Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

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KirkD
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Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#1 Post by KirkD » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:26 pm

Men, the post below is a compilation of a couple old posts that were posted in the old forum or on another forum. I thought I'd like to post it here for those who might be interested. I should say that since I wrote those posts a couple years ago, I've relaxed a bit on the 'no black powder' decision. I do use it in my antique sixguns and plan to also use it in my original Springfield once I get those 500 grain bullets cast.

I've copied and pasted from some old threads where I wrote some stuff on this topic. Here it is:

Those of you who reload black powder cartridges for your antique rifles and pistols may be interested in article written by Sherman Bell in the Double Gun Journal. In this article, he measured peak pressures for both black powder and some smokeless powders. I've summarized the most interesting aspects of his experiments in the bottom part of this post.

In general, smokeless powder 2400 gives approximately the same pressure curve as black powder for the same velocity. Smokeless powders slower than 2400 will actually give lower pressure curves than black powder for the same velocity. Bell indicates that the danger in using smokeless powder is really only the danger of an overcharge or double charge, provided slower smokeless powders are used (another cartridge historian, John Kort, has found that 2400 is the crossover point ... use only 2400 or slower.)

Personally, I have reloaded and shot both smokeless and black powder in my old Winchesters dating from 1882 and on, including the '76, '86, and '94. Based on my own experience, however, before reading Bell's article, I decided that I would no longer use black powder in valuable antique rifles for the following reason: if the barrel has any pitting in it at all, even very small pits, it is impossible to completely get all the black powder residue out of those pits, with the result that the pitting will slowly get larger over the decades. Secondly, with smokeless powder such as IMR 4198, I could get the same velocities as black powder but with lower peak pressure.

I never use smokeless powders faster than 2400 in an antique firearm, not even for light loads ... the pressure peak spikes too high to risk it.

One problem I have found with using slower smokeless powders in some of my old rifles (especially a .38-55 made in 1896) is that the rifle has an oversize bore (.381) and I can only chamber bullets up to .379 without inside reaming the cases. Black powder has a high enough pressure spike to 'bump' up the bullet to fill the groove diameter, but slower smokeless powders like IMR 4198 simply could not produce high enough pressure to do that at original velocities. I found, however, that if I used a faster powder, but still slower than 2400 (IMR SR4759 in this case), I could get enough pressure to 'bump' up the soft lead bullet to fill the groove diameter for decent groups at 200 yards with iron sights.

If 'bumping' up is not an issue because your bore is not oversize, then for some cartridges, you can experiment with slower and slower powders until you find one that gives you original black powder velocities with a powder that fills the case to capacity. I've done this for my .44 Russian and know of other fellows who've done this for their .38-55's and some other obsolete black powder cartridges. The down side of this is that you use more powder (more money) but on the other hand, at least with my .44 Russian, I get very clean and consistent burning.

Bottom Line: With the right smokeless powders, a fellow can achieve original black powder velocities at lower peak pressures than black powder generates, and without the corrosive residues getting into nooks and crannies and tiny pits.

Summary of Bell's article
First, before you black powder purists take me out behind the barn and try to knock some sense into me, let me say that nothing can replace black powder when it comes to the BOOM and smoke and the rush I get everytime I fire off a black powder load. On the other hand, I have believed for some time that the right smokeless loads can give as much, or more, velocity with lower pressures than black powder, and without getting "BLACK SOOT IN MY CUSTOM 45-70" as Paco put it.[]

Pretty much all of the info below has come out of an article by Sherman Bell, published in the Autumn, 2005 edition of The Double Gun Journal, 29-42. This article explained or confirmed three things for me:

1. Why I sometimes got such wild E.S. and S.D. with IMR 3031
2. Why black powder 'bumps up' a lead bullet to fill the grooves when smokeless often did not
3. That there are potentially a lot of smokeless loads that will duplicate black powder ballistics, but with lower peak breech pressure.

The cartridge used in the test was the .450-3-1/4" Express. Pressure vs. time for each shot was measured with a strain gauge applied 1" from the barrel face and the signal analyzed and plotted with an Oehler Model 43 ballistic laboratory. Each point in the plotted measurements is an average of 5 shots. I will summarize the most telling stuff below:

A. The original black powder load of 120 grains of FFg produced a breech pressure (peak) of 21,600 psi and a velocity of 1,812 ft/sec.

