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Your cleaning method is missing pulling water through the flame channel. A brass brush isn't going to seal and push/pull water through it.
A jag and cleaning patch will clean it out better. Just stick the breech end in a bucket of water with a couple drops of dish soap. I prefer hot water because the bore dries so much faster when done. Run a jag with patch up/down the bore, it will pull water up through the barrel clear to the muzzle. Each time back and forth is pushing/pulling water through the flame channel. The brush is just getting the bore where it touches and not flushing the flame channel at all, the only cleaning you're getting of the patent breech/flame channel is soaking in water with barely any agitation. After cleaning, dump the water and do again with just water for a rinse. Patch on the jag should stay clean for this one mostly. No need for the PVC pipe treatment. Using alcohol to help dry is a good idea. Running a pipe cleaner through flame channel is good. Pour some alcohol down the muzzle and let it go through the flame channel, then blast some air through the flame channel from the nipple end. I just use the little cans of air, like the ones sold for dusting a keyboard.

I started out using a nylon brush through the bore as part of my cleaning routine but abandoned it as it simply doesn't seem to be needed at all for me to get my bore nice and clean. Patch on a jag does the job just fine. I do believe not needing a brush is dependent on cleaning method and type of lube being used.
Sounds like you have a rust preventative that works for you now after the first one failed.

To me a wedge pin that can be removed/installed by hand is a bit loose. I have to tap mine out and do the same to put it back in. I'm with Brit about stock to barrel fit. Brit also mentioned in his first post that 56 grains is a "rabbit" charge for a .50 cal., he is not wrong. My .54 TC barely showed paper plate groups until 70 grains. I realize it is a bigger caliber but still. Many say they get decent groups with a light "target" charge, but my TC shoots horrible groups until I get up to 70 grains. At 70 it still isn't anything I'm going to take a picture of. 75 jumps to "minute of deer heart" and at 80 it'd put them all in the same hole if the nut behind the gun could manage it.
Many, many folks report best accuracy between 70-90 grains.

Your swabbing method isn't softening the fouling at all, the brush is just knocking some of it loose. A lot is being left in the grooves and stuck to the walls. If brushing with the muzzle pointing up then the fouling knocked loose is dropping down into the patent breech and causing the hang fires. The dry patch is likely pushing even more fouling down into it too. Use a barely damp patch. Water, spit, alcohol, several things work fine. Push down, pause for fouling to soften a bit, then remove again. I do two passes with damp and one with dry when working on load development or wanting tiny groups on paper. Pop a cap after to ensure flame channel is clear before loading. Throw a dry patch, leaf, etc. on the ground and point the barrel at it, when the cap pops it should make it move. If at a range then simply pop a cap per the rules with it pointed down range, one almost always does the job in my experience. No more hang fires, that alone will improve groups drastically.

Shallow groove 1:48 twist TC's tend to prefer a short overall length conical, short being around 1". Hornady Great Plains Bullets often shoot extremely well in them. If you read somewhere they don't make them anymore they are talking about other calibers, they are still made in .50 cal. They are a hollow base bullet, so no wad with them. May be tough to find right now in the current ammo hoarding rampage.
Most everything I've read about accurate PRB loads in a TC from people is that a pretty tight fit is needed. Most report a minimum of an .018" thick patch with a RB .010 under bore size really show good accuracy. My .54 was no exception, I see best groups with a .530 RB with an .018" pillow ticking patch or a .535" RB with a .015" patch. You could also be dealing a bit with patch cutting since the bore was unfired, but your steel wool treatment should've helped that out.

