Paper Patching Rifle Bullets


I've only been paper patching for about a year now and whether the way I do it is correct or not is subject to debate.

I will try to point out the comments I received from other shooters as I go along.

One of the first things to consider is the size of your bullets - I have a Pedersoli Gibbs, which will allow a bullet of 0.450" to just slide down the bore. (I have been warned that some Gibbs will only allow a 0.448" down them)

The paper I use for patching is approx 0.002" thick, so when you've wrapped the bullet you'll have added 0.008" to the diameter of the bullet. Therefore I need a bullet of 0.442" to start with before wrapping.

Although you can buy bullet moulds to you own diameter specifications, I have a swaging machine to swage my bullets and they come out at 0.4425", which actually works to my favour because I can run them through my sizing die once they been patched to ensure consistent diameters.

Mark out the paper

I decided that I wanted 23mm of paper up the side of the bullet and 6.5mm of paper to wrap into the bottom of the bullet.

I therefore need to mark out the paper into strips with my lines at 6.5mm and 23mm.

I started out by using a ruler and working out where each mark should go. I then decided it would be more sensible to have something with the marks on it, which I could then transfer onto the paper.

To that end I got a piece of alluminium and drilled holes at the appropriate points (I'm lucky - I've got a milling machine!)

Later on I wondered if I could even automate the marking out process, so I set about experimenting with my PC and A3 printer.

In the end I found that I could use Microsoft Excel with the page size set to A3 to overcome the margin overide to mark up the paper.

You will note that there is one strip at the bottom of the page. With the size of the patches I require, I can get 3 patches per strip lengthways and two from the strip that's left at the end.

One shooter commented that I shouldn't do this because of the grain of the paper, which depending on the orientation, would have different friction values, personnaly I think that's taking it a bit too far, but everyone to their own.

Once marked out, I use a simple guillotine to cut the paper into strips.
Ensure you have a flat surfice, and line up all the strips of paper

Use bulldog clips to hold the strips together

You can buy templates to cut the correct size of paper patch.
Here I have a 0.45" template, which I've lined up and secured with the bulldog clip.

Use a pair of scissors and cut the paper at each end of the paper, and then release the template from your patches

Reposition the template away from the end of the paper and trim up to the template with the scissors, then cut the other side of the template.

Reposition the template away from the end of the paper and trim up to the template with the scissors, then cut the other side of the template.

When it comes to wrapping the bullet, I've made a jig to ensure I get the bullet at right angles to the paper. The jig is made from a piece of aluminium, with a 0.5mm ridge to locate the paper up against and a 5mm slot to locate the bullet.

I lick both sides of the paper and then locate it on the jig.

I then lick my fingers and then lubricate the bullet with the spit from my fingers (lead poisoning?...)

I wrap over the tail end of the paper and ensure it sticks to the bullet, and then roll the bullet down the jig.

Other shooters have said that I should have a bit of wet and dry paper on my jig to provide a rough surface to stop slip. But I've had no problems so far.

I've seen other jigs made of wood with simply a slot to locate the bullet and a line to orientate the paper to.

One of my French colleagues suggested using a mix of 5% milk to water instead of spit, but have yet to try this.

Once the bullet is wrapped, you have to deal with the bottom of the bullet

The way I deal with the bottom of the bullet is to put it in my mouth and roll it whilst moving my tongue in (you could do this with your fingers but I find it doesn't do such a good job), then using a bar with a rounded end to push the paper into the dome in the back of the bullet. If you find the paper doesn't want to seat properly, I find putting it into my mouth and causing a vacuum whilst probing it with my toungue works...

I can see you all quirming at my way of patching...but it works!

Once wrapped you will need to let your bullets dry - I simply leave them on top of my gas fire to dry out and then run them through my sizer.

One shooter suggested that the paper should go further up the bullet to ensure that when the bullet was unsettled in the bore, there was no way that lead could touch the rifling.

I can say from inspecting the paper patches after shooting that the lead nearer the nose is not expanding into the rifling from the marks left on the paper.


Peter Starley
(Based in Warwickshire in the UK)
For Black Powder (Swiss 1,2,3,4,5, TPPH + Others), Onion Skin Patching Paper, Templates, Rifles and other shooting supplies