Black Powder Muzzleloading Ballistics

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Testing was done under field conditions, not lab conditions. Powder measures may be off by a full grain either way. The average velocities indicated below had spreads (deviations from the mean) that where as large as 100 ft/s. I have observed such variance with Black Powder, Black Powder Substitutes and Modern Smokeless Powder. The burning of powder is a chemical reaction. Chemical reactions in general are never 100%, even under lab conditions.  The muzzle was about 7 feet back from the chronograph to avoid interference from the muzzle-blast in the readings.

The powder loads below do not necessarily represent safe loads. There is historic evidence that 19th century revolver were often loaded to maximum capacity and they did sometimes explode as a result. This is mostly attributed to inconsistent metallurgy at the time. Refer to the manufacture's instructions for safe loads. Any loads beyond the manufacture's instructions is at your own risk.

The formula I am using to calculate energy is: 
Velocity x Velocity x Mass / 450240 = Energy in ft-lbs

The formum I am using to calculate momentum is: 
Velocity x Mass / 7000 = Momentum in ft-s

I have endeavored to understand what these computations mean in and of themselves. An energy of 300 ft-lbs should be the amount of energy needed to move a 300 lb weight vertically one foot in the air against gravity. This is not the case because a lot of that energy is lost due to inefficiencies, so the number by itself is meaningless. These calculations do provide us with a means of comparing one caliber to another under different load conditions with some constancy. After having consulted experts in physics, I have been told that if you are interested in the amount of damage the bullet does to the target pay more attention to the Energy. If you are interested in how much the target is moved or penetrated by a bullet, pay more attention to the momentum. I visualize it as the difference between whipping something (Energy ) and punching something (momentum).

My first goal was to compare my Remington .36 cal to my Remington .44 and see how the bullet weight vs velocity variations work out. The .36 had a 6.5 inch barrel while the .44 had a 5.5 inch barrel. Each group listed below is an average of 6 shots.

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 28 grains 3F Pyrodex 80 grains, .375 ball 1015 ft/s 183 ft-lbs 11.60 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 32 grains 3F Pyrodex 80 grains, .375 ball 1200 ft/s 255 ft-lbs 13.71 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 35 grains 3F Pyrodex 80 grains, .375 ball 1250 ft/s 277 ft-lbs 14.28 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 25 grains 3F Pyrodex 160 grains, Conical 816 ft/s 236 ft-lbs 18.65 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 32 grains 3F Pyrodex 130 grains, Conical 976 ft/s 275 ft-lbs 18.12 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 25 grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 130 grains, Conical 811 ft/s 190 ft-lbs 15.06 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 30 grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 80 grains, .375 ball 987 ft/s 173 ft-lbs 11.28 ft-s
.36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 23grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 160 grains, Conical 725 ft/s 186 ft-lbs 16.57 ft-s

35 grains of 3F Pyrodex filled the chambers all the way to the top.When then the 80 grain ball was seated it significantly compressed the powder. It is important to note that Black Powder does not compress like Pyrodex. You can only fit 30 grains of GOEX Black Powder into the chamber with an 80 grain ball. The compressibility of Pyrodex offers a significant advantage in revolvers. The maximum load capacity is 25 grains of GOEX Black Powder when using a 130 grain conical. The maximum load is 23 grains GOED Black Powder with a 160 grain conical.

 

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 28 grains 3F Pyrodex 138 grain, .451 ball 550 ft/s 92 ft-lbs 10.84 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 32 grains 3F Pyrodex 138 grain, .451 ball 700 ft/s 150 ft-lbs 13.80 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 32 grains 3F Pyrodex 140 grain, .454 ball 850 ft/s 224 ft-lbs 17.00 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 35 grains 3F Pyrodex 138 grain, .451 ball 875 ft/s 234 ft-lbs 17.25 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 35 grains 3F Pyrodex 140 grain, .454 ball 945 ft/s 277 ft-lbs 18.90 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 35 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 960 ft/s 292 ft-lbs 19.61 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 37 grains 3F Pyrodex 138 grain, .451 ball 950 ft/s 276 ft-lbs 18.72 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 37 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 960 ft/s 292 ft-lbs 19.61 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 42 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1019 ft/s 329 ft-lbs 20.81 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 5.5 inch 46 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1050 ft/s 350 ft-lbs 21.45 ft-s

Two things seem clear when comparing the .44 to the .36 Remington. First, big .44 chambers like to be filled with powder, otherwise there is little benefit over a .36. If you want to save on powder... just get a .36.  The second lesson learned was that it is very important to have a very tight seal. I had been using .451 balls which I was able to seat with less effort. The testing shows a significant energy change between .451 and .454. Some Revolvers, have slight differently sized chambers and a .451 may be tight enough. The important thing is that you have a tight seal that allows the pressure to build up behind the ball before it starts to move. The tight seal will be evidenced by a ring of lead being shaved off when you seat the ball and significant resistance when seating. 