My starting point with your rifle.
Conical I'd start at 75 grains of 2f and work up in 5 grain increments from there. I'd use a Hornady GPB or a maxi-ball (not maxi-hunter). The maxi-ball I'd use with only the narrower bottom groove lubed, leave the upper empty. Shoot a group, increase charge 5 grains, shoot a group, etc., etc. I'd swab with two damp patch passes and one dry every single shot, pop a cap before loading the next charge. While it's important to know where your foul shot lands if you're a hunter, I wouldn't include it in my group measurements during load development. Don't exceed max charge recommendation of course.
PRB I'd start at 65 grains of 2f and work up, using your .490 RB and .015" patch since it showed some promise. Like Okie, I experience great results with mink oil or Frontier's patch lube (there are others that worked for me but those two have stood out accuracy wise for me). Swab between shots or every other shot if you prefer, it sounds like it did okay until the 3rd shot without a swab.
I swab every shot. I like, in order; the better accuracy I see, ease of loading the next shot, and knowing that possible embers are out. Your comment that you're first two PRB shots are touching and then the third jumps out is exactly what mine does if I don't swab. The fourth shot without swabbing is clear off a paper plate and I use an even tighter PRB combo than you. You could try swabbing every other shot and see if your PRB set up shoots well that way.
If using Pyrodex I'd use mag caps and also ensure nipple has at least a .031" flash hole. Something like a Treso nipple with a .028" flash hole wouldn't be a very good choice with a sub powder.
As with most anything there is more than one way to skin a cat. I'm not saying something different won't work as well as what I do and prefer, but I do believe I could have your rifle shooting nicely in short order with the above. :)
 

Golden Child

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Your cleaning method is missing pulling water through the flame channel. A brass brush isn't going to seal and push/pull water through it.
A jag and cleaning patch will clean it out better. Just stick the breech end in a bucket of water with a couple drops of dish soap. I prefer hot water because the bore dries so much faster when done. Run a jag with patch up/down the bore, it will pull water up through the barrel clear to the muzzle. Each time back and forth is pushing/pulling water through the flame channel. The brush is just getting the bore where it touches and not flushing the flame channel at all, the only cleaning you're getting of the patent breech/flame channel is soaking in water with barely any agitation. After cleaning, dump the water and do again with just water for a rinse. Patch on the jag should stay clean for this one mostly. No need for the PVC pipe treatment. Using alcohol to help dry is a good idea. Running a pipe cleaner through flame channel is good. Pour some alcohol down the muzzle and let it go through the flame channel, then blast some air through the flame channel from the nipple end. I just use the little cans of air, like the ones sold for dusting a keyboard.

I started out using a nylon brush through the bore as part of my cleaning routine but abandoned it as it simply doesn't seem to be needed at all for me to get my bore nice and clean. Patch on a jag does the job just fine. I do believe not needing a brush is dependent on cleaning method and type of lube being used.
Sounds like you have a rust preventative that works for you now after the first one failed.

To me a wedge pin that can be removed/installed by hand is a bit loose. I have to tap mine out and do the same to put it back in. I'm with Brit about stock to barrel fit. Brit also mentioned in his first post that 56 grains is a "rabbit" charge for a .50 cal., he is not wrong. My .54 TC barely showed paper plate groups until 70 grains. I realize it is a bigger caliber but still. Many say they get decent groups with a light "target" charge, but my TC shoots horrible groups until I get up to 70 grains. At 70 it still isn't anything I'm going to take a picture of. 75 jumps to "minute of deer heart" and at 80 it'd put them all in the same hole if the nut behind the gun could manage it.
Many, many folks report best accuracy between 70-90 grains.

Your swabbing method isn't softening the fouling at all, the brush is just knocking some of it loose. A lot is being left in the grooves and stuck to the walls. If brushing with the muzzle pointing up then the fouling knocked loose is dropping down into the patent breech and causing the hang fires. The dry patch is likely pushing even more fouling down into it too. Use a barely damp patch. Water, spit, alcohol, several things work fine. Push down, pause for fouling to soften a bit, then remove again. I do two passes with damp and one with dry when working on load development or wanting tiny groups on paper. Pop a cap after to ensure flame channel is clear before loading. Throw a dry patch, leaf, etc. on the ground and point the barrel at it, when the cap pops it should make it move. If at a range then simply pop a cap per the rules with it pointed down range, one almost always does the job in my experience. No more hang fires, that alone will improve groups drastically.

