Muzzleloader Accuracy

Muzzleloader Accuracy

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Just as it is important with loading cartridge shells that are highly accurate, you have to be very consistent in loading your muzzle loader. However, muzzleloader accuracy is affected by more than just good powder measuring. There are several things that can improve your muzzleloader accuracy.

Barrel Twist Rates

 Let's look at a patch round ball, but other than the patch, the same applies to soft lead conical also. Twist rate for a soft lead conical is 1 in 48 inches.  This is also the fastest rate that should be use for a patched round ball. Traditional twist rate for a patched round ball are 1 in 60 inches to 1 in 70 inches for longer a barrel. 

Black Power

The amount that you use will determine your accuracy. If you use too much, the powder will still be burning after your projectile leaves the barrel. This blast coming out behind your projectile can change the projectile's flight, knocking it off its path. Use too little powder, and your projectile has to coast out of your barrel. This will drastically affect how fast your ball will travel in its flight. Often stated in feet per second FPS.

With black powder, make sure that you always leave it in a sealed container. It will draw moisture; this will affect its burn rate and your accuracy too. Black powder and its substitutes are measured by volume, not by weight. However, if you know the volume by the amount, you can weigh it and measure out exact amounts that you use.

Pyrodex

Be aware that Pyrodex is lighter in weight than traditional black powder. However, it is still measured out in volume. So 80 grains by volume of black powder will have a heavier weight than 80 grains by volume of Pyrodex. This is why when you buy a pound of Pyrodex; you get more shots using the same load volume as black powder. Pyrodex has a higher ignition temperature than black powder also. This could make it harder to setoff than black powder in a traditional ignition setup, Nipple to drum screwed into the barrel. I have always used good old black powder. 


Cleaning

In order to maintain any accuracy at all, you must clean your barrel out in-between shots. I always will run a minimum of 3 clean patches in and out of my barrel between shots. Even while hunting I do this. This insures first that you will be able to drive your ball down the barrel. Along with making sure that the patch seals to the barrel while going down and coming out of the barrel.

Patches for Round Ball

Your patch must be thick enough to seal the ball to the grooves of the rifling. A good place to start is having a .015 thick patch with a ball diameter that is .01 smaller than the bore. A 50-caliber gun would use a .490 diameter ball patched with .015 material. Good patch material to use is Pillow Ticking, 100 percent cotton. 

To lube the patches, I use good gun oil. I will take a stack of rough-cut patch strips  and oil them up so there is oil everywhere. I then take them and place them between two blocks of wood. I squeeze these in a clamp over night and wipe the excess oil off before unclamping.

You must always trim your patches when loading your gun also. After you have poured your powder charge down the barrel, you will want to put your patch material over the muzzle. Set your round ball with the spur mark up. Drive your ball in the barrel until the ball is just flush with the muzzle. Take a good sharp knife and cut the excess patch material away. You now have a perfectly round patch that is even the whole way around the ball.

Putting it all together

To fine-tune the amount of powder to use first start at the lowest powder charge recommended by the gun manufacture. Shoot groups at 25 yards to start. You will want to shoot from a bench rest position. You are proving the rifle's loads,  not your shooting ability. 

You will want to make sure that you are using good loading practice with everything. If the ball runs down the barrel to easy you may want to go to a larger ball. If you have to drive the ball down the barrel, made sure to use a ramrod with a form on the end so not to flatten the ball out. Make sure to drive the ball all the way down to the powder.

Make sure you are not cutting the patch when driving the ball down. You will find shot patches about 10 yards out from your muzzle after shooting. They should not be burnt and have holes or tares in them. 

Once you are shooting a good tight group, shoot at 50 yards. You will want to start raising your powder charge until the shot group starts to open up. Back the powder charge down to your last tight group and you have it. Just remember that if you shoot a 2-inch group at 25 yards, you should shoot a 4-inch group at 50 yards. Out to 100 yards you will be at an 8-inch group. This is why you want to start at a fairly close range.

For hunting or field use, you can make up pre-measured powder loads. I use ½ inch diameter pvc pipe with caps on both ends. This will keep the powder dry, and save time in reloading. I will use a dry felt wad cut to the bore size between the patched ball and powder. This way the oil in the patch will not leach into the powder affecting the burn rate.

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