Conical bullet for smooth bore rifle.

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Buck Conner

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Oct 20, 2015
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Idaho Lewis and others,

"What is the best .50 caliber conical bullet for a smooth bore rifle." Want to test a 34 inch smoothbore flintlock trade gun that's a copy of an original Sharpe NW gun believed to have been used for shooting buffalo near the end of that period in history in the United States. Needed for further shots with the game getting leary of any movement.

Most orignial NW guns are in the 5 lb to 6.5 lb weight range. The original NW gun mentioned was found at the Denver Art Museum sitting at the back of a displace of an Indian hunting camp on the plains of KS with original tin type photo. What caught my eye was the way the rifle was laying that the muzzle end let the viewer see the thickness of the barrel. Large barrel diameter with small bore.

Knew several of the museum employees and was lucky enought to have one of them let me take pictures, measurer, and weight of the firearm. 40 years later I gave Doc White everything I had on this NW gun, telling him to build it.

NW TradeGun.gif
LATE SHARPS NW TRADE GUN IN .50 CALIBER 10 POUND SMOOTHBORE.






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LR

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Apr 23, 2019
Messages
113
240gr Hornady PA Conical @ .512 dia. Pre-lubed.

These are designed for very slow 1:66 twist. As you have no twist, I would try them and see if they work. They are shorter in length than most conicals.
 

Billy-by-gosh

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2019
Messages
86
.
Idaho Lewis and others,

"What is the best .50 caliber conical bullet for a smooth bore rifle." Want to test a 34 inch smoothbore flintlock trade gun that's a copy of an original Sharpe NW gun believed to have been used for shooting buffalo near the end of that period in history in the United States. Needed for further shots with the game getting leary of any movement.

Most orignial NW guns are in the 5 lb to 6.5 lb weight range. The original NW gun mentioned was found at the Denver Art Museum sitting at the back of a displace of an Indian hunting camp on the plains of KS with original tin type photo. What caught my eye was the way the rifle was laying that the muzzle end let the viewer see the thickness of the barrel. Large barrel diameter with small bore.

Knew several of the museum employees and was lucky enought to have one of them let me take pictures, measurer, and weight of the firearm. 40 years later I gave Doc White everything I had on this NW gun, telling him to build it.

View attachment 1758
LATE SHARPS NW TRADE GUN IN .50 CALIBER 10 POUND SMOOTHBORE.






View attachment 1762
Buck, I never knew any of us smoothie users to have good luck with conical bullets; not any at all. They inherently want to tumble, and are therefore inaccurate beyond point blank range. What always seems to work best is a slightly undersize round ball loaded with or without patch, with a STIFF powder load behind it. The faster the ball is going, the longer your hunting accuracy range is extended (out to somewhere between 60-100 yards). I should add that in my experience it helps to put a few thin card wads between the ball and powder and an over ball card as well
Hope this helps,

BTW - that s a fine looking piece of art!

Billy
 

Buck Conner

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Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
4,601
You are ignoring content by this member.

Buck, I never knew any of us smoothie users to have good luck with conical bullets; not any at all. They inherently want to tumble, and are therefore inaccurate beyond point blank range. What always seems to work best is a slightly undersize round ball loaded with or without patch, with a STIFF powder load behind it. The faster the ball is going, the longer your hunting accuracy range is extended (out to somewhere between 60-100 yards). I should add that in my experience it helps to put a few thin card wads between the ball and powder and an over ball card as well
Hope this helps,

BTW - that s a fine looking piece of art!


Billy
.
Billy I'm not ignoring you. Been busy with other things and this is the first I have had a chance to get on this site. Have a few neighbors with health issues that needed help with.

It's interesting to read what others have had to say, their thoughts are all being thought about. I do as you do with my smooth bores and have had good luck with shooting at 100 yard targets (usually the size of a buffalo body - 4' X 8' piece of plywood set at 100 yards). Use these size targets as that's what I hunt and close to that distance.

When you read about the wars fought in our country (F&I War, Civil War), didn't included Indian engagements as they shot anything that would throw whatever at each other. There were many different makers weapons used in these engagements with many being smoothbores (not much recorded about how well they worked or the distances shot with accuracy).