Shallow groove 1:48 twist TC's tend to prefer a short overall length conical, short being around 1". Hornady Great Plains Bullets often shoot extremely well in them. If you read somewhere they don't make them anymore they are talking about other calibers, they are still made in .50 cal. They are a hollow base bullet, so no wad with them. May be tough to find right now in the current ammo hoarding rampage.
Most everything I've read about accurate PRB loads in a TC from people is that a pretty tight fit is needed. Most report a minimum of an .018" thick patch with a RB .010 under bore size really show good accuracy. My .54 was no exception, I see best groups with a .530 RB with an .018" pillow ticking patch or a .535" RB with a .015" patch. You could also be dealing a bit with patch cutting since the bore was unfired, but your steel wool treatment should've helped that out.

My starting point with your rifle.
Conical I'd start at 75 grains of 2f and work up in 5 grain increments from there. I'd use a Hornady GPB or a maxi-ball (not maxi-hunter). The maxi-ball I'd use with only the narrower bottom groove lubed, leave the upper empty. Shoot a group, increase charge 5 grains, shoot a group, etc., etc. I'd swab with two damp patch passes and one dry every single shot, pop a cap before loading the next charge. While it's important to know where your foul shot lands if you're a hunter, I wouldn't include it in my group measurements during load development. Don't exceed max charge recommendation of course.
PRB I'd start at 65 grains of 2f and work up, using your .490 RB and .015" patch since it showed some promise. Like Okie, I experience great results with mink oil or Frontier's patch lube (there are others that worked for me but those two have stood out accuracy wise for me). Swab between shots or every other shot if you prefer, it sounds like it did okay until the 3rd shot without a swab.
I swab every shot. I like, in order; the better accuracy I see, ease of loading the next shot, and knowing that possible embers are out. Your comment that you're first two PRB shots are touching and then the third jumps out is exactly what mine does if I don't swab. The fourth shot without swabbing is clear off a paper plate and I use an even tighter PRB combo than you. You could try swabbing every other shot and see if your PRB set up shoots well that way.
If using Pyrodex I'd use mag caps and also ensure nipple has at least a .031" flash hole. Something like a Treso nipple with a .028" flash hole wouldn't be a very good choice with a sub powder.
As with most anything there is more than one way to skin a cat. I'm not saying something different won't work as well as what I do and prefer, but I do believe I could have your rifle shooting nicely in short order with the above. :)
Thanks for the reply! I'll give those a try and try to find some gpb or maxi-ball instead of my REAL if I continue to struggle with those boolits. I just ordered a few new nipples, they didn't have hole size listed, guess I'll figure it out when they show up. I do have 2 lbs of goex, but its hard to find round these parts compared to Pyro.
When I brush my bore in the pvc tube water eventually works its way out the top of the barrel, meaning I do get water through the flash hole, though at a much lower flow rate than what you're suggesting. I'll add jag/patch while in the soapy water to make some serious flow.
Seems I have much more to learn than I anticipated. My goal is to get good enough that I can actually have fun at the range, and involve my 8y.o. and pair of 6 y.o boys in the fun with rabbit loads.
My 8 y.o. shot a deer on my tag this rifle season with the traditions deerhunter we built last Christmas. Pretty sure you could see his smile from space. 48 yards, PRB the sucker dropped. "I THINK I HIT IT DAD!!"
Me, off to the side of the smoke cloud so I can see that it moved exactly 16 inches (straight down) "YA THINK?!"
LOL. Good stuff. Hoping for many more memories like that.
 
