2Fg vs 3Fg in black powder SAAs
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    2Fg vs 3Fg in black powder SAAs

    If you want to shoot black powder era and early smokeless era .45 Colt or .44-40 SAAs with cartridges loaded with black powder, should you use 2Fg or 3Fg? Does it matter? How about Swiss vs Goex? I have never used Swiss but I hear that it is cleaner burning and somewhat more powerful than Goex.

    Yesterday I was "celebrating" the 138th anniversary of the gunfight at the OK corral by shooting some black powder loaded .45 Colt rounds that I had loaded with a 250 grain lead round nose flat point bullets and modern solid head cases filled with Goex 3Fg. I did not measure the amount of powder by either weight or volume, I just filled the case with 3Fg to the point that I could still seat the bullet and have a slightly compressed load.

    I'll tell you what...a full case of 3Fg under a 250 grain bullet is a serious load. When firing these loads through a 1979 vintage 3rd gen gun (4-3/4 inch barrel, model P1840) the recoil was substantial, almost like a .44 magnum. Not quite, but headed that direction.

    The recoil and blast was enough that I wondered if these loads would be safe to fire in a 120+ year old SAA.

    What do people think?

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    FFFg produces more velocity than FFg. However, FFFg is usually loaded in pistols and revolvers. The US Army load was 28 grains of powder. You might try that, with a pinch of Dacron quilting on top of the powder or cream of wheat as a filler.

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    Above, is an image of black powder vs smokeless powder, the X axis is time, the Y axis is pressure. You will note that with the smokeless powder, the pressure peaks at approximately twice that of black powder. This is why smokeless powder is dangerous to fire in weaker early Colt Single Action Army revolvers. There is some nonsense out there about how this equates with the advent of the cross pin in the Single Action Army revolver, in that the cross pin equals safe to shoot using smokeless powder, such as the following:

    Colt Single Action Army (SAA) and Bisely revolvers with serial numbers
    under 182,000. I consider SAAs with serials between 165,000 and 182,000
    (1896 to 1898 production) the most desirable, since they have steel
    frames (and are thus safe to shoot modern smokeless loads), yet they are
    Federally exempt.

    Source: https://www.empirearms.com/pre-1899.htm

    I assure you this is NOT the case, and I would hesitate to fire anything other than black powder in any Colt Single Action manufactured before 1905. There is one exception to this rule I can think of, and that is you also want to make sure you fire black powder ONLY in any long flute model, these being manufactured 1913 to 1915 because these were manufactured using left over cylinders from the Colt Model 1878, and this model was discontinued in 1905. The cylinder in a long flute model might have been manufactured long before 1905. In 1905, the serial number range of a Colt Single Action Army was 261,000 to 273,000, so if earlier than that I would think twice about firing smokeless powder in one. I still have all my fingers, if that means anything.

    Swiss vs Goex? I too have heard that Swiss is cleaner burning than Goex. Not sure why this really matters as you must clean a revolver after firing black powder or else it will rust quite quickly as the burnt black powder attracts water molecules from the air (humidity). I haven't noticed much of a difference.

    FFg vs FFFg? I have heard as a rule of thumb that the larger the bore, the less F's you should use. .50 cal and cannons, Fg, below .50 cal and perhaps .35 or .40 cal FFg, and less than this, FFFg. This is a rule of thumb only and the bore diameter of an Colt Single Action Army revolver being in the .32 to .45 cal range lends itself nicely to both. Obviously, the FFFg containing smaller grains and, therefore, the density would be greater, and, consequently, there would be more powder in a round, and, presumably, greater velocity should result. Make sure always that when you load you hear the powder "crunch" when you seat the bullet, indicating some compression of the powder, as, if not, you will create a void with potentially very dangerous consequences. You can experiment with a round full of black powder or up to a bit more than three quarters full with a filler such as Cream of Wheat on top of the powder and beneath the bullet as this will affect velocity and your accuracy.

    A .45 Colt round with a 250 grain bullet and a case full of FFFg is a potent round indeed. Fun to shoot, and powerful. If anyone ever comes to the conclusion that a round is not potent because it is black powder, and not smokeless, they obviously have never fired a black powder round before.

    As far as grains to use, I have never stuck to the notion of how many grains to fill a case as a set number. For example, the original .44-40 round had 40 grains of black powder. The newer cases would hold less. I fill by volume, with enough filled, of black powder only or black powder with Cream of Wheat filler, such that it is high enough to compress 1/16" to 1/8". This differs from smokeless powder, of course.

