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Wanting to get a smoothbore flintlock

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.58 cal or 28 ga smoothbore. My logic, round ball availability, by dropping from a .62 to a .58, you can find Hornady or Speer round balls almost anywhere. Just my two cents. As a hunter it does not make much difference for deer, as for birds/squirrels/rabbits shot size, load weight, shot pattern of the fowler, and shot quality are important variables.
.58 cal or 28 ga smoothbore. My logic, round ball availability, by dropping from a .62 to a .58, you can find Hornady or Speer round balls almost anywhere. Just my two cents. As a hunter it does not make much difference for deer, as for birds/squirrels/rabbits shot size, load weight, shot pattern of the fowler, and shot quality are important variables.
You can still use a .570 ball in a 20GA bore, that's the beauty of it! For larger bodied game, I load 80-85 grains of powder, then insert a patched .570 PRB (weighing 278 grains) within a heavy paper or tin-foil shot cup. The round ball hits like a freight train and is accurate, meaning repeatable 3 and one-half inch groups at 50 yards. FWIW I also experimented with commercial plastic wads and found one with internal reinforced ribs which enabled using a .490 ball weighing 175 grains. Low recoil and high velocity, but accuracy was was not as good, groups being 5.5 inches up to 7 inches. [barrel choke is improved-cylinder]
But then again, you can immediately switch over and load any type of shot load for Birding, Bunnies, or Bushy-tails - that is the wonder of a 20GA. Love that versatility!!
For small game, I like my 20 ga Trade Gun. So far, I've only broken some clays with it and have taken a dove on the wing. I had to switch to a sustained lead to hit something out of the air.

Here in CA, we have to use lead free for hunting, which means bismuth. Bismuth is easy enough on the barrel but it scatters much wider than lead. The pellets are not uniformly round like lead and I suspect that they shatter or deform before leaving the barrel. Bismuth shot has less tin than bismuth roundball alloy, making it very brittle. So I find it lacking to say the least. Throwing 1.5-2 oz of bismuth #6 is barely adequate at 25 yards for turkey. If I were to have a dedicated waterfowl or turkey flintlock, I'd go for a 12 or 10 ga & choke it down to modified or full.

But my 20 ga is a Jack of all trades kind of gun. It's part of why I like it. I just finished a rear "ghost ring" tang sight this weekend to help with roundball shooting. And I may yet get it jug choked down to modified. I'm hoping to take it out to the marshes this winter for teal & coots too.

I should add that the 20 ga is a very manageable gun for just about anybody. My son, age 11, can shoot round ball out of it without undue fear of recoil. So I like that we can all have some fun with it.
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I spent a lot of time on this board pursuing answers to the same question…..what fowler to get. I ended up, quite happily, with a 16 gauge made for me by Mike Brooks. It is a copy of a New England fowler as found in Grinslade’s “Flintlock Fowlers” (#9).
Get a copy of the book, it may well steer you to the right gun.


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I am new to muzzleloading and have been wanting a historically accurate fowler for the rev war era. What barrel length was most common for a fowler during this time period? Looking to get a tvm. Thanks.
@Jebadiah91, Welcome to the wonderful world of traditional muzzleloading. You have asked a couple of questions that will bring out a lot of controversial answers, especially since you want a historically accurate fowling gun.

Before I answer them, I am going to suggest that you get a copy of Grinslade's book, "Flintlock Fowlers". He covers the fowling guns that were being built from the earliest gun through Revolutionary War.

First, we need to know what part of the country are you trying to represent with your historically accurate fowling gun? Gun stock architecture changes from New England through the Carolinas. Do you want a gun built in the colonies or more commonly in England with a few Belgian and French examples also known.

The barrel will likely be long. The length of 44 to 46 inches and longer seem to be common.

TVM makes a solid, functional, reliable, and affordable fowler that is built in the essence of the era, but not a true representation of a historical fowling gun of the era.
I will be getting that book soon, thanks for recommending. I live in North East Tennessee near the Virginia/Kentucky border, close to Cumberland Gap. I like the look of the English fowler by tvm, as long as it would have been used in the 1770s-80’s era in this region of Appalachia. I’ve heard mixed things about rear sights on fowling pieces (another controversial topic- some say has a lot to do with competition and regulations, etc vs what they actually may have used)…I’m not sure, since I’m new and trying to research and ask folks. Do you suggest an individual or company that makes a fowler like you mentioned, that doesn’t have a 3 year back log and over $3k but is historically accurate for where I am at?
I’m going for the frontier homesteader persona. My understanding is fowling type guns were very common in this area during that time period. I don’t know if the French fusils were but I’m sure trade guns were, being that Indians would have had them. I also plan to hunt turkey and deer with the gun so a smoothbore makes the most sense.
@Jebadiah91, try Chamber's PA Fowler, Clay Smith or Caywood. Some also turn up in the Forum's classified ads.

You are correct in that sights can be quite controversial. Sights have been found on many period fowling guns. There are competition restrictions placed on use of sights by the NMLRA. Some have scribed a notch on the tang. The north and consistent cheek placement on the stock takes the place of a rear sight. There have been some ingenious applications of brass shelf supports as a rear sight. Many can be removed for competitions that do not allow rear sights. Sights work well for deer and turkey hunting as well as squirrel and rabbit. Less so for flying fowl.
For the 20 ga smoothbore I've found that a .600" 330 grn patched round ball is accurate, drops deer DRT and handles shot like a champ. With that .600" patched ball 60 grns of 3F it makes a fine target load that will also drop a whitetail. But 70 to 75 grns of 3F was what I hunted with. 20 ga is in the Goldilocks zone; not to big, not too small, just a good everything gun.
The only issue here, possibly, is the width of the bore compared to the volume of the shot charge. And this is why I suggested jug choking if going with the 10 gauge (which I still don't think is a bad idea for ducks, and especially geese, if one is getting a 10 as a second gun just for waterfowl.)
You're shot charge of now starting out wide compared to the length of the shot string, this could cause the pattern to be a lot more open and potentially have big gaps in it at a fairly close range.
Before jug choking I’d explore all the load options, the skychief load is what I’d start with.. then after all options are explored and pattern still isn’t satisfactory, then I’d look at jug choking.
I’ve never had a smoothbore that hasn’t responded positively to the skychief load, some still needed tweaked a little, but I’ve never felt that I’ve had to jug choke. However, I’ve never shot waterfowl, the shots may be quite a bit longer than what I’m used to..
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I guess this smoothbore will be used on small game more than anything else. Worse comes to worse I can get a bigger one later on to hunt waterfowl. I dont want to use large bores on squirrels.
My only smooth bore is my trade gun and it is a . 72caliber / 12 gauge and I use it on squirrels all the time. Like said before you can put a light load in and it will do fine. I do a simple square load and aim a little to the left or right so I hit the squirrel with the outside of my pattern. Works well for me and as long as they aren’t to close it doesn’t damage the meat to much. To be honest if I’m worried about damaging meat I just take out my 40 flintlock and go for head shots. But I love my smoothbore bc if a dove or something else flys out while I’m squirrel hunting I can go after it as well. If I did get another smooth bore it would be a .62 I really would like one of those but given the mileage I have on my .72 I think it is a dandy caliber for small game and then also very capable for anything else
Have two .62 smooth rifles. A Wilson’s Chief trade gun cut to 26” and an English Fowler smooth rifle. Both are stupid accurate at 50 yards.

Have a Bess carbine I am working on now. It’s more challenging
what would you take for the 26'' Chief