In need of some Smoothbore hunting tips (.75cal Brown Bess Musket)

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A few days ago I got my hands on a Brown Bess, it is Pedersoldi (not IMA or Original). I got it at a local gun shop in a charity raffle brand spanking new and I took out on the farm for some target practice. I was using .715 round balls with 120g FF powder in military paper cartridges and after a few days I got the whole cheek hold thing down pat (kind of). I noticed no matter what I did I could never keep a tighter than 8"-10" at 50 yards ( I managed twice to get a 3 shot group of 7"). I read on different online forums that the barrels need to be straightened on some Bess muskets but I would assume that Pedersoldi knows how to make a straight barrel, I have also read that .715 isnt too accurate in a Bess (got the round balls for free so meh) and that paper cartridges are also not accurate in terms of filling the barrel volume. Lastly I have heard of people putting rear sights on these muskets ( I have no idea of what to use or where to put it so if anyone has done or has seen it done your input is greatly appreciated). If anyone has gone Deer hunting with a Bess what is better Round Ball, Buck and Ball or Shot? Do you need to patch the ball like in a rifle? If so then what size ball and patch combo has produced the best results in your collective opinions? I am very new to Flintlocks as this is the first I have ever owned, handled and fired. My Muzzle loading experience is limited as I have only ever used a Percussion Cap inline that a friend lent me for a hunt and he had speed loaders. I want to use this as an all around hunting firearm for Small Game, Birds, Turkeys and Deer. I live in Maryland so White Tail Deer is the largest animal this Musket will most likely pat on the back. I know most hunting is done with rifles because of the accuracy but if any smoothbore hunters are on here any tips for what to use in the musket as well how to hunt proficiently with it would be appreciated. I thank anyone and everyone who responds to this post.
 

Britsmoothy

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A few days ago I got my hands on a Brown Bess, it is Pedersoldi (not IMA or Original). I got it at a local gun shop in a charity raffle brand spanking new and I took out on the farm for some target practice. I was using .715 round balls with 120g FF powder in military paper cartridges and after a few days I got the whole cheek hold thing down pat (kind of). I noticed no matter what I did I could never keep a tighter than 8"-10" at 50 yards ( I managed twice to get a 3 shot group of 7"). I read on different online forums that the barrels need to be straightened on some Bess muskets but I would assume that Pedersoldi knows how to make a straight barrel, I have also read that .715 isnt too accurate in a Bess (got the round balls for free so meh) and that paper cartridges are also not accurate in terms of filling the barrel volume. Lastly I have heard of people putting rear sights on these muskets ( I have no idea of what to use or where to put it so if anyone has done or has seen it done your input is greatly appreciated). If anyone has gone Deer hunting with a Bess what is better Round Ball, Buck and Ball or Shot? Do you need to patch the ball like in a rifle? If so then what size ball and patch combo has produced the best results in your collective opinions? I am very new to Flintlocks as this is the first I have ever owned, handled and fired. My Muzzle loading experience is limited as I have only ever used a Percussion Cap inline that a friend lent me for a hunt and he had speed loaders. I want to use this as an all around hunting firearm for Small Game, Birds, Turkeys and Deer. I live in Maryland so White Tail Deer is the largest animal this Musket will most likely pat on the back. I know most hunting is done with rifles because of the accuracy but if any smoothbore hunters are on here any tips for what to use in the musket as well how to hunt proficiently with it would be appreciated. I thank anyone and everyone who responds to this post.
First of all ask zonie to move this to the smoothbore section. There is a wealth of info there.
.735" ball is much better and without the paper cartridge. Just some form of wad and on top naturally.
The groups with a .715" you were getting was quite good and a good indication how it will shoot a .735".
I don't have mine now but I took fox and all manner of small game with mine.
Best wishes.
 

Grenadier1758

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Well, first of all your Bess is a smoothbore. A lot of the answers to your questions can be found in the Smoothbore Forum. A little search can find lots of detailed answers. I'll try to give out some of the simpler answers.

