View Full Version : Muzzle loading ballistics … data source?

Scott Evans
July 1, 2001, 01:56 PM
I have been shooting muzzleloaders on and off since ’91. I started out with a CVA Hawken .50 kit. It came with a little book of “everything you needed to know” to get started including recommendations for min / max loads. I have always gone by that chart in that little book and have never had a problem …

Except … now I am building a new rifle and I am realizing that I really don’t know much with regard to getting maximum “Safe” performance.

How can one determine a safe “max” load?

What kind of velocity / trajectory can one expect?

Is there a drop off point where an increased charge will not improve projectile flight performance?

July 1, 2001, 02:32 PM
I got a little book with my Pedersoli Brown Bess that quotes loads for different muzzle loaders. I can post some data if you give me the caliber.

I too built a CVA Mountain Rifle .54 kit back in the early 80s. The gun will hold quite a bit of powder but the accuracy seems to be best when there is about 80 grains behind the patched round ball, IIRC.

I worked up loads firing over clean snow. As you increase the powder you will notice plenty more unburned grains after around 80 grains. The older muzzle loaders had longer bbls than the typical Hawken type we see so often now. So I believe that you are just wasting powder if you increase the charge once you have found that accuracy load.:)

July 1, 2001, 02:41 PM
Scott, you can check out Hodgdon's Pyrodex load data at this site: http://www.pyrodex.com/

Pyrodex is loaded by the same volume as BP so if you use a measure use the same volume of Pyrodex. Do not weigh it. I shoot both Pyrodex and BP because I have caplocks and flinters. If you have flint ignition, stay with BP as pyrodex is harder to ignite.:)

4V50 Gary
July 1, 2001, 04:05 PM

You can "proof" test it as demonstrated in the Dixie catalog. Just don't attach the barrel to the stock (since the majority of the work is in fitting the stock). Write the barrel mfg and ask.

BTW, I start with 40 grains and working in 5 grain increments, find the besh shooting load for that barrel. I don't worry about how heavy since I'm not trying to take out an M1 Abrams.

BTW, while at Friendship, IN, bought a Jim Chambers kit which I will be assembling over the course of this summer. Met Jim while at Bowling Green earlier this year. Spoke with his students who have done some excellant relief carving. So, I plan to go to Conner Prarie, IN this Oct. for a kit finishing class with Jim. I'll be learning relief carving from him.

You've got to go to (either Conner Prarie or) Bowling Green. It is the pilgrimmage to make for black powder rifle builders. Wallace Gustler, Ron Ehlert, Mark Silver, Gary Brumfield, Hershel & John House, etc. were there. You couldn't meet a bunch of nicer and humble fellows.

Took the patchbox making class and now I'll never buy a factory patchbox again. It's not easy, but it's worth it.


July 2, 2001, 10:18 AM
There is a law of deminishing returns with black powder and muzzle loaders. That is a point is reached when increasing the charge results in little or no increase in velocity. Also, you reach a point where the chamber pressure increases for little gain in velocity. You would need a chronograph to determine this. This is based on articles that Sam Fadala has published over the last 25 years or so.

Get the Lyman Black Powder Handbook, both 1st and the new 2nd editions if you want to know about black powder and muzzle loader internal ballistics.

4V50 Gary
July 2, 2001, 07:19 PM
Hey Scott, since Rich gave us that big increase in our salaries (after all 100% of nothing is still nothing to sneer at), I can afford to give you a spare copy of the 1st Ed of Lyman's BP Handbook. Email me your snail mail addy and I'll book rate it to you.

July 3, 2001, 01:29 AM
The tables at Pyrodex.com are great, but what about ballistic coefficients? Seems that with the limited range of BP firearms, we'd need these #'s more than smokeless powder shooters. However, out of about a dozen or more types of slugs, conicals, sabots, hollowpoints & sleek looking pointy bullets that I've collected, NONE of them list a BC. What's the BC of "round"? Hornady doesn't list it on their bullet boxes, would it be the same for all calibers, or is diameter a factor?

July 3, 2001, 04:47 AM
IIRC, a round ball has the same glide coefficient as a brick. :p

July 3, 2001, 02:31 PM

Round sings a very different song than square at high velocities ;)

Scott Evans
July 7, 2001, 09:38 AM
Thanks so much !!

Check your mail.

Scott Evans
July 7, 2001, 10:14 AM
There are several reasons I have asked.

1. Is; I just don’t know.
2. Is; if I am going to be involved I think I should know. And …
3. I intend to hunt Black Bear this year using my, now under construction, rifle. It is a 42” .45 cal (.450” bore & .467 Groove 1/48” twist) Colerain Swamped Barrel.

I need to be sure before I take a shot that the round ball has sufficient energy to do the job. I will be packing a .44 mag revolver for medicinal purposes (i.e. just incase), however, I still do not want to go out under gunned. With the 1/48 twist I believe the barrel will handle a conical projectile but I would prefer using a round ball as it is my understanding that this is traditionally what was used in a rifle of this period (a Virginia style late 1700’s pre 1800’s).

July 7, 2001, 03:17 PM
Daniel Boone never knew about ballistic coefficients, only shot round balls, and killed many a bar. HTH

As Jim Keenan would say, shot placement...;)

July 8, 2001, 02:35 AM
According to the Pyrodex tables, you're going to be pushing a 75gr round ball 1785fps, with (if my math is correct, blame it on Bill Gates if it aint) 530 ft/lb muzzle energy. MUCH better results are to be had with conical bullets, as follows:

285gr HP @ 1550fps for 1518 ft/lb
325gr Solid @ 1500fps for 1622 ft/lb
320gr Maxi @ 1612fps for 1845 ft/lb

As you can see, the round balls are great for hunting small game, but the BP rifle SHINES with heavy conicals, pushing them darn near as fast with TREMENDOUS gains in the energy department. If I were going after even a small black bear, I'd be hitting him with as much punch as I could. I've shot all of these with my .50 caliber rifle, it is AMAZING what kind of damage those big heavy bullets can do (completely through a railroad tie, and several thicknesses of 2x12's)

Geeze, it's after midnight, sure hope my math is right up there. I'm sure that you can put your quarry down with a conical, I dont think that 530 ft/lb's with a round ball is gonna hurt him as bad as you'd like. Would you go after him with a .45 auto? That's comparable.

July 14, 2001, 07:08 PM
I just started selling these for Lyman and they are the Bible -it's official name is the BlackPowder Handbook & Loading Manual
Bob Lippman
Lippman Enterprises.com