Early trials with a Snider

fourfive8

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I read the thread on shooting the Snider here on AH from quite a while back but nothing recently. I imagine not a lot of active Snider shooters out there.

Just started studying in detail and reloading for and shooting a recently acquired 577 Snider Enfield. This is a 2 band short rifle MK III. Made by BSA Co. 1872. It has Halifax Garrison markings (Nova Scotia) but no import marks. The action is tight and fully functional, complete and unaltered. Nice bonuses include an original linen sling and the bore is excellent.

Ordered all the stuff I figured required to put together some ammo to shoot this thing. Already cast for a bunch of different rifles so needed to figure best bullet- hmm ?? Quite a few options and opinions. I couldn't find any dedicated "Snider molds" from common sources like Lee, Lyman or RCBS. And only some sketchy info on custom molds. The closest, easy to order, solid base concial type mold of close to right diameter and right weight and right design for the Snider I found was the Lee REAL. It has a slightly larger front drive band at .590" and shank bands running form .560-.580". I think my bore is about average for MK IIIs with a groove diameter somewhere around .600" and normal groove "tightening" toward the muzzle. The twist is also normal for MK IIIs at 48" as opposed to 72" for Sniders converted from Enfield muskets. I read of shooter's posing the question of possibly loading the Lee REAL in the Snider but found no follow up info. Ordered the Lee 578", 440 gr REAL, 24 ga Mag Tech brass cases and a set of the oversized Lee dies for the Snider.

After reading very sketchy info on the Snider and watching various videos about loading and shooting them... was time to give it a go. I believe the British Militaria folks are the most avid Snider shooters out there and read quite a lot of their material.

Cutting the 24 ga. thin brass tubing down to nominal Snider chamber length of 2" is a real pain in the de'rier without specialty tools. I rigged a sliding jig for my Dremel and the small cut off wheel seems to do a good but slow job.

I had read in more than one source, including Cartridges of the World, about safe smokeless loads for the Snider. I've shot a lot of mild smokeless loads in various old BP cartridge type guns including Trapdoors, Sharps and Rolling Blocks but this 577 Snider case design is one different critter! Huge capacity with a large dia bullet. OK, I put together a few likely candidates with the recommend load of 4198 behind the 440 gr cast bullet with and without Dacron filler. I did the same with a powder I'm more comfortable with for this purpose 5744. Went out back of the house, pointed toward my berm and ploop- blooker squib with the 5744 and Dacron. Tried the 5744 without Dacron and ploop- blocker squib. OK the listed load of 4198 out of Cartridges of the World without Dacron and ploop- blocker squib. Same with Dacron. Each one nearly the same result with the bullet barely making it out of the barrel. Just not enough resistance and too much expansion ratio with the suitable progressive powders. I am not even interested in something like Trailboss or Unique- IMO too fast and risky. I give! so on to Plan B.

I figured a light BP duplex load with some felt disc wad filler on top of the powder to base of bullet "should" work. There is quite a bit of info out there about shooting the 577-450 MH. And, just like the Snider, it too suffers from the unusual dilemma of too much case capacity. MH loaders have used many varieties of BP cartridge fillers for the MH- cotton, wool, cardboard, foam, paper... etc. The secret is to use a solid enough stiff filler over the BP charge so nothing solid accelerates across the air space and "RAMS" into the bullet base during ignition, creating a bore obstruction type kinetic event.

I cut, annealed, sized and slightly flared some cases. The duplex load was 5 gr 5744 plus 63 gr FF BP. On top of the BP I stacked 4 felt wads without compression- the wads take up about .5" space. I cast and lubed the pure lead REALS with a soft BP type lube. I seated them so the case mouth was in the middle of the front drive band.

Two different range sessions provided real experience. As suspected, as with most all old Military type rifles and muskets - the POI was well above the POA. In this case about 11" high at 50 yards with a very fine bead of the front sight just visible in the bottom of the rear "V". I tried two, two shot strings without swabbing to get a feel for the rifle and loads. The other shots were at 100, 200 and 300 yard gongs to get a feel for trajectory. I think the muzzle velocity with that load and bullet weight should be about 1200-1250 fps. I hesitate to shoot through the chrony because of all the wads and potential damage.

After reading and hearing of all the reports and discouragements about loading and shooting the Snider- the accuracy was really very good! The two, two shot strings at 50 yards were carefully fired off bench and bags with concentration on precise sight picture. One group was 2" apart and 11" high at 50 the other group, today actually, was ONE HOLE! 11" high at 50 yards. I superimposed the two targets and got a 4 shot group of about 1.5". I wouldn't hesitate a second to use this for PG (sans eland) out to maybe 75 yards.

