• This community needs YOUR help today. We rely 100% on Supporting Memberships to fund our efforts. With the ever increasing fees of everything, we need help. We need more Supporting Members, today. Please invest back into this community. I will ship a few decals too in addition to all the account perks you get.



    Sign up here: https://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/account/upgrades

Food for thought on smaller calibers for hunting big game.

Muzzleloading Forum

Help Support Muzzleloading Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Status
Not open for further replies.

TTT

36 Cl.
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Messages
64
Reaction score
168
In reading many posts on deer and bear hunting, I am very surprised at the number of contributors that down play the use of smaller caliber rifles like the .40 or .45 ( if legal in your state). Historically it been proven that these smaller calibers harvest deer, bear, and hogs cleanly with a single shot. Yet so many push for the larger .50, .54 calibers. Now don't get me wrong, the larger bores work Great!! and I love hunting with my .54 caliber, but have harvested deer and hogs easily with my .45 rifles with patch and round balls. After all hunters killed Bison with 45/70s ( .45 cal conical bullet with 70 grains black powder). History has showed us this can and does work on LARGE game yet so many are nervous about hunting deer with them. Now I'm talking about solid lung shots at reasonable distances (80 yards and under). I guess I'm curious why folks feel they have to go to bigger calibers for Med size game? At most of the Museums I've been to that had displays of muzzleloading rifle most of the guns from the mid west and south were .35 to .45 calibers. So anyways just my two cents worth, and would love to hear success stories with small caliber rifles and or why you prefer a larger caliber. Not trying to start anything as I don't believe there is a wrong answer. I look forward to hearing from you all. :)
 
You are correct in your conclusions and incorrect on some assumptions.

First, you can cleanly kill medium and even larger game like elk with a small to medium caliber with well placed shots. Lots of game are what is call thin-skinned and non-dangerous. You can afford to have them live after a shot until they either bleed out internally or the damage to their lungs prevents them from going further. You my lose a few more if your tracking skills aren't "Boone" quality. Elk, in particular, can cover LOTS of ground before they die from those types of shots. If you want to avoid that potential for loss, you will likely want a through and through shot that breaks some bones. Example below many have seen posted already:

Elk (she wasn't overly big) taken with a 54 cal 375 gr bullet over 100 grains of pyrodex at 85 yards.......That had more retained energy and MV than the old 45-70 405 gr bullet (45 cal, 405 gr, 70 grains BP). The bullet broke a leg bone, passed through heart, lungs and lodged on the far side between ribs under the skin. NOT ONE DROP OF BLOOD WAS FOUND AT THE ENTRY WOUND AND THERE WAS NO EXIT WOUND. I first thought "What the hell? Did I scare her to death?" If she had needed tracking much further than the 20 yards she did go, it would have been some serious work as fresh elk tracks were everywhere.

Picture of her and the bullet

elkresize.jpg

bullet2.jpeg

So "In the olden days" tracking skills were likely better and more game was lost than we imagine. Additionally, they took 200 yard shots routinely, hardly even fretted about clean kills, and usually hunted in groups or at least pairs. Having read hundreds of contemporaneously written books and journals, I can attest to that. What was acceptable then, doesn't apply now.

I submit, for your consideration, that a through and through passage of a bullet after breaking some bones will make for a better blood trial and reduce game loss with much cleaner kills. That we, today, do not hunt in groups and do not routinely take the long shots without care to whether we cleanly kill or not.

So for the smaller whitetail strains, shot in the woods up close, you are absolutely correct. A smaller caliber bullet can and will get the job done. Out west in the open and with bigger game, something more is needed.

There was a reason and it wasn't by accident that as Americans moved west, the calibers got bigger and the loads stouter.

Weapons are tools, you likely don't use a framing hammer to nail a brad on a picture frame and conversely use a brad driver to frame a house. One size does not fit all.

See I just gave you a perfect excuse to get some more guns. I personally have them to hunt squirrels to water buffalo from 10 yards to 1000 yards. Now if I can just find the time, money and location to do that. ROTFL!!!!!!
 
Last edited:
You are correct in your conclusions and incorrect on some assumptions.

First, you can cleanly kill medium and even larger game like elk with a small to medium caliber with well placed shots. Lots of game are what is call thin-skinned and non-dangerous. You can afford to have them live after a shot until they either bleed out internally or the damage to their lungs prevents them from going further. You my lose a few more if your tracking skills aren't "Boone" quality. Elk, in particular, can cover LOTS of ground before they die from those types of shots. If you want to avoid that potential for loss, you will likely want a through and through shot that breaks some bones. Example below many have seen posted already:

Elk (she wasn't overly big) taken with a 54 cal 385 gr bullet over 100 grains of pyrodex at 85 yards.......That had more retained energy and MV than the old 45-70 405 gr bullet (45 cal, 405 gr, 70 grains BP). The bullet broke a leg bone, passed through heart, lungs and lodged on the far side between ribs under the skin. NOT ONE DROP OF BLOOD WAS FOUND AT EITHER THE ENTRY OR EXIT WOUND. I first thought "What the hell? Did I scare her to death?" If she had needed tracking much further than the 20 yards she did go, it would have been some serious work as fresh elk tracks were everywhere.