B. IMR 4198, at the same breech pressure (peak) gave a velocity of 1,952 fps.

C. Reloader 7, at about the same breech pressure (peak) gave a velocity of 2,132 fps

D. IMR 3031, at about the same breech pressure (peak) gave a velocity of 2,030 fps

E. IMR 4064, at about the same breech pressure (peak) gave a velocity of 2,055 fps.

F. The interesting thing was the burning characteristics, shown in the graphs below:

Image
Image

I found this information fascinating. It explained why, for some powders, I did not get an increase in velocity if I increased the charge ... sometimes I would get a decrease. It also shed light on trouble I was having with IMR 3031 in my .45-90. I found that 50 grains of IMR 3031 under a 330 grain Gould bullet was giving me an average velocity of 1,590 but with an E.S. of 541 fps and a S.D. of 175.[:0] However, if I stuck in a single piece of toilet paper, the E.S. dropped way down. I figure the loose powder in that big case was simulating a variation in charge density, depending upon whether it was stacked up at the back, or the front, or spread out along the side of the case at firing.

G. The author stated that fillers or powder retainers are a 'necessary evil' for smokeless powder. They used a cork-gasket wad over the powder, with an air space between the cork wad and the bullet base. Personally I would not touch that with a 10 foot pole ... no air spaces between the wad and bullet for me. In my own experience, I have found that a single, or partial sheet of toilet paper significantly reduces E.S. and S.D. and enhances accuracy. I've used toilet paper quite a bit, but after reading this article, I will be using toilet paper in most of my loads involving straight-walled, BP cartridges, now that I understand better its effects.

H. The author found that some of the best groups were obtained when the pressure matched the original BP presssure of about 21,600 psi. He talked about the load 'regulating' well at this pressure.

I. He found that a good starting load for IMR 4198 was 40% of the weight of the BP load. This seems to be a rule of thumb for that powder for any larger, straight walled cartridge. For Reloader 7, the factor is 47%.

J. The saw-tooth pattern of IMR 3031 and IMR 4064 made it difficult to find an accurate load and, in general, when it came to accuracy, IMR 3031 gave mediocre accuracy. He believes it is because of the 'willy-nilly' way it burns, and that was with a cork wad. I find that when it is loose in the case, it is even worse if there is a lot of empty space. If the case is nearly full, I'd imagine that this problem is reduced somewhat.

K. IMR 4198 turned out to give the smoothest burning curve as charge was increased, with Reloader 7 a little rougher, but a lot lower pressure for a given velocity.

L. None of the burning curves curved sharply upward as charge was increased, ignoring the saw-tooth ups and downs.

M. The only danger of smokeless in BP guns is that a person puts in too much powder. Also, fast powders giving the same velocities may actually produce a much higer peak pressure than BP. That is why fast powders are better at 'bumping up' the bullet to fill groove diameter, but at the increased risk of damage to one's vintage gun.

In general, it seems that slow smokeless powders are safer in old BP guns than BP is, provided you do not overcharge the case. I stay away from faster powders such as Unique. I wish that 5744 and 2400 had been tested. I suspect that 5744 would have done very well. I also believe that 2400 is one of the better smokeless alternatives for vintage BP pistols and use 2400 in my old S&W #3 .44 Russian to give original ballistics of about 800 fps.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#2 Post by CowboyTutt » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:43 pm

Kirk, that was very informative and a definate "PRINT"!

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#3 Post by Shasta » Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:59 pm

GREAT POST! Thanks for the valuable information.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#4 Post by Griff » Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:09 pm

Thanks for the info Kirk. That was informative and confirms many things I've been told but heretofore didn't understand.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#5 Post by JReed » Tue Jun 17, 2008 9:21 pm

Way cool thanks for sharing I will have to print it off when I get home this weekend.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#6 Post by Ysabel Kid » Tue Jun 17, 2008 9:56 pm

Awesome reference post Kirk! This is the kind of information - along with the comraderie - that brought me here and kept me here (so yes, it is your fault - and others! :wink: )
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#7 Post by scr83jp » Tue Jun 17, 2008 10:36 pm

When I started using 45-70's in schuetzen matches in the 1970's I was informed by Jess Smiley(owner of javelina alox bullet lube) and several other schuetzen shooters that SR 4759 was the substitute for black powder and worked well in 45-70's.I dropped my hot linotype lead 405 gr bullets into an aluminum pan with approx a 1/2 inch of javelina lube I'd warm on my electric lee lead pot then remove them with tongs and let them drain and dry before loading or boxing them for matches.I breech loaded my cast bullets loading a primed charged case with a piece of dacron as an over powder wad in my Rem Rolling Block action with an octagon navy arms barrel topped with a Unertyl target scope.Jess & some of the other shooters were using custom built pope barreled 32-40 & 38-55 schuetzen rifles & IMR 4198 powder,they won most of the matches.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#8 Post by gamekeeper » Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:15 am

Great post! I'm going to print in anticipation of starting to reload one day when time and money allow me to start up. Thanks for sharing!
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#9 Post by rjohns94 » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:25 am

Kirk, Thanks for that. Definately one of the most informative and useful for me posts in a long time. This will be one of my print the post for sure.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#10 Post by dr walker » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:31 am

Thanks for sharing this info with us . Great post.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#11 Post by w30wcf » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:42 am

Kirk,
Great post. Original b.p. cartridge factory smokeless loadings used:
DuPont No. 1 bulk smokeless (burning rate similar to 4198)
DuPont No. 2 bulk smokeless (burning rate similar to 4227)
L&R Sharpshooter (burning rate similar to 2400 but easier to ignite since it is perforated)

Sharpshooter was developed by Laflin & Rand, then offered by DuPont after they purchased L&R. Hercules produced it from 1912 on. It was a very flexible powder and after about 1900, was THE powder that was used in most all the b.p. cartridge factory smokeless loadings including the H.V., H.P. and W.H.V. (High Velocity) cartridges. It was used right up to the 1950's, after which it was discontinued.