Have included pics of the rifle, loading, old original Snider with coiled brass foil case next to 2 of my reloads with an old MH for comparison and the one hole target :):) And as long as the. range stays open what better way to stay busy during the stupid virus "lockdown".

Snider BSA Co 1872 MK III short rifle.JPG
Snider loading.png
Original Snider cartridge, reloads and 577-450 MH  .JPG
Snider 2 band short rifle MK III .JPG
577 Snider target 50 yds 2 shots.JPG
 
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CAustin

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WOW that’s pretty cool.
 

fourfive8

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Lotta fun! I shoot BP quite a bit but this slightly shorter rifle produces the illusion of even more smoke than a regular longer barreled musket shooting a comparable charge. Plus there seems quite a lot of muzzle jump because of the shorter barrel. I'd call the recoil "noticeable" but not at all bad compared to modern nitro DG type stuff. This shoots and feels on par with shooting a Minie out of a P53 Enfield carbine.

After reading Bell and about how he outfitted his "askaris" with Sniders he scrounged up before heading out, thought I'd better get one and find out "how they shot". Bell said that after getting the Sniders, he couldn't find reliable ammo for them. Some good quality 577-450 MH ammo was available and he figured the MH ammo should fit the Sniders' chambers but doubted much accuracy. To paraphrase his words and thoughts, "Didn't, matter too much because the complete lack of any accuracy of a .45 bullet bouncing down a .577 cal bore would nicely fit the shooting style of my guys". :):) As it turns out his askaris managed to kill quite a few hyenas and other camp raiders with the Sniders shooting MH ammo. Maybe there was something to his theory after all with the "accuracy" of the Snider/MH ammo combination matching and "compensating" for the shooting skills of his staff :)
 
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flatwater bill

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That is an awesome project. I have shot MH, and Model 74 Sharps a lot, but have only watched YT on the Snider. Your rifle seems to shoot very well for you. Duplex loads shoot nice and clean, but it would be fun to shoot plain old black loads in your gun. I built a plywood screen to prevent wad damage on my chronograph. It would be fun to see what you are actually getting, although your estimate is probably pretty close. I have often thought of Wally Bell's description of the MH bullet in the Snider...:LOL:..thanks for posting.......FWB
 

fourfive8

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Yes, good plan. I use to tape a thick piece of plexiglas in front of my screen when shooting BPCR. The card wads would occasionally hit the unit but these thick felt wads are a different matter- they are carrying quite a bit of mass if loaded with fouling and lube, especially if they stick together. :) I'll give it a go out of curiosity about the velocity.

I was getting really discouraged after those few early attempts with the smokeless. But glad I switched to BP. I really don't mind cleaning the rifle just as with BP muzzleloaders or the various other BPCR rifles... but for some reason I dislike cleaning BP cases. It's really easy in a small plastic tub, soapy water, a bottle brush and air dry on a rack... just one of my don't like things. And I still don't understand the blooker-squib results with those smokeless loads-- may well just let it remain a mystery?? Likely for the better.

Those Lee REALS were a very pleasant surprise. I just wish they had parallel sided grease grooves- would make pan lubing so much easier. I have a couple of candidate hollow base Minies and a Lyman 20 gauge .600" hollow base slug yet to try.

While it's fun claiming small group size accuracy, all that is mostly pure jest. A few more range sessions will tell the true story. But all indications point to surprising accuracy. The open sights are a little challenging but under good lighting and with the right sighting bull- should be able to pin down the real potential. That first group of overall 2" or about 1" center to center was surprising but I suspected mostly luck as those two together groups sometimes happen with many types of shooting. Then doing it again with exactly the same POI for a 4 shot center to center group of about 1.5"... that got my attention!

