Max loads for 54 cal. with prb

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bigbadben

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I just picked up a 54cal. TVM Lancaster rifle (percussion) and will probably head to the range this weekend. I'm looking for help understanding the max loads for this.

I have a Lyman GPR 54 cal flintlock. The Lyman manual listed 120gr of ffg as the max load, and I regularly shoot 110 or 120gr loads with that.

But the Goex web page lists 80gr of ffg for a 54cal. The frustrating thing is that they don't tell you if that's a suggested load or a max load.

Because this will be a hunting gun I want to work up a load that's as powerful as it can be without loosing too much accuracy.

And I'd like to stick with ffg for now just because I have four cans of it and none of fffg. (I may try fffg down the road.)

Can anyone give me a sense of what the max ffg load would be in a 54cal. new production gun?

Thanks,

Ben
 

paulvallandigham

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Borrow or buy a chronograph and make your own decision. I personally believe that any more powder than 90 grains is a waste, with a RB, or conical.Hodgdon's Data Manual No. 23 lists 90 grains of FFg with a RB at 1670 fps MV. That is a lot of whompability. They don't list the barrel length for their data, however. They give 1569 Fps MV for 80 grains, and I am guessing that the barrel they used is about 32 inches long, based on the loss of increase in velocity for each increase of 10 grains of powder added over 80 grains.

With modern steels, I doubt that you can blow up the barrel with the barrel stuffed with powder, particularly FFg. However, that does not mean you can't blow the nipple out of the gun, and crack the stock, using heavy charges.

My point is that your question is really irrelevant. You have no business shooting a Maximum charge in the gun, no matter what it may be. The factory is going to be conservative, to protect itself from products liability suits. If they list 120 grains, it may be lower than the ACTUAL maximum for your gun, but why go there?

Remember, that with a RB, 25% of the MV will be lost in the first 50 yards. At 100 yds, you will have lost 45% of the muzzle velocity. Increasing the MV just means that you will lose proportionately more velocity at those ranges. 1500 fps is nothing to sneeze at. You are shooting a 230 grain lead ball, the same weight as ball ammo for a .45 acp pistol. The larger diameter .54 cal. RB actually will smack flesh a lot harder than the .45 hardball, and the hardball .45 has an earned reputation as a stopper, as handgun rounds tend to go. Think of that chunk of lead as a 1/2 oz. of lead you are sending down range. Its going to penetrate most any prey species you hunt, from antelope to Mule deer and Elk.
 

roundball

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Ben, I've used T/Cs load data charts in my T/C .54cal caplocks and Flintlock barrels for years.
T/Cs max load recommendation is also 120grns 2F...I use Goex and prefer 3F so I always reduce their 2F load data by the 10-15% rule of thumb...in my case I actually reduced it even more as 90grns 3F is all I needed for my .54cal RB deer hunting load...close shots/thick woods...but I could easily use 100-110grns no problem.
 
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renovato

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I'm with Paul on this one. The maximum load you can safely stuff in the barrel and the maximum useful hunting load are rarely the same thing. Comparing a mid power hunting load and an absolute maximum load at 100 yards, you'll find there is so little difference in velocity as to not be worth the extra recoil, patch burning, and lessened accuracy. 80-90 grains is more than enough in most .54s. Best way is to work up a load 10 grains at a time till you find the most accurate load. It'll be plenty powerful enough to hunt with. If that turns out to be a heavy load, then go for it. If not, don't sweat it. It'll work just fine.
 

kevthebassman

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The most accurate load is the best hunting load. For me, that's 110 grains FFF under a .530 ball and .020 patch, for 1820 fps over a chronograph and groups as good as I can shoot with open sights.
 

