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you sighted in your rifle with the bullet and powder charge you wanted, and you used loose powder to do so. By some fluke it works out that 100 grains, or 150 grains, or 60 grains, or 80 grains, or 180 grains, or 200 grains, or 130 grains of Pyrodex were just exactly what gave you the tightest 3" group at 100 yards at the fastest bullet speed possible. Then, by all means use the pellets if you can remember to get them down the barrel in the right direction, and in the right combination, when you are moving as fast as possible to get off your second shot without taking your eyes off of the animal! If you start out using pellets and wonder why you can't get that 3" group, I think I have told you what might be part of the problem. My personal experience, and that is all I talking about here, is to put the charge that worked best for me into a quick loader, a hollowed out piece of antler, a piece of plastic tubing, or an old 35mm film container and pour that down the barrel.

To illustrate the subject a little more. The only thing I will ever post on this page is what MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE has been, not someone elses. I have all 7 of my rifles sighted in to where I can get a 3" group, or smaller, at 100 yards. When these pellets came out I wanted to see what the effect would be by changing my loads in 30 or 50 grain increments. I took all 7 guns to the range, and shot pellets through all of them. Every shot was a minimum of 4 inches away from there the gun normally shoots. With one of my percussions the bullets were in the 7 ring! Nuff said. Chapter 5 later on.

Chapter 5: Selecting your rifle

-If you are thinking about getting into muzzleloading (ML) there are quite a few factors that you need to take into consideration:

1. Do you hunt anything bigger than a whitetail or a black bear?
2. How much does the cleaning aspect bother you?
3. How much recoil can you tolerate?
4. How much time are you willing to devote to learning a new shooting sport?
5. How much money can you afford to invest in this new sport?
6. What is the general weather in your area during hunting season?

If you hunt nothing larger than a whitetail or black bear then IN THEORY you need nothing larger than a .50 caliber. I prefer to use a .54 because I can use lighter loads for smaller animals and heavier loads for bigger animals. Every gun on the market can only be loaded with a certain amount of powder before you get into a real dangerous situation, and before the Law of Diminishing Return sets in. So make that decision.

If the cleaning issue is a major factor and you really don't want to have the hassle more than absolutely necessary, then I would shoot loose Pyrodex, or Goex Clear Shot, and buy a stainless steel barrel. The stainless barrels don't rust the way blued ones do, and will tolerate a bad cleaning job better than blued. Inlines are the easiest to clean because you can remove the breech plug. Percussion are the next easiest to clean, and flintlocks are the hardest to clean.

If you have a sensitive shoulder, or some arthritis in your shoulder, then I would stick with a .50 caliber or even entertain a .45 caliber. Also in this respect, look for a gun that has a little weight to it. Heavier guns do not transmit the recoil to your shoulder as much as lighter weight guns do. They are obviously a little harder to carry around all day, but solve the problem by putting a sling on the gun. Also, as you work up a load the recoil will increase. Look for a gun where the receiver group (breech area) is firmly seated low in the stock. Look for a gun that when fired transmits the recoil as much as possilbe in a straight line to the stock. If the stock drops down immediately behind the receiver group then that rifle will transmit more recoil to your shoulder.

Learning how to properly use your muzzleloader will take a definite time commitment on your part. I believe that it is vitally important to learn as much about your gun as you possibly can BEFORE you ever stuff powder and bullet down the barrel. Go to the library and see if they have any books, stay tuned to this website and read the Muzzleloading 101 Chapters that I am posting, talk to someone who is KNOWLEDGEABLE about the sport, but don't get hung up on the technical aspects because there is more MISINFORMATION floating around about muzzleloading than with any other shooting sport!! Subscribe to, or buy on racks, any magazines that you can that talk about basics. This sport is just like any other; you have to get the basics down first, and then constantly go back to those basics if you have a problem. If there are any muzzleloading organizations in your area go to one of their meetings and see if you can pick up any pointers.

Now for the critical stuff. The general rule that I tell everyone is to buy the absolutely best rifle you can afford. In this business, more than in centerfire, you get exactly what you pay for. Low prices, low quality. Low quality, big problems. The main ingredient with any rifle in regards to quality is the barrel. Some rifles have die cut lands and grooves, some have laser cut, and some have forged. I prefer laser cut and forged. Any rifle with a Green Mountain barrel has laser cuts. Remington forges theirs. Die cut lands and grooves have "chatter" marks in the barrel and can sometimes be very difficult to remove and will have a negative affect on accuracy. I am going to do a Chapter on this problem and it will help you solve that problem if you do end up buying a rifle that has the rifling die cut. When you go to the store to buy your rifle take a couple of cotton balls with you. If you have a bore scope or light also take that with you. A small mirror will work if you don't have the scope or light. When you narrow down your choices, before you buy it, take the ramrod and run the cotton balls down the bore. Make sure there is a tight fit. Look in the bore with the scope, light, or shine light down it with the mirror and look for cotton fibers stuck inside the bore. If you find a gun with no fibers stuck in the bore, buy it! It will save you innumerable problems later on. I would buy a gun with a synthetic stock. It solves a lot of problems the least of which is scratching. Don't forget: you are going to have to buy some accessories; caps, flints, powder, patches, bore swabs, bore brushes, solvent, etc. that pull this whole thing together. Plan on spending somewhere around $60.00 on top of the cost of the gun.

If the weather around your place is really moist then I would lean toward an inline. It is much easier to keep your "powder and nipple area" dry with one of them. With normal amounts of rain, snow, and humidity you can get by just fine with a percussion (side hammer, cap and ball, whatever you want to call it). Flintlocks are the most difficult to deal with in a moisture situation, but if you are willing to deal with the problems, or your state laws dictate that you have to use a flintlock then you have no choice.

On the subject of barrel twist. If you are going to shoot patch round balls then a 1:66 twist is what you should use. If you are going to shoot ONLY conicals, and are going to buy a percussion, then a twist in the area of 1:45 to 1:48 will be fine. Most all of the inlines have a barrel twist in the area of 1:24 to 1:32. You can shoot the PowerBelt and BlackBelt bullets, sabots, and conicals in these and get real good results. Remember that all the twist does is produce more or less spin on the projectile. 1:66 produces less spin that a 1:48, and a lot less than a 1:28. You can produce too much spin on a projectile. As an example, even though you can TECHNICALLY get a patched roundball down the bore of a 1:28 rifle you will have very poor accuracy because you have put too much spin on the ball. Round balls are not what is known as being aerodynamically sound.

Chapter 6: Lapping your barrel

In these Chapters we have gotten to the point where you have gotten your rifle to shoot where you point it. What we will now do is modify the barrel so that hopefully your accuracy increases and your bullet will travel faster down the bore. What we are going to do is "lap" the barrel. This is a major undertaking so get the following items rounded up before you start: 2 new brass bore brushes, a hand full of patches (I cut mine from an old t-shirt and wash them when they get dirty), 2 or 3 bore swabs, a small can of automotive valve lapping compound (fine), bore solvent, a few cotton balls, and some teflon based lube. Make sure it is teflon based. Also, a little liquid refreshment for you helps.

If you have a vice take the barrel out of the rifle. If you don't have a vice leave the barrel in the rifle, but get a buddy, wife, or teenager to help hole the rifle. If you have a vice, open it and pad the jaws with about an inch or so of rags to cushion the barrel so that you don't scratch it. Close the vice tight enough to hold the barrel still. If you don't have a vice put a human on the butt end of the rifle and tell them to hold it tight. Put a bore brush on your ramrod, wrap it with a patch or two, and apply a liberal amount of lapping compound all around the perimeter of the brush. What you are going to do is run that brush/patch combination down the barrel and remove any manufacturing burrs or chatter marks from the edges and tops of the lands, and remove any high spots. If you want to see how bad the situation is before you start, put a couple cotton balls on a worm jag and run it through the bore. Make sure they're tight against the bore. Look down the bore and see how many cotton fibers are stuck in there. Even if you don't see any you still want to lap the barrel for reason that will become obvious.

Push the ramrod down the barrel and pull it out. THAT IS 1 STROKE. If you had any amount of cotton fibers stick in the barrel you are going to do 100 strokes. If you did not have ANY stick to the barrel you are going to do 50 strokes. After every 10 or 15 strokes change the patch and apply more lapping compound. After you have completed the required number of strokes clean the barrel THOROUGHLY with a bore brush because you will have lapping compound in the grooves. Put some solvent on a bore swab and clean the barrel with the same number of strokes as you lapped with. Use lots of solvent. After you have cleaned it run another cotton ball down the bore. Do you see any fibers? If you do, repeat the lapping process for another 50 strokes. Clean it again and run another cotton ball down the barrel. If you see any fibers repeat the lapping process for another 25 strokes. Okay, now you should be able to run a cotton ball down the barrel without having any fibers stick, and when you look down the barrel it should be super shiny. Make sure the barrel is as clean as is humanly possible.

A mistake that some people make is to mount their ramrod in a drill motor and spin the ramrod down the barrel. DON'T DO THIS or you will round off the edges of the lands and you will lose your gas check on the bullets. Just let the bore brush/patch combination rotate normally as you run it down the barrel. Change out the bore brush for a BORE SWAB and saturate the swab with the teflon lube. Saturate the swab. If you had the barrel in a vice take it out, and if you did not have a vice remove the barrel from the stock. Lay the barrel horizontally across a bucket or clean garbage can. Heat up a large pan of water almost to the boiling point. Pour the water over the entire length of the barrel and get it hot from end to end. While the barrel is still hot saturate the inside of the barrel with the teflon based lube. As the barrel cools it will suck the lube into the pores of the steel and seal it in. The more lube you use the better. During the cooling process rotate the barrel several times to make sure the teflon based lube isn't pooling up in just one area. LET THE BARREL COOL COMPLETELY. Take a clean bore swab and clean the excess lube out of the barrel after it has cooled. Grab some sunglasses and look down the barrel!

What you have just done is what every professional target shooter does to his rifles. You have increased the speed of your bullet anywhere from 100 to 200 feet per second, and potentially made the rifle more accurate. How have you made it more accurate? Remember one of the basics of ballistics. The explosion of the powder behind the bullet produces gas which pushes the bullet out of the barrel. The more gas you can retain behind the bullet the faster the bullet travels. The faster the bullet travels, in combination with the twist of the barrel, the more accurate you rifle is. All of those chatter marks, burrs, and high spots cut into the obflugated (expanded) base of the bullet, patch, or sabot and allowed gas to escape around the bullet while it was traveling down the barrel. The major reason for the increased speed is that you have also severly reduced the coefficient of friction.

After the barrel has cooled completely, run a patch down the barrel with a light coat of oil, reassemble the rifle and have some liquid refreshment. I have found that barley pop tastes real good right about now. Once a year repeat the teflon based lubrication process; more often that that if you shoot a lot.
I also like to apply some of the teflon based lube to the exterior.

Chapter 7: CAMO and Scent Control

This is a little deviation from the basic "how to" chapters that have been posted so far, but is a integral part of the muzzleloading experience. Particularly for the new folks who are coming over from centerfire hunting. The hunting techniques used by archers are the very same techniques that ML hunters should use, and this chapter addresses some of these.

What I would like to disucss in this Chapter is something that a lot of people do not pay much attention to, and that is "camoing in", and "scent control." It seems like every hunting show on TV talks about a big concern with which directcion the wind is blowng. What I am going to do is put forth a method of scent control that I have used for years, and I never have to worry about where the wind is coming from. Instead of doing all of what we are going to discuss, if you have a couple of hundred bucks laying around and you want to spend it, go out and by some of that Scent Blocker stuff.

Before we start you are going to have to get some things rounded up: 2 pairs of those real cheap vinyl gloves, (or 1 pair of rubber gloves), Scent elimination laundry soap, Scent elimination spray, enough new large trash bags to hold all of your camo, and some metal or plastic clothes hangers. The first thing you are going to do is wash all of your camo gear in the wash machine, but before you do you have to get all of the perfumes out of the machine that have been put in there by your wife's laundry detergent. Fill up the machine with clear hot water and add about 1/2 cup of the scent elimination laundry soap. Let it run the longest cycle that you can, but don't put any clothes in the machine. You are just flushing it out. After it shuts off and drains, load in some camo. Wash the camo with the scent elimination soap. When the load is finished, put on a pair of the vinyl gloves. Take each piece of camo out and hang it on a metal/plastic hanger. Don't use wood because it absorbs odors. Be very careful to not touch any of the camo with your arms or the clothes you are wearing. Hang that machine load outside to dry. Do this for ALL of your camo to include hats, gloves, scarfs, handkerchiefs, jackets, pants, shirts etc. When they are dry take them off the hangers and put them in a new large plastic trash bag. If you have some pine needles, or anything that is going to be in the area where you are going to hunt, put that in the bag(s) along with your camo. Those Earth Scent wafers also seem to work just fine. Don't put anything in the bag that isn't in the area where you are going to hunt, like apples. The animals won't know what the smell is, and may very likely shy away from it. Twist tie the bag real tight and store it someplace where there aren't too many odors. One thing a lot of people don't realize is that plastic breathes, so be kind of careful of where you put the bags. I hang mine in the tack room. When you leave to go hunting don't wear your camo to your site. Change clothes when you get there. Remember, you now have scent free clothes with maybe a little pine scent. Don't forget that the inside of your vehicle has odors that can transfer to your clothes. Everything that man uses is disgusting to animals such as deer, and particularly elk because they have a better nose. Tobacco, chew, snuff, breath mints, coffee, gasoline, diesel fuel, vehicle exhaust, and MOST OF ALL campfire smoke. If you think that you might have gotten some human odors on your camo lightly spray a little of the scent elimination stuff on you. Particularly around the crotch area and under your arms.

One of the things that I do religiously is to wash all of the socks and underwear that I am going to wear in the scent elimination soap. You might as well stop the odor at the source. I also use scent free deodorant, body soap, and shampoo. I wash up, take off my camo, and put on street clothes every time I come back to camp. I never have a campfire until I've got meat hangin'. By the way, I wash up just before I put my cammies back on so that I get rid of camp smells like bacon, sausage etc.. A lot of the archery hunters I know quit eating meat about a month or so before archery season. It is a fact that meat is the largest contributor to body odor.

Don't forget your gloves and face net.
Now on a subject near and dear to all of us, and that is camo. I hunt deer, elk, javelina, and antelope with the same amount of camo that I use when I am turkey hunting. Mix and match your camo. Try to wear a dark pattern for your trousers and a tree/leaf pattern for your shirt or jacket. I like to use TimberGhost and that new camo out of Montana called PrairieGhost. Take a look at the patterns and colors in nature. It is a hodge-podge of colors and patterns. Try to emulate that same thing. It is not necessary to duplicate every tree and bush that you see, but to blend in. Human skin shines. Nothing in nature shines except the surface of water. If you have shiny furniture on your rifle use something to make it dull. Make darn sure that the sun doesn't flash off of it. There is a product put out by Birchwood Casey called "Brass Black" that is absolutely super. Some of you old military guys will remember it is "M-nu."

If you think that scent control the way I described it is "voodoo," I have a picture of a buddy of mine who practices scent control the same way I do sitting on a stump with a herd of 11 cow elk totally surrounding him. Several of them are within arms length, and they don't even know he was there!!

I know that it sounds like a royal pain in the backside, but the advantages far outweight the disadvantages, particularly when you are setting in camp and looking at the deer or elk hanging in the tree. SCENT CONTROL WORKS. Give it a try and you will never have to worry about wind direction again.

Another thing to not overlook is ultraviolet. Deer and elk can perceive ultraviolet much much better than we can, and you get ultraviolet in your camo from the dyes that the manufacturers use in order to make the colors look more vibrant. You also ge it from your wife's regular laundry detergents. Buy some ultra violet elimination spray. It is in the same place as the scent elimination soap and spray in the sporting good store. I spray it on my clothes before I pack them into the trash bags. Be sure it is dry before you pack your clothes away.