Got to love Bell's wit in describing how his guys shot those Sniders with the 577-450 MH ammo. :):)
 

flatwater bill

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What I shoot in my 40-65, 45-70's and 45-2.4 is 10 grains of Re-7 then stuffed tight with Swiss 1.5 or Goex 2F. Shoots clean all day, and shakes the ground when firing prone. But all my BPCG game taken in Africa was with GOEX 2F. I cannot imagine disrupting anything with Trail Boss, but Unique is a totally different story. Still, over a long life of reloading, I have loaded many rounds for which I could find little data (except COTW) and I have occasionally found a weak spot. Be cautious. When you're holding the Snider or the Brown Bess, you are holding a lot of history in your hands..............have fun....keep posting.....FW Bill
 

fourfive8

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Oh my! Just imagining getting or affording an original Brown Bess in good enough condition to shoot.... now that gets the circulation started!! They do make an unmistakable sound when fired :)

Did shoot the Snider again today over the chronograph with the same duplex load as before. 5 gr 5744 + 63 g FF BP + 4 felt wads + 440 gr REAL. Five shot group was a nice cluster at about 2 1/2" center to center @ 50 yds. The average velocity was 1155 with an SD of 12. All that seems good including the cluster group. Yesterday I fashioned a "saddle" type front sight extension and JB'd it to the front sight to get closer to POA. Today the POI was spot on POA at 50 yards.

Got home and loaded another five. Changed the load to up the likely pressure/velocity a tad. Looking for an objective velocity of about 1200 fps along with decent SD.... somewhere less than 15. The way this cartridge and rifle are acting shouldn't be a problem.

New load: 7 gr 5744 + 65 gr FF BP + 3 felt wads + 1 card wad + 440 gr REAL. Will see about the 1200 fps, SD and how clean the burn is here in the next couple of days, weather permitting.
 

fourfive8

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OK. Have been to the range 4 times since the last post, chronographing and shooting tweaked loads. I have been able to get to 1200 fps fairly easily. Most of the loads have been between 1150 and 1200 fps. Some loads are better than others with smaller groups or lower SDs. I've settled on the load, for my Snider. Today I shot the load for the second time to verify... so I think I'm finished with the load development. From now on will play a little trying to shoot even better groups, making smoke for other shooters downwind :), shooting gongs at 100 to 300 and letting those who've never shot a Snider have a go. Plus, still have a couple of potential 375 HH loads to finish up on before rotating to the next project.

Here's the target from this morning. 50 yds from bench. 1.4" center to center. My POI is right at the outside edge @ 6 o'clock of thick red ring... about 2" below and slightly left of the group's center. I like to use quality, little used targets I pull out of the trash can at the range- I have no idea about the 5 small cal holes near the middle...

The load is a relatively clean burning duplex:
Pure lead 420 gr RCBS N-S Minie sized @ .584". Lubed with SPG in the grooves and filling the base. 4 felt wads to fill air space. No compression. 7 gr 5744 + 68 gr FF. Winchester mag large pistol primer. 24 ga Mag Tech brass cut to 2.0" annealed and sized in Lee Snider die. Mean vel- 1165, SD- 7

Snider 50 yd 415 gr RCBS N-S Minie.JPG
 
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fourfive8

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After I rest up a little to clear my head, I'll likely resume, at a more leisurely pace, to do a few more experiments out of pure curiosity. I'd also like to come closer to loading an original type bullet to get some historical perspective. I think the Pritchett was one such bullet used for both the Enfield Muskets and the Snider Enfields. The closest mold I have to the Pritchett design is a hollow base 20 ga. slug (pictured below). Coming up with a proper wood base plug for this "Pritchett" is a different story. :)

I'm pretty confident the last load with the RCBS 420 gr N-S Minie will be the best overall.

First pic is of the "saddle" extension added to the front sight to get the POI down from 11" high @ 50 to a more practical 1-2" high @ 50.

The second pic is the last target shot with the 420 gr RCBS N-S Minie with the 4 different bullets tested so far- left to right:
solid base Lee REAL, Lee Improved Minie, Lyman 20 ga slug and RCBS N-S Minie.

Snider front sight.JPG
bullet tried in Snider .JPG
 
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Skinnersblade

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@fourfive8 i happen to know of a gentleman who has a collection of Halifax Enfields , ( I'm only three hours from the armoury) he's worked up several loads and has a large selection of original brass. I believe several cases worth. If I can track down his number and gain his permission I could put you in touch with him. If your interested.
 

fourfive8

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@fourfive8 i happen to know of a gentleman who has a collection of Halifax Enfields , ( I'm only three hours from the armoury) he's worked up several loads and has a large selection of original brass. I believe several cases worth. If I can track down his number and gain his permission I could put you in touch with him. If your interested.

Absolutely, thanks! This one I'm sure would be of interest to him and he could probably cipher all the stamps on both the metal and wood. And of course I would like to know the history of these rifles. If he's interested, let me know and I will send you my email via PM here. That way we can communicate via email.

