Author Topic: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?  (Read 8597 times)

Offline mangyhyena

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Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« on: September 09, 2011, 02:32:37 PM »
What I mean is, if civilization permanently fell apart and no more bullets could be manufactured, would you be able to continue using a black powder firearm, even after your supplies for it ran out?  I've read that black powder can be made at home.  Can the other components also be made at home, like the lead ball and wadding?

What is the best black powder rifle in terms of DIY shooting materials, if this can be done?

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2011, 03:14:33 PM »
It can probably be done if you could still scavange, but you might be better off with a flint lock rather than a percussion cap black powder rifle.  Percussion caps are much more reliable, but they're not something you could manufacture with the materials around you, like you could with black powder itself (which isn't easy, but I've heard of folks successfully making it or something very much like it).

Lead could easily be recovered from wheel weights and car batteries, so I think they'll be around for generations.  You just need the proper mould. 

For calibers, generally .32 is the equivelent of a .22 and good for small game.  .50-.54 calibers are for big game. 
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Offline Storm

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2011, 03:25:15 PM »
Caps for a percussion one would be your biggest issue I think, but forethought on your part can leave you with a large supply of them. Powder can also be an issue. Whether you plan on storing it or actually learning to make it, and have the resources available, is one way to go. My great-uncle made all of his own hunting supplies years and years ago. I have several percussion cap rifles, but a flintlock would be handy in a pinch.
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Offline soupbone

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2011, 03:44:09 PM »
I've heard tell that a flintlock musket around .50 cal is the ultimate survival gun. Whatever you can stuff down the front, you can shoot out again. For smaller game, you can load it down, for the larger, you can go "loaded for bear".

It's this versatility that kept (keeps?) them so popular in remote areas. Muzzle loaders were a common sight in Appalachia, until war surplus rifles became so inexpensive.

In so far as making your own black powder, yes, we all know the 3-2-1 formula, but where will you get sulfur? Or saltpeter? And even if you had the components, how do you mix them safely and how do you get the grain size you need to function in a musket without blowing it up? This will require some study and homework now, while everything is still available. (Please check the applicable laws to see if you can legally experiment with making your own black powder.)

A musket is preferable to a rifle because a rifle fouls easily and is more difficult and time consuming to load. As far as accuracy, I've seen a properly loaded, Chesapeake Bay custom made smooth-bore put 3 shots into a group with all holes touching at 50 yds.

Couple the musket with a similar caliber flintlock pistol (or two), and you will be much better off in the years after an event than your buddy with a tricked out M-1A/AR/AK/FAL, and no ammo.

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Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2011, 04:38:23 PM »
Interesting.

I've read that muskets can be loaded with birdshot, like a scatter gun.  Is that true?

How would you all rate a flintlock against a big bore air rifle, for the long haul during a time when ammo & replacement parts may be unavailable?

Offline Bradbn4

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2011, 04:56:47 PM »
Interesting.

I've read that muskets can be loaded with birdshot, like a scatter gun.  Is that true?

How would you all rate a flintlock against a big bore air rifle, for the long haul during a time when ammo & replacement parts may be unavailable?

While big bore air rifles are "neat" - and can be used for extended time periods, the ammo used for the big bore is harder to make.  Lets say you had a time period of 5 years could a PCP big bore air rifle work?  Yes, full charged scuba tank would last that long.  I would expect ammo supplies to be good to go.

For the good small game rifles the ammo would be almost impossible to mfg - while some of the larger air rifles can use standard molds.   For past 10 years I would rate flint log a somewhat better deal.  While gun powder is not hard to make, it's hard to make safely.   I would think that the seals necessary to support the big bore rifle would go down hill and make that choice less suitable. 

At this point someone who knows the story of Lewis and Clark will point out that they took an airgun on their trip.
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Offline soupbone

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2011, 05:57:02 PM »
Yes, smooth-bores can be loaded with shot. The Tower Musket - the Brown Bess - was patterned after a high grade fowling piece of the early 1700s, IIRC. I've often wondered what it would be like to get a smooth-bore  in a modern caliber, say 20 ga or .410. That way modern slugs could be used for big game, and shot wads, etc., could be used for small game.

An air gun is also a good idea - although not in the big bore class. Big bores are usually pre-charged pneumatics - they store a 3-4,000 psi charge of air, and have seals that will wear out over time. A .25 cal. spring gun can be had for @ $400, and stored indefinitely if left uncocked. .25 cal is powerful enough for medium-small game at short range, and in a pinch can be used for self defense. (Better than a Sharp Stick School of Self Defense.)

If you get a scope for a springer, make sure its an air gun scope. Normal rifle scopes cannot withstand the forward and back recoil of a spring gun, and will be ruined in short order. Likewise, NEVER dry fire a spring gun. The act of getting the pellet moving down the barrel cushions the piston at the end of its stroke. Without this cushioning, the piston slams into the end of the cylinder. This will ruin the gun in 2 or 3 shots. Airgun ammunition is inexpensive enough that you can conceivably stock up several lifetime supplies in no time.