Chapter 8: Sabots

-From reading all of the posts on this site, and from questions that I get at seminars all the time, thre is a lot of confusion about what sabot/bullet combination is best in what rifle, and in what specific situation. Let's try to take some of the mystery out of this. Several steps have to be taken, by you, to determine the answer, but below I will give you the things that you have to do to arrive at the answer.

#1: As you have read in some of my other posts, before you decide which is best for you, the first thing that you must do is determine exactly what the inside diameter of your barrel is. Just because the manufacturer says that your rifle is a .45, .50, .54, or .58 DOES NOT MEAN A THING. Get 4 people together with their rifles, make sure all the rifles are by the same manufacturer, make sure they are all the same advertised caliber, measure the inside diameter, and I will guarantee you that you will have 4 different inside diameters! This is exactly the reason why I insist that you not use the combination that somebody else tells you will work, unless his/her rifle has exactly the same inside bore diameter as your rifle,. If you don't have a small inside caliper go to either a machine shop or gunsmith and have the bore measured. You want two measurements: the diameter between the top of the lands (called bore diameter), and the diameter between the bottom of the grooves (called groove diameter). Both will be expressed as a decimal.

#2: Once you have the the two dimensions you are ready to choose your sabot/bullet combination. The measurement that you are going to work with is the "groove diameter." For the sake of argument let's say your groove diameter is .455; then the sabot/bullet combination, once put together, cannot have a total outside diameter of more than .455! Also, take this into account: when you load your first round the barrel is clean, but when you load the second round the barrel is fouled. If you are using a sabot/bullet combination that measures exactly .455 in diameter and you are loading your second shot, you are going to have to darn near get a hammer and pound it down the bore! I always make sure that my sabot/bullet combination is at least.001 LESS than my actual groove diameter so that the 2nd shot is easier to load. If you notice, I did not say EASY, I said EASIER.

#3: To get the accurate outside diameter of your sabot/bullet combination insert the bullet in the sabot. You will notice that the bullet does not go all the way to the bottom of the sabot. Below the bullet there is about 3/16 of an inch of plastic that has a small cup in the bottom of it. This is called the gas check. When the powder ignites, the heat and pressure of the explosion causes the walls of this "cup" to obfugate (expand) and seal against the inside walls of your bore and against the bottom of the grooves. When you measure your sabot/bullet combination DO NOT measure the solid plastic at the bottom of the sabot. Measure the outside diameter where the bottom of the bullet stops in the sabot with the bullet inserted. This is your maximum width (diameter). If your bullet causes the sabot "ears" to expand then your bullet is too large for the sabot. You either have to get a bullet with a smaller diameter, or a sabot with a larger diameter. Whichever you have to do, the combination cannot exceed the groove diameter of your rifle - MINUS .001 inches!

#4: Go over to the website: and pay real close attention to the sabot/bullet combinations that they have posted there. They show you all of the sabot/bullet combinations, AND WHICH COLOR SABOT AND BULLET DIAMETER TO USE. Color of the sabot is very important. Don't try to mix and match or you will have loading problems other than those that are inherant with a sabot.

#5: In my humble opinion you can save yourself a lot of hassles if you don't shoot sabots, but switch over to the CVA PowerBelt or BlackBelt bullets. I field tested these several years ago, fell in love with theM, and haven't shot a sabot since. The biggest reason I converted over was because the belted bullets are so much easier to load on that second shot. Now with the introduction of Goex Clear Shot they are even easier to load.

#6: In my opinion the best sabots on the market are made by those at MMP. The last time I checked they were $7.25 for a bag of 50. A really nice guy by the name of Del Ramsey is the owner, and he is more than glad to help you with any sizing problems that you might have as long as you buy some sabots. Tell him that I said to call. He's a great guy.

#7: If you have any questions post them on the board and I will help get an answer. I hope that this has taken some of the mystery out of sabots.

Chapter 9: Moisture Control

After we go through the process of getting together all of the accessories, i.e., short starter, patches, bullets, powder, solvents, oil, etc., sighting in our rifles so that they shoot where we point them, lapping the barrels, and in general getting comfortable with our rifle, the next thing that we encounter and have to solve is moisture control. This one element has ruined more shots, hunting trips, and trips to the range than any other thing. Moisture control really begins before you ever leave the house, and continues throughout the entire time you are in camp, your vehicle, at the range, or while actually hunting. All of us know, and hopefully practice, leaving our rifles oiled or greased down while in storage at home. Wise practice, just don't overdo it. A light coat of oil, or grease, is all that is needed. For you folks in high humidity areas it is good to check your rifles every 30 days or so, and redo if necessary. Just don't get carried away. One of the things that helps with moisture control at home is a gun cabinet or safe. In my gun cabinet I have 2 containers of SILICATE granules that soak up humidity. Mine are the type that when they change color I put them in the oven and dry them out, and then reuse them. I recommend them highly.

The first step to moisture control when you are going shooting is to remember that moisture is not just water or humidity. It also is oil and grease. Look at it as anything that will prevent your powder from burning once it receives ignition (spark).

Keep you powder containers tightly closed, and stored in a dry, dark space.

During the process of setting up your camp, or if you are not setting up camp, just before you load your rifle for the first time, THOROUGHLY dry the barrel with several patches. Don't rely on just 1 patch. The old saying comes in to play here and that is: "better safe than sorry". If you are in an area where you won't spook the game it is a good practice to pop a few caps and make sure that your ignition channel is open.

Check and make sure that your powder measure is dry. If not dry it. In the driest place possible load your measure and pour the powder down the barrel. Load your bullet. If there is any, and I mean any, sign that it might rain or snow you MUST take preventive measures to keep that powder dry. I ALWAYS put a "Muzzle Mitt" or condom over the end of my muzzle if I even think it might rain or snow. Also, don't forget that if there is moisture on the tree/brush branches it could drop down your barrel, or get into your lock or nipple area. You can buy "Muzzle Mitts" from Norm's Hunting Help, P. O. Box 206, Flint, TX 75762, (903) 839-3558.

Now for a flintlock: If there is moisture I normally don't load my pan with FFFF until I know there is game in the immediate area. Make sure you pan is dry before you do. Also check the touch-hole and make sure it is open with no obstructions. Don't forget that if you prime your pan and walk around with your pan loaded before you shoot you should roll your rifle a little so that the powder is laying up against the touch-hole. You can seal the "seam" where the frizzen closes against the pan a couple of ways. You can close the frizzen, light a candle, and let wax drip on the seam and seal it. Don't forget to let some drip on the seam next to the lock face. You can do the same thing with grease and finger nail polish if you want to. The best thing that you can do is tie on a "cow's knee". You have read threads posted by steve00 and myself about these. THEY WORK. I take a rectangular piece of lightweight canvas, make any modifications necessary to ensure that it fits tightly over the lock, and stock. Sew at string, or a piece of boot lacing, to each of the four corners. Make sure they are long enough to tie off under the stock. Soak the entire thing in linseed oil until it is thoroughly saturated. Hang it on the clothesline, or fence or a post until it is THOROUGHLY dry. Throw it in your possibles bag. When you get out, if it is raining, or you think it is going to rain/snow tie it on. Make sure that it is tight.

Now for a percussion (side hammer, cap and ball) or inline: Make sure that you are using the hottest nipple that you can buy. The best that I have found are the "Hot Shot" nipples. They have a sort of red anodized finish on them. Again, if you are in an area where you won't spook game pop a cap and make sure the firing channel is open. Put your cap on. I use only "Dynamit Nobel" caps. In my humble opinion they are the best on the market. Again moisture in the area. You can put the wax, grease, or finger nail polish around the edges of the cap where they contact the nipple. You can also use a "cow's knee" in this situation if you want. For inline users make sure your bolt is closed, but now touching the cap. When I hunt with my inline(s) and it is raining/snowing I carry it with the ejection port facing down towards the ground.

I would also like to recommend a product that you guys have seen me post before and that is the Gunbrella. They work. Hit their website at and you will see what I am talking about. You guys with scopes take a close look at that scope cover. IT WORKS. This past elk season my partner and I hunted in 7 straight days of snow, freezing rain, and rain and never had a misfire. 2 more elk in the freezer!!

Another thing to remember is that when you get in your vehicle to go to another area, or to go back to camp, and there is a temperature difference between the inside of your vehicle and the outside, the steel in your rifle is susceptible to "sweating". When I am moving I don't turn on my heater. If you are going to be in camp for a few days and haven't been successful the first day, leave your rifle in your vehicle. If you take it into your tent or cabin IT WILL SWEAT and your powder will get wet. One of the myths that I have heard for years is that you have to unload, or "fire out" your charge everyday. I have loaded my rifle(s) when I get to camp and have left them loaded for as much as 10 days and not had a misfire. Just remember to remove your FFFF from the pan, or take off your nipple. Here is where your cow's knee or gunbrella comes into play. After you remove your FFFF or cap tie on your cow's knee or close up your gunbrella and the nipple, pan area will stay dry.

Think about something for a minute. Do you think that all of the pioneers, trekkers, longhunters, and mountain men only hunted, or defended themselves, when the sun was shining and there was no humidity? The techniques that I have shown here were all developed by them. The only thing that is new in this discussion is the gunbrella. By the way, instead of condoms the pioneers used a piece of waxed paper, or a piece of intestine stuck to the muzzle.

Chapter 10: Accuracy

Have you ever noticed ever once in awhile that when you go out to shoot your rifle that for some strange reason it just isn't as accurate as it was the last time you shot it? Believe it or not, it might not be you! One of the things that I found out years ago was that when you sight in a rifle take a look at the Lot Number on the bottom of the container. If you have several cans, or bottles, of powder (Black or Pyrodex) you probably will notice different Lot Numbers. I have found that different Lot Numbers shoot differently. You might have used a different Lot Number and that is why you are not quite as accurate once in awhile. What I do is to make sure that I am using the same Lot Number for hunting that I used to sight the rifle in with. Now if you only have 1 can or bottle you don't have anything to worry about unless you ran out of powder while sighting in and when to the store and bought some more. Just a little tip to pay attention to.

One of the things that I have noticed here on the forum is how many of you guys use rifles that have brass furniture. By furniture I mean the metal parts. These are real prevalent on "Hawken" style guns, and those that are marketed as "Kentucky long rifles". Don't forget that when you hunt with them you are taking a chance that the sun will reflect off of them and you run the risk of spooking game. You might want to dull them somehow before you go hunting to make sure that doesn't happen. An old timer told me once that "the only thing in nature that reflects light is the surface of water" and that animals are very sensitive to reflected light. There are several things on the market that you can use, and after the season is over you can wash them off. One of the things that I have been using for the last couple of years on my rifles is one of these camo fabric covers. They really work, and all you have to do is take them off after you get back.

Chapter 11: Powder

I would like to expound a little on some of the factors that I covered in Chapter 10, as it relates to powder.

Through the years I have done a lot of testing with different powders and have formed an opinion in my own mind about how different powders react, and what is the effect on working up a hunting load. What I mean by a "hunting load" is this: any bullet traveling more than about 5 feet per second will punch a hole in paper at 100 yards, but will it penetrate the hide, flesh, and bone of the animal that I am hunting? The answer, obviously, is "no", so we have to work up a load that will do the damage that is necessary, so that we can humanely dispatch the animal.

As most of you who are regular visitors to this forum have figured out I work up hunting loads with a chronograph. The reason I do this is because I think it is the only way to determine just how effective any particular powder and bullet combination is. Granted, a chrony only measures the bullet speed a short distance from the muzzle of the gun, but it is a whole lot better than just guessing at how fast a bullet is traveling. I do not have the instrumentation to determine the speed of the bullet at 100 yards, nor am I a good enough mathemetician to figure it out, nor am I a good enough shot to get a bullet through the triangle framework of a chrony at 100 yards. I can shoot through the triangle at 50 yards, but again I am not smart enough to interpret the numbers that I get to a situation at 100 yards. Maybe some of you have been able to do this, or have a chart someplace that tells what happens to a particular bullet between 50 and 100 yards. If you do I would really like to see how to do it.

Now here is what I have found. When shooting 2f powder, for some reason, your bullet speed reaches a plateau of speed, that no matter how much more powder you safely put down the barrel, you do not get any more appreciable increase in the speed of the bullet. When shooting 3f powder I have found that you do not hit this plateau, and you can continue to increase the speed of the bullet with higher amounts of powder. The same thing holds true for Pyrodex and Pyrodex RS. From the tests that I have done Pyrodex RS produces the same increases in bullet speed as 3f blackpowder does. I have seen this same phenomenon with .45, .50, .54, and .58 caliber rifles. I have tested it in flinters, side hammers, and inlines. They all exhibit the same thing. As some of you know, Lyman puts out a pretty good book that explains a lot of this. At the sake of getting real technical, it relates to something called "lead pressure units". Do I understand it? NO. Do I believe it? YES. What it boils down to is the different "burn rates" between 3f and 2f.

What does all of this mean. What it means is that if you work up a load with 3f powder or Pyrodex RS, and for some reason you switch over to 2f or regular Pyrodex, you are going to have to sight in your rifle again. It also means that your bullet is probably not going to be traveling as fast, and this could have an effect on how effective your shots are going to be.

LISTEN CLOSE TO WHAT I AM GOING TO SAY: Just because you can get faster bullet speed with 3f or Pyrodex RS, it does not mean that you can pour a lot more powder down your barrel than what the manufacturer says is a safe amount. What it means is that you will get faster bullet speed with 3f than you will with 2f. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CAN LOAD MORE 3F OR PYRODEX RS DOWN THE BARREL THAN WHAT THE MANUFACTURER RECOMMENDS.

So, if you guys that are thinking about buying one of these "new magnum" .45's because of their greater bullet speed, you might think about changing from 2f to 3f, or Pyrodex to Pyrodex RS. That is, if you are using 2f or Pyrodex right now.

Please understand, that these are the results that I have found. It does not mean that this is gospel. You may get different results.

Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 28, 2005 (04:01:17) (16280 reads)
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  Building a Flintlock (High Quality)
Muzzle LoadingI compiled this story and thought it might be a good reference for those of you that may want to build a High Quality Rifle. Please give proper credit where it is due, I am only the messenger. Best Wishes and Reading. Flint54


Budd Davisson
Exclusive for

Building Your Own Flintlock Long Rifle: Part One

Okay, we'll admit it: this series is probably a little esoteric for a lot of folks. But, if you have the slightest interest in Neat Sh-t, hang in there. This is really a fun, relatively easy project that results in an artifact that even your significant other would like to have hanging on the wall. Besides that, they are so much fun to shoot you won't be able to stand yourself.

If you haven't been exposed to black powder shooting before, you probably have some questions about their safety. The answer is that, yes they are safe. Treat them exactly as you would any other firearm with just a little more caution attached to handling the raw powder. We'll get into that in some detail when we get ready to go shooting.

The Project

What we are going to build is a Pennsylvania long rifle (also called Kentucky rifle) similar to what Isaac Haines, one of the more influential gunsmiths in Lancaster, PA would have made around 1770. In this case, it is a .45 caliber flint lock with a "swamped" 38 inch barrel. A swamped barrel tapers from the breech towards the muzzle, then, about a foot from the end, flares back out again. Don't ask why. We don't know for sure.

We selected an Isaac Haines style because I like his crisp architecture and general lines. His butt stock is typical Lancaster, with straight lines top and bottom, but he rendered them in a tighter style. Also, I like the just-barely-pre-Revolutionary War styling in general, with the flatter, wider butt plate.

This will be the first kit I've assembled, as I usually cut my stocks from a board, doing all the shaping myself, which is a long tedious task. Just inletting the barrel is good for 40 hours plus because each flat of the octagon changes dimension as you move up the barrel channel. Unless you're really serious about it, the kit looks like the way to go. It's a little more expensive, but won't drag on nearly as long. As I'm writing this, I'm guessing it'll take about 60 hours to finish the rifle, not counting carving. I'll keep rough track of the time involved and we'll see how that works out in the end.