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Hey all, I have a mid 70's 50cal TC Hawken that my dad built when he was a teenager for my grandpa. Gramp never shot it, so it was brand new 5 years ago when I started tinkering with it. I've done countless hours of research, and am still struggling. The bore appears bright and shiny (no bore scope) I polished the crown and I still can't get it to group consistently. 250 gr REAL over 56gr vol Pyro RS will make a 1 inch group at 50 one day, and an 11 inch the next. .490 roundball with 015 patch takes 3-4 good smacks with a starter, then goes down nice, but i will have 2 shots touching, and the 3rd 5 inches off. .490 ball with 010 patch loads nicely, push the ball in about halfway up the ball with my thumb, and a decent amount of pressure on the ramrod runs it home. With this combo I get 3-6" groups at 50 yards and my patches have rips in them. The 1 was literally a round spot from behind the ball attached to a 4" thin strip. I've only recovered patches from this 1 load (.490 ball .010 patch) as I've only recently learned that the patch has a story to tell. I've tried a few 320 gr REAL, but the "group" looked like you shot 00 buckshot out of an open choke at 30 yards. I run a brass brush and dry patch down the barrel between groups. I've also tried not brushing or swabbing at all, and also every shot... not much difference. Swab every shot seemed to make the groups a little better, but still not where I want them, and although that would be similar to a hunting scenario, it seems most guys can get a decent 3-5 shot group between swabs.
I've tried everything from 25gr to 85gr by 5 gr increments, and 55 measured or 2 pulls on my powder dispenser (56gr vol) shoot "best"

I prelube my patches and wads and store them in an old primer tin for the patches, and plastic bag for the wads.
I've always ran felt wads behind the conicals, I bought a .512 punch and made my own, which helped quite a bit with accuracy, but the consistency is still awful. I use homemade lube. 3 parts rendered deer fat, 3 parts homegrown bees wax, 1.5 parts XV olive oil. (No olive trees in MN...i had to buy that) consistency is comparable to butter at 60 degrees or so.

I also seem to get a high amount of hang fires after 6-9 shots. Usually the first 2-3 groups go well, then I get at least 1 hang fire every 3 shot group.

I'm new-ish to BP, but have been handloading centerfire for over 20 years, and can shoot impressive groups with any of my rifles out to 600. I don't think it's me causing fliers.
Last year my son and I built a traditions deerhunter 50 cal for him, and his shoots amazing at 50 yards with 28,56,84 grains vol. I don't get it.
My goal is to have a max 4" group at 100, maybe a 6-8" at 150 so I can be 100% confident at 100 and in. Most deer will be shot 75 or less. With my centerfires I have no issue shooting yotes or varmints at 450-600, but I won't shoot at a deer past 300. Most are 100 and in. IMO it's called hunting, not shooting.

How many separate issues do I have? What am I missing? Help!?
I also have a TC Hawken that I built in the mid-70s when I should have been paying more attention to college studies, but perhaps that is a story for another time. Through the years I played around with different balls and bullets and loads and patches ad nauseum, but finally settled down to the bullet the barrel was advertised to shoot: the Maxiball. With 70-90 gr FF, the rifle consistently shoots the 1.5-2" groups I want for hunting out to 75 yards. No patch to fiddle with, just grease the grooves. I have not had the same accuracy with the Maxihunter. Also, my experience with the rough bore is the same as others mentioned. You can either shoot and become proficient with the rifle or lap the barrel a bit to speed the process of smoothing the rifling. Enjoy that rifle! It's a good one.
 

bang

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I have experienced occasional hang fires with Pyrodex RS. Since switching to P none. Still swabbing can push fouling into the flash channel.
Defiantly up the charge.
You say it has not been fired till you got it. Yes, polish the bore.
Try .010 patch too. If the start is too tight it will damage patch. Can also deform head of bullet/ball.
When using bullet use centering jag when ramming. Might give mini a try.
Depending on fit of bullet might try paper patching.
 
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Golden, what kind of twist does that TC have? I'm not very familiar with them at all.
BUT - my career, after Vietnam, was as a biologist, outdoors working with wetlands and wildlife, indoors getting permits for builders. Then trying my best to create wetlands better than those natural ones that had been destroyed. LOTS of experimentation - types of plants, slopes to shorelines, underwater topography. Worked from just south of DC, down to southern Argentina.
So, what does all that have to do with muzzle loading and accuracy?

Only change ONE thing at a time!

Loads, try 5 shots at X grains, then 5 shots at X+5 grains, etc. Changed bullet weight or contact area? Go again, test bullet Y 5 times, then Y+ Z 5 ti
mes. Rinse and repeat. Polished and chamfered your muzzle? That may change POI, so go again with one type bullet and one weight of powder. Then another powder change. You get the picture.
Ours is a convoluted sport. Except for a few builders like TC, most muzzle loader builders have been creative in their builds. Just enjoy figuring things out can be a lot of fun!

