A Web Magazine Specifically For The Traditional Muzzleloading Hunter!
How many of you have had to get extremely creative in order to hunt with "a muzzleloader" this fall ... due to the shortage of just about everything muzzleloading?
Think about how tough the settlers and explorers of North America had it during the 1700's .... especially when they lived a hundred miles or several hundred miles from the nearest settled area (city) where they could buy or trade for powder and lead for their muzzleloading rifles. It's a good bet that most tried to keep a good supply on hand ... and that they guarded that supply ... and sure as heck didn't foolishly waste it. Hopefully the majority of you foresaw what was happening back in 2020 and hoarded away the much needed loading components to keep your frontstuffer stoked and ready to go. NOW ... even knowing someone who has a couple of years supply on hand doesn't mean much ... because it is unlikely they'll share what they realize could be impossible to replace any time soon.
That short ... light .... and fast handling half-stock rifle shown above is the percussion .50 caliber Hawken Woodsman offered by Traditions. It has kind of become my traditional "Go In After 'Em" muzzleloading deer rifle. When I first got the rifle five or six years ago, I found that it shot the Hornady swaged 178-grain .490" soft lead balls, with a .015" lubed cotton patch, very well. At 50 yards, shooting from a bench, I could keep hits inside of an inch ... most days anyway. One afternoon, as I browsed through a new Ballistic Products catalog, I discovered a page listing all sorts of "swaged buckshot" diameters ... including .490" diameter. I had one of the 8-pound containers sent to me ... and found that using the very same 80-grain charge of GOEX FFg black powder ... those patched swaged lead balls shot just as well.
One of my favorite Montana deer hunting spots is along the Musselshell River in West-Central Montana. On an eight or nine day hunt there, I would concentrate on filling my buck tag first ... typically using a scope sighted modern in-line muzzleloader. Then, I would get busy to fill a couple of doe tags ... often using the Traditions .50 Hawken Woodsman rifle. Those swaged .490" diameter pellets put those does down every bit as well as the Hornady swaged .490" lead balls.
Here's the only real difference I could tell between the two ... the cost!
One of the 8-pound containers consists roughly of 315 of those 178-grain spheres of swaged lead. That container sells for $38.99 ... and shipping adds right at $10 - bringing the cost of those 315 .490" diameter balls to roughly $49.00. For just the ball ... that would be about 15 1/2 cents per shot. The Hornady .490" swaged round balls retail for $20 per box of 100 ... with a shipping cost of around $5. Cost per shot, just for the ball, would be right around 25-cents.
I'll bet right about now there are a lot of .50 caliber patched round ball rifle shooters wishing they had an 8-pound jug of those lead balls sitting on a shelf. Ballistic Products also has .440" diameter (for .45 rifles) ... and .310" diameter (for .32 caliber rifles) available. Likewise ... if you would happen to own and still shoot an older rifle of an odd-ball bore size ... the company offers a couple of dozen other diameters, from .160" to .500".
The tube sighted rifle shown here is definite one of my favorite muzzleloaders. A dear old friend built the rifle and made the sight (which is not a scope) ... and gave it to me shortly before passing away. Some 25 years earlier, I had given him an old original circa 1830-1840 .31 caliber Remington barrel ... which he finally got around to using on his "Last Rifle". The barrel had a fast 1-in-24 twist ... and he had been shooting a 92 grain .32 caliber lead bullet ... swaged down to fit the .31 caliber bore. With 30-grains of FFFg ... The rifle was a tack driver at 50 yards. My friend had built it for hunting groundhogs (a.k.a. Eastern Woodchucks).
My plans for the rifle were a little different. Where I have been living in Northwest Montana for the last 14 years, it is legal to hunt fall turkeys with a rifle. I wanted to shoot a patched round ball out of the little .32 caliber rifle ... at a velocity that would pretty much duplicate the ballistics of a standard velocity .22 Long Rifle round.
Only problem was ... no one offered a .300" diameter ball ... or a mould for casting a ball that size. Or ... so I thought. I discovered that Ballistic Products offered swaged No. 1 Buck ... which is .300" in diameter ... and the "pellet" weight was 40-grains. With FFFg black powder charges of 12 to 18 grains ... the rifle and patched .300" diameter swaged buckshot was still a tack driver to 50 yards! A few days before Christmas 2017 ... and with more than a week of fall turkey season still open, I managed to get within 18 yards of the big tom shown above right. I had the rifle loaded with 18 grains of GOEX FFFg ... and waited for the tom to turn broadside ... and put the tiny swaged lead ball right where the facing wing attached to the 24-poubd bird. When the rifle barked ... the big bird dropped into the fresh layer of snow.
It was a Christmas to remember ... and each Christmas since I have managed to put another bird on the table ... using this rifle and Ballistic Products' No. 1 buckshot.
As I write this, I have just about gotten all of my things packed and ready for a move back to the Midwest. While I won't be able to use this rifle on fall turkeys back there ... come next September when the fox and gray squirrels are up in the hickory trees cutting away ... I'll be using this rifle and sight to knock a few of them off of those lofty limbs. I've lived the dream of living in the Rocky Mountains for nearly 15 years now ... but I have accepted that I'm not a young man any longer. The winters here are too long for me ... and the summer fire season too hard on me. This is my last piece to be published on this site until early December. Take care ... enjoy a great hunting season ... and I'll catch up with you once I'm far, far on the other side of the Great Divide. - Toby Bridges, TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
If you own and shoot a .32 caliber small game rifle, the Ballistic Products swaged .310" diameter No. 1 1/2 Buck could be a real money saver for you. One of the 8-pound bottles contains right at 1,244 of those 45-grain swaged balls. The container sells for $38.99 ... and will take right at $10 to have it shipped. So, for $49.00 ... your cost per shot for just the ball would be less than 4-cents a shot. That's less than half of the retail cost of Hornady .310" swaged balls. And you would probably have a lifetime supply!
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!