The Kit

We decided to use a kit from Wayne Dunlap (Dunlap Woodcrafts, 1415 Wolftrap Run Rd., Vienna, VA 22182 (703)631-5147, (703) 734-2748) as he is "Mr. Wood" in the long rifle community. He supplies much of the wood used by the thousands of builders who populate the extensive sub-culture that has built up around the long rifle.
One of the primary reasons we decided on a Dunlap kit is that it uses the best components available and Dunlap's re*****tion for parts fit is unquestioned. Most of his inlet mortises are so close to being the right size, they require removing the only tiniest amount of wood. Also, it makes no sense to put this amount of effort into a project and use second quality parts and material. You'll see lots of kits at a much lower cost, but you won't see any better. Dunlaps kits run in the $500-$650 range. You'll also see kits in the $200 range that are usually made in Italy or Japan. Ignore those. Every aspect of them is questionable yet it takes the same amount of time to finish.

Curly maple is available in a wide range of quality which generally means the more curl and the tighter the curl, the more valuable the wood is. Expect to pay $150 and up for a premium piece of wood which will be around $250 by the time it has been machined into a semi-finished stock. A straight grained piece of wood would be about $75; it's not worth saving that amount of money considering the time and quality of the finished product.

Incidentally, the wood is nearly white in its natural state, but is stained prior to finishing to bring out the curly grain. The "curls" are grain reversals so the end grain soaks up the stain better and the light/dark stripes stand out. It's really cool to watch that happen while you're staining. Then, when you hit it with the first coat of finish and the grain leaps out at you, you remember why you started this project in the first place.

Dunlap uses Getz barrels which are usually the choice of most serious builders, but there are at least a half dozen good barrel makers out there. I've never used any other kind.

The lock in the kit is a Siler, which is also the standard by which other locks are measured. Again, there are probably a dozen or more locks available, but the Siler works well so why not use it? Also, the shape of long rifle lock plates and the hammer changed significantly after 1800 and in different regions. The Siler shape is more or less correct to the 1770 period in the Lancaster, PA area.
As you'll see in the pictures, I'm going to set the rifle up to use both flint ignition and the much later (and historically incorrect) percussion cap ignition. When the cap lock was invented in the mid-1830's, a vast majority of the older flint guns were converted because the newer lock was so much faster and more reliable.
All of the brass parts (buttplate, trigger guard, etc.) are wax cast, rather than sand cast, so they are quite smooth and only require minor finishing. The sprue has to be cut off and the edges and joint seam dressed down.

The Tools

What does it take to build one of these kits? For one thing, it takes no power tools. Although you'll see me using a drill press, that isn't necessary. A hand drill with a few rudimentary jigs will do the same thing, just not as easily.
Of critical importance is a set of small carving chisels including a flat chisel around 1/8" across and a reasonably small gouge. Most of the work could be done with a 1/4" chisel, but a gouge is absolutely necessary to work the insides of the lock recess.

Along with the chisels should come several sharpening stones, down to the finest grit available. Then make a leather strop by gluing some belt leather to a block of wood and work some rubbing compound into its surface. There is simply no substitute for sharp tools on a project like this. None whatsoever.
You'll also see me using some black stuff as a color transfer to see where the parts are touching the wood so I know what has to be cut away. Lip stick works just as well and is easier to find.

One gadget you may want to purchase is a little specially made vice to compress the main spring, in case you want to disassemble the lock to better work on it. See the article on long rifles elsewhere in to get the address to join the National Muzzle Loading Association. Their magazine is full of suppliers.

The Steps

The plan of attack has some flexibility built into it but, at this stage of the game, we expect it to go something like this, and we'll present lots of pix to illustrate each step:
1. Finish inletting barrel tang so the barrel can get set solid in stock. This has to be done before finish inletting the lock to get the touch hole for ignition in the right place.
2. Finish inletting lock.
3. Inlet trigger plate
4. drill and tap for tang and lock bolts.
5. Inlet buttplate and drill for mounting screws
6. Install under-barrel lugs and drill stock for pins
7. Inlet trigger guard and drill for mounting pins
8. Inlet ramrod tubes and drill for mounting pins
9. Inlet muzzle cap
10. Cut dovetails for sights
11. Sand stock down to final shape and prepare for finish
12. Carve designs on stock. We'll make up our mind whether to do that, when we get to that point.
13. Stain stock and rub finish on. This is the really fun part because it starts to look like a real rifle.
14. Prep metal parts for "browning." They aren't blued, but browned.
15. Go out and burn a little powder. Yeehah!!
See the following for progress reports:
Part Two - Getting Started
Part Three - Inletting the Barrel and Tang
Part Four - Inletting the Lock
Part Five - Fitting the Butt Plate
And here's a little discussion on Pennsylvania rifles in general.
The Pennsylvania Rifle -- An American Icon
And for other really cool stuff, go to Neat Sh*t.

Budd Davisson, exclusively for

Getting Started:
Tools and other stuff

This section will probably grow as I get the energy to get deeper into specialized tools, but I thought we’d get started with the basics.

In the first place you don’t need anything exotic although there are a couple of things you can’t do without and there are a couple that make life a little easier.

Can’t Do Without This
The first time you pick up a lock, be it a flintlock or a cap lock, you’ll work the hammer back and forth and immediately realize how it works. Don’t let them fool you, however. They can be pretty sophisticated in their simplicity and there are quantum leaps between the cheaper locks and the better ones and the differences are in details you and I can’t even see. DON’T BUY ON PRICE! A cheap lock is like doing a heart transplant and getting the heart from the lowest bidder.

We’re using Siler locks here because they are the standard and because they are close to the style of the Lancaster rifle we’re building and right for the period.

Don't let anyone kid you, getting that spring off without a vice is a bear.
Part of the way a lock can fool you is that you think you can get them apart with a screw driver. FORGET IT! Take a look at the springs. Both types of locks have the main spring in the back and the flintlock has the frizzen spring up front. These may not look like much but you’re sure to damage a lock if you don’t un-tension these springs before you remove any of the screws.

The springs put everything under tension and if you try to take a screw out it’ll bugger up the end of the threads as you try to get it out. Besides, it’ll be a real ***** getting the screw out in the first time. To take tension off the clockworks you need to compress the spring. This much is obvious even after a cursory examination of the lock. What isn’t obvious is that it isn’t easy to compress the spring.

The first thought is to use a little C-clamp. Good idea, but the springs are so narrow and have so much slope to them the clamp can’t get a good purchase on the spring.The next thought is the pride of Dewitt, Nebraska, the Vice Grip (all true Vice Grips come from Dewitt, not far from my hometown). These “might” work, depending on how you feel about leaving gouges on springs and such—really bad idea and smacks of MM (Mickey Mouse).

This little bugger doesn't look like much, but it'll save you a lot of heartburn.

Enter the spring vice. This is a little gadget you should buy right along with your Kentucky parts. It has rotating jaws that are specifically made to span the length of a main spring and let you compress it with a couple turns of the thumb screw. Go to to order tools and parts. They also have kits, but Dunlap’s feature better wood and select parts.
Chisels: don’t chintz on these
A surgeon isn’t going to wade into a quadruple bypass with a Swiss Army knife and you shouldn’t try to work curly maple with anything but topnotch chisels.

Yep, these are all you'll need for a Dunlap kit and you'll be using the red 1/4" more for scraping than anything else.
They are available from a number of sources but get the best money can buy. You’ll use them for the rest of your life, so don’t screw around with middle of the line stuff. You can use “palm chisels” if you *****t, but I’ve always found them too short for general use. They’re great for fine carving, but we may or may not be doing any of that on this piece.

You’ll need the following blade types:
-straight 1/16”
-straight 3/16”
-straight 1/4”, this can be a simple Stanley type tool since you’ll use it as a scraper.
-gouge, 5/16, make this a medium radius to get into corners of curved mortises.

I have probably fifty chisels, but these are the ones used most and are all you’ll need for this project.

You’ll also need sharpening stuff as follows:
-medium stone to start working the blade
-black stone to set final shape
-white stone to put glass smooth edge on it
-LONG leather strop to really put an edge on it.

You can make your own strop by gluing a 16” long piece of belt leather on a board. Then moisten it and rub (they call it “charging” it) coarse rubbing compound like you’d use on paint into it. Really soak the leather with it and work it in. I’ve used a lot of different stuff and it all works okay, but Simichrome polish, if you can find it seems a hair better than the other stuff.

The strop is nothing but belt leather charged with rubbing compound. Use it religiously. No, ignore that. Use it much more than you use your religion.
This strop is going to sit right there in front of you every second you’re working wood and every two or three cuts you’re going to wipe the chisel across the strop. If you get in the habit of doing that, you’ll never tear a piece of grain out because you waited one cut too long to sharpen your blade.

The Bench Vice
There are vices and there are vices and the only really important aspect of a vice is that you have one and that it be bolted securely to a bench that doesn’t move under pressure. A lot of folks use a special cradle on the bench to work rifles, but we’re not going to get that sophisticated, so we’ll make do with a vice.

If you can find a unit known as a Vice Versa, they make life much easier. They pivot in three dimensions and make it easier to position the piece for easy whacking. God knows we don’t want to be whacking at the wrong angle, right?

The Versa Vice moves in three-dimensions but even without one make a set of blocks for any vice and radius the back of one so it can rotate and align with odd shapes.

Regardless of what vice you’re using, make a set of blocks like I’ve illustrated here. Mine are pretty beat up because they’ve seen a lot of use, but you can’t work without them.

The blocks not only protect the rifle from the jaws, but we can cut grooves in the face of the block that match parts of the rifle and let you grab it more securely.

Notice in the pictures that the back of one of the blocks is radiused slightly. This is to let one of the blocks rotate in the vice so it can self align with tapered parts of the stock.

Don’t get too exotic with the wood, but make sure it’s a relatively hard wood. You’ll need to start with something about two inches thick, which can be hard to find. Here again, don’t get too caught up in the details: find an old shipping skid and jerk one of the big pieces off the bottom. If it’s not thick enough, glue two pieces together and get out your saw. Or better yet, break out the band saw.

Also, notice the notch in the bottom legs: it has to straddle the screw in the middle of the vice.

Keep an old sweatshirt laying behind the vice because you’re going to be using it as padding to protect the stock in the vice. Doubled up carpet works better.

Transfer medium
You’re going to need something to rub on the back of parts as you try to inlet them into the wood. Where they are touching, they’ll leave a smudge of the medium. Here again, simple works: lip stick will do the job. A better bet is to get inletting black from If you don’t have their catalog, you should. Even though 99% of the stuff in it isn’t applicable to this project, it’s a great resource for all sorts of stuff that’s gun related but useful in other areas too.

Drilling holes
You can this entire project with a steady hand and a 1/4” drill but having a drill press makes life much, much easier. If you don’t have one, don’t rush out and buy one for this project. I can think of only one hole that should be done in a press and that’s the touchhole and only then if you plan on threading it and putting a unobtainium liner in it. Otherwise, just hand drill it and try really hard to make it a square.

As we get into the different operations and other tools pop up (since I’ve probably forgotten some) we’ll get into them at that time.

So, get a vice, get some chisels, get going.

Budd Davisson, Exclusively for

Let the Fun Begin:
Getting Swamped but Getting it Right

First of all, since we’re doing this from one of Dunlap Woodcraft’s kits, we’re missing out on one of the most “fun” (read that as tedious) parts of building a Lancaster rifle of this period—inletting a swamped barrel from scratch.

Swamped Barrels: Pretty but a Pain in the Behind
First, let’s talk about the swamped barrel for a second. I’m certain the real experts know why our forefathers used a barrel that tapered from the breech to the muzzle and then, for no apparent reason, flared out again about a foot from the end, but I’ve never heard a reason I believe. Tapering the barrel does give much better balance than a straight barrel because it shifts the center of gravity back towards the hands. But why have it flair out again?

I personally think it’s the ancient’s way of driving future generations of gunsmiths nuts when we try to replicate guns of that period. Think about it—every flat of the octagon tapers in three dimensions. When you’re hogging out a tight fitting groove that matches a swamped barrel from scratch, it’s a LONG, not particularly enjoyable process. You can rough it with a router, but the important stuff is done by hand and it always takes me 40-60 hours. But then, I’m not a speed demon at anything.

The above is why I was delirious with joy when I dropped the wonderfully precise Getz barrel that came with the kit into the machined groove and found it fit so close. I’d only have a couple dozen thousands of an inch here and there to get it to snuggle right in. I’m a bug on wood-to-metal fit and this was definitely going to yield a “grew around the barrel” look.

Normally, you’d screw the tang out of the barrel and inlet the barrel first, then install the tang and do that last. In this case, however, the base of the tang, which usually interferes with dropping the barrel in place, already has plenty of clearance for the early portion of the fitting process. So, we can do the entire unit in one shot.

Now that I’m finished with that process, however, I think it would have actually moved faster, if I had removed the tang.

Step One: make a mess
The first thing we’re going to do is swab the bottom of the barrel and tang down with inletting black. I hate this stuff because it gets on your fingers and from there to the stock. It really doesn’t hurt anything, but it is a messy process. I use a stiff, half-inch brush to apply it.

We drop the barrel into the channel being careful to make sure the back of it is against the square cut back of the barrel channel. If it slides forward even a tiny bit, all of the tapered octagonal flats move ahead and start contacting wood. When they do that, they give us erroneous readings.

The entire trick here is to gently put the barrel in place, then pull it out and see where it has left black smudges (or red, if you’re using lipstick). The conclusion is obvious—it left a smudge because it touched the wood there. So, we gently remove all of the smudges by carefully (read that again, CAREFULLY) cutting or, better yet, scraping away the high points as indicated by the smudges.

You'll really get tired of chasing smudges but they indicate where the metal is touching the wood. By "erasing" the high spots very gradually, the metal works its way into the wood. Do it slowly. Don't get in a hurry.
A quick note here: we’re only going to be moving the teeny, tiniest bit of wood. We’re right up to the finishing phases, so brace your hands so the chisel or scraper is so steady it can’t get away from you. Don’t get anxious here. Just take away enough wood that the smudge disappears. Then even out the black stuff on the bottom of the barrel (you don’t need to add more) push it down in the barrel channel and repeat the process.

You’ll only go through this particular cycle about ten thousand times on this project. As it happens, that’s about the same as if you had scratch built the stock from a board because Dunlap has gone through all the gross shaping stages and brought us up to the final phases where the inletting black comes into play. This allows us to get an exact fit without worrying about the basic alignment or shape of things. When we start to inlet the lock, however, you’ll see where the machine inletting has saved us a ton of unseen inletting chores.

Using the Transfer Method
Here are some clues about what to watch for. Keep looking for linear black marks at the bottom of the channels in the corners indicated that the edges of the barrel are making contact. Some folks will take a file to the edges of the bottom flats and round them slightly which makes getting a tight fit a lot less headache. I don’t because this seems like cheating. It ain’t quite right.

As you scrape away the high spots, you’ll notice that one disappears to be replaced by another some place else. This is part of the natural process of knocking down the high points. Think about a mountain range and you’ll keep knocking the top off the highest peaks until you finally wind up with Nebraska landscape.

Here’s a major tip for not screwing up where the wood meets the metal: from the outside all you see is the wood-to-metal seam and we can’t see what’s inside. So, stay away from the exact edge of the inlet mortise. Leave a 1/16” or so of vertical wall wood right where it touches the metal untouched until the very end of the inletting process. Then go after that with hypersensitivity and remove as little as you can get away with.

Lots of times the pressure of the barrel in the channel slightly compresses that 1/16” ledge giving you an absolutely perfect fit. The down side to doing that is that if you have it too snug, you stand the chance of peeling some grain off when you remove the barrel. Get just enough contact that it barely touches but takes no pressure to get it to fit. Don’t pound it into place.

