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Guess its time to learn black powder.

mitdr774mitdr774 MemberPosts: 1,426 Senior Member
As of today I am the new owner of a Michigan Arms Wolverine .54 cal muzzeloader.  Many years ago I did fire this rifle a couple times, but I barely recall it.  

Not really how I wanted to end up with one of these rifles.  

Once I have some time I plan on going to the range with my dad to figure this rifle out.  I know the powder charge to use with the round balls that came with it, but I have not loaded or fired a front stuffer in decades.


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Replies

  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,128 Senior Member
    Any idea what the twist rate is?  Any plans to hunt with it?  Lots of potential here.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    Honestly, no clue on the twist rate.  If my memory is correct these were made in the 80s.  I sat in the woods with it one winter around 20 years ago.  That's about all I really remember about this particular rifle.  This was my grandfather's that he had since it was new. I would like to find time to sit in the woods with it again though.
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 23,588 Senior Member
    That’s a fuggly BP rifle, that’s for sure. 😁
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    edited June 8 #5
    Clean out any residule oil. Isopropyl alcohol works well. Poke a needle through the nipple. Fire a couple caps. Load your charge. Tap the butt to settle the powder. Run a PBR down the barrel. I use prelubed patches for convenience. You can also make your own with varying thicknesses of denim or pollow ticking lubed with Ballistol. Cap and fire. Fired patches should be without tears or burns that prevent a 360° seal in the bore. Avoid dead air space between the loaded charge and the projectile. Shuch a space causes erratic pressure spikes. Bullets or balls should be tight on the powder. Half of the black powder will be left behind as fouling after firing. Blow hot breath down the barrel to keep it soft. Swab the bore clean as needed at the range. The rifle should be immediately flushed clean with hot water before storage and lubed with Ballistol. Petroleum hardens the fouling. Remove the nipple for cleaning and apply anti sieze grease to the threads. Black powder measures by volume from a volumetric measure. Intricate changes in the amount wount matter. Others here will be of more help with the approximate amount for a 54.. Black powder is hygroscopic. Keep it dry.
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 441 Member
    Since the BP gun subject is here, I have a question that I should know the answer to but don't, because I rarely even touch BP guns. Heavier rifle bullets require faster twist rate rifleing so why in the world do those big honkin bullets in BP guns use such slow twist rates? 
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    Bearing surface I would guess. Round balls and older conicals are light on bearing surface. My Hawken has a 1in 48" and it shoots balls or bullets well. I think the real slow twists are meant exclusively for balls. During different parts of the 19th century. Rifling was sometimes made with progressive twists and sometimes regressive groove depth. The details of witch I find interesting but rarely understand.....
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 441 Member
    That's actually the part that confuses me. Round balls would have much less contact with the rifleing so I would think you would counter that with a faster twist rate for more engagement?
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 23,412 Senior Member
    That's actually the part that confuses me. Round balls would have much less contact with the rifleing so I would think you would counter that with a faster twist rate for more engagement?
    An uneducated GUESS: Faster twist rate with little contact might result in the ball just ignoring the rifling altogether?
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,387 Senior Member
    edited June 8 #10
    I haven't shot mine in a couple years but I used to shoot Triple 7 powder. You don't have to be so anal about cleaning it if you use a non sulfer powder like 777. The problem with 777 is it's hard to ignite. So get you some Magnum caps and it will work fine. I also use Hornady SST conical bullets but I have a 1:48 twist which it will stabilize Hornady 245 grain SST bullets. My Renegade will group five of these in 3 inches at 200 yards. That's Minute of deer right there.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    That’s a fuggly BP rifle, that’s for sure. 😁
    I cant argue that one.  This was a "pre production" unit so the final production ones may have been a little sleeker, but I could be wrong.

    After some more research (didnt feel like calling my dad that late at night) these were produced from about '78 to '91.  I believe its also the first inline to use a 209 primer.  As I try to recall past conversations about it some more details start to come back.  These used Green Mountain barrels.  This one may have had a faster twist than normal production Michigan Arms rifles though.  

    Since the BP gun subject is here, I have a question that I should know the answer to but don't, because I rarely even touch BP guns. Heavier rifle bullets require faster twist rate rifleing so why in the world do those big honkin bullets in BP guns use such slow twist rates? 
    The issue seems to be when you run heavy for caliber bullets you need faster twist rates to keep the long bullets stable.  I dont know how much the round balls I have weight, but they dont fell all that heavy.  Im guessing under 300gr.

