Wednesday, January 9, 2019

guest article ( 1 of 2 articles today )

article 1 of 2 today
Black Powder Guns For Survival

Previously I reviewed that homemade guns book, by that Brown fellow, so this is just another alternative that I’d like touch on. Specifically, we will be discussing non-cartridge firing breech loaders or muzzleloaders, as opposed to cartridge firing black powder guns. For a variety of reasons (felony conviction, and a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge also results in a lifetime ban) there are many that are unable to purchase conventional firearms. But you’ve made all those enemies along the way, and you’re a little closer to the ghetto than you like to be. Fear not, all is not lost. Black powder guns are declassified as firearms under the 1968 gun control act, and in most states, will ship right to your door, no questions asked. Also keep in mind that while it is legal in most cases to possess these guns, any criminal act, or even a justifiable case of self defense, may result in being tried as if you did possess or use an actual firearm (More info in link at end).

Cap and Ball Revolvers

There are two major types: the Colts and the Remington's. The Colts are an open top design, and the Remington’s have a top strap over the cylinder, as does a modern revolver. Proponents in favor of the Remington will argue that the top strap adds additional strength. Personally, I think that it makes little difference, as you would be hard pressed to load a modern steel black powder revolver so hot that it will come apart on you. And even in the unlikely event that this were to happen, that added top strap on the Remington’s will be of little consolation as the gun flies apart as shrapnel in your hands and face. One major advantage of the Remington is that the cylinders are designed to be replaced quickly, but aside from this advantage, the Colt is a superior designed weapon in my opinion. The cap and ball revolver provides you with 6 shots typically (Though some are 5 shooters) so you do have a little more fire power at your disposal, and some of the longer barreled models can reach out fairly effectively to around 75 yards. Sometimes you will see brass framed cap and ball revolvers being sold. Brass framed revolvers are generally less costly, but also have less strength, and can possibly warp or stretch from firing hotter loads, though with lighter loads, they should be fine. Still, if at all possible, spend a little extra and get a steel framed revolver. A typical .44 cap and ball revolver is said to be about equal to a standard .38 special load. A typical .36 caliber is said to be about equal to a .22 long rifle. There are exceptions to the above however. For example, a .44 Colt Walker revolver can hold a whopping 60gr powder charge, but most .44’s max out at about a 30gr maximum powder charge. Yes, you can purchase a cartridge conversion cylinder for the more popular cap and ball revolvers, that will convert your gun to fire modern center fire cartridges, and will slip right into your gun without modification. But keep in mind that the moment you place one into your gun, it becomes a firearm, and is then subject to the same regulations. The conversion cylinders are also very expensive, and for the price of one, you can usually purchase another gun, or several spare cap and ball cylinders, or shooting supplies. You will have to decide what is a better use of your funds. With the cartridge conversion cylinders, you are limited to low velocity cowboy loads, and the manufacturers specify that they are not to be used in brass framed guns.

As one might expect, the .44 cal is the best suited for self defense. However, I can think of a few reasons where it would be advantageous to have the smaller .36 and .31 calibers. The little .31 cal typically uses around 10 grains of powder, so a 1lb can of powder would provide a lot of target practice (7000 grains in 1lb, so 7000/10 = 700 shots per can of powder. The .36 has a typical starting load of about 15 grains, so only slightly more powder than the .31. Some cap and ball enthusiasts have reported using appropriately sized buckshot for their .31 and .36 cal guns, and with good success. It’s also far cheaper to buy an 8lb bag of buckshot over the round balls that are 100% pure lead, and are sold specifically for these revolvers. However, it should be noted that buckshot is generally harder, containing around 7% antimony, so it may be necessary to load the cylinder off of the gun to prevent from damaging the ramming mechanism of the revolver.

Black powder Shotguns

Black powder shotguns are an excellent close range self defense weapon. Unfortunately, black powder shotguns have really gone up in price over the years, and would likely be out of the price range of most financially challenged survivalists. You might be able to pick up a reasonably priced used model at a gun show or a swap meet, if you keep your eyes open. If you happen to have handyman skills, it might be worth looking into building your own (Again, refer to the Brown book linked below). Black powder, being a low pressure propellant, is very forgiving to the home built gun, so this is not as scary as it sounds.

Breech loading percussion rifles

There are a few black powder rifles that are designed to be loaded from the breech. The most common models that fit this example are the percussion Sharps, and the Smith Carbine. Often times a rolled paper cartridge is utilized, and the shooter need only place a percussion cap on the gun to fire it. As one might imagine, such guns are much faster to fire than a muzzleloader. Unfortunately, as with the percussion shotguns, they too are quite expensive. I only mention them for the survivalist that has a little extra to spend. The standard percussion Sharps rifle (i.e not the shorter carbine) has great long range potential in the hands of those that are capable.

