View Full Version : how far do typical muzzleloaders go?

July 26, 2006, 07:11 PM
how far do modern muzzleloaders usually go? im just getting into muzzleloaders and im just curious.

(edit:never mind got the answer to my questions hire http://www.chuckhawks.com/index2h.muzzleloader.htm)

July 28, 2006, 01:25 AM
Most regular muzzlers will shoot effectively up to 100 yards with normal loads.
The inlines will reach out there to 200 if prepares properly.
Some of the old muskets used to shoot out 600 yards or more but weren't that accurate. They lobbed the balls in to the target like a cannon.
The best actual accurate range for a safe load is out to about 75yds and most prefer out to 50. That way you don't have to get sore from recoil.
Those inlines with 150 grains will knock you off the bench if you ain't ready for the big bang!!.They'll shoot accurately but hurt at both ends~~~~~!!!
I like 85gr FFG for out to 100 yards with my .54 rifle.

July 28, 2006, 07:35 PM
Do yourself a favor and buy a reproduction Civil War gun. I have a Euroarms1858 Enfield 2 band 58 caliber musket rifle. The first deer i shot was at 175 yards and shot it thru the heart. The second deer was running at 125 yards and it dropped with my first shot. Everything you read these days talks about 50 caliber guns and that's fine cause it is the mainstream. But, if you want a REAL deer slayer, get yourself a 58 caliber gun, it will drop a deer up to 200 yards easy. 58 caliber ensures that. I hunted for 20 years with a 12 guage shotgun, I could fire 3 rounds as fast as you can say 3 rounds, but nothing compares to 1 shot out of a 58 caliber gun. 1 shot and they are down, no messing around.

July 28, 2006, 07:50 PM
The max. range of a 58 caliber Civil war gun is around 500 - 600 yards.

Although, they can reach out even farther, depending on the shooter.

July 28, 2006, 11:29 PM
I pondered this question fairly recently because I was in the process of buying a blackpowder cartridge rifle. I started reading about the buffalo hunters, the guys shooting at Creedmor and all that. These guys were shooting groups out at ranges up to 1000 yards that would rivil anything being shot today.
It occured to me that there shouldn't be any reason why a muzzleloader shouldn't be able to hold it's own also. On these forums, every once in awhile, someone asks this very question and the answer is pretty much always given as something like 75-100 yards. No discussion ever takes place as to why this would be the limit and everyone goes on about their business. I agree and disagree with that range estimation. For general hunting type shots that are encountered randomly in the field, you are limited to a range of somewhere around 100 yards primarily because of two factors:
The sights.
And accurate range estimation.
Up until fairly recently, most muzzleloaders didn't have sights that were designed for precision long range shooting. But with the low velocity and heavy bullets typically shot with muzzleloaders you get a very steep trajectory and IMO this limits your range (of ACCURATE shooting) more than do the sights. This doesn't mean you can't hit a target at 300 yards or more, it just means that you have to know almost exactly what the range is, and know pretty much exactly what sight setting is needed to hit at that range. I guess it goes without saying that this means you need to have sights that you can adjust readily for the range (elevation). For target shooting or known distance shooting, there is no reason why this range couldn't extend out a lot further, possibly out to the maximum range you could see the target with the sights your rifle is equipped with. BUT, knowing the distance is critical.
If you want to read about the absolute fringe limits of blackpowder shooting, read about the famous shot made by Billy Dixon at Adobe Walls. Billy fired a shot at some assembled Indians at over 1500 yards using a Sharps buffalo rifle using blackpowder and cast lead bullets. I read an article on the shot in Precision Shooting magazine where they broke down the numbers on that shot. I don't remember the exact numbers but at that range, the bullet was dropping something like five inches for every nine inches of forward movement. Long story short, to pull off a shot like that, he needed to know the range almost exactly or he could have easily missed by so far that the Indians would have never even known he was shooting at them.
Again, I realize he wasn't using a muzzleloading rifle, but I think you get the idea.

One other minor point, if your goal is long range shooting, the in-line guns are NOT the way to go. You want a big, heavy bullet that is at least somewhat aerodynamic: not a jacketed pistol bullet. You also need a bullet rather than a round ball. You also need a bullet with proper lubrication and proper grease grooves to enable you to do more shooting than cleaning.