No wads where used. I suspect that the velocity might have increased a little in the .44 Remington when loaded with 28 grains if a wad was used. The reason for this is because I do not believe that when the .44 Remington is loaded with 28 grains that the ball is pressed up against the powder. It is my understanding the black powder works best when it is under pressure. In the future I plan to retest the 28 grain load with a wad which acts as a space filler.

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
.44 Walker, 1847 9 inch 50 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1040 ft/s 343 ft-lbs 21.24 ft-s
.44 Walker, 1847 9 inch 60 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1117 ft/s 396 ft-lbs 22.81 ft-s
.44 Walker, 1847 9 inch 66 grains 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1238 ft/s 486 ft-lbs 25.29 ft-s

In testing the 1847 Walker, it is significant to note that the .457 ball was not oversized and did not shave off a ring when seated for a very tight fit. My overall testing has shown that a tight fit is a very significant factor that greatly increases velocity. A .460 ball would probably give a significant increase in velocity for the Walker. Unfortunalty .460 ball is not commercially available.

.44 Walker, 1847 9 inch 60 grains 3F Pyrodex 215 gr, .452 Conical 971 ft/s 450 ft-lbs 29.82 ft-s
.44 Walker, 1847 9 inch 60 grains 3F Pyrodex 210 gr, .458 Conical 1014 ft/s 479 ft-lbs 30.42 ft-s

I used a Lee Mold to cast .456 bullets. The .456 mold is marketed for the Ruger and the .450 mold is marketed for the Remington, however the .450 mold is entirely too small to create the tight fit I was looking for. The .456 mold actually casts a .452 bullet as I measured it. I was able to seat the .452 bullet with little effort and no shaving into the Walker. The .458 bullet was created from a .452 with a little creative hammering on my part. Lead is soft and easy to reshape. The wider .458 took significant effort to seat and shaved off a nice ring, reducing its weight by about 5 grains.

It is interesting to note that my walker has started to show mild stretching in the metal behind the pin that holds the two halves together. This has resulted in slightly increased barrel/cylinder gap. The gap is still thinner then a razor.

 

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
.31 Pocket, 1858 3.5 inch 15 grains 3F Pyrodex 47.5 grain, .315 ball 433 ft/s 36 ft-lbs 2.93 ft-s
.31 Pocket, 1858 3.5 inch 15 grains 3F Pyrodex 52 grain, .323 ball 770 ft/s 68 ft-lbs 5.72 ft-s

The testing of the .31 pocket pistol emphasizes the importance of a tight fit. The .315 ball is seated very easily with almost no effort (no shaving). The .323 ball on the other hand takes great effort and is infact quite painful on the hand as the short lever of the pocket pistol provides very little leverage. The .323 ball shaved off a nice ring and paid back with a significant increase in velocity for the added effort.

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 60 grains 2F GOEX Black Powder 178 grain, .490 ball 607 ft/s 145 ft-lbs 15.43 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 80 grains 2F GOEX Black Powder 178 grain, .490 ball 1318 ft/s 686 ft-lbs 33.51 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 90 grains 2F GOEX Black Powder 178 grain, .490 ball 1427 ft/s 805 ft-lbs 36.28 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 100 grains 2F GOEX Black Powder 178 grain, .490 ball 1460 ft/s 842 ft-lbs 37.12 ft-s

 

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 80 grains 2F 315 grain, .490 conical 1186 ft/s 984 ft-lbs 53.37 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 80 grains 2F 485 grain, .490 conical 986 ft/s 1047 ft-lbs 68.31 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 100 grains 2F 315 grain, .490 conical 1307 ft/s 1195 ft-lbs 58.81 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 100 grains 2F 485 grain, .490 conical 1089 ft/s 1277 ft-lbs 75.45 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 120 grains 2F 315 grain, .490 conical 1345 ft/s 1265 ft-lbs 60.52 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 120 grains 2F 485 grain, .490 conical 1234 ft/s 1640 ft-lbs 85.49 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 140 grains 2F 315 grain, .490 conical 1471 ft/s 1514 ft-lbs 66.19 ft-s
Thompson Flintlock 28 inch 140 grains 2F 485 grain, .490 conical 1345 ft/s 1948 ft-lbs 93.18 ft-s

After studying the results of the 315 grain and the 485 grain bullets in the 50 caliber Flintlock it needs to be said that... SIZE DOES MATTER.

