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Thread: Playing around with Sharps ammo.

  1. #1
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    Playing around with Sharps ammo.

    So when I first started shooting my Pedersoli 1859 Sharps I had made up tubes by rolling a simple rectangle of paper around a mandrel with a single vertical overlap seam of about 1/8". I'd use an Elmer's Glue Stick to apply some paste along the vertical edge, and then roll the paper on the mandrel. Afterwards, I used Hair Curler Paper, punched with a 1" punch, to glue end caps into the ends of the tubes. I did this for both the Pedersoli Christmas Tree bullet, as well as with the Eras Gone Richmond Sharps.



    One thing I noticed with the small ringtail on the Christmas Tree bullets was that there wasn't much engagement with the paper tube. Consequently it was not uncommon for the bullets to break free of the tubes.

    Another issue with my simple tube design was sometimes the vertical seam would burst open when I was putting the powder and wad, due to an insufficient glue bond.

    Another issue with them was that in use, because I was using reduced charges for best accuracy, there was, naturally, an air gap between the cardboard wad glued in place on top of the powder and the base of the bullet. When you pushed the bullet into the chamber, sometimes you could feel the cartridge crumple and collapse on insertion. I don't know if the bullet did not fully seat into the throat or what.

    Still another problem was that when they dried, they had a tendency to distort and not be nice round tubes. This didn't matter after you got the powder and a cardboard wad in place, but it made it finicky to get the components inside the tube anyway.

    I like the Eras Gone Richmond Sharps bullet because it has a very long heel on it, like an overgrown revolver bullet. This gives you over 1/4" engagement with the paper tube, and so they never come free from the tubes once glued in place (I use Elmer's White Glue, applied with a Q-tip shaft).

    But I still had problems with collapsing tubes, and the cartridges themselves just didn't feel rigid in the handling.

    Still, they worked well enough. I made my tubes initially out of 17 pound vellum paper. This seemed to shatter and fragment very well and there were almost never any remnants left in the chamber or barrel. I had also experimented with nitrated computer paper and while it worked very well, never leaving any ash behind, it was a hassle to make nitrated paper and I worried that the finished product was more susceptible to a cookoff than non-nitrated paper.

    With the Richmond bullet and my simple vellum tubes, I had found that 45 grains of 3F Goex gave the best group. It wasn't a fantastic group, but it was at least as good as what I got with the Pedersoli bullet, and it is much easier to cast than the Pedersoli bullet, and is two-cavity to boot, so I went with it. Plus I think it's cool to shoot a copy of a historical bullet.

    Anyway, I decided to revisit my loads and cartridge design. I took the Ordnance Manual trapezoid, and shortened it to match the chamber length of my Sharps. This resulted in a trapezoid like this:



    I originally avoided the trapezoid design for a couple of reasons. First, it seemed like it would be harder to cut out than strips of rectangles. Second, I worried that by doubling up paper in the rolling you'd end up with more ash and residue in the chamber after firing.

    Well, it turns out if you stack the pattern properly, it's no harder to cut these out with a straight edge and a razor knife than simple rectangles. You just have a couple of angled cuts to make. I basically cut out the rows first, and then cut the other lines after I have strips. You can do multiple layers at once, and so if you print out 20 pages it's possible to cut out 300 blanks in a matter of minutes.



    Another benefit of rolling trapezoids as opposed to rectangles is that due to the overlapping nature of the roll, you can roll the tubes tighter on the mandrel than you can simple rectangles, as it sort of self-tightens as you go. This makes it so that the bullet heel fits much more snugly and consistently in the tube ends during final assembly.
    Steve Sheldon
    Commander
    4th Louisiana Delta Rifles
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  2. #2
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    This is what you get:





    I made a "dipper" out of a .45 ACP case that I had expanded the case mouth on, and some twisted copper wire as a handle. This lets me stick the nose of the finished cartridge bullet into the dipper, and then dip it into lube. When you pop the bullet free, you are left with lube only where it's needed - on the driving portion of the bullet.

    These shot reasonably well. The best group was still 45 grains of 3F Goex, just like it was with the simple vellum rectangle cartridges.

    Steve Sheldon
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    4th Louisiana Delta Rifles
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  3. #3
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    I had initially made up some trapezoid cartridges using the 17 pound vellum as well as some made out of regular computer paper.

    As it turns out, the computer paper works just fine. About 1 in 5 shots left some ash residue in the chamber or barrel, but it is a very small and crispy husk that is left. If you touch it, it crumbles to dust. It's nothing that I think will cause harm to accuracy and certainly nothing that could cause any kind of bore obstruction.



    I'm pleased with this because the 17 pound vellum was kind of a specialty paper and while easily bought on Amazon I'd rather use plain old computer paper if I can. Plus the computer paper is stiffer and makes for a more rigid cartridge.

