Black Powder Precision Rifle Gunsmith?

EDELWEISS

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In a world where armies fought with smoothbore flintlock muskets, expecting hits past 50 yards was folly. Rifles made hits at 100yards common place, 200yards easy, and with an exceptional shooter 300yards possible.


Maybe its because Ive read the Sharpe's novels about a dozen times; but Im jonesing for a (repro) Baker rifle. All the repros are smoothbore. Im sure its because of manufacturing cost; but damn when youre making one of the most important firearms in history it might be nice to really make it.

Otherwise the current repros don't seem horrible. I think they are European made because the touch hole is not drilled (making them NOT firearms) so they can be sold anywhere. Hence I guess the reason for a smoothbore. Ive seen reports of guys using them after drilling the touch hole with good results (good as a smoothbore).

Im tempted to buy one to have a rifled barrel installed; but I don't have a clue who can or would take on that job.

Next on my list is a swamped barrel Jager flintlock in at least 58 caliber; but Id prefer over 60 cal. There are a few sorta Jagers. Pedersoli makes a rifle that's more the love child of Kentucky and a Jager after a night of cheap alcohol in a hotel with hourly rates and charges extra for clean sheets. I wouldn't choose it if there was an option for a real Jager; but since theres nothing short of a full custom build as an option, Ive up'd the Pedersoli Jager to kinda hot in a slutty sorta way.
 
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Old_Longhair

Crazy Ol' Foole
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I would try contacting this guy.
Schuetzen Gun Co., PO Box 203, Drake, CO 80515, Richard McKinney specializes in building custom single shot rifles, 1874 Sharps, Remington, Winchester, etc. (970) 635-2409

I've known Richard for over 40yrs, and he is one of the best in the country. Even if he isn't interested in your project, he could well point you in the right direction.
 

Sooter76

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The idea that smoothbore muskets were wholly inaccurate is more myth than anything. True they were not as accurate as rifles but the enduring myth of their innaccuary owes more to military arms not having sights. None had rear sights an most used the bayonet lug as a front sight if they aimed at all. Even the majority of civilian arms only had a front sight until the late-1700’s. There is also the reality that most used either tow or paper as wadding. You can get much better accuracy and distance out of patching, which is what most rifle shooters of the era did.

Having said all that, I have a .62 caliber 18th Century Fusil de Chasse that I regularly shoot out to 75+ yards. I know others who can take their out farther.

The only thing I’ll add is historical blackpowder guns are not cheap... Even reproductions. My Fusil de Chasse cost more than $2000 between the kit and the craftsman who built it. My 18th Century Pennsylvania Longrifle cost $1000 for the ‘in the white’ kit and I put it together. If the one you’re looking at doesn’t have a touch hole it’s probably an Indian gun. If you want quality stay away from those. Petersoli is the big name in European reproductions but none of those to my knowledge are 100% accurate, but they are good guns.

If you’re really interested in blackpowder guns check out...


A lot of knowledgeable guys there.

Blackpowder shooting is cheap and a lot of fun.
 
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sirhrmechanic

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Try talking to Ed Hart at Blackhart guns in Connecticut.

Best I know. Former Navy Sub machinist... many, many years before he retired. He is my go-to guy for Revolutionary War precision stuff... including my Wall gun.

Ed is the best of the best. He has a Web Site... or used to.

Hope this helps. PM me with your e-mail if you want a personal introduction.

Cheers,

Sirhr
 
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EDELWEISS

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Its not MY myth, its historical FACT as stated by numerous contemporaries from Wellington to Washington; even Benjamin Franklin too, for that matter. I could list more but how'bout if I just remind you that Voltair is the one who said "God does not favor the biggest battalion; but the better shots".

YES a smoothbore musket will shoot beyond 50 yards (and a 22LR will shoot a mile), distance is irrelevant. HITTING the target is what matters. I started shooting a Brown Bess way back in 1976. Trust me my LIVE round count is over 10K with smoothbore muskets and pistols. Using paper wadding (as in prepared cartridges of the period) doesn't improve the accuracy.

British drill called for the soldiers to "present" NOT "aim". The US did say "aim" and as you say they weren't doing any better that pointing (as in using the bead on a shotgun barrel). Period tactics had BOTH sides using VOLLY FIRE to close with the enemy for a bayonet charge. Winning the battle has always been more about causing the enemy to yield the field than causing the greatest number of causalities (although I would argue causalities are a large part of causing the enemy to yield). Another issue is that it was generally considered ungentlemanly to specifically target an enemy officer. That however quickly devolved but was typically undiscussed amongst gentleman.

