Here at NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING we regularly hear from somewhat traditional muzzleloading hunters who want to know about shooting modern plastic saboted bullets out of a traditionally styled rifle. While they may have gravitated toward the historical looks and feel of a side-hammer rifle, they simply want to know how they can make that rifle perform more like a modern in-line rifle.
It seems the majority of those who have had such thoughts own one of the old Thompson/Center Hawken rifles, which the company proclaimed could be shot with accuracy with either a patched round ball...or a squat pure-lead conical bullet that T/C had dubbed the Maxi-Ball. According to the company, this dual projectile versatility was due to the 1 turn in 48 inches rate of twist rifling.
Through the 1970's and 1980's, I've owned...shot...and hunted with a half-dozen different T/C Hawken rifles - one a .45 caliber, the others all .50 caliber. To be honest, not one of those rifles shot "great" with either projectile. Several of the .50 caliber rifles did produce acceptable accuracy with one of the 370-grain Maxi-Ball conicals...but would not shoot a patched round ball with any degree of accuracy. Just the opposite was true of several other of the .50 caliber T/C Hawken rifles.
The fact is, a 1-in-48 inches rifling twist is way too slow to get optimum accuracy with a bullet that is longer than it is in diameter...and that rate of twist is too fast for optimum accuracy with a patched round ball. And that pretty much covers that. Likewise, that rate of twist is not conducive to accuracy with modern saboted bullets.
Now, the percussion Missouri River Hawken shown here, produced by Davide Pedersoli & Co., is a different story. This is a true bullet shooting .50 caliber traditionally styled rifle (shown here with an 1850's style telescopic rifle sight - from Hi-Lux Optics). This rifle is built with a 1 turn in 24 inches rate of rifling twist. This is not a patched round ball rifle. That's not to say that you couldn't get decent accuracy with it at 25 yards, shooting light 30 or 40 grain charges of black powder. But, that rate of rifling twist is way too fast for shooting 80 to 90 grain hunting charges with a patched ball. Best accuracy with a patched ball .50 caliber rifle requires a rifling twist of 1-in-60 to 72 inches.
When it comes to "traditional projectiles", what this rifle shoots best is a heavy elongated conical pure lead bullet. My favorite is a cast 480-grain bullet that comes from the mold fitting the bore just loose enough that I can paper patch the big slug - and with a 80- or 90-grain charge of GOEX FFg black powder, I have shot some 100 and 200 yard groups that many in-line rifle and saboted bullet shooters would be proud to claim. (Keep in mind, most of the modern in-line muzzleloaders come with a 1-in-28 twist...and some have been built with a 1-in-24 twist...the same twist as found in this rifle.)
For more on loading and shooting the fast-twist bullet shooting Missouri River Hawken with a traditional 1840-1850's bullet design, go to the following link -
When I first started shooting this rifle back in late summer 2007, I really did not have a great supply of proper bore-sized conical bullets - but did play around with it enough that I was confident I would get it to shoot with exceptional accuracy. That fall, I decided to experiment and see how well the 1-in-24 twist bore would shoot with the saboted bullet shown above - the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold from Harvester Muzzleloading.
My first shooting sessions, shooting 90-grains of GOEX FFFg black powder encouraged me to mount the long Hi-Lux Optics 1850's style 6x William Malcolm scope on the rifle. Before installing the period correct "telescopic rifle sight", I had hunted with the open sights of the Missouri River Hawken, taking a big doe at about 60-yards with a well placed 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold. I became a man on a mission...to get the 30-inch heavy barreled fast-twist Hawken to shoot a saboted bullet with the accuracy of a modern in-line rifle at 100 yards...and I almost accomplished that. Several of the groups shot, with the traditional Hi-Lux scope on the rifle, loading black powder charges, were 2 to 2 1/2-inches center-to-center at that distance - and some of the best accuracy I had ever gotten with a traditional muzzleloader.
That winter (in February 2008), I made the move to Montana - and really did not get in any range time until mid spring. One of the first rifles I started shooting was the long Malcolm scoped .50 caliber Missouri River Hawken - shooting charges of FFFg and FFg Triple Seven. To achieve consistent spontaneous ignition, I had to install a musket nipple and switch to the larger and hotter CCI winged musket caps. With FFFg Triple Seven, 90 grains was the hottest charge I shot, while I went up to 110-grains of FFg Triple Seven.
So, if you've been looking for a very, very traditional looking muzzleloading big game hunting rig that's capable of producing modern in-line rifle accuracy...shooting modern loading components...be sure to check from time to time the October published article/report listings at the 2015-ARTICLES-REPORTS link at the top of this page. - Toby Bridges, NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
This Post Brought To You By...
Featured Muzzleloader Above - Pedersoli Percussion Magnum 10-Gauge Double
Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
This blog is made possible by Davide Pedersoli & Co., Dixie Gun Works, Traditions Firearms, Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., October Country, and Hodgdon/GOEX powders. The topics presented here will be devoted entirely to shooting and hunting with muzzleloading guns of pre- 1860's design.