Otter

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I agree with most of the replies in that you don't really gain a lot of "whomp" by using a "max" load - you just waste some powder and it hurts more. Find what shoots accurately for your gun by using various powder/patch/ball combos at the distances you think you will shoot at. For my .54 GPR perc rifle it's 75 gr Goex 3f with a .015 patch and .530 ball (3.5" groups at 100 yds). Equivalent load with 2f would be about 90 grains.
 

cowpoke1955

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Have to agree with the others. I have two .54 GPRs (one cap and one flint). I started off with 65 grains of FFg and worked up 5 grains at a time. At 80 grains, my groups became very tight and dead on at 50 yards. I found that at 100 yards and 90 grains of FFg, I can maintain the same point of aim and the same point of impact. Of course, each rifle is different. Once you find that sweet spot, stay with it. There is no need to even approach a max load. Like Paul said, it's a waste of powder. A deer is just as dead with 80 grains as it is with 120 grains. Maybe more so. At 80 grains, you will have less recoil, thereby making your shot a little more accurate. Also, less of a chance of setting the forest on fire :rotf: .
 

Many Klatch

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The other problem with shooting maximum loads is flinching. If the gun hurts your shoulder every time you shoot you will begin to flinch. I have seen shooters with muzzle loaders that flinch so bad that they cannot hit a target at 25 yards. They blame the gun, the sights, the wind, the sun but they never blame the load. You can tell how bad their flinch is when their gun doesn't go off and they move the barrel a couple of inches with their flinching.

My .54 likes 55 grains and 75 grains of 3F. At 25 yards it will shoot to the same point of aim with 55 grains or 75. I use 75 grains for the longer distances. With 75 grains of powder and a .015 spit patch it will go through 4 or 5 phone books.

Many Klatch
 

bigbadben

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Thanks guys. I appreciate the responses. I also appreciate that these guns often shoot better with reduced loads. But I'm just trying to establish what the safe parameters are. It sounds like both TC and Lyman agree that 120 is about the max of ffg with a 230gr ball. So I assume I should consider my boundaries to be between 70 and 120 grains? I'll probably start at 80 and see how she shoots.

My GPR flinter 54 is one of those guns that likes the heavy loads. The best groups I seem to shoot were with 110 grains of ffg. Then I opened up the vent liner and now it seems to like 120. But I don't think I'll try anything over that.

But I'll see what the TVM likes. It's a beautiful gun with nice burled, almost tiger maple. So I don't want to split the stock or anything. Want to keep it pretty.

Ben
 

tg

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I used to use 70 gr 3f but I would think 90-100 gr. of 2f if accurate would take care of Elk size game out to the practical limits of iron sights, as other have mentioned your gun will likley tell you what the best load is and it will be well below the max as a rule with most barrels you will find on guns today. Often a caplock will say slow down when the hammer cocks itself after a shot with a heavy load, if the barrel is swamped 1" at the breech or a 1" straight it will be better than one that is 15/16" asthere is less meat for threads on the drum if that is the setup you have.I was surprised at how few threads there were holding a liner in a 15/16 .54 barrel I had once.
 

dlpowell

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Follow these guys advice. Big loads are no fun to shoot. That .54 cal lead ball is gonna tear the h^&l out of anything you hit. I never shoot more than 90grs. FF in my GPR. And I don't like shooting that load.
 

ameling

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Over the years, I've shot a .54 with Sharon barrel, a .58 with a (?) Dixie barrel, and a .62 smooth Tulle from Centermark. Each of these shoot best for me with 70 gr. of 2F, pillow ticking, and a "loose" RB (.526, .572, .595 or .600). And they will to everything I ask of them at REASONABLE hunting distances - if I do my part on the aiming/firing. I try not to shoot at any deer farther away than 50 yards, but have dropped one in it's tracks at near 90 yards with that .62 Tulle smoothbore (one of those ideally set up shots where everything came together at once).

So, 70 gr. of 2F in three different guns and calibers that work best for me. And I have NEVER felt any need nor desire to shoot 100+ gr. of powder in anything less than a swivel gun.

Just my humble thoughts and experiences to share. Take them as such.