I have a T/C Renegade in .50 that I used to have equipped with a Lyman peep sight. The peep sight was a huge improvement over the factory T/C sights, which in turn were a huge improvement over traditional muzzleloader sights. I never did any long distance shooting with the rifle, but looking back on it, I doubt that the sight had enough built in elevation to take you out very far. If you look at rifles such as the old Sharps rifles or the Remington rolling blocks or even the old lever actions like the '73 Winchesters, you will often find them equipped with large tang sights. The height of that tang sight determines how much elevation you can get out of the rear sight, which is essential for long range shooting with black powder.

July 29, 2006, 02:51 AM
And then you could look at the Whitworth rifle, and decide, well, yeah, they might actually shoot right along with the 30-378, or the 338 OKH, or anything else.

Here's a link to a good DL of the development of the Rifle, as we know it.


DL them all, but read "The Story of the Guns". Outstanding.

The QUEEN, f'r chri'sake, hit the bull at 500 yards. Was the Royalty better than the pampered femmes elsewhere or what? ( Confidentially, if I were in the butts and the Queen had just shot, I would probably have rung up a bull, too.)



Wild Bill Bucks
August 8, 2006, 03:03 PM
gunslinger 555,

Checking some ballistic software, shows me, that with my 50 caliber ML, with 150 grains of 777, and a 240 grain bullet, on a perfectly still day, and shooting ability WAAAAY beyond what I am capable of, that in order for me to hit dead zero at 500 yards, I would have to be sighted in 18" high at 50 yards, 35.4" high at 100 yards, 61.4" high at 200 yards, 69.7" high at 300 yards, 51.3" high at 400 yards.

That's why for most purposes, a ML is only good for a couple hundred yards. There are lots of stories out there about super long range shots (Some may even be true) but there aren't very many stories where anyone did it consistintly. :D

They have a shoot off in England every year at ranges out to 1000 yards, and the results they produce are amazing, but those kind of shooters (and guns) in this world, can be counted on your fingers.:D

August 9, 2006, 12:18 PM
I have to disagree with some of that, for the reasons given in my previous post.
I think there are a whole lot of guys out there that can shoot at 1000 yards. Lots of clubs have 1000 yard matches including one club local to me. As I said before, IF you know the precise range and IF you have a set of sights up to the task, the fact that the rifle is muzzleloading shouldn't really limit your ability to hit the target.
In your example about shooting 500 yards you list all the trajectory data, BUT, if you had your rifle zeroed for 500 yards and you were shooting at a target at exactly 500 yards, the fact that the rifle was muzzleloading shouldn't matter at all: at that point it simply comes down to the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Point being, a muzzleloading rifle isn't any less accurate than any other rifle. It is simply harder to use because of the bullet trajectory. If you know the range and you know the sight settings for that range then the rest is up to your own skills and not the rifle's.

