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Chrono Results in Two .54 Rifles Using Five Different Powders

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PastorB

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I originally started this thread in the General Muzzloading section. I thought I would also place it here, as there may be other folks interested in this data who did not see it there. Copy and pasted from that previous post, with a totally gratuitous pic added of my Labradane, Jake. Pastor B.

As the title states, I took 2 different rifles and 5 separate powders to the range today to test performance of both accuracy and velocity. The powders tested were as follows: Pyro RS, Goex 3f, Pyro P, Swiss 3f, and 3f Hodgdon 777. The rifles were my old Investarms Hawken I've had since the 1970's, and my 15 year old Pederdoli Rocky Mountain Hawken, both in .54. The Investarms has a 28" barrel with a 1 in 48" twist. The RMH has a 34" barrel with a 1 on 65" twist. All loads used identical components, a Speer .530 ball, .020 linen patch, CCI #11 caps, and 70 grains by volume of the tested powders. The Pyro powders are 25+ years old, and both cans have been open for a looong time. 777 and Goex are about 5 years old, and came from open cans, while the Swiss was purchased this year, and was opened for the first time today. The Pyro RS had a couple of small clumps, which fell easily apart upon shaking, with no apparent loss of performance. Rifles were cleaned after every 3rd shot, with the exception of a couple were the chrono got a error reading. Also, plenty of time elapsed between groups to allow barrels to reach ambient temperature. All shooting was at 100 yards, with the chrono about 8 yards from the bench.

A couple of observations are these. Most notably, the Hodgdon 777 was terrible! In both rifles it shot horrendous "groups". It was so bad, I repeated the test with 777, and got the same results. Don't know why, just reporting the facts. Perhaps it was burning the patches, even though it was not getting significantly higher velocity than either the Swiss or Pyro P. Also, 777 had a slight delay on a couple of shots, no other powder experienced that phenomenon. 777 shoots great in my original rifled muskets using Minie balls, but i will never use it in a rifle shooting PRB's again. When my current supply is gone, 777 will not be replaced. As usual, Pyro P and Swiss 3f were nearly identical in performance, as was Pyro RS and Goex 3f. My Investarm Hawken is an accurate rifle, I just struggle nowadays to shoot it accurately with my old eyes. I do much better with the RMH, as the rear sight is further away, and it has a longer sight radius. Also notice that while groups are "minute of deer" or better with all loads other than 777, the point of impact shifts somewhat. My rifles are sighted for Swiss 3f and Pyro P. Here is my data, copied and pasted from my phones notepad. The extra 6" of barrel provided quite a boost for most loads.

Investarms Hawken .54, 28" barrel

70 grains Pyro RS

1368
1307
1299

70 grains 3f Goex

1331
1317
1362

70 grains Pyro P

1341
1378
1364

70 grains Swiss 3f

1474
1487
1521

70 grain 777 3f

1511
1504
1512
1532

Pedersoli RMH, 34" barrel

70 grains 777

1645
1590
1592

70 Swiss 3f

1618
1656
1624

70 gr Pyro P

1694
1633
1677

70 grains Goex 3f

1500
1487
1493

70 Pyro RS

1444
1466
1447
 

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How did you settle on 70gr for the load? Had you previously tested higher grain loads?

I recently bought a Pedersoli RMH. I think your wood looks better than mine, but I think the fit and finish is very good. I haven't had a chance to shoot it yet.

Back in Texas, I have a Lyman Great Plains Rifle, also 54, and a TVM Southern Rifle, also 54. That's my second GPR. The Pedersoli is nicer, but probably not 50% higher price nicer. In those rifles, my loads were 90gr and 120gr. I never chronographed them though. IIRC, 90gr was the recommended load by Lyman, and 120gr was the maximum load, maybe by TVM.

Did you make a video by any chance?

The disparity between Swiss and Pyro P in the Investarms vs the RMH is very interesting. Without proper pressure testing equipment, we can't know for sure, but that last 6" of barrel were critical to Pyro P leap-frogging Swiss. Maybe that means Pyro P is a kind of "late bloomer" in terms of burning to build pressure. If so, I'm not sure it'd be very good in a pistol at all.

This was great information. Thanks for reposting this. I found it very interesting.
 
How did you settle on 70gr for the load? Had you previously tested higher grain loads?

I recently bought a Pedersoli RMH. I think your wood looks better than mine, but I think the fit and finish is very good. I haven't had a chance to shoot it yet.

Back in Texas, I have a Lyman Great Plains Rifle, also 54, and a TVM Southern Rifle, also 54. That's my second GPR. The Pedersoli is nicer, but probably not 50% higher price nicer. In those rifles, my loads were 90gr and 120gr. I never chronographed them though. IIRC, 90gr was the recommended load by Lyman, and 120gr was the maximum load, maybe by TVM.