As far as a load goes, I would use less powder. Since you are looking for a hunting load, a 90 grain (volume) load of 2fg black powder pushing a 0.025" canvas patched 0.715" ball might help with the accuracy. The versatility of a smooth bore musket is that the load can be quite variable from a bare ball load on a wad and overshot card, paper patched ball in a cartridge using the excess paper as a wad, or using a lubricated cotton patch. The less recoil and tighter patched ball should tighten the group. Ball will be better for hunting than Buck and Ball or buckshot. Good accuracy can also be obtained with the tighter fitting 0.735" bare ball sitting on a wad and held in the the bore by an over shot card as @Britsmoothy stated. It will still be loose for easy loading, but the force of the shot will tend to expand the ball to fill the bore. In hunting, you won't be taking that many shots unless you are hunting birds, squirrels, or rabbits and then you will be using shot. Look for the answers in the smooth bore forum so dealing with excess fouling is not a real problem.

As far as group size goes, hunt to bring the game to a distance that your group is consistently in the kill zone of your game. The Bess is a smooth bore. Groups will be larger than with a rifle. Effective hunting range will be less than 50 yards with 35 being more realistic.

Can we put a rear sight on the Bess? That can be done. @Eric Krewson has a very good explanation of how to take a brass L bracket and put it under your tang bolt to make a rear sight that can be removed easily.
 
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tenngun

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I’ve head of the whole barrel straighting thing, ah not for me.
Cartridges were made to get the next shot off fast, not be accurate. However if you hit a deer in a seven inch circle you have venison for dinner, especially with an ounce an a quarter ball at a thousand feet per second.
Several steps can be used to shrink your group
A patch, just like a rifle is number one. We can’t date this in smoothbores before the first third of the nineteenth century
2) bigger ball. A ball as close as possible to your bore size loaded with a wad above and below can help a lot
3) Bigger powder charges The faster the ball is going the less time it has to deviate
You say you got your cheek weld down, a skill I never mastered. Don’t be afraid of adding a rear sight. I’ve found a tight load with a smaller charge works real well, but a bigger charge might work for you as it does for some.
I can show you some good groups with my smoothies, but realistically I bet I add an inch on average on a day at the range at fifty yard compared to my best.
 
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First of all ask zonie to move this to the smoothbore section. There is a wealth of info there.
.735" ball is much better and without the paper cartridge. Just some form of wad and on top naturally.
The groups with a .715" you were getting was quite good and a good indication how it will shoot a .735".
I don't have mine now but I took fox and all manner of small game with mine.
Best wishes.
I am new to this forum who is Zonie and how do I contact them ?
 

Zonie

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Zonie doesn't, "knows all" but Zonie does, "sees all" on the forum so sooner or later, I would have moved this thread to the Smoothbore section as I am about to do now. :)
 

LongWalker

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I used a Bess as my primary hunting gun for around 20 years. For deer etc I used a round ball. Part of that was because I never hunted anywhere the use of buckshot was legal, but part of it was also that I had better range/accuracy with a single ball.

My gun was also a Pedersoli. I loaded a notched overshot wad (just "nicked" on the edge with a knife to allow air to escape when seating the ball) under a patched .735" round ball. I started using the wad to protect the patch, but it seemed accuracy in my gun was more consistent (fewer flyers) when I did so. This is something you may want to experiment with, as not all guns are the same.

As Grenadier pointed out, accurate range is limited. I can't recall ever shooting an animal past roughly 35 yards, most were closer.
 

Skychief

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Murph, do yourself a favor and kick start your adventures by spending some time at 'Bob's Blackpowder Notebook' found on the inter webs.

Our very own Spence10 (above) has authored a lot of great information there based on his EXPERIENCE.. You'll find it time very well spent.

Smoothbores are the most fun I've had the pleasure of working with, and I've spent time in every facet of blackpowder.

Best of luck, Skychief.
 

Flintlock

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Try different ball sizes, powder charges and try using various greased cloth patches as in a rifle. Buck-N-Ball is usually pretty inaccurate and possibly illegal in most states and shot is defiantly a no-go for deer. Keep your shots within 35 yards (bow range) most deer are shot at around that range in wooded country anyway. Get some practice in during small game season getting to know your gun, your Bess will shine here with shot.
 