Sorry to go off on a tangent...........

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Offline d0j0w0

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2011, 07:36:51 PM »
As to the question of wadding; this can be made with any number of nonsynthetic materials: cotton, canvas, wool, paper, foil, cardboard and maybe even leather.

Balls can be made out of car batteries, wheel weights, lead flashing, still used on roofs from time to time, and plumbing fixtures,  some lead/tin solders could be used.  Molds should be purchased ahead of time but in an emergency could be made from clay, wood, or plaster (results may vary). 

For around $200 bucks a large amount of black powder and primers and lead balls could be put up for years of shooting.

True black powder can lasts for many many years as long as it is kept dry and in a sealed container.  Black powder substitutes are also available but I'm not certain of how long they last.

I'm sure black powder can be made at home, but I don't think I would try. (OK, I would try) 

Smokeless powder SHOULD NEVER BE USED IN A BLACK POWDER FIRE ARM.
(NO REALLY, NEVER!)

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Offline Storm

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2011, 07:54:51 PM »
Interesting.

I've read that muskets can be loaded with birdshot, like a scatter gun.  Is that true?

How would you all rate a flintlock against a big bore air rifle, for the long haul during a time when ammo & replacement parts may be unavailable?

I've got a few smaller airguns and while they're great for what they are, I'd never really depend on them in any kind of long term survival situation.
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Offline jasperg357

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2011, 09:01:39 PM »
I own a 50 cal. percussion rifle and I make my own bullets which is pretty simple if you have the right molds.
As far as using it in a SHTF situation I can see were it would come in pretty handy if civilization is pretty much knocked back 100 years with no chance of recovering in are life time. Black powder if stored properly will last a very long time. But why not just store extra ammo for a modern weapon? If properly stored it will last pretty much just as long. And I would hate to been in a gun fight with some one with a Ar-15 and me with only a one shot black powder rifle.
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Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2011, 01:22:20 AM »
I own a 50 cal. percussion rifle and I make my own bullets which is pretty simple if you have the right molds.
As far as using it in a SHTF situation I can see were it would come in pretty handy if civilization is pretty much knocked back 100 years with no chance of recovering in are life time. Black powder if stored properly will last a very long time. But why not just store extra ammo for a modern weapon? If properly stored it will last pretty much just as long. And I would hate to been in a gun fight with some one with a Ar-15 and me with only a one shot black powder rifle.

Just hit what you aim at and you can add an AR-15 to your supplies.  Oh, and you should probably ambush Mr. AR-15 guy from behind. 
You've got to look at situations like that in a more positive light. ;D.

I agree with storing regular ammo, which I do.  I was just wondering about the sustainable angle for future generations.  Also, I think flintlocks are pretty neat and knew I'd learn something from you all if I posted about them.

What I'd really like to own is one of those black powder pistols with the blade under the barrel.  It looks slightly larger than a Derringer and I think I read somewhere it was a pirates' type gun for boarding and repelling a boarding.  No big survival reason for wanting this, I just want it some day because it looked unique.  I'd also like a BP Derringer for the same reason.

Offline LdMorgan

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2011, 12:04:04 PM »
A person can make their own black powder--but it's a fairly tedious & complicated process if you want a quality product with consistent performance.  Caking and grinding, for example.

If not percussion, then flintlocks. If not flintlocks, then matchlocks.

Shot can be made without molds--it just requires a shot tower, a little gravity, and some water down below.

If technology dropped back a hundred to two hundred years, I'd probably just say heck with it and go back to bows and arrows. Crossbows for hunting maybe, and longbows for war.

Longbows are more accurate at longer ranges, fire faster, don't reveal your location, and don't obscure your vision with clouds of smoke.
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Offline bdhutier

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2011, 12:43:45 PM »
A flintlock weapon is probably one of the most sustainable projectile weapons available.  It really doesn't matter whether it's a musket (military weapon) or not, rifled or smoothbore.  I guess the smoothie does have the advantage of a good shot pattern ve. the rifle, but when talking roundball, it really doesn't matter.  Blackpowder is all I would hunt with, since it's the most sustainable, but my home/personal defense weapons are all centerfire. 

FYI, patches are wrapped around bullets, and can be made of damn near anything as long as it's a natural material (no polyester, etc.).  Wadding goes between powder and shot, or under balls in revolvers (if you choose to use them, which I don't).  Bullet molds are cheap, and a must for survivability.  And yes, I know of many people who hunt rabbit and squirrel with a .58 or bigger with reduced loads.

