Frontiersman For Dummies, P 3
Wait! Didn't you forget the Wonder Wads or Lube?
No, not if you are using American Pioneer Powder, Pinnacle, or 777. You may use a Wonder Wad if you wish with these powders. It will hurt nothing. But the .457 ball will seal adequately to prevent chain fire. Chain fire is really caused by loose caps, and the cylinder design of the Ruger makes that unlikely anyway. You're going to clean off any loose powder off the front of the cylinder, aren't you? They didn't use lube or Wonder Wads in the Civil War. Powder, Ball, Cap. I'm trying for the quickest, easiest method of handling this category. American Pioneer Powder, Pinnacle, or 777 make their own lube, so they don't need a Wonder Wad, Virgin Sweat, or unicorn butter or whatever shooters of the "wholly" black use to seal and lubricate their pistols.
Considering statements made on the SASS Wire, we should explain what the purpose of black powder lube is. Does it lubricate the bullet? Not really. Its main purpose is to keep fouling soft and wet so that it doesn't screw up accuracy. Well, the residue from American Pioneer Powder, Pinnacle, and 777 is wet. Sometimes using some kind of black powder lubricant doesn't hurt. Very few lubricants help, however. Generally smokeless lubed bullets work just fine with all of the above.

Wonder Wads

Wonder Wads, needed for Wholly Black and Pyrodex, not for Pinnacle, APP, and 777.

If you use Goex Cowboy (or other BP) or Pyrodex, you'll need to add a Wonder Wad. Wonder Wads are prelubricated wads, about 1/8" thick. They eliminate the need for over-ball lube and make things much less messy.

Capping the pistol at the loading table.
Now cap the pistol (at the loading table, of course, at a match. At most matches the loading of powder and ball can be done at the unloading table of the previous stage.)
This cap is in place but not seated.
The cap is in place in the photo above, but not seated.
Seating the caps using a dowel
Check each cap and press with dowel to seat adequately (This shows a 1/8" dowel. Normally I use a 1/4" dowel for cap seating). Keep your fingers behind the end of the cylinder as shown. I've never heard of an accidental discharge using this method, but if you pop that cap, all hell will break loose. Do this carefully. Caps do not need force to seat them. Do it gently.
Lower hammer over empty chamber or safety notch of empty chamber.

Aim at target and fire. I found my Old Armies to shoot at point of aim at CAS distances using round balls, so no sight adjustment was needed.

After you've shown your shotgun and rifle as being unloaded to the unloading table monitor, point one pistol up at 45°, half-cock the hammer, and check for spent caps. If necessary, pull them off with the 1870 period correct Leatherman tool (or small needle nosed pliers). When everything's unloaded, repeat the powder and ball steps at the unloading table. I used to recommend lubricating the base pin after 3-4 stages, but experiments without doing so showed no difference, so I don't think it's necessary. If the action starts getting rough, then take it out and clean, lube, and reinsert it.

Ruger Old Army after 6 stages shooting American Pioneer Powder

After 6 stages, wiped between stages, 25 gr. American Pioneer Powder. 777 and Pinnacle are equally clean


After each stage wipe off the front of the cylinder and the hammer, hammer notch, and nipples with a shop towel. If fouling around the hammer is dry and crusty, then use a shop towel wetted with Windex with Vinegar and water. If, using American Pioneer Powder, Pinnacle, or 777, you need bore cleaning between stages, something is wrong.

At the end of the day take the cylinder out. Spray it with Windex with Vinegar. Clean the nipple area with the toothbrush. Personally, I never remove the nipples. Instead I clean the outside of the nipples with the toothbrush, then turn them 180° with a nipple wrench and repeat, then retighten. Don't lube the cylinder. It's stainless. Dry it. Toothbrush fouling off the frame after dousing with Windex/vinegar. Clean and lube the base pin with lubricant of choice. Run a Bore Snake through the bore (Windex on front end, lubricant on back end). Lube with lubricant of choice. Reassemble.

While proponents of wholly black praise Ballistol for lubricant, it isn't necessary for the substitutes. I use Break Free CLP. Rowdy Yates and Cole Younger use Tri-Flo. I've used Rem Oil successfully. Currently I'm testing the military's lube (mini-guns, chain guns, machine guns), TW25B. All of these work.

Loading Stand

I have found that using a loading stand is considerably more user friendly than just holding the revolver in my hands. This one came from Dixie Gun Works, but it is available at most of the muzzle loading shops. I added the 10-hole ball holder.