The powder used to test the 315 and 485 grain bullets was a mix of 50% 2F GOEX BP and 50% Pyrodex RS. The reason for this mix is because I did not have enough GOEX available. I wanted the to include as much real BP as I could because BP ignitions are more reliable with Flintlocks. I did not have a single misfire.

It is also interesting to note that I was shooting the lead bullets of 315 and 485 grains into a tree-stump that was about 6 inches in thickness. No exit, but the 50 lb stump was jolted pretty good. The soft lead did a good job of expanding inside the stump and transferring the energy to the stump. The lead I recovered from inside the stump had completely deformed into an unrecognizable mass of lead. Lead used in Muzzle-loaders is 99% pure lead and much softer then the lead used in modern firearms. The soft lead bullets recovered from the tree stump were unrecognizable as bullets. It looked more like a chewed up piece of gum. This illustrated well the reason why American Civil War injuries were so horrific.

 

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
Jukar Caplock 34 inch 60 grain GOEX BP 128 grain .440 ball 920 ft/s 240 ft-lbs 16.82 ft-s
Jukar Caplock 34 inch 90 grain GOEX BP 128 grain .440 ball 1676 ft/s 798 ft-lbs 30.64 ft-s
Jukar Caplock 34 inch 90 grain 2F Pyrodex RS 128 grain .440 ball 1709 ft/s 830 ft-lbs 31.25 ft-s

It is interesting to compare the rifles loaded with 60 grains to the Walker revolver loaded with 60 grains. The Walker is twice as powerful at the same load. I attribute this to the tighter seal in the revolver. The rifles were loaded with a slightly undersized ball wrapped in a patch. The purpose of the patch is to create a seal, but as the test shows, the patch method still allows a lot of gas to escape around the ball while it is in the muzzle.

Gun Barrel Powder by Volume Bullet Weight Average Velocity Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 28 grain 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 876 ft/s 238 ft-lbs 17.83 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 28 grain 3F Pyrodex 215 grain conical 820 ft/s 321 ft-lbs 25.18 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 35 grain 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 940 ft/s 280 ft-lbs 19.20 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 35 grain 3F Pyrodex 215 grain conical 870 ft/s 361 ft-lbs 26.72 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 40 grain 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1052 ft/s 351 ft-lbs 21.49 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 40 grain 3F Pyrodex 215 grain conical 893 ft/s 380 ft-lbs 27.42 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 45 grain 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1081 ft/s 371 ft-lbs 22.08 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 45 grain 3F Pyrodex 190 grain conical 1023 ft/s 441 ft-lbs 27.76 ft-s
.44 Remington, 1858 8 inch 50 grain 3F Pyrodex 143 grain, .457 ball 1207 ft/s 462 ft-lbs 24.65 ft-s

The 215 grain conical is too long to easily fit into the 1858 Remington. The solution is to tap the flat end with an hammer over an anvil to reshape it just enough to be able to get 1/8 of the bullet easily seated by hand. It takes a little bit more effort but the results are well worth the effort.

If I could only own one handgun... it would be the 1858 Remington with the 8 inch barrel. Loaded with a light 28 grain load and a round ball, it rivals a modern .38 special. Loaded with 35 to 40 grains it rivals the modern 9mm and .45 ACP. Loaded with 45 and 50 grains it starts to approach the power of a light-end .357. At full charges it falls short of the Walker by a slim margin... but at 30% less weight at your hip.

 

Black Powder Muzzleloading Training

I teach muzzle loading in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. The class site is approximately two hours from NYC or Philadelphia. The cost of the training is $150 in the Winter and $200 in the Summer for a two hour class. The class covers all aspects of safety, loading, shooing and cleaning Black Powder Firearms. You do not need to own a Black Powder Firearm or have any shooting experience to take this class. Please contact me at Tsafa@aol.com or (347) 685-2476 to schedule a class.

www.poconoshooting.com

tsafa@aol.com

 

For comparison, here is a list of some bows and modern firearms that I have tested.

