View Full Version : 50 vs 54 cal.

January 14, 2013, 06:55 PM
Hey all,
new here, first time black powder buyer but avid shooter and last year I started reloading, (38 special, 9mm, 223 REM, 300 Savage, 12ga.). Good times when I can find primers!

I really like the looks and feel of the Hawkins style rifle but what caliber to start with 50 or 54? I am 6' 1" and 275 lbs. no recoil problems here. I will be killing mostly paper and maybe an occasional deer. I want to cast my own bullets, call me cheap, dumb or both. Is there an advantage of 1 over the other?

I am Justified

January 14, 2013, 07:21 PM
50. More stuff available locally. I have a 54, but it seems a during breed.

January 14, 2013, 07:23 PM
I used a .50 for over 30 years but since I got my .54 I don't want another .50

North East Redneck
January 14, 2013, 07:30 PM
Either caliber is fine. I have no problem finding stuff for .50 or .54. Personally I prefer .54. If you can, try both before you buy. If not buy the .54 first. You will be buying more anyway :D

January 14, 2013, 07:53 PM
for a traditional sidelock shooting patched round ball, you'll enjoy the 54cal a lot more.

Sure Shot Mc Gee
January 14, 2013, 11:52 PM
No doubt its a 54. Everything else is a wanna be._:D

January 15, 2013, 05:29 AM
Well there's the .58:D

Sure Shot Mc Gee
January 15, 2013, 06:04 AM
58. Just had to sneak that one in there didn't yaw. ;)

Doc Hoy
January 15, 2013, 06:05 AM
Welcome to the forum.

January 15, 2013, 07:27 AM
.495 roundballs for a .50 caliber weigh 182 grains.
.530 roundballs for a .54 weigh 224 grains.
.535 roundballs weigh 230 grains.
Just to help you compare the two calibers.

Of course, if you want kick, Minié bullets for a .58 weigh 535 or so grains.

(Minié is pronounced min-e-AY, the accent on the last syllable, named after the person who invented it.)

January 15, 2013, 08:58 AM
What about casting Maxi-Balls for the 54 vs the 50, any issues there?


Strafer Gott
January 15, 2013, 10:00 AM
Figure out your twist, and how you feel about putting plastic in your gun.
Fifties are mostly about inlines and sabots. .54 cal with a roundball is a good start, and will knock'em DRT. But the guys that shoot .58's think that's the one that'll knock down pretty much anything DRT. Maxiballs are insane weight wise, but they are not easy to load.

January 15, 2013, 10:50 AM
Justified, are you going to buy a rifle or build one?
(Or have one built)
For one built to your specs you can have many more options.
Factory 50 cals are usually very heavy. Not a problem if you don't have to carry it up a lot of mountains, but for those that do a lot of foot work getting into their hunt areas, a lighter rifle is a wonderful thing.

If you build, you have the options of;
Straight barrel
Swamped barrel
Tapered barrel
Rifling geometry
Rifling depth
Rifling twist.
Left or right handed rifle
Type of sights.
Placement of sights
Half stock
Full stock
Flint lock
Wood and grade of wood.
And a lot more.

January 15, 2013, 11:52 AM
I will buy off the shelf or maybe build. Hawkins style cap lock definitely. Weight is not really an issue to me, Land is flat cedar swamps and I can drive right to the blinds if necessary. Really want to cast my own bullets.


January 15, 2013, 12:03 PM
I own a .50 and have shot both. I gotta say, I really like the .50 but the .54 is , well, it's a .54!:D

January 15, 2013, 12:33 PM
.54 or better yet .58!!!!! "walk tall and throw a BIG ROCK!!" If you have hunted very long then you know a Whitetail is a STRONG WILLED ANIMAL!! I have put 180 gr 30-06 bullets right in the kill zone and have seen them run for quite a ways, not always but have seen it. So the way I figure it, I want the biggest round ball I can get to pack a good WALLOP!! YRMV!

January 15, 2013, 12:37 PM
What .50 and .54 loads (conical) would you recommend for deer or other large game????

What are the conical (minnie ball???) weights in each caliber????

Fingers McGee
January 15, 2013, 12:40 PM
Have had both calibers over the years. Onliest one I've kept is a Pedersoli .54 cal deluxe Tryon Rifle. It's been a meat getter from the get go and still shoots better than I do.

January 15, 2013, 01:01 PM
if you are going with a CONICAL shooter, then the 50cal would be the way to go as the options are huge.

250gr Thor is my choice for my 50cal sidelocks and inlines.

4V50 Gary
January 15, 2013, 01:06 PM
.50 is for fun.
.58 is for harvesting. Go with a Minie gun and reach out, reach out and touch something at up to 500 yards.

