Author Topic: Newbie here with a new Spencer  (Read 255 times)

Offline 56-50mike

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Newbie here with a new Spencer
« on: January 09, 2020, 03:23:33 pm »
Got the urge to pick up a Spencer.  Found a new rifle for a good price on the internet.  Chiappa 56-50, 1860 Rifle.  I saw where Taylor's describes their's as an "1865" and wondered the difference.  They are all made by Chiappa.  So I called Taylor's and spoke to a nice fellow who said the parts listing for them are all the same.  I guess there is no difference???
The rifle appears very well made.  Nice color case on the receiver. Attractive wood that was nicely finished and well fitted.  Other metal items were dark blued. Action operated smoothly. No complaints so far.
The rifle ( I prefer long barrels for competition use) arrived just before Christmas.  I shoot several BPCR calibers but nothing that would transfer to the Spencer.  That lead me on a Holiday quest to acquire brass, dies, casting mold, wads, etc. (lots of sales and free shipping!).  Initially, I ordered a hundred "Spencer" bullets from BACO.  Nice castings, but they were 0.520".  I was able to load them, but I could tell the chamber was just able to swallow the bloated cases. I put in an order with Accurate Molds for one they make for the Spencer. 51-350S at the 0.515" catalog diameter. (came in five days!).  I had slugged the bore and found it to be 0.512"-0.513".  BACO had a 0.515" sizing/lube die I picked up.  Using 20:1 alloy, I cast up a small lot that I sorted +/- one gr. for loading.  Ran them through the sizer and lubed with Lyman Super Moly.  My load was 19 gr. of BH209 primed with a Fed 215 and a 0.060 Walter Wad.  OAL was 1.515"
An issue I had with the rifle out of the box was the trigger pull. Must have been 18-20#!  I removed the lock and noticed the "hefty" sear spring. This I trimmed (thinned) so it just holds the sear in place.  The trigger pull is now a nice, crisp 3#.
While the lock was apart, I became aware of the common assembly procedure used where the screws are left loose otherwise tightening them would cause the tumbler and sear to bind.  The looseness was allowing the tumbler to wobble and when the hammer screw was tightened (that was loose, too), it rubbed on the lock plate.  So I "fitted" the sear, and relieved the bridle so with tight screws everything moved freely with no slop. That also kept the sear in steady alignment with the notch in the tumbler for a consistent trigger pull.
The sights were another matter.  One reservation I had getting the rifle was the barrel mounted rear sight.  My old eyes can't see them.  So, I decided to use a trick I employed on a repro Trap Door rifle and made a peep aperture in the base of the sight ladder.  0.110" hole right on top of the pivot screw.  Unless one looks very closely, it's not obvious. 
My initial range session did not include the peep sight modification and I was relying on a bleary sight pictures, but managed reasonable results at 50 yds. I know this will be improved with the peep.
Now, trying to get the Spencer to "full-auto".  My 1.515" loads would cycle from the feed tube singly okay, but loading two or more caused immediate jamming.  I knew I was not too long and suspected internal doom with the feed system.  After serious cogitating, I surmised the loads were "too" short.  I noticed the round behind the jammed one had heavy nicks on the nose.  What was happening was the too-short round trying to feed and be picked up by the breech block was allowing the following round to enter the action too far.  Instead of the breech block rotating and feeding the rim of the chambering round, it was snagging the nose of the following round.  I confirmed this by assembling several rounds at different OALs and testing to see which would cycle.
I ended up at 1.565" for a reliable OAL.  As the instructions state, the action needs to operated with "vigor".  I only made six dummies, but could get all of them through with no jams.  Keep in mind this is with the 51-350S and other designs may require different OALs.
With the "rapid-fire" AOL determined, I may be able to up the powder charge a grain or two.  If the weather permits, I'll run these past the Labradar and see how consistent the velocity is.
I have to admit, most of this was done in concert with this forum.  The threads are a wealth of information.
There's a match this weekend and I hope to try the Spencer in "anger" at mounted clay pigeons, water bottles and other breakable targets.  Range report to follow...............
56-50 Mike. 

Offline Two Flints

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2020, 05:33:17 pm »
Hi Mike,

If you get a chance take a look at the SORI thread . . . lots of information posted about the Armi Sport (Chiappa) Spencer.  Some of the "problems" you're having have been discussed there.

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Offline 38OVI

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2020, 08:19:15 pm »
I found, on the SORI thread, a suggestion about rounding the sharp edge of the block to help the feeding of the new Spencers.  It worked on mine.  Lots of good suggestions on this site.

Offline Coal Creek Griff

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2020, 09:19:34 pm »
This was kind of funny. I read the thread title and thought that maybe I could offer some advice. Um, no. You've already taken it beyond any advice I could give. Thanks for the report and let's see some pictures!

CC Griff
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Offline 56-50mike

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2020, 04:55:29 am »
Thanks for the reply's. I found a lot of help/confirmation for problems I was having in the SORI threads.  I did slightly "round" the top of the breech block, but I think the issue here has more to do with OAL for correct positioning of the cartridges inside the action.
Anyone else out there using Blackhorn 209 in there loads?  There's no loading data I could find; my initial loads with the 375 gr BACO slugs used 20 gr of BH209 (they were too long to cycle thru the action and loaded singley).  These fired okay and there was no indications of excessive pressure.  My moderate trap door 45-70 load is 30 gr of BH209, 10 gr of COW and a 345 gr slug.  The 56-50 case has very little capacity once the bullet is seated; probably a good thing ;)
56-50 Mike.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 05:48:28 am by 56-50mike »

Offline El Supremo

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2020, 06:52:55 am »
Hello, Mike:

Couple things, please:

You sound experienced so please accept this as sharing. 

