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After the somewhat recent purchase of my original Remington Creedmoor rifle, I decided after nearly 5 decades of loading smokeless powder, I'd take a leap into BP loading.
I own and shoot dozens of 1800's BP era cartridge rifles, but have always loaded them with various smokeless powders. Whenever I tell someone I don't shoot BP, I get the shocked look, and then often the "I'd never shoot those wonderful old guns with smokeless!" comment. Or the, "It's not safe to shoot those guns with smokeless!" comment.
Although I know both comments are baloney, I'm starting out on the journey to load accurate BPCR cartridges. Mainly because the club I shoot at has some long range BPCR shoots, and although I could compete with smokeless, my scores wouldn't count. And I've been told my accuracy will increase with BP also!
I've also been told that loading BP cartridges, is as easy as smokeless! Well I'm here to say that part is a big fat fib! Not that loading BP is tough, but it certainly takes far more steps to reload, shoot, and clean; both during and after shooting!
When I began this adventure I talked with several extremely good shooters, some of which are some of the best BPCR and BPTR in the country. Got great advice, but always with the caveat that, "This works for me, but you might need a different wad, different powder, different compression," etc., etc.
It seems some things are a constant in BP loading, while others vary greatly from shooter to shooter, and may work great for some guys, even though not for others! I hesitated to buy up too much of any supplies of powder, wads, etc., but on the other hand with powder getting eaten up 3x-4x as fast using BP charges of full cases, I needed to stock up pretty well!
I began with just two calibers. The .44-77SBN my Creedmoor is chambered for, and the .45-70 that I have numerous single shots chambered for, so can try them in various rifles. In an effort to save some expense I used my 3/8" hole punch to punch out coffee filter paper for an over the primer flash hole "wad". Really just to keep powder out of the primer pocket, and get consistent ignition. I ordered .030" wads from John Walters as punching them out is tedious, and his price per 1000 is cheap.
So far I'm trying various amounts of compression, and just one bullet weight and design for each caliber. A 415 gr. for the .44-77SBN, and a 526 gr. for the .45-70. Have about 40 rds. of each for both guns, with 10 rds. of each load, varying the charge, and the amount of compression too.
I built a drop tube from 3/8" aluminum tubing that's 24" long, which does a great job of ensuring all the case levels are equal when I charge each case. So the variable is how much compression, which I regulated by making charges smaller, but never so small as the bullet doesn't seat against the wad fully.
Of course this is just the loading part! Next I need to figure out the sequence for shooting, so I can control fouling. Some use a blow tube, some wipe between shots, and some use bore pigs with squeegees attached between each shot. So more choices there too! And have to figure out what works or doesn't work, without changing several things at the same time!
I think if I get lucky I wont pull all my hair out, or jump off a bridge before I figure this all out! Right now I can already tell it takes twice as long to load a case than it did to do the same with smokeless! So it better result in more than just a lot of smoke, and give me good groups too!
 
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What brand and grade of powder do you use?
For these two calibers I got 2 lbs. of Old Ensford 2f from a friend to try. But I also got lucky and got some 1 1/2 Swiss from BACO when I put in a "notify me" request and they discovered the computer was wrong, and they had 13 lbs. they didn't know about.
So once I've used up the 2f I'll be switching to Swiss 1 1/2 since Goex is defunct, and can't get anymore OE in the future.
 
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If you are going from OE to Swiss you'll need to start over. Swiss is a lot more 'vigorous' than anything else.
Yes, and not just switching to Swiss, but switching from OE 2fg to Swiss 1 1/2fg. But I've been told that even switching lots of the same BP will create differences and I might get different results doing the same exact thing I did with previous lot.
The more I play with loading BP cartridges, the more I know it's far more complicated than my smokeless loading has been for many decades!
 
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The Sw 1-1/2 is very dense and you’ll need a compression die if you chose to compress any more than maybe .030. Any more than that will deform bullets. You didn’t mention bore/ bullet diameters, I assume you throwing bullets same size as groove dia or +.001? Slug the bore and find a mould that’s throwing .001 larger.
Swiss has substantial variations between lot numbers so if you’re doing much shooting consider larger lot purchases.
Your expanding die will be critical so once you establish desired bullet diameter BACO will sell you a custom expander plug that will give you correct neck tension. They’re easy to make too, if you’re handy. This is also important with alloy choice, 30:1 /25:1 can be deformed more easily if expansion isn’t ideal. I use 30:1 and expand the case so that I could seat the bullet with firm thumb pressure. I also use a competition seating die (Redding) for consistency.
Seems like a lot of work but worth it, specially when you clean a target at 800+ yards. Good luck!
 