Ten Hole Ball Holder on loading stand

The 10-hole ball holder is a piece of half-inch Baltic Birch Plywood with the edges rounded with a 1/4" roundover router bit. The holes were made with a Chinese Checker bit on the drill press.


Cylinder Loading Stand


I have had no luck with this kind of revolver loading stand. Rowdy Yates has used one like it successfully, but it might be that the tolerances in production are just too wide. I had to work on mine just to get it to fit the ROA cylinder. Then I was unable to depress balls with it. Rather than continue, I went back to my on-the-gun method.

Powder Inc.'s Cylinder Loading Stand

This is a cylinder loader from Powder, Inc. It is considerably more than the little one above, at $54,95, but it is worth it. It actually works and works well. Everything is adjustable, and several brass inserts are includes for different calibers. Mine came adjusted for ROAs, but with a set of brass inserts for the ram and the arbor/cylinder pin, it could handle just about anything from .31 caliber pocket pistols to ROAs, Navy and Army Colts and Remingtons. I found it cuts loading time about in half compared to loading on the gun, makes it less likely that I'll fail to put in powder, and makes it easier to keep the cylinder and frame clean. Since the cylinder is removed anyway, I find it convenient to wipe it off and to wipe off the recoil shield (cap residue) and hammer and hammer slot. I keep a rag with a spot sprayed with Windex/vinegar and water for this. The subs generally don't need this, but it really doesn't add to the loading time.

Wiped off cylinder mounted on the cylinder loading stand with tammer in empty chamber

I removed the cylinder from the gun and wiped it down, then pinned it in place by putting the rammer in the designated empty Chamber.

Chage a chamber.  put a dowel in it to mark the last chargesd chamber.  Charge the next one, etc.Charging the cylinders. The dowel in the last chamber charged tells me where I've been in case I'm interrupted. Frontiersmen traditionally man the unloading table while charging their pistols. Interruptions and kibitzers are a real problem. You need to be very OCD about the charging sequence.

Seating balls.  Do it clowckwise.

SSeating the balls. Very quick. If using Wonder Wads, compress powder and Wonder Wads in one pass, then seat the balls in the next. Ram in clockwise order. If you do it counter-clockwise, you will unscrew the arbor pin and lock up the mechanism. Visually inspect for balls in 5 chambers and reinstall cylinder into the pistol.

WARDROBE MALFUNCTIONS (problems with your nipples)
Cap jams are a problem even with Ruger Old Armies. Additionally nipples will "mushroom" from the impact of the hammer too many times. There is a cure, Treso Nipples:

Ruger nipple on left.  Treso nipple on right.

Stock Ruger nipple on the left. Treso on the right. The smaller hole allows less back pressure on the hammer, virtually curing cap jams on any well-adjusted Ruger Old Army. Additionally Tresos fit #10 Remington caps perfectly, and they're made of a very hard material, so they last longer. They do require a different wrench. I get them from Thunder Ridge Muzzleloading in packs of 6, and I use their wrench.


Marlin Cowboy, .45 Colt, American Pioneer Powder

See the article on Black Powder Substitutes for Dummies elsewhere in the website. The loading techniques shown there work for APP, Pinnacle, and 777, and, with some modifications, Pyrodex.

Stoeger Coachgun, 12 ga., American Pioneer Powder

I use a Marlin Cowboy and a Stoeger Coach Gun, the latter with a Coyote Cap action job. Virtually any good SXS will work with BP subs. I clean the shotgun's chambers after each stage with a portable chamber brush from Briley:

Briley Chamber Brush

I have also used a Cimarron '73 carbine and a Bounty Hunter II shotgun. You can probably use the rifle you use now and the SXS you already use. If you shoot a category allowing pump shotguns, then you'll need to get a double or a 1887 Winchester pump or replica. Hammer doubles and hammerless doubles are allowed. All guns are cleaned with Bore Snakes.

The above suggestions might not be the best way to shoot Frontiersman. But they are the easiest techniques I've found. If you start this way, you can move to more complicated methods, if you want to. Since I seldom have any problems with my guns other than an inability to hit the targets or shoot fast, I'm fairly confident they work. I normally go 2,000 rounds or so between pops where bangs should be, and malfunctions only occur at major matches, always because I failed to do something right.

Ruger Old Army, Pinnacle

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