By Toby Bridges - Host
TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
As I write this, spring bear season here in Northwest Montana opens in just two weeks. I normally do not get into seriously hunting black bear this time of the year ... until the first of May. The bigger and better bears here in the Northern Rockies den much higher on the mountains ... where 3 or 4 feet of snow likely still covers their denning spots. Those bears will almost immediately head down the mountain to find tender green grasses to feed on ... just as soon as they do leave their dens. But ... that's typically not until early May.
I hunt with both modern and traditional muzzleloaders, and for each spring bear season I will have at least one of each set up and sighted in for the typical 40 to 75 yard shots that I will take. This spring, my "Traditional Bear Rifle" is that Pedersoli built Dixie Gun Works percussion .54 caliber Early American Jaeger rifle shown above. I had planned to do quite a bit of shooting with the rifle by now (early April), but like many (probably the majority) of you, I just could not find what I had really planned to shoot out of the rifle. There are a couple of honest 500+ pound bears in the mountain valley where I do most of my bear hunting ... and since this rifle has a fast 1-in-24 twist bore, shooting a hunting charge of 80- to 100-grains of GOEX FFg black powder behind anything other than a conical bullet was (and is) out of the question.
The bullet I truly wanted to shoot out of the rifle ... and hunt bear with ... is the .54 caliber 380-grain Lee REAL (Rifling Engraved At Loading) Bullet. That's a drawing of the design I sketched back in 1985, for my book ADVANCED MUZZLE LOADER'S GUIDE. Now and then you can find someone offering pre-cast bullets of this design ... but anyone wanting to shoot and hunt with any of the REAL Bullets (offered in .45, 50, .54, .58 caliber) is most likely faced with buying a mould and casting the bullets. So I went directly to the Lee Precision website (www.leeprecision.com) ... and immediately knew that I was in trouble. Every mould they offer was marked "Out of Stock". I went to Midway USA ... "Out of Stock". I contacted Dixie Gun Works ... "Out of Stock."
No one has the Lee Precision moulds in stock ... not even Lee Precision. Now, from following the shortage or total unavailability of almost anything that's "Shooting & Hunting" related on the internet, it's very clear that the anti-gun and anti-hunting Socialist-Communist-Democrat governmental regime now in power in Washington D.C. is in full attack mode against our 2nd Amendment Rights, and if we find hunting and shooting our "pursuit of happiness" ... against our Constitutional Rights as a whole.
If you voted for the Biden-Harris ticket ... or just about any other Democrat running for office ... SHAME ON YOU!
Still determined to hunt bear with the fast-twist .54 Early American Jaeger, I began digging through the thousands of projectiles I keep on hand, hoping to find a few "other" .54 caliber lead conicals I thought I might still have stored away. The truth is, the only .54 caliber rifles I have shot since moving to Montana in 2007 have been my Pedersoli .54 Rocky Mountain Hawken patched round ball rifle ... and a short and fast handling .54 modern in-line rifle built on a Knight Disc Extreme action - the Green Mountain Limited Edition .54 "Brush Rifle". I knew I had no reason to still have any traditional .54 lead conical bullets ... but I kept looking anyway ... and when I came across a small cache of Harvester Muzzleloading .451" diameter 400-grain Hard Cast flat-nosed lead bullets ... I knew I had found the solution (shown at right)
During a 2008 hunt with the Green Mountain/Knight Disc Extreme .54 "Brush Rifle" I had dropped a dandy 8-point buck at just 19 yards. The big bullet had driven the buck straight to the ground ... right where it stood.
I went into my supply of Harvester Muzzleloading sabots and found a package of the company's .54x.45 High Pressure Sabots ... and I was off to the range. In 2016, I had taken a good bear with the big saboted lead bullet at just 23 or 24 yards ... putting it down hard and fast - but that was with a modern in-line rifle as well ... a Cooper .50 caliber Model 22ML ... shooting the bullet with a black Harvester muzzleloading .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot.
For shooting the saboted bullet out of the Pedersoli built modern Jaeger copy, I decided to switch from GOEX FFg black powder to Hodgdon FFg Triple Seven ... to get just a little more velocity to get the heavy sleeves of the .54x.45 sabot to open more quickly. And to insure ignition of the slightly harder to ignite black powder substitute, I removed the No. 11 cap nipple and installed a musket cap nipple. As you can see in the above right photo, the larger winged musket cap contains a lot more of that explosive compound which puts a lot more and a hotter flame through the rifle's "drum & nipple" ignition system.
My first shots with the saboted 400-grain Hard Cast bullet were powered by 80 grains of FFg Triple Seven. Ignition was spontaneous ... both of my first two shots on a sighter target, at 50 yards, were about 1/2 inch below my aiming point ... so I filed the top of the front sight blade just enough that you could tell it had been filed. My next two shots were right at the bottom of the "X". I stroked off just a bit more steel from the top of the blade ... stapled up a new target ... and went for a three shot group.... shooting a 90-grain charge of the powder. Note ... I did run a lightly dampened patch down after each shot, followed with a dry one. Then the rifle was loaded for the next shot ... with the same bore wipe routine before loading shot No. 3.
At left ... that's my first 3-shot 50-yard group punched with the Pedersoli-Dixie .54 Jaeger ... 90-grains of FFg Triple Seven ... and the saboted Harvester Muzzleloading 400-grain Hard Cast lead bullet. I plan to begin my bear hunting season the evening of May 1. Before then, I'll probably only get to the range one more time with this rifle ... and plan to load and shoot the same powder charge and bullet ... but use Harvester Muzzleloading's .54x.45 Crush Rib Sabot ... which I consider the best sabot available today.
I'm very pleased how all of this worked out. While I still plan to work up a somewhat more traditional bore-sized conical bullet hunting load for this rifle ... at least I will be hunting with a lead bullet this spring. If a good bear does work through the well used travel corridor I tend to favor, 60 yards is likely the longest shot I would have to take. The closest shot could be at just 10 or 15 yards. I've been disappointed about a number things lately, one being that a two month search could not turn up one Lee Precision mould for the 380-grain REAL bullet. But mostly, I've been disappointed in the manner in which the Democrat Party has been hell bent to destroy this country and our Constitution.
About this time next year, campaigning for the 2022 Mid-Term Elections will begin to heat up ... and I predict we're in for a lot of violence. The Socialist-Communist brain washers now controlling Washington D.C. are sure to try full confiscation of our firearms ... so stockpile ... horde ... and hide all you can ... and keep just enough at hand for emergency use. Let's make their lives as miserable as they have made our's ... and take back the House and Senate in November 2022. The Biden-Harris administration will forever stand as a reminder of how this country has totally wasted their four years. And if they continue to get even more brazen and more stupid about our right to "Keep and Bear Arms" ... it is the duty of All Real Americans to remind them of why we have a Second Amendment.
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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!