Shooting the 1867 Peabody Carbine

  • A pristine-ish Model 1867 Peabody Carbine was recently discovered in my new shooting partner's gun hoard. Naturally, it had to be shot, and soon. A little asking around produced a partial box of rather blackened commercial cartridges for 43 Spanish aka 11.15X77 or 43-77. All available references suggested that 43 Spanish used a .439 bullet of about 370 grains, about 77 grains of 1Fg and a .210 rifle primer. Brass has been hard to find for decades and basically is too difficult to make oneself so finding loaded rounds was a stroke of luck. Even better, the owner of the ammunition is a mutual friend who had gotten these in an estate and at this point they were priced right at FREE. New partner and I were at the range practicing shooting our 22BPCR rifles in high wind and the new had about wore off that once the mirage was so intense not only could we not see bullet holes, we couldn't see the 1" aiming dots either. Perfect time for some short range black powder shooting! We were to alternate shots until we shot up all but one cartridge which we would save to set the reloading dies with later. The first shot at 50 meters bounced off the top of the berm and smashed into the base of the 200 meter berm which is ridiculously tall. I opted to cut the distance in half for my first shot so walked out to a range of 25 meters to insure that there was a reference mark on the target. There was a lot of light colored chaff behind the target after my shot but it appeared that I had missed a standard small bore 100 yard target from 25 meters. Thinking I must have hit low, I handed the rifle back to its owner with a suggestion that he aim for the middle of the bull and hope for the best. Neither of us saw a bullet strike at any distance. Upon opening the action, the top of the cartridge head was well sooted. The extractor on this rifle backs the cartridge out a scant eighth of an inch, so a fingernail was applied to the rim and to our surprise, the case head was broken off the web. We only had a 22 cleaning rod with us, so game over for now. Back at the house, it was discovered that the bullet had managed to clear the barrel and the "stuck case" really wasn't very stuck at all. But, most of the black powder had failed to ignite and had been forced into the receiver very extensively, so we got to take the action and block apart completely and toothbrush clean all the little pieces then hairdryer them and put it all back together, a fun way to spend a Friday evening except that we had to be on our feet and on our way at 4:00 this morning to compete in a match about 3 hours away. While we were having all that fun, the bore was oiled and a chamber cast was poured and discovered to be too long to remove from the action, forcing it broke it in half and one of the halves hit the cement floor and broke in half again. Not deterred in the least, three slightly oversized 45 Colt bullets were driven through the barrel and along with the pieces of the chamber and throat cast accompanied us to the match today. I also discovered that my shot had missed the paper but had not missed the target backer and had gone through the bottom of the frame completely sideways.
    The chaff I'd seen was the splinters from the 2X2 pine board comprising the bottom of my target frame. Our friend with the extra nice toys brought a micrometer capable of measuring a three groove bullet's diameter to today's match and we were amazed to find that the bore diameter is not .439 nor a little less but .454! Small wonder we had had less than stellar results at the range. Not sure how long it will take us to find some quality new or nearly new brass, but further testing will be postponed until we find some. I had some .455 diameter 318 grain Keith style pistol bullets cast from 30:1 that might be good enough for plinking. How much we will have to size them depends on case neck thickness as the chamber cast indicates that the neck of the chamber is .467. I have no doubt the original black powder load was capable of upsetting a pure lead, possibly cup based, bullet enough to fill the bore. The results were not what we had hoped for but shooting such an historic weapon was still fun. We are probably the only two people in Comal County that have ever shot a 43 Spanish rifle. YeeeeHaw!

  • Is this the brass? I got a flyer from Graf's and they showed a lot of old obsolete cartridge brass. If you are in Comal Co. Texas there is a place in Devine that has some old stuff. He has a really big supply of reloading components.

  • @bigfoot That Bertram Brass has a really bad reputation for poor quality. I’d really like to talk to the guy in Devine. He’s reasonably close to New Braunfels.

  • @rr2241tx
    I sent you a message....... I think if I did it right.

  • @bigfoot Thanks for the lead on the brass. Sounds like your man may be a good resource for all kinds of obsolete guns. Kind of hope my friend doesn't read his texts before he gets home so we can both go to Devine.