PRB vs Big Bore Air Guns

Discussion in 'General Muzzleloading' started by Nuthatch, Jul 11, 2019.

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  1. Jul 11, 2019 #1

    Nuthatch

    Nuthatch

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    I've been reading advice about hunting deer with the old PRB - putting the max range at about 75 yards or so. For whatever reason, my woodsman .50 likes round ball at a small 50 grain powder charge -- which is pretty light for mulies & blacktails (150 - 200 lb). So I've been thinking about going with a conical.

    However, some of these new big bore air guns on the market are being used at muzzleloader distances (<100 yards) for big game hunting. These only run about 600 fpe at the muzzle and in 45-50 caliber. So we're talking VERY weak muzzleloader ballistics. There isn't the same wide range of use, obviously, but claims of full pass-through on elk, deer & hogs are being reported.

    There are some key differences, not the least of which are the use of scopes and better triggers that allow shooters to be much more precise with these air guns. However, if rifle of 45 caliber with 600 fpe max at the muzzle is enough to take down an elk, why would a 50 caliber round ball be too weak at 100 yards with 300-400 fpe remaining?

    Please note, I'm a newbie so I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. I'll also put my cards on the table and say that I'm planning my first muzzleloader hunt this fall and would like to use PRB. I have a few reasons why but I just prefer it. I can still hunt with a conical without giving up a thing in accuracy. I just like PRBs better.

    All thoughts are appreciated.
     
  2. Jul 11, 2019 #2

    Grimord

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    I think you should do some more experimenting with powder type and loads to see what your gun can do with some heftier loads. I consider 75-100 yards maximum for deer with a .50, and then only with good shot presentation. My max is 75 yards, cause my old eyes can't see the sights that well much beyond 60 yards.
    I would try some loads using 3f at around 60 grains or 2f at 70 grains. With a proper ball and patch you should get at least 2" groups at 50 yards. then it is a matter of practice to see how well the gun groups a farther distances and can still hit the vital zone on a deer.
     
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  3. Jul 11, 2019 #3

    Loyalist Dave

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    OK well air rifle hunting for big game is "traditional" in some respects. There is a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of The Empty House, Holmes faces an adversary using a large caliber (for an air rifle) air rifle to murder people. So the idea and reality of using such is nothing new. Unfortunately, they are not muzzleloaders and the guns used to take big game are not copies of the traditional designs used in the past. So they probably don't belong on our forum, but I'm not a moderator.

    "Outdoor writers" unfortunately do not necessarily have any qualifications other than they can type. With modern AI software for word processing, some of them may not be able even to type...

    For example here is a quote from an online article about airgun big game hunting.
    "White-tailed deer hunting with a .45 air rifle that has as much killing power as any muzzleloader." (Outdoor News September 19, 2018) :confused:
    Um, "any" muzzleloader ??? o_O

    You should also note that the plethora of articles on these guns all seem to use data on "energy" and not muzzle velocity. There is a reason for that. The MV for the large calibers tends to be low by comparison to muzzleloaders in many cases. One 2014 comment I found where a fellow had harvested a through and through shot on an elk with a 12 gauge air gun slug. The author noted 870 fps, and he didn't mention the distance.

    An advertisement for air rifle that is touted as the most powerful on the market for big game reads, "The AirForce Texan delivers more power than any other production air rifle: .45-caliber bullets leave the muzzle at 1000 fps (up to 500+ ft-lbs. of energy). Load, cock, aim, squeeze and deliver jaw-dropping power. An entire world of hunting opportunities has just opened up to you! " UM..., no it hasn't....

