Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I would like to use Blue Dot in a 4-bore muzzleloader I'm building--do you have any input on this? As a machinist of 40 years I've done quite a variety of gun projects. The 4 will resemble the real early stuff, smooth bore muzzleloader etc. BUT I started with 4140 Chrome-Moly when I made the barrel and used 4345 for the breach. I was always under the impression the concern was in the steel used in these guns, am I mistaken? I am 1.700 across the flats and 1.5 at the muzzle which gives me a certain level of confidence. My shooting will be limited to 1216 gr. conical or a .875 round ball in a sabot.
Thanks for any input
Mike L. USA

Hi MIke: Interesting question. I do not have any experience loading any smokeless in a muzzleloader but in a modern rifle, with new steel, and built heavy enough to withstand the pressures generated, I do not see why it would not work. Pressure data is paramount and you can get a close approximate by taking the bullet weight and projected powder charge and comparing it to a nitro express cartridge with the same weight and style of bullet and powder charge and velocity. This is for a new rifle only--never should readers attempt this in a vintage front-loader. A second point comes to mind, your priming charge or cap should be able to ignite the smokeless powder easily. Good shooting, Cal

Hi Cal: I’m an avid hunter in Zimbabwe and come from a hunting background. But I’m a farmer and hunt in the Zambezi valley maybe once or twice a year. My dad is a PH and will be at the SCI convention. I have always dreamed of owning a double .470 or .500. I see Sabatti is making very good looking doubles and quite affordable. Can you give me advice on them ? I hear they not very accurate?I've also asked my dad to try and test a .450 or .500 Sabatti while he is over in the States. Thank you. Pieter P. Zimbabwe P.S.: I enjoy your doubles column in the African Hunter and look forward to your response. Thank you

Good day, Pieter: While I’ve had no personal experience with the Sabattis, all reports are to the positive and what limited problems I have heard of, such as poor regulation, is quickly taken care of by the importer, Cabelas. For the price I don’t think you can go wrong for this utility rifle. Good shooting, Cal

Hi Cal Thank you very much for your time and email I’m now even more excited about a double Sabatti. Im very grateful for your advise and that we have made contact and Im sure I will still ask you lots of questions and your advise is greatly appreciated. What caliber double do you think would suit me best? I weigh 80kgs and am about 5ft 6 inches tall . Would a 500 be too big for me ? Thanks Cal Pieter
Pieter: Good luck with your new rifle. As to caliber, remember everyone   (and I mean everyone) shoots lighter recoiling rifles better than heavy recoiling rifles. A .500 is nice to have (and a .577 and .600 even better) but the bottom line is one shoots better with a .450-400 than a .500. I have many big bore doubles but I hunt with a .450-400 most of the time. A Verney-Caron is also a fine double and much better made than the Sabatti but is double the money--about 12 thousand for a .470. Anyway, good luck in what every your choice is. Cheers and good shooting, Cal
Hi Cal Yes I must admit I've also been thinking long and hard about it and I agree a .450 or .470 would suit me much more. I shot my first elephant with a .450 Watts bolt action and dropped it in its tracks from a good shoulder shot, both shoulders were completely broken so it has got good hitting power.....as you know . What do you think of the .450 Pedersoli EXPS doubles? There is one for sale on Gun Broker but it has got the hammers. Thanks for your reply Cal. Pieter
Pieter: The Pedersoli are fun rifles but are cheaply made. They are ok for deer hunting and target shooting for one wanting the lowest price double there, but for big and dangerous game I would shy away. Hammers are no problem--look at the thousands for hammer rifles used 100+ years ago. But the rifles are so low priced they are made without the quality of higher priced weapons. Cheers and good shooting, Cal
Hi Cal Thanks for all your advise today sorry for bothering you . I think I  agree about the Pedersoli I must say it is cheap and even looks cheap on the photos . We will keep in contact and im sure il have more questions   for you before I finally purchase a double thank you very much for your time   and advise .have a good day. Cheers from Pieter
Cal, In a recent episode of a TV show called "Grimm" a triple barreled .600 Nitro Express was used. It was said to be chambered with twin .600 Nitro Express and a .1577 cal for the third barrel. Was a rifle like that produced? Thanks, Fred D.
Hi Fred: This is news to me and I’m lucky not to have television reception where I live in Alaska. I doubt the rifle you mention is English. It may have been produced just for the specific show you viewed or perhaps a European arm. Makers on the Continent made many 3- (and even 4)-barreled gun and rifle combinations. So, it is possible to have a double .600 with a smaller caliber centered under the big twin tubes. But, as I wrote, the combination you mention is news to me. Good shooting, Cal
Cal: I have a 4 bore flint lock, signed W. Ketland & Co 29.5 inch damascus barrel. The wall of the barrel at the end is 8 mm thick and the gun is about 16 lbs. The barrel has three proof marks and ”MA 1586” stamped on the brass but plate and on the barrel.  I believe that it is an elephant gun do you know of any other examples? John B.
