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#1 Geoff / TBow

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 03:25 PM

Being new to the sport of muzzleloading, I have a heap of questions that may sound like old hat to most of you, but she's all virgin territory to yours truly and I'm thirsty for knowledge!

Anyhow, my question, or questions, involve black powder pellets:

1. Many of my friends have been using 2 black powder pellets, but are toying with using 3. Is there a significant improvement in muzzle velocity in using the 3 pellets over the 2?

2. I have been told that some firearms may not handle the 3 pellets due the increased energy and that the breeches won't handle it. True or false?

3. Are there any disadvantages to using 3 pellets over 2, other than the increased cost or additional kick?

4. I have been told that one disadvantage in using 3 pellets as opposed to 2, in a short barreled gun, is that the powder does not have enough time to burn, so some of the powder is actually still igniting outside of the barrel, or does not burn at all. I assume this would equate to wasted energy and certainly a nod towards using 2 pellets rather than 3 in a short barrelled gun. Yes? No?

5. Is this phenomenon of short barrel vs long barrel correct when it comes to powder burning? Are longer barrels more efficient with regards to burning larger powder charges?

I'm aware that longer barrels are more accurate vs short barrels and that rifling makes a heap of difference in bullet velocity and accuracy. My major concern in this post is only in regards to the powder burning characteristics of short vs long barrels.

Geoff / TBow
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#2 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 11:24 AM

Wow Geof you sure do have some questions. Hey don't worry about it though cause that is how we all learn. First of all I have a slight correction to your post. That is your statement about pellets. Here is an attempt to further your education. There are a number of powders that can be used in a muzzleloader not counting the smokeless powder that your rifle is capable of using.

I keep them separated in my mind into two categories.

Black Powder: there are several manufacturers of this powder. Goex being one of the most popular. This powder comes only in a powder configuration no pellets.
Black powder is all the same except for Granulation. There are at least 4 different granulations from 1f (cannon powder) 2f. Best for 50 cal and bigger, 3 f best for 50 cal and smaller, and 4f which is used by flintlock shooters as a priming pan powder. 1f is the largest granulation and 4f is the finest. Real black powder has an ignition temperature of less than 500 degrees.

Black Powder Substitutes: Here again there are a number of different powders and also come in pre measured pellet form. These were developed for the much hotter ignition systems of the inline and have limited use in the sidelock percussion and almost no use in a flintlock. The ignition temp of these black powder substitutes is nearly double that of real black powder. nearly 800 degrees. Examples of some of the most popular black powder substitutes are:
Pyrodex, 777, and American Pioneer Powder (APP). There are others but you get the idea.

Your question 1. 2 pellets equals 100 grains of powder if using the 50 gr pellets. Pellets also can be purchased in 30 grain size too. 3 pellets can equal 150 grains of powder. That sir is one hefty pile of powder. This load exceeds some manufacturers recommended maximum load. Many times people get the best accuracy with from 80 to 120 gr of powder or pellets. I have even read where to shoot over 120 gr does very little to add to the velocity of the bullet. What it does increase is the noise and recoil. Again I have read that loads above 120 gr do little to add to the velocity but do add a great deal more chamber pressure.

Question 2 Overall I would have to say True. American made firearms such as Thompson Center, Knight, New England Firearms, White, Savage and a few others will most likely be pressure tested to withstand the 150 gr load. I would certainly not shoot 150 gr in a CVA, Traditions, Winchester, Remington or a New Frontier as the spanish proofing of these barrels is questionable at those pressure levels.

Question 3. Many times the 150 gr load will not be the most accurate load. This only can be determined by range time.

Question 4. Again I would have to say true.

Question 5. Yes Also you get a longer sight radius with the longer barrel. You also get a heavier rifle.
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#3 Geoff / TBow

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 01:13 PM

Thanks PA. Your advice and info are greatly appreciated. Although I'm shooting smokeless powder in my Savage, the topic of muzzleloading has been a popular one around the coffee table at work, as a lot of my hunting buddies are also work comrades. I'm the only one shooting smokeless powder and the question of 100gr vs 150 gr and short vs long barrels has been intense.

Geoff / TBow
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#4 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 02:14 PM

A most confusing state of affairs has occurred in some owners manuals. The manual states that 120 gr is the maximum load for their rifle but go on to say it is ok to use 3 pellets. They do not explain the obvious difference of their remarks nor do they say which pellets (30 or 50 gr equivelant) they are referring to. The only real way to evaluate what any charge of powder is or isn't doing is to shoot it through a chronograph which I do not own.

