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Black Powder - Muzzle Loaders

11788 Views 27 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  greyhawk50
Does anyone else enjoy shooting Black Powder Muzzle Loader Rifles??
Because of Ohio Deer Hunting Laws, I prefer a ML Rifle over a Slug Gun or Pistol.
I've owned several ML rifles over the years including at least 3 T/Cs. In an attempt to reduce my inventory, I now only have one. It is a Stainless CVA Optima with a Sight Mark Reflex Sight (not shown).


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I love it I have 3. My knight disc extreme,It will really kick with three Triple 7 50 grain pellets but i get better results with two 50 grain about fun!
I got my first ML back in the early 70s. It was a replica 58 cal. Zouave. At that time, I didn't care for the mess and the smell. That was before black powder substitutes.
In the past few years, I reacquainted with the joy of shooting "smoke poles".
However, in today's rifles, I use Pyrodex or 777. And with the Quick Release Breech Plug in the Optima, it's an easy clean. Shoot like a dream as well.
Here are a few that have come and went.
T/C High Plains Sporter 50 cal.
T/C Greyhawk 50 cal.
T/C Texas Scout 50 cal.


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I have a T/C Hawken in .54 caliber but I don't shoot it too much. I like the gun and would never get rid of it but that curved butt plate plays the devil on my shoulder. Looking back, a musket or shotgun butt would have been a better choice for me.
I have an 1842 Springfield Rifled Musket in .69 Caliber.
I have a Marlin MLS 50 cal inline. Killed several deer with it and love to shoot it.
Never got into smoke poles, but I have fired a few !!

If I ever buy will be a Pennsylvania .45 caliber

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I have Lyman plains rifle .54, hunted with it , but no luck.
I might take to range soon and practice.
greyhawk50, I got that same gun for my birthday in December and plan on hunting with it this fall instead of using shotgun. I have only got to shoot it once so far and I was just curious of what you have thought of it. So far I have really liked the gun. The only thing I didn't like was my rod got bent using it the first time from loading it. The rod just seems a little flimsy.

I assume that "got that same gun" refers to the CVA Optima.
I've owned several muzzle loaders and the CVA Optima is, by far, the best that I've ever owned. Actually, it's the only one that I have left. The T/C Texas Scout & the T/C Greyhawk went to my son. The Optima is easy to load / clean and is very accurate. The fiber optic iron sights are very nice plus you can add whatever optics that you want. I'm sure that other manufacturers make quality rifles but I'm very pleased with my CVA.
Sorry to hear about your ram rod. Bending or breaking is pretty common. It happens. I use a Ball Starter to push the Sabot down the barrel about 5" and then steady the rod about 6" above the muzzle with my weak hand while pushing with the other hand, it reduces the risk of damage. The only time that I use the factory ram rod is when I reload in the field while hunting. When I'm at the range, I use a 3 pc. cleaning rod. I'll attach a photo of my Range Box and it's contents. Here is a link to some pretty good information.
Please be careful because, being a muzzle loader, you are stepping into the beginning stages of "reloading" and if you deviate from recommended procedures, it can be dangerous to your health. Just follow the instructions.
The CVA Optima has a 1:28 twist and will shoot best with a Sabot (wad & bullet). The 1:28 twist seems to like the heavier bullets. Mine prefers the 240 gr. - 300 gr. bullets.
There are several Black Powder Substitute powders on the market but I normally use 90-100 gr. equivalent of Triple Seven or Pyrodex RS.
When at the range, I use the Range Rod. I see very little benefit to using more than 100 gr. eq. of powder. I clean the barrel with T17 Bore Cleaner and a patch after every shot (2-3 passes will be enough). This controls the fouling and makes every shot the same as the first, thus improving accuracy. It takes about 5-6 minutes to load, shoot & swab the barrel. That's 10 or more rounds per hour which makes for a fun day at the range w/o spending a ton of money. About every 8-10 shots and after final cleaning (before storing), I coat the barrel wit T17 Natural Lube 1000 Plus. This helps cure and lube the barrel plus it prevents rust in the barrel when stored.
The 100 gr. eq. of 777 give you performance similar to a 44 mag. carbine. When you consider the performance of the early 45-70 (45 cal. & 70 gr. black powder) or even the 45-90, you have a formidable hunting rifle.


