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Wads & Patches Explained - Which Wad Do I Need For My Muzzle Loading Gun

Wads & Patches Explained - Which Wad Do I Need For My Muzzle Loading Gun
By Tom Metcalf 4 months ago 1467 Views No comments

Picking the right load is a combination of multiple components, and your choice of wadding will have an impact on the consistency of your shot.

With so many wads and patches available, how do you know you're getting the right one? Let's first start with a definition of wads and patches, then what gun or type of shooting each is suited to.


A wad is material intended to take up space in the shot column, or to separate the powder & shot. Wads have many advantages, such as providing cushioning to the shot after the initial detonation, softening and clearing fouling, and providing a tight gas seal in the bore. There are multiple kinds of wad for different applications

Suited to: Pretty much everything


Patches are simply thin pieces of fabric to wrap around a ball when used in a single shot rifle, musket or pistol. Their purpose is to provide the ball with a tight fit in the bore, to grip the rifling better. Due to this tightness, they also offer some fouling clearing benefits too. It's pretty easy to pick the right patch, as this is done in combination with your ball size.

Suited to: Single shot rifles, muskets or pistols only.

Which type of wad do I need?

Lubed Cushion Wads

Perfect for any muzzle loading shotgun. These wads provide some cushioning to the shot against the detonation of the powder to prevent shot deformation. The lubrication also makes the fouling softer and easy to manage, so you can keep shooting longer. When using these wads, you are unlikely to have difficulty loading, even after 30 or more shots.

Suited to: Muzzle loading shotguns and some larger bored rifles.

Fibre Wads

For breech loading cartridges only. These provide the same benefit as the lubed cushion wads, but for use in shotgun cartridges. They won't work in muzzle loaders though, as they're a shade undersize so as to fit in a shotgun cartridge.

Suited to: Breech loading shotguns/shotgun cartridges only.

Felt Wonder Wads (Lubed/Dry)

Suitable for providing some cushioning to the ball in single shot guns and revolvers. When used in revolvers, this also helps reduce the incidence of chainfires. The lubricant in the lubed version also helps soften fouling.

Suited to: Muzzle loading revolvers, rifles and pistols.

Card Wads (Thick)

Best suited for muzzle loading shotguns. Place over the powder and before the lubed wad in a shotgun load. These work particularly well when the gun is not going to be fired immediately, as these wads are significantly thicker than the overshot cards you can use for the same purpose. You can also use these to take up space in shotgun cartridges if using a light load.

Suited to: Muzzle loading shotguns, breech loading shotguns.

Pedersoli Hexagonal .451 Wads

For use in the Whitworth Rifle only, these wads are hexagonally shaped to fit the rifling perfectly.

Best suited to: Rifles with Whitworth rifling only.

Pedersoli Soft Wads

Thicker than the wonder wads, but for pretty much the same purpose. These are very well suited to rifles, as they offer the ball a good amount of cushioning, and can be cut down if a smaller wad is preferred.

Suited to: Muzzle loading revolvers, rifles, pistols.

Overshot Cards

Despite their name, these work either under or over the shot in conjunction with the lubed cushion wad in a muzzleloading shotgun. An overshot card directly on top of the powder will prevent powder sticking to the lubricant in the wad and not igniting, a card over the wad will prevent the shot sticking to the wad, and a card used over the shot will prevent the shot moving about in the bore as the gun is swung or carried.

Suited to: Muzzle loading shotguns, breech loading shotguns.

Patches Explained

As mentioned, a patch's primary purpose is to help the ball grip the rifling better. A patch is placed centrally on the muzzle, with a ball on top, and this is then rammed down the bore. To calculate the size of patch you need, take the actual bore diameter, and deduct the size of the ball you will use. So, a .45 rifle has a bore diameter of .450. The loading data says use a ball of .440. Therefore, 450-440=010. You therefore would use a patch .010'' thick.

Patches are useful only in guns that fire a single projectile, as a patch's sole purpose is to take up space between the ball or bullet and the barrel walls, also known as the 'windage'. Contrary to popular belief, patches are never used in muzzle loading revolvers as the balls in such guns should be oversized, and swaged into the chamber when loading. Only ever use wads in a muzzle loading revolver.

You can use either dry or lubricated patches, though in my experience lubricated patches offer so much advantage over dry ones in terms of fouling management and ease of loading, I'd always choose lubricated. A patch can be used in conjunction with a wad, for example in a muzzle loading rifle, you may load with powder, then wad, then a patched ball, the two providing a different and separate benefit to the shot. A patch is not a substitute for a wad, and vice versa.

Choosing the right patch depends on the difference between the bore diameter and the ball you will use, which can vary from gun to gun. Some simple mathematics, as above, is required to deduct one from the other, to find the right patch thickness, though this is usually between .005'' and .015'', and there is some permissible leeway. Any thinner patch than .005'' is delicate and difficult to load, and can snag on the crown of the barrel and tear. Any thicker than .015'' may not grip the rifling true, you may be better off using a larger ball.

NB, there are exceptions, one notable exception being the Baker Rifle, which performs well with a ball wrapped in greased chamois leather, the patch in this case being around .020''-.025''. Do not be afraid to experiment with different thicknesses of patch, the patched ball should be tight to load, but should offer only slight resistance once started in the muzzle.

Click here to view our full range of patches, suitable for all calibres of single shot rifles and pistols.

For more related blogs, see below.

Which Nipple Key Do I Need For My Percussion Rifle, Shotgun, Pistol or Revolver?

Which Powder Flask Should I Buy For My Muzzle Loading Gun?

Brown Bess vs Charleville

How To Choose The Right Muzzle Loading Rifle Or Shotgun

Posted in: Muzzle Loading