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Old December 7, 2021, 09:51 PM   #1
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Muzzleloader bullet performance

Hello all,

I'm not sure if I've got a problem or not. I've shot two deer in MN this year during the muzzleloader season; neither made it more than 20 yards, and one didn't stand up. Both shot broadside within 50 yards with 100 grains (pellets) and a 245 grain Powerbelt hollowpoint.

Neither bullet got an exit wound. The internal damage was massive, and one of the bullets struck the far shoulder and embedded in the pelt. But there was very little to no blood with either deer, so it would've been a difficult track if they had run.

But they didn't run, so I should be happy, right? Is this what to expect with this bullet/powder combo?

For what it's worth, I started hunting for eight or nine years ago as an adult, and these are the third and fourth deer I've harvested. I am shooting this load on the recommendation of a friend.

Thanks for any insight.
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Old December 8, 2021, 08:49 AM   #2
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Congratulations on your deer and the massive internal damage and quick kill.

We have big strong deer up north, and muzzle loaders Hit with about handgun effect. Shot placement is (well, even more so than always) crucial.

Easy to follow blood trails are usually very short, at least for me, and only came from high powered rifle level loads. Without snow to track… no one is having a good day.

Most of my deer were harvested with handgun, M L or loads at 30-30 levels. Advice to use solid cast bullets and bone-breaking shots ended with distressing results. Deer can be tough and I had much better results with shots like your good shooting.

The advice I found useful was to shoot, the look at my watch and wait at least 10 minutes before moving to find my deer.

You’re doing it right.
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Old December 8, 2021, 08:52 AM   #3
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Sounds like you did just fine. It is not at all unusual for there to be little external blood on a beast that goes down quickly.
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Old December 8, 2021, 04:32 PM   #4
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Where's the problem?? Freezer room ??

I'm not sure if I've got a problem or not.
Personally, I think you did quite well and if there is a problem, it might be that doubt just how well you did. I too hunt Midwest deer and ranges and I'm a little lighter than you on propellent. Sounds like you are shooting pellets.
I see nothing wrong with your shot-string. .....

Meeting or exceding one's expectations.

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Old December 11, 2021, 11:00 AM   #5
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Thanks for the confidence boost, guys.

Funny you mention waiting 10 minutes before moving to find the deer...part of the reason I was getting a little nervous is because a friend of mine had this exact same thing happen. He shot a nice buck, it dropped in its tracks, so he walked up to it, only to have it jump up and run off with zero blood to follow.

That's what I'm hoping to avoid, so it makes a ton of sense to wait and let the internal bleeding do its thing.
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Old December 11, 2021, 11:30 AM   #6
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I'm in Colorado and have not shot a lot of game with ML. We can't use pelletized powder or sabots either.

I generally agree with stinkeypete. Sometimes we get our methods of incapacitation confused as well as which of the effects are optimum with the various weapon systems. Arrows, handgun, rifle, rifled muzzle loaders, smoothbore shotguns and all of the various types of projectiles each can propel.

Air in, blood out, immediate CNS disruption. While there is some variability of opinion even among forensic ballistic experts, immediate CNS disruption requires a direct hit to the brain or spinal column OR impact velocities exceeding about 2200 fps. Air in and blood out take time to result in the eventual CNS disruption. With arrows, most have gone to the path of desiring an exit so there are two blood out paths. There is no need to "expand" the projectile since it enters with it's final shape...just cutting.

Handgun, Shotgun slugs, ML and some of the old and slow straight wall centerfires sit in between the arrow and the high velocity rifles. The "choices" are more complex and, I dare say, the opinions more varied. We also "add" in the aspect of shoulder damage to stop big game, which is a bit odd if you really think about it (in that the hip shot is much more effective and reliable, but no one says to shoot big game in the hips).