Good day, John; A 4-bore rifle or shotgun? If a rifle, shorter barrel with sights. If a shotgun, a bead front sight, longer barrel (4s usually 40-44 inches) and a lighter weight (14-16 pounds compared to 16-18 pounds for a single rifle). I do not know of the maker you site but if you can send a photograph I can check with my sources and perhaps come up with an answer for you that is more complete than this. Good shooting. Cal
Cal: Hello! I have a plan that requires your input and knowledge of the great .600 nitro. I have seen a Thompson-Center Encore pistol (14" barrel) with the .600 nitro, his loads were 1670 fps with the shorter barrel, in a 24" barrel it would be 1850, Dave van Horn said he can get me a 24" barrel for the Encore, so my question is, what load would you recommend?? I'm not concerned with recoil, but I am concerned with how much the T-C Encore can take. Any info you can provide will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!! Aaron.
Aaron: Interesting question. I don’t have any experience with T-C firearms and only with vintage doubles and singles in the mighty .600. I would have a concern about pressure and the immense recoil. (A .600 is a stiff kicker in a 16-pound double so I can’t imagine shooting it in a handgun). As to loads, in a proof 28-inch barrel, to equal factory ballistics, you will need 150 grains of IMR 4831 to duplicate the 100-grain cordite charge and 160 grains of the same to duplicate the 110-grain cordite charge. All with a 900-grain bullet, of course. These loads are reduced about 100 fps in a 24-inch barrels. Good shooting, Good luck you are far more of a harry-chested he-man than I to shoot such a pistol. Check with T-C as to their recommendations as to pressure. Cal
Hi Cal: Thanks for the reply. I don't think Thompson center would provide an answer because it's not a factory barrel they offer. What kind of pressure does the 1850 fps loads produce? That may be a good starting point. Thanks again. Aaron.
Aaron; I’m going from memory here but pressure is about 15 tons. Check with Graeme Wright’s excellent book, Shooting the British Double Rifle, third edition, for pressure data. Good shooting. Cal
Cal: What can you tell me about a combination rifle and shotgun signed "P. Webley & Sons, St-James London". It has a Jones under lever and the left barrel is 10 ga and the right one is .500. Thanks, J. R.
J.R.. You have a “Cape Gun” by a quality English maker in a very desirable gauge/caliber combination. If you can send a photo I can identify it more. Cape guns were used by sportsmen as a substitute for a “ball and shot gun” or a rifled choke arm to give the user a choice of birds or game whilst hunting. A 10-gauge in the old days was what the 12 is today and the .500 black powder express ideal for soft-skinned game up to the big cats. Good shooting, Cal
Hello Cal: I have 500 NE Merkel, 140-2.1, with  one standing and two folding leaves. Am I correct in assuming the leaves are for 50, 75,and 100 yards, respectively. Amazing lack of information as the leaves are not marked. Thanks, Carl
Carl: The leaf sights on doubles are graduated to very optimistically distances. I would guess 100-200-300 yards is correct as that combination is the most common. However, yours could be in meters, or 50-100-150 yards. It is anyone’s guess but a quick email to Merkel will give the correct answer. Good shooting, Cal
Cal, Hello:   I'm having some brass reworked for my 4-bore. I want shotgun 209 primers, however, the primer pocket was made for a rifle primer and will be drilled through. Is this this OK? I have a mould now which makes 1850 gr. original cone -type round nose and I’ll use smokeless powder but will keep the velocity as it was then--1150 - 1300 fps at max. Can you tell me what it was original velocity? I'm going to use fast powders like the great old time 2400 or 5744 with Circle Fly wads.   Regards, Avi N.
Avi: Having the primer pockets drilled is no problem. I’ve done this in the past. 1300 fps is max., but I have gone faster--depends on the soundness of the rifle. 2400 may be too fast--be careful as that is a pistol powder. 5744 works in black powder express cartridges, but I do not have any experience with it in bore rifles. I suggest Blue Dot. There are many powders that will work, but Blue Dot has worked so well for myself and all of my friends, I made the choice not to experiment more. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Any type of wads are fine. Over powder wads set to 100 pounds, filler wads just to take up space. Good shooting, Cal
Dear Cal: It was nice seeing you at the African Hunter booth in Dallas (2012). Since I’ve been reading your column and articles I am leaning toward buying a double rifle but I can’t justify the price as it won’t do anything a single barrel will do. Any comments or suggestions? Mel. B. Las Vegas
Mel: You are absolutely spot on--a double won’t do anything a single barrel (bolt action) will do in today’s world. One really does not need the instant second shot, an instant choice between a solid and soft, or the possibility of having one action or barrel become broken and using the other barrel as a single shot until you can make it to civilization and a good gunsmith. Their price is many times greater than a bolt action and their accuracy--especially at long range--is far less. But remember, in this game of rifles and hunting, it is many times what we like and want, not what we need. You will find some doubles in a reasonable price range, balance well, and they are fun to shoot. If you get a vintage double, you have one classy rifle. Just my opinion, of course, Whatever you do, good shooting to you. Cal
Cal; Fill me in on chamber pressure, how it affects regulation and accuracy, and how to control it. Rob W. UK
