200 (almost) year old George Dunkle Kentucky rifle

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32 Cal
Aug 9, 2022
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Although I have extensive experience in the shooting & hunting sports and with In-line muzzleloading rifles I recently acquired a
a George Dunkle Kentucky rifle in .40 caliber circa 1828 - 1846.
I have very little experience with the traditional stuff.
I have shot it with a .375gr RB, .020 lubed patch, and 3 different powder charges:
30gr of FFg, 40gr Pyrodex FFg & 50gr Pyrodex FFg.
My question is...
would it be safe to double up on the patch in order to engage the rifling better or would that raise pressures to high?

Thank you


  • G. Dunkle ML.jpeg
    G. Dunkle ML.jpeg
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Notchy Bob

58 Cal.
Apr 6, 2014
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Welcome from Florida!

I don't think you're going to hurt it by doubling up on patches to shoot an undersized ball. The best bet, though, would be to slug or gauge the bore so you can get some properly sized balls. If you have a collection of fractional and letter-gauge drill bits with full-sized shanks, you can use the smooth (non-fluted) ends of these as plug gauges up to .500". Above that size, most bits have reduced-size shanks. Find the largest bit shank that will go in the bore to get an approximate bore size.

You could take the rifle to a machine shop that has a full set of pin or plug gauges to get a more accurate measure, but I don't know what this would cost. However, this may be your best option.

If you can unbreech the rifle without damaging anything, you can drive an oversized pure lead ball through the bore to get a slug you can measure. However, this should not be done unless you really know what you're doing. The other thing is that the majority of antique sporting rifles I have examined have seven grooves. The odd number may complicate getting an accurate land-to-land measure of your lead slug.

Different people have different ideas about ball sizes. The "standard" recommendation today is .010" under bore (land to land) size, with the patch thickness depending on groove width and depth, and personal preference.

Good luck with it! As mentioned above, you may want to go through the forum and find one of the specialty sections for your question, maybe under "Percussion Rifles." The question may get more views and responses there.

That is a nice old rifle, by the way. The butt has a lot of drop... Mr. Dunkle must have built it for a long, lanky customer.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob