Considering Black Powder Shooting


March 28, 2011, 11:52 PM
Hi guys. I have a bunch of questions. Question on cost, caliber choice, freedom with ammuniton, using sabots, casting my own, which rifle is toughest, and so many more. Hopefully I can convince a resident authority here to allow me to spam his inbox with lots of pm's that would otherwise clog up this forum full of well informed individuals. I'll ask one simple question to begin with and hopefully someone will graciously step up and show me the way. I want to buy a 50 caliber black powder rifle. My purpose is simple. I want a firearm that is relatively easy to try new things with different bullet weights, shapes, powders, and charges to see just how far I can push the envelope. I want to send the heaviest chunk of lead screaming down range traveling as fast as possible, and make it hit as accurately as possible without my rifle exploding on me or becoming a large and expensive paper weight. Oh by the way I want to do this without buying expensive tools and loading equiptment that center fire reloading requires. I mean cheap as in poor college kid (which I am) cheap. Am I in the right place? The prospect of sending a 500-600 grain bullet at 1500 fps intrigues me. I would like to cast my own bullets, use sabots, and even do "plinking" with a simple lead ball all in the same gun. Am I still in the right place? As always my ingorance is humbled by your generous advice.

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March 29, 2011, 12:59 AM
Well you can throw out cheap. If you want to use sabots then your talking 45 or 50 caliber. Those are kinda limited on the bullet grain size you can use. There really isnt a wide amount of bullet you can use in heavy grains. Now if you go traditional you open up the gates a little more. However it is pretty easy to use an inline compared to most traditionals. Same time though you have to consider what you just said. For us its not about sending down the heaviest bullet down range to the furthest distance loading up the most powder without blowing yourself up. Thats not black powder shooting thats being a darn fool. First thing i would recomend is for you to watch some videos it will take you about 30 minutes but will explain you the differencs in black powder and give you some options after that take a look at Cabelas black powder area you can see how it fits your wallet.

March 29, 2011, 02:03 AM
The variety of projectiles that a gun will be able to shoot reasonably well depends on the twist rate of the rifling in the barrel.
There are basically fast, medium and slow twist barrels.
A slow twist barrel is mostly for shooting round balls at higher velocity.
A fast twist barrel is mostly for shooting conical and saboted bullets at higher velocity.
A medium twist barrel can shoot round balls, and some conicals and saboted bullets at moderate distances. However they can be more finicky about which loads/bullets, and how accurately and far they will shoot.
There are models that have interchangable barrels which opens up more options for shooting more bullets well. Even if buying the extra barrel is put off for down the road sometime.
Then there's choices about the type of caps, whether the gun can easily accommodate a scope, has a modern or traditional lock or action, plastic, wood or laminate stock, how far does one want to be able to shoot a particular type or weight of projectile, is it for hunting, precision target shooting or plinking?
Lastly how much do you want to spend?
Two cheaper guns can sometimes cover all of the bases while a more expensive gun might only cover 1/2 or 1/3 of the bases, but perform its job very well.
Each type of projectile has a cost. Some cost ten cents and others are $1.
And there are .54 caliber rifles that will shoot a variety of bullets including sabots. But some rifles will be able to shoot them better than others. While others will be able to shoot balls better.
Identify your expectations and then try to learn how well any particular choice of gun will meet those expectations.

Black Toe Knives
March 29, 2011, 05:00 AM
Razor, Black Powder is not your answer. You shoot blackpowder for two reasons. One, to extend your Hunting season. Two, because of tradition. I am the latter.

March 29, 2011, 05:22 AM
Razor, Black Powder is not your answer. You shoot blackpowder for two reasons. One, to extend your Hunting season. Two, because of tradition. I am the latter.

There are other reasons to shoot muzzle loaders.
What other guns can folks make custom loads for shooting large calibers with for as little as $100 - $200 or so?
There is also a fun factor that's not about hunting or tradition.
It's also about shooting large calibers economically without excessive recoil if one chooses to.
BP guns are part of a pure shooting sport that has a modern branch too. :)

Black Toe Knives
March 29, 2011, 06:18 AM
Articap, isn't every load a custom load? BTW, I shoot for the fun of it. Why else would I shoot BP.

Razor wants to shoot big lead with big loads. He is wanting to push 600 grains of lead at 1500 fps.

March 29, 2011, 06:45 AM

A "Cheap" all around 50 caliber...

Well... okay... I would suggest either a good used 50 cal percussion Hawken, of which there are alot on the maket, some of which, the more plain-jane basic styles, can be had for on or about a hundred bux. Or, a good used inline.

The only reason I suggest the inline is because you said you were interested in big loads at high speeds, inlines are typically designed to handle pelletized loads, and double pelletized loads at that, pushing the velocity up to on or about 1800-2200 fps. But they aren't nearly as traditional or as romantic as the old styles are.

