Obsolete Black Powder Cartridges

Spec Ops Shooting

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The following section on old cartridges is the result of requests for data from you, the Accurate reloader. If we receive additional requests from you, then future editions of the Accurate Arms Loading Guide will have an expanded section for these cartridges.

Shooting the old cartridges is both challenging and satisfying. I suppose, that to a large extent, many of us have become somewhat jaded by the almost bewildering array of components available today. The combinations of these components that can be assembled into an accurate, effective load are almost infinite. It is almost too easy in some respects. The desire to take on a more difficult project is the motivation for some. Others simply want to enjoy the feeling of kinship with the shooters of a century ago by shooting a "obsolete" rifle and cartridge combination. I find it gratifying that we shooters are not casting aside part of our heritage.

Most of us satisfy this urge with a newly manufactured replica and this is as it should be. I feel that firearms were made to be shot and their numbers are a direct reflection of the law of supply and demand. There aren't enough shootable 'oldies' left, hence the market for high quality reproductions.

I want to briefly touch on some items of interest to shooters of these cartridges that we uncovered in developing this data.

The first is that there are only 6 cartridges that have current SAAMI reference ammo available to help set the pressure limits. In those cartridges for which we had no reference ammo we used the appropriate charge of "FF" black powder. The pressure generated by the black powder load became the pressure limit.

Next is the selection of propellants. As mentioned in other sections of this loading guide, most of these cartridges were designed for black powder. This means that we have a thin walled cartridge case that is not suitable for high pressures. Also, the rifles themselves may not be suitable for pressures greater than that generated by black powder. When using smokeless propellant in these cartridges we must try to achieve a loading density that will give consistent ballistics and not produce too much pressure. This sometimes places us in the position of choosing between a case full of slow rifle propel-lant or a small amount of high energy handgun propellant. Because of the danger of double charging inherent to small charge weights in large cases, the Accurate technical staff has elected to go with the slower propellants whenever possible.

A notable exception is the data for the .4440 Winchester. In this cartridge we finally settled on the loads shown using handgun propellants. The low SAAMI pressure limit has placed us in the position where we have loads shown as "USE AS IS, DO NOT REDUCE." The SAAMI limit precludes going any higher in charge weight and the low load density (and velocity) make it pointless to go any lower. We do feel that these loads will give satisfactory performance just as they are. While I am aware that there was at one time a high pressure .44-40 Winchester loading for some rifles, no ammo was available to use for a reference point.

A pleasant discovery was the fact that our 2495BR propellant gives outstanding results in several of these cartridges. It's ratio of velocity to pressure with cast bullets is just what the doctor ordered.

We feel that we have assembled consistent, safe loads that will allow shooters to put many old guns back in service again. As always, have your firearm checked by a gunsmith and given a clean bill of health and BE SURE it is suitable for smokeless propel-lant before shooting these loads.

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  • bildad
    How accurate black powder cartridge?
    7 years ago
    What is the most accurate black powder rifle cartridge?
    5 years ago

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