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    I have never shot black powder loads from any of my Colts. My 1st gen is a 1909 so I can shoot modern loads. I have been temped to load some BP loads for a long time . I do have black powder as I shoot some old trapdoor Springfileds and civil war revolvers, my Hawkins etc.
    My question is does the action bind up after a few shoots ,like I have heard or is this more of an exaggeration? I was actually told an early gun should be a little looser as the black powder residue will stop the cylinder from being able to turn after a dozen shots. I have always wondered if this is true. I realize I must clean the pistol after use but wonder how many shots I can take before I a fowled action starts putting a strain on the hand and such.

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    I should have given credit to the amazing Driftwood Johnson for the image in my first post. Thumbs up, Driftwood!

    Definitely a less precisely machined revolver will be likely to bind after fouling from firing at a slower rate than one which is more precisely machined.

    Compared to Merwin & Hulbert or even Smith & Wesson New Model No 3 revolvers, the Colt SAA revolver is less precisely machined. At first, I thought the reputation of the SAA even back in the day allowed for less precise tolerances, and, therefore lower production costs. Perhaps this was true, but after firing with black powder, I now realize this may have been intentional to allow for the firing of more rounds prior to a complete and thorough strip down and cleaning.

    I don't have scientific data to prove this, but I think, in general, I can fire more rounds in a Colt SAA revolver than my New Model No 3 before I feel it's time to stop and thoroughly clean.
    superdave269 and Kurusu like this.

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    Depends on the lube used. A bullet with grease grooves that are sufficient in size, lubed with some BP lubricant will keep the gun running for a long time. Otherwise use a grease cookie.
    Swiss vs Goex? I was given half a can of Swiss FFg and while it is powerful, the fouling it creates is rockhard. On my percussion revolvers I have to use a lubricant behind the ball or swab the chambers because the balls (especially conicals) are almost impossible to seat. With a lubricant there is no fouling problem.
    To utilize the full power of the 40 grains of powder you need to fire them out of a 7.5 inch barreled SAA.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrcvs View Post
    I should have given credit to the amazing Driftwood Johnson for the image in my first post. Thumbs up, Driftwood!

    Definitely a less precisely machined revolver will be likely to bind after fouling from firing at a slower rate than one which is more precisely machined.

    Compared to Merwin & Hulbert or even Smith & Wesson New Model No 3 revolvers, the Colt SAA revolver is less precisely machined. At first, I thought the reputation of the SAA even back in the day allowed for less precise tolerances, and, therefore lower production costs. Perhaps this was true, but after firing with black powder, I now realize this may have been intentional to allow for the firing of more rounds prior to a complete and thorough strip down and cleaning.

    I don't have scientific data to prove this, but I think, in general, I can fire more rounds in a Colt SAA revolver than my New Model No 3 before I feel it's time to stop and thoroughly clean.
    The SAA binds up less quick due to the basepin bushing design. Very clever and keeps the gun up and running. I do not agree on the looser tolerances as the military had strict tolerances and the gauges continued to be used.

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    At first, I thought the reputation of the SAA even back in the day allowed for less precise tolerances, and, therefore lower production costs. Perhaps this was true, but after firing with black powder, I now realize this may have been intentional to allow for the firing of more rounds prior to a complete and thorough strip down and cleaning.
    Jim Martin once told me that he disagreed with others as to how much tolerance a Colt SAA should have. He liked more, so it would not bind up so quickly. At least that is how I recall what he told me.
    Last edited by superdave269; 10-27-2019 at 10:27 AM.

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    I should have added that I usually place a grease cookie between the powder or Cream of Wheat and the bullet. Since I nearly always do this, I really cannot comment as to how much better doing so is vs not doing so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prowbar View Post
    The SAA binds up less quick due to the basepin bushing design. Very clever and keeps the gun up and running. I do not agree on the looser tolerances as the military had strict tolerances and the gauges continued to be used.
    The military had strict tolerances. That cannot be argued, but the fit of a Merwin & Hulbert or NM No 3 is tighter than a Colt SAA revolver.

    Probably true regarding the base pin bushing. I thought the real reason for it is to allow for the easy replacement of a part that can be damaged or wear.

    This is why in the 1990's for awhile I never could understand why the separate base pin was eliminated and milled integral with the cylinder. I always thought Colt should recall these cylinders and replace with cylinders with the separate bushing.


 
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