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I recently came to have a hammer double rifle by John Dickson of Edinburgh. Proofed as a 39 bore, so I assume pre-1887 and likely 500 BPE. Haven't cast chambers yet.

Hammers have stalking safeties and firing pins are non-rebounding. Jones underlever. Lockup is very tight. Proofs on watertable appear a little faint, so this must have been used enough to warrant a reblacking, but overall, feels very 'new'

I will try to post pictures using Google for hosting vs Photobucket. Also, in case those don't work, I've also linked to the auction.

Any advice? This is my first double rifle. I'm in no rush to do something stupid and fast to get this shooting.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/xiPCoCfyxjtoRvV3A

The auction listing: https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/john-dickson-son-rifle-double-barrel-1920s-jmd-ccf4a28a1e

Last edited by CJF; 08/16/19 11:50 PM.
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Can you tell me if the google image link works for you?

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pics work, nice looking rifle. Start with a chamber cast, slug the bores and then check the rate of twist. Try olde Eynesford powder. Henry rifling? How are the bores? That should be a really fun rifle.


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Here are a few pictures (on Photobucket instead of Google):



[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

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Thank you for the advice. The rifling is in good shape and the left bore looks very nice. The right is either dirty or has some pitting after the chambers. Both sides are in good shape towards the muzzles.

I haven't weighed it yet. Doesn't feel heavy at all. I'll be curious to see what it actually weighs.

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Beautiful!

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Splendid condition! Does the rifle have Henry rifling?


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Your rifle appears to me to be in completely original condition and to have had little use. The partial stamp on the water table is just poorly struck. From the appearance of the breech face, I'd say it's been shot very little. Any imperfection in the bores is likely the result of poor cleaning. Enjoy.


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Nice looking Dickson rifle. According to Dallas' Dickson book, SN 3717 is a .500 rifle with 28" barrels. It was sold on 4 Nov 1882.

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Originally Posted By: SKB
Splendid condition! Does the rifle have Henry rifling?


I don't think it has Henry rifling, Steve. I'm not an expert but it does not appear to have the triangular lands of Henry rifling. Looks more like traditional flat lands and grooves, although it does appear to have seven lands.

I need to get out a few books and refresh on the differences

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Originally Posted By: rocky mtn bill
Your rifle appears to me to be in completely original condition and to have had little use. The partial stamp on the water table is just poorly struck. From the appearance of the breech face, I'd say it's been shot very little. Any imperfection in the bores is likely the result of poor cleaning. Enjoy.


How wonderful Bill.

What makes me think it received little use, other than the breech face, is the horn butt plate. Too bad the worms got to it, as its checkering (flat diamonds) is crisp, and the engraving on two retaining screws is undamaged.

I also had a chance to weigh the rifle...9 lbs even on the digital bathroom scale.

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The worm damage is not hard to repair with properly colored epoxy.


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Hey Bill - would you recommend trying this myself, or an expert I can send it to. I can't shoot it till I address this challenge.

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How about a picture of the Damage? I can likely repair it for you.


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Hey Steve - Here's what the butt plate looks like. There's significant damage to the toe of the plate and undercutting voids on the sides at points, but here's the back.

[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

Along with a poor picture of the rifling (this makes the rifling look awful...it's actually quite shiny.)

[img:left][/img]

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And a few more gratuitous pics

[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

[img:left][/img]

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One of the coolest small details is that the firing pins are still blued, which you can see till you pull the hammers back to half cock. Both where the striker hits, and the extruding pin when the hammer falls are blued.

Last edited by CJF; 08/17/19 09:41 PM.
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I have repaired several horn plates but that one is too far gone for me to attempt. Might be time for a new plate. In the mean time try a sip on pad for load development.


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That looks to be a very fine rifle in nice condition. Worth having the horn butt plate replaced. Spend the money and bring her back to original standard. Hope it shoots well for you. Take it hunting!(Deer or red stag would be perfection!)

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For some ideas what one man did to get his Dickson shooting look at this link (scroll down to CptCurl May/14/2017):
https://shilohrifle.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=25117&hilit=50+140&start=15
I don't know if the photos will come up for you but in the one of the Eley 1893 Catalog note that the Nitro for Black powder charge (BP 142 grains - SP 54 grains) for the 440/480 grain bullet is a little under 40% of the BP charge which fits in with the oft quoted 40% using 4198 (is it?). Also note that his in in the 3 1/4 inch version.

Last edited by HalfaDouble; 08/18/19 05:01 PM.
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That's a beautiful rifle - congratulations!

