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Blackhorn 209 is headed to the Quigley Shoot

By Jim Waddell

Yesterday I was at our local gun club working on an upcoming story about the .32 Winchester Special.  My buddy Vernon Gladney was with me, helping me do the shooting and documenting data and chronograph information.

When we were done with the .32, he brought out his .45-70 he will be taking to the annual Quigley Buffalo rifle match in Forsyth, Montana.  The shoot takes place every year in mid June.

This particular type of shooting is a bug that hasn’t bitten me yet but it has with several of my pals who make the annual trek to Forsyth every year.   Vernon said since I had my new chrony handy he would like to test some .45-70’s to see which load he’s going to take up to Montana.

Vernon Gladney with his first Blackhorn 209 group.

Vernon had 30 rounds to test (3 groups of 10) for accuracy and velocity.  One of these loads he used last year and did well with it.  It was charged with Swiss 1 ½.  I didn’t get the charge weights because I had no idea I was going to write about this subject as my thoughts were directed toward the .32 Winchester Special project.

The second string of 10 shots were loaded with Goex’s Old Eynsford, also 1 ½.  The third and final group  of 10 were charged with 41 grains of Blackhorn 209.  Vernon had been satisfied with both of the other powders but he’d heard so many good things about Blackhorn he wanted to give it a try.

The first string, using the Swiss powder produced a 10 shot group that measured just over 4 inches.  The distance was 100 meters or about 110 yards.  All shots were fired off a shooting table using a tripod and a rabbit ear rear rest.  The average velocity of this string was 1189 fps with a standard deviation of 18.  The bullet used in all groups was a 510 grain cast.

The next string, using Old Eynsford clocked in at 1198 fps with a standard deviation of 13.  The 10 shots were divided into two distinct groups.  A group of 6 that measured 2.7 inches in a horizontal string.  2 inches above that was a group of 4, also in a horizontal string 2 inches long.  Total group size was just under 4 inches.

Before he shot the last group using Blackhorn 209, Vernon cleaned the bore.  His first and fouling shot struck at the 3 o’clock position an inch right of the 10 ring.  After that he put 8 rounds into a cluster that measured about 1.5 inches with a called flyer.  The flyer wasn’t so far off it spoiled the group as it was about a half inch outside the cluster.  It’s the target Vernon’s holding in the photo.  The velocity of this load was 1276 fps with a standard deviation of only 7.

The rifle is a C. Sharps High Wall with a 30 inch number 4 barrel.  The rear sight is a Red River Mega Soule tang with the front sight being a Lee Shaver aperture with internal bubble.  Vernon uses a Brooks custom bullet mould, a base-pour Creedmore style, sized to .460 with SPG lube.  It’s a 20-1 ratio that dumps really nice and consistent 510 grain missiles.  He uses standard flash holes in Winchester cases with a .060 vegetable wad.  (I hope I’m reading these notes right, he’s not here to correct me.  It’s always a risky thing to write about something your readers will know more about than you do).  The primer is a Federal 215M magnum match.

Vernon also liked it when after a 10 shot string was fired using Blackhorn 209 the barrel stayed distinctly cooler than with the others.  He said he used a charge weight of 41 grains on the advice of another shooting chum that worked well for him.  Vernon thinks he may even be able to better this performance by increasing the charge weight.  He hopes he has time to play with it some more before its time to make up a batch to head to Forsyth.

Vern’s next groups tightened up nicely.

Fast forward to four days later.  He and another Quigley contestant went back to the range, this time Vernon increased the charge to 42 grains of Blackhorn.  His prophecy was fulfilled when he fired another 10 shot group, this one measuring 1.5 inches with no flyers. He shot 10 more at 200 yards and the group only expanded to just under 3.5 inches.  Vernon and pal Warren decided they will be taking Blackhorn to the match in Forsyth for several reasons.  Consistent accuracy, cooler barrel after several shots as the temperature can get quite warm this time of year and Blackhorn 209 doesn’t require the shooter to blow in the bore between shots to prevent typical black powder fouling buildup as it burns so clean.

Looking at the Blackhorn 209 web page, they advertise this powder to be cooler burning with higher velocity and tighter groups.  Yesterday’s experience at the range proved this to be 100% accurate and no, this is not a paid advertisement.