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 Post subject: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:25 am 
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I teach shotgun classes at Clemson University. In addition to shotgun shooting fundamentals, techniques, etc., I attempt to educate my students on shotguns in general. For example, we talk about types of shotguns advantages/disadvantages, gun fit, different clay target games, etc. You get the idea. We also cover ammunition with an explanation of all those mysterious numbers on top of a shotgun shell box. I always explain that dram eq. is a carry over from when shells were loaded with black powder and is an indication of the velocity of the shot leaving the barrel, everything else being equal. Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and I looked up dram. It seems that dram can be a measurement of weight or volume. So, my question to you. When shotgun shells were loaded with black powder, was the powder loaded by weight or volume? My suspicion is that it was by volume considering how modern reloading is performed. Does anyone know for sure?



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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:53 am 
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Last edited by jtclays on Sun Apr 25, 2010 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:00 pm 
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I reload 12 ga. black powder loads for an old Damascus double gun. I load the 12 ga. hulls according to volume. Same volume shot as BP/pyrodex.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:47 pm 
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Ed Prater wrote:
When shotgun shells were loaded with black powder, was the powder loaded by weight or volume? My suspicion is that it was by volume considering how modern reloading is performed. Does anyone know for sure?
Ed-

The black powder loads are based on drams weight. An avoirdupois dram weighs 27.34375 grains. It's 1/16 of an ounce.

Black powder was usually dispensed into a shotshell by a volumetric measure. This is not as odd as it seems. Most of our shotshell reloading machines use bushings which measure out the powder by volume. However (as is repeatedly emphasized in postings on this forum) the volumes dropped by the bushings must be calibrated by weight.

(Confusing side note #1: Dram, like ounce, is a unit of both weight and volume. The avoirdupois dram weight is used to measure powder.)

(Confusing side note #2: I'm aware that Wikipedia says that black powder was measured with troy weights. As far as I've been able to determine, black powder was never measured with the troy dram. The troy dram is 1/96 of a troy pound, or 60 grains.)

--Bob


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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:08 pm 
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I have always thought the dram was missed named. Being a registered recoil wussy, anything over about 2 drams is more like a DAMN. The higher the dram number, the bigger the butt-kicking you are gonna get.

I also think you could do a study and show how with the higher dram loads, the higher the head elevates off the stock and again relates right back to the dram vs. DAMN theory. While this may have never been documented, it is often seen when shooting targets, and can be observed from all the way across a dove field.

They should just print the shot speed on the shell box....1200, 1250, or 1300 feet per second. That info would be far more usable than having to break out your black powder coon skin cap start wondering "what would Davy Crockett do"??

Ed, just teach them to LOOK AT THE BIRD...if you can do that, both teacher and student will be successful!

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:29 pm 
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This is just my learned opinion. There were very few real standards in the old black powder days. Sure, lots of people and companies used the same terminology for descriptions, but in reality, it was every man for himself.

It is my belief that black powder shells were loaded by volume, but the term dram for specification was referring to weight. Just like today, we specify the load by weight, but we measure in volume. One is a fairly close relationship one to the other, BUT, not exact or perfect.

I know when I load my coal burners I do not weigh my powder charges, I have a measure and actually with my Hawken I use a pistol flask with a 30 gr spout on it. Yes, I've weighed the spout with ffg and it is reasonably close. I dump 2, 3, or 4 measures of powder when I load it depending on what I want.

Dram is indeed an obsolete term, but..... Tradition dies hard!

BP

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:39 pm 
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BP,

You're right in everything you say. Black powder was, indeed, loaded by volume and not weighed. Always was and always will be. However, the original poster asked a very different question. His question was whether the units used to determine a black powder charge were weight av. or volume. While black powder loads were always doled out by a volumetric measure, that measure represented the WEIGHT in drams, not the VOLUME in drams. A case in point is your charger for your muzzle loaders. If you look, most are enumerated in grains, even though the charge is thrown by volume.

Frank

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:42 pm 
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Ed Prater wrote:
I teach shotgun classes at Clemson University. In addition to shotgun shooting fundamentals, techniques, etc., I attempt to educate my students on shotguns in general. For example, we talk about types of shotguns advantages/disadvantages, gun fit, different clay target games, etc. You get the idea. We also cover ammunition with an explanation of all those mysterious numbers on top of a shotgun shell box. I always explain that dram eq. is a carry over from when shells were loaded with black powder and is an indication of the velocity of the shot leaving the barrel, everything else being equal. Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and I looked up dram. It seems that dram can be a measurement of weight or volume. So, my question to you. When shotgun shells were loaded with black powder, was the powder loaded by weight or volume? My suspicion is that it was by volume considering how modern reloading is performed. Does anyone know for sure?