August 23, 2006, 08:05 AM
I was bet once that I culd not hit the base of a tuft of grass that was prominent at approximately 450 yards out in the pasture. I but a 500gr. bullet from my muzleloader in an exact centered bullseye right at the base of the tuft off hand. The tuft was less than a foot high and less than a foot wide. There was a nice hole in the banked dirt where the bullet went into the hill. I used 75gr. of FFg powder and the Lyman 500gr. Govt. bullet with a vegetable fiber wad under the bullet. I could hit things even further than 450 yards. The rifle is a Hawken I built with a 45/70 barrel 32 in. length and one inch across the flats. The bullet is put thru a bullet swag that was cut from the barrel when the barrel was still big and round. The top of the piece of barrel for the swag was left widder than the bottom so the piece could stay in a vise when a lubed bullet was put in the funneled hole and tapped in base first and then tapped thru with a wood dowell. The rifling would then be engraved on the bullet so as to be able to load it in the muzzle without turning it into a mushrrom. The rifle shot like a Sharps out to about 600 yards where the accuracy began to fall off but not a lot. Probably due to the lose of gases thru the nipple ect. ect. The rear sight was a full buckhorn and the front a silver bladed copper based dovetailed to the barrel. It's my hunting rifle for deer. Closest shot on game about 3 paces and the furthest about 100 yards. Why? Ethics and the rainbow trajectory. I got to shootng the rifle pretty well for ridding the farm of hole digging ground hogs(wood chucks). The instant feedback from being able to see where the bullet hit the dirt when shooting some distance was a real help in learning to shoot the gun. I had a percussion sharps with the buckhorn sights that was as accurate as the 45/70 barreled Hawken and it was 45cal. and used a 400gr. bullet.
Shooting way out with the Hawken was possible and the gun accurate enough but....it was like shooting a little artillary piece. Lots of rainbow. hee hee Fun. Lots of fun that rifle is fer sure.
The rifle isn't typical so maybe I should't post anything on it . It gives a comparasion though. The sectional density of a 45 cal. 500gr. bullet is the trick to shooting further with the rifle. The modern inlines(Hawkens are side locks) shoot saboted bullets mostly and most refrain from using heavy lead bullets because of that. Hard to find a sabot that encases a 500gr. 45 bullet. hee hee If the inline shooters would give it up on the sabots and use lead bullets and find a way to load them straight they could lengthen the effective range without the use of the ridiculous charge of 150gr. of powder and the use of a pistol bullet. The pistol bullets don't have the sectional density to be real long rangers. A 45 Long Colt bullet at 250-260gr. can reach out a good ways if the rifling in the barrel is fast enough but......the danged plastic sabots are illogical. They make a 50cal. shoot 45cal. bullets. Too much plastic and not enough length to the bullet. The Hawken I built has a rifling twist of 1-22 and I wish it was what most 45/70's are today with the 1-18 twist. The inlines most all have a twist of 1-28. That is better suited (a little fast) for a 50cal. bullet. So why don't the inline shooters shoot 50cal. bullets from the 50cal. rifles? Heck with the sabots. They make loading easier but.....Thompson Center has the QLA. Quick Load Accurizer. A section at the muzzle where the rifling is reamed back so the bullets can be loaded into the muzzle easy enough and then be supported straight for the push into the rifling. Load it straight and it can shoot straight. Without the QLA it would be nearly impossible to load a cal. size bullet for the barrel without the danged plastic sabot. I'd rather use a 50cal. bullet in a 50cal. rifle instead of a 45 cal. bullet in a 50 cal. barrel. I'd use a hollow based bullet I guess that was a snug fit about .002 over land diameter and let the lead obsturate to fill the grooves. I do that with a 50cal. Rolling Block muzzleloader I bought from Cabelas when they still sold the one with the oct. barrel. That rifle with a 300+gr. Lee hollow based minnie can shoot well even to 500 yards even with the less than optimum sectional density of the short 50cal. bullet and the use of only 80-90gr. FFg powder. I use the .002" over land diameter hollow base so it loads straight using a Barnes ramrod end made for centering the bullet when loading. Cabelas sells them as others do. They help if the rifles don't have the QLA that T/C has on their rifles. I suggested that QLA to the techs at T/C years ago. The QLA. Load it straight and it can fly straight. Skip the plastic sabot. Clymer sells the reamers to put the false muzzle type QLA in a rifle barrel. The same reamers that T/C uses. Hand reamers with fixed pilots. If the pilots are too loose than a careful wrap of shim stock that meets and doesn't overlap can tighten the reamers. I guess I'm saying that the typical muzzleloaders with the fast twist 1-28 can be made to shoot further with the heavy lead conical bullets if the bullets are loaded straight (use of the Clymer reamers to false muzzle the barrel) and have some good sectional density. Bullet moulds for the White Rifles and the Lyman Great Plains bullets are winners in a 50cal. and 54 cal. barrels. The Lyman bullet can be had with a hollow base too which can be a help. Well, sure an inline rifle can shoot a good distance consistantly especially if it is a T/C with the QLA in the muzzle but....a person can go further yet consistantly with a non-saboted lead slug of the proper cal. for the cal. of the rifle barrel. It could be done without the high amount of powder the 150 grainer rifles can handle. I guess to emulate the blackpowder cartridge rifle loadings is what I'm trying to say. The blackpowder cartridge rifles don't use plastic sabots and don't need ridiculous amounts of powder to shoot "WAY" out there. Those saboted bullets that are sold in retail stores are "too expensive". The use of the lead Lyman Great Plains bullets Hornady sells or the use of a good bullet mould to cast "lead" slugs can get the typical muzzleloader to shoot "WAY" out there. hee hee Know what I mean?

4V50 Gary
August 23, 2006, 06:23 PM
From our sister website, The High Road, is a link to stories of long range shooting or shots involving marksmen. The answer your seek is therein.

long range shooting stories (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=36853)

BTW, I also endorse the .58 cal minie gun for taking game. Some soldiers got so good, they could consistently hit a filled sandbag (that was laying flat) at 500 yards.