Tang Discussions
First of all, the tang, as it comes on the barrel needs to be bent slightly to better follow the curve of the stock. It doesn’t need to be bent much, so wait until you have the barrel sitting well down in the stock so you can get a better feeling for how much bend is required. The tang is really soft, so you only have to hold the barrel in the vice blocks (padded, of course) and tap it with a hammer (with a wooden block between).

This should be self-explainatory.
The shape of the tang, with the wide tail, is very typical of the pre-revolutionary Lancaster period. The inlet in the stock is a solid 1/4” too short giving you lots of room to get it inlet exactly right. Or, in my case, to trim the tang to the “pear” shape that marked some of the better rifles of the time. The end of the tang was one of many places different builders did it “their way” and added a little personality. The pictures show the steps in trimming it. This is definitely not a must-do for you, but I thought it looked cool.

Make sure the tang is bent so it’ll lay fairly well down the curve of the stock so you can mark an accurate line around it.

Marking the Tang Inlet
I’m going to make a bigger deal out of this operation than necessary only to get a concept across that’ll come in really handy later on.

First, prepare the tang for inletting by filing a slight chamfer on the bottom corners. The vertical sides slope slightly inward, which it makes it unnecessary to get exactly square sides in the mortise. More important, by giving the tang a slightly wedge shape, you can work it down into the wood a little at a time and arrive at a 100% wood-to-metal fit every time because, as it goes down into the wood, it keeps getting wider than the hole.

Also, by making the bottom surface of the tang slightly smaller than the top, when we mark it for inletting, we’re assured of the marked area being undersized and we can work it up to match the top of the tang.

Everyone has their own way of marking pieces for inletting but I do it with a No. 11 Exacto knife. Clamp the barrel tight into the stock so the tang lays hard onto the surface. Then run the tip of the blade right up against the edge of the tang and use barely enough pressure to break the fibers on the surface of the wood. Don’t over do the pressure. Do it again with a little more pressure. Then again and a little harder. We’ll let repetition work the groove into the wood, not force.

This is the way it looked before shaping.
The goal is to cut a line into the wood that clearly breaks the surface fibers so that those, which are inboard of the cut, can easily be removed. The cut won’t even be 1/16” deep, but it’ll give a jumping off point for the rest of the cutting and ABSOLUTELY DEFINES THE UPPER OUTLINE OF THE MORTISE AND MATCHES THE TANG.

The scribe line doesn’t actually match the tang, but matches the bottom surface, which is just a little small. However, because of its wedge shape, as we work it down in, it’ll be constantly touching the outer surface leaving no gap.

On using chisels.
First, all chisels are two-handed affairs. Your right hand (assuming you’re right handed) supplies the force and basic guidance, but your index finger and thumb on the other hand do the actual guiding and placement of the tip of the blade. Don’t EVER single-hand a chisel.

When starting the tang cut, take your 3/16 blade and insert it vertically into the scribe line with the bevel facing toward the middle of the mortise. This puts the straight face where the mortise has to be straight. Push down so the blade makes the scribe line deeper in that little area. Then move 2/3rds of a blade width over and repeat the process.

The goal is to increase the depth of the scribe line a little at a time all the way around. Then we come back and gingerly cut away the material between the scribe line and the mortise.

Incidentally, the Dunlap mortise is so close to the edge of the tang that you’ll only have a little area to scribe on except at the rear.

GO SO SLOWLY AT THIS POINT THAT IT DRIVES YOU NUTS. The tang is sitting right there in front of God and everybody and it’s the last place on the rifle you want to have an ugly gap staring up everyone you hand the rifle to.

I LOVE IT when a plan comes together!
A Note on Sharpness
When cutting the vertical faces of the walls, the blade should not only cut cleanly with no tearing of wood, but the surface left behind should have a slight sheen to it. If you’re working hard to shave a tiny area of the mortise, your chisel is too dull. Strop it or sharpen it.

ALWAYS ASSUME YOUR CHISEL IS TOO DULL AND STROP IT. You’ll quickly develop a feel for when it’s cutting and when you’re forcing the issue. There is no place for brute force any where in this project.

As you’re inletting the tang, you’ll be inletting the back of the barrel at the same time. So, you’ll be looking for smudges from about six inches in front of the tang to the back of the tang. This is why it’s usually easier to remove the tang and do the barrel first.

Finishing the Tang Surface
You don’t inlet the entire depth of the tang into the wood. You inlet until the top of the back of the barrel is slightly below the surface of the wood behind it, which will put probably 1/8” of metal into the wood at the very back of the tang and at least that much sticking out. Then you bring out your files and hand file the tang down to match the wood surface.

DROP THAT GRINDER!!! I said “hand” file it down. You don’t have much extra wood on the top of the wrist and the last thing you need is a nasty gouge or groove in it because you got in a hurry and grabbed a power tool.

PERFECTION ONLY HAPPENS, WHEN YOU CREEP UP ON IT. Don’t get in a hurry. This rifle will be handed down to your grand kids so use the hand file and slowly work it down to shape.

When you have it barely flush with the wood, take the barrel out and start using Wet ‘r Dri paper wrapped or glued around a hard board about six inches long. Sand in only one direction, either pulling the sanding stick toward you or pushing away. Don’t go both directions or you’ll have more trouble keeping it flat. Start out with 220-grit and work your way up to 600. In the process of sanding out all the file marks, you’ll take away just enough metal that the tang surface is slightly below the surface of the wood. This allows you to later sand the wood down for a perfect match.

Drilling for the Tang Bolt.
Center punch the position for the hole and drill the hole appropriate for the size of tang screw you’ll be using, generally about 3/16 (#10 screw). We’re going to counter sink the hole, but not until we’ve drilled the hole in the stock and we want to have the original hole all the way through the tang to help guide us.

When this is sanded down, carved and finished the wood-to-metal fit will be nearly perfect. The pear-shaped tang looks cool, if nothing else. I'll replace the buggered bolt at the last minute.

We’ve got a bunch more operations to do to the barrel, like mounting the sights and the attaching lugs under it, but we’ll do those in a separate piece of journalistic chaos. Until then make haste so slowly that cold molasses is passing you.

Budd Davisson, exclusively for

Part Four: Lockin' it Up

When building a rifle from a board (not a kit) there’s always a huge amount of head scratching (and downright fear) involved in getting the lock/barrel/ramrod hole relationships right. The problem is that the lock pan has to have the proper relationship to the touch hole, which has to have the right relationship with the barrel bore and there has to be a bolt coming all the way through the stick from the off side into the lock plate.

What’s the big deal? There wouldn’t be one except that there is a 3/8” ramrod running full length under the barrel right behind the lock and THE FRONT LOCK BOLT HAS TO PASS BETWEEN THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL AND THE TOP OF THE RAMROD HOLE. The space is generally less than 3/16”.

Show me someone who hasn’t had a lock bolt interfere with the ramrod and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t built very many long rifles from a blank. No matter how much you lay it out in full sized on the blank, sooner or later you nick a barrel or a ramrod. Or worse yet, the lock is in the wrong position on the barrel.

You don’t know the meaning of the phrase “fearful expectation” until you’ve drilled the bolt hole, put a bolt in it and then slid the ram rod in for the first time literally praying that there’s no interference.

But we don’t have to worry about all that because the kit manufacturer, Dunlap Woodcraft, has worked all that out for us. The hole is even drilled. That one factor makes using a high quality kit like this worth the price of admission.

The Lock Mortise
Before we start working on inletting the lock put the lock in your hand and study it. Look at the two screw heads protruding out the back (tumbler and trigger spring) and the way the main spring runs forward, tapers in width and is nearly flush with the bottom of the lock plate. It’s important you remember all the parts back there because it’ll make the inletting process make more sense to you.

The front of the main spring and both screws are going to be your problem areas. Also, the area indicated by the arrows is supposed to lay flush against the barrel.
When starting a lock mortise from scratch on a blank, traditionally you completely disassemble the lock and do your first inletting using nothing but the lock plate. Then, once you get that set to your taste, you start putting one part at a time back on the lock and inlet each in turn. Some of us have made permanent little guides, or key templates, that give the depth of each major part so we can approximate them without having them on the lock plate.

Here's the spring vice again. It'll become your little buddy during the lock inletting process. Although disassembling the lock is overkill for this project, we’re going to do it anyway because it makes the project move ahead a little more orderly with less hassle and with less chance of mistakes.

First Scribe Around the Lock
The first thing you’ll notice is that the lock mortise is very, very close to an exact fit for the plate. In fact, I wish it had a little more wood so everything wasn’t so critical.

On my kit there was the tiniest oversized area about a half inch long on the top/rear of the plate that I’ll have to glue a sliver into. Many would ignore it, but if I don’t fix it I know that’s all I’ll see every time I pick it up. I mentioned it to Dunlap and he said it must be pattern wear and has fixed it on subsequent models.

Be careful scribing around the lock because in many areas it’s already the right size and the scribe (or Exacto knife) could ding the edge of the mortise.

Inletting the lock plate
As you work the plate into position there is one factor that isn’t obvious from the beginning: besides fitting the mortise, the flat bar under the pan area has to lay snug against the barrel. If you don’t do this, there will be a gap and every time you fire it, you’ll have fire flashing down into the lock mortise. What a bummer it would be to entertain the guys at the range by setting fire to your fancy new bang stick.

Points of contact as indicated by the transfer medium on the wood: a) trigger spring screw, b) tumbler screw, c) front edge of main spring, d) plate is laying flat and this is okay as long as the bar is laying flat against the barrel at the same time. We don't want to cut away too much wood on the edges of the mortise and have there not be enough support while the bar is against the barrel or it'll tip the lock, which looks bad.

If you’re not working with the Dunlap kit and have a straight barrel, there’s another little nuance here worth mentioning. Early period flintlocks, like the Haines we’re replicating here, have a lot of subtleness to their lines and if they’re wrong, the rifle doesn’t fit you as well as it should. Most folks get the wrists too fat because the originals have really skinny wrists, which means they are also weak in that area. The swamped barrel, however helps that because the lock goes in at an angle, which makes the wrist wider and stronger.

On a straight barrel, the wrist can be too skinny, so it helps to solder a little wedge-shaped piece of metal on the back of the lock bar under the flash pan that kicks the back of the lock plate out a little. The piece doesn’t have to be very thick. If it’s 1/32 (.035) at the back and tapers to nothing at the front, that’s fine.

Compared to doing the barrel and tang, finishing the lock mortise is easy. You’ll use the transfer compound and keep searching out places it touches and scraping them away. Be VERY careful at the edges of the mortise so you don’t create gaps.

Keep working until the plate fits snug against the barrel and lays 90 degrees to the plane of the barrel. Dunlap has done such a good job in this area it’s hard to screw it up unless you get in too big of a hurry.

Inletting the mechanism
Put the tumbler (the round thing with notches) and the trigger spring back on the lock and put transfer stuff on the heads. Chances are you’ll find they touch the bottoms or sides of the holes already inletted in the mortise. In my case I had to remove wood on the bottom and one side of both screw head inlet areas.

Now put the main spring back in place. The spring needs room to work, so inlet it when the mechanism isn’t locked or the bottom of it won’t have room.

The front edge of the spring is quite wide and in any inletting job drives the rest of it. Put the black crap on it and slide the lock into position. Note where the spring touches and remove just a bit of wood. This becomes the same drill: scraping, spread out the black on the spring, insert, remove, scrape, etc., etc.

Keep the process up, all the time looking for places where metal is contacting wood too strongly.

While you’re doing all of this check to make sure the trigger bar isn’t too long and contacting wood on the other side of the stock. Routinely I have to grind 1/8-3/16” off the end to get working clearances. Don’t over due the trimming. It has to extend at least 3/16” past the center of the stock to make sure the trigger blade contacts it.

By the way, while you have the lock apart, polish the bottom of the trigger bar and get it super smooth so the trigger blade doesn’t encounter any roughness. Don’t mess with the rest of the clockworks unless you really know what you’re doing. If you want to make it slicker with a crisper trigger break (we’re not using set triggers so this may be worth the effort) take it to your lock pistol smith and have him stone the parts. The reality is, however, this is mostly wasted effort because the lock works really well the way it comes out of the box. Besides, we’re not trying to drive tacks at 1000 yards with this thing.

Drilling the bolt holes
While you have the lock disassembled and the plate inletted and clamped in place, run a 3/16 drill bit on your trusty hand drill through the bolt holes from the off side so it leaves a mark for both holes on the back of the lock plate.

The bolts are #8 x 32’s so you’ll need an 8/32 tap and tap handle (if you don’t have one) and a #29 drill bit (.1360), which should be available at your local ACE hardware store for just a few dollars.

The lock plate is pretty soft metal, so this isn’t brain surgery, but make sure you make a deep center punch mark exactly where the drill bit left its mark. We don’t want the #29 drifting off center.

This is best drilled in a drill press, but a hand drill will work fine as long as you work hard at keeping it 90 degrees to the plate.

Once you have the holes drilled, carefully force the tap in by turning it a full turn or so. You just want it to catch a thread and stick in the hole so you can back off and see how perpendicular it is from all angles. Then, put a drop of oil on the tip, put some pressure on it and slowly start turning.

If you’ve never tapped anything before, the key here, like everything else is don’t be in a hurry. Once the tap is started you’re only going to turn it about 180-270 degrees before stopping, turning it backwards 90 degrees or so, and then moving ahead. This is to break loose any metal stuck to the tap and to give it more room to work. Keep it oiled.

At the beginning make it a point to check every 90 degrees of turn to see that you’re still vertical. Once you’ve cut a couple of threads, however, you’re stuck with the angle you’re going in at, so don’t rush it.

Cleaning up
You’ll notice when you try to put the hammer on the lock that it contacts wood. So, cock the hammer, mark where it hits the wood and remove that ridge. Don’t, however remove the ridge that’s standing above the lock plate all around it. We’re going to leave that until we’re doing our final shaping. This will protect the final surface until we’re ready to work with it.

Very cool! This thing is starting to look like the real thing isn’t it?

On to the butt plate.

Budd Davisson, exclusively for

Part Five:
Getting in Touch With our Butt
I’m not sure how to characterize fitting a butt plate that is as complex as that on a Kentucky. I’m tempted to say it’s a pain in the butt, but that’s too obvious. What I will say is that it almost doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a kit or a scratchbuilt because unless it’s machined turned to a given butt plate, you’re going to have about the same amount of work to do regardless.

A couple notes about Kentucky-type butt plates in general

First of all, a butt plate is not just a butt plate. They each have their own characteristics and style. On top of that, the stylistic progression of butt plates from old to not-so-old is seamless. The flat, wide, good-for-stompin’-heads butt plates of the old German Jaegers slowly mutated into the mildly curved, wonderfully graceful, wide plates of the late 1700’s to the skinny, ridiculously curved and painful-to-shoot units of the 1840’ & ‘50’s. For the most part, you can look at a butt plate and, with an 80% guarantee of success, place it within 25 years of its date of origin from the beginnings right up until muzzleloaders left the scene. In the case of most golden age Kentuckies, you can even come within 50 miles of its location. The pros can nail it down much closer than that.

Most of the butt plates share a couple of characteristics, however: they are curved to some degree and they feature a return on the top of the stock. What this means to the wood worker is that the plate must be inlet in three directions at one time. The return has to come down into the stock and forward which moves the curve of the plate itself the same direction. Look at the geometry of what’s going on. It’s actually pretty complex.

On a "golden age" butt like this, the width of the return on the top means it has to be true or it will cant the plate in both directions. Also, note the wood in the middle that has to be reduced in size, but not completely eliminated.
Generalities in installing the butt plate

The key is to get the BP located correctly vertically so the bottom surface of the return on the top of the stock can be set in the right position (the flat it sits on is trued up in all directions). This then means from that point on, you’re using that flat as a guide to move the butt plate forward by slowly removing wood on the butt surface of the stock until the entire unit moves ahead enough that gaps in all forward surfaces are eliminated.