    For that air rifle to launch a projectile at 500 fpe using 1000 fps it must use a conical pellet of 225 grains.
    A .45 caliber 125 grain round ball launched with a mere 60 grains of powder according to GOEX moves in excess of 1600 fps and will give you 710 fpe at the muzzle
    My .54 caliber round ball of 225 grains (same weight as the air rifle projectile) launched with 80 grains of GOEX will get 1500 fps and 1100 fpe at the muzzle
    Now a conical air rifle pellet will have a better ballistic coefficient so won't shed velocity as fast as my .54 round ball, but I start out with more than 2x the energy, and, and this is the important part...I start by making a much much bigger hole at impact; that hole is likely to be even larger when it exits the deer. :D

    So they are an interesting sideline method for harvesting big game, but don't be fooled by the "outdoor writers" for magazines that just happen to print advertisements for the same air rifles, and charge big bucks from those air rifle companies for those ads....wink wink ;)

    LD
     
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  4. Jul 11, 2019 #4

    Grenadier1758

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    While we really can't talk about the modern air guns, we can talk about ballistics to some extent. Well, we can talk bout the Lewis air gun he brought along with the Corps of Discovery in 1804. That gun didn't have great performance either other than rapidity of firing a ball.

    From a ballistics perspective, I am skeptical of the performance of those air guns. Your Woodsman 50 caliber with 50 grains of powder should be adequate at the short ranges (less than 50 yards) your are hunting. A conical isn't likely to improve performance for you. Your manual only shows recommended loading for patched round ball with a maximum of 105 grains of 3fg or 110 for 2fg. No loads were listed for conical bullets although the manual describes the process to load a conical bullet. There are better lubricants for conical bullets than Wonderlube. Try TotW Mink Oil. Maximum accuracy loads are in the 45 to 75 grain range.

    You should tell us what size ball, patch thickness, patch source, patch lubricant, and powder you are using. That will guide us in making suggestions to improve performance.

    You likely have shallow button rifling. You may need to change ball size from 0.490" (Traditions recommended ball in the manual) to 0.495" and reduce patch thickness (no patch thickness mentioned) to 0.010" 100% cotton patching that you lubricate on loading with the Mink Oil. Performance accuracy is known to improve when you use a tight fitting ball and patch combination.
     
  5. Jul 11, 2019 #5

    BrownBear

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    Won't try to help you make a choice between the two, but I can add this to your thinking. My wife prefers 54 caliber RB for all her hunting, but she also doesn't like charges over 60 grains of 3f. She limits her shots to 50 yards or less and broadside only, but in 20 years of deer dinking we've never recovered a ball from her gun.

    Anyone with less gumption than her to bypass longer shots and angled shots could have different experiences, but that's on the shooter's shoulders and not the load. Some folks just can't walk away from marginal shots, then go to blaming their gun and load rather than the punkin sitting on their shoulders.
     
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  6. Jul 11, 2019 #6

    Patocazador

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    The wound channel is what kills if its in a lethal spot. Energy numbers are misleading when it comes to lethality. Destruction of tissue and bleeding are what we are after to accomplish a clean kill. If you are close enough for your accurate load to penetrate far enough in a vital area, you will accomplish your goal.

    Shoulder shots should probably be avoided as penetration through the heart/lung area offers less resistance and a greater probability for an exit wound and good blood trail.

    Air guns are a subject for a different forum.
     
  7. Jul 11, 2019 #7

    Sidney Smith

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    I just can't wrap my head around hunting with an airgun. What do you do hit the woods with the gun in one hand and a bicycle pump in the other? I'll stick with black powder.
     
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  8. Jul 11, 2019 #8

    Zonie

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    Nuthatch: What you don't read about in all of those stories is the number of deer, elk and hogs that weren't killed and got away when those other kind of guns were used. You'll never see someone in those articles write, "Well, one out of three's pretty good in my book."

    As for patched roundballs in a .50, your 50 grain powder load should be giving the ball a muzzle velocity of around 1400 fps with an energy of around 770 ft/lbs.
    At 70 yards the velocity will be down to 988 fps with a energy of 384 ft/lbs. At 100 yards the velocity will be 900 fps with 319 ft/lbs of energy.

    Those figures say that at 100 yards your .490 diameter ball is putting those air powered things to shame if 600 fps is the best they can do at the muzzle.

    It's been my experience that my .50's (I have several) do their best in the accuracy department with a powder load of around 70 grains of powder.
    @ 70 grains the muzzle velocity will be up around 1600 fps and at 100 yards the velocity will be around 950 fps (356 ft/lbs).

    I think it's quite obvious that a muzzleloading .50 is totally capable of taking deer out to 100 yards with no problem in the power department. The only real problem with shooting a animal at that distance is the accuracy that iron sights deliver.