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I used a Bess as my primary hunting gun for around 20 years. For deer etc I used a round ball. Part of that was because I never hunted anywhere the use of buckshot was legal, but part of it was also that I had better range/accuracy with a single ball.

My gun was also a Pedersoli. I loaded a notched overshot wad (just "nicked" on the edge with a knife to allow air to escape when seating the ball) under a patched .735" round ball. I started using the wad to protect the patch, but it seemed accuracy in my gun was more consistent (fewer flyers) when I did so. This is something you may want to experiment with, as not all guns are the same.

As Grenadier pointed out, accurate range is limited. I can't recall ever shooting an animal past roughly 35 yards, most were closer.
I was thinking about using a piece of brass or steel corner bracket to make a rear peep by placing it at the tang screw and line it up with the front lug. With your experience do you think this will help at all with accuracy by giving a more clear sight picture?
 
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I used a Bess as my primary hunting gun for around 20 years. For deer etc I used a round ball. Part of that was because I never hunted anywhere the use of buckshot was legal, but part of it was also that I had better range/accuracy with a single ball.

My gun was also a Pedersoli. I loaded a notched overshot wad (just "nicked" on the edge with a knife to allow air to escape when seating the ball) under a patched .735" round ball. I started using the wad to protect the patch, but it seemed accuracy in my gun was more consistent (fewer flyers) when I did so. This is something you may want to experiment with, as not all guns are the same.

As Grenadier pointed out, accurate range is limited. I can't recall ever shooting an animal past roughly 35 yards, most were closer.
What was your typical powder charge if you don't mind me asking so as to have a basis to work with.
 

Larry (Omaha)

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A few days ago I got my hands on a Brown Bess, it is Pedersoldi (not IMA or Original). I got it at a local gun shop in a charity raffle brand spanking new and I took out on the farm for some target practice. I was using .715 round balls with 120g FF powder in military paper cartridges and after a few days I got the whole cheek hold thing down pat (kind of). I noticed no matter what I did I could never keep a tighter than 8"-10" at 50 yards ( I managed twice to get a 3 shot group of 7"). I read on different online forums that the barrels need to be straightened on some Bess muskets but I would assume that Pedersoldi knows how to make a straight barrel, I have also read that .715 isnt too accurate in a Bess (got the round balls for free so meh) and that paper cartridges are also not accurate in terms of filling the barrel volume. Lastly I have heard of people putting rear sights on these muskets ( I have no idea of what to use or where to put it so if anyone has done or has seen it done your input is greatly appreciated). If anyone has gone Deer hunting with a Bess what is better Round Ball, Buck and Ball or Shot? Do you need to patch the ball like in a rifle? If so then what size ball and patch combo has produced the best results in your collective opinions? I am very new to Flintlocks as this is the first I have ever owned, handled and fired. My Muzzle loading experience is limited as I have only ever used a Percussion Cap inline that a friend lent me for a hunt and he had speed loaders. I want to use this as an all around hunting firearm for Small Game, Birds, Turkeys and Deer. I live in Maryland so White Tail Deer is the largest animal this Musket will most likely pat on the back. I know most hunting is done with rifles because of the accuracy but if any smoothbore hunters are on here any tips for what to use in the musket as well how to hunt proficiently with it would be appreciated. I thank anyone and everyone who responds to this post.
You have a fun smoothie Murph. I will only try to answer one of your questions. Yes, I have a BB and did make my own front and rear sights. It is a different install than on an octagon barrel. Make or purchase a sight/sights of your liking and then make a half moon base to saddle on the round barrel. Solder the sights on. Placement is about 1" to 1.5" to the rear of the muzzle for the front and what your eye focuses the best on for the rear. I am not saying this is the best way, just what I did.
Larry
 

Canute Rex

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A couple of pieces of advice on Brown Bess and ball:

As others have said, you have to experiment with patch, ball, and powder charge to see what your barrel likes.