On the Dunlap kit, the fit as it comes to us is close but there’s no way they can make it perfect because of the variations in butt plates. The butt plates are cast brass with a good portion of it being pretty thin so they differ from one to another because of slight amounts of warpeage while they are cooling. So, we’re going to have to do our gun maker thing and make them fit.

I’m going to go through the traditional method of fitting one of these little buggers, but at the end of the process I’m going to give a tip that was just passed along to me that could knock a number of hours off the process.

Fitting problems to be worked out

The notch for the return on the top of the Dunlap stock as it comes is pretty good and needs only a little cleaning up to be true. We can do that with a fine wood rasp.

The protrusion in the middle of the butt plate area has to be removed which, because it’s end grain, can be a pain.

If you look at the photo you’ll see the biggest problem area in the kit is at the bottom of the stock (toe) where there was a gap a solid 3/16” wide, so the entire unit has to slide that far forward. The little tip passed on to me (don’t cheat and skip to the end) might have solved that much faster than I did using my usual methods. Incidentally, it normally takes me 6-10 hours to fit a butt plate and the tip could have cut that in half.

True up the flat area the return on the top sits on and that becomes the guide for the rest of the inletting. Obviously, everything here had to move forward enough to get ride of the gap at the bottom. Treat the radius at the heel with special care.
The small gaps and the radius problem at the heel of the stock (top corner) are no big problem. They’ll disappear in the course of solving the big gap at the toe.

Methods of removing wood

Removing wood on end grain can be problematic because even with a hyper-sharp chisel, it’s hard to control to any degree of accuracy. For that reason, plan on viewing the outer 1/4-5/16” of the area where the butt plate actually makes contact as being sacrosanct and we’re going to treat it very carefully. Everywhere in between it’s up for grabs as to how carefully you *****t to do it.

I suppose if you *****t, you could take a humungous spade bit on a drill and simply under cut it all. The theory here is that no one is going to see anything but the very outer surface where the metal meets the wood, so anything inside is invisible and doesn’t count. Although it would greatly speed things up, I can’t do it that way.

I like to walk into my shop and, regardless of the status of an uncompleted project, regardless of what it is; I like to be proud of it. Without getting too fastidious about it (actually, I’m from Nebraska where few of us even use words with that many syllables), I like the insides of my projects to reflect the same care lavished on the outside (go to The Roadster Chronicles elsewhere in and you’ll see the same “problem” I have in this area).

If I walked into the shop and saw the area under the butt plate simply hogged down so it would clear with no effort at finishing it, it would depress me. Further, every time I picked up the finished rifle, I’d keep seeing through the butt plate to a messy area and I couldn’t enjoy the rifle as much. That, however is a VERY personal attitude and not one I suggest anyone else follow. This is also why some of my projects take so much longer than they should.

Getting rid of the big clump

Before we can do anything, we have to get rid of the big lump of wood in the middle of the area butt. It’s a lot to remove with hammer and chisel, plus I don’t any “normal” sized chisels—they are all small. So, I opted for a thoroughly non-traditional approach. I put a 60-grit sanding disk on my trusty 4” angle-head Makita grinder and carefully went after it.

I use that grinder for so many different operations in so many different mediums (it’s my prime cutting tool and metal remover for heavy steel construction) that I’ve gotten to where I’m really comfortable with super close, fine operations. However, be advised: that sucker could easy get away from you in this kind of operation and put a helluva gouge in one of the mating surfaces right where you don’t *****t it.

Even though I’m comfortable in the extreme with the tool, I still put three layers of duct tape over the mating surfaces to protect them. It wouldn’t be bulletproof protection, but at least it would keep the damage to a minimum.

In about five dusty minutes I had the lump reduced to a much more manageable size and I was ready to move on to my primary wood removal system for butt stocks: using a big chisel as a scraper.

True up the butt plate

Although we can inlet to correct for any irregularities in the casting, it’s better to true it up as much as we can because it’s much easier to inlet smooth, regular surfaces.

Life is much better if you use a mill file to even out all the mating surfaces. Be careful at the radius in the corners. Get a file they use to sharpen chainsaws to work that area.

In this case, the inside surface of the butt plate has casting ridges and some areas that aren’t very even. So, we’ll take a big mill file and, laying it across the butt plate so we’re doing both surfaces at one time, gently smooth them down

Be very careful when you’re working up into the small radius at the top that you don’t leave some nicks in the corner from the file. Stay a little way away from that area and clean it up with a small round file (a file used for sharpening chain saws works great).

Be especially critical what you’re doing with the bottom of the return. Try your darndest to make the two flats perpendicular to a line you’ve drawn on the inside of the plate with a felt tip pen. If the surfaces are off even a little, they’ll swing the toe of the plate one way or another. We can easily inlet those surfaces so the plate is square on the stock, but it’s easier if we start out with square surfaces on the butt plate to begin with.

Beginning the LONG process

One of the things that makes this such a long process is that even though I know we have to remove 3/16” of wood, which is a helluva lot of wood, especially when it’s end grain, I’m not crazy about going after it with a band saw or the grinder thinking I’ll take off 1/8” fast and the last little bit slowly. Far too many times I’ve taken that approach and realize too late that there was some little nuance I missed and it caused me much more work. So, I start creeping up on it right from the beginning. I’m certain the big guys do it differently.

The first thing we want to do is chin the plate on the upper return notch and verify that the angle of the notch holds the top of the butt plate at an angle that follows the comb of the stock. We want it to be a flowing visual line from the nose of the stock, right behind the wrist, all the way to the heel. A butt plate that’s at an angle to the top line of the stock sticks out like a third eye.

You also want to be critical of that angle because if the front of the butt plate return is down by even a few thousands, it pivots the plate on the heel of the stock and pulls the very bottom of the plate out quite a bit.

Put marks (felt tip pen) in the middle of the butt plate at both ends and have matching centerline marks on the stock itself. If you have extra wood, flush the plate to the left side of the stock to increase the cast-off (angle the butt slightly towards you to off set the centerline right for better sighting. This is not important.).

The lines on the bottom of the butt and the butt plate have to be watched carefully while you’re truing up the flats for the return so the plate remains vertical.

Now we’re ready to start with the black transfer medium. Brush it on the butt plate, lay the butt plate in position and tap it lightly with a block of wood or mallet. Remove it and locate the high spots. This is where I probably depart from the ways other guys do it.

We're starting to get little touches of black all the way around, including at the front of the return. This is the point where we move slowly. The only gaps left are at the very bottom of the stock.

I remove the high spots by using a heavy 1/4” chisel as a scraper. It’s super stiff and, because it’s a full sized chisel with the blade formed as part of the tang that goes clear through the handle, I can really get a good grip on it. You can actually remove a lot of wood quickly this way, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to remove just the local high spots and the 1/4” size helps in that regard.

One of the first things you’ll have to do as the plate moves forward is to VERY gingerly form a radius on the upper rear corner (heel) of the stock. Fight the urge to cut that to what you think is the right radius ahead of time. The marks made by the butt plate in that area are very clear and very specific. They are also easy to remove just a hair at a time. For this you use one of your inletting chisels and actually cut the sliver of wood away, going from right to left.

Because the butt plate will contact the wood for only about 1/4” around the edges, you’ll wind up with what look like little trails running around the stock that are carefully smoothed by scrapping. At the heel, where the small radii are, the trails will be especially noticeable.

Again, don’t rush. This is another of those areas where even the tiniest gaps show so we don’t want to chop away too much wood. Put a stack of good CD’s in the player, have a supply of your favorite beverage handy and resolve that this will be done when it gets done.

It can really be a mind numbing process so figure on doing it in two or three, three-hour sessions to minimize the brain damage and ensuing mistakes.

Screwing it together

At some point you’re going to finally have this thing inletted to the point that you’re happy with it and it’s time to put the screws in.

Like everything else, there’s a long way to do this that’ll save you some grief and shorter ways that may or may not cause you grief.

The problem is that the hole in the top of the stock has to be in exactly the right spot and the holes counter sunk correctly or, when you tighten the top screw, it can move the butt plate back slightly and undo all of your careful wood work.

The method I use is to drill 1/8” holes, one in the proper location on the mid-line of the return and a distance up from the toe. When drilling these holes remember to try to keep them vertical to the surface in question. For the back hole, that means going in at an angle that matches the curve of the butt plate.

The final wood screws you’ll be using are much bigger than 1/8” but we use the smaller size as guide holes.

I ran the countersink in just a hair more than necessary to get the slot in the screw to line up across the centerline. when I dress the surface down and square up the flats, most of the excess countersink will disappear (he says with great hope in his voice).
Now, position the butt plate in position and drill the back hole into the stock using the butt plate as a guide. Don’t go very far into the wood with the bit, we just want it as a place to start a screw, and make sure all centerlines match.

Now, get a long sheet metal, pan head screw and run it through the back butt plate hole and into the wood. Snug it up and make sure it pulls the butt plate forward and tight to the wood both at the back of the stock and at the front of the return. We don’t want any gaps showing.

Carefully drill through the top hole and put a sheet metal screw in. Now we have both screw hole locations in the wood and the butt plate fixed. Now it’s onto the real thing—countersinking and drilling out for the full sized screws.

The goals here are to make sure the bigger screws don’t make the plate move and to have the screws centered in the counter sinks AND 90 degrees to the surface so the heads aren’t canted. This can sometimes be harder than it sounds. However, if we screw-up there’s always a way to correct it—if we get a hole crooked or in the wrong place, we can drill out the hole in the stock to 3/8”, glue in a piece of dowel, and start over again. The 3/8 dowel gives a big enough surface to relocate the hole easily.

Drill the holes in the butt plate out to the proper size, which in the Dunlap kit is 3/16". We want to counter sink those holes just enough that the screws are flush with little or no edge of the counter sink showing.

The ideal situation is to use a countersink with a pilot stub on the nose, but since those are nearly impossible to find, you’ll just have to use what the hardware store has to offer and be careful.

Clamp the butt plate firmly in the vice and proceed to counter sink just a little at a time, test fitting the screw in the hole constantly. The countersink will be happy to drift off center, if you don’t hold it vertical (a drill press makes this much easier), so be careful and test fit the screw often. Just go a little at a time and it’ll work out fine.

Now, screw the plate in place, doing the back screw first. Check the top hole to see if it is still in the center of the larger hole. If it isn’t, drill it out, plug it and re-drill it so the screw doesn’t sit in the butt plate hole at an angle. Also, don't be afraid to take a round file to the hole and fudge it one way or the other. It may not be perfect craftsmanship, but it works.

Now you’ve done all the hard work and we can move on to trimming the stock wood down to size in the shaping operations. This is the fun part because then you really get to see how well the wood fits the metal. With any luck, you’ll see a seamless fit. However, if it isn’t quite right, here’s the tip that Wayne Dunlap passed on to me and I wish someone had told me about twenty years ago.

The pay off to working slow: it's hard to see here, but when the wood is dressed down and the transfer black disappears there won't be a hint of a gap anywhere. This is when you forget how long the process took. However using the "tapping the edge down" tip would have shortened the process considerably.

The Tip
Assuming you’re doing a brass-mounted (not iron-mounted) rifle, the brass butt plate is quite soft and easily bent. So, get it more or less inletted with gaps still showing and then, screw it down. Then, using something like a 1” steel bar as a hammer, gently pound the edges into position. You’ll have to file and sand the outside surface of the butt plate anyway to smooth up the casting, so any hammer marks will disappear.

I don’t know if the plate would have deformed enough to take up the entire 3/16” gap we originally had at the toe or not. I think I’d be afraid to move it that far. A disruption in the line of the butt plate MIGHT be noticeable.

Don’t use a regular hammer for this operation because the marks will be too abrupt. In fact, the bigger the diameter of your hammering instrument the wider and easier to remove the marks will be. A piece of 2” pipe would probably even work. Or maybe hold the pipe in position and tap it with a hammer.

I haven’t tried this process yet, but it’s right up there on the top of the “duh” scale, it’s so obvious. Slap! Red spot in the forehead.

Wayne says they’ve found information that says this is the way some of the ancients did it too. So, it’s historically correct cheating. You’ve gotta love it!

By Budd Davisson
Exclusively for
photos as credited at end

At this point in America's life span, it has become difficult for the politically correct amongst us to admit that the firearm is as much a part of America's history as Old Glory, the hammer and the horse. The firearm was an integral part of many chapters of our development, most of them heroic, some shameful, but it was there none the less. For the frontiersmen and those carving a nation out of a wilderness, the firearm was at least as critical to their survival as the axe and plowshare.

The development of the firearm in colonial America is actually the story of the development of America itself. Further, in the first century and a half, beginning in approximately 1700, it encompassed the rise of a thoroughly American art form, the Pennsylvania long rifle (although many were also made in Virginia and the Carolinas). In the long rifle, we have an artifact that was forged by the needs of its environment. Then, as time went on, the culture of the people subtle changed it until it became as uniquely American as the jazz and hot rods of a much later era.

The long rifle was a by-product of the settling of the southeast corner of Pennsylvania. When William Penn began sending settlers up the rivers, which came together at Philadelphia like fingers in a glove, he unwittingly set in motion a long-term cultural event. Each of the parties that traveled up into the wilderness used the rivers as their super highways to travel northward because the topography of the land worked against travel east and west. Long lines of parallel ridges made travel via rivers the natural decision. The rivers deposited these groups of settlers in a fan shaped pattern that started in the west near present day Lancaster on the Susquehanna and continued eastward in an arc until they reached the Easton/Nazareth area on the Delaware. This was to become the heart of the American arms industry until the industrial revolution of the early to mid- 1800's developed mass production in the Connecticut River valley and the government established armories at various locations throughout the young nation.
Thinking of Pennsylvania today, it's hard to imagine it at the beginning. Traveling up river for those first travelers must have seemed as if they were being sent to colonize the moon, it was so far removed from the civilization they had known in Europe. Many of the groups were German in origin, but all knew they were going to have to be totally self-sufficient. They couldn't run across town for a bolt or an axe head. They couldn't assume they would have any help in an emergency so, to guarantee their survival, their group had to be completely self-contained. Every skill thought to be needed in their new environment had to be part of the group. This included gunsmiths.

Those early gunsmiths, circa 1700-1725 brought with them the skills and thought patterns, which had been part of their training and practice in Europe. Their rifles, called jaegers (hunter), were stocky, short barreled weapons (30") usually of .60 caliber or larger and often were smooth bore. The butt stocks were thick and their general outline was purposeful but hardly graceful. They did, however, incorporate the German fetish for function and their flint ignition locks worked reliably.
As Jaegers wore out and were gradually replaced by locally produced rifles, the Pennsylvania environment began to have several effects. For one thing, knowing that they couldn't easily replace the powder and ball expended each time they pulled the trigger, accuracy became critical. Each time they pulled the trigger, they wanted to be bringing home a buck or a squirrel. Where the jaegers in Europe were primarily target shooting or hunting for sport, in the new land, shooting was a matter of survival.
Accuracy with any weapon is driven by many factors, but prime amongst those is the distance between the front and the rear sights. The longer the distance, the more finely the marksman can control where the lead ball will go. This begs for a longer barrel. The longer barrel gives yet another side benefit in that the ball spends more time captured in the barrel with the expanding gases pushing it faster and faster. There is a point of diminishing returns with this concept, obviously, as friction and expansion space become part of the equation. However, there was no way those early gunsmiths could measure the velocity of their bullets, so, as far as they were concerned, longer was better, when it came to velocity and accuracy. By the 1750's the length was continually being increased until the standard barrel was 42"-44" in length with four feet not being uncommon.

