Thursday, December 16, 2004

Muzzleloading Hunting, My Gear

The next big thing on the calendar (actually it started December 18!) for those of us in western Virginia, aside from Christmas and New Years Day, is the late muzzleloading season. For those of you not from Virginia, we're limited to single barrel muzzleloaders with a .45 or larger bore. In-lines, telescopic sights, aperture sights and sabots (projectile .38 cal or larger) are all allowed. See the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for more information. As late as last year my Brown Bess Carbine wasn't legal (a smoothbore flintlock) but an all up scoped, Knight .52 in-line (reportedly accurate to 200 yards, see the data at the link) was legal. Any wonder that more hunters hunt our two muzzleloading seasons with their liberal "doe days"?

My choice is a combination of the modern and "period" hunting rifles. About 17 years ago, I bought (from MidSouth Shooting Supply) a Thompson Center Arms New Englander (now discontinued). Mine is a .54 caliber gun with a 1-48" twist rifling and a TC hunting tang sight. Yes, another aperture sight. I do like them! It has slim lines so that it carries well and the recoil isn't at all bad due to the design of the stock and the broad buttplate. Apparently, I like the rifle too as I've never been moved to get another, newer, different rifle.

For me, such hunting is about the challenge and so, while the rifle groups well at 100 yards, I tend to think in terms of 75 yards as my working maximum. The gun is accurate. When loaded with patched round ball and 60 gr. of Pyrodex RS it is accurate enough to take squirrels with headshots at up to 40 yards. The rifle "hangs" well for such shots, too. However, my hunting load is 90 gr. of Pyrodex RS or GOEX FFg with the same patched round ball OR 100 gr. of either propellent with a Buffalo Bore 325 gr. or Hornady Great Plains conical. So, this rifle is roughly the equivalent of the .45-70 black powder express load of the 1890s. Not bad that!

As you can see, I do use some modern conveniences such as the TC Quick Shot for the conical bullet loads. I use the Blue and Gray Quickloads for the roundball loads. The little belt bag is sufficiently large to carry about 10 loads which is more than enough for a days deer hunting (I've never fired more than 2 shots). the knife is a Russell Canadian Belt Knife made by Grohmann in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada. I really like my knife and bought it from a sporting good store in downtown Monterey, CA in 1974. I've carried that knife around the world but it is still in excellent condition.

Can't hunt today but for the rest of the week and NEXT week! Whoo hooo!

This year, the law has changed to allow smoothbore guns that otherwise meet the criteria of single barrel, single projectile and over .45 caliber. Thus my Brown Bess carbine can go with as well.

This baby shoots a .715" lead round ball at only 1000 fps and requires 100 gr. of powder to do so, but it is FUN. With a bit of muck about one can pull the charge and reload with shot or replace shot with ball. It takes practice to be proficient at 50 yards and somedays I won't take a shot past 25 yards. If using shot 25 yards is about the limit as one should use charges of no more than 1¼ oz of shot and 85 gr. of powder. It has taken squirrel and groundhog but no deer yet.

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