The Versatile Paper Patch Bullet

Loading Paper Patched Bullets

Paper patched bullets (PPB) have always been a topic of debate among bullet enthusiasts. Many have shared their opinions and experiences, but it’s crucial to note that most of the criticisms come from those who have never actually tried PPBs. Curiosity and an open mind can lead to delightful discoveries.

Let’s take a trip back in time to the 1870s and 1880s when the Sharps Rifle Company was at its peak. The PPB was the primary bullet in their factory ammunition. Why? Simply because it was the most effective lead bullet for hunting game. In fact, the decline of the American Bison population was largely attributed to the use of PPBs. These bullets were easily crafted by frontiersmen using just a skillet, pig lead, patching paper, and a mould. Thousands of PPBs were meticulously created around campfires during those days.

Personally, my son and I have cast, patched, and fired thousands of PPBs for both competitive shooting and hunting. We hold them in high regard. Just like the old timers, our PPBs are made of soft lead (BHN-6). When fired, the .45 caliber PPBs expand to nearly the size of a silver dollar, while the .40 caliber ones expand to the size of a half-dollar. The buffalo hunters of the past reported complete penetration of their targets, irrespective of the shooting angle.

It’s worth noting that properly prepared and loaded PPBs can compete with any other lead bullet style, even at distances of up to 1,000 yards. How is this possible? Well, the PPB doesn’t make direct contact with the barrel, eliminating any potential leading problems. As a result, the bullet emerges from the barrel clean and smooth, without any lubrication or lube rings that could affect its aerodynamics. Minimal barrel cleanup is required. Personally, we have fired hundreds of my PPBs during a single session without cleaning the barrel, and there was no decline in accuracy. This applies to both smokeless and black powder loads.

Now, let’s dive into some loading tips for those of you who are new to PPBs.

Loading with Smokeless Powder

Start by chamfering and belling your cases as you normally would. Ensure that the case mouth is smooth and flared enough to facilitate easy seating of the PPB. Apply a small amount of patch lube provided between your thumb and forefinger, and roll the bullet in the same direction as the patch is rolled. The amount of lube needed should be approximately the size of a pea. The sole purpose of the patch lube is to prevent the patch from tearing when the bullet is seated. No additional lubrication is necessary when using PPBs with smokeless powder.

Personally, I prefer seating my PPBs right on the lands or even with a slight crush fit. However, feel free to experiment and find the seating method that works best for you. Be cautious when crimping the bullet, as you don’t want to tear the paper patch. For this purpose, I recommend using one of Lyman’s taper crimp dies. Remember, it’s better to have the PPB slightly loose than to risk tearing the patch.

Loading with Black Powder

Loading PPBs with black powder follows the same steps as loading with smokeless powder, with two exceptions. Firstly, if you compress your black powder charge significantly, I suggest using a powder compression die before seating the PPB. Soft lead PPBs, such as the ones I use, may deform if compressed with the bullet.

Secondly, when using black powder, you’ll need to include a lube cookie under the PPB to keep the powder fouling soft. If your regular black powder lube is soft enough and easy to apply (not mineral oil-based), you can even use it to grease the paper patch.

Some of my PPBs have a taper-sided design, allowing for deeper seating compared to traditional straight-sided bullet designs. This additional length compensates for any loss of powder capacity due to the lube cookie. As with any black powder load, some experimentation may be required to find the optimal combination of lube cookie size and wads for your firearm.

Note: When using my paper patch lube, ensure that it is as soft as butter when applying it. If needed, you can warm it under hot water. Remember, you only need enough lube to cover the paper patch. Lastly, I recommend wiping the loaded cartridges with a paper towel before boxing them to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on the bullet.


The paper patch bullet is a versatile and highly effective option for both competitive shooting and hunting. With a rich history dating back to the time of the American Bison, these bullets have proven their worth. Properly loaded PPBs perform exceptionally well with both smokeless and black powder, without any leading issues. The loading tips provided should help you get started on your PPB journey.

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Disclaimer: The information provided above is for educational purposes only. We assume no responsibility for the results obtained by individuals using the information and disclaim all liability for any injuries or damages that may occur. Please use the information at your own discretion.