You said "inherently want to tumble, and are therefore inaccurate " If that's the case why were so many smoothbores of the F&I War, Civil War long arms used with concial bullets, this is something to think about.


An article written by Tom Turpin on honing in on your target has been common knowlege, but a link to keep.

Thanks for the reply.



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Last edited:

Buck Conner

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Oct 20, 2015
Messages
4,601
Here an interesting article by our old friend.

Conical Bullet Big Game Performance by Randy Smith

The current trend in big game muzzleloader hunting is toward the use of sabots and Powerbelt bullets. Advertisers talk of relatively high velocities exhibited by these projectiles when used with 150-grain powder charges and associate those velocities with improved performance. The buying public has bought into these claims hook, line, and sinker. The sabot has become so popular that it is often difficult to locate conicals from many local retailers. The problem is that this whole notion is highly misleading and in some situations can lead to some dangerous situations.

When I see advertisements where so-called “Big Name” muzzleloader hunters are going after African and Alaskan dangerous game with 260-grain pistol bullet sabots, I cringe. I know that three things took place during that hunt. First, the bullet placement was perfect. Second, they had to wait for the animal to bleed out before approaching it and probably had to track it for several hundred yards. Third, someone was standing behind that big name hunter with a big gun to save his ass if things turned sour. That someone sure wasn’t carrying another muzzleloader with a 260-grain pistol bullet sabot. You may call it hunting. I call it an irresponsible stunt.

As long as a muzzleloader hunter is pursuing deer, he is not going to experience extremely poor performance from a sabot. When the game is larger, the situation drastically changes. Lightweight bullets designed for handguns are much more prone to failure as the animal’s size and muscle structure increase. The whole misunderstanding comes from two commonly held performance fallacies. One is that velocity alone is a measure of a bullet’s ability to deliver trauma. The second is based upon a poor understanding of relatively slow black powder velocities and how to make of the most of that trait.

Many have trouble understanding why a heavy conical bullet is so effective on game when the velocities are relatively slow. Normally a conical is fired at a velocity of between 1,200 and 1,600 fps. While a light bullet may have higher velocity and therefore greater muzzle energy than a conical, it will also shed that energy much faster. The momentum of the heavier conical allows it to shed its energy much slower. That same momentum retention remains when the bullet strikes big game. A combination of bullet weight, diameter and velocity increases both penetration and trauma to an animal.

Many will cite the differences in velocity of smokeless powder rifles as a means of justifying higher velocities in muzzleloading, but the most velocity that can be expected from a black powder rifle is about 2,300 fps using a 240-grain projectile. The .30-30 Winchester generates more energy than a muzzleloader using projectiles of 300 grains or less. Black powder energy limits mean that if you want additional power to increase trauma to an animal you must fall back on bullet weight and diameter to get it.

Perhaps the least technical method of presenting this circumstance is to look back into the history of firearms and gain an understanding of why smokeless powder was so revolutionary to the development of big game firearms. Smokeless powder allowed hunters to use lighter projectiles with less recoil. Once the proper bullets were designed to work effectively at these higher velocities, smokeless powder caused a revolution in what men used to hunt big game.

The reason for the development of conicals was the inefficiency of the patched round ball muzzleloader. Round balls have some problems. They lose significant velocity and therefore impact energy after a relatively short distance. To counter this inefficiency, designers created very large caliber guns to shoot heavy charges of powder. Those enormous round balls remained highly effective close range game getters, but the fellows that were shooting them began to wonder who was taking the greater beating; the game in front of the gun or the shooter behind it. Big game black powder rifles weighting sixteen to twenty pounds were necessary to be able to survive the recoil. Smokeless powder not only reduced recoil with lighter projectiles but also allowed hunters to use much lighter, more manageable rifles.

A conical can be made as long (and therefore as heavy) as can be stabilized by the rifling. Early conicals were very short because they were used in round ball rifling patterns. Right now the maximum commercial .50 caliber conical that I know of is 600 grains. Normally, the faster the twist the longer a practical conical can be.