Picture of her and the bullet

View attachment 187378

View attachment 187379

So "In the olden days" tracking skills were likely better and more game was lost than we imagine. Additionally, they took 200 yard shots routinely, hardly even fretted about clean kills, and usually hunted in groups or at least pairs. Having read hundreds of contemporaneously written books and journals, I can attest to that. What was acceptable then, doesn't apply now.

I submit, for your consideration, that a through and through passage of a bullet after breaking some bones will make for a better blood trial and reduce game loss with much cleaner kills. That we, today, do not hunt in groups and do not routinely take the long shots without care to whether we cleanly kill or not.

So for the smaller whitetail strains, shot in the woods up close, you are absolutely correct. A smaller caliber bullet can and will get the job done. Out west in the open and with bigger game, something more is needed.

There was a reason and it wasn't by accident that as Americans moved west, the calibers got bigger and the loads stouter.
Congrats on the elk!!! and for comments!!
 
He may have been comparing it to conical use.

EDIT: You are right. He was not talking conical, rather PRB. 45 cal PRB in comparison to a 405 grain 45-70 bullet...."Does not compute"
 
Last edited:
There have been many stories/photos posted here over the years of whitetails taken with .45's...including some really whopper bucks. Clearly the .45 is effective whitetail medicine! A number of those, however, mentioned a lack of good blood trail.

Being "color blind" I can tell you that I want two large open holes spewing blood.

I have never used a .45 but over 22 years have taken many northern whitetails, several of them being large bucks, with .50, .54, .58, and .62 round balls and .50 & .54 conicals. I settled on the .54 with PRB as the most "efficient" for what I desire. Nearly always pass through with solid blood trails, not as expensive as conicals, not as much lead or powder as my .58 & .62 required but virtually the same results.

Here are my largest two bucks with a .54 prb. Both went about 30 yards spewing blood before crashing. A third that is just a bit smaller in rack but was well over 200# dressed weight had the same results. Would a .45 have consistently done that on a double lung hit? Maybe, but for me personally, I want more assurance.

20160527_083334.jpg


Just a side note that a .45 RB with 70 grs is not comparable to a 45/70 except in diameter only...and not really even that. I have been tempted from time to time to get a .45 capper with a conical barrel. But I don't think it would do more than my .54 prb guns.
 
Last edited:
A 45 caliber round ball over 70 grains of 3F will have around 300+/- foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. A 400-grain, 45 caliber bullet over the same load will have well over 1000 foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. No comparison in energy and penetration. They will both do the job on deer but range and shot placement are critical.
 
There have been many stories/photos posted here over the years of whitetails taken with .45's...including some really whopper bucks. Clearly the .45 is effective whitetail medicine! A number of those, however, mentioned a lack of good blood trail.

Being "color blind" I can tell you that I want two large open holes spewing blood.

I have never used a .45 but over 22 years have taken many northern whitetails, several of them being large bucks, with .50, .54, .58, and .62 round balls and .50 & .54 conicals. I settled on the .54 with PRB as the most "efficient" for what I desire. Nearly always pass through with solid blood trails, not as expensive as conicals, not as much lead or powder as my .58 & .62 required but virtually the same results.

Here are my largest two bucks with a .54 prb. Both went about 30 yards spewing blood before crashing. A third that is just a bit smaller in rack but was well over 200# dressed weight had the same results. Would a .45 have consistently done that on a double lung hit? Maybe, but for me personally, I want more assurance.

View attachment 187423

Just a side note that a .45 RB with 70 grs is not comparable to a 45/70 except in diameter only...and not really even that. I have been tempted from time to time to get a .45 capper with a conical barrel. But I don't think it would do more than my .54 prb guns.
Wow, those are some super sized deer you harvested on the wall… well done!
 
  • Like
Reactions: TTT
Something else I don't see mentioned much on here, it is much different shooting a deer down here in NC where we have expansive swamps and cutovers than shooting one in say, Michigan where you have a good tracking snow...Shoot a deer here, with it 75 degrees and them within yards of a swamp or cutover at last light and I can tell you, you want all the blood to track with that you can find...When it's that hot, leaving the deer and coming back in the morning will not work...It will spoil over night and the coyotes and bears will be on it before you can recover the next day...