The original Jaeger barrels were good sizes chunks of iron, usually measuring at least1 1/8" across at the breech end. Make a barrel like that three and a half feet long and you have 12 to 14 pounds to lug around the woods. Not a lot of fun and not very practical. At some point beginning around 1760 someone figured out that a high speed, slightly smaller ball, killed just as easily as the huge, lumbering lumps of lead being thrown by the jaegers. In addition, the number of balls that could be cast from a pound of lead jumped astronomically. A pound of lead will yield only 17 .64 caliber balls while over 37 .50 caliber balls can be cast and 51 each of .45 caliber. Also, the woodsman was just as likely to be killing squirrels as bucks, so a smaller caliber wouldn't mangle the smaller game as much. If they were going after bigger game with the smaller ball, they just poured more powder down the barrel to push the ball faster. This gave rise to a general trend that for the next 50-75 years would see the caliber decrease gradually to the point that .40-.50 caliber would be common by the turn of the century. This also meant the barrels could be slimmer and, therefore, lighter. As the long rifle spread into other regions of the country, including the south, and small game became the primary target, calibers worked down even further until .32 was common and .28 wasn't unknown. These were true "squirrel rifles."

Many jaegers had a curiously shaped octagonal barrel that carried over into the earlier forms of American long rifles. This barrel, termed "swamped," tapered from the breech towards the muzzle then, at approximately ten inches to a foot from the muzzle end, it would flair out again. The practical reason for this has never been fully explained, although it does shift the center of gravity of the barrel back closer to the shooter's hands giving the firearm much better balance. If, however, that's the reason, why flair it back out towards the muzzle? In all probability, it is a stylistic trend. At any rate, this type of barrel began to disappear by the 1790's and, by the turn of the century, was seldom seen, having been replaced by the much easier to manufacture straight octagonal b

Posted by Flint54 on Monday, June 13, 2005 (16:25:50) (12952 reads)
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  New Users Guide
Website FAQ's and TutorialsWelcome to!

This website is dedicated to all types of outdoorsmen, hunters, reloaders and recreational shooters.

While HuntingNut has been around since Jan of 2000, we reciently went through a major upgrade of our software January of 2005. Since then we've been able to add in tons of new and fun features for our members. As in the past, everything is completely free to registered users.

Most all of the features we offer are found on the main webpage either in the left side naviation block or on the right side blocks. Here is a brief overview of some features we offer here.

PointBlank Ballistics software is one of the most popular FREE ballistics packages on the internet today. We get approximately 1000 downloads of it per week. Similarly, we also have an online version available for available for registered users who may not have the PointBlank software with them, but need to do a quick calculation.

We also offer free Photo Hosting! Do you have some hunting or shooting related pictures you want to share? Or just have a secondary place to store them? Its very easy to do. New users may want to view the Photo Album Tutorial for a detailed picture guide of how to create their own online album and upload pictures into it. It is very easy and becoming very popular with people.

Our Online Reloading Database has long been a favorite of members offering lots of interesting reload information.

We also offer a unique quick link system to State Fish and Game Agencies:, links to articles and guides covering Field Dressing, Reloading, Shooting and even just humorous User submitted stories!

Last but not least, we offer online Web Forums with an extremely friendly and knowledgable user base who can answer questions, share in a joke or just chat with.

Posted by DallanC on Thursday, June 09, 2005 (22:23:30) (9195 reads)
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  Adjusting Powder Measure
ReloadingYa know how aggravating it is to try and set your powder thrower for a particular charge weight ?? Ya turn screw in , throw a charge , weigh it , turn screw out , throw a charge , weigh it ..
Yeah I can see you've been there ..
Well here is a shortcut I recently "discovered" . I am sure that I am not the first ...
Turn the adjustment screw for the charger out a good bit ..
Take your scale and weigh the charge that you want to throw ..
Dump the weighed charge into the empty powder dispenser .
Now turn the handle about halfways between the load and dump positions , so the powder charger is against the wall of the funnel . Turn the adjustment screw in until you feel firm pressure . With a little practice you'll get within a few tenths of the desired weight .
Took me over thirty years to figure this one out ..
Hope it helps ..

Posted by GroovyJack on Sunday, May 29, 2005 (18:21:44) (8499 reads)
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  some guys are just born lucky
Hunting StoriesMy second year in South Dakota I did the brotherly thing and invited my brothers from Pennsylvania and Colorado and my buddy from Chicago to come hunt pheasants. I was sure the guide thing would work out just fine. The first day the shooting was pretty good. We found birds and had some good drives. We were hunting around a small lake walking the high grass by the shore line. Some times the birds would drop in the water sometime not. This was of little concern as we had our dog “Niko”. A New Foundland Labrador mix. Everything was going as planned, until we came to a peninsula. We hunted the small spit and had a large group of birds go up right in front of us birds fell. During the bird finding it was discovered that one rooster flew out over the ice and fell. The good news was we could see the bird the bad news the ice was very thin.

Repeated attempts to coax the dog to retrieve the bird resulted in wet feet, mine. Once my feet were wet I pulled the dog in with me. My logic went something like this my feet are wet so who cares if my ankles get wet. This pretzel logic continued until the rooster was retrieved. I knew I had dry cloths in the truck so no big deal really. Cheers of “you the man” fueled my misguided zeal of retrieve you game at all costs.

Now the ice conditions should give some idea of the temperature it was about 19 degrees and very slight breeze. I made the announcement that we would hunt to the truck where I could change. A simple plan for a simple man. There was only one problem Niko starts acting all birdy, and is not hunting toward the truck. My PA. brother is to the west of me and in the direction Niko is hunting. I quickly move ahead of Niko and loop around the idea being flush the bird or birds his way. Niko is stopped and pointing into a large clump of olive brush. As I approach the now pointing Niko, I notice she is not pointing directly in front of me but to my left. As fast as your mind goes sometimes it is just not fast enough. The sight of the skunk a full 10 inchs from my left leg doing what it is they are know for. I just watched as the creature preformed. It was his last great act of defiance. Niko looks at me with that look only a dog can give you. “ see I can happen to you too”. I saved the dog from being sprayed by a selfless act of kindness. Did I mention there were no birds.

The walk back to the truck was graceless. Two brothers a friend and my son all laughed and wondered how I was getting home. I wondered as well. Now to the lucky part. After stripping my iced over clothes off, I found that I was almost sent free. My boots thankfully were on their last hunt anyway the blue jeans would never make another hunt with me. They found their way in to a box tied to the roof rack of the suburban. All I can figure is the ice covered pants protected my skin from the “O de Colon”.

I didn’t hit another bird that day. But it didn’t matter I was able to arrive home and be allowed in the house.


Posted by longwalker on Thursday, May 19, 2005 (15:41:13) (8969 reads)
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  OCW ( Optimal Charge Weight )
Reloading:D I would like to give all credit for the following information to
" Dan Newberry " this article was posted by him on the
( ) website along with links to his website at ( )

This information is something that I wish that had been available years ago, it would have saved me tons on powder, primers & bullets finding a good load for all of my rifles. Give it a look over, I hopw that you get as much from it as I have. Best Wishes & Safe Shooting. Flint54


Do you have a need for a decent long range rifle load? It really doesn't require as much work as one might suppose--in fact, you can actually develop and be shooting the load for your rifle in as little as 30 shots or so. Don't believe it? Read on...

Most of us get tripped up by loading WAY too many shells of each powder graduation. We decide to try too many bullet types, and often too many powders. All the while, you're spending money on this end that could be saved to purchase more of the right bullets and the right powder after you've identified the final load which you will be using.

Here's the shortcut to putting together an accurate and successful load for your LR rifle.

Choose a bullet. That sounds easy, but it's getting harder and harder all the time. There are many--almost too many--choices out there. My recommendation would be to take a look at what the successful shooters in the long range competitions are using, and narrow your choices down that way. As a rule, you'll *****t to go with the highest BC (ballistic coefficient) that your rifle's twist will stabilize. Of course if you're shooting a chambering that won't get the required velocity from a very high BC bullet, you may *****t to step down a bit in bullet weight so you can step up in velocity. Again, see what folks who "know what they're doing" are shooting and that'll get you some good ideas.

We've all heard folks say (and have perhaps said it ourselves) that "my rifle doesn't 'like' Varget, IMR 4895, BL-C(2)," or whatever. Keeping in mind that this is an opinion, allow me to say that I'm not inclined to believe that a particular rifle really dislikes a particular powder. Barrels aren't all that different. Likely, when we came to the conclusion that our rifle didn't "like" IMR 4064 (and folks, I remember concluding that once, way back when ) we were shooting with a bad scope, bad bullets, incorrect powder charge range, bad powder or bullet lot, poor or underdeveloped bench technique--or any number of other things. I've since proven that that old rifle which I thought hated IMR 4064 actually likes it after all. And it likes it very, very much...

I mention the above because powder choice is very important when you set out to develop a load. And the overwhelming liklihood is that your barrel will indeed "like" a standard powder used by many other shooters using the same chambering.

So, let's say you're working with a Remington 700 in .308, and you *****t to ring the 1K gongs. That rifle will have a 1:12 twist, and it'll handle bullets up to 180 grains pretty easily. Maybe a little heavier--but let's keep them at 180 and under so we can get plenty of speed from them. Let's say that after reviewing all of your options, you've decided to stay pretty standard and go with the Sierra 175 grain Matchking. (good choice, by the way). Now all you've got to decide is what to push it with.

If you'll poll most .308 win long range shooters, you're going to find these powders rule: (in no particular order) IMR 4064, IMR 4895, Varget, H4895, BL-C(2), Reloder 15, and the old stand-by W748. Wow. Which to choose...

Here's the truth. You can put together a pretty decent long range load with any of those powders. The idea that your barrel won't "like" one of those is extremely remote--again, my studied opinion. You can make any good powder in the proper burn range work for you.

So you've chosen a powder. For the sake of discussion, let's say that your buddy gave you a good deal on a couple pounds of W748 he had left over from an eight pound jug.

Next you gotta have some brass. Again, check around. You're going to be told that Lake City Match, Lapua, Winchester, Norma, and IMI are some of the better choices. Since Lake City isn't always available and Norma is too expensive for what you get, that leaves Lapua, Winchester, and IMI. IMI is a military brass case, and in the match form it's quite good. It's on the heavy side, so reduce listed maximums accordingly. Lapua is great brass, and can be had at a decent price. I like Winchester because it's cheap and good. Lapua is a little more than twice the price of Winchester, but it is better brass as far as uniformity and case life goes. But since I've shot some of the best groups of my shooting career with Winchester cases, and since you asked me you've bought a couple hundred Winchester brass cases.

Do I need to de-burr the flash holes and uniform the primer pockets? In my opinion (in this opinion piece, remember?) you shouldn't bother. I've not seen any compelling evidence that match prepping cases really helps practical accuracy at all (except in the instances where a shooter is working with a non-optimal powder charge--which of course he shouldn't be -- see "walking the tightrope to accuracy" referenced later in this post). John Barsness used a Remington 40X with a custom barrel a few years ago to test the benefits of 1000 shots of prepped .223 brass versus 1000 shots of unprepped, straight from the bag Winchester brass. Guess what? The average group size favored the unprepped brass by a slim margin! So don't waste your time.

Gotta have primers, right? Right. And here again, don't lose sleep over which primer to use. Some powders do indeed seem to have a "favorite" primer, likely because of how hard (or easy) they are to light uniformly. Since you went with W748 I think I'd stick with the Winchester primers. W748 is a ball powder, and it will pack into the flash hole inside the case (and possibly even find its way into the primer cup). WLR primers are on the hot side, and will breath good fire right on through if you end up with some rounds with impacted flash holes and others with unobstructed flash holes. Ball powder really isn't harder to light than extruded (stick) powder--but over the years knowledgeable folks have come to believe that ball powder shows an affinity for hotter primers. (Speer actually uses magnum primers with W748 and other ball powders). I wouldn't go that far, but I do think WLR's are great with the W748.

But you couldn't find WLR's. Sold out. Losing sleep...

Get the Federal 210's and let's get some stuff loaded up.

You're going to be pushing a 175 grain bullet with the W748. Let's see... what do the loading manuals say? An average of three sources I looked at says that 45.0 grains is max with 180 grain bullets. Why did I look at the 180's? Because I couldn't find (and you likely won't either) much data for W748 and the 175 grain Sierra Matchkings.

For an OAL you will begin at about a caliber's depth of bullet into the case. Don't count the boattail, by the way--you *****t a caliber's depth of bearing surface for good neck tension. For a thirty caliber bullet, that'll of course be about .30" or so. You can "depth tune" the finished product later on, by testing seating depth changes in .005" increments. Generally, a properly developed OCW load will not be really particular about the seating depth--but you can "fine tune" the accuracy by slight seating depth changes if you wish. An aside: If you find that a caliber's depth of bullet bearing surface still leaves the cartridge too long to magazine feed, just seat the bullet to near the max length the magazine will tolerate. This is a Remington 700 we're talking about here so just go on ahead and seat the bullet to an OAL of 2.810", tip to case head. That way it should mag feed easily...

Using the OCW instructions you'll find at my website ( ) you put together ONE cartridge using 41.5 grains of W748, then another with 42.0 grains, and a third with 42.5 grains, and a fourth with 43.0 grains. These are the pressure test shots. Now you're ready to load three each of the following charges: 43.4 grains, 43.8 grains, 44.2 grains, 44.6 grains, and finally 45.0 grains. You're moving up in approximate 1% increments.

(An aside: If reliable sources indicate that you can go slightly above 45.0 grains with the W748, then go ahead and load three cartridges with 45.4 grains. Fire these in the round robin test mentioned next if and only if there are no pressure signs at the 45.0 grain level. In the event that 45.0 grains would be the OCW, you'll need the 45.4 grain charge to prove that. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll stick with the five graduations already mentioned).

You fire the three test shots in increasing charge weight order to check for pressure signs, and set your zero as close as possible to the bullseye at 100 yards with shot number 3. Now, you'll have five targets set up at 100 yards. Keep the bullseyes as close to each other as practical to minimize light and angle differences between them. I just put five squares on the same white piece of paper, about three to four inches from each other.

Beginning with the 43.4 grain charge, fire one shot at target 1. Then go to the 43.8 grain charge and fire one shot of that at target two, move to target three, and fire one shot of the 44.2 grain charge at that target, and so on. Go through all five targets three times each in this "round robin" fashion. Watch for pressure signs along the way, and stop if you encounter such. When you're done with all fifteen test shots, you'll have a three shot group of each charge weight represented on its own target.

(A tip: For your individual targets, use 5 x 7 index cards with black squares drawn in the center with a Sharpie marker, each square in the identical location on each card. Use one card for each target. That way, when you're done, you can see which powder charge graduations hit the same POI by stacking the cards).

Now you're almost done. Look at the groups and determine which three groups all appear to be hitting the same point of impact on the 100 yard target spots. Let's say that 44.2, 44.6, and 45.0 grains all seem to hit in the 2 o'clock area, about an inch from center of the bull. Since all three of these groups hit the same spot (for the most part) then your choice for your long range load is going to be 44.6 grains.

At this time you've fired eighteen times, and spent eighteen bullets, eighteen charges of powder, eighteen primers, and you've diminished your barrel life by only eighteen rounds.

Yeah, but who's gonna really believe that 44.6 grains of W748 (in this example, remember) is going to shoot tight at long range? Folks, in all of the OCW tests I've done I've yet to find a recipe developed in this manner which wouldn't shoot well "way out there." You see, by virtue of the fact that you've chosen a powder charge weight from the center of a three shot string of graduations which impact the 100 yards target in the same location--you're choosing a pressure tolerant load, in the "sweet spot," if you will.

But let's shoot three bracket groups to be sure that 44.6 grains is indeed the Optimal Charge Weight. (Remember, this is an example--I'm not contending that 44.6 grains of W748 is an OCW load). For your bracket groups, you'll simply shoot one shot of 44.2, one of 44.6, and a third of 45.0 grains into the SAME GROUP at 100 to 300 yards (the longer the better here, but since some folks don't have immediate access to ranges longer than 100 yards that range would be fine). All three shots--even though they are of three different charge weights, should print together on the target. By "together" I'm speaking of MOA from rifles capable of such. Here is an example of an OCW bracket group fired for the .243 win at 100 yards:

If you shoot three bracket groups you've now shot a total of only 27 rounds. And if those groups land tight at 200 to 300 yards, you know you're in the OCW zone, and you can be all but certain that the 44.6 grain charge will perform very well for you at longer ranges.