Best advice so far, one thing at a time.
 

flntlokr

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Just a thought; If you haven't ben 'pumping' your cleaning solvent (whatever it is) through the flash channel and nipple, the channel may be somewhat plugged up with pyrodex crud. (I am not sure how well it dissolves in water) You might try plugging the nipple and pouring a bit of #9 or some other smokeless solvent and allow it to soak overnight. Then give it a thorough high-pressure pumping with warm water and detergent. Then give the pyrodex to somebody and get some real bp. Shoot it, and see if there is a difference. I found Pyrodex hard to ignite, and useless in my Kentucky pistol. Never even bothered to try it in a flinter.
 

JCKelly

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For best learning how to use a muzzle-loader I suggest you read what was written by guys who used them for real. Specifically, The Muzzle Loading Caplock Rifle, by Ned H. Roberts. Roberts was taught by his uncle, based on Civil War experience. Roberts himself developed the modern.25 Roberts and .257 Roberts rifle cartridges
 
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First pick up some things and get rid of others. Dump the brush, pyro and conicals.

Next, go to local fabrics store and get a yard of 100% cotton flannel. Get the undyed white flannel. No need to wash it before use. Get a yard of 100% cotton pillow ticking. It may be called mattress ticking where you are but it must be 100% cotton. Wash and dry this ticking first to get the starch (sizing) out, putting it all in a mesh bag. The edges will fray from the loose threads coming out so don't wash the ticking if its not in a mesh bag as it will strangle anything else in the washing machine. Dry it in the same bag. Yes, you are going to loose some material, live with it.
Get a small container of Butches Bore Paste. Use it to polish the bore before shooting as well as after cleaning. Use a patch of the flannel for this and your cleaning jag. Get a can of Birchwood Casey Barricade at the same time you get Butcher's Bore paste.
Use the Barricade after cleaning, followed by dry flannel patching. Some will remain in the bore so before you begin. another shooting session, run a flannel patch with a few drops of alcohol down the bore. Give It a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate before pouring powder down it because if you don't you could be in for a rather painful hang fire. Ask me how I know and learn from others misery, er, mistakes. 🤕
Okay, flannel for cleaning and swabbIng. They are not the same things! Swabbing is down and up, then discard between shots. Lightly dampen.your swabbing patches with rubbing alcohol. Barely dampen them! If you can squeeze out a drop with your fingertips its too much. Since alcohol attracts water it will always have some in it, plus it has a much lower boiling point so it evaporates quickly and lessons the chance of ruining the next powder charge. The cotton flannel gets into the grooves of the bore and picks up most all the powder fouling that has been dissolved and loosened by the alcohol.
Last, get a new nipple made of stainless steel or the bronze Treso nipple. Factory nipples are lousy and can be the cure to inconsistent accuracy sometimes. Spit Fire makes good ones, I prefer the bronze Freak nipples for no significant reasons.

Mix up some beeswax and olive oil for your patch lube. Start with a 5 to 1 BW to OO ratio, melted together on LOW heat. Once cooled.it should be somewhat stiff but you will still be able to wipe one side of the patch material in it. Too runny, add more beeswax. Too stiff, add olive oil. I store the mix in empty cap tins. You don't have to dip your patches in this mix when it's warm and liquid! Straight olive oil works fine but is messy so that's why I add beeswax.

Start with an alcohol swab to remove any remaining rust prevention oil in the bore. Snap 2-3 caps to clear the flash channel. I place a used patch just inside the muzzle to see if everything is clear before putting a cap on. It should get pushed out when you drop the hammer. If the patch stays put then there's a problem with the flash channel.