Bow Draw Weight Arrow Weight Average Speed Calculate Energy Calculated Momentum
Fiberglass Recurve 25 lbs 388 gr 86 ft/s 6 ft-lbs 4.76 ft-s
Wood Longbow 60 lbs 402 gr 120 ft/s 13 ft-lbs 6.89 ft-s
Wood Longbow 60 lbs 535 gr 104 ft/s 13 ft-lbs 7.94 ft-s

It is interesting compare a wooden longbow of hunting power to the .22 LR. The .22 LR has more Energy, but the heavier arrows have more momentum.

 

.22 Factory Ammunition

Gun Ammunition Bullet Avg Speed Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
Pheonix Pistol 3" Remington Gold 36 gr JHP 750 ft/s 45 ft-lbs 3.85 ft-s
Rifle Remington Gold 36 gr JHP 1100 ft/s 96 ft-lbs 5.65 ft-s
Pheonix Pistol 3" Federal 36 gr JHP 900 ft/s 64 ft-lbs 4.62 ft-s
Rifle Federal 36 gr JHP 1200 ft/s 115 ft-lbs 6.17 ft-s
Pheonix Pistol 3" Winchester (red box) 36 gr JHP 905 ft/s 65 ft-lbs 4.65 ft-s
Rifle Winchester (red box) 36 gr JHP 1212 ft/s 117 ft-lbs 6.23 ft-s

.22 Magnum Factory Ammunition

Gun Ammunition Bullet Avg Speed Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
NAA Mini CCI Maxi-Mag 40 gr JHP 950 ft/s 80 ft-lbs 5.42 ft-s
NAA Mini Winchster Dynapoint 45 gr JHP 820 ft/s 67 ft-lbs 5.27 ft-s
Peacemaker 5.5" CCI Maxi-Mag 40 gr JHP 874 ft/s 68 ft-lbs 4.99 ft-s
Peacemaker 5.5" Winchster Dynapoint 45 gr JHP 891 ft/s 79 ft-lbs 5.72 ft-s

9mm Factory Ammunition

Gun Ammunition Bullet Avg Speed Calculated Energy Calculated Momentum
Glock 19 Federal (brown box) 115 gr FMJ 1094 ft/s 305 ft-lbs 17.97 ft-s
Glock 19 RWS (orange black box) 124 gr FMJ 1078 ft/s 320 ft-lbs 19.09 ft-s
Glock 19 Winchester White Box 115 gr FMJ 1168 ft/s 348 ft-lbs 19.18 ft-s

9 mm Reloaded Ammunition

Glock 19 Red Dot 4.6 gr 124 gr JHP 1183 ft/s 385 ft-lbs 20.95 ft-s
Glock 19 Red Dot 4.5 gr 115 gr FMJ 1199 ft/s 367 ft-lbs 19.69 ft-s
Glock 19 Blue Dot 8.2 gr 124 gr JHP 1206 ft/s 400 ft-lbs 21.36 ft-s
Glock 19 Unique 5.5 gr 115 gr FMJ 1178 ft/s 354 ft-lbs 19.35 ft-s
Glock 19 Unique 5.5 gr 124 gr JHP 1250 ft/s 430 ft-lbs 22.14 ft-s

.357 Factory Ammunition

Taurus 5" Blazer (aluminum case) 158 gr JHP 790 ft/s 219 ft-lbs 17.83 ft-s
Taurus 5" Federal (brown box) 158 gr JSP 1040 ft/s 380 ft-lbs 23.47 ft-s
Taurus 5" Remington (white green box) 125 gr JSP 1340 ft/s 499 ft-lbs 23.92 ft-s

.357 Reloaded Ammunition

Taurus 5" Blue Dot 14.3 gr 125 gr FMJ 1475 ft/s 604 ft-lbs 26.33 ft-s

.45 ACP Factory Ammunition

Taurus 1911 Winchester (white box) 230 gr FMJ 780 ft/s 310 ft-lbs 25.62 ft-s
Taurus 1911 Federal (brown box) 230 gr FMJ 795 ft/s 322 ft-lbs 26.12 ft-s

.45 ACP Reloaded Ammunition

Taurus 1911 Unique 6 gr 230 gr HP 869 ft/s 385 ft-lbs 28.55 ft-s

 

I teach Reloading of Modern Ammunition. Reloaded ammunition can be customized to produce better results in both power and accuracy.

Contact me at tsafa@aol.com to schedule training.

www.poconoshooting.com

Swords, Guns and Fighter Jets in relation to Liberty

 

 

 

 

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