Thoughts and Considerations – March 2018

It has been a while since I posted, but I have not been out of the game, so to speak. While several other projects have taken time from me, the greatest culprit has been the weather. Rain and snow do not make for a good day shooting with a muzzleloader.

I have been keeping my thoughts on the problems I have been experiencing and have spent many moments, while my hands were busy with other things, occupying my mind with possible solutions. After much thought, I decided to throw out everything I tried, everything I have been told, and everything I thought was the problem. I started fresh by asking myself the same question I would have asked someone else.

“What problem are you trying to solve?”

A curious question you might think. Honestly, in my day job I have found that when asked to provide a solution, the first step is get the customer to clearly define the problem. When helped through the process, customers often find that the problem is something completely different than they first believed. My first task was to take a new look at where I was with my shooting, then redefine what problem I have been trying to solve.

Through this whole journey to date, the core issue I have been facing has been consistency. With both the Kerr rifle and the Whitworth rifle, I have experienced excellent groups. Good days where I report that I have a solution to my problems and bad days where I think I am back to the beginning. Always, the issue has been consistency.

I have even gone so far as to think I can not shoot worth a darn. Then, I shoot another rifle and I have no problems. Just this past Fall, I shot 39 out of 40, from 100 to 400 yards, with a borrowed Service Rifle and Wolf steel cased ammo. The groups were not something to brag about, but I was just getting used to the match quality trigger by the time the day was over. The point is, I shot the high score on the line that day.

I thought the Kerr rifle may have been the issue and bought a Pedersoli Whitworth, a rifle others have shot quite well. While my scores are better, I am still struggling with my in-ability to consistently post a good target.

“What problem am I trying to solve?”

I have experimented with different bullets following the advice that my bullet was too light, too heavy, or too blunt. I have collected multiple bullets from other shooters and many of those shooters have even provided me with bullets of their own to try.

Four winning bullets on the left, my bullets on the right.

Honestly, any of those bullets should shoot well in my rifles. The bullets given to me have all produced medals, records, and good groups in a variety of rifles.

“What problem am I trying to solve?”

I have tried Swiss 3F, 2F, 1.5F, in several charge weights, and I am still searching for a consistent group. Other shooters use Kik, Swiss, Schuetzen, and Olde Eysnford powders with success. I don’t think powder brand or granulation is my problem. No one powder shoots noticeably better than another, though the Swiss powder appears to have a bit less fouling.

“What problem am I trying to solve?”

Wads? I have tried felt, card, paper, lubed and unlubed, and no wad at all. While there can be improvement, or not, by changing wads I do not see a major difference. Combined with a solid cleaning method, I have made the greatest gains to date by using a wad of some type. I cannot yet, however, be certain of groups from one day to the next.

Asking myself all these questions, critically considering the different paths I have taken, and looking with a clear eye at the heart of the problem, I keep coming back to consistency. Not the consistency of my groups, that is the effect, but the consistency of my barrel.

“What problem am I trying to solve?”

I think it is barrel consistency. It is my belief that the problem has been staring me in the face from the beginning, and I just could not see it. Consider that a smokeless cartridge rifle will shoot to a different point of aim when the barrel is clean and dry, than it will when it is fouled. An oiled barrel, or a barrel left dirty for weeks, will sometimes shoot to a different point of aim as well. Barrel condition matters with smokeless powder and with blackpowder, it matters even more. The greater the fouling, the greater effect it will have on the shot. If I am not leaving the bore in the exact same condition between shots, I cannot expect the shot to land in the same place.

The idea first came to me a few weeks ago after a shooting session at Friendship. Things appeared to go well, some groups were acceptable, but I could not be confident in the results when I shot. I had forgotten to prepare cleaning patches the night before and found myself trying to clean the barrel with patches saturated with cleaning fluid to different levels.

Driving home I began to dissect the day’s events and I quietly criticized myself for not being prepared. Several of the better groups, I recalled, were shot with patches that had nearly no water in them. At one point, I stuck a patch and had to dribble a bit of water down the bore to free it. The next shot went wide, but the following shots were a nice clover leaf group. I had been very careful to clean the bore for the next few shots, paying close attention to the feel of the ramrod as the patch moved through the bore. That extra attention, I think, was responsible for the good group that followed.

The following weekend my lovely wife and I went to the Miami Rifle and Pistol Club, outside Cincinnati, for their monthly match. I did not take a rifle because I did not plan to shoot the match. I simply watched the other shooters as they cleaned between shots. What I saw was shooters using patches far drier than I had been using. Most were just using a spray bottle to apply cleaner. I also noticed that their cleaning patches carried a consistent amount of fouling when removed from the barrel, something I do not see with my cleaning patches. They have a consistent bore condition between shots.

I believe that is the key item that I am missing. Quite possibly, the search for solutions had so taken over my thinking, I was unable to see the big picture. To solve the problem of bore condition, I need to work out a cleaning process that will remove the fouling, or as much of it as I can, in a consistent manner between shots and be repeatable. It is important to figure out how to wipe the bore so it is in a consistent condition before the next shot, every time.

We will be investigating this concept very soon.

Posted in Equipment, Updates

2017 World Championships, Adelaide Australia – Final Results are in!

The MLAIC has posted the final, and official, results. Quite promptly I might add. Thank you to the new webmaster, Balázs.

You can find them here.

Or, a direct download for the PDF.

Congratulations to all the competitors.

Posted in 2017 MLAIC World Match, Competition

2017 World Championships, Adelaide Australia – Top Results


Well, I got banquet pictures and there is a lot of bling in the photos. I wish I had pictures from the other teams, but sadly, I do not. So, here are the USA team photos. No captions, I do not know how the photos are grouped.

As before, the provisional scores are being posted at the Sporting Shooters Association Australia website. While there are some broken links, most scores are listed and correct. I hope that the links are corrected soon. I am eager to see what the 500 meter team results were.

Congratulations to all who competed.

Posted in 2017 MLAIC World Match, Competition

2017 World Championships, Adelaide Australia – Shooting should be over!

I received word that the shooting is over, though our reporter in the field is left with only using her phone to get us information. Hopefully, I will hear more once she gets to better connectivity.

I did notice that some of the links at the Sporting Shooters Association Australia website are broken, so I do not have the results of the Team midrange match. With luck, they will get those links fixed soon.

The New Zealand Black Powder Shooters Federation website has their team’s final report posted, with more pictures. Thank you to Denise (whomever you are…) for posting those reports.

Team USA’s Girl Friday, Cindy, did send me some new photos, which I will post below.

2017 Competitors, Adelaide Australia

USA Team Photo

Team USA

Posted in Uncategorized