Showing off

The manuals for some of the percussion guns suggest loading with a rather small powder charge, saying that anything more is just “showing off” (never mind that these replicas were originally designed for a full cylinder of powder and ball, else the cylinders would be shorter to save steel and weight).


By that reasoning, I suppose anything more powerful than a 22 Short is purely showing off.  For that matter, using a gun at all is showing off.  You should use a bow.  But maybe that’s showing off, so you should use a slingshot.  No doubt using a slingshot could be seen as showing off, so you should use a spear, but come to think of it that could be showing off, so use your bare hands.  Someone using theior bare hands for something that would betterbe done with a gun is certainly showing off– no question.


The only proper choice then, if we follow this line of reasoning, is to never do anything, but that, for sure and for certain, is showing off your piety your restraint or your modesty.  I hate it when people like to flaunt their modesty all over the place.  Show offs!

8 thoughts on “Showing off

  1. That depends on the percussion firearm, Lyle.

    It is possible that the revolver maker just copypasta’ed text from some other muzzleloader manual … highly likely for the various Italian revolver makers.

    Yes, putting too much powder behind a 1 in 66″ twist muzzleloading rifle can cause the ball to strip over the rifling and leave the barrel with insufficient spin.

    But revolvers should be loaded with enough powder for the ball ( or conical bullet if you want a heavier but less accurate projo* ) to be well below the top of the cylinder. You then seal the top of the cylinder with grease or wet cornmeal to prevent flashover detonation. You don’t want them to be flush with the cylinder top because recoil may force the other bullets to creep out of the cylinder and cause a jam.

    ( * less accurate because of difficulties getting a conical to set dead straight in the cylinder )

  2. There is a reason for the ways many things are done, and GOOD reasons for the ways some things are done.

    My son asked me just this past weekend why this guy in another lane at the range only loaded 5 rounds in his SA Colt revolver. I actually knew that one!

    Long ago as a very new shooter I learned why a two-handed grip on a revolver only involves THE GRIP and not the rest of the gun. Fortunately I learned this before I fired a revolver.

    A Civil War re-enactor long ago explained to me where the phrase ” A flash in the Pan” came from, along with “Keep your powder dry,” and why one should “FULLY swab the canon barrel.”

    Today I learned the rifling of a barrel could strip the bullet to a diameter smaller than the lands’ diameter.

    What wonders will tomorrow hold?

  3. mikee; actually loading five of six chambers AT THE SHOOTING LANE makes no sense whatsoever. The reason it’s done outside the shooting range is for safe CARRY. If you’re not lowering the hammer and holstering the piece, go ahead and load all the chambers, bring to full cock and fire. There’s no issue there. Some ranges have picked up that “five beans in the wheel” idea, not understanding it, and made it a requirement. I’ve been railing against it since I first heard it. No one can make any logical argument for it, if the scenario is that you load and immediately shoot. People leave one chamber empty at the range only to “show off” ; )

  4. I don’t know Kristophr; It would take one hell of a lot of pressure (or a poorly fit ball) to strip a ball in a 66″ (very slow) twist barrel. I’ve used 120 grains 2F in a 48″ twist 50 cal and never stripped a ball. I shoot cast lead bullets (admittedly #2 alloy, not pure lead) at 2,000 fps from a 12″ twist barrel with good results. Correct me if I’m wroing, but a faster twist will impart more torque to the ball and therefore be more likel;y to strip it, all else being equal.

    405 Winchester; 300 grains at 2200 fps, 14″ twist, 24″ barrel. Some people are getting up to 2600 fps and faster in other calibers with lead bullets using barrel twist rates far faster than 66″, and getting good results.

    I was talking Italian reproduction revolvers. I didn’t make that clear– not that it would matter much. They want you to use a load that fills the chamber only a bit more than halfway. Some instructions in the past have suggested using fillers (corn meal, etc.) to put the ball close to the cylinder face, but really? The “common wisdom” is that lower powder charges make for better accuracy. Why would that be unless it’s the shooter and not the gun? Or maybe the rifling is too fast? The 500 S&W is quite accurate, for example. If low power equals more accuracy, then I suppose we should never use anything more than a 38 S&W, or a 22 rimfire, and for certain no one would use a 45-110 (or a 338 Lapua or a 50 BMG) (unless they only want to “show off”).

    I just think the whole thing is silly. If a pistol is built to take 40 or 45 grains, and built properly, then it will be accurate using 40 or 45 grains. If all you care to do is punch holes in paper, then staying home and using a paper punch might be a good idea. You could get some really impressive groups that way too.

    Then there are the QRP ham radio operators. There, using low power has a purpose– it sharpens the other skills (antenna design, using the right frequencies at the right times, etc.).

  5. I used to be fairly heavily into competitive blackpowder shooting and fur-trade reenacting.

    Voice of experience here, Lyle. Excessive loads, a fast enough twist, and that roundball will strip.

    I started using 1 in 144″ Forsythe rifling specifically to avoid this issue when shooting 20 and 8 gauge underhammer rifles. At that point accuracy actually improved with excessive loads ( and my shoulder would never forgave me with that 8 bore rifle … ).

  6. Lyle: The stripping also included patch shredding.

    If you start shooting roundball, I strongly suggest backing off a bit.

    As for minnieballs and conicals, that is a bit of a different story. You have more surface engaging the lands there.

    BTW, 1 in 48″ is kind of a ne’er do well rate, a compromise between a good conical twist and a good roundshot twist. You might want to go to a 1 in 32″ for a longer .50 cal projectile, or even 1 in 20″ for a long projectile … and drop to a slower powder, maybe 1.5f.

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