A Web Magazine Specifically For The Traditional Muzzleloading Hunter!
How many of you got started into muzzleloader shooting and hunting with the rifle shown here - the Thompson/Center Hawken rifle?
Originally built in .45 and .50 caliber, the rifle was introduced in 1970...and remained in production until early fall 2012. I acquired my "first" T/C Hawken back in 1971 - Serial No. 625. The rifle had a .45 barrel on it initially, but within a couple of months I had acquired a .50 caliber barrel, also with a low serial number. Since I had gotten the rifle for hunting deer, I gravitated to the .50 caliber barrel more than the .45. The big 370-grain .50 caliber T/C "Maxi-Ball" delivered a lot more wallop than the 240-grain .45 bullet of the same design.
Prior to getting this rifle, with both .45 and .50 caliber barrels, I had never attempted shooting a muzzleloader at 100 yards. I became so obsessed at getting the rifle, especially with the .50 caliber barrel, to keep 'em in the "Kill Zone" at 100 yards, I mounted one of the early Bushnell 2.5X long eye-relief handgun scopes on that barrel - to tap whatever the barrel could produce. The 1972 photo at left shows a much younger and trimmer me ... preparing to take an off-hand 100-yard shot with the rifle.
Keep in mind, back then I was fresh out of the Marine Corps - and during my stint in the service, I had repeatedly qualified as an "Expert" marksman. Leaving the Corps, I went directly to work as Associate Editor for GUN WORLD magazine, where each month I spent a great deal of time on the range test firing a wide range of firearms. Due to my interest and experience with muzzleloaders as a kid, I became, unofficially, the "Black Powder Editor" for the magazine...and handled all of the publication's coverage of muzzleloading and black powder shooting. (It was during this period when I put together my first book - Black Powder Gun Digest.)
I shot this rifle a lot, in fact just about every chance I got. Any time I headed to the range, it went with me - and I was always trying to tighten my hundred yard accuracy. I tried powder charges from 70- to 90-grains (DuPont FFg & FFFg)...different lubes on the bullet... even different percussion caps - and 4- to 5-inch groups were the best "off-of-sandbags" hundred yard accuracy I could get with the scoped T/C Hawken rifle (my first scoped muzzleloader).
I finally accepted that was as good as accuracy was going to get, and hunted with the .50 T/C Hawken for two seasons, taking several whitetails, a good mule deer buck, an Aoudad and a couple of wild Texas hogs. The big 370-grain "Maxi-Ball", propelled by a 90-grain charge of FFg black powder, plowed through everything except the near 400-pound Aoudad (Barbary) ram. The old (and damaged) 1973 photo above right shows that recovered slug...which still weighed 364 grains when pulled from under the hide of the sheep's opposite shoulder.
Perhaps This Post Should Have Been Titled ... "What If Thompson/Center Had Gotten The Hawken Right"
The first TRUE muzzle-loaded bullet rifle I ever had the pleasure and opportunity to shoot had been built in the mid 1800's by St. Louis gunmaker H.E. Dimick - a competitor of the Hawken brothers. The rifle was very similar to the H.E. Dimick rifle shown here. It belonged to a good friend, who shot it regularly through the 1970s. That .50 caliber rifle had a rifling twist of 1-in-22 or 1-in-24, and would keep a big 1.140" long 500-grain bullet in tight 2-inch groups at 100 yards. Powered by an 80-grain charge of GOEX FFg, this rifle delivered the big bullet with enough authority, and accuracy, for taking deer out to 200+ yards. In fact, my friend demonstrated that he could punch a tighter group with the old 1850's rifle and load at that distance than I could with my nearly new T/C .50 caliber Hawken and 370-grain "Maxi-Ball" at 100 yards.
There's no denying that Warren Center's version of the Hawken rifle appealed to American shooters and hunters. Even though the rifle at the top of this post is far from being correct to be a Hawken...it had great looks, nice style and just enough flash to be eye catching...and it was well balanced (for a muzzleloader). Thompson/Center's goal had been to offer the shooting public a muzzle-loaded rifle that would shoot EITHER the patched round ball or the conical of Warren Center's design.
Perhaps, but the fact remains ... the 1-in-48 twist chosen for this muzzleloader, and other T/C traditional muzzleloaders that followed, was not proper for either projectile. Even so, somewhere around 1,000,000 traditional T/C muzzleloaders were built and sold in this country over a 40-year period. What if Warren Center had gotten the rate of twist right... or maybe offered the rifle in two different rates of twist - a faster rate of twist for shooting conical bullets and a slower rate of twist for shooting the patched round ball? What if serious muzzleloading hunters looking for an effective game-taking range of greater than 50 to 75 yards had been able to group more aerodynamic 350- to 450-grain conical bullets inside of 2 inches at 100 yards?
If Thompson/Center had actually spent a bit more time to research the fast-twist bullet shooting muzzeloading rifles of the 1840's and 1850's...and had built their Hawken to produce that kind of longer range accuracy...do you think the modern in-line rifles and saboted bullets would have taken over muzzleloading so quickly?
If you cut your muzzleloading teeth shooting a T/C Hawken, and especially if you continue to shoot and hunt with one of the rifles today, please share a few of your experiences - and what you settled on as the best shooting and best game-taking load. There are a few hundred thousand T/C traditional muzzleloader owners out there still looking for a super accurate big game hunting load. - Toby Bridges, TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
For True Hawken Styling & A True Patched Round Ball Bore ...
Check Out The Pedersoli .54 Rocky Mountain Hawken...
For A True Conical Bullet Shooting .50 Caliber Half-Stock ...
Check Out The Pedersoli 1-in-24 Twist .50 Caliber Missouri River Hawken ...
Many of our blog posts will be reasonably short Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting features, news from our industry, new product announcements, hunting regulation changes, maybe even a biography of an individual within the sport of muzzleloader hunting. In short ... if it pertains to shooting and hunting with an old style muzzleloader ... it could show up here!