I'm curious - are they blued damascus or steel barrels?

Have you looked inside the locks to determine who made them?

Cheers!

mbatten

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I've not yet looked inside the locks. I believe the barrels are steel and not damascus, based on what I'm seeing, particularly under the forearm.

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That is a very nice double rifle in what appears to be very nice original condition. Sad that the worms also found it to be so attractive. I'd agree that the horn buttplate should be replaced rather than wasting time and money on a repair.

There is a guy here named Joe Dobrzynski who often sells Buffalo Horn material for buttplates, grip caps, etc. I think he also sells horn material on Ebay. Here's a link to one of his recent For Sale ads here:

https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=547957#Post547957


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This gun is in original condition. Wow. Great find.
Olde Eynsford powder works best out of all powders in my BPE rifles. I have tried Goex, Elephant, Swiss (not too bad), and Olde Eynsford. OE is much better, more powerful than the others in my brass case cartridges. This gun no doubt needs paper patched bullets.


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Thank you all again for the help. So now I've slugged the bore, driving a Hornady 50cal muzzleloading conical projectile 3 inches into the right bore, starting at the breech end. After popping it back out, I'm seeing what started as .505-.506 now is .496 where the lands impressed/indented the lead. I think these measurements are accurate. Isn't that too small?

The rifles proofs show a 39 bore.

Similar question was discussed here: https://www.africahunting.com/threads/british-double-rifle-gauge-to-caliber-conversion.50365/

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Couple of thoughts: proof versus service load are two different things. So proof marks are often just indications, not gospel or science. Second, you should slug both barrels at each end. That is, drive a slightly oversize slug through each chamber and out an inch or two. Then run a slug all the way down each bore. You will probably find that the bores are tapered. About 2-4 thousandths. Tapered bore was almost standard in British BPEs. So see how your big bullet is starting out versus what it is exiting as.


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The old .500 bullets ran around .502 bare. Wrap 'em in paper and shoot 'em - you'll be fine.

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Before I replaced the buttplate, I'd try restoring it. One worm hole or twenty worm holes might not matter if they're properly filled and finished off.


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Congratulations on a beautiful rifle!

I'm a new owner too, and there is some very good advice about loading for these old blackpowder rifles in a previous post I started here called 'Alex Henry 450 BPE double bullets'.

Also, Graeme Wright's 'Shooting the British Double Rifle' is an excellent resource.

Have fun!

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Originally Posted By: mbatten
Congratulations on a beautiful rifle!

I'm a new owner too, and there is some very good advice about loading for these old blackpowder rifles in a previous post I started here called 'Alex Henry 450 BPE double bullets'.

Also, Graeme Wright's 'Shooting the British Double Rifle' is an excellent resource.

Have fun!


Thanks MBatten. Sorry hadn't seen your post till now.

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Finally had this out at the range yesterday to try my attempts at loading for this rifle and the 500 BPE.

Casting showed a fairly tight bore at 0.504. Case is 3" to leade, 3.36" to rifling, which is standard 6 groove with lands about 0.09" wide and grooves 0.171" wide.

Load was 137gr FFg Old Eynsford and a unpatched .500 370gr cast bullet. It's on the paper at 50 yards, but not regulating. From Graeme Wright's book, I believe I have too low of velocity. Since there's no room left in the case, I'm guessing this means trying 1) a lighter projectile, 2) FFFg, or 3) paper patching what I have now with the 370gr cast bullet for a tighter seal and less friction.

I'm planning on loading 6 more with my original try, since I was a bit anxious about shooting this the first time (first time ever shooting a double rifle!), plus 6 paper patched, with same charge, then 6 patched with FFFg.

Any other suggestions? I'd like to see if I can get these 370s to group before trying a different bullet.

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CJF,
As a longtime paper patcher, just patching tighter will not make reasonable increases in velocity. Check your patches in front of the firing line to see if you are getting blow by. If so, then better wads would be a good start. But your patches will tell a story.

Finer granulation (3f), more powder (and thus more compression, and a different powder (Swiss), maybe better.

What sort of precision were you getting with each barrel using OE? That would not be my first choice for powder.


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Originally Posted By: BrentD



What sort of precision were you getting with each barrel using OE? That would not be my first choice for powder.


OK, inquiring minds want to know, why would OE not be your first choice? I have several friends shooting OE reporting excellent results in replicating C&H#6. What do you find to be better at matching original ballistics in British BPE rifles? I ask because I am getting ready to start down the same road in my own .500 bpe, and I have zero exp with PP, my plan to start with grease groove bullets. Thanks for the input.