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No... You better go check your safe. Haha, yes I also have the CVA optima with the stainless barrel, not your gun. I was also really pleased by the fiber optic sights on the gun, they are so vivid. Thanks for all the extra, great information. I like the idea of having the starter. It sounds like it might actually quicken the reloading process some, I will definitely have to look into getting one of those. Where did you get yours?
Yep, it's still there. I guess that is why they call it a "safe". :))
Ball Starters aren't hard to find. I've owned several different ones. I've picked them up at gun shows, sporting goods stores and even Wally World. I've even made my own with 3/8" dowel rod and a chunk of stairway handrail. It worked OK for Round Ball Guns but you need one that will take the screw-in jag for the newer Ballistic Tip Bullets like the T/C Shock Wave that I like to use.
I'm not fond of the Plastic "T" handle types that are more common these days. Although I do own one, they are handy for the Day Pack when in the field, they are uncomfortable at the Range.
Did you notice the short "nub" on my Ball Starter?? Most people don't know what it is for. If you are shooting a Pa., Ky. or any Round Ball Rifle, where you use a clothe patch and a ball, it is used to seat the ball at the correct depth before cutting off the clothe even with the end of the barrel. It's of no use on a rifle that shoots Conical Bullets or Sabots. Just thought you might want to know??
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Just a little more info;
When I'm getting ready for the hunt, I fire 2-3 primers through my rifle before I load it. This removes any oil or moisture. Then I load it (all except the primer). In my state, the rifle isn't considered loaded until the primer is installed. I have a small belt pack that I use. It holds 3 wads, 3 bullets, the triple Quick Load Tubes with the desired amount of powder & 3 primers and a ball starter. As far as the rifle goes, that's all you need in the field. Then I load my other gear - knife, drag rope, yada, yada, yada. Then the Range Box with all the other stuff goes in the truck. Most likely, 4 shots is more than enough for one day afield. If it isn't, it's time to go back to the truck for a break. Eat a sandwich, have a Coke, clean your rifle, restock the fanny pack and put your head back on straight. :p By the way, if you hunt in areas that are cold, remove the primer before you put the rifle in the truck, and then leave it in the truck over-night. If you take it in the house at night, where it is warm, moisture will collect through the primer hole, into the powder and foul your load. Just saying. It happened to my son.
About rifle barrel twist; There are always exceptions, but it's been my experience:
The Old Long Rifles generally had a 1:66" twist best suited for Patch & Round Balls.
Newer Side Lock Rifles generally have a 1:48" twist, again, best suited for Patch & Round Ball. Might shoot well with a Conical Bullet???
Some later models have a 1:38" twist. They shoot a Patch & Round Ball very well. They also like Conical Bullets. They will, sometimes, shoot a Sabot well if you select a bullet of 200 gr. or less. (that is my experience)
Our CVA Optima and most newer rifles have a 1:28" twist and generally shoot best with Sabots and a bullet of 240 gr. or heavier. Like 240 gr., 250 gr., 295 gr., or 300 gr. (the heavier bullets maintains better energy at longer ranges)
Just buy a variety in smaller packs and see what works best. Once you find what it likes, you can buy the wads, (50/pack) and the bullets (100/pack) and save on the cost. Midway USA or Cabela's should have them. The wads come in different colors depending on whether you choice a .429" (44 cal. - green) bullet of a .452" (45 cal. - black) bullet. I've seen no difference in accuracy based on bullet diameter but weight really does matter. You might select one diameter over another based on bullet design and impact performance.
I hope this helps.

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I actually did notice the nubs on your ball starter but I would have never guessed the use of them. Good information about the condensation from moving it from cold to warm, I live in Minnesota so yeah I would say it gets cold here! I'm not sure if I understand what you are talking at the end when you say different sized bullets. I am pretty new to black power so maybe I don't understand this but I thought that it was a 50 cal so wouldn't you only be able to use the 50 cal bullets? Thanks for all the great info again though!
I'm not sure if I understand what you are talking at the end when you say different sized bullets. I am pretty new to black power so maybe I don't understand this but I thought that it was a 50 cal so wouldn't you only be able to use the 50 cal bullets? Thanks for all the great info again though!

I don't want to confuse you or discourage you with too much information.
Yes, your rifle is a 50 caliber - but; The bore is .500" +/-, based on manufacturing variances.
The old 50 cal. round ball guns use a ball that is about .490" and a patch that varied from .013" to .015". Shooters would select the thickness of patch material based on ease of loading vs tight fit to assure proper gas seal.
Today's rifles use a plastic wad with an overall OD of about .500" with a cupped base to provide the gas seal. The pedals on the wad vary in thickness based on the diameter of the bullet. The most common bullets are 44 cal. (.429" or .430") or 45 cal. (.452").
I was checking Cabela's web sight and it looks like they have simplified the choices. Marketing strategy.
Hornady has come out with a .50 cal. bullet that doesn't use a sabot (wad). Cool. :));IK-215067
So; to begin with. I suggest using 100 gr. eq. of Triple Seven Powder. You can use the preformed pellets. They come as 50/50 or 50/30 (first # is caliber and the second # is grains equivalent). Use 2 of the 50/50 pellets. Wal-Mart carries them in season although, Gander Mountain has a good selection of BP supplies year around.;Search-All+Products
You can use the Triple Seven granular powder and a black powder measure - but - the mfg. recommends "no more than" 100 gr. eq. of granular. Any more than 100 grains will not ignite properly. I can explain if you like.
Then buy any muzzle loader .50 cal. bullet or Sabot. I like T/C Shock Wave but there are many to chose from. I generally get mine at Wal-Mart.
After you get comfortable with the rifle, I can help you with more info. but for now, keep it simple and enjoy.