Muzzleloading percussion rifles

There are two major types available. The old fashioned side lock such as the Kentucky or Hawken rifles (My personal favorite) etc, or the inline. One advantage of the more modern inline’s is that they are typically a break action (not to be confused with a breech loader) and when closed, they close up tight, and better seal and protect the percussion cap or primer from the elements. They also usually offer a hotter ignition system in the form of a 209 shotgun primer, allowing for more versatility with a variety of modern black powder substitutes (some of which are harder to ignite than the traditional black powder, but offer greater advantages in other ways). You can also load them pretty hot. Most of the inline rifles will take a standard 150gr powder charge. Now it should be noted that when they advertise as being capable of firing a 150gr charge, that they really mean that they can take 150gr of the powder pellets, not loose powder, which would be around 30grs less than this amount. I seem to recall reading that the modern inline rifle with a 150gr charge is about on par with a .30 .30 Winchester, so these guns are quite capable of taking large game. A quick glance over at Cabela’s indicates that you can pick up an inline rifle for quite a bit less (Around $200) than a traditional side lock, so I would have to suggest that this would be a better use of your funds.

In closing, it’s important to note that black powder is a low pressure/energy propellant. Therefore you cannot expect the same performance from these guns as a modern smokeless powder firearm. The old black powder guns often made up for this by having much longer barrels, (necessary to efficiently burn the less effective black powder charge) large bores, and by firing heavy projectiles, therefore adding much weight, and more energy transfer to the shot. These guns also have a very high trajectory, which seems to increase exponentially once you get out past a 100 yards or so. That’s why you will often see the old long range black powder rifles (Sharps, Ballard, Hepburn, Springfield, etc) fitted with the Creedmore long tang sights to compensate for this trajectory. To my knowledge, there are no scopes that will compensate for that kind of trajectory, so black powder shooting much past a few hundred yards requires good eyesight in conjunction with a tang sight. Despite the disadvantages inherent to these guns, some of the old black powder rifles were capable of some very accurate shooting at tremendous ranges.

One of the more spectacular examples of 19th century marksmanship, was performed by a fellow by the name of Billy Dixon at the Battle of Adobe Wells. Billy and his companions were greatly outnumbered by the natives, and facing certain death. Billy then placed in his sights, the chief of said tribe, and let loose with his .50 caliber Sharps, at a range later paced off to be 9/10ths of a mile. The other natives upon witnessing the sudden “weight loss” of their leader (courtesy the “.50 Cal Sharps weight loss program”: a common, though understandably, less popular diet among the native at the time :D ) had lost all will to fight, and decided to head for safer hunting grounds :D

In closing, no, I am not a felon. But I also don’t take kindly to having to get permission from the govt to own a firearm for what should be a basic human right to protect myself or my family. I do own firearms, but they have been in the family for a long time, and were acquired long ago, minus any paper trail. I also don’t believe that if someone made a mistake, and paid for that mistake, that should never have the right to defend themselves ever again.


Most Frequently Asked Firearms Questions and Answers (Touches on the legality of muzzleloaders in most jurisdictions within the US).


  1. Blackpowder.

    My buddy Idaho Bill has a 2,400-yard range for his CheyTac 408. And he has several Sharps replicas in 45-120 and 45-150. The drop-tube for hand-loading the brass at the bench is probably two-feet to assist compaction.

    "Aim for the moon!" is a common encouragement to shooters transitioning from carts to smokers. The trajectory is nowhere near flat.

    Fun stuff. But after a couple rounds, nobody can see anything. I have a hard time imagining a battle with dozens or hundreds of smokers going off semi-simultaneously. Gives a different meaning to [cough].

    I burrowed-in behind the .408 expecting recoil equal to a Barrett .50 Browning or worse. After my first trigger-pull == about us$6 each == I about busted-up laughing. Softer than a .243.

    A united states Marine was anxious to try it with his .50 suppressor; cross-threaded or something, we never determined the reason, his suppressor ended-up a couple hundred yards down the gully. Gives new meaning to 'different strokes'.

    I also have a hard time imagining 300 million firearms taken by force from a hundred.million.murcans. Any jungle village of sub-literate peasants a thousand km from the nearest government agents has deep stacks of AK47 variants.

    They government agents rule for one reason only:
    They amuse us.

    1. As covered in my shortly upcoming "Don't get on the short bus" series, the gov doesn't need to take your guns. The Blue Brigades ( civilians of the AmeriCommieParty )will, if you stay in the wrong area.

    2. Thanks for the comment LM. I myself have a .45-120. It weighs 13-1/2 lbs, and recoil is very slight. If I had to do over, I would have purchased the .45 cal percussion Sharps (as opposed to the cartridge firing model) as I had originally set out to do. Why? Well, brass for the obsolete 45-120 was around $80 for 20, the last time I bought some, and this was many years ago. I also had to purchase the die set for reloading. I made my own drop tube. Also, the percussion model is just as good, and involves no paper trail nonsense.

      I have great respect for those old time long distance shooters of yesteryear. At one point, once the bullet gets out there so far, bullet trajectory is literally dropping in feet, for every so many feet traveled. They not only had to compensate for that massive trajectory, but also had to account for any wind. Not an easy task, and those dudes have my respect.