Keeping it cheap, visit the Lee Loader site. The Lee Loader company offers inexpensive bullet moulds, I mean really cheap ones sometimes. Sometimes as little as $11.00 for a mould. Other companies offer molds at much, much higher prices, and in all actuality, they are not all that much better moulds. Using inexpensive Lee moulds, you can generally purchase a bullet mould for less money than a single bag of 100 pre-cast bullets would cost you. But you do have to buy the lead, and cast the bullets yourself.

The cheapest place I have found for Black Powder, is Which is, interestingly enough, located in the Great State of Maine.

They carry Goex brand Black Powder for around $15.00/lb, but, you have to pay for shipping and handling, and, you have to pay for the $20.00 Hazmat fee to ship the powder through ground carriers. So, in small quantities, it may work out for you better, to just purchase your small quantities from local gun shops that carry Black Powder.


ElvinWarrior... aka... David

Pete D.
March 29, 2011, 07:51 AM
Some of your expectations will be difficult to achieve. Those large 500-600 grain bullets, while common enough in BP cartridge rifles, are not easy to find for MLers. Finding a gun to shoot them well is also problematic. As already noted, twist rates determine a lot of what happens. As for .50 cal.....most of my BP guns are .50s......don't know that I have ever seen a 500 grain bullet appropriate for a .50 MLer. There might be.

Dixie Gun works sells a couple of target rifles - the Creedmore and the Whitworth - that are .45 caliber and for which the bullets are in the 500 to 575 grain area.
These are both nice looking rifles but they ain't cheap.
There are some Sharps percussion carbines in .54 cal that throw bullets over 500 grains as well as a number of military muskets from .62 to .69 that shoot big bullets.

Powder: Maine Powder House, as mentioned, is a good source. Even better, cost-wise, is Powder Inc.


March 29, 2011, 09:25 AM
A kit smoothbore 69 Caliber Flintlock Pistol is a fun toy too... You can either load it with a 69 caliber solid patched ball, which packs one heck of a wallop, a measure of 30 caliber buck shot, (Lee has a special mold for casting those, it casts a line of 3 balls in a row, and 4 rows, for a total of 12 balls per casting operation, and it's not very expensive either.)... Or, a measure of birdshot... A patched smoothbore is alot more accurate than alot of people give it credit for, you will hit what you aim at within modest pistol distances. And, loading it with the different shotgun loads, gives you a hand held little shotgun that is WAY FUN to shoot. You can take out small game, like rabbits or grounhogs, or what-have-you's with the 30 cal buckshot load, or, go duck and goose hunting, with the birdshot load, another fun, and tasty passtime !!! Most muzzleloader shotgun loaders will use a waxed bottom cork plug, wax facing down, inbetween the powder and the shot, and cap off the shot with a thin wad of cardboard, such as milk carton cardboard. You can pick up a pretty cheap punch to the correct diameter from Dixie Gun Works for around 30 bux or so that can punch both the cork and the cardboard.

Either one of these flintlock single shot pistol kits is a nice one, and both are under $300.00 from Dixie Gun Works, in Tennessee.


ElvinWarrior... aka... David

March 29, 2011, 10:07 AM
Thanks for your advice guys. i guess I am going to have to look harder into this before I take the plunge.
I did some math and if I were to use 150 grain loads it would cost me about $0.52 a shot. That part of things isnt all that expensive. I say this because as I sit here I can purchase a 550 grain bullet mould for $60 and I have access to a fairly substantial amount of free lead and I have fair metallurgical experience. I also have access to a small lathe which has impressively tight tollerenaces so I can clean the bullet up, mill boattails, hollow points, and all that jazz. As for cleaning supplies I already have quite abit. I own a 30-06 and I can tolerate shooting it for about $0.79 a shot when I am at the range so really from an ammo standpoint it would actually be cheaper for me to shoot black powder. Now I am aware that there are some costs of starting up, like buying a powder flask, measure, nippple pick, and a nicer ram rod. but that start up cost didnt seem all that bad. I wont be buying a scope, or if I do it will be a small one. I can stay on paper at 250 yards with my dads sks and a little fixed 4 scope. So that would be enough for me.
Please understand that I'm not arguing with you guys. I am letting you in on what is going through my mind so you can correct any of my erroneous knowledge. As for what I said above about slinginging the heaviest load as fast as possible; I meant that in the spirit of innovation. Ammunition manufacturers are always pushing the limit on what their ammunition can do. Buffalo Bore exists as a company because of this. Obviously I don't want to do something insane and injure myself or neighboring shooters but I see this platform as an opportunity for experimentantion. I wont need brass so I dont need all of that expensive reloading supplies which I would love to have and play with but simply cant afford at this stage in my life.