Thanks for the link
 

sirhrmechanic

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Oh and if you want to build one... check out The Rifle Shoppe. Their kits are first rate. And I am sure you can get a rifled barrel for a baker if you ask

FYI, their customer service is appalling... but they will come through. And their parts and kits, etc. are utterly amazing. Ed puts together a lot of their kits and parts. But you can do a lot yourself. Especially on the metal side if, like me, you are not good at the artistic part that is the wood and final shaping, engraving, etc.

Smoothbores are capable of some decent accuracy if you have a good load and a feel for the gun itself. But they are not rifled muskets... or longrifles! In good hands, though, "Minute of British Officer" was achievable with smoothbores well past 100 yards! Just ask the folks who survived (or didn't) at Saratoga!

http://therifleshoppe.com/catalog_pages/english_arms/baker_rifles.htm

Eventually, I want to do one of their C.M. Hall Rifles. I own a really interesting miniature C.M. Hall... the only miniature ever done with the Battle of Plattsburgh plate on it. And the only rifles in history every gifted by Congress to a unit that won a battle. Each gun was given to the boys (and a few men) who won the Battle of Plattsburgh. One is on display in their museum. Eventually, I want a full-size replica and for this, I will have Ed Hart build it... though I will do the metalwork.

7061403

A great project Edelweiss. And while the above thread has an interesting debate in it... everyone is currently right.

And since there is no time like the present... I think it's time for me to start my Hall project. So I'll be e-mailing them now!

Again... don't expect overnight, second day air from The Rifle Shoppe. They are, honestly, more artists than businesspeople. But their repro kits are utterly amazing. Be patient... ask nice... and they will make lots of muzzleloader dreams come true! Again, PM me and I'll be glad to make first hand intros. Not sure it will help, but it will not hurt!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

EDELWEISS

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The RIFLE SHOP is on my list to call.

Yeah I kinda figured the "no drilled vent hole" guns were from India or Pakistan. I have handled a couple. I place them in the not baaaaaaaaad category, certainly not a top tier but shootable once drilled. OTOH I did see one that had a gap between the breech plug and the barrel (wasn't screwed in all the way).

My original thought was to see if I could use one of the "repros" and replace it with a rifled barrel. Now Im starting to have doubts. I still think that would be the easy (cheap) button. I had a buddy whos a shooter but not in to BP say that 62 cal is the same as 20ga and suggested having the muzzle threaded for 20ga rifled choke tube---at least you gotta be impressed with the thinking out of the box????
 

Sooter76

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Its not MY myth, its historical FACT as stated by numerous contemporaries from Wellington to Washington; even Benjamin Franklin too, for that matter. I could list more but how'bout if I just remind you that Voltair is the one who said "God does not favor the biggest battalion; but the better shots".

YES a smoothbore musket will shoot beyond 50 yards (and a 22LR will shoot a mile), distance is irrelevant. HITTING the target is what matters. I started shooting a Brown Bess way back in 1976. Trust me my LIVE round count is over 10K with smoothbore muskets and pistols. Using paper wadding (as in prepared cartridges of the period) doesn't improve the accuracy.

British drill called for the soldiers to "present" NOT "aim". The US did say "aim" and as you say they weren't doing any better that pointing (as in using the bead on a shotgun barrel). Period tactics had BOTH sides using VOLLY FIRE to close with the enemy for a bayonet charge. Winning the battle has always been more about causing the enemy to yield the field than causing the greatest number of causalities (although I would argue causalities are a large part of causing the enemy to yield). Another issue is that it was generally considered ungentlemanly to specifically target an enemy officer. That however quickly devolved but was typically undiscussed amongst gentleman.

Thanks for the link
Just because an erroneous belief persists since the earliest days doesn’t preclude it from being wrong...

1) Wellington, Washington, and Franklin all lived in a period when troops were not taught to aim but fired in mass formation. Accuracy was not a concern.

2) As I already stated there were no sights on military muskets, so even if they were taught to aim accuracy would have been haphazard at best.

3) I didn’t mention it but military arms used balls that were several sizes too small to allow for loading of a fouled barrel. As an example, the French Charleville musket has a .69 caliber barrel but troops were issued .62-66 caliber lead balls. Not exactly a recipe for good accuracy.

4) I never said paper wadding improves accuracy, I actually said the opposite. Paper wadding is horrible at providing a suitable packing to prevent pressure from escaping around the too small ball. What I actually said was patched balls (cloth patches coated in a lube and wrapped around the lead ball) used by riflemen of the late-18th Century

Bottom line is all of the above listed issues will severely hamper accuracy.

And when I say that I regularly shoot at 75+ yards I’m not talking about just shooting in the wind, I’m talking about grouping and hitting what I aim at. Yes, you’re not gonna get the same accuracy as you would with a Pennsylvania Rifle but smoothbarrels are capable of much better accuracy than myth would have you believe. If I can do it, and others can consistently take them farther accurately, using essentially the same guns, then the problem isn’t with the smoothbore barrel but the lack of sights/aim, too small balls, and poor pressure capture.
________________________________________

Rifle Shoppe has some of the best and most accurate kits available but you could literally be waiting years for your order to be filled... I’m not kidding.
 

EDELWEISS

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I think we come from different camps regarding BP weapons. You are absolutely correct you can get better accuracy from muskets with better (modern loading methods and materials). I was thinking more traditional or at least traditional-esque loads.

I would be interested in hearing what size groups you’re getting at longer distances
 

Sooter76

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I think we come from different camps regarding BP weapons. You are absolutely correct you can get better accuracy from muskets with better (modern loading methods and materials). I was thinking more traditional or at least traditional-esque loads.

I would be interested in hearing what size groups you’re getting at longer distances
It's not really modern methods or materials. The use of patched round ball (PRB) was very much in use by those with rifles by the time of the Revolutionary War (ie. civilian hunters), and while there is no definitive proof of it being used in smoothbore guns it seems likely that it was, at least by some. As well, while rear sights don't appear on the majority of civilian guns, they weren't uncommon either. Also, civilians tended to use the correct size ball for their bore (unless loading shot). The point is, civilians who relied on these guns to defend their homes and put food on their tables, and who didn't have the benefit of shooting in massed ranks, needed to squeeze the most accuracy from their guns... And they found out how.

I use pillow tickling for patches, mink oil tallow, and .610 size lead balls... The same stuff they used in the 18th Century for PRB. After finding the sweet spot with powder grains (some go further finding the exact thickness of patching their gun likes and more) I can group 5 shots on a paper plate at 100 yards. Certainly good enough to hit a man sized target. That said, I usually limit my hunting range to 75 yards at most. I did know a guy in Texas that could do the same out to 150 yards, but he's been shooting BP guns for 40+ years and is anal about finding the recipe his gun likes best and goes thru different combinations of ball size, patch thickness, powder grain, powder brand, and lube types to get the best accuracy. I'm not that anal.

I think our disconnect is that you are looking at it from a 'what the military used' perspective and I'm looking at what civilians used to achieve the best accuracy.
 

sandwarrior

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So, speaking military vs. civilian, did minie balls ever make into civilian shooting? I mean The minie was introduced in the Civil War, but by the end of the civil war, most everything had graduated to black powder cartridges.
 

Sooter76

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So, speaking military vs. civilian, did minie balls ever make into civilian shooting? I mean The minie was introduced in the Civil War, but by the end of the civil war, most everything had graduated to black powder cartridges.
That's a good question and I admit I have no idea... I'm more into 18th Century flintlocks and to a lesser extent Hawkins style Plains Rifles so it's a little outside my blackpowder wheelhouse, but I'd have to imagine with the number of surplus guns on the market after the Civil War it would have seen some use. At the same time, between the end of the Civil War and the introduction and subsequent popularity of metallic cartridges, the minie ball cartridges may have just been too expensive for too little payoff in terms of hunters for it to gain much traction in the civilian world.

By comparison, I know that caplock rifles shooting PRB, like the Plains Rifle style guns, remained popular well into the late-1800's and even early-1900's. The famous Hawken's shop in St. Louis finally closed down in 1915.
 

EDELWEISS

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It's not really modern methods

I use pillow tickling for patches, mink oil tallow, and .610 size lead balls...

I think our disconnect is that you are looking at it from a 'what the military used' perspective and I'm looking at what civilians used to achieve the best accuracy.
Well I bet we could share a few adult beverages and ave fun hashing this out and never agree but have good times.

Regarding modern methods I’m not sure there was as much interest in finding accurate loads amongst civilians as the Daniel Boone stories would suggest. It’s kinda like today most shooters are interested in making guns go bang as fast as they can or finding a good enough gun at Walmart; than ones interested in precision. The advantages of a loose fitting ball in a smoothbore being faster repeat shots would also apply to a woodsman out numbered by attacker’s — yeah I understand that hits are what really matters—so there’s got to be a balance between killing one guy and getting overrun and missing a lot.

