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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I picked-up my new 40 caliber Green Mountain barrel for my Hawken last week and I am very very pleased with the performance. The fit and finish is extraordinary. A bit longer than the original Hawken barrel but it balances quite well off-hand. I experimented with several loads beginning with 30 gr. at the range this week until I found one it really liked. After I got the sights dialed-in it shot a ragged hole with 4 shots off the bench at 50 yards. I was like a pig in you know what when I finished today.

My load:

40 gr. Swiss under a .395 round ball patched with an OX-YOKE lubed ticking at .018 and German caps.
 

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Never had a 40 but here they are the most accurate muzzy cal.
 

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Most accurate caliber?????

There's no doubt that a 40 cal is a great combination between accuracy and conservation of powder and lead. But I seriously doubt that there is a most accurate caliber. Maybe for a particular purpose at a particular range. A good squirrel & rabbit gun for sure.

I suspect that part of the reason for such praise is that there are no production guns in that caliber, so any such caliber barrel is usually a better than average barrel. The people generally buying them are better than average marksmen. I have a few guns that are capable of single ragged holes with 5 shots out to even 100 yds. None of them are 40 cal. Two 45's, yes.

Smaller calibers are too subject to slight variations in powder measurment, a common mistake of many shooters. 40's and smaller are also more prone to drifting due to cross wind.

I don't believe that there is such a thing as a most accurate caliber muzzleloader. I think a 40 is a great plinking and target caliber. But for 50 yds and under, I wouldn't say it is inherently better thn a 36 or 32.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Danke. Good information to know Zimmer. I'm a newbie with black powder rifles for the most part. I have shot a .50 flinter for years only to hit a "pie plate" for hunting. Only in the past year have got into the accuracy of these fine guns. I have a .50, a .45, now a .40 and I'm looking at a .32. Don't go away any time soon Zimmer. You are in my backyard and I would be very interested shooting with you.
 

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Perhaps a muzzleloader get together with some more folks. Bunky is just down the Delta pike from me. I've been meaning to meet up with him for some shooting. Loggy is just over the hill somewhere. Where are you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Just north of Lititz - a couple of hills north but an easy trek for sure. It sure would be fun.
 

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I grew up near Cornwall. Not far from those hills. Did alot of hunting over around Mt Gretna and Colebrook and up near the gap. Last time I was up that way, was the day the Alcoa plant burned south of Lebanon.
 

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Just adding a little to what Zimm said ... not only small variations in powder measure but variations in anything cause changes proportional to the caliber - IOW, the smaller the caliber, the smaller the variation that will cause loss of accuracy/consistency. I stress these points all the time:
1- Measure carefully.
2- Pour the powder in slowly, don't dump.
3- Inspect & protect your consumables. (patches all same thickness, balls checked for defects)
4- Don't beat the crap out of the consumables while loading.
5- Use consistent seating pressure.
6- Wipe the bore as often as necessary and the same way each time, don't let a carbon ring build-up.

It never ceases to amaze me at how some will spend months perfecting a centerfire rifle load by tweaking every little detail then wonder why their muzzleloader doesn't shoot accurately or consistently when they're just slopping, dumping and pounding.

About a month ago a client brought a .50 percussion sidelock into my shop claiming the barrel was "no good" and wanted to know if I could re-barrel it. Visual inspection didn't reveal anything of concern and it printed a 35yd group about 1.75". The client was amazed, said he couldn't get it to print any better than 6-7" at that range. Not only was he a dumper & pounder, the balls he had were poor quality castings to begin with and his letting them bang around in jar wasn't helping matters any either. After explaining everything he was doing wrong, he offered the common comment, "I didn't think it mattered all that much for a muzzleloader." I love that comment because I follow up with, "Bring me all your centerfire ammo, we're going to pull the bullets, throw them into a cement mixer and let them bang around for a while, all the powder is put into a bucket and randomly spooned back into each case ... then we're going to beat the bullets back into the cases with a hammer and see how accurate the rifle shoots." Of course that sound hideous because it is yet that's exactly what happens with ML's all the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Mark:
You made several very good points that I need to consider as well - especially how I carry the lead. I'm a nut case when it comes to precision with my hand loads for centerfire rifle and always make sure they are handled as gently as I do my rifles. Hence sub MOA. My hunting loads for flint or percussion are generally speed loaders so there is no bump and grind so to speak.

For a fun shoot or woods walk I thought about wrapping the balls in cloth inside an Altoids tin. You are probably laughing out loud. And I guess I'm a pounder since it takes me at least three strokes to get the ball and patch seated - it is rather tight. But, my groups are quite good and I'm guessing that they could get better? Possibly a smaller patch for more easier seating?

