Powder Loads - How Do You Measure Up?
The key to good shooting with muzzle loading guns is consistency of load. Provided loading is consistent, bullets will group in one place on the target. Getting a good, consistent powder charge is central to a good shot, and a good grouping. One weight of powder may make the gun shoot 'better' than another, and it is down to the shooter to find the best powder charge for his gun.
This blog is intended for the measuring of black powder only, black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex are not to be used as equivalent measures to black powder. All the information herein is written for black powder, with no attention given to black powder substitutes.
Measurements and Nomenclature
Firstly, it is of crucial importance to address the nomenclature of black powder measuring.
Black powder is always, without exception, measured by volume. This volume is expressed in grains or drams avoirdupois. It is important not to confuse a charge measured by volume, with one measured by weight. Black powder is comparatively less dense than other powders, therefore a charge measured by weight will be of greater quantity than one measured by volume.
Rifle and pistol loads are measured by grains volume, and never by grams. A gram of weight is equal to 15 grains, which is therefore a much less precise system of measurement and therefore simply not used. When ever you see an item relating to black powder with its value measured in gn, or gr, or g, it refers to grains.
Shotgun loads are measured by drams volume. One dram in the avoirdupois system is equal to 27.34 grains. Loads for shotguns are measured in drams and parts thereof, for example 2 ¾ drams would be nominally equal to around 75 grains. Grains are infrequently used, however shotgun loads are most commonly expressed in drams.
It is therefore important to choose the right powder measuring system for the job, and there are many types available, to suit every shooting scenario.
Shotgun and Hawksley Type Flasks
Based on the famous Hawksley pattern of flask from the 19th century, our reproduction Indian made shotgun flasks are ideal for use with muzzle loading shotguns or muskets. These flasks are unique to shotguns, as they measure the weight in drams, and operate as per Hawksley's patented shutter system. Capable of measuring from 2 ½ drams to 3 ¼ drams in quarter dram increments, the Hawksley flask comes in 17 different styles, and complement original or reproduction muzzle loading guns perfectly. To see our full range of reproduction Hawksley powder flasks, click here. Replacement Hawksley powder flask tops are also available.
To operate the Hawksley flask, the flask is first filled with black powder, and the required charge set by rotating the brass collar at the top of the flask. A finger is then placed over the opening at the top, the shutter is opened with the thumb, the flask inverted, and the shutter closed. After righting the flask, the finger is removed, and the flask is checked to ensure a full charge has been deposited. Then, the charge is simply poured into the barrel via a funnel, and the rest of the shot completed.
Rifle and Pistol Flasks
Our reproduction Pedersoli powder flasks are perfect for measuring charges for use in either rifle or pistol. Available in 13 different designs, the Pedersoli powder flask is an indispensable item in your range box. The Pedersoli powder flask takes interchangeable powder spouts, so one flask is applicable for many different loadings. We have spouts available from 15-120 grains (click here to see our full range of spouts), so the shooter only need change one spout for another to be able to dispense the correct load for a different gun.
The Pedersoli powder flask operates by a shutter mechanism, so is operated in the same way as the Hawksley flask. All flasks come with a spout attached, however this may not be the correct size for your gun, so always double check you have the spout you need before going shooting. These flasks are simple to refill, either by removing the top of the flask, or by fitting a Pedersoli powder flask fill funnel.
We also sell smaller flasks that will not accept the standard spout, used for loading smaller guns, such as the Colt Pocket .31 and similar. These flasks are so similar to the original, and they look excellent in cased sets and for display.
Powder Measure Tools
In some situations, a powder flask may not be appropriate, for example when working up a load, or when an exact load is required, a powder measure can be the most appropriate solution. Our range of Pedersoli powder measures measure the charge exactly, and can be locked with the side screw to hold that charge. Measuring between 10 and 150 grains, depending on model, the Pedersoli powder measures deliver consistent powder charges every time. Some are equipped with cut offs, and funnels to ensure accurate delivery into the bore. These are commonly used for pistols and rifles. One of our best selling products is the Pedersoli tubular and tubular deluxe flask. These are perfect for range use, holding more than enough powder for a day's shooting.
Pedersoli also produce a powder and shot volume measure, and we also have an Indian reproduction powder and shot scoop available. When shooting muzzle loading shotguns, it is common to use a square load, that is, the equivalent volume of powder to shot. These measures allow quick and accurate measuring of powder to ensure the right shotgun load every time. They can also be varied between 2 to 3 ½ drams of powder and 1 to ½ oz of shot.
Pedersoli Pistol/Rifle Match Sets
Many ranges will not allow the use of powder measures or flask loading at the range, and shooters may wish to pre-measure their charges prior to shooting to ensure even better precision when at the range. Pedersoli therefore produce the pistol and rifle match sets. These are sets of 40 plastic phials to keep a pre-measured amount of powder in, kept safe in an ABS plastic box. These sets are one of our best selling products, as they allow pre preparation and consistency every time. The pistol match set can hold up to 50 grains per phial, and the rifle match set, up to 100 grains per phial. These phials are also included in the Pedersoli basic shooting set (for either flintlock or percussion guns), and the powder phials can be purchased individually. To view our range of Pedersoli phials for powder dispensing, click here.
Other Methods of Powder Dispensing
For more specialised purposes, we sell a range of powder dispensing tools to suit all occasions. For example, the Pedersoli flintlock pan primer and nipple primer are perfect for dispensing a small amount of fine powder into a flintlock's pan, or a percussion gun's nipple to aid ignition.
For more historical shooting, or to lend an authentic feel to a day at the range, we sell a range of powder horns in keeping with the spirit of the originals. The Pedersoli powder horn will accept any standard Pedersoli spout, and uses a push button mechanism, so can be used in place of any standard Pedersoli rifle and pistol flask. We also sell Indian reproduction powder horns, which have no volumetric measure. These are best utilised when priming the pan of a flintlock or matchlock with fine powder, in the same vain as the horns that would have been carried for the same purpose by marksmen in the past.
The key to good shooting is always consistency, and the proper powder load delivered by the right vessel is essential for good loading and shooting. Our range of powder measures and flasks are perfect for getting the right load and shot every time. Remember, black powder substitutes are not applicable for anything contained in this blog, this references black powder only.
All the products listed on this page are available to order from our website. To shop all Muzzle Loading Accessories, click here.