      This might be an item of interest Jim (Sorry, I couldn’t find an Amazon link for it). It’s an old timey, mechanical range finder (It requires the use of simple math).

    3. I had no idea they made that primitive range finder. Most cool. And pretty cheap, not being plastic.

  2. Man, I'd love to get into black powder. It looks like a blast.

  3. I don't have anything to add about black powder, not having shot it myself. This is merely for the person who doesn't have a firearm and wishes to defend their home from inside their home. First, identify where the invaders are most likely to enter your residence and prepare a position from which to launch your defense that provides cover, or at least some concealment.

    The first shot is with a crossbow with a good broadhead mounted to the bolt. This is your aimed, deliberate shot. There won't be enough time to reload it so set it down and pick up your stick bow, or if you're a yuppie, your compound bow. A 40-45# draw weight is about right. All of your arrows should have broadheads of course. You'll still be aiming with your bow, but it's a little easier to miss than with the first aimed shot from the crossbow. Assuming the invaders are still pouring in, continue to fire your bow until they close the distance. Then, you need a sturdy spear. I recommend the Cold Steel Boar Spear.
    This is some quality kit you can stake your life on. Assuming they are still entering the building, and someone is able to bypass the spear, draw your belt-mounted machete or large knife for your last resort defense.
    Peace out

  4. @Dingo. Blackpowder is mucho fun! I’ll put it to you this way. If all that I had were my blackpowder guns, I’d be happy. They are not ideal for defense when compared to modern weaponry, but once you learn your way around them, misfires would be very unlikely, and they are quite dependable. I think that you would really enjoy having one, but they require a bit of patience, being slow loading, messy, and requiring a good deal of clean up at the end of a shooting session.

    @Peace out. Thanks for the comment, and that’s great advice. I would feel pretty well protected with my archery equipment as well; the only drawback being that they are not as ready on the go, unless of course they are in hand, with an arrow nocked. But as you say, that’s where the large knife or spear comes into play.

  5. This article didn’t quite receive the reception that I thought it would. I guess no one is really into black powder. It’s understandable I suppose. No one else that I know in real life ever was either, including my father, who introduced me to firearms. I must have watched too many old episodes of the The Beverly Hillbillies, and found myself digging Jed Clampett’s rifle a little too much (Recall that he had a Kentucky Long Rifle, or at least it looked like one). We’d go down to the rifle range (This was in the early 1970’s) and there was always a group of old timey dudes down there shooting their black powder rifles, and they were decked out in old buckskins of the period too! I was hooked! I wanted a rifle, but mistakenly read the price as lower than it was. My father informed me that the rifle that I was looking at was a $175! That was a lot of money in the 1970’s, so I ended up getting a black powder revolver instead from Gemco (Remember them?) that cost $85 that we put on lay away. Yes, even $85 was more than my dad could spare at once at that time.

    Anyways, that was my introduction to black powder guns. They are not practical by today’s standards, though there will come a time when they will likely be once again. I can totally see the cap and ball revolvers in a post apocalypse defensive role for ranges under a 100 yards. Have 4 or 5 spare cylinders pre-loaded, and as you’re firing them, have the women or children reloading them as you go.

    1. Here is my reasoning on BP. I can do rimfire better, cheaper, faster. If I thought it would come down to needing them, I would get the percussion maker and chemical at:
      One penny each, just correct aluminum cans. It isn't that BP is a bad idea, just that for the price it seems an indulgence.

    2. If you could practically reload the .22lr Jim, then I can’t find any fault in your reasoning. The thing is, I kinda have my doubts with regards to that .22 reloader. Perhaps if someone actually sat down and crunched the numbers, and knew exactly what the breakdown and cost would be, this would go long ways in making this determination. But right off, it seems to me that it would be better to simply buy extra, and not bother to try and reload them.

      As you mentioned in your newsletter about the used cases, I have some doubt to being able to recondition them. Yes, you can take a punch and pound it out, but in my experience, most rimfires bang the back of that case pretty good, and I have my doubts that it could ever be reconditioned to be the same. Personally, I think that it would actually be better to get the smallest centerfire that you could find, say a .22 Hornet, or similar, and reload those. Since they are designed for it, it would be more practical. I just don’t know what kind of guns you could find in those chamberings.

      One advantage to black powder I would say is that you eliminate the need for cases (which will eventually wear out) and reloading equipment. Also, being a low pressure propellant, makes it user friendly for the home built, which will eventually become a necessity.

    3. At 15k rimfire rounds, I don't think I need to reload or to stock more. Sufficient for a Forever Gun, as I switched from semi to bolt action. Some folks might want 25-50k rounds. Whatever one is comfortable with. And I can't see that being unaffordable. You can buy a LOT of factory ammo for what they want for a BP gun. I guess I just don't see a time in the future when a BP gun is going to make a lot of difference-mainly since there does not exist the infrastructure for them, or the numbers necessary.