After your post indicating BLACKTHORN, I visited the 'site.  Accurate seems to be connected to General Dynamics, AND the MSDS indicates the stuff will detonate, which trad black will NOT.  The pressures shown in other 'site loads seem ok, but that detonation aspect bears thought.

At last one other "substitute" will detonate.

An explosives Phd chemist friend that specialized in powders was always bothered by the detonation thing as relates to BLACK POWDER guns.

He tested "substitutes" by putting a SMALL quantity on an anvil and CAREFULLY hammering it.  Phil was brilliant, and "peer review" selected to be head of the Chemical Engineering Society of the U.S. during WW II.  He was also a top level shooter that cared about our sport.

Black would NOT detonate but at least one other would.  He suspected and confirmed the presence of a specific ingredient that was prohibited from use in U.S Gov.t facilities due to its safety risk.  Ok, that was 40 years ago. 

I would not compress any "substitute" more than 1 /16" because granules can be crushed and surface area increased which changes burning rate.  I know some compress black to a create almost a solid plug.

My suggestion is drop the Walter veg wad and replace it with a bit more powder.  The lube groove capacity of the Accurate bullet with SPG have been ample even in rifles. My chronographing of a shorter 315gr. 20:1 FLAT based bullet and max volume of Swiss 3Fg (American size) with no wad and SPG lube gives max. trad black velocity. 

Taylors & Co Owners Manual specifically prohibits anything but COMMERCIALLY loaded rounds to SAAMI/CIP spec's.  There is NO SAAMI Spec and the CIP one, translated, is confusing.  The only producer of COMMERCIAL ammo seems to be Buffalo.  Taylors will not provide load info. Taylors told me if owners use handloads, they are on their own. 

For consideration is the well established and court accepted lab test devised years ago by Jim Smith at Thompson Center that can identify IF non-black/smokeless has been used in guns, even if well cleaned to attempt to remove residues.  This test stopped frivolous product liability lawsuits.  Phil and I were expert witnesses in some and plaintiffs were never awarded a cent.

I am ok with "substitutes" in general.  There are trade-offs with everything.

The design of the Spencer action was for black powder and even with trad black, there are some originals with cracks at the rear corners of the upper action block opening in the receiver.  Others are reported to have a thin section of chamber wall missing at 9:00.  I have two with that "wedge".  Both shoot fine with no case issues using trad black Swiss 3F.  Modern alloys help, but the design was not for high pressures. 

I recently bought a Spencer rifle in great shooting shape.  Someone had added brass shim stock to the undersides of the sight ladder SLIDER'S backside fingers to creat more tightness.  My "Peep" slider hole is .040". 

I an not sure if the Armisport/Chiappa parts are TRULY color-CASED to the extent that would be on a Shiloh Sharps, for example.  Watch sear to tumbler contacts for wear.  Armisport "parts" metallurgy and hardening have varied over the years, especially for springs; according to people IN ITALY and U S. gunsmiths that have worked on them for at least 25 years. 

I am impressed with and thank you for your approach that indicates you have a lot of good experience to share with us. Your trigger pull info is significant.  Please share more detail and perhaps photo's. 

Most respectfully,
El Supremo/Kevin Tinny

Edited for my usual phone typo's. Sorry. Kevin

« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 07:33:23 am by El Supremo »
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Offline 56-50mike

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2020, 09:13:47 am »
Many thanks for the information El Supremo.
I'm not aware if BH209 has a detonation issue.  I'll have to do more research on that topic.  I know there is another BP substitute that warns against any compression while loading.  I don't believe this applies to BH209.
I have followed the Data for Metallic Cartridge Loads published by Western Powders for all the BPRC I shoot.  If you study the data, it becomes apparent that load densities above 100% generally perform with lower velocity SD's.  I have confirmed this with several different BPCR cartridges.  The Load Data also provides pressures and I have used these to tailor loads for various type actions.  I understand there is always some trepidation when limited load data is available as is the case with the 56-50.
BH209 has also worked extremely well in a couple muzzle loaders I have.  They are side locks and the nipple is replaced with a device that holds a 209 primer for ignition.  I only use "patch balls" and get surprising accuracy with no BP crud issues.  (I'm not a "never BP" person.  I shot BP competitively for fifteen years back in the 70's and 80's.  I just choose not to any longer.)
You are likely correct about eliminating the Walter Wad, but I wouldn't do it for more powder capacity.  I suspect most of the shooting I will be doing with the Spencer will be at 100 yards or less and I think my loads will be ample for that distance.  I got into the habit of using wads under the bullet with full case loads in 45-70, 40-65 and 38-55.  Supposed to keep the base from getting deformed from the heat of the powder charge.  I have to admit, I never tested with or without wads.  A lot of my BPCR shooting is out to 500 yards.  I get very good results with them and hate to mess with what is working.
Thanks again for your input; I'm always interested in "more" information.
Best,
56-50 Mike.
 

Offline El Supremo

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Re: Newbie here with a new Spencer
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2020, 10:52:22 am »
Thanks, Mike:

Please elaborate on trigger pull weight mod. 
Many here will be interested.
Two Flints may be helpful with photo attachment suggestions.

Your tumbler should have a fly to prevent sear bumping on half-cock notch. 
Using spring style pull weight gauge releases pressure so fast thst sear may otherwise bump. 

Thanks,

El Supremo/Kevin Tinny
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