OK, if you're dead set on a Plains type rifle and will be using it for hunting, go with .54. Not as available but bigger balls do more damage.

January 15, 2013, 05:50 PM
Get a load worked up for a round ball and its unbelievably accurate at around 100 yards or maybe a little more but not limited to that range. They can be good deer harvesters out to 200. A conical hits harder. Minies are the easiest to load and are very accurate. However your twist rate will decide what works best.

January 15, 2013, 05:58 PM

I get the 'ball' thing and 'conicals' from my revolver experience, and I understand Sabots too, but can you explain Minnie Balls to me????

Also, what would be a really accurate load from both a .50 and a .54???

I am trying to get me a reasonably priced used Deerslayer until I can afford a .58 Zouave...

January 15, 2013, 07:24 PM
Hollow base conical. They're a couple of thousandths under bore size so they load easily and the skirt expands to engage the rifling when the rifle is fired.

One of my .58's.




As for an accurate load your rifle will determine that. What works in one may not work in another.

January 15, 2013, 07:26 PM

What loads are good in your rifle??? I am looking for a starting point...

January 15, 2013, 07:30 PM
I used 90 in my .50, Oddly enough 90 is a good load in my .54 but I only use round balls in it as it has a 1:66 twist. I use 70 grains in my .58 P 53 Enfield with minies.

January 15, 2013, 07:31 PM
can you explain Minnie Balls to me????

The Minié Ball is a hollow base conical named after its inventer, Claude-Étienne Minié. It was invented during the Crimean War and was the standard bullet used during the Civil War.

To spell it correctly, use alt+130 to make the é on your pc.

January 15, 2013, 07:32 PM

I got a lot to learn about these rifles!!!!! It has been 30 years since I shot a Zouave .58!!!!!

January 15, 2013, 07:35 PM

Thanks!!! I learned something from you and Hawg today!!!!!

January 15, 2013, 07:40 PM
I doubt you would find many people then and now that pronounce it min·ié

January 15, 2013, 07:43 PM
So, let's say, for conversation's sake, I am able to pick up a decent, used Deerslayer with a 24" barrel.

What kind of accuracy could I expect in .50 and .54, and which would be the flatter shooting caliber????

January 15, 2013, 07:53 PM
What the heck is a deerslayer anyway? The only deerslayer I know of is a Mossberg shotgun.

January 15, 2013, 07:59 PM

January 15, 2013, 08:11 PM
That says Hawken Woodsman and has a 28 inch barrel. The 50 would be flatter shooting but you're going to lose a lot of velocity with a 24 inch barrel. Something with a 33 inch or longer barrel would be best. The twist rate is probably 1:48 or faster and I seriously doubt it comes in .54 or with a 24 inch barrel.

January 15, 2013, 08:20 PM
Thanks!!!! I am learning!!!!

January 15, 2013, 08:23 PM
I want a .58 Zouave, but I need to find a budget rifle to get started with....:(

January 15, 2013, 08:45 PM
The only deerslayer I know of is a Mossberg shotgun.

What you talkin bout willis?? You know one RIGHT HERE!!! I am the whitetail widowmaker!! :D Well I'm slackin this year though!

That is a very nice looking rifle in the link though, very pretty

January 15, 2013, 09:58 PM
you wont lose a lot of velocity with the 24 inch barrel. We have guys over at my place cutting barrels down to 20" and still getting excellent velocity, and accuracy out to 300 yards.

January 15, 2013, 10:10 PM
I'm glad you say that Frontier. I want to run my 58 carbine over a chrony just to see how fast it shoots, I think its a 22" barrel. Running the chronograph on it sure will help me fine tune a load.

January 16, 2013, 11:22 AM
Anybody got chrono info on .50, .54 & .58?????????????

Sure Shot Mc Gee
January 16, 2013, 01:20 PM
Each caliber comes with many possibilities for speeds. And quite a few different projectile profiles due to the different manufactures involved with the B/P sport. There's the issue of different brands of powders and grades and their charge rates up-down a volume measurer having to deal with.
My suggestion would be be more specific OP: Kind of projectile, (ball, bullet, sabot, maxi or mini) its weight, type & brand of powder used. Asking a question in that manner would narrow the field substantially. All the years of shooting I have never seen a fellow enthusiast chronograph their B/P rifle. Saying that. Only applies in my very limited experience and not meant that it has never happen. I'm quite sure it has been done by someone.

January 17, 2013, 03:29 PM
Another point to consider: commercial ML barrels in .50 and .54 calibers generally have the same external dimensions, width-wise. So, a .54 caliber rifle will be lighter in weight than a .50, due to the bigger hole reamed in that barrel.... :)

Sure Shot Mc Gee
January 17, 2013, 04:32 PM
Welcome to the form BCarp._:)