Soupbone: .62cal is just a hair bigger than a 20ga (.620 vs. .596).  I've been thinking about trying shot cups in my .72 SxS, but I really don't want the plastic to streak the bore.
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Offline rustyknife

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2011, 07:37:38 PM »
I have a "flinter" and shoot it when I can for the vary same reasons mentioned above. However if you go with a flinter, practice as often as you can in all kinds of weather. Learn to knap your own flints. They are really fun to shoot and I love to read the history books about that time period but they can be finicky.
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Offline madcatter

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2012, 06:42:22 AM »
as long as your a better shot than us you could probably survive
we have ordered a mill and are going to expirement on making our own black powderthis summer.
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Offline hillclimber

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2012, 10:31:12 AM »
Well, I have a modern "inline" muzzle loader because it extends my hunting season by 2 weeks.
I use black powder substitute most of the time, as well as shotgun primers and sabots.
I do have a mold for it just in case. 209 primers are pretty cheap when bought in bulk, and so it black powder. I guess I wouldn't want it to be my only weapon, but it is a accurate and powerful weapon.
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Offline drick

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2012, 05:18:18 AM »
i like 50 cals .
atm mine are cap fired , but with some simple blacksmithing could add a flash pan(thats something i should address now)
have shot 4shot out of my oldest rifle. (can damage rifeling)
DIY powder is doable (be safe and legal)
balls can be made of anything (if SHTF happens there will be useless cars ,no worries)

tools and know how are priceless
just a few thoughts

Offline flinttim

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2012, 09:40:21 AM »
Morning folks. I'm new to the forum but think I can add something here. As background, I have been building and shooting muzzle loaders since 1981, having built 50 plus guns of various types. Of the 50, maybe three or four were caplocks, all the rest , flintlocks. Along the way I have also gathered several .22s and shotguns and the last few years took a shine to WW2 military rifles(bolt action). I cast all my own balls for my M/Ls as well as make my own flints . As I shoot in competition regularly I keep a good amount of powder on hand. Likely enough to keep me the rest of my days if it's for food gathering and protection. Now having said all this, what gun ? If you rely on a M/L for your life in the early days of a SHTF situation you'll likely die. You'll go down fast in a firefight with folks carrying Centerfires and even .22s. You'll just be completely outgunned. I suppose I'm way above average when it comes to using a flintlock efficiently and accurately but I would hold out little hope in that scenario for myself and family. I'd surely take some of my flintlocks and would use them for food gathering if I'm in a safe place but for protection I'd rely on my shotguns and my military rifles..Eventually the modern ammo will be used up or be in the hands of honorable people (would there be such a thing ?) and once we are on that more level playing field my flintlocks would be indispensable .
  I also shoot traditional archery a lot. Own several recurves and longbows. They would be my go to stuff for silent hunting .There is no one magic gun or weapon. Have several.

Offline Perfesser

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2012, 01:19:50 PM »
This is a pretty good example of "once we have technology will we ever go back?"

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take long for someone to figure out how to hook up a piezoelectric BBQ lighter to a black powder rifle if needed.
Or one from a cigarette lighter.
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Offline Prepper32720

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2012, 07:45:24 AM »
I am an avid black powder shooter.  My advice, for what it is worth, is to have a smooth bore and a rifle in the same caliber. 

Offline chrisdfw

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2012, 04:48:51 PM »
This is a pretty good example of "once we have technology will we ever go back?"

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take long for someone to figure out how to hook up a piezoelectric BBQ lighter to a black powder rifle if needed.
Or one from a cigarette lighter.

I bet if you looked you could find something like that. Hint hint they exist.

Offline chrisdfw

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2012, 11:38:49 PM »
Any, I wanted to add, that while I considered black powder guns for a while, if you are thinking about a percussion cap model, why not just get one of the revolvers in a caliber that started off as a black powder model.

If you have to stock up on primers anyway, you can go ahead and reload a brass case with black powder.

If you are casting a bullet, cast one to reload a brass case.

I just don't see a big advantage to a cap and ball pistol, if you have to have primers anyway. Get a lee loader and just reload a brass case. There is a reason why technology moved on. Pretty much the same goes for rifles, at least those with a straight wall case.

