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 A 30 year summary of projectile performance

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Number of posts : 57
Age : 71
Location : NC
Registration date : 2018-06-08

PostSubject: A 30 year summary of projectile performance   July 11th 2018, 7:44 am

I've used muzzleloading rifles for hunting for the past 30 years. For 20 of those years I was a professional hunter and got to witness a lot of muzzleloader action from clients too. I kept meticulous notes on everything that was shot including my own game and clients. I recently pondered over all the notes and made some realizations.

First, I admit to knowing far less about muzzleloading in the past than my current knowledge.  I pretty much used 100 grain loads of whatever powder I could purchase almost exclusively, with the exception being 2-60 grain Triple7 pellet loads and 90 grains of Blackhorn 209. (Nowadays that has changed and I tend to use 80grs for most everything).

I was never picky about projectile and either shot what was provided by a sponsor or what was available in the store (no stores focused on black powder near me). I have personally shot over 600 big game animals from muntjac to elephant but just short of 100 have been with muzzleloader rifles. The rifles include CVA in-lines and sidelocks, T/C in-line, and a Traditions sidelock in .50 cal and a .58 Zouave. It is only in the past 4 years that I have and use .54 cal in a Pedersoli Rolling Block and a custom Flintlock.

Depending on the regulations and the purpose I have used fixed sights, adjustable sights, peep sights and scopes. I have always sighted in to be dead-on at 100 yards. This was a necessity at one time because the only public range nearby only offered that target distance. Out of habit, I just kept doing that.

The projectiles include T/C Maxi-Balls (370gr), T/C Shockwave (250gr), Barnes T-MZ (290 gr), Hornady XTP in 240 gr and 300 gr, Thor 300 gr, Speer .452 jacketed 250 gr in red sabot, Cheap Shot (250 gr lead), Powerbelt (245 gr), and some others I did not note well. The .58 were 600 grain conicals. As a sidenote, I use PRB in my current .54 Flintlock and a No Excuse 535 gr conical in my .54 Rolling Block.

Powders include Pyrodex RS, Triple 7 FFFg and Triple 7 Magnum pellets, and Blackhorn 209. (I now use Goex 3F in my Flintlock).

My list of game mostly includes northern whitetail deer with the next most common game being Texas feral hogs. There is an antelope, two elk and an array of exotic species too. 

I have a lot of old Secret Service handgun targets with a black 3.5" circle. Someone gave me about 10,000 of them when I was a kid (I still have about 100 left). If a projectile would keep 5 shots in the 3.5" circle from the bench at 100 yards, I'd use it. If not, I did not waste more time shooting them.

I almost always used a known range reference when stand hunting. I would reference 100 yards and 50 yards (because I knew I was sighted in at 100 yards). Most of the time my shots would end up being around 90 yards because I would let the animal get within my 100 yard area before shooting. I used to use an old prism-stadia rangefinder before the laser type came out and then I switched to one of those. My furthest shot with ML was 134 yards and closest being 15 yards, both on whitetail deer. I like to use a rest like a bipod or a makeshift rest like a tree (or treestand). 

I suppose I have been lucky. I have missed 4 animals. Of those that I have shot, only one elk required more than one shot to put on the ground (actually 3-shots). I have otherwise killed everything with one shot and recovered the animals. I've only recovered 7 projectiles inside an animal and 2 of those were the same elk just mentioned. I don't know if all the others were pass-through or not, just that I didn't look for nor incidentally find them.

Here is the highlights of my journal:

Over 30 animals were taken with the 245 gr Powerbelt. These were the most commonly available and I got good accuracy with them. They suffer a horrible reputation in internet-world. Worked for me. Had I had a computer back then I would have been scared to shoot these based on reviews!

Next most used was the Cheap Shot Sabot. $9.00 for 20 of 'em! Accounted for 20 animals. 

Then some late 80's, early 90's projectiles labeled Easy Loading Muzzleloader Sabots. These were 15 bullets with a red sabot in a blister pack. The bullets were Speer 250 grain .452's. I bought two packs for $4.94 each. One to sight-in and the other 15 accounted for animals.

Next most used was the 240 gr Hornady XTP (.430) in a Green Harvester Crush Rib Sabot. My notes indicate this was most accurate overall out of all the 50 cal. rifles with one-hole groups at 100 yds with some set-ups. 16 dead animals with these. 

After that, there is a plethora of projectiles used once or twice on game. For example: 4 deer taken with Barnes T-MZ, 1 deer, 1 hog and 1 elk taken with Hornady XTP 300 grain (.430) Green CRS. A fallow deer with a TC Maxi Ball 370 gr. A Red Stag taken with a Thor 300 grain. An antelope with a 295 gr Powerbelt.  A bear with a 250 grain bullet called a Smackdown and another with a T/C Shockwave. 

One thing that stands out to me is that the less expensive projectiles have provided great performance. Another stand out is that most any projectile will pass-through a deer sized animal. I guess the most important thing is shot placement, knowing the range and your sights and waiting for the right shot presentation.

I currently have 4 rifles that each shoot a different projectile because that is what they are most accurate with. I've only shot one or two animals with each over the past 4 years as I don't hunt nearly as much, but the trend continues. One rifle shoots Hornady PA Conicals ($14.20 per 50) and the flintlock 54 shoots PRB. The short .50 with scope shoots a 295 gr Powerbelt into one hole at 100 yds, and the rolling block 54 shoots the No Excuse. I've shot a few whitetail (Powerbelts), and Axis deer (No Excuse), a ram (PRB), two sika deer (PA Conical), two red deer and an elk (54 PRB). One shot each with easy recovery. 

Conclusion: the key to success is not the projectile......
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