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For Immediate Release

August 31, 1999


Markesbery Muzzleloading Tip





       Todays muzzleloading big game hunter basically has three choices when selecting the type of projectile to be loaded and fired from a rifle of frontloading design...the patched round ball, a heavy pure lead bore-sized conical bullet, or a plastic sabot containing a modern jacketed pistol or all-copper bullet.

       Ballistically the patched round ball is inferior to the other two projectiles.  With a hefty 90 or 100 grain charge of black powder or Pyrodex, a modern black powder substitute, the light spheres of soft pure lead are pushed from the muzzle of most .50 and .54 caliber rifles at respectable velocities, generally between 1600 and 1800 feet per second.  Being a perfect sphere, the projectiles slow quickly and by the time a round ball reaches 100 yards, it hits with only about a third of the energy generated at the muzzle.  At that point  a round ball from a .50 caliber rifle fired with 100 grains of powder hits the target with only about 500 foot pounds of energy.

       Heavy lead conical bullets commonly weigh upwards of twice that of the round ball for the same caliber rifle.  Most .50 caliber bullets of this type will weigh between 350 nd 400 grains.  Being so much heavier, with a typical 100 grain charge of powder these hunks of lead leave the muzzle at a much slower velocity of around 1475 f.p.s.  However, they do generate much more energy and being a true conical bullet the slugs maintain energy better down range.  At 100 yards a 400 grain .50 caliber Markesbery all lead hollow-point conical is still good for nearly 1,200 ft. lbs. of energy, or about two-thirds of what it developed at the muzzle.  However, being so heavy, these bullets do display a great deal of drop at the longer ranges.

       With the switch to faster twist rifling, such as the one-turn-in 26 inches rifling twist found in the .50 and .54 caliber Markesbery bores, more and more hunters are now also switching to a modern plastic sabot and more effective modern pistol or all-copper bullet for hunting big game.  Jacketed bullets of 250 to 300 grains, especially those of hollow-point design, expand and transfer energy better than a piece of lead.  With 100 grains of black powder of Pyrodex, a saboted 250 grain .45 caliber Markesbery "Beast Buster" bullet fired from a .50 caliber rifle leaves the muzzle of a 24-inch Markesbery muzzleloading rifle barrel at just under 1700 f.p.s. and develops more than 1550 ft. lbs. of energy.  The recoil is a lot less than when shooting heavier bore-sized lead conical bullets and the energy retention is more that twice that of the round ball at 100 yards.

       When selecting a projectile for the muzzleloading rifle you may already own, your projectile selection may be dictated by the rate of rifling twist found in your barrel.  Remember that the patched round ball gives its best accuracy with a slow rate of rifling twist, or grooves which spiral with something in the neighborhood  of one-turn-in 60 inches.  Conical and saboted bullets prefer rifling with a much faster rate of twist, something that spins with a complete turn in 30 inches or less.


Toby Bridges


NOTE: This topic would make an excellent 2,500 to 3,500 word feature, providing valuable information for the muzzleloading hunter seriously seeking the best projectile for his frontloader...or best projectile for the game being hunted.  Writers and editors wishing more information should contact Toby Bridges at (217)829-4545.  


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