RMAC .22 caliber breechloading black powder rifle: Part 3
This is the actual rifle I’m testing. I won the lumber lottery with this one!
This report covers:
- Gun is prepared
- 25 lbs. of number 4 buckshot
- Hole punch
- Where are we?
- Bore butter
- Didn’t exit the bore
- What’s next?
Today we start loading and shooting the RMAC .22-caliber black powder breech loader.
Gun is prepared
We prepared the rifle to shoot in Part 2, so it was ready to go. However, I wasn’t! There are lots of special things to know and do with this little gun before it will shoot.
25 lbs. of number 4 buckshot
I received a 25 pound bag of number 4 buckshot the evening before this test. I measured the diameter of one ball (had to run out and buy a new battery for my dial caliper but that’s another story) and it measured 0.225 to 0.2355-inches in diameter.
Twenty-five pounds in the shot bag.That is a lot of lead balls but fortunately a reader is buying half of them from me.
That’s what they look like. The black on my skin is a coating that keeps the lead from oxidizing. But I still wash every time after handling lead.
A lifetime supply of caps came with this rifle. They come 72 to a box and they don’t look like anything I have ever seen. The amount of powder in each cap must be 3-4 times as much as in roll caps.
Many boxes of these special caps came with the rifle I bought. RMAC recommended this cap above all others.
You use a paper hole punch to punch out each cap. Do this carefully, because the cap powder charge is almost as large as the hole punch!
As you can see, the powder in each cap is nearly the size of the hole punch.
When the cap is punched out, it can be loaded into the steel cap cover that serves as the firing pin to ignite the cap.
As you can see, the punched out cap fits the cap cover pretty well.
Where are we?
Okay, at this point in time I had spent a couple hours, because I had to run out and buy a new battery for my electronic caliper. I did that because I wanted to measure the size of the ball before it was shot and again afterward. However, life got in the way.
I loaded that cap cover onto the breech and tried to rotate it inline with the hammer. That’s where I discovered that the thickness of just a single cap pushed the cap cover to the rear far enough that I had to put pressure on the cover to get the breech to rotate and align with that barrel. That’s not a good thing, because if, in doing that, I set off the cap (by pressure — remember?) and the breech is loaded, I will have a problem on my hands. The gun will fire with the breech not in line with the barrel. That’s never a good thing.
I went slow and pushed the cap cover gently and finally got clearance to rotate the breech closed. Then I pulled the hammer to full cock and fired.
The explosion was loud. So these caps, as old as they are (50 years?) are still working. Time to load the rifle.
The instructions say you can either load 5-6 grains of 4F black powder or 1.5 grains of Bullseye smokeless powder. I opted to go with black, and I used Pyrodex P, which is a replica black powder pistol powder that’s equivalent to 3F black powder. I didn’t want to overload the rifle the first time around, so I used a 0.3cc Lee powder scoop that dropped 3.2-3.3 grains of Pyrodex P with one level scoop. That much powder didn’t fill the chamber in the breech very much.
The powder dipper threw 3.2 to 3.3 grains of Pyrodex P.
The powder charge did not fill the chamber very high.
Next I put a number 4 buckshot into the chamber and rammed it down on the powder with the loading tool. It went very deep into the chamber.
The ball went deep into the chamber.
The lead ball is supposed to go below the top of the chamber. It has to, for the chamber to rotate closed and line up with the barrel. But what you see in the picture above is too deep — a fact I was about to learn.
A reader suggested that I use Thompson Center Bore Butter over the ball instead of vegetable shortening, so I did. It’s easy to smear the stuff over the loaded ball. It keeps the bore cleaner from the black powder residue.
With the chamber loaded I placed the cap cover with a fresh cap on the end of the chamber and carefully rotated it closed. Like before the chamber did not want to rotate into alignment with a cap under the cover. This time the chamber was loaded and I proceeded cautiously.
I had set a fresh block of duct seal in front of my bullet trap in my office so I could hopefully catch the bullet for measuring. I also set up the sound meter to record the sound at firing.
When the chamber was aligned I cocked the hammer all the way and squeezed the trigger. Nothing. I cocked the hammer once again and squeezed the trigger again.
The sound of the RMAC rifle was recorded at 114.6 dB in my office — where we agreed it should be at its quietest. That is louder than a standard speed .22 long rifle cartridge fired in a non-silenced rifle in the same room. I was wearing electronic earmuffs, so I didn’t hear most of it, but my phone did.
Wow! It’s not quiet!
Didn’t exit the bore
Then I looked for the hole in the duct seal so I could dig out and measure the bullet. There was no hole! How could I have missed from 2 feet?
I tried to rotate the breech to reload and found that it was stuck. Now I knew where the bullet was. I put a cleaning rod down the barrel and pushed the bullet back into the chamber, then I disassembled the chamber from the rifle. I had to push that bullet out. But it resisted me.
I tried a heavy paper clip. No dice. I took it to the garage, put it in a vise and tried a thin pin punch. Again no dice. I tried a larger pin punch, but no again. The small size of the flash hole limited the size of punch I was able to use. Okay, if I can’t go through the back I’ll have to try the front.
I drilled a hole in the ball, being careful not to touch the side of the chamber. Then I screwed in a wood screw and worked it around. The ball became quite loose and I was able to pull it out with no damage to the breech. About a month ago my neighbor, Denny, convinced me to buy some magnetic Delrin vice laws that were ideal for this work.
The screw got the ball out easily.
Obviously 3.3 grains of Pyrodex P are not enough to force the buckshot through the breech that swages it down to .20 caliber. I looked in my collection of black powders and replica black powders and found a partial can of 4F black. I will use that next.
I will also try to get 5-6 grains of powder into the chamber behind the ball. Apparently it’s needed. And I plan to still catch a ball so we can see what it looks like and measure it. But all that is in the future.
Maybe it sounded simple when I described in Parts 1 and 2 how this rifle works, but I’m finding it anything but. It’s more involved than loading a cap and ball revolver, which until now I thought was a pretty involved process. Nevertheless, it will make an interesting series.