    While I'm talking about taking deer at 100 yards, many people sight their hunting guns at 70 yards. With a MV of 1600 fps (70 grain powder load) a rifle sighted in at that distance will be shooting 1 1/8" high at 50 yards and 4 5/8" low at 100 yards. At 120 yards the ball will be hitting about 10 inches low so you see, that is why a maximum distance of 100 yards is about the limit many hunters using roundballs put on themselves.

    As for talking about airguns, since this topic is basically about muzzleloading I'll let it ride for the moment. I do not want it to turn into a discussion about shooting airguns though.

     
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  9. Jul 11, 2019 #9

    Okie Hog

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    Being old, adverse to learning new stuff, and being perfectly happy with performance of .50 and .54 caliber patched round balls; i won't be using an air gun.
     
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  10. Jul 11, 2019 #10

    Brokennock

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    Sure it has,,,,,,,,


    If one is a felon and can't have a gun.....
     
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  11. Jul 11, 2019 #11

    Brokennock

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    Stick with your PRB. Maybe try 70 or 75 grains, and/or a wad between powder and PRB for a better gas seal.

    I can't see any reason your .50 caliber PRB can't take mule deer and possibly elk (with a slightly heavy powder charge) out at 75 to 100 yards, IF, if you can place the shot properly at that distance.
     
  12. Jul 11, 2019 #12

    Col. Batguano

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    The FPE equation places a premium on velocity over caliber and projectile weight. The reason for this is due to the hydrostatic shock and increased size of the wound channel at higher velocities that high velocity bullets make. Increase the velocity of a projectile from 2000 fps to 3000 fps (a 50% increase) and you get a 125% increase in foot pound energy.

    By my recollection, below a certain velocity (I want to say it's around 800 fps but I'd be happy to be corrected) the net effect of velocity on wound channel size and imparted hydrostatic shock is almost moot, as the wound channel will be roughly equal to that of the projectile.
     
  13. Jul 12, 2019 #13

    rodwha

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    Is this concerning a sphere? I see a wide meplat will still create a larger wound below 600 fps, and we also see a pointy projectile, at a lower velocity, creates a smaller than caliber wound channel. It’s a reason why I like to create my own revolver projectiles at Accurate Molds for hunting.
     
  14. Jul 12, 2019 #14

    Loyalist Dave

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    I hadn't thought of that,; Zonie's quite correct.
    And "got away" may mean the animal trundled off too far for the "hunter" to track, but died a slow, painful death. Sure, that can happen with any harvest system. So the limitations of what one chooses must be a factor when making a decision.

    LD
     
  15. Jul 12, 2019 #15

    AlanG

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    Well, since you say you are relatively new to BP, I would say you should be experimenting a lot more with your .50 round ball load. I can't imagine any .50 that won't shoot well with more than a 50 grain charge. I would definitely try different ball sizes, patch thicknesses AND type of material, and also putting a dry patch (or wad) over the powder first. Also patch lube comes into play- some lubes allow a tighter ball to go down easier, and also affect accuracy (which gets little mention).
     
  16. Jul 12, 2019 #16

    Nuthatch

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    Apologies for not being clear. I certainly did not intend this to be an airgun post. My point about airguns is simply one of comparison for evaluating my PRB load. I have no intention of buying an airgun for big game.

    I'll give the wad idea with higher charges a try. The guy I bought it from said he had good success with 90 gr of real black powder (2F). But I haven't found any locally. So my only choices for loose powder are Pyrodex. 2F starts opening up noticeably at 60 gr. By 80 gr, I'm barely staying on a 10" target at 50 yards, the bore is pretty well fouled and the patches (when I can find them) are black and torn up. Take it back down again and I'm grouping around 2", I can shoot 5 shots without swabbing in between and my patches are still mostly white with very little tearing. So maybe a higher charge with a wad could work. It's certainly worth a try. I'd certainly have more confidence in the load if I was somewhere above 70 grains. Patch thickness is a complicated issue out here since we have to hunt with non-lead and ITX doesn't form to the barrel like lead... Ah, CA.