Did you make a video by any chance?

The disparity between Swiss and Pyro P in the Investarms vs the RMH is very interesting. Without proper pressure testing equipment, we can't know for sure, but that last 6" of barrel were critical to Pyro P leap-frogging Swiss. Maybe that means Pyro P is a kind of "late bloomer" in terms of burning to build pressure. If so, I'm not sure it'd be very good in a pistol at all.

This was great information. Thanks for reposting this. I found it very interesting.
I just decided on 70 grains as a mid-range load. I actually use only 60 grains hunting, and it does just fine. 60 to 70 grains is an accurate load in every .54 I have ever shot. I have tested many heavier loads in different guns, and those results are on this forum. I get good accuracy in my rifles using even 90 or 100 grains (1900+ fps) of 3f, but never have felt the need to go that high while hunting. Got a nice 10 point just a few weeks ago with a .54 PRB and 60 grains of Swiss. Put him right down where he stood.

I have also tested Pyro P and Swiss 3f extensively in revolvers. Those results are also available on this forum. In almost every case, the Pyro P is slightly more energetic than Swiss 3f, regardless of gun, long or short. Not enough to be a factor, usually within shot to shot variation. The results I got in the Investarms Hawken are atypical, Pyro P is consistently faster by a few fps in every other test I have done. Again, typically not enough difference to be a difference. I now hunt exclusively with Swiss 3f, as I want every chance of positive ignition. That being said, I have never been dissatisfied with the results using Pyro P in Amy of my numerous cap-locks.
 
You’re a good shot! The 777 has higher burn rates, it’s probably blowing your patches out. It can be good stuff if used properly. I tend to not buy it nowadays because I think it’s to expensive, especially compared to black powder.
 
Great info! But I would like to know how you saw the small cross hair targets at 100 yds, Wish my eyes could do that man you are lucky guard that vision!
 
I always like seeing this kind of tech info. It gets poo poo'd by many in our sport and that's just fine too. If your shooting your share of 10s and/or efficiently dispatching game and that's what matters then all is good 👍.

But, to myself and some others it's kinda fascinating to try to figure out some of the fine points of how and why. What happens between ignition and exiting the muzzle?

Thanks for sharing 👍
 
Great info! But I would like to know how you saw the small cross hair targets at 100 yds, Wish my eyes could do that man you are lucky guard that vision!
I do have good distance vision, 100% attributable to my contact lenses. But even so, I for sure don't see the "cross hairs" on my drawn target at 100 yards. What I do see is a black spot on a bright white background. I use the "cross hair" pattern so I can see where my shots hit, using binoculars. If the circle is solid, and the shot hole is within it, it is difficult to discern at that distance, even with the aid of magnification. For example, the attached pic shows what I'm talking about. I would never see those shots without walking all the way down to the target, even with binoculars. Using a bright white background, i can see where my shots land. I prefer foam board ($1 per sheet at Dollar General) as it makes clean holes without flopping around or tearing in the wind like paper does. I have learned a lot of practical things about range shooting over the years. When shooting at longer ranges, I take a mini-bike (where permissible/practical) with me to drive the 200 to 400 yards back and forth from the bench to the target. Not for the sake of laziness, but to save time. Additionally, it is difficult to shoot accurately when you just completed a 800 yard walk and are breathing somewhat heavily. The ranges I shoot at are remote, and that is by intent. I drive by closer, but busier, ranges to be able to do what I do without interruption or having to wait as another fella makes the long trek back and forth from the target ever couple of shots.
 

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I admire your patience to shoot over the chronograph and sight groups at the same time.

I set the chronograph up and shoot through with no target from offhand. But usually at a range where there are regular cease fires at timed intervals. Kinda breaks up the cadence. Luckily we have a rule to drive if posting or pulling beyond 100 yards.
 
I like your testing PB. If you reduced your t-7 load by the 15% called for by Hodgdon to equalize BP you would be real close to 60 grains and you might find a sweet spot and be closer to an apples to apples comparison. That said, you are not getting a 15% increase in velocity with t-7 over BP with your rifles, so 60 grains would probably put you closer to your Pyro RS loads.
Maybe don't toss your t-7 yet. Even if it doesn't get it with PRBs, it might come in handy with a conical as long as you have it. Worth a try if you ever wanted to use one.
Not to bag too hard on Hodgdon, but in 30 years of reloading unmentionables, they manage to obtain test velocities that my rifles never meet, but do with other powders. They seem a bit proud of t-7 as well by looking at your chrony results. That is changing a bit because now they own most of the other powders anyway.
I use t-7 but haven't run it through my chrony yet with my 50s. Next time out with the chrony I will test it.
BTW, your loading protocol looks great going by some darned good velocity spreads. SW
 
I always like seeing this kind of tech info. It gets poo poo'd by many in our sport and that's just fine too. If your shooting your share of 10s and/or efficiently dispatching game and that's what matters then all is good 👍.