    Thank you for the suggestions guys.  I was already told the charge of double F powder with the .535" round balls is a .458 WM case worth.  I was also advised that the only 209 I should use is a Winchester that has a steel  outer shell.  It looks like I have some more cleaning supplies to add to my collection.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    You might be able to use different types of lead bullets also if PRB's aren't what you want.

    I really don't all the reasons for BP rifling twist rates. The rifling for BP has deeper grooves. The projectiles are moving at much less speed  than center fire cartridge rifles. Smokeless powder makes pressure at a progessive rate. BP makes pressure differently. All at once at ignition, if I understand what Ive read. Some antique bp rifling can also have a larger bore dimension towards the breech, choking down to a smaller diameter towards the muzzle. 
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,387 Senior Member
    That's actually the part that confuses me. Round balls would had ve much less contact with the rifleing so I would thyou would counter that with a faster twist rate for more engagement?

    The round balls have way less BC. They stabilize very easily. Long cylindrical bullets need tight twists. However, my TC Renegade has a 1:48 twist rate and it stabilizes Conicals fine.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,300 Senior Member
    What Early said about shooting and cleaning in Post #5 is good advice. 
    Twist rates: 1:48 will shoot most conicals well and patched round balls fairly well. The 1:72 twist rate was/is for patched round balls only. The twist is too slow to stabilize the longer conical bullets. Same as slow rifling twist in an AR 15 does a poor job stabilizing those 77 grain VLD bullets; not enough spin to stabilize.

    As inlines go, that Wolverine was a very fine rifle with some pretty innovative design features, and cost a lot back then when they were made. Experiment with patch thickness to get the right fit. Retrieve some patches after shooting. If the patch is burned around the rifling marks then go thicker.
    When sighting in and getting the right powder charge for the patch and ball, clean between shots with an alcohol wetted patch and then a clean patch. It keeps fouling from making it hard to push the ball/patch down the bore and fouling making you chase your zero.
    If you want to shoot pistol bullets of smaller diameter than a round ball, there are plastic sabots for that purpose, and the slower twists shoot them pretty good. 
    Easy to determine twist of barrel if it isn't roll stamped on the barrel. Tight fitting patch is run down barrel to bottom out. (cleaning rod must have rotating handle) Place masking or other tape around rod with a bit sticking up  to form a flag. Pull out cleaning rod one foot, or two feet if possible, and measure distance from muzzle to tape flag. Do the math  to get the twist rate for one turn in X inches.
    My Google-foo is weak today. Couldn't find anything on twist rate, but it's easy to determine.
    One more thing; if your rifle uses shotgun primer ignition, then use primers specifically marked as Black Powder primers for muzzleloaders. The regular shotgun primers will push the powder charge/bullet forward during ignition and cause a hard crusty ring that makes subsequent loading a dirty word.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    My dad has a Silverwolf (stainless version of the same rifle) that uses the same charge as this one.  I will plan on going to the range with my dad the first time I take it out to shoot.  I just need to find a .458 WM case I dont need to use as a powder measure.  .535" round ball, 0.015" lubed patch, .458WM case of double F, and a Winchester 209 primer (copper washed steel battery cup) is what will work well in these rifles.  I dont think I have much chance of improving on the load that has worked for it for longer than I have been alive.  The whole experience of shooting will be one that I will call new since I dont really recall much from when I shot this rifle roughly 20 years ago.

    the cleaning step will be a completely new one to me.  I am really looking forward to loading, shooting, and even cleaning this rifle.  I will for sure be coming back to this thread for reminders of what to do though.  I will have to learn to do this without my mentor there to correct any errors eventually.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    They're easy to clean. Its just time consuming and a pita to have to do it immediately.

    Make sure to reload it before approaching shot game.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    First time in the woods with it will probably be the opposite side of the hill my dad is sitting on.  If I did forget to reload im sure he would remind me.  