Photo from Phil Sharpe's Complete Guide to Handloading
Image
Fortunately, I have a small amount of this powder and recently shot some .45-70 cartridges I had loaded with it. It gave good accuracy and small velocity variation loaded loosely in the case.
Too bad it is no longer made.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#12 Post by Bluehawk » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:46 am

KIrk WONDERFUL POST Thats why I'm here at this site and have stayed for so many years with all the OTs its worth it to find a worthwhile and great report like that Its giving me answers to lots of things I have been wondering about for years . NOw I have a lot to play with in the next few weeks.
Thanx again Kirk for a great post 8) :D
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#13 Post by KirkD » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:06 am

w30wcf wrote: L&R Sharpshooter (burning rate similar to 2400)

Sharpshooter was developed by Laflin & Rand, offered by DuPont after the purchased L&R and then Hercules. It was a very flexible powder and after about 1900, was THE powder that was used in most all the b.p. cartridge factory smokeless loadings including the H.V., H.P. and W.H.V. cartridges. It was used right up to the 1950's, after which it was discontinued.

Fortunately, I have a small amount of this powder and recently shot some .45-70 cartridges I had loaded with it. It gave good accuracy and small velocity variation loaded loosely in the case.
Too bad it is no longer made.
John, that is fascinating info. Now for the big question ..... do you happen to have the load and velocity info for those 45-70 cartridges you loaded up with Sharpshooter (grains of Sharpshooter, bullet weight and chrono velocity)?
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#14 Post by w30wcf » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:42 am

Kirk,
L&R recommended 20 grs. as the .45-70 load. No velocity was given. 20 grs. gave the following velocities in U.M.C. balloon head cases in a 22" barrel - Rem 9 1/2 primers:

420 gr. bullet 20/1 .459" dia. (Lyman 457193)
fed from the magazine: 1243, 1243, 1245
powder positioned to the rear: 1270, 1260

Factory .45-70 cartridges rom the 1950's with jacketed 405 gr. bullets had an average of close to 24 grs. as the factory load.

I have since posted a copy of a picture of sharpshooter taken from Phil Sharpe's book in my previous post.

Note that the factories chose to use a powder of this burning rate over other ones available at that time. No doubt, testing showed that fast burning smokeless powders had a much sharper pressure spike and slower burning types gave too much variation at the lower pressure level that b.p. cartridges operated in.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#15 Post by Old Time Hunter » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:49 am

As always Kirk, excellent post.

Unfortunately it does not explain why in my original Trapdoors I can not get BP to bump up a plain base 405 grain sized to .458, yet a load of H4198 (generally around 28-29 grains) will. :? :? :? Yet when I loaded the 62 grains of FFg behind a 405gr (drops at 435 grains) Hollow Base sized to .459 or the dropped size of .460 they stabilize and are spot on. One thing I have noticed with smokeless though, I believe you do not get 100% burning effeciency below a certain pressure. I am guessing that is around 18k to 20k. Just an observation.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#16 Post by KirkD » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:11 am

John: Those results do look to be very close to 2400. Thanks for posting.

Old Time Hunter: I think that 28-29 grains of H4198 is going to give a higher pressure and velocity than FFg, which is why H4198 is going better at bumping up the bullet. Keep in mind that IMR 4198 (and H4198 has a similar burning rate) gives lower pressures than BP for the same velocity and bullet. In my 26" '86 45-70, 29 grains of IMR 4198 gives about 1,400 fps with a 405 cast bullet .... quite a bit faster than BP. H4198 probably wouldn't be too much different. The hollow base bullets, on the other hand, bump up much easier.

As far as burning consistency and cleanness, I find that a capacity load of smokeless burns very clean. Most loads, however, are not capacity, so I use toilet paper filler to hold the powder against the primer. This really improves the burning consistency of the powder. That is why Sherman Bell said a wad was necessary (although I'd never try a cork wad like he did .... leaving an airspace between a wad and the base of the bullet makes me very nervous.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#17 Post by w30wcf » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:18 am

Kirk,
Yes, very close. The fact that Sharpshooter was a perforated disc powder as seen in the picture would have made it easier to ignite and give a more consistant burn at the lower pressure with no filler required.