But, to myself and some others it's kinda fascinating to try to figure out some of the fine points of how and why. What happens between ignition and exiting the muzzle?

Thanks for sharing 👍
Well stated, LC.
 
I do have good distance vision, 100% attributable to my contact lenses. But even so, I for sure don't see the "cross hairs" on my drawn target at 100 yards. What I do see is a black spot on a bright white background. I use the "cross hair" pattern so I can see where my shots hit, using binoculars. If the circle is solid, and the shot hole is within it, it is difficult to discern at that distance, even with the aid of magnification. For example, the attached pic shows what I'm talking about. I would never see those shots without walking all the way down to the target, even with binoculars. Using a bright white background, i can see where my shots land. I prefer foam board ($1 per sheet at Dollar General) as it makes clean holes without flopping around or tearing in the wind like paper does. I have learned a lot of practical things about range shooting over the years. When shooting at longer ranges, I take a mini-bike (where permissible/practical) with me to drive the 200 to 400 yards back and forth from the bench to the target. Not for the sake of laziness, but to save time. Additionally, it is difficult to shoot accurately when you just completed a 800 yard walk and are breathing somewhat heavily. The ranges I shoot at are remote, and that is by intent. I drive by closer, but busier, ranges to be able to do what I do without interruption or having to wait as another fella makes the long trek back and forth from the target ever couple of shots.
PB all of what you stated has merit. As one gets older we learn and try to improve upon some of our tactics/procedures.

You hold an advantage over many of us older fellas, in the sense that you have good vision when wearing contacts. And still you have figured out there's sometimes ways to improve things at the range. IMO, and from my own experiences, I concur 100 % with using white background for targets. Also, a boxed in area with cross hairs has proven to be very beneficial as well. No doubt that can be helpful not only at longer distances, but even on closer up targets.

The walking back and forth to the target constantly to check it has become more of an issue in the last year for this old boy than ever before. It definitely has a cumulative effect and it can work on most everyone. Even being in general good health with good lung function, due to a very bad knee issue for the last year, walking back and forth to the target wore down my endurance after a couple of hours. That, in turn, effected my shooting. So much so that I wanted to bring my ATV with me but I was afraid someone might raise a fuss over it. A high end spotting scope would be a wonderful asset for such if one could afford one. None of my binos are powerful enough to clearly see all the small diameter holes from 100 yards. I can get a general idea but most always it requires another trip to the target and back. 100 yard target = 200 yards round trip. It adds up after a few hours.

For old eyes I have found that a large + over the dot or square is most useful on longer distance targets. I often make mine with thick, long cross hairs sometimes over 12" long and 1/4" wide marks. Its not a cure all for old damaged eyes but so far it is the best aid I have found especially on targets out to and past 100 yards.

I've also found that I can save a lot of time and paper if I take a roll of white duct tape with me when checking the target. That way its easy to simply cover up a pulled shot, flier or older holes. This can save a lot of time when sighting in a rifle.

For the center dot or square I cover up unwanted holes with black duct tape, considering all marks are black. By doing so I now use fewer targets. I now often rely on my cell phone to take pics of the target before I add tape incase I want to review it later on. Of course on the final targets they remain as is.

Your work is solid and beneficial to many.
 
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You know it Etip, I go to hobby lobby get yellow and orange poster board cut in 4 pcs. then use black duct tape in x hair design. Helps these old eyes at 100 yds. and iron sights.
 
. A high end spotting scope would be a wonderful asset for such if one could afford one.
I have a Konus that I paid just over $100 for back in 2018. It's a 20-60 and is just the ticket for range work. I acquired it for a sheep hunt and while I babied along it survived just fine and is holding up fine given it's used almost exclusively at the range. I'm OK with the back and forth walks but it is a huge help in analyzing targets between cease fires.

Another thing I do is I make my own targets on 67# bond paper. Made on the desktop and printed. Lately I've been using a method of a red circle that is large enough at the distance of interest that my front bead doesn't quite cover it. That allows me to cover the circle with the bead and quite accurately maintain that sight picture shot to shot. None of my sights are blades so not sure how these would work for them. Maybe a pair of thick black lines forming cross hairs?

