View Full Version : Black Powder hunting - comments, thoughts, questions.

December 3, 2002, 09:26 PM
Out came the .45 cal. Hawken today. This is one of the Cabela's Investarm rifles - got it for my 16th birthday/xmas - unlike a lot of you folks mine was only 10 years ago :D It had been asleep for 3 or 4 months now. Shot 20 of T/C's Maxi Hunter 255 gr. maxi balls in .45. A pleasing thump over 90 grains of Pyrodex R/S! The cut of the stock thumps my upper jawbone/cheekbone (I've got the Neandertal thing going on - complete with high prominent cheeckbones) pretty good. Not badly enough for me to worry about it though. Front sight covers an area about a 12-14" in diameter at 100 yards. Sighted in so POI sits on top of the bead on average. Just able to manage 2/3 of a Minute of Pie Plate from prone with 90 grains. Max load of 100 grains just tosses 'em all over the place.

Set trigger works well. It has a veeery clean break. A really nice trigger actually. I like it better than my otherwise good Rem 700. Weight is perfectly balanced over the support hand. Offhand accuracy doesn't suffer a whole lot. Death to paper plates offhand at 50-60 yards almost every time.

I'm looking for more information on the hunting differences between calibers. The hunting I'm referring to is Eastern US Whitetail deer. Gunshop lore seems to tell us that a black powder .45 is minimal at best for hunting. .50 is much better - so I've heard. I'm wondering if the .45 is that poor , and why. Looking at Hogden's data for Pyrodex. I see that the 255 gr. Maxi Balls I was using make a little over 1730 FPS out of a .45 with max load. I have not chronographed mine, so I don't know how this compares. But I'll stick with data from the same manufacturer. The .50 cal load is about 100 fps slower with an increase of roughly 50 grains in projectile weight. I suspect the .45 would have a slightly flatter trajectory, what with smaller x-section and higher velovcity - despite the momentum advantage of the .50.

From what I've been told and read (possible source of misinformation - is this right?), both the .45 and .50 cal Maxi Balls have a tendency to penetrate completely. While this may not be so with round ball, it has been impressed upon me that does frequently happen with the heavier Maxis for the calibers. It seems that the resultant hole through the critter is going to be pretty big in either case. In the realm of "pre-expanded". Whatever additional expansion you get will be icing on the cake (making an assumption here).

Which brings us to - does the slightly greater diameter wound channel ( 5 hundreths of an inch to start with) offset the velocity loss under that of a .45 enough to proclaim the .50 is markedly better? Is it significant enough to claim the .50 is ideal and the .45 is inadequate? The same trend continues with the .54 and .58 but more noticably so.

Round balls seem to be a whole different game, with exiting rarely occuring. Is this right? Not to mention being a ballistic nightmare. I notice that Hogden gives a .50 patched ball about 100 fps OVER a .45 at the muzzle. Does anyone know at what distances the increased drag overcomes the extra momentum the .50 has going for it and it drops behind the .45?

This could be a roundabout way of trying to justify a purchase of Lyman Great Plains .50 though :)

On the matter of black powder I'm pretty ignorant. Been shooting it for 10 years, but never really interested enough to pursue it more depth - until now. Anyone have any book suggestions that deal with these issues?

Thanks again,

Tom Matiska
December 4, 2002, 08:22 AM
I took my first ML kill this year with a .50 round ball. I'd agree that a .45 cal 127gr roundball is the marginal for deer. Our past state game regs that required over 45 cal were based on round ball thinking. If your twist rates can handle heavier maxi's then go for it.


Bwana Earl
December 4, 2002, 09:27 PM
Many years ago (30?) my first smokepole was a .45 CVA sidehammer with a long twist, suited for patched roundballs only. It never failed to exit whitetail in the 120 pound class, usually including one or both shoulder bones. All except one were within 100 yds, usually under 75 yds. This is a small sample, maybe 9 or 10 before moving on to .50 cal. Fifty cal offers lots more versatality and flatter shots to justify scopes, which are now legal in these parts.
I've had heavy 50 cal bullets penetrate lengthwise on these deer, but now use 225gr .45 pistol bullet with sabot. Accuracy and trajectory seem ideal for my purposes, and there is plenty of energy at the end of my range.

Art Eatman
December 4, 2002, 10:04 PM
For round balls, the mass is a function of the cube of the radius*. A 50-caliber ball is 37% heavier than a 45-caliber ball.


* Volume of a sphere = 4/3 x Pi x the cube of the radius.

Bwana Earl
December 4, 2002, 11:00 PM
And m'ass is 37% wider than it was 30 years ago, too!