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Muzzleloader caliber for deer

Old 04-23-2022, 02:11 PM
Fork Horn
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Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: SE CT
Posts: 145
Default Muzzleloader caliber for deer

I have been hunting deer with a traditional sidelock muzzleloader with roundball for going on 40 years. I started off with a .50 caliber but had several deer run off after the shot even when hit in the vitals. I then moved up to a .54 and started dropping deer usually within 100 yards. Let me say this, I hunt in some very thick Laurel where shots are rarely more than 60 yards, and sometimes at point blank range. Any deer that runs off after the shot, even if only 100 yards, requires hours of trailing on hands and knees. I am now shooting a .58, and so far the last 8 deer I have taken have dropped pretty much in their tracks, which is what I want.
Sooo, what are you fellow traditional muzzleloader shooters using for deer hunting, and why?
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Old 04-24-2022, 01:23 PM
Nontypical Buck
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Eastern wv
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490 round ball, .015 patch, 110 gr of FFF, never had one get out of sight. running a pedersoli tryon 50 cal bought around 1986, it puts the ball exactly where I aim.
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Old 04-25-2022, 04:58 AM
Fork Horn
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What are the ranges that you generally shoot deer at, and what is the cover like?
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Old 04-25-2022, 05:57 PM
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Location: texas
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Ive used both a 58 caliber and 62 caliber muzzleloading rifle,on most hunts
most of my friends use a 50 caliber ,
as always shot placement is the major KEY to improved results,
ID point out that factors like the projectile, the barrel length the powder charge,
and rifling twist rate all effect the results.
most of my friends use a 50 caliber ,most are not impressed with round ball performance/lethality on deer!
youll be lucky to exceed 1600 fps with a 50 caliber patched round ball in a 22"-24" barrel rifle
that puts you in the 44 mag power range

a short barrel is handy, but it tends to significantly reduce velocitys.
just as an example a 50 caliber patched round ball will generally weight about 175 grains
just as an example a 54 caliber patched round ball will generally weight about 230 grains
just as an example a 58 caliber patched round ball will generally weight about 302 grains
just as an example a 62 caliber patched round ball will generally weight about 345 grains
a 58 caliber mini ball can easily weigh 570 grains
and while velocity of the mini ball is lower penetration is generally enhanced

mass and velocity mater, and with a 58 caliber the use of a MINI BALL will in many cases,
significantly enhance lethality over a similar hit with a patched round ball.
in some rifles you can safely load two patched round balls and its common to have both strike within 4-6 inches apart up to 80 yards or so in my hawken 58 caliber if loaded over 90 grains of 2f powder
they MUST be loaded together in a patch,with no air space at all to use safely

Last edited by hardcastonly; 04-25-2022 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 04-26-2022, 04:36 AM
Fork Horn
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Location: SE CT
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I have never been disappointed in the performance of patched round balls for deer hunting. I think I have only recovered one ball in 40 years of hunting and close to 60 deer taken. That one ball was a .50 caliber that I recovered just under the hide after it had gone thru the shoulder blade. The balls that went completely thru the deer usually left a 1" or larger exit wound with lots of internal damage. I just find that deer have great tenacity to life, and even with shots in the vitals they can, and do, run off. As I stated in my original post, the places I hunt are very thick, and unless the deer drops in its tracks, or only a few steps away, you can count on a long tracking job crawling on hands and knees in the laurel. That is why I have found that the .58 seems to be dropping the deer much faster.
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Old 04-28-2022, 02:31 PM
Nontypical Buck
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Location: Central VT/Big Horn WY
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I have always used a .50 cal shooting Barnes Sabots. Deer I have shot have not gone far.
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