Mikey - yee ol' grumpy German blacksmith out in the Hinterlands

p.s. Never used a chronograph either. Never cared to.
 

roundball

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Just some actual hands on experience to mix in with some of the theory being bantered about:

1) I've personally run chronograph tests on multiple calibers in 10 grain increments from 30 to 120grns and there are significant enough velocity gains at every step to make it worth the while if someone simply wants more velocity.
If somebody wants to use a mid range target load of 70grns, that's certainly everyone's choice, but don't do it on the basis that powder charges above that give very little velocity gain as that is simply not true.

2) I've personally used published max load charges in 28" and 32" inch barrels, PRBs and conicals...all powder has been very efficiently consumed, accuracy has not gone south, and there has been no exponentially objectionable fouling.

3) Recoil and flinching are things that people let happen to people...they are easily controlled, mind over matter, etc. I just returned from a range trip this morning to rezero a Flintlock at 50yards with a new hunting load and to practice with it...fired a total of 50 shots out of a rifled .62cal, 100grns Goex 2F, oxyoke wad, .020" pillow ticking, .600"/325grn lead balls...an outstanding powerful hunting load.
 

cable

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"A deer is just as dead with 80 grains as it is with 120 grains. Maybe more so. "
Dang it! i thought by the laws of mathematics they were at least 50% more dead [40/80= 0.50] and that various fish and game dept autopsies had confirmed this!

i am so confused.
 

tg

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Many folks like a hotter load some use a mid range load for hunting, I like 70-80 gr 3f in most of the .50thru .62 guns I have had I don't take long shots so the extra punce and flatter trajectory is not an issue each has to weigh their own circumstancesand decide whther to go heavy or not.
 

ameling

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Oops, I forgot. I have shot more than 100 grs. in a couple guns.

A friend had a Sharps rifle in 45-110, and a trapdoor Springfield in 50-140. We just HAD TO pack a couple cartridges full - just to see. After our teeth stopped rattling, we settled down with loads closer to 70 to 90 grs. in each, with cornmeal filler. (I can't remember the final loads at the moment.) Worked great for the shooting he and I were doing. And we weren't expecting to knock down buffalo at 250+ yards anyway. Plus, those were Cartridge guns, with paper-patch bullets instead of round balls.

In the end, it's better to have a good "user" load that is comfortable for you and the type of shooting/hunting you are doing, and to KNOW how your specific gun performs.

Mikey - yee ol' grumpy German blacksmith out in the Hinterlands
 

BrownBear

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For me it's as much a question of what YOU shoot well, as what the gun likes. If the gun is "most accurate" at max, but you can't point it straight, all the powder is wasted---- not just the extra over some theoretical ideal.

If a gun hurts you too much or costs you too much to shoot lots, you just aren't going to shoot it enough to justify the extra power from more powder. Commit yourself to do all the shooting required to get really good with that heavy load, and it's between you and the pressure gods in deciding how much to dump down the bore.

But if you think you're overcoming poor marksmanship by adding powder, you're chasing your tail and never going to catch it.
 

Vaino

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My pet PRB elk load in a .54 "Hawken" I built is 120 grs. ffg and has performed well on elk. Possibly a less potent load would stop an elk, but the trajectory w/ this load is practical out to 125 yds and has proven to be very versatile.The last elk taken w/ this load was at 107 paces and only went 40 yds after the hit. There is a point where more powder gives little or no velocity increase...120 grs. is below that point....Fred
 

bigbadben

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I'll let ya guys know. Unfortunately (well, ok, not "unfortunately") this weekend is a 2-day f-class match, so I won't get to the range with the 54-cal. for a few days.

On a brighter note at 200, 500 and 600 yards with my 308 I only dropped three shots out of 45 out of the 10-ring.

This gun probably won't do quite THAT well. But we'll see.

Ben
 

BrownBear

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BigBadBen said:
On a brighter note at 200, 500 and 600 yards with my 308 I only dropped three shots out of 45 out of the 10-ring.

Ben
Keep that up and I'll be watching for your name on the Olympic team.

Congratulations!
 
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