Glad to hear shooting is taught at Clemson. I live in Easley and was wondering if there is any Skeet fields near by open to the public?
Thanks Remoil


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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 7:12 pm 
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Frank,

Reread my second paragraph.

Burnt Powder wrote:
It is my belief that black powder shells were loaded by volume, but the term dram for specification was referring to weight. Just like today, we specify the load by weight, but we measure in volume. One is a fairly close relationship one to the other, BUT, not exact or perfect.


Frank Lopez wrote:
His question was whether the units used to determine a black powder charge were weight av. or volume.


Is that not what I said? :?

BP

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:47 pm 
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http://www.chuckhawks.com/blackpowder_volumetric.htm

It is weight and has been for a very long while, as in the .45-70 cartridge and before. The main reason that "dram equivalent" is such a poor, inaccurate term as that there is no "equivalent" to blackpowder. More modern powders are not equivalent in ignition, granulation, weight, moisture content, residue percentage, coatings, performance at various temperatures, etc. The internal ballistics are quite different. There never was an "equivalent" or any universally held way of measuring it.

Moreover, blackpowder itself is hardly equivalent even to itself. Even W.W. Greener notes this, comparing American, German, French, and other gunpowders (all blackpowder) such as "Hall's Mixed-Grain Gunpowder" (The Gun and Its Development, 9th Ed., p. 551). It has always varied in quality based on origin of manufacture, granulation size, and exact formula-- and velocities obtained have always varied in concert as well.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:54 am 
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Dram is a measure of weight and is about 27.5 grains. However, black powder is always measured by volume. I have no clue how powder measures are calibrated for weight/volume.

In bench-rest rifle shooting it was always accepted that measuring by volume gave more consistent performance than measuring by weight. In 40+ years of shooting B/P I've never done it, but I should measure out 3 drams (82.5 grns) by volume of FFg black powder and put it on a scale to see what it weighs.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 9:56 pm 
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Tal/IL wrote:
However, black powder is always measured by volume.


Perhaps. However, there was a recent article in the NMLRA magazine Muzzle Blasts, written by the 'Bevel Brothers', in which they experimented with the relative accuracy produced by measuring powder by weight vs volume for chunk guns. Weighed charges produced consistently more accurate results.

Their weights were measured in grains, not drams.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:48 pm 
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Getting back to Ed's question, the standard for blackpowder is weight dating back to when it was referred to as "gunpowder." The standard for other propellants is also weight. That's all there is.

How it is measured in practice by home reloaders is another topic in itself, but that is not the same as standards of weights and measures at all.

The fundamental issue is that weight does not change. The way people measure by volume does, from person to person and from device to device. Yes, smokeless powder is often used or dispensed by volume. Anyone familiar with Lee smokeless powder dippers understands that. Most home reloaders using MEC's and other reloaders use volume for both shot and powder drops. But, volume is not the standard, weight is. Volume is checked and confirmed against weight as the standard, not the other way around.

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:56 pm 
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Bob,

All rules have exceptions, that'd be one of'em. Even the serious benchrest guys do not weigh their loads. (They did when working up the load) They use a measure, an old Lyman and the Harrell come to mind. Depending on ambient conditions they just might adjust the charge a "click" or two up or down. Nary a scale on the line. No they do not bring several boxes of loaded shells to the match, they load them right then and there usually 10 or a dozen cases over and over again and again. Some guys even name their cases. :wink:

BP

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 Post subject: Re: dram equivalent
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:34 pm 
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BP-

You're correct, of course, about BR shooters and their powder dispensers. I'm certain that if benchresters needed to weigh their powder charges to win, they would. But there's no need for it, so they don't. (A good Culver-type Harrel from Sinclair runs about $350 now.)

The problem and solution in bench and rest shooting with black powder may be different. I'll check with a couple of my cronies who shoot regularly in the matches at Friendship.

I think the majority of Black Powder Cartridge Rifle silhouette shooters weigh their charges.

--Bob




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