August 24, 2006, 08:38 AM
How far do muzzle loaders go?

Journee's rule says the maximum range is about 2200 times the diameter in inches. At the relative low velocities achieved by muskets and shotguns using round balls, air resistance is a much greater factor than when pointed bullets are used.

Using that as a guideline, a ball from a brown bess would have a maximum total range of about 1500 yards, a .50 caliber round ball would go 1100 yards and the ball from your little .32 squirrel rifle would only travel 704 yards. Shotgun pellets fall to earth a lot closer to the shooter than I would have guessed. A #6 pellet (.11), only gets out there 242 yards and a #8 (.09) only 198 yards. When a conical bullet is used, throw the above ranges away!

Maximum effective range? Depends on the shooter and what type of projectile the muzzle loader is loaded with.

I have a .451 Volunteer target rifle which is capable of keeping all it's long 550 grain bullets on a 44 inch target at 1000 yards. note I carefully didn't say I could do that, only that the rifle was capable of it. I am getting 4 inch groups at 200 yards, though, and when I figure out where to shoot at longer ranges, I still have lots of unused vertical adjustment on my Lee Shaver tang sight!

If you are interested in long range muzzle loading shooting, you might want to check out http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/lrml/


August 26, 2006, 08:39 AM
Steve, what method do you use to get the bullets loaded? False muzzle? Hollow bases? Muzzle QLA'd ?(rifling reamed to groove diameter so the bullet slips in and is supported for it's push into the rifling) Where did you get the Rigby rifle? Who makes it? Pedersoli? What powder load? Spitzer Bullet? Special ramrod tip fer it? What's the rifling twist? I'd think I'd remember who makes the Rigby but well....I fergit stuff anymore. hee hee

August 26, 2006, 11:40 AM
Wayner, the bullets are flat based grease groove bullets sized to .450. I am loading 80 grains of Swiss FFFg with a card wad between the powder and bullet. I clean the bore with one wet (rubbing alcohol) patch followed by one dry patch between shots, making fouling a non-issue. The bullets drop to the card wad just by gravity but I always run the rod down to check on seating. The undersized bullet is bumped up to bore size and takes the rifling on the entire length of the bullet as recovered bullets show. The rifle is a Euroarms 2 band volunteer which I ordered from S&S sales out of New York. It came with Alexander Henry rifling, 1 turn in 20. I managed to ring the bore so I had the barrel re-lined with a liner which has shallow groove rifling, also 1 in 20 I think, I haven't actually checked! The rifle didn't shoot well at all until I messed around with the barrel bedding. I'm fairly happy with it now but I'm probably not finished experimenting.


August 26, 2006, 12:32 PM

I appreciate all the information you are giving. But one question:

One other minor point, if your goal is long range shooting, the in-line guns are NOT the way to go. You want a big, heavy bullet that is at least somewhat aerodynamic: not a jacketed pistol bullet.

I don't understand. What's one got to do with the other? In what way could it possibly matter whether it's an inline or a sidelock? Thanks.