It is really hard to fault an expanding ML slug (handgun or shotgun slug as well) that stops just under the offside skin if well placed. If the lungs or heart are not hit though, it can take hours to die. But a solid bullet that exits and does not break a limb joint, hit lungs or heart is likewise, going to take a long time to die. Some state regs require bullets of certain weights and construction, so that is an aspect to consider as well.

In my opinion, those who said you are fine are on solid ground. I have shot Elk in the same place and they dropped dead with a 10mm and with a .30-06 run 200 yards before their dirt nap. Variables abound, minimize risk, optimize placement and enjoy the hunt.
Good Shooting, MarkCO
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Old December 12, 2021, 06:41 AM   #7
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.54 round ball, 90 grains of powder. Heart and lung shot most times ends with a bang flop. If it doesn't there's an exit wound with a good blood trail. I don't like anything that doesn't give an exit wound.
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Old December 12, 2021, 04:41 PM   #8
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With a .50 caliber in-line Thompson System One muzzle loader, I used 120 grains Pyrodex and a saboted .44 caliber hollow point handgun bullet. Beyond 50 yards I never got an exit on average to large sized deer, but did on smaller deer. On one of the larger bucks it was a well placed shot, the heart literally exploded and he dropped straight down without so much as a twitch. The bullets always expanded to about twice the caliber size, and did a lot of internal damage.
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Old December 13, 2021, 06:06 AM   #9
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Personally I hunt the thick stuff where a 60 yard shot is a long one. Because of this I like a bullet that will punch through a deer. I tried the powerbelts years ago and my results were close to yours with masive internal damage and no exit. The deer that ran didn't go far but did leave little to no blood and a grid search was required to find them due to how thick everything was.

I have now switched to a 265gr .43 cal (44 mag) cast bullet that I make that is a 20-1 mix of lead and tin with about 1.5% antimony. I harden the base of the bullet then anneal the tip to soften it up for expansion. This leaves me with a bullet that expands between .60 and .75 and provides 90+ percent weight retention and is absolutely devastating. The most reliable commercially available muzzleloading projectile I've found was the 300gr scorpion pt gold by harvester. Each setup and scenario is different and it sounds like the powerbelts have worked for you so far.
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Old December 13, 2021, 09:02 PM   #10
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I'll take massive damage in the body as long as it isn't in the meat. I run the Hornady SST's and they do the same as what you're experiencing. I picked up some "plinking rounds"? called cheap shot because they're cheap but I have a feeling they would do a great job on deer.
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Old December 21, 2021, 10:31 AM   #11
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Everyone has a result they're hoping for.
- Some prefer exactly the performance you got. Soft bullets that do massive damage and don't exit. Generally, it works.
- Others prefer penetration. Smaller wounds that bleed a bit more freely so any trailing is made a bit easier.

Good friends of mine prefer the first, I prefer the second. Who's right?

All I know is... I use an all copper projectile to increase penetration and have been happy with it.
In God we trust.
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Old December 21, 2021, 03:59 PM   #12
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For me it's a .495 round ball up close, and a known and recorded sight adjustment to the old 385gr Hornady Great Plains hollowpoint for longer shots. Close up the big Hornady expands more and all have been recovered. Out farther they punch through.
90gr of RS in my Hawken, 110gr in my wife's in line.
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Old December 21, 2021, 06:57 PM   #13
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Your bullet did just fine. For myself, i care less that the bullet exits.

In the past 20 years i've taken over 100 deer, over 90 percent with muzzleloader rifles, mostly inlines. Most were shot at 100 yards or less from stands or blinds overlooking trails, ponds, wheat fields or game plots.

For years the excellent Hornady .430 XTP bullet was used. At that time i used 130-150 grains of Pyrodex powder. That bullet did a great job on deer.

In 2005 i bought a .50 caliber TC Encore rifle. During load workup i discovered the rifle was marginally more accurate with the 250 grain SST bullet, so i chose it. My loads have a velocity of just over 2,000 fps.

