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Reloading the Buffalo Load

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Got a phone call a couple of months back from Herb Gindulis, NCOWS Convention Chairman, to do a seminar on loading for buffalo shoots at the 2006 NCOWS Convention. While I tried my best to weasel out of it, I thought it might just do some good to accept the challenge and give it a shot. Now, since that time, I've thought about just how I was going to present this topic and came up with a couple of ideas. My first thought was to just show how to load a cartridge with black powder and let it go at that. Then I got the idea that loading for a modern day buffalo shoot and loading for a real buffalo shoot might be a little more interesting. Shooting at a stationary steel plate and at a real live buffalo are certainly two different subjects altogether! My next thought was researching and trying to duplicate how actual buffalo hunters reloaded during the period 1870-1882. Since then, I've aquired (Thanks Santa!) 8 different books on the subject and am in the process of reading them. So far, I've found very little in the way of detailed information on actual loading of cartridges during this time period and am beginning to wonder if such information does in fact exist. I'm about half way into the third book and have only a couple of useable passages so far. Does anyone have any more details on where I might find info such as this? If you know of any books or specific info related to  period reloading during that time, please let me know.
    By the way, the seminar is scheduled for Sunday, Feb.19 9:00am Rm A of the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs Ia.


I've done some searching on the subjuct and I have some ideas, for the most part it ain't what most of us are looking for.  From what limited information I've found I was hazard a guess that most falls under what I refer to as "reloading" not the same as what most of us do that I refer to as "handloading." 

First forget a lot about what you have heard about them killing buffalo several hundred yards away.  Some did, to show off but most shot from 200 to maybe 300 yards at most.  Remember this was bussiness.

All you have to be able to do is shoot throught the lungs at that distance, the prefered shot, a target maybe what 4 times the size of a deers lung area.  2 moa is plenty for deer at that that range.  So to be safe 6 moa is more than plenty. 

So just cast some bullets, lube or patch them, deprime and reprime a case, fill it with powder, ad a wad, tap with a dowel and hammer to slightly compress the powder.  (I read somewhere at least some did.) and push a bullet into the case.  ammo loaded this way is good enough, takes little time and can be done by lantern light. 

You need a toot to deprime, if using Sharps cases it needs to be a lever type (Berdan Primers)  Winchester or UMC and some of the others you can use a sharpened nail and hammer and do this. 
Reprime with dowel and hammer and use same boot heel.
Wads and maybe a cutter.

Most seem to have carried moulds and lead so a pot, dipper and mould is needed.  Lube or patch, and seat the bullet on the wad by hand.  Crimp with a primative tool if desired, not really needed, carry good factory ammom in your belt in case of emergency, carry the reloads in a bucket.

Back before my cooking took over everything at living history events I did this demonstration for a couple of years at a place I could shoot them.  Took lubed bullets, a sharpened nail, a dowel, brass hammer, primers, a can of FFg and a cut off case.  Ended up with a load that whooped the muzzle loaders there for accuarcy and splat effect down range the 100 or so yards we shot down into the creek bottom.

When we were done some of the kids would go down and dig out the roundballs in the bank, they could never find one of my 500 gr 45's.

A bit of testing on the range at the farm shows this type load will go 3-4 moa easy at 200 yards.  I just had to know.

Forty Rod:
I hate to even bring this up, but have you checked out the liability issues?


Yes, in Nebraska I was covered by the G&P because I was doing a demo as an unpaid volunteer at an approved event on a state historical park doing things approved by the site manager.  Also any tourist had to stay so far back from where we were and there was a park employee to keep them there till we were done and had put the guns away.

Like anything, maybe not 100% but better than a jab with a sharp stick.

To be honest also, much less chance of any problems here than in other states closer to the Ocean. (Read that as over run with low life type lawyers and less of a gene pool for juries.)

TAkaho kid:
Check this site out: Not a lot of how too but a lot of neat old tools.


Several things come to mind:

Most buff hunters used patched bullets

Most cartridges used Berdan primers thus the need for a cap awl (they cant be knocked out from the inside)
We take that for granted today

Siziing, swaging etc. was accomplished with a mallet (no RCBS Rock Crusher's)

Wads where punched by die and a swinging mallet as well

Sharps did offer most of the tools (at a price)

To make it more interesting take it ouside around a campfire - cast, patch, size and reload out there. Don't forget the howling wolves!

Or, simply buy some 45-70-550 paper patched cartrdiges from Republic Metallic and say the heck with it!


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