Personally I am in the frame of mind that a muzzleloader is a short range weapon and in no way do I want to make this method of hunting into a long range affair. For the most part a muzzleloading rifle operates in the 1500 to 2000 Feet per second range. This gives deadly accuracy and killing power potential out to 100 yds or a little more. The size and in some cases the material used to make the bullet (pure lead) determine how far a certain bullet will shoot without having to worry about extreme arching trajectory.

Quite simply my muzzleloaders are not considered by me to be the proverbial bean field rifle.

Having seen the backwoods of Ontario I would venture to guess that most shots are short range affairs.

I shoot 75 to 90 gr of real black powder and that is a very accurate load range for what bullets I shoot.
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#5 cayugad

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 04:15 PM

1. Many of my friends have been using 2 black powder pellets, but are toying with using 3. Is there a significant improvement in muzzle velocity in using the 3 pellets over the 2?


There is an improvement in the velocity of the projectile. The question is, do you need that additional velocity. If you were hunting large game like elk or moose, and some of the distances could get extreme, then an additional pellet might be something to consider. If you were shooting extreme distances at say, antelope or sheep, again a third pellet might be worth considering. The additional velocity will improve the bullet drop and increase the down range energy at point of impact.

2. I have been told that some firearms may not handle the 3 pellets due the increased energy and that the breeches won't handle it. True or false?


Many rifles that claim to be a MAGNUM rifle can shoot three pellets. The problem is they do not shoot three pellets well. The rifles we commonly see three pellets used in are the Encore, Pro Hunter, Omega, Black Diamond, and some of the Knight rifles. These rifles just seem to shoot three pellets better then other rifles. Not that the BPI rifles will not. We also hear of people with Optima, Kodiak's, Apex, etc also shooting three pellets with good accuracy.

3. Are there any disadvantages to using 3 pellets over 2, other than the increased cost or additional kick?


The kick can cause shooter's flinch. It is hard on the pocket book. Hard on the shoulder. Scopes sometimes eat foreheads. And actually I think they do put more strain on the firearm. I think that continued shooting of magnum loads will sooner or later cause the firearm to some kind of metal stress. How ever minor it might be if at all.

4. I have been told that one disadvantage in using 3 pellets as opposed to 2, in a short barreled gun, is that the powder does not have enough time to burn, so some of the powder is actually still igniting outside of the barrel, or does not burn at all. I assume this would equate to wasted energy and certainly a nod towards using 2 pellets rather than 3 in a short barrelled gun. Yes? No?


The old rule of thumb used to be if the rifle did not have a 24" barrel or more, you were wasting the third pellet. That was one reason people went to loose powder so they could max their load. If you want to know, if the three pellets are shooting and causing increased velocity, put the shot over a chronograph with 100 and then 150 grains of pellets. Then do the same thing with 100 and 120 grains of loose powder. Remember, never exceed the recommendations of the manufacturer.

5. Is this phenomenon of short barrel vs long barrel correct when it comes to powder burning? Are longer barrels more efficient with regards to burning larger powder charges?


More efficient powder burning will take place in longer barrels, but the amount of difference is not as great as a lot of gun companies want you to believe.

I'm aware that longer barrels are more accurate vs short barrels and that rifling makes a heap of difference in bullet velocity and accuracy. My major concern in this post is only in regards to the powder burning characteristics of short vs long barrels.


I am not sure that shorter barrels are less accurate. Actually with strong charges they should get less whip. Unless you are shooting some extreme ranges, the additional four inches or more will not be all that important. I think your accuracy comes more from matching the type and amount of powder your rifle likes, to the bullet the rifle likes, and then practice. There are rifles with 22 inch barrels that can and do.. very impressive shooting. I have a little Knight Wolverine that to me is a 150 yard rifle. It has a 22 in barrel. Yet it is tuned to 85 grains of Goex 3f and an XTP. A deer would not want to stand in a field in front of me with that rifle...

A lot can be accomplished with the right projectile and powder. Picking an excellent projectile with a matching powder charge, and then placing that in the proper area will do more to take game down then all the high powered less accurate rifles out there.
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#6 Geoff / TBow

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 08:08 PM

Thanks ever so much for all the info guys! This stuff is just GREAT!

I started hunting and shooting primarily as a shotgunner for birds and trap and skeet back in the 60s and jumped head long into serious bowhunting in the early 70s. I really haven't done a lot of rifle hunting in my carrer and this year was the first time I'd ever pulled the trigger on a muzzleloader, so I've got a lot to learn in the smoke pole area. Being a bowhunter, single shot hunting is my kind of game and the move to shooting a muzzleloader just seemed to make sense to me. It sure is a lot of fun!

Thanks again,

Geoff / TBow
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