I got the black powder bug last year. Wanted top play around with cap and ball, but the loaners available to me were not quite what I wanted. For one, I didn’t want to ruin someone else’s gun by accident if I ever failed to clean it properly. For another, it’s not much fun to shoot a gun that doesn’t shoot close to point of aim and, with fixed sights, the chances of either .36 or .44 I had in the studio having POA=POI were not great.
Enter Pietta .44 Target model, imported by Traditions. A fairly close replica of the Remington New Army produced from 1861 on, it’s not completely authentic and I am OK with that. For one, none of the originals were stainless. For me, this is a big plus, as gun cleaning isn’t my greatest competency.
For another, I am pretty sure that none of the originals had adjustable target rear sight or Patridge front sight. Typical cap and ball revolvers either use a notch in the hammer or in the topstrap. Topstraps are usually convex and shiny, leading to specular highlights right in the sight picture. Eight inch octagonal barrel gives ample sight radius: if I am going to deal with slow reloads, I might as well make each shot count. The choice of .44 caliber was made with the same thought.
I am also not a fan of loading five chambers out of six available for safety. This gun has historically accurate safety slots between chambers, so loading all six is just fine. The gun design makes cylinder removal fairly each, so I would be able to use an external loading stand for added convenience.
The basic load is a Pyrodex pellet equivalent to 30 grains of powder: by a happy coincidence, that’s the recommended load for 140-grain roundball with this gun. I am lazy and somewhat clumsy, so one pellet is easier for me to handle than loose powder. 0.454″ ball is slightly oversized to ensure tight obturation. And a percussion cap to set all this off. Expected muzzle velocity would be just under 900fps. Not much velocity is gained by going with round ball over a heavier, more effective conical bullet…but I am doing pure target shooting at moderate ranges, so easier loading and less recoil win over better terminal performance.
In theory, Pyrodex is a bit less sensitive than black powder. In my use, that’s a minor issue amply compensated by increased convenience.
For the same reason, pre-cut Wonder Wads are preferred as a sealant over messing with petroleum jelly. Just as I prefer digital cameras to film, I am a fan of results over process and not willing to go beyond what little concession I am making to historic authenticity by using a cap and ball in the first place.
Given the unusually cold weather around here, I wonder how much success I would have trying to cap a nipple with gloved hands. I now have enough ingredients for 100 shots. Since the solid topstrap makes the revolver more sensitive to fouling around the forcing cone, I wonder how many times I would have to clean it to go through all that powder and ball. The mildly OCD side of my mind also notes that 100 isn’t divisible by 6 without a remainder.