Pete D.
March 29, 2011, 09:55 PM
I can purchase a 550 grain bullet mould for $60 and I have access to a fairly substantial amount of free lead and I have fair metallurgical experience. I also have access to a small lathe which has impressively tight tollerenaces so I can clean the bullet up, mill boattails, hollow points

OK. That is all well and good. What mould is that? What bullet? Lube? And, more importantly....what caliber?
You are going to have to consider the twist rates available.

March 29, 2011, 10:14 PM
Razor, I think you are in the right place. At the base of what you have said is that you are interested in experimenting. One of the most satisfying aspect of muzzleloading for me is the instant gratification of experimenting with loads at the range. Reloaders change variables in there shops and have to wait until they go to the range to see the results

Loyalist Dave
April 1, 2011, 09:41 AM
You shoot blackpowder for two reasons. One, to extend your Hunting season. Two, because of tradition. I am the latter.

Three, because of the hunting regulations that ban modern rifles in your state where you hunt, you wish to use a gun that is more accurate at 100 yards than a rifled slug, or a sabot slug from a rifled slug barrel. :D


April 3, 2011, 10:42 PM
I see where you are going with this Razor J. I would suggest that you just hang out here for awhile and read up on some of the posts. There is a ton of info on here. I also know there are a few competition shooters here that can be of help. BP is a complete blast and you will love it. Test and tune your loads all you want and enjoy yourself. You wont regret it. A while back I recall seeing a post that included a pic of a front stuffer with a scope and a bipod. Friggin Sweet!!!!

April 7, 2011, 12:30 PM
You have too many requirements for one gun, I'm afraid. So get ready to spend!

If you want to maximize accuracy, the answer is a heavy bench rifle, known as a "CHUNK GUN." These are very very heavy pieces with extremely thick barrels that can deliver stunning accuracy superior to all but the very best smokeless rifles.

If you want to maximize power, you can't use velocity alone due to the upper limit set by physics. You have to increase DIAMETER. So you end up with the mega-bore guns. Those are also a lot of fun. Oregon Barrel Company makes some mega-bores up to 4 bores and I've seen them for sale at the Gun Works in Springfield. Pretty impressive pieces!

If you want to maximize experimentation with sabots, long bullets, etc, you need a rifle with a much faster twist than normal and possibly an in-line ignition. Doc White makes some pretty interesting modern smoke poles along these lines.

April 7, 2011, 01:03 PM
The Lyman Blackpowder Handbook Volume 1 and 2, is a great primer on bp shooting in general, and the some of the sporting interests wherein bp firearms are used.

April 7, 2011, 03:22 PM
I have traditional and a CVA inline 209 primer gun with a scope. I look upon the CVA Wolf as a modern gun, actually, just doesn't take cartridge ammo. It's bloomin' accurate and hits hard, my answer to the BIG THUMPER as in .45/70. :D I don't have any muzzle loader season here, so shoot it in the regular rifle season, but it's just as accurate and reliable as any .45/70. It can take up to 150 grains of BP, but I load with 90 behind a cast 360 grain Lee REAL bullet. I think of it as a .50/90 sharps. :D It could be a .50/110, I suppose, but it's accurate with 90 grains. It is quite accurate with a variety of loads, too.

I have a CVA Plainsman and a Cabela's Hawken Hunter Carbine (Investarms gun), more traditional guns, too. The Plainsman I got for 80 bucks off Gun Broker just for shooting round ball. It's 1:48 twist is good with patched ball and some conicals, but the 1:24 in the Hawken Hunter Carbine is strictly for either 360 grain pure lead Lee Improved Minie, 385 grain Hornady Great Plains, or a 240 Hornady sabot. It's very accurate with these and only likes Pyrodex, 777 need not apply. It's pretty finicky that way. Damned accurate if you feed it right, though.

The CVA is more convenient for me for hunting. I can go to the stand, come back if I don't shoot, just pull the tool-less breach block and dump the charge to unload, no shooting necessary. I have to shoot the Hawkens guns to unload them or use a ball puller which I don't like. I tried one of those CO2 things, didn't work for poop. I have the Hawkens because I like traditional and if I ever go west for a BP season, I'll have to carry traditional as inlines are verboten most states now days. No biggy, like the Cabelas gun a LOT. :D

So, anyway, that's my experience. I do agree, though, that experimentation is limited to finding what the gun likes. I think if you do go with a BP rifle, you'll probably appreciate an inline. Me, I like mine, but I really do like the traditional guns and will add a flinter one of these days. BP is a highly addictive substance. I think of it as crack cocaine that can fill my freezer. :D

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