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I have a deposit on a custom made muzzleloader that is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. It is unfired, but over 30 years old. I'm a lefty and to find one that is left handed is even more of a rarity. It was made with a heavy barrel in .45 caliber and that is the rub. I like everything about it but the caliber. I've already got a price to rebore it to either .50 or .54 at a very reasonable number but have also been thinking about having another barrel made for it and keeping the original barrel as it came from the maker.

What I'd like to know is what experience does anyone have with actually shooting PA sized deer with a .45 caliber roundball. Good, bad or otherwise.
 

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My long gun of choice is a .45 Kentucky rifle that my father finished from a kit. That flintlock has killed a couple of dozen deer with the little patched round balls. Most experts attack the little 127 grain patched roundballs it shoots, but it's a very accurate gun, and I've had deer drop in their tracks out to 80 yds with it. In fact, as far as lethal energy, I shot a doe at very close range several years ago (5 yds) facing me straight on. The ball entered the front center of the chest, traveled the length of the body, destroyed her right hip joint, and that's where I found most of my lead ball. I've had centerfire rifles not penetrate like that. Beware the light ball does lose velocity and energy quickly down range. For close to moderate ranges (inside 100 yds), I've found it sufficient. I shoot 90 grains of FFg. I've never chrono'd it or done the math to figure out the KE, but dead deer don't exactly lie, either. As far as I can recall, that load/gun only ever lost one deer and that was due to a low hit (high on the front leg) and that deer was killed by us the following day. Don't feel handicapped, but choose your shots. A a side note, I also prefer 45 cal for my in-lines, though they are packing much heavier loads.
 

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I have a friend that has taken many whitetails with his T/C hawken .45, I think he loads with 70 grain 3F under patched roundballs. He never seemed under gunned over the years. I don't think the deer could tell either
 

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An old flintlock rifle maker friend of mine once told me ".50+ caliber is what they used to kill the buffalo with. You don't need that much of a gun for deer. .45 is plenty powerful.".
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for your feedback guys. Keep it coming if you have an opinion or story to tell.
 

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45 caliber round ball will easily get the job done on deer. Lordy it is almost a 1/2" hole without any expansion. Only problem is the down range energy. It falls off fast with smaller projectiles.

Personally I prefer conicals for deer hunting. Regardless of caliber. 45, 50, or 54 caliber a conical is my choice. And in 45 caliber a heavy conical is every bit as effective-even at longer ranges(possibly better at longer range).

Try a good heavy conical for your deer hunting. You should be able to get one to shoot without much of a problem. Tom.
 

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A 45 PRB is more than adequate. You won't have the range a larger ball may have, but then again you are NOT hunting Antelope on the open plains. Around 70 to 85 gr is about right without being too heavy in recoil.

A custom rifle is likely to have a good barrel. It would be a shame to drill out a perfectly good barrel for something as trivial as a minor bore size adjustment.
 

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egward said:
An old flintlock rifle maker friend of mine once told me ".50+ caliber is what they used to kill the buffalo with. You don't need that much of a gun for deer. .45 is plenty powerful.".
But you never heard of them being killed with just one shot
 

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My 45 flintlock uses a .435 round ball.

It has killed 13 deer, never needed a follow up shot. Longest measured kill 123 yards. I use pure lead balls and cotton patch.
 

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My experience is that I shot a Doe square through the Heart with a .54. It ran a good 75 yards before piling up. I have shot at least five Doe with my .45, using 60 grs. of 3F, and none went more that 25-30 yds. Yes, it will do the job. The furtherest shot , with the .45, was at least 60 yds. Personally, that is about the limit of my ability....
 

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I have 2 .45 cal custom built longrifles, 1 flinter and the other percussion. I shoot a .440 hand cast PRB over 70 gr FFF Black powder in both and they do a great job, if I do my part with very very little recoil. As with any rifle it is all about shot placement. If you wait till you have a double lung shot the deer will never know the difference between a .45 or a .50 it will be dead either way.

As a side note I shoot 35 gr when I am plinking just to keep in practice, no recoil and fun to shoot.
 

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If I had to choose 1 caliber out of the 32,36,45,50,54,and 58 to kill deer with that I have.It would be the 45.I use 50 grs of powder but have herd others that use 30grs and have complete pass thru.
I know the 32 and 36 will kill them but they are not legal here in PA.
Its not so much what you hit them with as where you hit them.
 

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if you can geta copy of last jan.[i think] copy of pa game news they had a great peice on 45cal vs the 50 and 54cal over all is said the 45 was just as good if not better in some thing if you get a copy well worth it
 

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I ahve that Game News around here somewhere. As I recall though, the figures given were just at the muzzle. According to the Lyman Black Powder handbook for subsonic loads, a 45 cal loses roughloy 55% of it's muzzle energy by 100 yds. A 50 cal round ball loses roughly half and a 54 cal loses roughly 46% at 100 yds. A 75 cal loses only 25% at 100 yds. (see a pattern?) Couple that with the weight of the ball used to figure the ft/lbs at 100yds andd it is easy to see that the larger the ball the further down range it carries it's energy.

The Game news article was good for as far as it went. But to me what counts isn't so much at the muzzle as down range. There are other factors, such as how much powder can be burned in a given length barrel. A 54 caliber barrel can burn more powder in a 28 inch barrel than in a 45 cal barrel of the same length. If you put 80 grains of powder in a 28 inch 45 caliber barrel the powder charge takes up almost three inches of the barrel, leaving only 25 inches for the ball to travel before muzzle exit. In a 54 caliber barrel, that same powder charge only takes up about two inches, leaving 26 inches of barrel for the ball to travel before muzzle exit. In addition, as powder burns from rear to front at a uniform pace, it will consume the 80 grains behind the 54 ball before it comsumes the powder behind the 45 ball. There comes a point at which higher 100 yd energy in foot pounds can be attained with the same or even less powder and a heavier larger caliber ball. In addition, the hole left by the larger ball is more likely to cause rapid blood loss and shock, even if not a drop dead shot.

So we generally say that the larger thhe batter for hunting. However, at shorter ranges, the smaller faster moving balls have some advantages. Less trajectory, because they are smaller, they penetrate into the body mass a little eassier. The success rate of those who use them seems to be pretty good.
 
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