Is .50 or .54 More Common?


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Kestrel
September 17, 2006, 04:40 PM
Which is a more common caliber for deer hunting, etc?

Is there a big advantage of one over the other?

Thanks.

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Vern Humphrey
September 17, 2006, 06:14 PM
I have a copy of Joe Kindig's "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in the Golden Age." This is basically detailed descriptions and photographs of a huge collection of authentic Kentuckies. Average caliber was around .40 -- not very big by roundball standards.

But the rifles are those which survived in good condition. Rifles which were used hard were often "refreshed" over and over, ending up as much larger calibers. And such rifles, because of hard use probably survived at a low rate. Certainly, the Plains Rifle tended to be larger in caliber -- and these were designed for hard use and big game. They tended to be around .50 and larger.

My thinking is for a roundball rifle, I prefer .54. There really is a difference between a .54 and a .50 for deer. For small game, get a smaller caliber -- .36 to .45.

Many modern muzzle loaders have a horrible compromise twist -- supposedly so you can shoot both ball and bullet. What you get is something too fast for good accuracy with a full charge and a round ball, and something too slow for a real bullet. If I were buying a .50 caliber deer rifle, I'd want something around 1 in 30 or faster (in fact, I bought a Lyman Deerstalker Carbine because it was advertised as 1 in 28, when I got it, it was 1 in 44 -- and I made them give me a new barrel.) In a rifle like that, I like a minnie ball -- mine likes a Lee 365 grain modern minnie.

In a .54 roundball, I like 1 in 66 or a slower twist.

Kestrel
September 17, 2006, 10:51 PM
Vern - thanks, good information.

What is the benefit of shooting ball over a bullet shape? (I'm new to BP.) It seems to me, that a bullet shape would have a couple of benefits over ball - ballistic coefficient and weight. Is this the case?

Also, what are the weight differences in .50 vs. 54. call ball and bullets (respectively). I was looking at getting a T/C Renegade, but I see it's only available as a .50 (and in 1-in-48 twist). I didn't even notice a .54 caliber in percussion.

Thanks again.

Smokin_Gun
September 18, 2006, 12:45 AM
I don't know how else to answer that except that I can shoot cloverleaf groups outta my .50 Tennessee Poorboy at 100yards using pillow tickin' mooses milk and round ball....I can't come close to that with .50 cal maxi balls. (conical & heavier)
What were you thinkin' of buying for a type of rifle? (Make/Style)

arcticap
September 18, 2006, 01:12 AM
.54 caliber Renegades shouldn't be very hard to find on the used market, usually $150-$200 depending on condition. Check out the auction sites and used gun racks. I've seen several recently at my local gun shop and they probably still have one now.
A (.490) .50 caliber ball weighs ~177 grains while a (.530) .54 caliber ball weighs ~225 grains.
Because the ball is lighter in weight than bullets of the same caliber, the ball will generally hold a flatter trajectory over a longer distance. That's also why the .54 caliber ball would penetrate better than the .50 ball, especially at longer distances.
But the degree of accuracy any individual gun will shoot any particular projectile at a longer distance is something that often requires range testing.
While medium twists usually prefer medium weight bullets, there are many exceptions. Some guns will shoot longer, heavier bullets accuarately while others just won't shoot them as well.
What projectiles you choose to shoot may also depend on the size of the deer in your area and the range/terrain of the deer you'll be hunting.

Vern Humphrey
September 18, 2006, 09:50 AM
What is the benefit of shooting ball over a bullet shape? (I'm new to BP.) It seems to me, that a bullet shape would have a couple of benefits over ball - ballistic coefficient and weight. Is this the case?

The ball really doesn't have an advantage over a bullet shape -- that's why very few round-ball rifles were made after bullets and faster twists were developed.

But if you have a round ball rifle, then obviously you want to shoot it.

As I said, I don't like the "compromise" 1 in 48 twist -- too fast for a roundball with a full charge, not so good for a bullet.

Kestrel
September 18, 2006, 10:29 AM
Thanks for all the good info.

Forgive my ignorance, but why would a rifle be a "round ball" rifle? Does it have to do with rifling twist?

As to what rifle was I considering, I was looking at the T/C Renegade on Thompson's web site. I like it's looks. If there are any other brands I should consider, I'd welcome any suggestions. (I just don't know of other brands that have the T/C quality. I'm sure they exist, I'm just not as familiar with the BP world.)

Thanks again.

