Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Cloud Of Smoke, A Storm Of Shot

It is time to visit the Coach Gun or, as the Mafiosos call it, the Lupara. Mine is a 12 gauge with the mule ear exposed hammers, the very first of the cartridge shotguns. While it only has two shots at a time, in a shotgun that is a heck of a lot of shot. One might wonder why a double barrel instead of a pump or autoloader. The key reason is that with a mule ear double the shotgun can be loaded, for years, with all springs being relaxed. Put a layer of tape, or a condom, over the muzzles and you are loaded and ready, for years or decades. The bottom line is that if two rounds of buckshot won't at least calm things down enough to reload, run away. Fast.

Because I am a traditionalist I like the all brass shells and black powder. In rifles and pistols I give up some ballistic power with the original fodder, not so with the shotgun. One gives up nothing with black in the shotgun. Nitro or Black, the nature of the shotshell means that we don't get much past supersonic velocity anyhow and the round shot does not do much past the normal shotshell ranges, no matter the propellant.

I buy the brass shotshells from Midway. They are right there on the sidebar. My wads come from Circle Fly, that is I don't know why I can't link anything anymore, I seem to have broken something in the confuser.

The nifty thing about the all brass shotshells is that one does not need a slew of tools to load them. When I first got into them I ordered a set of hand tools from the Rocky Mountain Cartridge Company and I discovered that they don't seem to keep them in stock. So, I got my cartridge cases from Midway and my wads from Circle Fly, my shot and my one-piece plastic wads locally, I had no set of tools, yet. So, I improvised used a six inch socket extension and a 7/16 socket along with my small plastic mallet. It worked fine. Linda Lou does not need to be reminded that I simply threw that fifty dollars away. The adjustable dipper, though, is a work of art.

Let's load a few shells up and shoot somethin'. Start with an empty case, set a primer on a piece od scrap metal, or that expensive steel square from Rocky Mountain. Got your safety glasses on? Well, go get them, you want to lose an eye? I'll wait.

Good, don't come in the gun room without your glasses. Now, place the shell casing over the primer and put that socket extension in and tap it down over the primer. Start with itty-bitty taps and increase gradually, you will feet the case slide over the primer. You will get to where you can rap the primer in with only a couple-three whacks.

Now it's time for the powder. The normal powder for shotshells is FFG. I'm using Goex, it is what I can get locally. It is best to start with what we call a square load, we will use the same dipper for the powder and the shot. Three drams of black powder, by measure is right about an ounce and a quarter of shot. Because the shotgun targets in a cowboy action match are so close I have cut down a bit on my powder charges while staying at about an ounce and a quarter of shot. Start with the square load, deduct powder a bit at a time and let the patterns tell you when to quit. Generally speaking adding powder will spread a pattern while dropping a bight will tighten them up. We know we have too much powder when the patterns have holes in them.

After the powder comes the overpowder wad. This is an eleven gauge, eighth inch nitro wad. Black powder must be compressed some to work right, there are all kinds of scientific ways to compress it. Me, I put the wad down on the powder, put my socket extension back in and whack it good with the hammer. This is much faster than setting the base of the shell on the bathroom scale and pushing the wad until the scale says forty pounds. I measured the amount of compression that forty pounds gave me and that amount is three whacks with my hammer.

Now comes the rest of the wad column. I have a bazzillion half inch thick, 11 gauge fiber wads, I only use them on special occasions and with buckshot. Just for the heck of it I tried a batch of shells with the Winchester red plastic AA wads and my shotgun patterned so well I pretty much use them all the time for matches. The plastic is soft enough that the powder gases spread it out to fit the thin brass shell. With buckshot I can go either way, I prefer the half inch wads because that way there is more room for shot and powder. Once the overpowder wad is set with the right compression, the plastic or fiber wads just need to be set in, no compression needed. Just push them in until we feel them bottom out. Now for the shot, just pour the dipperful in and give the shell a shake to level it off.

Now add the overshot wad, it is a ten gauge thin card wad. Glue it in, I use Duco Cement. I tried using Elmer's, the wads came out and the shot ran all over everywhere. A lot of folks swear by Waterglass or sodium silicate. I can't get that stuff without going online and buying it by the gallon. Other folks like the hot glue guns, I thought about buying one. Then I thought about how many tubes of Duco I can buy at 97 cents each at Wally World.

I have a five pound box of number 00 buckshot so I loaded a few of those for fun, there is room for the magnum charge of twelve per shell. These rounds seem to be more effective than the Remchester low recoil buckshot loads I can buy. Note. Unless you know what your DA will do, never load your home defense guns with handloads. Fortunately mine doesn't care. My loads give me twelve blue whistlers per shell and a big cloud of smoke to hide in, too. Mainly, though, most of my black powder shotguns loads are for fun, a cloud of smoke with bright flashes of orange flame and an ounce and a quarter of birdshot, it will take down any of our knockdown targets and buy me lots of style points, too.

With birdshot and the plastic shot cup wads my gun shoots on the tight side of improved cylinder and modified pattern if I have the charge right. If I add just a. tad of extra powder, they open up to normal percentages. Using the fiber wads my patterns start with a loose IC/Mod pattern and by increasing the charge I get a cylinder/IC pattern. Of course if I increase the charge too much my patterns end up with big holes.

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