Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Positive Ignition With Blackhorn 209

The hot new muzzleloader propellant on the market right now is Blackhorn 209. This cellulose-based powder is very likely "The Powder" most of us have been waiting for...for a long, long time. Outside of the shooters at Western Powders (of Miles City, MT), who markets Blackhorn 209, I was the first U.S. shooter to test the powder. And, to be quite frank, I've been hooked on it ever since.

My first range session, in September 2007, with Blackhorn 209 and a .50 caliber Knight "Long Range Hunter" quickly told me that the powder requires a hot primer for 100-percent spontaneous ignition. That day, I had standard Winchester No. 209 primers...Federal 209A primers...CCI 209M primers...and Winchester Triple Seven primers in my shooting box. And to make this part of this story short - I found that the absolute best ignition and accuracy was with the hotter CCI 209M and Federal 209A primers - and with the Triple Seven primers, the rifle wouldn't even fire 3/4ths of the time.

To date, I have now burnt more than 30 pounds of (not canisters, but pounds) Blackhorn 209 - and I still have not found better primers for super fast and reliable ignition than CCI 209M or Federal 209A primers.

I have heard from many Knight rifle owners who have experienced extremely poor ignition of the powder in their rifles. And after spending some time discussing this problem with the folks at Western Powders/Blackhorn 209, we tend to agree that most of the Knight No. 209 breech plugs are not that well suited for use with this powder. Even so, by recommending the two "magnum" strength primers, close to half of these shooters found the ignition they were looking for.

One major problem I have found with some Knight breech plugs has been the .027 to .030" flash holes into the powder charge. A constriction this tight prevents a great deal of fire from finding its way into the powder charge, and forces much of the fire rearward and into the action. On one KRB7 Rolling Block model I have shot and played around with, I experienced more hang- and misfires than rounds that ignited when shooting with Blackhorn 209. I had always noticed that the rifle tended to put a great deal of primer fouling back into the action. And when I actually pulled the breech plug and measured the diameter of the flash hole at the face of the convex fronted breech plug, I found it to be right at .029".

The FPJ breech plug of my "Long Range Hunter" had a .035" flash hole (some of that probably due to the 2,300+ rounds that had been fired through it). And the larger diameter flash channel opening proved sure-fire with the new powder. So, I had a machinist friend open up the constriction of the KRB7 breech plug to .035" - and with the hotter No. 209 primers, the rifle produced 100-percent spontaneous ignition.
A lot of fouling still was getting into the action, but the larger hole allowed enough fire through to insure ignition.

One problem I realized with the KRB7 is that even with the breech block up in the "locked" position, it can still be easily wiggled backwards close to 1/16" - meaning that when the primer fires, there is enough rearward force to allow the breech block to move rearward and primer fire to be lost.

Early last summer (2008), I switched my "Long Range Hunter" over to the bare-primer system, using the conversion offered by Knight. I had doubts about the convex faced breech plug, which featured a .030" flash hole - but experienced absolutely no ignition problems. And after some examination, I realized why. When the handle of the DISC Extreme bolt is pushed downward, it makes just enough contact with the slot cut into the receiver to sort of "cam" the bolt forward a few thousandths of an inch. This in turn forces the face of the primer against a shoulder at the front of the primer chamber or pocket in the breech plug. And since that primer cannot move rearward at all - the fire from the primer is forced on through the plug and into the powder charge.

Knight apparently had quite a few different breech plug variations out there over the last 4 or 5 years. If you are experiencing great ignition with Blackhorn 209, we'd love to hear from you - to learn which breech plug your rifle has, and the primer you are using. Likewise, if you experienced poor ignition with Blackhorn 209, and changed something to remedy the problem, those using this blog would surely like to know what was changed or modified.

More on shooting Blackhorn 209 out of Knight bolt-action models can be found on the KNIGHT MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website.

The buck in the photo at the top of this post was taken during a December 2007 muzzleloader season hunt, and was one of 9 deer harvested with charges of pre-production Blackhorn 209. And when I head out on my first muzzleloader hunt here in Montana in about two weeks, I'll be hunting with Blackhorn 209 once again.

Toby Bridges