Making Muzzleloaders Shoot More Consistently

Consistent placement of black powder, propellants, projectiles are very important to hunters and competitive shooters, but sometime elusive. Let’s take a look at some easy but necessary steps to cleaning up those bullet groups.

Many ponder over which is best: Pyrodex, black powder, or one of the other synthetic propellants. Test results have proven time and time again that they all work well. The synthetics allow more shots between cleaning, and are normally easier to clean up—but as far as where the bullet hits, there is no difference.

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Because of the consistency and quality, the propellants available today would have brought tears of joy to Daniel Boone. However, in order for the modern shooter to get the best results from these products, the measurement of propellants must be exact. Always use a good powder measure.

Patches For Round Balls
Next to examine are patches. When shooting round balls, it’s necessary to wrap the balls in lubricated patches, which are available in different thicknesses. For example, when shooting a .50-caliber rifle, use a .490-inch round ball, and a minimum .015-inch thick patch. That makes the combined patch and ball larger than the bore, but the larger size is necessary in order to seal over the propellant, and not allow power-eating and blow-by of gasses when fired.

The speed of rifling of your barrel is important in picking the most effective projectile for a specific gun. A 1:66 rifling will shoot a patched, round ball best. A rifling of 1:48 will handle equally well bullets, or patched, round balls. A barrel with a rifling of 1:22 will shoot sabot bullets best. Your bullet selection should start with the projectile your rifle is designed to best handle.

When in doubt, measure patch thickness.

Another important factor is the amount of pressure placed upon the projectile when seating it on top of the powder charge. This should be 35 pounds, optimum. If too much pressure is put on the bullet it will become distorted and shoot poorly. Too little pressure will cause inconsistent groups. More important than the actual amount of pressure is consistency of pressure. If the amount of pressure placed upon the projectile seating it upon the propellant varies from shot to shot, the shot placement on the target will vary with each shot. Consistency is absolutely necessary for consistent shot placement.

Remember as you go forth this season with your charcoal burner, your success will depend on not only how you squeeze the trigger, but also loading consistency.

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