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Food for thought on smaller calibers for hunting big game.

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Using a harder alloy will lighten that ball a bit. Not a lot. But you have to remember the round ball is the worst shape for retaining velocity and lighter weight equals less energy. As stated above, a bow hunter's mentality goes a long way in successfully killing deer with a ball. Get close and get the ball where it needs to be.

The deer I've killed with black powder have all been inside 40 yards. There is a good possibility that people that claim a successful 200 yard shot with ball have not used a range finder.
Or someone like me that dam near sleeps with one in bow MZ season and I'm not bashful about reaching out and killing something at yardage made possible with conicals and lots of practice at long range .
Our (short range is 200yds)and the long is for target (700yds)so you believe what you like but I do it every Friday from May to bow season at the longso keep in mind the short ones 200 and deer know it !/Ed
 
I did not ask you all of that sir ! What i did say is if the shooter can't keep their projectile in the lungs . That is a fairly large area they need to get closer or shoot at targets. Shooting targets allows a person to learn how far they can shoot with support. Now you should not take offence at the answer as it was not at you personally. It was to the ? you posted as anyone would be the shooter ! I stand by my answer practice & if a person can not hit a 9"x12" set of lungs. Get closer n practice

I agree with you on the importance of practice, but even th best of shots, if he shoots enough animals over time, will make a sloppy shot. Sometimes a perfectly executed shot can result in a cripple if, at the moment the trigger breaks or the pan flashes, the animal makes an unexpected movement when it is too late to hold the shot.
The best we can do is try to reduce the chances of that happening.
 
Use enough gun, as Smoothshooter said, things happen. You can kill a deer with a .22 but that doesn't make it a honest deer rifle. You can easily hunt small game with light loads in a larger rifle so a .45-54 would be the smart way to go if you you can only have one.
 
Shot placement is everything. Big bullet or small doesn't mean squat unless you have to drive it through large bones.
The thing you have to learn is not take poor percentage shot angles. If I can't get both lungs I don't shoot.
Big bears, Moose you might need the big bores if the situation goes south. But if you can't shoot your gun accurately. Your out of luck...JM2C
 
A couple more observations...Back in the day, these guys killed what they wanted, no restrictions, no size limit...Not all bears are created equal...It's pretty easy to down a bear of 150 pounds, treed when you shoot him in the head...They typically hunted bears with dogs, not sitting over bait...

Also, larger holes, leave more tracking blood...Face it, we are not Boone or Crockett when it comes to tracking...It's damn hard to follow a blood trail in our southern swamps, and our planted pine plantations...

Also, Crockett's first rifle was about .47 caliber, not .40...Virginia contract rifles were .47-.48 caliber so "back in the day" they also knew what sizes would be more effective...A .45 ball or larger makes a fine deer rifle...Sure a .40 can, in the best of conditions and if it was all I had, that's what I would use, back in the day..Not today... ;)

As a kid, we killed hogs with a .22 to the brain...I also killed about a dozen whitetails doing the same when squirrel hunting...I lost one when I shot for the lungs...Use what you want, but when we can go buy steaks, don't rely on deer for our daily food, it just doesn't make sense to take chances...
 
How ever you cut the cabbage its all about the choices. The ones we make n live with, choose you weapon n cal. n live with it. I have the following .40-.45-.50-.54 calibers. I take turns with mine as i kill a tick toter. This year i used a .50 n killed a fine n dandy Doe. This coming season that .50 will sit out this year completely. I have several others & i have not decided which one i will start with
 
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. :)
A conical is a different animal than a ball. A conical bullet is the way to go with the smaller cal. The larger Cal. can use a ball.
 
A conical is a different animal than a ball. A conical bullet is the way to go with the smaller cal. The larger Cal. can use a ball.
Ah the conical in the medium cal's. I stand with you on that. I have been collecting up .40 cal conicals from 125 gr up to 240 gr. Plus i plan on getting some 250 to 300 gr. I will have to do lots of group shooting with loads starting at 40 gr 3 f n work on up
 