Old Time Hunter,
Hmmmm. That does seem a bit strange. B.P. definitely does have a much sharper pressure spike and thus will upset a soft bullet. In my .44-40, which has a .433" groove diameter, .429" diameter 50/1 lead/tin bullets do upset to give good accuracy with 40 grs. b.p. They are hopelessly inaccurate with smokeless.

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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#18 Post by Rimfire McNutjob » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:28 am

Wow, great post. Is there a rule of thumb for replacing BP with 2400 by weight?
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#19 Post by Nath » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:58 am

Good post Kirk, should be a sticky maybe?
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#20 Post by JerryB » Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:43 pm

Thank's Kirk,I think I'll start back on the 45-70 and see what I can do with the 5744. The loads I shot did start looking good. I tried a few in the 32-20 with cast and it was showing some promise too.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#21 Post by Hobie » Wed Jun 18, 2008 1:49 pm

Thanks for this Kirk.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#22 Post by w30wcf » Wed Jun 18, 2008 4:05 pm

Interestingly, last year on the CAS website for b.p. shooting the topic of smokeless vs b.p. came up. The b.p. gurus were saying that smokeless has the quicker pressure spike......(which is not true with powders having a burn rate of 2400 and slower).
I chimed in starting on page 3 but most of the b.p. gurus did not believe it. My handle there is w44wcf.
http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index. ... 307.0.html

Then, just recently a fellow by the name of DuckRider did some actual pressure traces of B.P., 4759 and Trail Boss on a different forum. I posted copies of his charts here. Note the slower pressure rise of 4759 as compared to b.p. and the very fast pressure rise of Trail Boss.
I certainly would not use Trail Boss in a b.p. only gun!
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#23 Post by KirkD » Wed Jun 18, 2008 4:34 pm

Fantastic info! I've been saying for over a year that, although Trailboss is a bulky powder, it is very fast and I don't have the courage to use it in my antiques. DuckRider's curves provide an example of two smokeless powders, one that is much faster than 2400 (TrailBoss) and one that is a bit slower than 2400 (IMR SR4759). They demonstrate that IMR SR4759 has a slower and lower pressure spike that BP, but Trailboss has a much faster and spikier pressure curve. Notice for Trailboss the relatively modest velocity but the massive peak! Here are the curves ... I've posted Duckrider's pressure curves below.
Image
Image
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#24 Post by Mike D. » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:02 pm

It's a lot to absorb, Kirk, but I thank you for all the great info regarding various powders. I have always been a proponent of smokeless in large volume, straight and bottlenecked cases, but not as thorough in my testing as you are. I do like 4198 and 4895, both of which work well without fillers. I have yet to go the TP route. Just stubborn and hard headed, I reckon.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#25 Post by KirkD » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:09 pm

Mike D. wrote:It's a lot to absorb, Kirk, but I thank you for all the great info regarding various powders. I have always been a proponent of smokeless in large volume, straight and bottlenecked cases, but not as thorough in my testing as you are. I do like 4198 and 4895, both of which work well without fillers. I have yet to go the TP route. Just stubborn and hard headed, I reckon.
Mike, if your loads are working fine without the TP, then I certainly wouldn't encourage you to use TP. TP works for me, but I would not recommend other people try it unless they are experienced reloaders who will take full responsibility for whatever happens. That being said, I have a couple articles my Mike Venturino where he experimented with corn meal filler in one of his '86's and had a phenomenal improvement. I haven't tried corn meal filler yet, but I'm thinking about it after reading Venturino's article. By the way, IMR 4198 is one of my favourite powders for the BP cartridges.
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#26 Post by Old Ironsights » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:50 am

I just (almost) used up a pound of H4198 doing .45/70s last night.
Now I've got to order my bulk 2400 & some RL7.

Here's what I loaded.

Image

105 - 330gr 457122s 3.1cc ea.
50 - 405gr Rainier Plated TCFPs 2.5cc ea.

Plus 39 330gr 45722HP with 3.1cc Varget ea (finished that can too).

All on a Lee Loader. :mrgreen:

Tonight I'm doing a few of the 450gc and 10 - 600gr LBT WFNGCs...

I'm debating on using 1.9cc (25gr-ish IIRC) for the 600s and 2.5cc for the 450s...

Anybody shot anything as large as the 600? That sound like a reasonable load?
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Re: Smokeless Powder in Black Powder cartridges

#27 Post by Hobie » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:54 pm

w30wcf wrote:Note the slower pressure rise of 4759 as compared to b.p. and the very fast pressure rise of Trail Boss.
I certainly would not use Trail Boss in a b.p. only gun!
http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index. ... 300.0.html

w30wcf
Which I've said all along and which ScottT noted in Big Nose Kate.
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Hobie

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