    The higher charges worked great with 295 gr Powerbelts and 247 gr Thors. Cleaning between shots is a must but it hits where I'm aiming. I had some fun hitting clay pigeons out at about 80 yards with that load so it's a winner in my book. I haven't yet tried the 3F Pyrodex with RB but it's on my to-do list.

    I'll continue to fiddle with it. But my original question was whether the 50 grain load and 300-400 fpe at 100 yards is sufficient, shot placement being good & such. Thanks for the tips.
     
  17. Jul 12, 2019 #17

    Grenadier1758

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    Pyrodex generally has less apparent fouling than black powder. I wouldn't expect to see such evidence of fouling as black patches all shredded up. You might want to give Tripple Seven powder a try if real black powder is scarce where you live.

    You bought the Woodsman used and the previous owner used real black powder.
    What is the condition of the barrel?
    Are there any pits on the bore to trap fouling or roughness of the bore to catch on the patch?
    Are there any sharp edges at the crown to cut patches on loading? What lubricant are you using on the patch?
    Are your patches pre-lubricated?
    How old are the patches?
    What patch material and thickness are you using?

    It is interesting that you get good accuracy from the Powerbelts and Thors which are typically not patched. This leads me to think that you are not using the optimal patch and patch lubricant to match your round ball. Once again I ask you to tell us more about your load: Ball diameter, powder (you gave us - Pyrodex), patch and thickness, patch lubricant.

    You might want to get a 45 caliber jag and some green scothbrite pads or steel wool to run down your barrel to try to eliminate the fouling build up. By the way it is not an unforgivable action to wipe the bore between shots to keep the fouling at a minimum.
     
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  18. Jul 12, 2019 #18

    Nuthatch

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    Grenadier - thank you. The rifle was hardly used and no apparent pits. It's an oddity of the Woodsman line with fiberoptic front & rear sight on a brushed nitride or similarly-coated barrel. I can't really tell if the crown is cutting patches or not. I'd say not since recovered low-charge loads are pretty well in-tact. But that's just a guess. I won't pretend to have years of experience to know what I'm looking at.

    Balls are Speer .490. Lube is Bore Butter, applied to the underside of the patch (barrel side, not ball side) & rubbed in before placing it on the bore. Patch thickness measures .0115 on my calipers. It's pre-cut and pretty obviously purchased but it came without a label in a bag with the rifle. I tried Traditions pre-lubed ticking and it's noticeably thicker. I can use the ticking with lead if I really cram it in (dubious in the field but possible with a range rod). But there's no way I'm getting the ITX in with it -- too hard. With ITX, I can use the .0115 patches but it takes a good smack on the ball starter to get it in. I have no idea how old the patches are or what material it is.

    I will say that the 50-grain load is definitely a good one from an accuracy standpoint. So whatever is off at 60+ grains is just not there at 50. If I have to, I can always take the Thors into the field this year and keep experimenting. But I'd rather take the RB just like I prefer to use wooden arrows.

    Not sure if that's enough to work with or not. But I appreciate your thoughts all the same.
     
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  19. Jul 12, 2019 #19

    Brokennock

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    I was unaware of your need for a lead free projectile at the time of my response. That does change things in my opinion. The reduced weight/mass of the lead free projectile would reduce my confidence of killing hits at longer ranges without very significant increase in velocity, and even then I'd have misgivings (being a mass over velocity advocate).

    In the .45 caliber rifle I was using I was able to match the performance of a thick patched, very tight patch/ball combo, with an easier to load looser combo by adding a thin hard "wad" between powder and patched ball. The "wad" was very thin, stiff, and hard, made of some kind of fiber almost like gasket material and sold (if I remember correctly) as wads for cap and ball revolvers. This should help increase your gas seal and protect your patch from burning powder/gasses, and protect your powder from your patch lube when the gun sits loaded for a long time while hunting.
     
  20. Jul 12, 2019 #20

    Nuthatch

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    Brokennock - thank you. I read a decent article at some point where somebody did some testing of ITX vs roundball. ITX comes out a little faster than lead at the same powder charge. Of course, it also slows down faster but, on impact, it doesn't deform. So it should penetrate about the same though with a slightly smaller hole than lead. The author was pretty well convinced that within reasonable distances (<100 yards), any differences are negligible.

    Sounds like I need to pick up some wadding.
     

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