Marlin Firearms Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,130 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I've always wanted to "step back in time" and test some original .22LR black powder cartridges to see how they would have performed back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s in a levergun. Not too long ago I came across an old 2 piece box of early .22 LR cartridges. Most all the writing on the box was gone, but I could barely make out "UMC" on the bottom edge. I pulled one of the bullets and found that they were b.p. cartridges.

As the pic shows, the lube was dried out and there is some tarnishing of the copper case. Thankfully, they cleaned up ok. I used a toothbrush to clean off the dry lube and a bore brush to clean off the cartridge case. I then relubed with SPG.



The test rifle was a 39A Marlin made in 1948 equipped with a tang sight and an 8X vintage Weaver scope.



Well.......tried to fire a couple of the original UMC .22 b.p. cartridges, but click, click....priming compound is "deader than a doornail". I wasn't totally surprised, just a bit disappointed.

So......I spent a couple of hours cleaning and pulling bullets and powder from the UMC cartridges. Thankfully the case was not crimped into the bullet heel so the heel was not distorted in the process.



Bullet diameter .225" Weight: 40 grs.
factory powder compression: .035"



After loading the 4.5 grs. of the original powder into Armscor* cases, I seated the U.M.C. bullets with a Lyman H&I .225 die.

10 loaded and ready to go


I shot 10 of the assembled b.p. cartridges at my clubs’ 50 ft. indoor range since the weather wasn't too good outdoors at the time and I was anxious to test them.

They worked great ....just loaded 10 in the tube of my Marlin 39A (1948) and fired 2 groups of 5.



With the earlier success at 50 feet, I next wanted to try them at 50 yards which I was able to do a few weeks later. The Temp was 50F and it was a bit breezy (10-20 mph winds) but being a bit anxious, I decided to venture forth and shoot each shot when there was a lull in the wind.

Here are the two targets made with the 100+ year old component(s) that were loaded into Armscor* cases. I also tried 4.5 grs SWISS 4F with the UMC bullets which produced the group on the right. I was very pleased with the results. My reason for choosing SWISS is that it was the only b.p. that would not “foul out” in previous testing in the 32 Colt, 357, 44-40 and 45 Colt leverguns.



The next step was to find a suitable .22 mold to enable me to produce .22 LR black powder ammunition.
I had 3 different molds.....an early 225438 that weighed 42 grs., a new 225438 (45 grs) and a NEI 45 (45 grs.) in w.w. +2% tin alloy. In testing the old style 225438 proved to be the most accurate.



Ideally, the gas check shank should measure .209” or so for a snug fit into the .22 LR Armscor* case. The gc shank on that bullet measures .213” which then requires the case mouths to be flared prior to the bullet being seated. The loaded round is then run nose first into a 225” H&I die to restore the o.d. of the case back to its original dimension. I would use that mold in the short term, but a new mold would make things much easier and more consistant, so I sketched the UMC bullet and sent it to David Mos to have a mold made to replicate it.

While waiting for the mold to arrive, I wanted to find out how many b.p. rounds the .22 Marlin could fire before accuracy might start to degrade using the 225438 lubed with SPG and propelled by 4.5 grs; of Swiss. So…after having shot 50 rounds of 3 different recipies (4.5 Swiss 4F, 4.5 Swiss Null B and 5.0 Swiss 4F) on Cowboy Silhouettes & other targets with no cleaning nor blow tubing, I fired rounds 51-58 (last of the cartridges) using 4.5/ Swiss Null B on this target to see if the fouling from the previous 50 rounds was having an affect on accuracy. Thankfully, it didn’t.

I was using the tang sight in this test since scopes are not permited in NRA Cowboy Silhouette. Accuracy was about as good as the 1948 vintage 39A with a tang sight will do with target .22 ammunition and my 67 year old eyes.



Now hopefully, that David Mos mold will arrive soon. I want to shoot b.p. in NRA Cowboy Small Bore Silhouette....just like those that have gone before us would have done if that competition was in existence 100+ years ago.

* Armscor .22 LR primed cases were available from THE HUNTING SHACK but I do not see them listed anymore. Previously, I removed bullets and powder from loaded .22 LR ammuniton to get cases
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,018 Posts
John -- What a great range report and general history lesson!! Your dedication is also impressive. It's stuff like this that almost entices me to get back into shooting the holy black, but I find myself spending more time shooting at things a long ways away now-a-days. Thanks for sharing your findings with us. Best regards. Wind
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
23,800 Posts
Now you need to get some priming compound and reload some cases. Problem there is you need a high speed spinning device to move the compound into the rim. A supplier in Wisconsin used to sell reloading equipt for the .22 mag rimfire, don't ask why I know this but it worked. It was back in the 70s.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
18,025 Posts
Interesting stuff! I wouldn't have thought the bullets would be so easily reused without damage from pulling them. Given the accuracy you obtained, I'd say they held up pretty well. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: pacificpt

·
Registered
Joined
·
480 Posts
Awesome report . Just goes to show Black Powder will still "Get 'er done".
Bet those other shooters enjoyed that smoke in the indoor range LOL
 
  • Like
Reactions: pacificpt

·
Registered
Joined
·
409 Posts
Hello 30 WCF,

Loved your report. Thank you!!
easy to see why the old .22 LR became so popular so fast and why it has stayed popular all these years.

If I remember correctly, the .22 Short and the .22 Long came before the LR.

If you ever decide to do this same test with the smaller rounds, I would gladly read that report as well. I hope you do.

Sincerely, JDP
Team 35 # 88 - Team 30-30 # 82 - Team 39 # 31
 
  • Like
Reactions: pacificpt

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,130 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Wind,
Thank you for the kind words. I have been wondering for quite awhile how the old b.p. .22 L.R. rounds would have performed way back when so I was pretty happy wen I found that historic box of cartridges. ;D

Swany,
Thank you for the tip but I have a large supply of .22 LR primed cases ...... probably enough to last me the rest of my life.....

papajohn,
Thankfully, the bullets were not crimped in, otherwise, the heels would have been "pulled" in the process and the bullets would not have worked very well.

D Harry, finnfur, MilPsych,
Thank you for your appreciation. MilPsych, yes the 22 Short was the first followed by the .22 Long. In my rifle, .22 Short ammunition does not group very well (3" groups at 50 yards) so I likely will not persue a b.p. version. The .22 Long .......possibly....

w30wcf
 
  • Like
Reactions: pacificpt

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,132 Posts
w30wcf, I know that it is an old thread, but I had not seen it before. Very cool & always fun fooling with the old ways things were done. I know that the most difficult bullet casting that I ever did was .22s. It is very hard to keep the mold temp. up!
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top