Offline bcksknr

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #22 on: July 05, 2012, 09:33:02 AM »
Never bring a knife for a gunfight. Never bring a club for a flintlock fight. I guess there are two ways of looking at the question. In the immediate circumstances surrounding a societal collapse you would probably want to have the most up to date and potent firearms, with plenty of ammunition. to counter evil-doers who no doubt will be similarly armed. For the long run, if you can survive, eventally the ammunition will run out and modern weapons will break down. This could take a long time; perhaps a generation or more. Depending on how chaotic things got, our descendants may very well have to revert to simpler technology, for many skills. I shoot blackpowder firearms on a regular basis. We all know how easy it is to make a serviceable black powder (all the ingredients are available at a garden supply store). Flint or flint-like stone is found just about every where. Lead is easy to scrounge from wheel weights, car batteries, old plumbing, etc. I agree that a flintlock may not be the best "high capacity" defensive weapon, but it beats the heck out of a stick. A musket ball will kill you just as dead as a jacketed hollow point! Our ancestors built and maintained these types of firearms by hand without modern manufacturing techniques. They used simple substances (taken from the earth) and chemistry to keep them operating. They put food on the table and protected their families. Our children or grandchildren may have to do the same. Even if we can rely on a stash of modern weapons, we owe it to future generations to preserve, and pass on, the knowledge to survive at a diminished level of technology, if it comes to that. A true survivalist should study the technology of pre-industrial revolution society (by the way thats also the society that made what they needed without raping our planet!). How much of that knowledge could you put to use if you had to; how much could you teach to your kids?

Offline bdhutier

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #23 on: July 05, 2012, 11:28:05 PM »
Center-fire for defense, BP for hunting.  If you live out a ways, I'd suspect you'd do a lot more hunting than defending in the long run. 

If things are SO bad they last years and years, then your grand kids will probably be shooting the remainder of that 25lb case of 2F you bought.
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Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2012, 08:02:12 AM »
Thanks again for your take on this.  Learned a thing or two.

Offline Lostjagged

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2014, 05:12:25 PM »
Quote
In so far as making your own black powder, yes, we all know the 3-2-1 formula, but where will you get sulfur? Or saltpeter? And even if you had the components, how do you mix them safely and how do you get the grain size you need to function in a musket without blowing it up? This will require some study and homework now, while everything is still available. (Please check the applicable laws to see if you can legally experiment with making your own black powder.)

The charcoal is easy enough to make and I have read that saltpeter can be "made" from manure (I've seen a detailed article on using chicken manure in either Backwoods home or The Backwoodsman magizines) . I do not know of any way to "make" sulfur at this time though.
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Offline iam4liberty

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2014, 10:19:20 PM »
The charcoal is easy enough to make and I have read that saltpeter can be "made" from manure (I've seen a detailed article on using chicken manure in either Backwoods home or The Backwoodsman magizines) . I do not know of any way to "make" sulfur at this time though.

I read that article too.  Near where I grew up there was an old sulfur mine down the road from a huge chicken farm.  The article made me wonder if that was a coincidence or if it evolved that way to support the huge blackpowder industry of the past.

MSB vendor paladin press has a book on DIY blackpowder making.  It goes into sources and extraction methods for the various ingredients.  One interesting one for sulfur is gypsum drywall.

Back to the topic on hand, a single shot center fire shotgun can easily be used as a muzzle loader: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES59LtA7XE8

Offline trekker111

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #27 on: September 15, 2014, 10:39:31 PM »
Sulphur is cheap, like 6 or 8 dollars for a 40lb bag, and it lasts basically forever. Keep it dry and 100 years from now it will still be good.

Offline mnotlyon

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2014, 09:32:27 AM »
This is a pretty good example of "once we have technology will we ever go back?"

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take long for someone to figure out how to hook up a piezoelectric BBQ lighter to a black powder rifle if needed.
Or one from a cigarette lighter.

About 30 years ago I made a 22 caliber pistol that used black powder as a propellant, and a cox glow plug to light it off. Batteries were stored in the grip, and the trigger actuated a mini switch to light the glow plug.
I built it before the days of CNC's. It takes a bit longer, but it's not hard.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Are black powder rifles/pistols sustainable?
« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2014, 09:57:22 AM »
I don't have muzzle loading experience, but have thought considerably about sustainable ammo for some time.

If you're satisfied with either stockpiling percussion caps, or possibly repriming yourself using matchheads, etc.  why not just do the same with centerfire primers and have some black powder compatible cartridge guns?

Any manual loading cartridges guns like revolvers/lever/bolt/pump/break action could cycle a cartridge if BP had to be substituted for smokeless.

My general plan:
accumulate LOTS of primers - this are the most universal reloading component and will always have value
accumulate commercially made smokeless and possibly black or substitute powder if needed
know how to manufacture BP using old school recipes in the event it's needed
know how to reprime a primer

Given that $100 will easily get me 3000 name brand primers, it's feasible to just stockpile for the modern cartridges you already use.  If you want to get into BP/muzzle loading for a hobby - DO IT.  Otherwise you'll start sounding like the guys who drive 1960s pickup for the primary purpose of being EMP resistant.   ;D

There are many low power pistol loads that require only 2-3 grains of smokeless powder.  If you figure $25 for a 1 lbs. jar,  (7000 grains per pound), that's almost 3000 charges from 1 lbs. costing about 1 penny per.

SO - I think the solution might be to identify cartridges that are cheap to hand load and have the functional characteristics you desire.