If you have been reading this sonorous blog for any time you know how I enjoy shooting black powder cartridges in our local cowboy action matches. Typically I dump 30 grains (by weight) of FFg black powder into a .44-40 WCF case crunch a Lyman 427666 flat-point bullet that I cast on top of it and send it toward the steel in either one of a matched pair of Colt SAAs or a Uberti 1873 Winchester replica. Velocities are mild—average 700 fps in the Colts, 946 fps in the 20-inch barreled carbine—and so is the recoil. For the brass shotshells I double the powder and toss in 3/4-ounce of shot. These are pleasant loads to shoot while offering plenty of cough-inducing smoke and that oh-so-satisfying black-powder roar.
Back in January at the SHOT Show Tim Brandt and Dick Queensberry of ATK corralled me and convinced me to give Alliant’s new Black MZ muzzleloading propellant a whirl. Dick sent me a couple pounds to try out.
Like most black powder substitutes, you should load volume to volume rather than by weight. That means if your powder measure is set to load 30 grains of black powder by weight, you should use the same volumetric setting for Black MZ propellant. Turns out that setting weighs out at 27 grains for me. Last weekend at our monthly cowboy match I tried them.
Performance was flawless; the misses were caused by the nut behind the trigger—and it still had the stinky smoke and the roar. I noticed, particularly in the revolvers, a slight increase in recoil but not enough to make a difference in shooting. This morning I set up my chronograph, and it substantiated what I suspected: an increase in muzzle velocity. The Colt checked in at 776 fps, while the Uberti chucked them out at 1,100 fps average. Black MZ simply has more energy in a given weight than the traditional black powder.
The big takeaway with Black MZ is its non-hydrophilic properties. Unlike the original Chinese firecracker mix, Black MZ does not draw water from the atmosphere. That translates to an easier and less frenetic cleaning regimen. I am fortunate to live in a dry climate where I can often blow off cleaning my black powder guns for a couple of days. In more humid environments, postponing cleaning for a couple of days will result in a rusty mess. Dick told me that you can put off cleaning for a week or so with no harmful consequences.
If I lived in or traveled to parts of the country that were humid, Black MZ would certainly be one of my first choices to load. I don’t always get around to cleaning my guns right after a shoot, so this would be a Godsend. However, it has been a couple of days since the shoot, so I’d better get at it.