So at this point, with less than 30 rounds invested, you very likely have a load recipe that's going to serve you well at the longer ranges.

What about velocity?

Notice, however, that I didn't mention anything about a chronograph just yet. For my part I don't get curious about the velocity of a load until I find an accurate load. Many folks "shoot for" a particular velocity when developing a load, but the truth is if you *****t a pressure tolerant load (or by definition an Optimal Charge Weight load) you cannot let the chronograph tell you where to take the recipe. There will normally be two distinct OCW zones with any given powder and bullet. The low zone is fine for close work, but it'll generally have a larger extreme spread (velicity differences from slowest to fastest shot) than the high node OCW will. And for a long range load, you'll *****t as much velocity as you can safely get. Generally, the OCW will exhibit tight velocity spreads from the get go, but you shouldn't simply shoot a bunch of shots across a chronograph and look for a tight velocity spread--that can lead you astray because some non-optimal powder charges may indeed show tight numbers so long as you're within .1 to .2 grains or so. That's not good enough, as you'll be "walking the tight rope to accuracy," and having to do meticulous case prep, weigh powder charges to the tenth of a grain, weigh cases and such--just to stay on that tight rope. Step slightly to either side and accuracy "falls off" noticeably.

So by shooting the round robin sequence through the higher charge levels (right up to the maximum) you will almost certainly find the high OCW zone. Once you've identifed the high OCW zone (by finding the three consecutive groups which have a common POI) you choose the center charge weight, and live with that velocity. If possible, you should chronograph the final product (44.6 grains of powder in this example) so that you'll have a rough idea of trajectory, and also the velocity at 1000 yards. You could shoot several strings across the chronograph just to see what the ES would be, but why not just shoot the recipe at long range and see what the vertical spread looks like? The target is the final arbiter anyway--regardless of what the chronograph says or doesn't say.

A 2600 fps 175 grain (30 cal) Sierra Matchking with it's ~.500 BC will make it very nicely to 1000 yards. And with a 24 to 26 inch barrel, you should have no trouble getting close to or a little above 2600 fps from the 175's with the high OCW of W748.

A final note: Could I have used IMR 4064 or another type of primer and gotten an even tighter shooting load? Very possibly, yes. Perhaps not. But the degree to which a load is more or less accurate is far less important than simply learning all about the load you have. A 3/4 MOA load made with W748 and Federal primers, and practiced with religiously is a far more formidable system than a 1/4 MOA load in the hands of a "fair weather shooter" would ever be.

Dan Newberry
Don't develop "a" load. Develop the load.

Posted by Flint54 on Friday, May 13, 2005 (14:54:30) (20284 reads)
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  How do I "tune" a load to be more accurate?
ReloadingEach rifle is different and will usually like a specific load “recipe” to achieve best performance. There are several things which can be done to enhance accuracy of a load for a specific rifle. The following are tips in no particular order.

#1) Try altering the amount of powder used in the load. Move up from the minimum recommended load in your reloading manual in .5 grain increments until you either notice excess pressure signs OR you reach the maximum recommended load, which ever comes first.

#2) Try changing powders to a type of powder which will fill the case more. Most rifles like powder charges which fill the case 80% or more.

#3) Try adjusting the seating depth of the bullet. Most rifles will like the bullet a few thousands of an inch off the lands. This usually requires a Cartridge headspace gauge to measure but can be done by denting an empty, sized case mouth slightly and lightly inserting a bullet. Chamber the empty case slowly, letting the bolt act as a press and the rifling to seat the bullet into the case. Take an Gage OAL measurement of this case length and seat the bullet a few thousands more. Barnes X bullets usually like more freebore to the lands so try seating them deeper. *Note: when altering the seating depth of a cartridge, reduce the load slightly as the volume within the case is also altered as the bullet is seated at different depths.

#4) Get a primer pocket uniformer tool and make sure your primer pockets are uniform. When most brass is created, a small burr is left inside the case and can make for a non-uniform burn of the powder.

#5) Try different brands of bullets and even bullet weights. Some rifles are picky as to what weight of bullet they will shoot well. This can depend on the twist of the barrel rifling.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:48:13) (14275 reads)
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  Terms and Definitions
ReloadingReloading: The process of sizing, charging and assembling a firearm cartridge.

Reloading Manual: A manual produced by powder and componant manufacturers listing detailed data and steps to reload cartridges. Most manuals contain ballistics and energy tables as well.

Cartridge: A cylindrical, usually metal casing containing the primer and charge of ammunition for firearms.

Case: A brass container to contain ignition source, propellent and projectile into a single object for a firearm.

Bullet: A projectile which is fired out of a firearm.

Primer: An ignition source for a cartridge which explodes when struck by firearms firing pin, thus igniting the cartridges powder.

Powder: A propellent which when burned, produces extreem pressure to force a projectile down the barrel of a firearm.

Press: A device used to assemble firearm cartridges.

Reloading Die: A precision form the size of a rifle cartridge into which a case is forced thereby transfering the image of the die to the case.

Powder Scale: A precision scale used to accurately weigh powder by grains.

Powder Measure: A precision measure used to accurately measure amounts of powder.

Powder Trickler: A tool which trickles a slow amount of powder. Used to add fine amounts of powder to a scale.

Chamber: The area at the rear of a rifle barrel into which a rifle cartrige is placed.

Boltface: The face of the bolt into which the base of a case is placed. Contains a hole through which the firing pin is able to strike the primer.

OAL: Over All Length. Refers to the total length of a cartridge.

COAL: Same as OAL, stands for Cartridge Over All Length.

Gage OAL: A length, measured from the base of a cartrige to a point on the bullet of a specific diameter. Requires a specific tool.

Headspace: The volume left between the top of a cartridge shoulder or rim, and the chamber after closing the firearms bolt.

Freebore: The distance between the olgive of a bullet and the start of the barrels riflings.

Riflings: The grooves which twist down the inside of a barrel. Riflings are what gives a bullet it's spin.

Lands: The raised portion of a grooved surface.

Fields: The recessed portion of a grooved surface.

Rim: A recessed groove at the base of a case.

Belt/Belted Case: A circular protrusion at the base of a case to limit how far a case will enter a firearms chamber.

Primer Pocket: A recessed area in the bottom of a case into which the primer is placed.

FlashHole: A hole in the bottom of a case through which flame from the primer enters the case and ignites the powder.

Case Neck: The top of a case which holds the bullet in place.

Chamfer: To cut off the edge or corner of a case (bevel).

Case Lube: A special lubricant which aids the cases re-sizing process and to not get stuck in the die.

WildCat: A special Caliber for a firearm which is not available by a commercial manufacturer. Many reloaders create new and unique calibers and many current factory calibers originally started off as wildcat calibers.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:48:02) (2672 reads)
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  What are the steps to reload?
ReloadingA common question which seems to arise frequently is “how do I reload”. Reloading rifle, pistol and shotgun cartridges is a fairly simple and safe process. Below are the steps to reload rifle cartridges. New reloader’s should purchase a reloading manual and read its steps to be more familiar with the process. A quality reloading manual is an absolute requirement.

(Pictures are coming very soon)

Step 1). Begin with a close inspection of the empty cases. Inspect the neck area and shoulder, looking for any cracks or signs that the case may be failing. On belted magnum cases, inspect the webbing just above the belt for potential separation. Inspect the primer area and look for signs of worn primer pockets, usually black sooty edges where the primer contacts the case. Minor dents and blemishes are ok but sharp creases in the case from dents etc are unrepairable. Discard any questionable cases.

Step 2). Clean the cases by using a tumbler or vibrating case cleaner. Brass polishing compounds are not recommended due to Ammonia which will weaken the case.

Step 3). Cases must be lubricated prior to resizing or they may become stuck within the reloading dies. Apply a thin coating of Case Lubricant to the case walls. Avoid lubricant on the case shoulder as this can case shoulder collapse when the case is resized. Lightly lubricate the inside of the case mouth with a case neck brush.

Step 4). Lower your presses handle thereby raising the ram to its highest position. Select the resizing and primer decapping Die for your rifle caliber. Screw it into your press until it contacts the presses ram. Return your presses handle to its upright position and tighten the resizing die another ¾ to 1 turns (consult your dies instructions if available for correct installation of the die). Tighten the dies lock-ring.

Step 5). Place the base of the case into the shellholder at the bottom of the ram. Apply pressure on the handle forcing the case up into the sizing die. Note the primer which is pushed out the bottom of the case. Apply pressure to return the press handle to it’s up position. The down stroke of the presses handle will force the case up into the die, changing it’s size and removing the primer. The up stroke of the presses handle will resize the case neck and mouth. It shouldn’t be too difficult to resize a case, if so there might not be enough lubricant on the case.

Step 6). Resizing of cases will cause the case length to grow. Using a set of calipers, measure the length of the resized cases. Use a case trimmer to return any cases which are too long to their original length. This length is available out of your reloading manual. Calipers are also reasonably cheap, I recently bought some locally for $14 so it’s something no-one should be without. Remove the die from the press when you are finished resizing your cases.

Step 7). Using a case-neck deburring tool, remove the burrs from both the outside and inside of the case mouth. This only needs to be done once after case trimming and not again unless the case has been trimmed. Also, you are only trying to remove the sharp edge of the case to aid in bullet seating so if your case feels “sharp” then you have removed too much material. Use a light touch.

Step 8). Apply the new primer. Follow your presses manual to install new primers or, if you have a hand priming tool, follow it’s instructions to install new primers. Be very careful to use dry, oil free hands when handling primers as any oil or case lube can render them inert.

Step 9). Consult your reloading manual to determine the correct amount and type of powder for your rifles caliber and bullet weight and type. Check and double check you are using the correct components as listed in the manual (example: H4831 is not the same as IMR4831 even though the numbers are the same). Using a quality, accurate measuring scale, measure out the amount specified for the load. Pour this into an empty, primed case and set it aside. Repeat for all your empty cases, placing charged cases in another location from empty cases to avoid confusion and accidental “double charging” of a case.

Step 10). Install your bullet seating die the same as in step 4 with one exception. Place an empty case into the shell holder and screw the die down until you feel it contact the case. Back off ¼ of a turn from this contact point to avoid crimping the case (note: if you desire a case crimp, follow the Die’s instructions, or your reloading manual for setup). Tighten the lock-ring for the die. Back off the Dies seating adjustment screw several turns.

Return the press handle to it’s up position and place a bullet over the mouth of the charged case in the die (hold the bullet with your hand to avoid it falling). Slowly lower the press handle until the handle is at it’s lowest position. Note: Stop if you feel the bullet contact the dies seating unit.

Step 11). Now we need to adjust the actual seating depth of the bullet into the case. We start off by having the adjustment screw backed off enough that it doesn’t contact the bullet on the down stroke of the press handle. We do this so we can increase the depth a little at a time until we achieve the correct depth.

The presses ram should now be in the down position and the case and bullet not contacting the die itself. Screw down the seating adjustment screw until you feel it contact the bullet. Raise the presses handle partially and screw down the seating adjustment 1 turn. Lower the handle and you should feel the bullet being pressed into the case. Remove the case and compare the length of the cartridge with the OAL (over all length) as specified in your reloading manual. If it’s too long, place the case back onto the ram and tighten down the seating adjustment another turn, repress and remeasure. When you have achieved the correct length as specified in the reloading manual, set the lock-ring for the seating adjustment screw. Press in bullets for all remaining charged cases.

**Note: A quick shortcut for beginners to achieve proper seating depth is to place a previously loaded “Factory” cartridge onto the ram, and adjust the seating depth until it contacts the “factory” bullet. Make sure that if you use this method, the factory round uses the same bullet type and weight as the ones you are reloading. Press a bullet into a charged case and double check the OAL.

Step 12). Wipe off all excess lubricant from the case.

Step 13). This is a very important point. WRITE DOWN ALL INFORMATION REGUARDING THE LOADS YOU JUST CREATED! Information such as Date, bullet type, bullet weight, powder type and amount, primer type, number of times the cases have been reloaded, seating depth etc etc are VERY useful down the road. I recommend buying a cheap pack of stickers, which can then be slapped on the outside of the ammo box. If you *****t a more professional look, Midway sells rolls of reload information stickers which are simple to fill out.

Step 14). We are all done! Clean up the reloading bench and head for the range! Go shoot and have fun!

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:47:49) (10888 reads)
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  What equiptment do I need to reload?
ReloadingThe basic equiptment needed to begin reloading is as follows: An up to date reloading manual, reloading press, reloading dies, powder scale, case mouth chamfering tool, case neck brush and case lube. Additional but not required equiptment may include: powder measure, powder trickler, case tumbler, primer pocket uniformer, flashhole de-burrer, case neck uniformer, cartridge comparator, calipers etc.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:47:37) (1934 reads)
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  What is the best way to get started reloading?
ReloadingThe simplest way to get started reloading is to purchase a beginners kit which is offered by nearly every single reloading equiptment manufacturer.

RCBS offers a "Partner" reloading kit for around $125 which includes everything to get started as well a "Rockchucker" reloading kit which offers upgraded equiptment to the partner kit. Midway offers a terrific deal with light and heavy duty equiptment. Shop around to get an idea of what will satisfy your needs.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:47:25) (10424 reads)
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  Muzzle Loading Terms and definitions
Muzzle LoadingMuzzle Loader: A Firearm loaded with individual componants from the muzzle

Caliber: The diameter of the bore of a firearm, usually shown in hundredths or thousandths of an inch and expressed in writing or print in terms of a decimal fraction (example: .45 caliber)

Barrel Twist: The length in inches it takes for the riflings to make one complete revolution. Usually written as 1/48" meaning the riflings complete 1 full revolution in 48 inches of barrel

Round Ball: A round ball of lead

Patch: A piece of lubricated cloth used as a seal between a roundball and barrel wall

Conical: A projectile made of lead in the shape of a cone

Sabot: A lightweight carrier in which a projectile of a smaller caliber is centered so as to permit firing the projectile within a larger caliber weapon

Powder: Either Black Powder or a Black Powder substitute used to expel a projectile when ignited

Black Powder: A specially a prepared chemical substance, that explodes when ignited

Pyrodex: A Black Powder substitute. Can be used as a replacement for blackpowder. Amounts must be measured by volume, not weight

Smokeless Powder: A type of powder used in centerfire rifles. Smokeless powder generates too much pressure to be used in Black Powder rifles

Lube: A substance that reduces friction when applied as a surface coating to a projectile

BoreButter: A popular natural lubricant and protectant made by T/C

Hawkin: A popular 1830's style of muzzle loading rifles

Matchlock: A muzzle loader with a "fuse" type ignition used to ignite the powder

Flintlock: A muzzle loader with an ignition type using a flint within an external hammer to ignite the powder

Caplock: A muzzle loader with an ignition type using a cap secured on a nipple and struck by a hammer to ignite the powder

Inline: A muzzle loader with the hammer and nipple "in line" with the barrels bore

Nipple: A small regulated opening onto which a cap is placed to be struck by a hammer

Cap: A premanufactured device made of copper containing an explosive element.

Possibles Bag: A bag used to carry items used to reload and maintain a muzzle loader

Volume Measurer: A measurer used to measure powder amounts by volume

Speed Loader: A small container used to contain a premeasured amount of powder. Usually also contains a projectile to aid in quicker reloading

Ram Rod: A wood, fiberglass or metal rod used to push a projectile down the barrel of a muzzle loader

Short Starter: A short ramrod with a larger surface area used to initially start a projectile down a muzzle loaders barrel

Misfire: When a loaded muzzle loader doesn't fire after pulling the trigger and the hammer strikes the cap

Hangfire: When there is a noticable delay between when the cap fires and the powder is ignited. Can be upto several seconds of delay

Dryball: The act of running a projectile down a barrel, without first pouring down a powder charge

Fouling: The residue left over from the burning of the powder

Striping: The act of a projectile "skipping" over the riflings instead of being turned by the rifling. Most prevelant with roundballs.