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The Sw 1-1/2 is very dense and you’ll need a compression die if you chose to compress any more than maybe .030. Any more than that will deform bullets. You didn’t mention bore/ bullet diameters, I assume you throwing bullets same size as groove dia or +.001? Slug the bore and find a mould that’s throwing .001 larger.
Swiss has substantial variations between lot numbers so if you’re doing much shooting consider larger lot purchases.
Your expanding die will be critical so once you establish desired bullet diameter BACO will sell you a custom expander plug that will give you correct neck tension. They’re easy to make too, if you’re handy. This is also important with alloy choice, 30:1 /25:1 can be deformed more easily if expansion isn’t ideal. I use 30:1 and expand the case so that I could seat the bullet with firm thumb pressure. I also use a competition seating die (Redding) for consistency.
Seems like a lot of work but worth it, specially when you clean a target at 800+ yards. Good luck!
I'm a bit ahead of much of what you posted, but certainly appreciate the reply! I already have multiple expander dies in three different sizes, as i have a Hornady micrometer die set for .45-70, and bought extra expanders. In addition I have a compression die also, and have tried as much as .400" compression with my original Old Ensford 2fg powder. I ended up going with only .060" compression which seemed to give me equal accuracy.
My 526 gr. Paul Jones mold drops at .458" and my groove is .457", so it's a good fit. Once expanded, and compressed, I can hand seat my bullets and just touch the rifling when chambered. I tried a small .030" jump away from the rifling, and seemed to not make a difference, so went back to touching. Using my Hornady micrometer seating die doesn't seem to do much, as the hand seated bullets seem to seat the same once the powder and wad are both compressed and seated.

I love shooting long range, but it's all been done with smokeless loads before now. I got the two pounds of OE #2fg from my friend, but got a case of Swiss 1 1/2 fg. from BACO, so that should hold me for awhile. Of course once the OE is gone I'm back to almost square one with having to work up what works best with the Swiss then.
I'm shooting the loads in my original Ballard #4 Perfection, with 34" half octagon .45-70 barrel. A minty bore, and the gun is very accurate at long range with my smokeless loads and the same 526 gr. Paul Jones bullet cast 1:25 mix.

M0b19bcl.jpg
 
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In recent development (40-65 Sharps) we noticed that the Swiss accuracy tapered off slightly once we exceed .070 compression. So I stay at that and all works well. As their lots progress I’ve noticed that the volume per charge is higher. When I first started I was using 62.3gr and only compressing the thickened of the wad .030 just seating the bullet. Now I have to use a compression die and .070 compression to get 57gr in the case. I’m using a Brooks 3groove 420 gr creedmoor bullet. Basically a 45-70 load, I do also have 4 groove version of the same also, but haven’t shot it much.
 
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What little I've loaded to date seems to be fairly easy to get close to full case capacity, and even could get slightly over with compression. I loaded up a few .44-77 SBN yesterday to start working up BP loads for my Creedmoor Roller, and found it was pretty easy to get 74 grs. of Swiss 1 1/2fg in the case with a 24" drop tube, with a Walters .030" fiber wad over powder, and still seat my 505 gr. bullet.
My Creedmoor has it's original 1873 barrel, and the chamber accepts very heavy/long bullets, but when I tested the fit, it wouldn't quite fully chamber. So I pulled the bullet and compress .040" and then reseated the bullet. It dropped in after that, so I'll load up 20 pcs. and test them before going any further.
My biggest issue now is finding a dry day that is also either Tue. afternoon or Thu. all day. Those are my only options at the club when the long range is open for shooting further than 200 yds. Otherwise I've been using the 200 y. silhouette range for testing my loads.
 
I'll be switching to Swiss 1 1/2
when I was engaged with my own 45-70 Browning 1885 repro, this gave me the best accuracy out to 300 yards. Never had opportunity to do distances beyond that though. Good luck. And SMILE!!!
 
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Have you folks used a drop tube? Not used one myself, I've not reloaded BPCR but read they are useful.

I loaded 20 cartridges without a drop tube, and was getting well below the cartridge designation with my .44-77 SBN. I think a full charge was about 62-64 grs.? I mentioned that to a friend, who asked about my drop tube, and I told him I didn't use one. His reply was, "You've got to use a drop tube!"
So I grabbed some 3/8" aluminum fuel line, and some wood, and fabricated an adjustable height tube. Redid the first rounds and got another 10 grs. of powder easily. I almost couldn't believe my eyes.
What was even more interesting was working up the dropped charge, and trying to pour it out into my scale to see how much powder was there. Just filling the case through the drop tube seemed to lock the powder granules, and I had to tap the case with a screwdriver to get the powder to exit the case!
I'm convinced you could safely load BP without a drop tube, just not sure how accurate it would be without one?
 
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