Rob: Chamber pressure is the result of many major factors: powder weight, rate of burn, weight of projectile. Minor, but still contributing factors are temperature (less so today) shape of the bullet nd how much of the bullet is in actual contact with the bore of the rifle, interior capacity of the brass cartridge case, and actual diameter of the bore (+ or - .001” will increase or decrease pressure). Rifles have a safe working pressure and in modern cartridges are set to an industry standard and rifles are made to this specification. For older rifles--assuming they are in good working condition with no mechanical flaws or imperfections--one should always equal the bullet weight and diameter, velocity, and rate of burn (approximately) of the powder. Keep the diameter of the projectile matching the actual diameter of the bore (bore cast is the best way to determine this). A few mates in South Africa have also experimented with adjusting the depth of the bullet to change pressure: a deeper seat will lessen the case’s internal capacity and raise pressures a bit. As to accuracy, change the pressure and the velocity changes. Also, to change the rate of time the bullet travels down the bore, change the recoil characteristics, and this may change how a double rifle prints on a target. It is complicated but today it is possible to find a combination of bullet, powder type, and powder weight to obtain acceptable accuracy. And, if that fails, a good gunsmith can re-regulate the rifle for you. I hope this helps and good shooting, Cal
Cal: I’m new to the world of double rifles and only know what (little) I do because of your writings in the . What is meant by the term, Dominion as in the rifles by Holland and Holland? John P. California
John: In vintage years, dominion was synonymous with colony. The English colonies, or dominions, had the best hunting on earth. A Dominion-grade double rifle was one of a lesser quality as to ornamentation as the top of the line Royal grade--more of a working man’s or enlisted man’s rifle. Today, as then. they command less money but are still a fine quality double rifle. Good shooting, Cal
Cal: How does a telescope sight change accuracy and regulation of a double? Is it possible to get a double to shoot well with both open sights and a ‘scope? Lester D. Texas
Lester:: Change anything about a double rifle--projectile type or weight, velocity, rifle weight, etc...--and regulation may be affected. Doubles are not long range rifles by any stretch of the imagination. Generally speaking if a ‘scope is added regulation will change and it may not be possible to have a double shoot to the same point of impact with both types of sights. Sometimes one may be fortunate to have a double that will. My .450-400 will shoot 1 inch groups at 50 yards with a scope and 2-3 inches with open sights. (Some of that may be shooter’s error). When I realized my eyes were slowly diminishing I asked for a composite regulation to be done--meaning a good group with both, rather than on excellent group with one but luck was with me with the above groups are all I will ever need. However...... If I were going to do it again I would do this: Understanding that a double is naturally an open sighted weapon for close work if I was to add a scope I would keep (or regulate) an excellent group with the open sights and then, with the scope added, adjust the windage and elevation to have an excellent target with only one barrel (in my case the left barrel as that is the one I shoot first) to, say, 200 yards, and not worry about where the second barrel shot with the ‘scope. This way I have moa accuracy with one barrel as any good single shot will do, and have all the advantages of a double with open sights. Good shooting. Cal
Dear Cal: What is your opinion on European and non-English double rifles? Anthony j. USA
Anthony: As you know from my writings I am a fan of English doubles, and vintage ones at that. As to non-UK doubles, there are some excellent values out there with excellent reputations for quality and dependability. The Verney-Caron doubles are top of the line and gaining popularity every day. Heym doubles are very well known in the hunting world. Sabatti rifles have had some problems with accuracy but I understand Cableas will stand behind the rifles they sell. Butch Searcy makes a super product and is known around the world. Merkel and other German makes such as Kreighoff also have a good name. There are more--I have not mentioned them all. As my personal recommendation, stay away from a double put together by an unknown gunsmith who added barrels to a shotgun action. Stay with an established maker--UK or non--who will stand behind their rifle and, if needed, repair them and be there to work with you to answer any of your questions. I hope this helps and good shooting. Cal
Cal: Fill me in, please, on the term “lump” and the types of lumps that are made. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed your book on the .600s and look forward to your writings. Roland J. New Hampshire
Roland: Good to hear from you and thanks for your email. The lumps (also known as underlugs) are the protrusions under the breech end of the barrels that fit into a slot on the lower front end of the action--called the water table. The lumps are a fastening device that a) allow the rifle or shotgun to open by hooking or swiveling on the hinge pin and b) hold the action securely tight by engaging the locking bolts or bites which, in turn, are connected to the opening top lever or under lever. Chopper lump: The lump is forged with each barrel and then the two are joined together. Chopper lumps are identified by the joint line between the left and right lumps. The word “chopper” is used to denote the forging having a look (stretch the imagination here) of an ax--the barrel the handle and the lump the head. Chopper lumps are the strongest method of joining the barrels and used in best quality guns and rifles. Dovetail lump: The barrels are joined together here by inserting a solid lump in a dovetail shape and soldering it into place between the two barrels. Probably the most common of the joining methods. Shoe lump: The barrels are inserted in a saddle (such as fitting a shoe by pulling it on) and the saddle and lumps are a solid piece. Some frown on this method and some think is a good as any. The one piece is soldered to the barrels. Shown below: dovetail (top), shoe (center), chopper (bottom). Cheers and good shooting, Cal ***