August 29, 2006, 10:32 AM
I guess in my opinion the bullet is the culprit and not the rifle except if one considers the 1-28 twist they all seem to have. A 45 bullet likes at least a 1-22 twist and that would be a 50cal. rifle firing a saboted 45 bullet. Now the optimum rifling twist fer a 50cal(regular bullet-no sabote) is the 1-32 twist so the 1-28 could work in an inline. The bullet.....has to have some sectional density to be a long ranger. That is regards to the diameter compared to the length. Pistol bullets work fine to a certain distance and then begin to de-stabilize on their axis and begin the "yaw". (wobble) The longer rifle bullets retain energy because of the weight and they stay stabilized on their axis longer to get further "out there" accurately. I would assume that if a person used some of the technichics that the blackpoder cartridge shooters use they could get some range from an inline muzzleloader. It would just require a long bullet compared to the diameter of it. The pistol bullets are an example of a bullet that is almost only 1/2 the length it should be to be a long range bullet. Long range being over 300 yards. A long pistal bullet like the 300+ grain 45's can shoot out there a ways. I think there are some heavy longer bullets and sabots to accompany them that could shoot a good long ways accurately. There is a Knight rifle in 52 cal that is set up to fire 50cal. bullets. Some special bullets that only Knight sells. I could be wrong on the cal. but there is a Knight rifle made to fire heavier longer bullets. I think Hornady makes the bullets for the rifle. Anywhoooo.... like I said earlier that a good lead slug without the sabot loaded into an inline could shoot a good long ways if the bullet is loaded straight into the barrel. If ya can find the right bullet. The 45cal. inlines may have a good enough rifling twist to use a long 45 bullet that likes at least the 1-22 twist. The inline usually has the 1-28 twist. That would be a better 50cal. twist so a longer 50cal. bullet without the sabot could reach out there better probably. Of course a good 50cal. bullet would be needed and that could be found researching some of the "Blackpowder Cartridge" sights and maybe inquiring about a bullet while on a forum where the BP cartridge shooters are. Lyman makes a mould for a good 400gr.(pretty sure it's 400gr) 50cal. bullet. It's .515 diameter so it may need sized fer an inline. The QLA would be good to have on the inline to load the bullet straighter. That is the trick. Load straight. The sabots are actually a way to load bullets into barrels without turning them into mushrooms trying to beat them into the bore. With the QLA and the big lead slug and the "Barnes" ramrod tip designed to help keep the bullet loading straight an inline probably could "almost" shoot with the long rangers and almost keep up. OK so maybe the inlines could only get out to 400 and maybe 500 yards accurately loaded the way mentioned but....that's long range to me. hee hee Anywhoooo....I bet there is an inline shooter out there that has found the bullets and sabots or the plain bullets without the sabots that can shoot a good long range game out to 600. I have that Pedersoli Rolling block rifle in 50cal (it's inline)that has the shallow groove fast twist rifling at 1-32 and it seems to shoot pretty durn good out past 400 yards. I use heavy 50cal. slugs and like the hollow based ones pretty good for that rifle so I can size them to .502 and have an easy load straight into the barrel without beating on the bullets. It's a Rolling Block muzzleloader with the Octagon barrel but is still an inline through and through. hee hee

Steve, that must be a pretty stout load with that 80gr. of "Swiss FFFg" with the 550gr. bullet. hee hee I use 75gr. of FFg Qoex in my 45cal. Hawken and it "kicks". hee hee You get a good velosity of at least 1100-1200ft/sec.?? I figure I get close to 1200ft/sec. A long ranger needs at least 1100ft/sec. Too much faster than that can give more "wind" sensitivity because the faster the bullet goes the more sensitive it is to the wind. My load of 45 bullet and 75gr. FFg powder is more like the 45/90 than the 45/70(uses about 67gr. FFg and can shoot way out there with the 500gr. bullet). Yer load of 80gr. FFFg Swiss is more akin to the 45/110. Yeeee haaaa!!! Kickin time! hee hee Some people do compete with the Cartridge guys using muzzleloaders and I have been told the muzzleloaders drop behind in accuracy out around 600 yards.

August 29, 2006, 02:02 PM
Wayner, I don't have a chronograph to measure the velocity so I can't even guess about the speed the 80 grains of Swiss is giving me. As far as recoil goes, the 80 grain charge kicks less than the 96 grain charge I had worked up to when experimenting for accuracy.:) I shot about 60 of those from the bench and even though I wasn't too troubled by them at the time, I really noticed it the next day when I touched the first one off. Ouch!

Some of the long range muzzle loading match competitors regularly shoot 100 plus grains behind the .45, 550ish bullets. Personally, I don't think a muzzle loader gives anything up to a cartridge rifle (except loading speed) as long as you are comparing apples to apples. A long, high sectional density bullet spinning at a rate fast enough to stabilize it should behave similarly regardless of whether it is loaded from the front or back. Those short saboted bullets you mentioned will out perform a round ball, of course, but get beaten by the longer bullets which are much more commonly found loaded in cartridges than loaded in muzzle loaders.

That is my understanding of why the Whitworth was such a sensation in it's day. It fired a very long, fast spinning bullet which out performed everything else around at the time, by a very substantial margin. With the 45/110, you can duplicate what the Whitworth did, but the Whitworth ( and others which follow the same principles) will still perform as well today as they ever did.


August 29, 2006, 11:25 PM
Steve, I have a coupla those Pedersoli .451 bullet moulds from my percussion Sharps days. I don't have the rifle anymore so I don't need the moulds in .451. They're about 390gr. or maybe 400gr. I'd have to check fer sure. Been years. One mould new,one used.