A Pietta Starr Fix & New Carbine Bullet

by Joseph G. Bilby

Steve Platteter, an enthusiastic Civil War and Cowboy Action Shooter and one of my regular correspondents, advises that he has finally got his Pietta Starr revolver firing on all six chambers, to coin a bad pun. Steve has had erratic ignition problems with the Starr since he bought it, and, in stages, added a setscrew to increase mainspring power and removed metal from the gunsí frame to increase the depth of hammer fall. These actions, according to Steve, increased ignition reliability to about 85% and 90-95% respectively. His final fix was to order a set of Ampco nipples from Dixie gun works, which seemed to do the trick completely. If you have a Starr and are having ignition problems, I suggest you try Steveís third fix first, as installing new nipples is an easy remedy and, Steve agrees, may well be all you need to do.

Last month I mentioned acquiring some test samples of Ed Hullís new .50 caliber carbine bullet. Ed, who produces sells a wide variety of cast and swaged lead projectiles through his company, Naval Ordnance Works and Foundry (Route 32, Box 919, Shepherdstown, WV 25443) had come up with a .50 caliber swaged bullet with a deep hollow base and knurling to hold lubricant.

I decided to test the new projectile in conjunction with a couple of proven carbine slugs, the Tom Ball cast flat nosed bullet and the Rapine cast .50 caliber bullet in my Romano Maynard, a gun of proven accuracy. I loaded up seven cartridges with the only variable being the bullet. All rounds shared the following characteristics: plastic cartridge case, 35 grains Goex FFFG powder and a beeswax/tallow lubricant. Bullets were dipped base first in the lubricant prior to loading.

Although nominally .515 diameter, all three bullets initially proved to be oversized. Loaded, they bulged out plastic cartridge cases and would not chamber in either my Romano Second Model Maynard or an original gun. In a hurry to get out to the range, I dug out an old .515 manual sizer, straddled two 2 x 4 boards with it and whacked the bullets through. Frankly, my consistency was not great. Sizing the hollow base slugs proved especially tricky, and I ruined several by distorting their bases. A few others looked a tad off, but, being in a hurry, I left them in the group I wold shoot. To assure consistency, all cartridges were loaded using Eric Schuesslerís Maynard loading tool. (1677 Joan Drive, Hinckley OH 44233-9725. 330-278-4815. email = Eschues@aol.com), which I wrote about in last monthís column.

In the event, in a controlled firing test from a secure benchrest, the Ball and Rapine bullets provided satisfactory groups, albeit not as good as they usually do with a card wad between bullet base and powder. Ed Hull is a bullet maker who takes care with his products, and I expected his slugs to perform satisfactorily as well. Frankly I was surprised at how really well they shot, especially considering my haphazard sizing experiment. The Naval Ordnance works hollow base bullets delivered an outstanding group - with two disconcerting fliers. The photo with this column shows the group, but it does not show the two rounds that dropped a foot low out of it.

I am convinced that the fliers were either due to my clumsy sizing and bullet base deformation or the fact that I had the wrong sight leaf up for two shots - I sighted in for 50 yards using the second leaf. The only advice I would give to Ed Hull on this bullet would be to make it a tad smaller in diameter, at least a true .515 or even .514, so that it might be lubed and loaded without sizing.

Ed will, No doubt, be down by the bridge at the fall Nationals. You might well want to look him up

© 2001 by Joe Bilby

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