Anyway most are in PDF or easily converted. I'll try to get some pictures of some posted later and if anyone wants any they can be emailed.
 
I have a Konus that I paid just over $100 for back in 2018. It's a 20-60 and is just the ticket for range work. I acquired it for a sheep hunt and while I babied along it survived just fine and is holding up fine given it's used almost exclusively at the range. I'm OK with the back and forth walks but it is a huge help in analyzing targets between cease fires.

Another thing I do is I make my own targets on 67# bond paper. Made on the desktop and printed. Lately I've been using a method of a red circle that is large enough at the distance of interest that my front bead doesn't quite cover it. That allows me to cover the circle with the bead and quite accurately maintain that sight picture shot to shot. None of my sights are blades so not sure how these would work for them. Maybe a pair of thick black lines forming cross hairs?

Anyway most are in PDF or easily converted. I'll try to get some pictures of some posted later and if anyone wants any they can be emailed.
Please do, LC. I’d like to see it.
 
If anyone wants these you can PM me your email and tell me which numbers and I'll email the PDF files. These are easy to "score" your hits if printed on 60 or 70 lb bond. Less tear out and cleaner holes.

These first two 2 piece are printed on 8.5 × 14 "legal" size paper.

This is a two piece that you tape identical halves together. Easy to see at distance.
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This is another two piece that is taped up. You print twice and tape together. This one may be of interest since it is the B17 mocked up to it's actual size. This target is shot in many of the international matches at 50 meters. Not in red because black is official. In a match 13 shots are placed on this target and the best ten is the score.


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This one is pretty much self explanatory.

20231228_172818_copy_600x800.jpg

This is a 4" circle that I use at 25 yards

20231228_172835_copy_600x800.jpg

Large red circle. This one is more pink because my red cartridge ran low. It actually prints darker.

20231228_172848_copy_600x800.jpg

The only one of these I had printed has holes in it but you get the idea. The grid is one inch so if you are checking it through a scope at 50 or 100 it's easier to calculate sight adjustments.

20231228_172912_copy_600x800.jpg


this would be handy with a big black cross on it. I can do that if anyone wants.


20231228_172804_copy_600x800.jpg
 
PastorB, I too have a 54 RMH. You mentioned a 60 gr load for hunting purposes. What game are you after with that load. I’m still learning and not familiar with what load is adequate for deer or elk for instance.
 
PastorB, I too have a 54 RMH. You mentioned a 60 gr load for hunting purposes. What game are you after with that load. I’m still learning and not familiar with what load is adequate for deer or elk for instance.

I've used 60 grains and prb in a 50 for two mule deer. Longest shot was 80 yards. It was perfectly adequate for those two. But for elk I'm inclined to go 80 grains in a 54 as a minimum. It's been proven In our camps several times. 60 in a 54 probably ok for deer but I haven't done it or seen it done so no experience to fall back on.

Sometimes these discussions start to feel like some that take place regarding cartridge guns and the minimum calibers that can be used. Not saying that your question is in that category though. Just a good lead in to the idea that the max load that you can shoot well in a 54 is probably always going to be a good choice.
 
PastorB, I too have a 54 RMH. You mentioned a 60 gr load for hunting purposes. What game are you after with that load. I’m still learning and not familiar with what load is adequate for deer or elk for instance.
I like 60 grains in about every gun I own, from .45 thru .58. That powder charge just seems to work well, and kill effectively in a variety of calibers Nowadays, I am just a one buck a year deer hunter. I don't shoot girls, and I am too soft to kill cute little critters anymore. 60 grains of 3F and a .530 PRB will cleanly kill any deer sized game at muzzleloader ranges. Back in "the day", I killed several elk and black bear with my .54 Investarm Hawken using as much powder as would fit in my powder measure, an empty .45-70 (70 or 75 grains? Never checked) case, and a prb. Killed them just fine. If I was going specifically after elk, I would probably use a charge of 80 or 90 grains (1800 fps) , as it does shoot accurately in my RMH. In reality, a prb is a short range proposition, even when driven at higher velocity. By the time that ball goes 75 or 100 yards, the remaining energy is not much different whether launched at 1500 or 1800 fps. I really like close shots, and the vast majority of the animals I have taken were within 40 yards, including western game like elk, pronghorn, and a few mule deer. I am a hunter, and place myself in position for a close, well placed shot. I got my buck this year, a moderately sized 10 point (pic), at around 65 yards with a .530 prb and my favored 60 grain charge. Put him right down. I am not a fan of conicals (except Minies in my rifled muskets), as I find despite their impressive ft./lbs. of energy, they kill no better, and perhaps not as well as a round ball.
 

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