    The barrel unscrews from the receiver, although this one is a little tight.  It should be really easy to clean.  I just have to remember to do it right away and to make sure I dont use anything that could leave a residue that would hamper powder ignition.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 5,321 Senior Member
    That's actually the part that confuses me. Round balls would have much less contact with the rifleing so I would think you would counter that with a faster twist rate for more engagement?
    They way it was told to me a little spin is good but a lot of spin causes a lead ball to act like a be is all and you end up with a curve ball.
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,300 Senior Member
    Biggest problem with a round ball and fast twist is lack of bearing surface contacting the rifling. Too much powder = too much speed in the bore, and the patch gets stripped off the ball, partially or fully, and accuracy goes out the window. If ya gonna shoot round balls in a .50 cal. rifle with 1:48 twist, then you need to back off on the powder charge considerably. I know speed kills, but my T/C Hawken .50 caplock sure likes pushing a .490 patched round ball with 60 grains (measured, not weighed) of FFg real black powder. Deer I've shot with it didn't seem to notice the lack of Mach speed. Anyway, where I hunted in muzzle loader season, a shot longer than around 50 yards was a rarity(too leafy and thick); more like an  average of 35 yards or less.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,387 Senior Member
    edited June 9 #20
    tennmike said:
    What Early said about shooting and cleaning in Post #5 is good advice. 
    Twist rates: 1:48 will shoot most conicals well and patched round balls fairly well. The 1:72 twist rate was/is for patched round balls only. The twist is too slow to stabilize the longer conical bullets. Same as slow rifling twist in an AR 15 does a poor job stabilizing those 77 grain VLD bullets; not enough spin to stabilize.

    As inlines go, that Wolverine was a very fine rifle with some pretty innovative design features, and cost a lot back then when they were made. Experiment with patch thickness to get the right fit. Retrieve some patches after shooting. If the patch is burned around the rifling marks then go thicker.
    When sighting in and getting the right powder charge for the patch and ball, clean between shots with an alcohol wetted patch and then a clean patch. It keeps fouling from making it hard to push the ball/patch down the bore and fouling making you chase your zero.
    If you want to shoot pistol bullets of smaller diameter than a round ball, there are plastic sabots for that purpose, and the slower twists shoot them pretty good. 
    Easy to determine twist of barrel if it isn't roll stamped on the barrel. Tight fitting patch is run down barrel to bottom out. (cleaning rod must have rotating handle) Place masking or other tape around rod with a bit sticking up  to form a flag. Pull out cleaning rod one foot, or two feet if possible, and measure distance from muzzle to tape flag. Do the math  to get the twist rate for one turn in X inches.
    My Google-foo is weak today. Couldn't find anything on twist rate, but it's easy to determine.
    One more thing; if your rifle uses shotgun primer ignition, then use primers specifically marked as Black Powder primers for muzzleloaders. The regular shotgun primers will push the powder charge/bullet forward during ignition and cause a hard crusty ring that makes subsequent loading a dirty word.

    Thanks Mike, everytime I read something you and Teach write(Yeah I still read Teaches stuff on another forum) I learn something new. You and Big Al keep me coming back here and Teach keeps me going on the other forum. When I grow up I wanna be just like yall, LOL!
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    Lots of information here.  I assumed slow twist rates were due to using round balls, and I also assume this will only shoot round balls well.  I dont know the twist rate yet, but im sure its slower than would be needed for a conical bullet.  I can still buy the same model round ball as what I was given with the rifle, so that should be a good start.  Hornady .535" #6110.
  • tv_racin_fantv_racin_fan Senior Member Posts: 646 Senior Member
    You mentioned not knowing the weight of a round ball of that caliber. I believe it would be right around 230. A 530 ball is listed at 224-226 depending on who cast it.

    I prefer FFFg powder myself, adjust your load accordingly.. something like 10% less than an FFg load.  You can work up a load you think is good then shoot it over a white sheet or some paper to see how much unburnt powder you are ejecting and adjust to minimize that. Unburnt powder simply increases the recoil.

    If you do not think that ball will give the results you want there are alternatives. I suggest whatever projectile you choose be of pure lead.  There are some short "ballets" that stabilize in round ball twist barrels but offer a bit more weight in the projectile.

    Once you have worked up your load with swabbing between shots try shooting it without the swabbing to learn how many shots before loading becomes a chore and see how that effects your zero. Then you can swab every time if you like or load the second shot without swabbing and know what to expect. As has been pointed out you want to reload before you check on your prey, and you may not want to swab for that reload so you want to know what to expect from that second shot.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,128 Senior Member
    mitdr774 said:
    Lots of information here.  I assumed slow twist rates were due to using round balls, and I also assume this will only shoot round balls well.  I dont know the twist rate yet, but im sure its slower than would be needed for a conical bullet.  I can still buy the same model round ball as what I was given with the rifle, so that should be a good start.  Hornady .535" #6110.
    You're on the right track here.  The slower twist rates (1:60 or 1:66) are traditionally used for round balls.  There rules bend a bit as smaller round ball calibers often see faster (1:48) twist, but the general rule is slow twist is for soft, lead round balls.