I've had several Enfields, most directly from England except a couple that were likely used in the Civil War here. But this is the only one issued in Canada. I also had one Winchester M1876 Carbine in 45-75 that was issued to the North West Mounted Police in 1884 then later to the Alberta Provincial Police when it was retired from the Mounties.
 

fourfive8

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No problem there Skinnersblade. If you get a chance to visit with the person- tell him the Snider I have is marked with multiple arrows and proofs on barrel and most all major action parts. It looks to be complete and not modified in any way. Crown over cypher VR and 1872 BSA Co on the lock. It is a Short Rifle MkIII. It has a Steel marked barrel. It has a three digit serial number. The right side buttstock is marked D.C. for Dominion of Canada. With 2HGA for 2nd Halifax Garrison Artillery along with the Garrison "rack" number. Other side of stock is marked WD over Birmingham for War Department, Birmingham maker. Ramrod number is matched to the 2nd Garrison and Garrison rack number. The rear sight and most of the smalls and the action/breech are marked with arrows or WD and arrows. There are inspector initials on the underside of the barrel. There are no import or other ancillary marks on it.

Pic of Halifax Garrison mark on left side of buttstock

Snider stock marks .JPG
 
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Skinnersblade

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I could be wrong but my understanding is the second Halifax garrison was located here in Yarmouth. we still have an artillery battery in Yarmouth.

The Halifax garrison was responsible for all the militias in the province. So that endfield could well of come from my closet town.

Ive been unable to find a phone number for that gentleman, when our social restrictions are lifted I will visit with him and ask him then.
 

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I should say that smokeless of any kind in the snider is a no no even 777 should be avoided dont want to turn her into an auto eject Load her with with good old BP fg fills the case well.

As far as I know all MK's of snider rifles use the 3 groove 1 in 78 twist and 5 groove generally found in the short rifles or carbines(other then the canadian cadet carbines) use 1 in 48.

I have a new to me canadian issue long rifle that was converted into a sporter I'm guessing some time in the early 1900'sit ha probably put a lot of meat on the table in its day. I have an action sitting here that I'd like to build a pistol out of one's these days in .577 snider of course
 

fourfive8

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Yep, those configurations sound right. The one I have is a 48” twist, MK III short rifle- issued in Canada, Halifax Garrison, and likely imported into the US quite a while ago.

Have shot through all my smokeless center fires since fall and will be moving the trapdoor and Snider into the top of rotation this spring. Got to get back over the casting pot to replenish the BP fodder- namely .599” Snider cast, 69 and 58 caliber Minies’ and some .462” grease grooves for the trapdoor. :)
 
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camerl2009

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I'd love to take the snider after moose but chances of getting a tag are slim here in Ontario. I'm using .600 round balls cast in pure lead for the time being.
 

fourfive8

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Hope you get a chance to take it hunting. Should do fine inside 50 yds or so. I haven't shot roundballs much in mine other than to fire form the Magtech brass after initial shortening. IIRC I was getting about 4-6" groups at 50 yards with a roundball load of about 65gr FF BP with wads and the RB seated to even with mouth of case.

I experimented with about every combination of bullet, powder charge and wad column available. The tightest group I shot was with a load of 65 gr FF under an RCBS N-S .584" Minie. But once in a while I would experience a real flier. I have finally settled on about 55 gr FF BP on top of 6 gr 4759 with a fiber and hard wad column under a 450 gr Accurate Molds cast flat base bullet of near pure lead (BHN 5) with soft lube. I believe the mold number is 60-445 B. The non-duplex equivalent using about the same components is 68-70 gr FF BP. The duplex load is very clean while the straight BP load requires frequent swabbing to maintain accuracy. These loads with the short, Accurate Molds conical, average 1-2" at 50 yds.

If you get a chance, I'd recommend trying one of the short, Snider type conicals.
Pic is of Accurate 60-445 B pan lubed with SPG.

ACC mold 60-445 B.png
 

camerl2009

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Plan to use them in the future. Even though the 3 groove rifle have a slow twist they will stabilize bullets that are longer then most think they would be able too.
 

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It is a Short Rifle MkIII. It has a Steel marked View attachment 344282
The steel marking is important because the early guns (which were all conversions) had iron barrels. Din Collins RIP, a friend of mine, went through old Petone Rifle Club records and found that the accuracy life of those barrels with the paper patched bullets was only about 700 rounds, if I recall our conversation correctly. This was due to abrasion from the paper.
 

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