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Being that I really like to help others, I was thinking about your getting started with the Optima. It's difficult to explain everything on here. I recommend that you watch the CVA Training Videos that I shared earlier.
Aside from that, just 2 words of caution;
1; Never overload the powder charge. 100 gr. BP eq. is more than enough unless you are hunting Bear or Moose.
2; Make sure that your bullet is seated firmly on top of the powder. Seat the Ram Rod firmly on the bullet and mark it so that you can do a quick visual check after each load. An air gap between the bullet and powder causes extreme pressure and can be dangerous to your health.

I was checking on-line for .50 cal. bullets w/o the Sabot (wad). Actually, there are several. See what you have done. You've peaked my interest. I'll have to order some and plan a trip to the range.:p;Search-All+Products;Search-All+Products;Search-All+Products

I think I'll try the Hornady® .50-Caliber FPB Black-Powder Bullet with Flex Tip Technology and the Hornady® Great Plains Bullets.


I am with you with the no more than 100gr powder because I hear that if you go over that the other powder will just burn up as it leaves the barrel giving a large muzzle flash with no benefit to pushing along the bullet. Thanks for all the information again. I will definitely have to check those videos out. I do like the look and sound of those Horadays too, they are even on sale right now!
True or false???? I'm not sure & I don't want to try it. But, they claim that a muzzle loading rifle can't be overloaded with Real Black Powder. They claim that the excess powder will burn after it leaves the barrel????
However, I believe that a muzzle loader can be over charged with the Black Powder Substitutes of today. Here is a link that only confuses the issue further.
I believe that 100 gr. of real black powder weighs about 100 gr. actual.
However, By volume, the same amount of Triple Seven weighs about 70 gr. actual.
Not sure about Pyrodex or other substitutes. By volume, there is a notable difference even with the same mfg. between Fg, FFg (Pyrodex RS = Rifle/Shotgun) and FFFg (Pyrodex P = pistol powder).
I'm not aware of any Powder Mfg. that will recommend more than 100 gr. eq. in any rifle. Most likely a legal precaution.
The rifle mfg.s advertize the Magnum Rifles as being safe with 3 ea. 50 gr. Pellets. (150 gr. eq. max.) By design, the pellets are under bore size with a hole in the middle. This allows the ignition spark to attack the pellets from the sides and from the middle, thus causing a uniform burn of all 3. However, if you use granular powder, it becomes a solid mass when compacted and only burns from the back > forward. Therefore, anything more than 100 gr. eq. will most likely exit the barrel before it burns.
Here are a few example of the Optima's abilities. All of these shots were with the Iron Sights. The Bulls Eye Stickers are 2" dia.
Plenty good enough for large game. (MOD = Minute of Deer) :p



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I was taking about using the pelleted powder. I think it was a gunsmith in a Cabela's possibly that was saying the extra power (150gr vs. 100gr) will just produce a larger muzzle flash and no extra "umph" for the bullet. This was befor I had my muzzleloader so I wasn't listening very intently, big mistake, but I think he was exposing the optimal flash length so you know you aren't just burning powder for fun. I guess I am just trying to say the size of your muzzle flash can be indicative to the effectiveness at which your powder is burning. Please don't quote me on any of this, but I believe this is what I heard.
True or false???? I'm not sure & I don't want to try it. But, they claim that a muzzle loading rifle can't be overloaded with Real Black Powder. They claim that the excess powder will burn after it leaves the barrel????


Generally speaking you can not over load with the True Black Powder. I wouldn't place money on that with Sub's. Pyrodex etc.

To find out if your wasting powder lay some white butcher paper out on the ground 12 to 15 feet in front of the muzzel. Fire a standard load from it. If you find un burnt powder or partial burnt charcoal. Then you have used to much powder. This is powder just wasted. It has no usefullness in your load. Severe overloads could bring on other issues, like an obstruction fail.

@Greyhawk it's been over 20 years since I lived in Ohio. I used a muzzel loader for hunting thru the normal gun season plus the 2 primative weapon seasons. Sometimes taking 2 guns to a stand with me.
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