Vern Humphrey
September 18, 2006, 10:48 AM
Forgive my ignorance, but why would a rifle be a "round ball" rifle? Does it have to do with rifling twist?

Yes. A round ball has a very short bearing surface, and with a fast twist will strip the rifling. Some round ball rifles were made with a faster than customary twist (notably in England), but such rifles are very load sensitive -- they shoot well only with light powder charges.

American made round ball rifles almost all had very slow twists, and shot well with almost any charge, right up to the heaviest.

arcticap
September 18, 2006, 11:48 AM
There's Pedersoli, Lyman, Austin Halleck and Traditions to name several.
While many people tout their hunting accuracy with heavy round ball loads out to 100 yards and more, that is probably the exception more than the rule. Here's the reason why: In order for a slow twist (round ball barrel) to shoot well with heavier PRB hunting loads, it usually needs to have deep groove rifling , and a longer barrel also helps a lot by increasing velocity potential.
That's why so many people buy Green Mountain replacement barrels for their TC and Lyman guns, because GM barrels have deep groove rifling.
Now some guns can shoot shallow grooved rifling very accurately, but often these barrels require lighter (moderate) powder loads.
Of course, this is just an overall generalization to illustrate the concept, and not an absolute rule. (This same concept can also apply to 1 in 48" twist vs. 1 in 66" twist barrels. Slower twist barrels often require more powder for better accruacy.)
It's commonly understood and recognized that many of the factory produced shallow grooved rifle barrels have an effective hunting accuracy range of about 65-75 yards, more or less, depending on the amount of powder used, caliber, length of sighting plane (distance between front and rear sights) and characteristics of the individual rifle etc...
A shallow groove barrel may have a rifling depth of only .006 (maybe .008) while a deep grooved rifle barrel may have a groove depth of .010-.012. Plus some custom barrel makers have different types and styles of barrel lands & grooves to select from. So, the number, as well as the actual shape of the lands and grooves (i.e.-rounded vs. squared) can vary and affect barrel accuracy and shooting characteristics.
In conclusion, if you buy a rifle that requires a relatively light or moderate powder charge to obtain longer range round ball hunting accuracy, than it may be beneficial to use a larger caliber ball to help insure that you'll get the penetration you need to get the job done. It really depends on your hunting range and what your accuracy needs require. :rolleyes:

bigbore442001
September 18, 2006, 09:18 PM
It seemed that when the first muzzleloader seasons were established, the legal requirements tended to limit the type of projectiles used by hunters. I know here in the northeast, it was round ball only up until the last 15 years or so.

Knowing that, many people I know bought .54 caliber guns. A little known oddity was that here in Massachusetts, we were further restricted to smoothbores during the muzzleloader season. Massachusetts being a shotgun only state for deer had this phobia about rifling in muzzleloaders. It took a long time to clear that up. But until that time, TC came out with the .56 caliber smoothbored Renegade just for Massachusetts. It was " the " Massachusetts muzzleloader for quite some time.

When the inlines came along the scene, it seems that the .50 caliber is the most common caliber. I really don't see all that many .54's in the woods or the range.

Dr.Rob
September 18, 2006, 11:30 PM
It's East vs. West... east of the big river it's a .50, west it's a .54.

Or that's how it seems when I shop for BP bullets and such on eiether side of the Mississippi.

Truth is, even here in CO sometimes .54 bullets and ball are hard to find... just before hunting season. ;)

I don't use round ball in my T/C Hawken... I bought it to hunt, not to target shoot. I also can't imagine NEEDING deeper rifling than I already have.

Vern Humphrey
September 19, 2006, 09:11 AM
A little known oddity was that here in Massachusetts, we were further restricted to smoothbores during the muzzleloader season. Massachusetts being a shotgun only state for deer had this phobia about rifling in muzzleloaders.

I had this very discuission with the Fort Benning (Georgia) Fish and Game people. "Why can't I use my Kentucky rifle during muzzle loading season?"

"Too dangerous. Rifles shoot too far."

"But it's a muzzle loader!"

"Don't matter. Rifles shoot too far."

"With the same size ball and powder charge, how can a rifled barrel shoot farther than a smooth bore?"

"Don't matter. Rifles shoot too far?"

Bureaucrats!!:fire:

sundance44s
September 19, 2006, 09:36 AM
Recon with a smooth bore they know you`ll keep your shots to 25 /50 yard range . Some odd rules out there but what can we say :confused:

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