Thanks for sharing - much appreciated
 

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CML,

More often than not, the patch/ball combo doesn't need to be excessively tight fitting to the bore, you only need it tight enough to obtain a seal. The general rule of thumb starting point for load building is a 0.005" under bore ball and 0.010"-0.015" thick patch depending on the rifling groove depth. Most all barrels will work fairly well within that range, of course there are the oddballs and a certain amount of load building is necessary to figure out what works best.

When the patch/ball combo is too tight, the ball is deformed on loading which often leads to the shooter having to increase the powder charge in order to put enough RPM's on the ball so it flies correctly. This is one of the most common problems I see in small bores, the smaller balls are more easily deformed than larger ones. Earlier in the year I built a .36 flintlock for a client, he brought it back complaining that he needed to use 40gr of 3F to get it to group even half decent. A few problems were noted from the start, he was a dumper & pounder. Using a 0.355" ball and 0.020" duck patch, he had to smack the short starter so hard to get it going that it hurt my hand just watching. Then he used the ramrod like a piledriver to get it seated. For the second shot, I changed two things ... went to a 0.010" thick linen patch and showed him how to slowly pour the powder in the barrel rather than dump it. Loading was oh so much easier and whaddya know, he even found out that an 20gr charge worked perfectly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Mark...
Obviously my patch is too thick given your description. I do not need to pound excessively as you described but I thought it odd that much of the lube squished out around the muzzle on the initial seating. The rifling on this barrel has more depth than any of my factory barrels. I'm guessing that possibly I should should step back to at least a .010 and work from there.

Another variable - I have always used Ox-Yoke pre-lubed patches. And I have a hunting friend that only uses ticking (cut at the barrel) and spit. My groups are significantly tighter than his for the most part at the range but there are many other variable to consider.

I do cast my own balls (I'm sure I'll get feedback from this) from 99% pure lead which is quite soft as I'm sure you know. After you spoke to deformation my thought went directly to a visual of pounding this ball down the barrel. After casting, even a 12" drop to my workbench will deform the ball.

Mark, again,
Thanks for sharing your expertise
 

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sometimes a thicker patch is better with the deeper rifled barrels. Not necessarily a tight weave drill like ox yoke sells. a thick cotton flannel sometimes works better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks Zimmer. I'll look for the cotton flannel. And I truly appreciate the advice.
 

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CML,

Sorry for taking a while to get back to you, been putting in long hours in the shop. Lube squishing out of the patch isn't uncommon if the patches are well saturated with a more liquid lube. The weave of the patch does make a difference in how it will work in a given barrel. As Zimm said, going to a twill or flannel weave may work better because it's got more fluff. The material is more easily displaced from the area between the ball and rifling lands resulting in it compressing into the rifling grooves providing the gas seal - you're still getting a gas seal just in a different manner. Normally with a drill/duck type material, the patch material is not being displaced, it's being compressed with the higher compression happening between the ball and lands; in this situation, you're relying on the lesser area of compression between the ball and grooves being sufficient to seal the gas. They type of patching material used will definitely affect the way the load performs overall, not just the matter if you're getting a gas seal or not. I prefer starting with Dhaka muslin, it's quite versatile and generally works well in all calibers that are rifled or smoothbore. #2 drill will often suffice for 45 caliber and up smoothbore and barrels with standard depth rifling but will generally not work efficiently in deep rifling where it's often necessary to go with stressed duck or stressed raw (untreated) single-warp spun-weft Filson. 1/1 napped or unnapped twill for smoothbore or shallow groove of any caliber. 2/1 or 2/2 un-napped for deep groove in 45 caliber and up, napped for 45 caliber and under. It is very important that #1/#2 drill, Filson, duck and plain/sheeting weave fabrics be broken before use as patching, common pre-cut rounds & strips like CVA, T/C, Ox-Yoke, ect. are as-woven (un-broken) which is why one often needs to use excessive patch thickness to obtain an effective seal. Avoid any fabric that is unnaturally shiny, depending on how cotton is spun, it will have a natural sheen to it but if it's shiny, it's been treated with finishing agents that will often promote excessive fouling. On that same note, fabrics sold retail (in stores) are more often than not treated with sizing and finishing agents, both of which often cause fouling issues but more importantly they'll increase shot to shot deviation because of the varying friction factor between the patch and barrel.

I prefer raw Dhaka muslin cut at the muzzle. Getting a pre-cut round patch perfectly centered while loading is difficult and when the patch is too large as in using a 40-50 caliber patch in a 40 or 45 caliber, the excess flapped over the top of the ball often results in separation issues resulting in the ball being pushed off center of the bore by the patch as they separate. When done correctly, cutting at the muzzle eliminates excessive patch material issues - ball should be started only until it's flush or just slightly below flush with the muzzle, not more than 0.030".
 
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