When muzzleloaders hunt elk, bear, or moose in the West with .50 or .54 caliber round balls they have to take extra precautions to close the range and go for exact shot placement. Many muzzleloader hunters on the plains made the transition from round ball to conical projectile without considering any other option. Round balls were used for a bit better accuracy potential for small and medium sized game on occasion, but for most hunting situations there simply wasn't enough accuracy advantage with round balls to counter the tremendous energy advantage of conicals.

Conicals also have some disadvantages. Recoil is greater. The more weight in the projectile, the more resistance to the powder charge, and the more recoil is experienced by the shooter. The same momentum advantage of a heavy conical is also translated into the resistance it takes to get it started down the rifle barrel. If a .50 or .54 caliber round ball is an unpleasant experience for a muzzleloader shooter familiar with light weight smokeless projectile rounds, a 425-grain conical matched with the same powder charge is down right disconcerting. Many whitetail hunters who were using 100-grain powder charges to propel .54 caliber round balls, for instance, backed off powder charges to the 85 grain range with heavy conicals. This actually increased energy performance and maintained a tolerable recoil level. Never mind what those old‑timers endured from their massive black powder loads and projectiles. They put up with a lot of other inconveniences that we wouldn't consider today and certainly didn't have access to chronographs to optimize loads.

Another argument against conicals involves the critical importance of loading them properly without distorting shape. Most conicals need to be carefully positioned in the muzzle before any force is placed upon them with a short starter. Because of the tight fit of traditionally designed conicals, initial force upon the conical is often extreme in order for the conical to imprint the rifling. Extra care needs to be taken to swab rifling frequently between shots to reduce loading resistance. Pounding away on a tight fitting conical with a short starter or ramrod will only distort shape and degrade accuracy. Another theory is that if a pure lead bullet is started crooked, even if only slightly, a small amount of lead will be shaved from the bullet by the rifling as it is pushed down the bore with the ramrod. Upon ignition, gases will force past the bullet and result in inaccuracy.

What he needed was a thick patch that would allow the rifling to put a spin upon the bullet. That is all a sabot is. It is a glorified plastic patch that is constructed to hold an undersized lead bullet in place until it can transfer the spin of the rifling to the bullet for accuracy and drop away milliseconds after leaving the muzzle. Another advantage of sabots is that they provide the opportunity of making a .50 caliber muzzleloader into a more flexible shooter. Just as a shooter can place a heavy .45 bullet in a .50 caliber muzzleloader for more down range energy than a round ball, he can also down load to a lighter .44 caliber bullet and less powder charge to make a .50 fairly practical for small game hunting. Sabots are also very forgiving for some twist ratios and gun designs. Sabots will help make an average rifle into a fairly decent shooter at the target range. Sabots have the potential of providing the best of both worlds for a muzzleloader. Modern “Easy Load” sabots load with one finger just like the original White “slip fit” conical did. This new easy loading sabot feature completely revolutionizes modern muzzleloader hunting.

Taking that into consideration you may ask, “Why not use a big game saboted / jacketed bullet in a muzzleloader for big game?” For instance, I experimented with using Hornady .458 510-grain Interbond bullets in a .50 caliber muzzleloader as a projectile for dangerous game. I used MMP .458 sabots. The projectile/sabot combination loaded well and was reasonably accurate but I could not get enough velocity, even with 150 grain charges for the bullet to expand as it would from a .458 Winchester Magnum smokeless cartridge load. I might add that the recoil was nothing less than wicked in a seven pound inline and a twelve pound inline double barrel. A 600-grain soft lead conical with less powder charge (120 grains) mushroomed more efficiently, penetrated just as well, was more accurate, and generated less recoil. The Interbond was simply not designed for black powder velocities.

Conicals can also be made in different lengths to allow for a wide variety of game hunting. But, a conical can only be made so short before it becomes unstable. Buffalo Bullet Ball-ets allow for a relatively light weight conical to be used in a big bore muzzleloader. White slip fit conicals allow a .50 caliber White muzzleloader to use 400, 460, 480, and 600 grain weights in the same gun. This gives the hunter a broad range of big game bullets to choose from, but a sabot load must be used for lighter game. I like the 400-grain for deer, the 460-grain for elk and the 600-grain for dangerous game. For coyotes and other small game I use a 240-grain Hornady in a sabot.