    1:48 can do a little bit of both conical bullet shooting - limited by bullet weight length to some degree - or round balls.  Some have said that faster rate won't shoot round balls well, but there are countless internet anecdotes that refute that.  Once you get into the 1:28 twist seen in modern inlines or reproduction traditional BP gun, you're into conical bullet territory.     

    In your case, if you don't know the twist but have access to a variety of round balls and powder granulations, use a cleaning rod to determine the twist rate, or just start experimenting.  Like tv_racin_fan, I have done better with FFFg in .50 cal traditional guns vs. FFg in those same guns using real black powder.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    Knowing how my dads stainless version shoots and what he told me about this rifle, I will probably stick with the Hornady .535" round ball, 0.015" Wonder patches, Win 209 primer, and .458WM case of FFg for now.  Down the road I will probably experiment with it a little bit though.  I have no idea how old the tin of powder is, so I may have to do a test burn in the back yard at some point.  If it is suspect (I doubt it will be though) I will have to get a new tin of powder.

    Too many things to shoot and too little time.  Working 6 tens really eats up time fast.
  • VarmintmistVarmintmist Senior Member Posts: 7,290 Senior Member
    As long as the powder was sealed, it will shoot. If you know the charge that was used in the rifle before, just use that. There isnt a reason to reinvent the wheel. Round balls will take regular deer critters all day long. Unless you are finding the armored variety in your woods, just put a hole in the HVAC and it will lay down.
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 11,638 Senior Member
    Probably no reason to get a new tin of powder.  If it's kept in the can it's almost certainly good.  Getting a new can of powder isn't as simple as going to your LGS.  Storage requirements are stringent and most LGS won't carry it.

    I'm a traditionalist, myself.  Round balls, real BP.  To clean, warm soapy water is what everyone recommends.  I use hot, soapy water because the heat makes drying the barrel much quicker.  Windex also works. Followed up with Ballistol.  For lubing patches, Ballistol diluted with water is what the xperts recommend. That's good for range work, but not for hours in the woods.  So grease for reloading.  Bore Butter, while it's not loved, works pretty well and is easy to carry in your hunting bag.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,300 Senior Member
    Real black powder and Pyrodex are both hydroscopic (absorb moisture) so don't be surprised if there are lumps/clumps of powder in the sealed container. It shoots just fine, though. A little GENTLE  shaking of the container will break up those clumps.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 11,638 Senior Member
    edited June 11 #28
    I think it's only hygroscopic after being fired...the fouling is, I don't think the powder is.  I've got some OLD BP in a metal can, it's fine. There is no moisture in the can if it's tightly sealed.

    Also, BP isn't shock-sensitive, so you can put it in a paint can shaker, and it won't explode.  If you want to test the shock value of BP, put a few grains on a hard surface and hit it with a hammer...non-sparking, of course.  It won't detonate.  And static-electricity won't set it off, either.

    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    Im sure the powder is fine, I just dont know the age of the can or how well it has been sealed over the years.  If I take a small sample outside and it doesnt really go poof, I will know I need a new can.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    People did similar in the old days. Quality varied a lot. Sometimes they had handheld testers to check it. DixieGunWorks sells reproductions, but a pinch in the dirt with a match will work.

    Just two words of warning.
    Eye Brows :)
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,128 Senior Member
    Gene L said:
    I think it's only hygroscopic after being fired...the fouling is, I don't think the powder is.  I've got some OLD BP in a metal can, it's fine. There is no moisture in the can if it's tightly sealed.

    Also, BP isn't shock-sensitive, so you can put it in a paint can shaker, and it won't explode.  If you want to test the shock value of BP, put a few grains on a hard surface and hit it with a hammer...non-sparking, of course.  It won't detonate.  And static-electricity won't set it off, either.

    That's how I've seen it work.  Unfired powder that is otherwise not directly dampened will stay good pretty much forever and doesn't take much, if any moisture on out of the air.  Fired powder?  It sucks water out of the air like not much else can and will rust a barrel/pan parts in no time accordingly.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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