I started shooting Rifle-Muskets with Minie Balls in 1962 and have learned a few things over the years.
Mr. TP Moderator is 100% correct when he says: (1) Determine your bore size and size your Minie Balls .002 under your bore diameter. (2) Cast your Minie Balls out of PURE Lead (3) Weigh your Minie Balls. Your "light" ones will probably have a hidden air bubble in them-they go back in the pot. Also visually inspect the inside the cavity of every Minie Ball and discard the ones that have holes and all other defects.
The Lee Improved Minie Ball Mould is a fine mould. MidwayUSA has them in stock and they usually have good prices on thembut it never hurts to check around.
Whatever you do, order at least one pack of these plastic cartridge tubes-they make shooting your rifle-musket fast and easy:
You can use them over and over. When they get dirty, wait until the wife is out of the house and throw them in the clothes washer with a little liquid dish detergent and run thru a wash cycle. Then put them out in the sun to fully dry and they are "As Good AS New."
Here is how you load your cartridges. What you do is to dump your measured powder charge in them,(Rifle-Muskets usually shoot very accurately with a charge somewhere between 45 and 54 Grains of FFFg black powder. You have to try out different powder charges to find the one that delivers the smallest group off the bench. )
Next, when loading your cartridges: Insert the Minie Ball NOSE FIRST to close the "cartridge."
Next, using the Double Boiler method dip the Minie Ball end of the cartridge in the melted lube. Then set the cartridge aside, base down, on a piece of aluminum foil for the lube to harden. "PRESTO" you have a loaded cartridge.
I recommend you get one of those G.I. Ammo cans, make sure the neoprene seal is still in place on the lid. You can store your cartridges in the ammo can and carry them to the range in them.
A good lube I recommend is 60% real Beeswax and 40% Bore Butter. Apply it by the "Hot Dip" method. You can get the Beeswax at Michael's craft stores in the candle making section. The Bore Butter is available from Dixie Gun Works.
Here are some other hints:
For best accuracy, you need a TIGHT Tang Screw. Loose tang screws allow the barrel to flop around in the stock too much, producing lousy accuracy. It wouldn't hurt to glass bed the breech and tang of your rifle as the Italians usually inlet the stock rather sloppy. Matter of fact, you might note a dramatic improvement in your accuracy after a glass bedding job.
On your trip to the range, you will probably find that your rifle-musket shoots way HIGH at 50 yards and possibly even high at 100 yards.
The "Cure" is a taller front sight.
The sights on Rifle-Muskets were designed for shooting "Brigade Size Targets" on the battlefield and not precision accuracy. Have a gunsmith knock off your soldered on factory front sight and cut a dovetail and install the taller front sight. Then head to the range and shoot off the bench.
To "Zero" your Windage, simply tap the front sight in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of where you want to move your point of impact on the target. To take care of your Elevation, simply file the front sight DOWN to move your point of impact up until your bullets are hitting in the "X" Ring.
Triggger pull-probbly lousy out of the box. You want a Trigger Pull between 3 and 5 pounds. You can grind or file down that little "V" Spring (the Sear Spring at the inside, rear of the lockplate) to make your Trigger Pull "Lighter." Just don't get it too hot when grinding. Hold it in your fingers and when it gets too hot to hold, drop in cold water for a moment.
After shooting, this cleaning rod makes cleaning out your barrel easy. Just drape G.I. cleaning patches (or cloth cut the same size) over the jag end of the cleaning rod and run it down into your barrel and pull it out. Do this several times until the patches come out clean.
The jag end of the cleaning rod is threaded to accept a standard 20 Gauge Shotgun Bronze Bristle Brush available at Wal-Mart in their gun section.
If you live East of the Mississippi River, then join a North-South Skirmish Association team in your area. THE N-SSA IS NOT
A RE-ENACTMENT OUTFIT, but fires "Live Ammo" in Individual and Team Competition.
For some reason the N-SSA website id down tonight, but wait a day or so and try it, it should be back up by then.
If you have any other questions just go to the N-SSA Bulletin Board, then the the "Civil War Guns" page and post your questions.
Now, go out and have FUN, FUN, FUN with your new Rifle-Musket!!!