I used a .45 with a pbr from 1975-1990, killed a few dozen deer with it, made a .54 and finished in 1990, why?? I had a black bear walk up on me, that will make your decision real easy (I had been thinking of building a .50)...Now, I have killed a few dozen deer with a .54...Let me say there is one hell of a difference in how a deer reacts and how much tracking blood you have on the ground when you go to the larger calibers...To those that think you are saving on powder, I used 75grs FFF in my .45 and use 80 in my .54...I'm sure it would do the job just as well with 70-75 grs FFF as well....On balls, if you are not molding your own, you are missing out on another part of the total experience...I see folks making decisions on what the local sporting goods store has in stock and shake my head...You guys should have been doing this in the '70s, you would find out real quick that sometimes a fellow is better off doing some of this stuff himself...

Heck, I can kill them with a .22, and have in my youth...I could kill them now with my .40 by shooting them in the head, but why??? My ego simply isn't as big as it was 40 years ago....
 
And a well placed 58 from a competent shooter will be better than any well placed 45.

There, an apples to apples comparison for you.
Some people are recoil sensitive. Kids. Small men. Woman. That doesn't make them incompetent shooters.

People who know and accept their limitations as humans will choose the best tool for them that will still get the job done.

I'm 5-11/220. I can shoot most large caliber unmentionables all day long and never feel it. Get behind a .58 caliber Springfield Rifle and I get tired of that recoil real fast. To the point where I'm yanking the trigger and moving my shoulder back in anticipation of the thumping that's coming.
 
Last edited:
Some people are recoil sensitive. Kids. Small men. Woman. That doesn't make them incompetent shooters.

People who know and accept their limitations as humans will chose the best tool for them that will still get the job done.

I'm 5-11/220. I can shoot most large caliber unmentionables all day long and never feel it. Get behind a .58 caliber Springfield Rifle and I get tired of that recoil real fast. To the point where I'm yanking the trigger and moving my shoulder back in anticipation of the thumping that's coming.
Won't argue any of the above, but it is a strawman argument to say that a 45 is better because with a 58 you will flinch. It is like saying a 58 is better because the wind might blow and it isn't as affected by the wind.

Neither of which we were talking about.

To say a 45 may be better for a smaller, recoil sensitive person I will buy, but on an apples to apples comparison it doesn't wash.
 
Last edited:
Comparing a 45-70 bullet to a 45 caliber ball is a bit over the top! I don't doubt your assertion that a 45 ball is enough to kill deer size game but I'd be less willing to suggest it for an elk.
agreed!!! and was speaking more to the caliber than round ball vs conicle. My self have only used round ball but will agree a heavier conicle can and will do more.
 
He may have been comparing it to conical use.

EDIT: You are right. He was not talking conical, rather PRB. 45 cal PRB in comparison to a 405 grain 45-70 bullet...."Does not compute"
I agree whole heartedly. I guess one of the things I had noticed was in the past I haven't seen many say I would shoot a conicle instead of a round ball. mostly you get " shoot a .54 or .58". again I'm not arguing the effectiveness of bigger bores. Just thinking with a charge change and or bullet change a smaller caliber can be very effective on big game. ( deer hogs and such)
 
While I am sure I could kill a deer with a .45 caliber patched ball, I would choose a .40 caliber sabotted bullet of 180 top 200 grains over 70 grains of BP in that same gun. I think I am more likely to get an exit wound with that load, and exit wounds bleed better. Honestly, though, in the area where I would likely hunt, (Wisconsin) where most shots are at about thirty yards, I would prefer... you guessed it... a .54 caliber PRB in a gun with a 1 in 66 twist rate.
 
While I am sure I could kill a deer with a .45 caliber patched ball, I would choose a .40 caliber sabotted bullet of 180 top 200 grains over 70 grains of BP in that same gun. I think I am more likely to get an exit wound with that load, and exit wounds bleed better. Honestly, though, in the area where I would likely hunt, (Wisconsin) where most shots are at about thirty yards, I would prefer... you guessed it... a .54 caliber PRB in a gun with a 1 in 66 twist rate.
Good point. Never thought of using a .40 sb like that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TTT
While I am sure I could kill a deer with a .45 caliber patched ball, I would choose a .40 caliber sabotted bullet of 180 top 200 grains over 70 grains of BP in that same gun. I think I am more likely to get an exit wound with that load, and exit wounds bleed better.
.40cal minimum here in OR. for deer. Those "S" boolitz are a no go in traditional muzzleloaders I believe. With that said, I still feel better with .45cal and up for our Blacktail.

Edited to delete unmentionable! :thumb: (No, not my undees!)
 
Last edited:
While I am sure I could kill a deer with a .45 caliber patched ball, I would choose a .40 caliber sabotted bullet of 180 top 200 grains over 70 grains of BP in that same gun.
But since the forum rules forbid discussion of plastic wrapped bullets, I'm sure your choice would be a .45 REAL or similar bullet with no plastic. ;) :)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Back
Top