    So this worked out pretty well. 45 grains was a decent group maker off a bench at 50 yards with the Richmond Sharps. About a 3" group from eyeballing it.

    The next thing I wanted to experiment with was using some kind of filler in the cartridge between the powder and the bullet. Now the usual wisdom with the Sharps is that an air gap doesn't matter much with it in terms of safety. For one thing, it's not possible not to have an air gap in a percussion Sharps because there is a cavity in the breech block face that will never have powder in it. For another thing, the breech of a Sharps is massively strong. There is a tremendous amount of metal around the chamber, with the thickness of the chamber sleeve and the barrel itself, and the falling block design is also very strong.

    But I wondered if a filler would improve accuracy? Also, by having a cartridge that had no air gaps inside of it, it makes for a much more sturdy cartridge that resists collapsing or bending during handling or pressing into a chamber.

    I thought about using cream of wheat or some other similar powdered filler. But I didn't like the idea of trying to measure and dispense out the right amount of filler for 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 grain loads. So, I decided to try fiber wads. I like these because you can easily cut them to various lengths by just pushing a knife blade through them. They are basically pressed fiber (as the name implies) so they take zero effort to cut - they just some apart where the knife blade presses on them.

    https://www.trackofthewolf.com/List/Item.aspx/173/2

    I used the .510" diameter, .500" thick fiber wads, by Circle Fly Wads. They fit perfectly inside the 17/32 ID tubes that I roll for the Richmond Sharps bullet.

    By holding a cartridge with powder and a bullet in it up to a light, I was able to see how much gap I needed to fill, and easily cut wads, or use a full wad and a piece of a wad, to fill the gap.

    Here you can see the cartridges made up with wad(s) in place:



    The wads do seem to make an improvement in accuracy.



    In these two targets, 55 grains is on the left, 60 is on the right.



    I did not bother to shoot 65 grains again because 65 grains is the maximum case load and no filler will fit, so the original target shot above will suffice. Also at 65 grains the blast was sufficient to sometimes knock the hammer back to half-cock, so I don't want to use that load if I can help it. It's not a good group anyway.

    But you can see that at 40 grains and also at 60 grains a very good group is made. I have not run the targets through my ballistic software yet, but just eyeballing it it looks like the 40 grain load is the best, making about a 2" group. This is convenient as it turns out the 40 grain load needs exactly 1 untrimmed 1/2" wad to fill the air gap, so that makes it super easy to just drop in the wad and go. 60 grains looks pretty good too but I'll take 40 grains instead of 60 just for the cost savings.

    So, I think for now I'm going to use the trapezoid tubes, wrapped up from computer paper, and I'm going to use 40 grains 3F Goex, with a cardboard wad on top of that, followed by the fiber wad and then the Richmond bullet. Since the fiber wad will keep the cardboard wad trapped on top of the powder, I can probably skip the gluing step for the cardboard wad. Previously I would use a Q-top shaft to swizzle some Elmer's glue around the perimeter of the cardboard wad after it was in place to keep it from going anywhere.

    Steve

    Full-sized pictures here: https://imgur.com/a/PJQ6Roz
    Last edited by Maillemaker; 06-21-2020 at 04:58 PM.
    Steve Sheldon
    Commander
    4th Louisiana Delta Rifles
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    NRA Certified Muzzleloading Instructor

  4. #4
    noonanda is offline
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    Following this, got a Eras gone mold on order and will be trying this out
    Daryl Noonan
    NSSA # 14002
    !2th Regiment US Regular Infantry

    "You see in this world there are two types of people my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig!!"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonanda View Post
    Following this, got a Eras gone mold on order and will be trying this out
    Daryl,

    Your mold went out today. Thanks!
    Mark Hubbs,

    Eras Gone Bullet Molds www.erasgonebullets.com

    Visit my history/archaeology blog at: www.erasgone.blogspot.com

  6. #6
    noonanda is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by threepdr View Post
    Daryl,

    Your mold went out today. Thanks!
    Thanks alot, you Rock
    Daryl Noonan
    NSSA # 14002
    !2th Regiment US Regular Infantry

    "You see in this world there are two types of people my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig!!"

  7. #7
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    Interesting posts. I shoot a Pedersoli Sharps Carbine and Rifle. The 1:48 rate of twist likes heavy rounds and does not require a lot of powder. The Pedersoli Target Round weighs 530 g and a modified Lyman .54 caliber (455 g) are the two that work the best. The Pedersoli shoots best with 35 g 3F. The Lyman does very well with 40 g 3F. When I bought the Sharps, the dealer told me to size the rounds at .540. Dixie Gun Works website says .544. I tried both then did some experimenting. .542 did the best.

    I have a NEI Sharps mold (sort of like the Eras Gone) that casts around 450 g. Never have been able to get it to group with that round.
    Last edited by Tom; 2 Weeks Ago at 03:30 PM.

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