by Tame Bill SASS#30699L / Regulator / President Emeritus

Spectators and competitors alike are drawn by the thunderous clap and clouds of billowing white smoke created by those who lay title to Lords of Soot. The sense of history is palatable with every shot fired.

Shooting black powder represents the frontier west; a time of little civilization and even less law and order. When Missouri Bushwhackers and Kansas Jayhawkers, horseback partisan fighters, violence earned the area in which we now compete the moniker “Bleeding Kansas”. When Bloody Bill Anderson, James Montgomery, George Maddox, William Thraillkill and the Prince of the Pistoleers, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, were virtuosos of the six-gun.

There are many reasons for the explosion of popularity in these smoke filled categories one of which is it just looks great to spectators as well as our fellow CAS shooters. Equally important if not more so is the ease of loading and cleanup of the new generation of Black Powder Substitutes. These new BP substitutes load like BP (volume for volume), smoke like BP (without the sulfur-like smell), handle like modern smokeless powder, but clean up quickly and easily with plain water.

I shoot two of the categories devoted to aficionados of the billowing white smoke, but in fact there are currently three with the Wild Bunch considering adding a fourth.

Frontier Cartridge where you load BP and/or BP subs in your revolvers, rifle and shotgun. This category is shot identical to Traditional using two hands to manipulate the revolvers.

Frontier Cartridge Duelist is virtually the same as Frontier cartridge with the only restrictions being that you must cock and fire your revolvers one-handed or “duelist” style. Shotguns must be either side by side coach guns or 1887 Winchester lever action street-sweepers.

Frontiersman is identical to Frontier Cartridge Duelist with the exception that Cap and Ball revolvers are substituted for the cartridge firing variety of hogleg.

Frontier Cartridge Gunfighter is currently being considered by the Single Action Shooting Society. Revolvers must be cocked and fired one handed, unsupported, one right handed and the other left handed.

I use Hodgdon Triple 7, a black powder substitute, rather than the “holy black.” There are many advantages as some localities prohibit the sale of black powder, which is an explosive or require stringent storage precautions be taken at home. Hodgdon Triple 7 loads volume for volume the same as black powder (not weight for weight, as it is lighter). It does not require specially lubed bullets costing more than conventional hard cast. It loads on my Dillon reloading press just like smokeless powder. I can shoot 10 stages without having to clean or lube between each course of fire and most important clean up is a snap with plain water. There are many other black powder substitutes on the market. There is Pyrodex another Hodgdon BP substitute, American Pioneer Powder, and Black Mag. All of these can be reloaded on conventional single stage or progressive reloading machines.

BP substitutes like black powder are hard on your brass unless you get it into a bottle of water promptly. Many of you have seen me at the unloading table dropping my fired brass in a Triple 7 jug filled with tap water. Maybe you have heard the distinctive jiggling of brass as I shake the water and brass on my way to depositing it on the unloading table prior to my shooting. Never the less, the way to stop any corrosion is to get the brass into something to prevent corrosion, with Triple 7 it is water.

Post match cleaning is a much ballyhooed topic. While shooting BP and BP subs does require post match clean up, it is quicker and much easier than cleaning smokeless powders. Also by cleaning and lubing your guns after each match they rarely malfunction and always shoot more accurately than shooting smokeless powder and cleaning them semi-annually as do many shooters.

I recommend friend Captain George Baylor’s website, BLACK POWDER SUBSTITUTES FOR DUMMIES:

Captain Baylor’s web site is an excellent resource for new and experienced Soot Lords.

BLACK POWDER (AND SUBSTITUTES) CARTRIDGE LOADING FOR CAS: by Abilene is another excellent web site filled with detailed information especially if you choose black powder instead of a substitute.

Join me, KC Colt, Deacon Stone, Shakey Merlot, Deadwood Slim, J-Bar and the other Soot Lords who proudly wear the Black Sash while searching for the targets obscured by the billowing white clouds of history!

*To read SASS rules for black powder and other categories, download the Shooters Handbook.