Grip the wrist of the stock tightly. The trigger pull is hard and there is a tendency for the musket to "fall off the trigger" and drop the muzzle. Practice your hold and trigger pull with a wooden flint, trying to keep the muzzle from jerking.

Sight it in with a horizontal stripe and then a vertical stripe. First shoot from a rest at a horizontal black stripe at 25-35 yards. Set a sight picture with the front sight showing fully over the barrel, half, and just a sliver of the top showing, with the tip of the sight right on the line. See where the balls land above, below, or on the line. With a fixed load you should be able to find a sight picture that will get you on the line.

Then try hitting a vertical stripe. See where the front sight lines up with the tang screw (left, right, center) to get you right on.
 

LongWalker

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What was your typical powder charge if you don't mind me asking so as to have a basis to work with.
I generally used in the range of 100-120 gr FFg for hunting w/ball, but that has to be qualified. For hunting, I was using the old Elephant powder (won several cases as match prizes). It tended to be a bit slow-burning (and dirty as heck). You're going to want to experiment with your powder to see what gives you the best accuracy. At 25 yards, even 90 grains of FFg will blow through most whitetails (or elk), even if a shoulder gets in the way.

I'll second the recommendation for checking out Bob's webpages. There's some good info there.

For some reason, I never played with a formal rear sight on my Bess. I had one on my tradegun, but with the Bess never got beyond using the slot in the tang screw to line up the sights. I shot it a lot, so I got used to the need for consistent hold and cheeking it the same each time.
 

Rifleman1776

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When I was using my BB I occasionally shot good groups when I had my cheek weld/anchor point right and was holding my mouth properly. Other times the hits scattered. In my opinion first step should be patching the ball and load like a rifle. If the fit loose get larger balls. I am a moderate load advocate. 50 to 70 gr. will kill anything that walks (cept maybe big griz). Congrats on the new gun, enjoy.
 

beardedhorse

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Where I live buckshot, buck and ball are not legal means of take on a smoothbore. My 12 gauge Curly Gostomski barrel is probably slightly smaller gauge than your Pedersoli but 120 gr of FFg on blue jean patching (thicker than .015) works with a .715 round ball cast from a Lyman steel mold is the hunting load I've stuck with. Hard cast round ball is a tighter fit because of the increased ball diameter. I use the screwdriver slot on the tang bolt to line up the soldered on front sight. This set up is not legal for smoothbore, front sight only matches. (The tang bolt on the Bess isn't the same.) "Capital Punishment" holds right on at 25 yards. You can hit aluminum beverage cans all day with 120 gr.s the recoil is atrocious. That's why the half stock smoothbore with walnut stock is nicknamed Capital Punishment. I limit my big game shots to 25 yards or less. Four whitetail bucks dropped where hit with that load at 25 yards or less. 120 gr FFg may seem excessive but I often draw a black bear tag in the same elk and or deer season. 85 to 90 grains is less punishing. Ball size, patch thickness and powder charge to find tightest group will dictate your load.
A recent article in Muzzle Loader was about making a rear sight for a smoothbore from an aluminum bar with rare earth super magnets. It was thin and the round magnets were glued in a hole of proper diameter on the strip. The aluminum was painted black. For a round barrel like the Brown Bess you will need a concave or half pipe shaped bar. For a flat octagon or flat octagon to round barrel a flat bar is required. An L- shaped rear sight with notch is filed for height through trial and error. This sight needs to be adjusted to proper point of aim with front sight. It is not adjustable for windage, only elevation by filing unless you file a slot in the base and attach it to a threaded hole on the main bar with a screw. The rear sight is more dependable if not adjustable and fixed solidly to the bar. The Pedersoli Brown Bess I shot that belonged to a friend did not have the touch hole drilled in the "sunset" and centers over pan location. It shot groups similar to what you got from off hand. Most Brown Besses don't have enough drop for my cheeks and a pain to shoot. Tulle Arsenal Fusil de Chasse is more comfortable. I shoot left handed so get to build stocks that fit my length of pull and drop.
 
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