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Billy-by-gosh

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Messages
86
Buck, I must apologize, I logged out, but was unaware of having an "Ignoring" status posted. Sorry!
The 50 is a superb rifle caliber, albeit a tad light, so I understand your wish to improve that and I do wish you the best luck in pursuit of a conical load for that beautiful gun. My statement about tumbling and inherent inaccuracy is based largely on my long-term experience using a variety of smooth-bore weapons: rifles, pistols, and shotguns, all using black powder and a variety of elongated projectiles. Of course, others may have better luck to report :) .
Historically though, even the deprived Confederate States military only used smooth-bore muskets out of necessity and switched them out for rifled weapons as soon as those became available.
I currently no longer have a smooth rifle but have considered ordering another one. My current physical conditions pretty much prevent hunting for the near future (got hit by a car), so have not gotten real serious. BUT, if I were to start, it would be a barrel of 54 to 62 caliber for versatility and moderate recoil.
Please keep us posted on your shooting progress with this one!

.
Billy I'm not ignoring you. Been busy with other things and this is the first I have had a chance to get on this site. Have a few neighbors with health issues that needed help with.

It's interesting to read what others have had to say, their thoughts are all being thought about. I do as you do with my smooth bores and have had good luck with shooting at 100 yard targets (usually the size of a buffalo body - 4' X 8' piece of plywood set at 100 yards). Use these size targets as that's what I hunt and close to that distance.

When you read about the wars fought in our country (F&I War, Civil War), didn't included Indian engagements as they shot anything that would throw whatever at each other. There were many different makers weapons used in these engagements with many being smoothbores (not much recorded about how well they worked or the distances shot with accuracy).

You said "inherently want to tumble, and are therefore inaccurate " If that's the case why were so many smoothbores of the F&I War, Civil War long arms used with concial bullets, this is something to think about.


An article written by Tom Turpin on honing in on your target has been common knowlege, but a link to keep.

Thanks for the reply.



 

Buck Conner

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Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
4,601
Answer from Doc White.
Doc,
Would this idea work in the GRRW.CA NW Trade gun you built me (.50 caliber using your slip-fit bullets). Can I use your .450-.452 caliber bullets with the sabots for a 50 caliber rifle by fitting them into a .50 caliber sabot. Don't know how accurate they would work in a smoothbore for 100 yard testing?
Thank you for the time.
Buck
Buck,
Won't work, got to have fast twist rifling to make it work. Stay well, stay safe
DOC
____________________________________________________________________

Just ordered the suggested item by Longrifle: 240gr Hornady PA Conical @ .512 dia. Pre-lubed, along with October Country items.
lubed_shooting__40093.1402337144.1280.1280.jpgleather_wads_002__03434.1431539273.1280.1280.jpg6617_HOR_50_EA1__70685.1571337871.jpg

Once received and have time I would like to use this setup for testing and the next postal match for the fun of it.




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Billy-by-gosh

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Messages
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Attaboy Buck, I think that smoothbores are somehow more of a hoot to shoot, 'cause you can only control just so much of the outcome. Main thing is to relax and have a good time with it. Am looking forward to your results! I'm without a printer, but right now not sure I could shoot with you all (in May) anyway.
 

Buck Conner

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Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
4,601
Attaboy Buck, I think that smoothbores are somehow more of a hoot to shoot, 'cause you can only control just so much of the outcome. Main thing is to relax and have a good time with it. Am looking forward to your results! I'm without a printer, but right now not sure I could shoot with you all (in May) anyway.
In our area it's either raining or so darn windy its hard to get out to shoot. I goy thrown out of an indoor range after a few shots with the smoke filling their range area. Smelled pretty good to me - rotten eggs .... ;)

Billy,

If your printer won't work send me your address and I'll send you a couple targets for the current shoot. Email to: [email protected].



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Billy-by-gosh

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Jul 11, 2019
Messages
86
Buck, I likewise had an indoor range ejection because of BP!
I really appreciate your offer for targets, but don't think I am physically able to take to the range yet. And speaking about that, ranges around here are all still closed because of covid. :confused:
Can't wait to get stronger and get back out - Thanks a bunch for your kind offer!
Billy
 
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