There are passionate hunters who don’t have a lot of time afield or access to great hunting habitat. There are hunters and landowners seeking a reduction of over abundant deer by any means necessary, but who choose to use or allow legal hunting tools instead of a semiauto and a spotlight. Those legal tools might only be Muzzleloading rifles. Hunting is not only a recreational pastime, it is or can be a cold blooded management tool, it is or can be spiritual, it is or can be personal or impersonal. A recurring theme on this website is that hunting is only recreational, and only high percentage shots should be taken, with gracefully made exact replicas of Daniel Boone’s pet squirrel gun, and if you make a bad hit or lose the blood trail you’re a bad hunter, etc. This arrogant judgmentalism and chest thumping and “I’m better than you” is demoralizing, not just because it’s negative, but because it’s the worst of keyboard commandoism among a group of humans who should be far away from that behavior.
Guys, I hunted flintlock with a real nice man this past season. He briefly admired my curly maple long rifle, and also kind of kidded me about it, saying something about the French Revolution. He was using a black plastic and stainless steel “Flamethrower” flintlock or some such trademark, and I asked why he didn’t upgrade to something custom. Tiger stripe maple. Nope, he said. The guys into the curly maple stocks and period accoutrements are purist jerks, he said, and he hasn’t met many of those people who he wants to be around.
Fact: Our sport is hanging on by its fingernails. Few younger people are joining our ranks. We risk losing all the gunbuilding infrastructure that’s been developed since the 1970s - barrel makers, lock makers, etc, if we don’t recruit people to take our spots as we age out. We cannot afford to drive people away from this sport/ lifestyle, and so I have a request: Please leave judgmental statements out of your comments here. If you have the time and opportunity to wait for the perfect broadside shot, then good for you, but remember a lot of guys don’t have that luxury. Don’t rag on them because they’re different than you. I guarantee you our sport is not recruiting anyone new who reads those negative comments. That stuff does indeed make all of us look like purist jerks who are no fun to be around.
 
I started deer hunting with archery--recurve and learned the animal so I could fool them. I would kill one in Ohio, go to PA for another and then MI for another, I shot deer in orchards and on farms with unlimited tags for damage control, donating meat for the poor. I lost count of numbers but it is somewhat over 600 kills. I have 150 with my little flintlock .45 and many more with a .50 and my .54 Hawken. I am 85 and now need a gun rest, durned old age! But the .45 worked just fine and my favorite shot was a doe way up a steep hill around 125 yards. She was behind a tree and all I seen was the head and neck. I shot her in the neck and she rolled all the way down to me.
I did not get one with BP this last season as the wife has filled the freezer so there was only room for one. I shot two and had to give one away. Some years back I bought a smaller freezer for deer but the wife has both filled. Pizza and nuke meals of course.
Anyway I shot one with my new Savage Impulse and the second with my BFR .475 revolver. I had to cry as muzzle loader season past me by.
 
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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

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.

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!!!!!!
As for tracking skills being better in the old days, not so much I think. Game was so plentiful, shots weren't always followed up on as much as we do today. In Audubon's "Up the River With Audubon", he states that at one post they stopped at, the hunters kept track of their shots and recovered game. They said they had shot over a thousand animals the past year that had not been recovered.
 
As for tracking skills being better in the old days, not so much I think. Game was so plentiful, shots weren't always followed up on as much as we do today. In Audubon's "Up the River With Audubon", he states that at one post they stopped at, the hunters kept track of their shots and recovered game. They said they had shot over a thousand animals the past year that had not been recovered.
I concur. From what I have read, that if it wasn't readily found, they just moved on to the next in most cases. I believe tracking skills were better, the desire to follow up, much less so. I was being generous.
 
I too believe in a larger caliber. They leave a larger hole and wound channel and therefore a better blood trail. A round ball wound will close faster and the blood will stop. However a big bullet will not make up for a poor shot.
 
I have to disagree. If one tracks all the time they are better at it. It might not have been worth their time but it is a perishable skill. There are trackers in Africa that are great and the Bedouins are famous for it.
A child that grew up finding the milk cow every day was likely pretty good. The Border Patrol had some good ones once.
The key thing is they do it all the time.
 
From my experience 45cal round ball is enough gun for deer in the right circumstances. Anything bigger and I hunt with 54 cal. Not that you can hunt grizz anymore, but if I could and only had a round ball it would be up around 70 cal.



E582B077-107E-475D-BC17-CF52FF53C512.jpeg
 
From my experience 45cal round ball is enough gun for deer in the right circumstances. Anything bigger and I hunt with 54 cal. Not that you can hunt grizz anymore, but if I could and only had a round ball it would be up around 70 cal.



View attachment 199011
Some big critters require bigger calibers. In the case of Big Foot, a Howitzer.
 
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. :)
.45 caliber long rifles have a good velocity, flat trajectory and hit very hard. The soft lead ball at black powder velocities dumps its energy and expands considerably. This let's the rifle behave like a rifle instead of a giant rock thrower like the larger calibers. When loaded down a bit, the .45 can cleanly take small game, too. If you can master more than one rifle and are only going to hunt deer, a long-barreled .50 cal would fit your bill nicely. But many of us now, just as people back then, can only manage one good flintlock at a time. The .45 is more versatile than a smoothbore, and more efficient in the use of powder and lead. It's really the best choice for the one rifle hunter.
 
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