If not then start with 50 grains of 3f black powder. Traditional black powder, no substitutes. Don't use re-enactor powder either! I like Goex and have a couple of pounds of it but since the fire you may have to use Swiss, Schutzen or another sporting grade powder. Anyway, start with 50 grains of 3f and a .490 round ball. Put the lubed side of the ticking down on the muzzle, laying the ball on the strip of patching. Push it slightly into the muzzle and then cut the material straight across and continue starting the now patched round ball, seating it on the powder charge.

Now, shoot three to five times, aiming at the same spot on your target, swabbing with a barely dampened flannel swab between each shot. Increase the powder charge by five grains and repeat the process. Do not adjust the sights or change anything else, you are just trying to find the best powder charge for your rifle. Don't exceed to maximum recommended amount.

Some advice if you are still not getting decent accuracy.
Try some .480 round ball with thicker patch. Material bought new must be washed and dryer first to get the sizing out.
As has been suggested already, have the barrel re-crowned.
When cleaning, remove barrel from stock and remove nipple as well. Place nipple on a small container with water and a drop of dish detergent. Leave to soak while cleaning. Place breech end into bucket of water just about the nipple hole. Add two drops of dish soap. Place a square of patching material on your cleaning jag which is screwed into end of ram rod, pumping the soap water in and out of the barrel. Pour out dirty soap water and put in clean water, do the same thing. Dry the outside with a dry rag, then run some dry flannel patches down the bore. Once it's reasonably dry, apply Barricade inside and out, evenly coating bore using another clean and dry flannel patch.

Hope some or all of this helps, good luck.

PS- almost forgot, since you cast your own RB you need to make sure that your melting pot has pure lead in it. Lead that is mixed with anything like tin or antimony will cause the cast balls to be a different diameter than what the mold is.
 
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Stony Broke

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There are a lot of doors to open in this game, and a lot to see and find behind each door. Some people hunt with a wet patch, I do not, rather I use Mink Oil (a good source is Track of the Wolf). At the range I will shoot a patched roundball with the patch being wet if I want to shoot without swabbing. My hunting load using Mink Oil can easily be shot and loaded three times without swabbing, but things get tight if I try to shoot all day with it. I do use a dry felt wad between the wet patch and the powder even at the range for small caliber guns such as 32 caliber, as I find the 12 to 15 grain powder charge I use can be fouled a bit by wet patch. Not so much with larger calibers.
wi
My suggestions were merely a way to get you up and going with a consistent load combination without a lot things to worry about. Patch and ball combination you found you could load. A wet patch to avoid need to swab. A single charge weigh of blackpowder that should ignite easier than Pyrodex and be accurate in your gun. They may not be perfect for hunting, but you should be able hit that garbage truck right from the start. Once you have confidence in the gun, you can work up your hunting load. You will always have an accurate baseline load (assuming I am correct and it is accurate and easy to load) to go back to. And for what it is worth, a lot of folks find success hunting with a patched .490” roundball over 65 to 70 grains of powder.
You have some very good suggestions here and following them will put you on the right track. This man has his muzzleloading techniques together and I can't argue with any of them !
 

Golden Child

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Alright guys, I finally had time to go shoot. I ran 0,00,000 and 0000 steel wool on an oiled patch, probably 50,100,100,200 times. Finished with wadding polish. I also did find that my snail was hitting my lock in 1 spot. Apparently pretty bad because it took a good 30 min with a file to get it so I can remove a piece of paper while the wedge pin is installed. Still using my .010 patches because it's all that was in my bag. Loading is exponentially easier, and smoother (not jerky in spots like before) will definitely go back and try the 015 patches to fine tune a pet load. I also have .495 balls coming which I'll probably try with the 010 patch.
Anyways... first 3 shot group with 70 gr pyro at 50yards was 1.25" in a perfect triangle. Don't know if that's a muzzleloader thing or not. But I typically look for the best triangle shaped group with those unmentionable brass cased things to find my load, then I start messing with seating depth to fine tune. (Not exactly an option in ML I suppose...)
All in all you guys saved me a boatload of frustration and put the fun back in this sport for me. As I fine tune, I'll be trying spit patches and most all the other things mentioned here. Back outside to go try to tighten this baby up before it gets dark. Thanks a ton!
 
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