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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is difficult to find .380-inch balls for .36-caliber cap and ball revolvers. The industry standard is .375 inch but this ball is sometimes undersized for today's reproduction black powder revolvers.
However, a commercial source for .380-inch balls recently became known to me, so I purchased some. These balls have no sprue or mold mark, eliminating the bother of centering the sprue top, dead-up in each chamber.
The balls were ordered from R-V Marketing Sales, 21320 N. Charlene Place, California City, CA 93505. Their website is
Through R&V Marketing, I paid $68.50 for 1,000 balls and that included shipping by UPS from Arkansas to Utah.
These balls are made by Warren Muzzleloading Co., PO Box 100, Ozone, Arkansas, 72854. Phone number is (501) 292-3268. Find them on the net at I am very much impressed with the quality of these balls from Warren Muzzleloading.
As an aside, these .380-inch balls could also be used in the .38-55 and .375 H&H to assemble very light plinking, training or small game loads. A few of these loads in a hunter's pocket could put a rabbit or grouse in the camp pot.
I usually cast my own .380 inch balls from a Lyman mould, but this leaves a large sprue, much like a teat, on the ball. It was yet another (bothersome) step to center the sprue up in each chamber before ramming. Too often, the sprue was cocked to one side and affected accuracy.
These .380 balls by Warren Muzzleloading have no sprue and eliminate this tedious task.
These balls are cast, then the sprue is removed, according to Richard McCullough of R-V Marketing.
So far, looking through one box of a hundred .380-inch balls, I haven't found one single cull or ball out of round. I can't say the same of Hornady, which typically has half a dozen culls per box of one hundred .375 inch balls. I haven't noted this problem with Speer .375-inch lead balls.
So far, I've fired only 64 of these .380-inch Warren Muzzleloading balls.
This has been in my Colt 2nd generation 1851 Navy (36 balls), reproduction Remington .36 Navy by Pietta (18 balls), and reproduction Colt 1862 Police (10 balls).
The Colt Navy's chambers are nearly .375 inch, so a Speer or Hornady .375 inch ball is almost a slip-fit in the chambers. Thus, my Colt Navy requires balls of .380 inch for a proper, tight fit in the chambers.
My Remington .36 has smaller chambers so it works well with the Speer or Hornady .375 inch ball. I tried some .380 balls in it, but could find no accuracy difference.
My 1862 Colt has slightly larger chambers. Though a .375 ball will work in it, I tried two cylinderfuls of .380-inch balls and accuracy seemed to be slightly better.
With the Colt Navy, the difference was apparent. One 25-yard group had four balls in a group that could be covered with a silver dollar. The two other balls were just outside the main group, opening it to about a 3-inch group.
With .375 inch balls, the Navy usually delivers 4 or 5-inch groups at 25 yards.
More testing is needed, but the signs bode well for both Colts.
The main advantage of the larger ball is that it clings more tightly to the chamber walls after ramming, and won't work loose from recoil.
This tightness also helps prevent flash-over, wherein the flame from the fired chamber ignites other chambers near it.
However, I've never really been convinced that flashovers result from the flame getting past the ball. Instead, I think the flame of one cap firing ignites caps near it.
Another advantage of using a slightly larger ball is that you create a wider bearing surface for the rifling to grip the bullet. This aids accuracy.
This wider bearing surface also helps to seal the ball in the bore (obturation) and keeps hot gases from leaking past it as it travels down the bore.
I rarely load a bare ball directly onto the powder. Instead, I use a stiff felt wad cut with a wad punch to fit firmly in the chamber. I use a 3/8-inch wad punch for the .36, and a .45-caliber wad punch from Buffalo Arms of Sandpoint, Idaho for my .44 Remington.
These wads, including Wonder Wads made by Ox-Yoke, are soaked thoroughly in a bullet lubricant whose recipe dates to the 19th century. I've found that Wonder Wads are simply too dry to keep black powder fouling soft clear to the end of the bore.
The 19th century recipe is 1 part paraffin, 1 part tallow (I use mutton tallow from Dixie Gun Works) and 1/2 part beeswax. All amounts are by weight, not volume.
Melt together, mix well, and allow cooling at room temperature.
To soak wads, use a clean tuna or cat food can and in it melt a little of the lubricant at low temperature. Add wads and stir them in the lubricant to ensure they are soaked. Allow to cool at room temperature.
Store in the same can, with a pet food plastic lid snapped on top to prevent drying and keep dust out.
At the range, add the powder to the chamber. Then push a single wad into the charged chamber with your thumb, ensuring it is below flush. Continue until all chambers are charged and capped with wads.
Then, in a separate operation, seat each wad firmly onto the powder with the rammer.
After all wads are seated, then seat the round ball.
I've seen a number of shooters try to ram the wad and ball in one operation. Too often, they have to bear down on the loading rammer so much that it distorts the ball, affecting accuracy.
Also, by seating the wad separately, you'll know immediately if you've forgotten to add powder! It's much easier to remove a felt wad rammed to the bottom of the chamber than it is to remove a tight-fitting lead ball.
I've wished for some time that a commercial manufacturer offered .380-inch sprueless balls for cap and ball revolvers. The .375 inch just doesn't cover all needs.
I don't know when Warren Muzzleloading added the .380 ball to its line, but my wish is realized. Now, I can shoot my Colt Navy all summer without ever breaking out my bullet mould.

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Back in the day I had need for a size and found a size of buck shot that was correct. I bought 25# bags but then it was cheap. 000 buck is .36" and it fit the flintlock but would be too small for a revolver.
I miss the days when a bag of any shot was $5.
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