Research Press

Historical Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Military History


Loading the Rifle

Before each shot the barrel must be cleaned and the best method is to clean right down to the breech end of the barrel, thereby cleaning the chamber portion which holds the powder as well as the rifled portion in which the bullet will be located. Your cleaning rod jag must be of the correct size so that your brand of patches make a snug fit in your barrel. If necessary change jags or patches until you get the snug fit. A 2″ cloth patch moistened with distilled water or with saliva is pressed down to the bottom of the chamber and pumped up and down several times. Remove the rod and reverse the patch. Run the same patch all the way down and pull it out without any pumping. Follow with a dry patch, run down and out. Don’t forget to fire a cap when you finish drying the barrel as this cleans out any dirt and moisture which may have been pushed in the flash hole of the barrel. With a clean and dry barrel, the black powder charge must be poured “slowly” into the barrel using the correct length brass funnel. Pedersoli makes the correct size and length loading funnel, part #USA 346.

With the powder charge down the barrel place the Wonder Wad or card wad (if used) on the muzzle and start it down the length of your bullet, using the prepared bullet of choice. Place your ram rod on the bullet nose and start the bullet down the barrel. The bullet and wad (if used) should slide down under the weight of the ram rod. A mark on the ram rod should be made to indicate when your type bullet and wad (if used) are seated gently on the powder charge. DO NOT apply additional seating pressure once the bullet and wad (if used) are gently on the powder charge.

This method of loading should produce muzzle velocity variations between 5 fps and 12 fps depending upon how consistently you do this job and also how good your powder quality is. A variation of this loading process is to seat a card wad on top of the powder charge and then gently place a 4 pound weight on the rod. This will compress the powder and wad a certain amount and gives repeatable consistency. Then the bullet is pushed down to rest “gently” on the card wad with no further powder compression. Expect to obtain 2-4″ groups at 200 yards, with round groups produced and no fliers. As you get better you will bring your group sizes down to 1.0 to 1.5 minute of angle at ranges out to 200 yards.

Powder and Charge

There are many brands of black powder available in North America. They all perform differently and some are better than others. Hodgdon brand Pyrodex and Triple Seven powders in pellet and granular form are popular with hunters and general users due to giving good power and acceptable accuracy. These powders are not capable of match grade accuracy at long ranges and are not used in the Gibbs except for practice shooting. Also, there are several so called black powder substitute powders, none of which has the performance your Gibbs requires and these are not recommended for any type of shooting in your Gibbs for technical reasons. [These powders are not permitted in MLAIC international competition or MLAGB competition. Check with competition organisers that they are permitted if you plan to use them. RPress]

We recommend Swiss Brand black powder as being the most consistent, powerful and accurate amongst the genuine black powders. Close behind and in some conditions the equal of Swiss Brand powder we recommend the use of Schuetzen Brand, Goex Brand, Elephant Brand, KIK Band and finally Wano Brand (in the order shown).

The Swiss brand is the most expensive and many shooters practice using a lower cost brand and save the Swiss for sighting in practice and for the actual shooting match. [Practicing with a different powder to ‘match’ powder shooters may find elevation setting will vary between powder brands.].The Swiss brand is available in a grain size called 1½ Fg (Swiss No.4) which is between Fg and FFg grain sizes. The 1½ Fg is the most popular in the Gibbs but some shooters find excellent results from FFg grain size (Swiss No.3). The FFFg powder (Swiss No.2) is not suitable because it burns too fast, shortens nipple life and has lowered accuracy.

With the 540gr Higginbottom-Rigby bullet (and most bullets in that weight range) 100 gr. of Swiss 1½ Fg is used. This charge produces 1300 fps muzzle velocity and is excellent out to 1000 yards range. With lighter bullets it is suggested to start with around 72 gr. powder charge and let your paper target tell you what charge the rifle likes with that bullet. There is nothing gained by going over 100gr. as excess powder is not burned efficiently and just adds to the recoil of the rifle and may spoil accuracy slightly.