Most of my deer were shot in the heart-lung area, many were DRT. About ten years ago i began taking some high shoulder shots and high behind the shoulder shots. In some cases the bullet impacted 2-4" below the spine: The results are the same, deer dropped its tracks: Sometimes there is a bruise on the backstrap.

About 15 deer have been taken with a .50 or .54 caliber conventional muzzleloader firing patched round balls at muzzle velocities of 1,650-1,800 fps. 6 deer were intentionally shot high behind the shoulder and Just below the spine. All were dead right there.

Last edited by thallub; December 21, 2021 at 07:04 PM.
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Old January 5, 2022, 11:30 AM   #14
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The last deer of my hunting season this year, was killed the middle of last month using my traditional .50 cal. caplock. I got permission to hunt this private land on the edge of my town, and there was the need to be fairly precise in keeping a shot critter in the confines of about 2 acres (yeah, just in case of a bad shot...). This was so that a wounded deer wouldn't go and die in some neighbor's yard. I had to consider my dear ol' .50 ball shooter as to be a "surgical" tool, and so it was.

I had an additional whitetail doe/fawn tag to fill and found a great place to sit and wait my opportunity. I had my range finder with me and made sure all of my shooting lanes were covered for a good, ranged shot. I waited just a bit over an hour, and my opportunity came; broadside shot at a nice doe, 45 yds. distance. Behind the shoulder, about a third of the way up the body from the belly line and touched off the shot. She went down immediately, kicked once and gave up the ghost. It still amazes me as pretty dramatic what those old-styled firearms can do.

70 grains of 1.5 Swiss b.p. and a pillow ticking patched .490 round ball put that deer down, and she was dead when after reloading and walking up to her to do the field dressing. The ball was a pass through, with about a 1" hole on the exit. There was no other firearm that could have done the work any better.
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Old January 5, 2022, 02:19 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by reinert View Post
I had an additional whitetail doe/fawn tag to fill
Fawn tag?
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Old January 5, 2022, 05:48 PM   #16
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Besides our general (statewide) deer tag here in Wyoming, the particular hunt area I live in has an overload of whitetails that need to be thinned out some. Wyoming Game and Fish issue what's called "Doe/Fawn" tags at a reduced price, which is a great deal to fill a freezer with good venison (whitetails only, and does or fawns are legal to take, and only in my particular area). I had to use my m.l. in the 2-acre parcel I hunted in because of nearby residences, cattle and horses. Actually, it was a perfect rifle to use there. In the past, the owner has only allowed bowhunters in there, as high-powered rifles wouldn't be a safe bet to use that close to people, houses and livestock. But he allowed as how if I wanted to use a black powder rifle in there, he ok'd the deal. He's hunted with m.l.s too, so he knew how well they worked.
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Old January 14, 2022, 11:50 PM   #17
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Sounds like you found a honey hole back there in the woods Carmike.
As for myself I shoot traditional equipment up there in Bear River just a bit south of Cook. Tough where I'm at. To many big timbers wandering around. Once I see them nasty dogs cruising by my stand. I know I wont see another deer for a week. "Congratulations to Carmike and his Power Belts."
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Old January 16, 2022, 06:20 AM   #18
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I switched from the powerbelt hp to the powerbelt platinums and now I get exit wounds. The hp always worked but I like an exit wound on big bodied whitetail. The woods here are thick and they always head right for the nasty stuff it if they dont drop in their tracks
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Old January 16, 2022, 12:47 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Carmike View Post
Hello all,

But there was very little to no blood with either deer, so it would've been a difficult track if they had run.
Single bullet holes, especially if they are entrance wounds shot from an elevated stand, will not bleed till the body cavity fills with blood or the deer starts blowing it out their nose/mouth(lung shots). Even with an exit wound, blood starting immediately isn't always the case. Had they gone more than 20 yards, odds are if the damage was as massive as you claim, there would have been good blood to follow.
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