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SKB-

Most (not quite all but close) competitors find better accuracy with Swiss and greater (not not perfect) consistency from lot to lot. Out in your neck of the woods (Byers CO) last weekend, the biggest match of the single-shot cartridge, long-range matches concluded. I doubt more than a few used anything but Swiss, and I would wager that exactly zero of the top ten used anything but Swiss. The equipment report should be out shortly. Probably by the end of the week.

Generally, Swiss 1.5 fg is considered closest to C&H #6, but there is really no absolute measure that is appropriate for that comparison. OE can be fast, really fast, but some batches are not. Swiss tends to be fast, but OE can be faster (or slower). Faster is not to be conflated with better, of course.

Paper patching for competition and hunting is my gig so to speak. I do it a lot at both levels and in many different formats including levers, single-shot cartridge rifles and muzzleloaders over the last 25 yrs or so. But I have not done cartridge doubles, yet.

You will probably spend some time in the black magic of lubes and the nuances of compression, grease cookies, bullet taper, paper thickness and composition, etc. This why I was and still am so interested in some details in the thread on "Dis-assembling antique collectible cartridge".


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Hi Brent - the first 6 I tried with FFg OE were not paper patched. Just minimal lube in the grooves and under the bullet and over a card stock wad on top of the powder. I'll try to post a pic tomorrow of the target but other than having all the right barrel shots in the upper right, and all the left barrel shots in the left mid to upper range, the consistency was not there. Knowing how I can shoot, I don't feel I did my best, and plan to re-baseline this and try some alternatives.

Do you feel a paper patch will do better than just a perhaps minimally sized (vs bore) cast projectile with respect to velocity and accuracy? I would think it would perform better.

I have bees way foundation on order. Until that arrives all I have for lube here at home is some ancient Thompson Center ML lube from 30 years ago.

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Paper patching is just different. Not necessarily better or worse. There are advantages and disadvantages, but it is almost the only thing I shoot. Almost.

In working up a load for a gun like this, I would start with wiping between every shot. This seems tedious but goes pretty fast if you get used to it. This will show you the best accuracy your gun is capable of (eventually), and once you know that, you can work with overcoming fouling - which is the only real challenge with using black powder. I wipe with two damp patches and one dry - however, for grease grooves that is probably overkil and one damp patch, maybe two will suffice with a better cleaning every 3 or 4 loads. I use straight tap or crick water for wiping and cleaning. No other solvents needed.

With a grease groove, I would not use a grease cookie if I could avoid it, so grease only in the grooves. What lube did you use? I assume that TC lube, which is probably not ideal, but better than Alox or other smokeless lubes.

Did you drop tube your powder into the case or vibrate it? And what sort of compression? OE generally likes a fair bit of compression ( 0.125-0.3" but more or less may be better). Never compress with a bullet. Either make a dummy cylinder to put into your case for compression in place of the bullet or make or buy a compression die (buffaloarms.com).

I generally recommend CCI-BR2 primers. Not a super critical thing, but these seem to always do well, if not best.

Paper patching opens up a lot of options. My rifles generally use a bullet that, after patching, is land diameter. This is the standard for target rifles. They also use paper that, with two wraps, make a paper layer that is about as thick as the rifling is deep. Some hunting rifles use bullets that under bore diameter (when patched) by as much as 0.004". Some - maybe most historically - were tapered (this is why I'm so interested in the "Dis-assembly..." thread). Currently, I'm working with a 2-diameter bullet to use in a vintage Marlin .45-70 lever gun. For hunting guns I use a slightly thicker paper, but that may not always be necessary. I have also used groove-diameter paper-patched bullets but these are my least favorite by a long shot. Paper patched will avoid leading if done right and they can greatly increase your powder capacity - not really an issue for you. But they are tougher to shoot over fouling. In other words, there are many ways to go.

I used to have a percussion double (18 bore Joseph Lang) which I spent quite a bit of time trying to regulate from the bench. It was not easy work. Doubles don't seem to be regulated for bench shooting. That is my only experience with regulating a double.


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An 1884 Alex Henry .500 BPE double rifle in my care does fantastic with paper patched soft lead bullets cast from its original mould and also a similar one made by Accurate Molds in Utah. In 75:1 alloy, the bullets weigh 405 grains; in 16:1 alloy they weigh about 395 grains. The gun’s original powder measure throws 130 grains, and after that is in and a milk carton wad is on top, not a lot of room remains in the case. Like many other BPE shooters, I load this gun with Olde Eynsford 1.5FG. It is my morning stand gun during bear season in Pennsylvania


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