Loading Paper Patched Bullets
Paper patched bullets (PPB) are probably the most controversial of all lead bullet styles. Much discussion and cussin have been laid at their doorstep. It has been my experience, however, that most of the cussin has been from folks with little or no personal experience with PPBs! Most shooters, given quality PPBs and proper loading techniques, are delighted to give them a try.
Consider this: when the Sharps Rifle Company was at its heyday in the 1870’s and 1880’s, the PPB was the most common bullet offered in their factory ammunition. Why? Because the PPB was and is the best lead game killing bullet available. The demise of the American Bison can be attributed primarily to PPBs. PPBs were easy to make by the frontiersman, requiring nothing but a skillet, pig lead, patching paper and a mould. Untold thousands of PPBs were made by the campfires during the 1880’s.
My son and I have personally cast, patched and shot thousands of PPBs, both in competition and hunting, and we have a very high opinion of them. My PPBs are cast of soft lead (BHN- 6), just like the old timers did. You can expect 45 caliber PPBs to expand to near silver dollar size and the 40 caliber ones to expand to half-dollar size. The old buffalo hunters reported complete penetration of their quarry with PPBs, regardless of the angle.
I have also found that carefully prepared and loaded PPBs will shoot as well as any other lead bullet style, clear out to 1,000 yds. And why not? The bullet has no contact with the barrel (which means no leading problems, even at 1500 fps), and it emerges clean and smooth with no lube or lube rings to affect it aerodynamically. Barrel clean up is minimal. We have personally shot hundreds of my PPBs during a session, without barrel cleaning and without any deterioration in accuracy. That’s with smokeless powder loads. You charcoal burners will have to clean as you normally do, because of powder fouling. That’s correct, PPBs work equally well with black or smokeless powder.
What follows is some loading tips for you first time PPB users.
Loading with Smokeless Powder
Chamfer and bell your cases as usual. Be sure that the case mouth is smooth and flared enough to start the PPB easily. Place some of the provided patch lube between your thumb and forefinger and twist the bullet, in the same direction the patch is rolled, in the lube. You will only need enough lube (pea-sized) to cover the patch. The patch lube has but one purpose – to prevent tearing the patch when the bullet is seated. You will need no other lube when using PPBs and smokeless powder.
I prefer to seat my PPBs right on the lands or even to a slight crush fit, but feel free to experiment. Use only a very light crimp. You don’t want to tear the paper patch. I prefer using one of Lyman’s taper crimp dies for this purpose. A rule of thumb is, it’s better to have the PPB a little loose than to tear the patch.
Loading with Black Powder
Loading PPBs with black powder is identical to that with smokeless, with two exceptions. First, if you compress your black powder charge to a significant degree, I suggest that you use a powder compression die before seating your PPB. My PPBs are cast from soft lead and if you try to compress your powder charge with the bullet, you may distort it.
Second, you will need to use a lube cookie under the PPB since the patch lube will be insufficient alone, to keep your powder fouling soft. You can even use your normal black powder lube to grease the paper patch, if it is soft enough to apply easily and is not mineral oil based.
Some of my PPBs are of the taper sided design. You will be able to seat them out further than you can with traditional straight-sided bullet designs. This extra length should off-set any loss of powder capacity due to the lube cookie. As with any black powder load, you will probably have to experiment somewhat with the size of the lube cookie, wads, etc., to find the best combination for your gun.
NOTE: If you use my paper patch lube, make sure that it is as soft as butter when you apply it. You can warm it under hot water, if needed. You’ll only need enough lube to cover the paper patch. I also wipe my own loaded cartridges with a paper towel before boxing, to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on the bullet.
Disclaimer: We accept no responsibility for the results obtained by persons using the information above and disclaim all liability for any consequential injuries or damages.
Use the information on this page at your own risk.