Cleaning Jag: A brass attachment the diameter of the barrels bore, used to press patches tightly against the barrel wall when cleaning

Ball Puller: It is a round cylinder of brass the diameter of your bore. On one end it threads into your ramrod. On the other end it has coarse threaded screw sticking out. This screw is threaded into the ball and allows it to be pulled out with the ramrod.

Fouling Shot: A shot out of a clean barrel designed to purposely "foul" the barrel. Some roundball barrels are designed to work this way

Crown: The end of the barrel where the bullet exits from

Starting: The process of first pushing a projectile into the barrel

Nipple Pick: A small tool used to clean out the nipple area

Flash Hole: The small hole in the bottom of a nipple though which the fire from the cap travels to ignite the powder

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:30:28) (4498 reads)
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  How should I Clean and Store my Muzzle Loader?
Muzzle LoadingBlack Powder and Black Powder substitutes such as Pyrodex leave residue after they burn which is very corrosive. This residue will cause rust, pitting and etching of metal it is in contact with. The rate of corrosion is dependant on several factors such as local humidity and time. In the dry desert regions a "dirty" muzzle loader can be left for possibly a week with no sign of corrosion, in humid regions effect of corrosion happen at a much faster rate. I mention this only to give a relative time frame of how long to leave a weapon before cleaning it. Shooting it in the evening of a hunt and cleaning the next day should be ok, leaving it for a few days would depend on where you live but I recommend cleaning a black powder firearm within 24 hours of shooting regardless of where you live.

As there are many different kinds of muzzle loaders out there, consult your manufacturers owners manual first on how to correctly disassemble your rifle, as well as what method and products they recommend to clean it. There are basically two ways to clean a muzzle loader, soap and water or chemical cleaners. The soap and water method is just that, a bucket of hot soapy water into which either the breech or muzzle of the gun is placed into. Soapy water is then drawn up into the barrel by the action of the ramrod and cleaning jag traveling up and down the barrel. Chemical cleaners such as solvents are also used to remove fouling. Be aware though that petroleum based cleaners will react to the fouling and accelerate the corrosion process. Make sure the barrel and breech area are very very clean. For truely stubbern fouling or even lead fouling, I have successfully used Carberator cleaner to disolve the fouling.

Once the barrel is completely clean remove the nipple and inspect it. If it's still dirty use a cleaning agent and a old tooth brush to clean the threads. Use a nipple pick to clean inside the nipple and the flash hole. Dry out all the parts either with dry patches, or by other means (hair drier etc). Make sure everything is clean and dry.

Once clean, re-assemble the firearm and saturate a dry cleaning patch with Thompson Centers BoreButter (paste type, not the lube from the tube). Run several saturated patches up and down the barrel until you are confident the entire barrel has a good coating on it. Take the patch and wipe down all external metal as well. The gun should now be clean and have a protective coating of BoreButter on it. If storing the gun for long periods of time, recoat the inside of the barrel 3-4 days after the last cleaning, then again at 14 days and at least once a month after that time. Be aware that BoreButter will turn an orange/brown color when exposed to air so don't immediatly panic if you notice a brown patch and think it's a rusted barrel. Typically if you did a poor job cleaning your muzzle loader, you will get white saltlike crystals forming upon the fouling. Reclean the area immediately then re-coat.

When you finally go to shoot your muzzle loader which has been clean and stored with the method above, it's a good idea to first swab out the barrel with a dry patch to remove any excess BoreButter. Then with the gun still unloaded, place a cap on the nipple and fire it. This is done to clean out the nipple area and to verify that area is dry (useful when cleaning at the range).

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:30:18) (2396 reads)
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  How does barrel "twist" relate to projectiles and accuracy?
Muzzle LoadingBarrel "twist" is what physically spins a bullet and stabilizes it. There is a big difference between the twist required by a RoundBall and that reqiored by a Conical. Round balls require a very slow barrel twist to achieve optimum accuracy. Barrels with 1/60", 1/66" or even 1/72" twists are common. For conicals, a faster twist is required to stabilize the projectile. 1/38" or faster is common for conical barrels. For sabot loads, even faster twists are required. 1/32", 1/28" and even 1/24" are used for sabot loads.

The single most popular barrel twist however, is the 1/48". This is a compromise twist being neither great for conicals nor roundballs. This is not to say good groups cannot be achieved with such a barrel twist, just that it will never be as accurate as a rifle who's twist is optimum for it's load.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:30:09) (34305 reads)
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  How do I load my Muzzle Loader?
Muzzle LoadingLoading a muzzle loader is a relatively simple process. The first step is to gather the nessasary components (some unneeded depending on projectile type): Gun, powder, projectile, patch, cap, powder measure, bullet lubricant, ramrod, and short starter.

First, safely inspect the rifle and make sure it is already unloaded. An easy trick to determine if a rifle is loaded or not is to place the ramrod into the unloaded barrel and to mark with a pen or marker where it exits the barrel. A loaded gun can then be determined by placing the ramrod into the barrel and seeing if the mark on the ramrod lines up with the barrels crown. If the line is above the crown then there must be something already in the barrel.

Next prepare your powder charge. Muzzle Loaders use either Black Powder or Black Powder substitutes like Pyrodex. Using smokeless powder in a muzzle loader will destroy the rifle and probibly cause serious injury or death! Black Powder or a substitute requires measurement by VOLUME not by Weight. This is because not all powders weight the same amount. They are manufactured however, to take up the same amount of volume. Set your powder measure to the amount you desire (example: 80 grains) and carefully fill it up with powder. Next carefully pour the contents of the measure, into the barrel of the muzzle loader.

Now prepare your projectile. There are 3 basic types: conicals, roundballs and Sabots which we will describe how to load here.

Conicals come either pre-lubed or not. If your conicals are not lubed, apply a coating of bullet lubricant to the flat sides of the conical. Lubricant is not needed on the base of the conical nor the front. Take your lubricated conical and place it squarely over the crown of your barrel. Skip down to the section on starting the projectile.

Round Balls require a lubricated cloth patch. Patches come either pre-lubed or not. If not, saturate your patch with lubricant. Place the patch evenly over the barrels crown. Push a roundball into the exact center of the patch (which should also be the exact center of the barrel as well) with your thumb. Skip down to the section on starting the projectile.

Sabots are usually plastic and resemble a shotgun wad. It acts as a carrier for a smaller caliber bullet such as a jacketed handgun bullet. Push the bullet into the "fingers" of the Sabot until the flat base of the bullet is flush against the bottom of the sabot. This will usually push the fingers outward from the bullet which is normal. Next, carefully start the sabot into the barrels crown keeping the bullet facing upwards. Press the sabot unto the barrel with your thumb until the Sabots "fingers" are pressed against the bullet, holding it in place.

Starting the projectile is usually done with a short starter but can be done just as well with the main ramrod. Push the projectile into the barrel carefully keeping it aligned with the barrels bore (conicals/sabots). Once you have pushed it as far as possible with the short started, switch to your main ramrod. Push the projectile the rest of the way down the barrel with a steady motion. Once you feel the projectile contact the powder, apply more pressure to seat the bullet tightly against the powder. Generally, tight pressure from the projectile against the powder will result in better ignition. Hodgdon who makes Pyrodex recommends a minimum of 40lbs of pressure for best ignition and accuracy.

Finally, point your muzzle loader in a safe direction and pull back the hammer to the half-*****ed position. Place a cap snugly on the nipple. That's it! Your muzzle loader is now loaded and ready to fire. Take aim at your target, pull the hammer to the fully *****ed position and shoot!

It should be noted that with each shot, the powder burns and leaves a residue on the barrel wall. Each projectile will appear to be harder and harder to load and accuracy will deminish. At this point the firearm must be cleaned. For utmost accuracy with some muzzle loader, cleaning between shots is mandatory.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:29:57) (26575 reads)
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  What are some Accuracy Tips?
Muzzle LoadingThe first and best advice to increase accuracy is to clean between shots. I have muzzle loaders which will hold a .60" group at 100 yrds if cleaned between each shot. There is absolutely no reason any muzzle loader with a quality barrel having a twist correct for it's projectile type to not be able to hold a 2" group at 100 yrds.

Another tip is to vary powder amounts is similar to how centerfire loads are worked up. Each barrel is different and will like one type of load more than anything else. Try incrementing powder loads in 5 grn increments from 60 grns upto the max recommended by your firearms manufacturer. Shoot at least a 5 shot group, cleaning between shots to get a good idea of how a load is really shooting.

Change Projectile types. This can mean changing the both the weight as well as design of the projectile. For Roundballs, try changing the thickness of the patch itself. Different thicknesses are available and will change how the balls fly. For Sabots, you can vary the size of the handgun bullet and the thickness of the sabots "fingers". For example, with .50 cal sabots, you can find some to shoot .429 or .451 diameter bullets. Some guns prefer the smaller ones, some the larger. Keep trying different combinations until you find something which will work.

Finally, try posting a message on the internet forums to those who have the same type of gun as you. Someone may have stumbled onto a load which will work in your rifle.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:29:21) (11640 reads)
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  What are some General Muzzle Loader Tips?
Muzzle LoadingWindex works exceptional as a cleaner to swab out your barrel between shots. I keep some in a tiny travel size soap container inside my possibles bag when hunting.

Placing a balloon over the end of a barrel will work great to keep out rain. When the gun is fired the balloon is simply pushed off and doesn't affect accuracy.

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:29:04) (2131 reads)
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  Field Dressing Guide
Field Dressing / Animal CareField dressing a deer is fairly simple and there are a few different ways out there to do it. I won't presume to tell you the following is the best way to do it, but this is a very easy and fast method which was taught by me by my father. On average it only takes about 10 minutes to field dress a deer and requires only a sharp pocket knife.

Note: Some field dressing methods start off with the cutting of the animals throat and windpipe. I have NEVER understood why this is. It not only looks very bad to people who may see the animal as you bring it home, it really serves no other purpose (other than having your taxidermist chew you out for nearly ruining the cape). The only way severing the jugular arteries would be of use is if the animal was still alive with it's heart pumping. If the animal is dead you can only drain out the small amount of blood in that localized region of the throat... hardly worth worring about as we will be severing this artery just below where it enters the body cavity. If you feel you absolutely MUST cut the throat, poke your knife into the neck and cut BELOW the skin to sever what you want.

Warning: The following pages contain actual pictures of field dressing a deer. If you do not wish to view such pictures click HERE to return to the main page.

Step #1) Orienting the Animal

Now then, first start by orienting the animal on it's back with the head uphill. Have someone help hold the rear legs spread apart or tie each leg to some brush to hold apart.

On the inside of each rear leg by the "knee" will be a dark patch of hair marking the tarsil glands.
It is a good idea to remove these glands, do so by cutting the skin around the gland area...
be very careful to cut well around the gland and not get anything on your knife or hands. A knife
contaminated by the glands will affect any meat it comes in contact with

Step #2) Detaching the Testicles

Next take hold of the testicles and cut them off with your knife.
Warning: Some states require "proof of sex" to be attached to the animal. Antlers are a sure sign of an animals sex. If you are removing the head from the animals body, you must leave the scrotum attached to the body. To do so, Make an incision along the scrotum and squeeze out each testicle and cut it off.

Step #3) Detaching the Penis

Grab the penis and pull slightly away from the body, begin severing the penis from the body, working from the tip down around towards the anus. It should seperate fairly easily from the belly.

Once you have seperated the penis from the belly, cut the skin along side the penis the remainder of the way, stopping short of the anus. Keep pulling lightly on the penis and cut it free with your knife on each side of the thighs.

Step #4) Detaching the Anus

Once the penis is free from the outside of the pelvic region you will then need to cut around the anus itself. Give yourself some room to work by not cutting too close to the anus. Once the skin around the anus has been cut free, lay the penis backwards over the anus and very carefully cut the penis free from the inside of the pelvis area. It sometimes helps to pull the penis slightly down and out while cutting it loose. If done correctly, the penis
and anus will now be together, loose from the body and pelvic region. Be careful when inserting your knife too far as you may nick the bladder.

Step #5) Opening the Body Cavity

Now begin to open the body cavity down the centerline of the animal, between the ribs and pelvis. Be very very careful while making the initial incision that you do not puncture the stomach or intestines. Take very light strokes until you get through the stomach skin. Insert two fingers into the new hole to seperate the stomach and intestines from the outer skin by pulling outward on the skin. Slide your knife between your fingers, blade facing down but horizonal with the skin. This will allow you to cut the stomach skin without puncturing the internal organs as you pull up on it. Cut the skin from the pelvis up to the brisket.

Note: Some field dressing methods split the entire ribcage at this point to gain easier access to the lungs/windpipe. I do not like this for 3 reasons, #1) if you plan to mount the animal, cutting the cape in the brisket area will result in a noticeable line when the animal is sewn up. You *will* get chewed out by your taxidermist, plan on it! #2) it allows more dirt and debris to enter the animal. #3) Not splitting the ribcage is much faster

To give yourself more room for future steps, cut off the belly skin, following the ribs down around each side of the deer to the pelvis, it should be easy due to the initial incision down the center.

Step #6) Freeing the Diaphram

You should now be able to see the greenish bag of the stomach as well as intestines. In between the stomach and the lungs, will be a layer of muscle known as the diaphram. If you insert your hand at the top of the incision you just made near the ribs, you will be able to feel the diaphram. Carefully pull the stomach
slightly away from the diaphram and begin cutting it away from the ribcage wall. This must be done all the way around the ribcage (usually it will just tear free easily except where it connects to the backbone of the animal). At this point most of the stomache and intestines should "roll" out beside the animal.

Picture showing incision in Diaphram. Continue around both sides

With the diaphram cut free, you should be able to look into the chest cavity and see the lungs.

Step #7) Severing Windpipe/Esophagus

We are almost done at this point! The only thing left to do is to sever the windpipe and esophagus. Reach up into the ribcage as far as you can, feeling for the semi-hard windpipe. It is easy to feel where both the windpipe and esophagus leave the ribcage, running up into the neck area. Cut the windpipe/esophagus off at this point. (no picture available sorry!)

Pull on the severed windpipe and the lungs/heart/liver etc should easily come out and be rolled along side the animal.

Step #8) Removal of Penis / Anus

Take ahold of the lower intestine/colon where it passes into the pelvic canal. Carefully pull on the colon, if the penis/anus has been correctly cut free in Step #4 it should pull through the pelvic canal easily.

If it does not pull free easily, examine where it is still attached and cut it free. It must still be attached near the anus, *NOT* near the bladder! WARNING! Be extremely careful of the bladder! Take care not to pucture it.

Step #9) Final Care

Lift the animal by the head to allow and remaining blood in the chest cavity to drain.

If you have clean water available wash out the chest cavity and any exposed meat.

Keep the animal cool until you can deliver the animal, as soon as possible to a butcher. If you are going to cut up the animal yourself and choose to "age" it in a cool place, hang the animal by the rear legs to allow any excess fluids to drain AWAY from the hind quarters.

That's it! With practice, you can field dress your deer in a very short amount of time. On average I can field dress a deer within 5-10 minutes.

The best advice I can give is to study the pictures until you are familiar with the anatomy of a deer, then when in the field just take your time. The first time will be the toughest but after field dressing that first deer, you'll become a pro in a very short amount of time.

Special Thanks to my wife Heather who shot this buck while pregnant and helping me create this FAQ by taking pictures, she gave birth to our son only a few days later!

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:17:58) (80877 reads)
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  Official PointBlank downloads Page
Point Blank Ballistic SoftwarePointBlank v1.8a is now deprecated and replaced by version 2.0

You have arrived at this page via a very old link. Please let the owner of the site you came from to update his links to the one posted below.

Please follow the following link to the new version:

Thanks, the management

Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (23:17:19) (360441 reads)
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