Percusion Rifle - .50, .54 or .58 Caliber?


October 3, 2006, 12:45 PM
As I've mentioned in another post, I'm getting a couple of traditional percusion BP rifles. A TC Renegade and something else (still deciding). I have some questions on caliber, if some folks can help.

I ordered the Renegade with a .50 caliber barrel. I've also seen .54 and .58 barrels listed. I spoke to a coupld of local stores around here, that sell BP products and they both recommended .50. They said the other calibers were hard to find.

I like the idea of a .58, if shooting PRBs, because of the heavier loads (for hunting). If it's hard to get the supplies, though, I guess it's a non-starter for me.

Am I correct in thinking .54 and .58 would be good calibers for PRB? Are there any drawbacks with these calibers, instead of the .50?

Is .54 and .58 dieing off, or are they more specialized calibers?

Thanks for any help.

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.38 Special
October 3, 2006, 12:48 PM
In my opinion, .50 is marginal for big game, at least with a round ball. Can't speak to the effectiveness of conicals as I haven't shot anything with them.

The .54 and .58 may be harder to find in stores. I don't know because the black powder store in my neighborhood is godawful and so I buy everything mail order/internet. Supplying for these guns is easy online.

The only drawbacks, to my mind, are that recoil does go up with caliber (duh) and that larger calibers are slightly more costly to shoot. Powder, lead, etc. This amounts to pennies per shot, I guess, so I don't concern myself with it.


October 3, 2006, 12:55 PM
If there is a draw back to the 58 cal it would have to be expense while shooting. If you cast your own,you'll get more shots per pound of lead with a smaller caliber than you will casting a .570 projectile... as for powder, well you can load that up or down for what ever your doing at the time. I have 1 58 made by Lyman back in the 70's. I'll soon have another BIG BOAR by TC.
I'm totally happy with the caliber and would recommend it to anyone..

October 3, 2006, 01:01 PM
The 50 cal is a excellent choice for an all round rifle .. and the Thmpson is excellent too .. the 1 in 48 twist it comes with is ok for hunting and , and there are Good round ball shooting barrels that just drop in made by Green mountain for around 175.00 bucks .. for the T/C rifles ( i have 2 for my T/C ) the G/M Barrels come in 1 in 70 twist .. excellent round ball shooters . 50 cal round ball is plenty enough lead for takeing white tail deer out to 100 yards ... I have a 54 cal barrel for mine also just incase i win the lottery and someday get to go Elk hunting in CO. The 58 cal would be the one hard to find balls and bullets for .. the 54 is still pretty common for hunting and most sporting good stores like Bass pro and Sportsmans warehouse have the goods . Happy Hunting !

.38 Special
October 3, 2006, 01:06 PM
The 58 cal would be the one hard to find balls and bullets for
I'll respectfully disagree, as I am aware of a number of sources for .58 round balls, including Hornady. :)

October 3, 2006, 02:13 PM
I know my Dad's ol' .50 cal T/C Hawken drpopped 230 lb. White Tail Bucks back in upstate N.Y. with no problem. I had one too wish I still did.
Good choice on the Renegade .50, I like .50 rifles ... gives you an excuse to get a 1863 Zouave and shoot .58 /500gr Minnie balls at 300 yards. I still have the Zouave.
Both are very can get a Lee mold or buy the .50 cal Maxi Balls, conical with lube rings much heavier than the R.B. no patch. Or shoot a Deer Load 2 baballs each patched on a single 60gr BP charge. ^-8" spread at 100 yards. You have options.

October 3, 2006, 06:15 PM
For hunting with PRBs, nothing drops them like the .58. You can find plenty of .54 stuff in stores. It's still a common caliber. There is plenty being made for the .58, it's just not always stocked in stores. You can mail order anything you need though. It usually works out cheaper that way anyway. Personally I have a strong preference for the .58 and I have never had trouble finding balls for it.

Loyalist Dave
October 3, 2006, 06:55 PM
At the beginning of hunting season, and the month before that, one can find .490 and .530 ball in abundance where I live, BUT as the opening day approaches, the .490 ball appears to "dry up", while .530 ball as well as .570 ball appear to always be available.

I use a .54 for the above reason, AND as my buddy uses a 28 gauge fusil, and .54 is also 28 ga. So he and I can exchange ammo if one of us forgets or is short on projectiles. My buddy of course has the option of using the same gun and shot, while I have to opt for a second gun with a smooth bore. I don't find having to own a secod gun a drawback. :D

The .490 is about 180 grains of lead, the .530 is about 225 grains and the .570 is about 270 grains. ALL three will take the deer.


October 3, 2006, 07:36 PM
.50 is a great all around caliber for ball shooting, plinking and hunting, but I like the added versatility of the .54 for hunting in particular. If you intend to shoot sabots with the .54 at all, you have a wider range of projectile calibers to chose from including:
.427-.430 (.44 Magnum bullets)
.450-.451 (.45-70 bullets)
.50 (.50 muzzle loading conicals)
Plus you can shoot lead .54 conicals and patched round balls too.
If there is any chance that you will be shooting bigger bodied deer, the .54 gives a little extra insurance on marginal shots, enough to even shoot elk.
When I shoot for fun, it's usually a .50. But when I hunt, I use a .54 even if I select one of the smaller caliber bullets. And when I come across a cheap batch of one of the alternative caliber bullets at a discount, I have a wide range of appropriately sized sabots to shoot them with out of the .54.

October 3, 2006, 11:22 PM
I went with a .58 for my roundball shooter but a .54 would still hit pretty hard.

October 4, 2006, 12:09 AM
Wow, great info. I don't know why I overlooked it, but another caliber is as simple as buying another barrel. That's certainly cheaper than another rifle.

If you can indulge me in another question, I'm curious if there is an optimal barrel length for the calibers? (.50, .54, .58)

For example, the Lyman Deerstalker has a 24" barrel. If I buy a second barrel in .58 or .54, does it need to be longer than 24"? I'm familiar with barrel lengths in cartridge firearms, but still don't have my mind around the BP caliber/barrel/velocity aspects.

Thanks again.

October 4, 2006, 01:44 AM
That comes down to personal preferance and particular use I would think. I have a Tennessee Mountain Rifle in .50cal the had a 41 1/2" barrel X 15/16" accross...was too heavy and is now 33 1/2" still long but can be held on metlic silouettes and game much easier.
You're right about length and velosity more length more spins less powder.

October 4, 2006, 02:29 AM
Usually the longer the barrel and sighting radius, the farther you can reach out accurately. Just look at the length of the .58 caliber civil war rifles, they were quite a bit longer.
Most of the TC barrels are either 26 or 28 inches. Green Mountain barrels are longer.
It's barrel weight vs. recoil, and holding comfort too:,43&product=4356

The 1 inch (round ball) GM drop in barrels are 32 inches long:

October 4, 2006, 08:34 AM
The Green Mountain barrel for it is $178.50 at

October 4, 2006, 03:59 PM
I second the Green Mountain reccommendation. My .58 is a Green Mountain 32" 1 in 70" twist on a Thompson Center Renegade Lower.

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