I'm looking for guidance on loads for my recently completed .54 caliber Hawken rifle. My gun is build from an Investarm Kit. The book says a .530 patched round ball with 100 grains of 2F powder (max.), or a 405 grain Maxi-ball and 90 grains of 2F powder max.
I am somewhat confused about the Maxi-ball, as this is my only BP gun that is not a smoothbore. Dixie Gun works lists a .54 cal, 435 grain Maxi-ball, but no 405 grain ones. I am also wondering if I can shoot a standard Minie Ball in the appropriate caliber?
Comparing the photos of Minie Balls and Maxi Ball it seem that the Maxi Ball doesn't have much of hollow base, and wouldn't expand to enage the rifling nearly as well as the tried and true Minie Ball.
I use a .530 roundball, .018 patch lubed with Ballistol and 80 grains of fffg goex powder in my Investarms made Trade rifle with excellent accuracy. The maxiball is made oversize to engage the rifling as you load it, I have never tried them in mine. The rifling is much too deep for a minie ball to expand and properly seal the bore. The above load works great in mine, you may have to do a little experimenting ti find your best load, good luck!
Lee offers a mould called the REAL bullet, which means rifling engaged at loading. It is essentially the same as a maxi ball. I used one to kill 2 deer last year in .50 cal and they seemed to work just fine. The mould is very inexpensive.
You didn't mention what twist your barrel has, and that will have a major influence on what will shoot accurately in your rifle. If you have a slow twist (1:60" or so) barrel, you'll probably only be able to shoot round balls with any accuracy.
If your twist rate is in the 1:48" range, it may shoot both round balls and conical bullets. If it's in the 1:32" range or faster, it probably won't shoot anything but conicals with any accuracy.
There are a number of different-style conical bullets available, and I suggest you take a look at Dixie Gun Works or Track of the Wolf for idea. Both of their catalogs are an excellent investment.
I typically use 80 grains of 3F Goex with a patched ball in my .54 Lyman GPR (essentially the same rifle) for routine shooting; I may go up to 100 grains for hunting.
As others have mentioned,twist rate and actual bore dimensions all play a critical part.
From my experience in .54 cal. barrels from Thompson Center and Green Mountain you will just have to do some intial testing to find what works best.Slugging the bore will get you started alot faster.
For instance my Green Mountain 1 in 70" twist 32" barrel likes a .535" round ball with a .018" patch.Fairly snug fit for target use.For hunting I use the .530 ball with a .018" patch or the .535" ball with a .015" patch.That being said Green Mountain round ball barrels have very deep .010"-.012" grooves.
The TC factory Renegade and Hawken barrels have a 1 in 48" twist with shallow grooves and tends to like the Maxi ball or Hunter best of all.But will shoot round balls pretty darn well.Ball patch combination on those barrels is the .530" ball and a .015" or .018" patch.
Ive always had the best luck using the heavier .018" ticked patch in all my rifles including .45 and .50 cal.Yeah loading is a bit difficult but the shot groups are worth it.
All my barrels seem to shoot the best groups with the powder loaded at the lower limits.The Green Mountain 32" 1in70" twist seems to like 70-80gr. of FFg.The shorter faster twist TC barrels like about 80-90gr of FFG.
Ive had some verygood performance from FFFg powder with target shooting as it seems to ignite faster reducing lock time,and it also seems to foul less.I try to cut the loads back about 5gr. or so when using FFFg as it keeps the weapons shooting the same POI.
I also like to lube my patches very heavy with Ox-Yoke Wonder Lube or TC Bore Butter.Either one works perfectly as they are the same product.I buy the Ox-Yoke Wonder Lube because it comes in a 4oz. or 12oz. jar rather than a tube.Either one helps keep the fouling soft in the bores very well.
Another lube Ive had excellent results with is Dixie Gunworks Ole Zip.Only downside to that stuff is it will go rancid over time as its made from tallow and beeswax.Great patch and bullet lube though.
I also use a bore brush to knock the chunks loose between shots,and follow that with a patch lightly lubed with Wonder lube before loading.If you do use the brush between shots remember to keep the barrel horizontal or pointed down when running the brush through the bore or the coke like fouling will plug the touch hole.Shake the barrel out a bit as the brush is removed.
Another tip,once you have the powder down the barrel tap the stock at the lock plate to work the powder into the touch hole/breech.Then load the bullet or patched ball.This is especially helpful when using FFg.
I personally have absolutely no use for Pyrodex in a side lock rifle or musket.I think that stuff is better off being held in reserve for the modern inlines.
Last edited by Blankwaffe; 12-20-2008 at 08:07 PM.