As for your .610 caliber ball did I miss what weapon you’re using. Repeated hits on a paper plate at 75yds is impressive.

And as far as the military vs civilian thing yeah I am thinking military but I think perhaps period civilians were thinking the same way. Yes of course hitting what you aim at is important but as you say most 18th century guns didn’t have sights and certainly not a full set of rifle sights. And given a time where a fouled weapon was essentially a useless weapon then a loose ball was better then harsh words. Even the British rifle units resorted to “tap loading” a loose ball in their rifles when speed of loading was necessary.

Anyway I’ll buy the first round if we ever meet
 

Sooter76

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Well I bet we could share a few adult beverages and ave fun hashing this out and never agree but have good times.

Regarding modern methods I’m not sure there was as much interest in finding accurate loads amongst civilians as the Daniel Boone stories would suggest. It’s kinda like today most shooters are interested in making guns go bang as fast as they can or finding a good enough gun at Walmart; than ones interested in precision. The advantages of a loose fitting ball in a smoothbore being faster repeat shots would also apply to a woodsman out numbered by attacker’s — yeah I understand that hits are what really matters—so there’s got to be a balance between killing one guy and getting overrun and missing a lot.

As for your .610 caliber ball did I miss what weapon you’re using. Repeated hits on a paper plate at 75yds is impressive.

And as far as the military vs civilian thing yeah I am thinking military but I think perhaps period civilians were thinking the same way. Yes of course hitting what you aim at is important but as you say most 18th century guns didn’t have sights and certainly not a full set of rifle sights. And given a time where a fouled weapon was essentially a useless weapon then a loose ball was better then harsh words. Even the British rifle units resorted to “tap loading” a loose ball in their rifles when speed of loading was necessary.

Anyway I’ll buy the first round if we ever meet
Well... There's of course debate over how prevalent working up a load was among civilians, but it is mentioned in writings and there were enough riflemen in the Revolution that made use of accurate aimed fire that it doesn't appear uncommon. So I guess the real question would be where's the cut off between 'not unheard of' and 'common practice'. You're of course right about smaller balls being more useful when multiple quick follow up shots were needed. But that's also one of the reasons why most woodsmen tended to carry shot as well as ball. Then of course there's the practice of using 'buck and ball' which we know Rogers' Rangers employed during the F&I War and was also used by Continentals. It seems likely that the practice would have also been common among the woodsmen when necessary... But that kind of diverts from my original argument as 'buck and ball' wasn't meant for explicit accuracy.

My smoothbore is a .62 French Tulle Fusil de Chasse with a 44" barrel. I also have a .54 Pennsylvania Longrifle and Great Plains rifle also in .54. &5 yards isn't bad, but it's very doable once you take the time to properly work up a load. I also swab out my barrel after every 3rd shot, so that helps. Now the 150 yard groups the old man I knew in Texas did, that's impressive.
 
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EDELWEISS

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I contacted Rifle Shop, hoping they could swap my smoothbore barrel for one of their rifled barrels. They say no; but did send me to another builder “A J HOYT” (?). I called him but got his machine and left a message.

Meanwhile I picked up a Pedersoli “American Jaeger”. It’s sorta like a Kentucky rifle slept with a real Jaeger and this was the love child. It’s thin like a Kentucky and short like a Jaeger. It’s 54cal. I would have preferred 60+cal but this was a steal. The dealer had it for years like maybe as long as ten years and it was still marked at the original price-about half of the current retail. It scratched one itch. Next is a Hand Mortar....
 

EDELWEISS

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I have a hand mortar on order... I think I ordered it in 2016.... any day now! Two weeks ago they were 'assembling the lock' so I should see it soon.

Get yours... we can compare notes on a build!

Cheers,

Sirhr
Im guessing you ordered yours from Rifle Shop??? I wanted mine sooner (I want it I want it I want it!), so I thought Id try Veterans Arms. Im guessing from his other inventory and the cost, that its coming from India. Its only a toy, actually a prop that I can get a feel for to better describe in a book Im writing. I doubt Ill be using to attack any forts....but Im staying open.
 

EDELWEISS

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Yeah a Blunderbuss is on my list and the story was actually written with a blunderbuss in mind; but then I remembered the Hand Mortar and changed everything. Think that scene from Apocalypse Now, where they call for The Roach. Now imagine it in the 18th Century