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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #1
thinking purely as a hunting instrument for big game, in a survival situation so bad you run out of all other ammo and find yourself relying on the one tool that requires neither brass, nor primers, using powder and projectiles you can make yourself.. the flintlock.. i was curious as to how accurate a smooth bore could actually be?.. one advantage of the smooth bore is you can also load it with shot.. and a 62 cal is pretty much a 20 gauge, 54 cal being a 28

historically speaking, military didnt want accuracy with their muskets for a couple reasons.. accuracy meant a tighter fitting ball and as more and more shots were made, the fowling would pile up and make it increasingly difficult, and slower to reload, so they used fairly undersized balls, paper patched, for fast reloads.. and as they were firing from a line, generally into a crowd, good accuracy was unnecessary.. i believe the brits used .69" balls in their 75 cal muskets, americans used i think .715".. either way, you get the point

so when shooting for accuracy, using a tighter fitting ball, maybe no patch and sized to shave a bit of lead.. i think you could probably get better than fist size groups at 50, which should be good enough for deer out to 100

anyone have any actual results though? and not just my guess?
 

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You don't HAVE to use ball in a muzzle loader, you can shoot minie balls, conicals and sabots in a BP gun..they can be pretty accurate, easily minute of a game animal's critical area. The snipers using "rifles" in the revolutionary war hit targets at ranges beyond 100 yards...though maybe not always center mass. I think I read that 250 yards and a target that was under 12" was a thing...but hitting it repeatedly? I don't know.

I think the limiting factor will be the shooter and how he handles the delay between pulling the trigger and ignition.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #5
heres a video showing actual results testing for accuracy and group size at 50.. with multiple loads he was able to get a smooth bore .62 cal (20ga) to consistently shoot 3" groups at 50.. that could EASILY take big game out to 100.. so im thinking purely as a hunting instrument, rifling isnt necessary, and you get the added advantage of being able to use shot better in them too

 

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Wrong Side of Heaven
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Both my BP rifles a Kentucky longrifle and a Thompson .50, both rifled and are very accurate. I have never put them on paper for range vs target, is mostly a holiday tradition when as family we go out and shoot, cans and clays at 50 yards are very doable. I would not hesitate to hunt with either.

My cap and ball BP pistol is a smooth bore in .45 and when shooting a roundballl I have had it hit dirt 20 feet in front of me when shooting at 50yds. Several things against it, sphere ball ammo, no rifling, and short barrel.

Out here at our local range once a month a group puts on a black powder event it has events for rifled, non-rifled, pistol, those blunderbuss looking ones. They all busted the clays at range and for time. With practice they hold their own very well.

I have never shot flint or match locks, and they have even a greater lag than cap and ball, but that puts the cap as something that has to be manufactured extra. Also the cap nipples are a needed spare part gone through several.

I may have to add a flintlock to my stack now but it will be rifled and in .45 or .50 as I have the molds for them already and about 30lbs of cast in mini and maxi ammo. I am light on BP though....

We should if all goes as normal be shooting this Christmas afternoon. I need to inventory and purchase so I am not last minute scrambling.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #7
i have a cap and ball revolver as well, an 1860 army, but i have no plans to rely on it for anything.. not with percussion caps costing 4.5-5 cents each and you can get 22lr ammo for around 3 cents.. i dont see a cap and ball revolver as being effective ENOUGH to justify the higher costs over a 22.. a caplock rifle which has a significant increase in range and muzzle energy, maybe, but pistols? nah
 

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A lot of people are answering about rifled black powder guns instead of answering the original question about smoothbore. I will simply answer the question, and then elaborate.

The answer is: with roundball or actually any single bullet shape, you would be lucky to hit a deer past 70 yards, and the best shooter in the world will usually miss a man-size target at 100 yards.

No bullet shape will help in this regard as long as you are talking about one projectile. A conical will not be more accurate in a smoothbore than a roundball will be.

However, you should consider that smoothbores can also function as shotguns. That increases your odds of hitting and may be an appealing choice for some situations.

A common military load was buck and ball - one larger bullet and several buckshot projectiles. If the main bullet missed, maybe one of the buckshot pieces would hit.

Whether you use buck and ball or any kind of shotgun load, you use cards and cushions to actually load the gun. You can buy the components on Track of the Wolf and you can find videos of how to do this on YouTube. I wouldn't use steel shot, but otherwise, you can use any regular modern lead shot.

As for smoothbore vs rifled: European militaries were well aware of rifling long before they started using it in standard-issue long guns. Some people seem to believe that the British were baffled by Kentucky rifles. The British had their own specialized marksman rifles, and knew full well the advantages of rifling. The reason they used smoothbores was alluded to in the original post: a trained soldier could get off about three shots in a smoothbore, using patched roundball, in the time it would take to get off one shot using a rifled long gun, and the smoothbore would function more reliably when it couldn't be cleaned frequently between shots. It made sense for the average soldier to use a smoothbore, with the rifled guns left to specialists.

The minie ball was the game-changer that allowed rifled barrels to be reloaded about as fast as smoothbores. The bullet was smaller than the bore, so it could easily push in; the skirt expanded under pressure to engage the rifling. It allowed the best of both worlds.

Since minie balls (and molds to make them) now exist, for the purposes you have in mind, I would probably use a rifled barrel and minies. Although, you may also want a flintlock so you don't need to rely on manufactured percussion caps, and selection of flintlock rifles in bore sizes typically used with minie ball is slim.

Hope this helps.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #9
a bit off topic.. but i was thinking about the costs of operating a flintlock.. you could theoretically find and knap your own flints.. but thats if you can find them the right size and know how to do it.. i dont have that many rock formations where i am where i could happen across some good pieces of flint. so likely i'd have to buy pre-made flints..

looking online i find them for $24 for a pack of 12, and looking at some flintlock threads on other forums, people average 25-30 shots before needing to replace it.. thats 30 shots for $2 coming out to 6 cents a shot... #11 percussion caps are 5 cents a shot, and if you get the priming compound and the punch for making #11s from pop cans (free resource), you can make your caps for about a cent a round.. so if you had the priming compounds, which you can either get as cap gun rolls or the "prime all" stuff for reloading 22s which is stored separately, and not dangerous until mixed, caplocks are probably the better resource than flintlocks

as for smooth bore accuracy.. the video i posted earlier solves that.. the duelist guy was loading a 62 cal smooth bore for accuracy using a tighter lead ball and patch than what military would use (they use undersize to compensate for fowling under high volume of fire).. he was getting 3-3.5" groups at 50.. which is about as good as most your handguns.. that at 100 yards would have a group size about that of my opened hand, and is easily a kill shot on deer

so the question is.. do you take a smooth bore with good enough accuracy, easier cleaning, and the option to use shot for things like turkey and waterfowl... or do you go with the rifled barrel for even better accuracy?
 

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My friend in Italy has a Napoleonic period French flintlock musket which was cut down many years ago and the stock shortened to a configuration similar to an artillery musketoon with 28" barrel, half stock and one barrel band. Gun is .69 cal. He casts 12-ga. Foster-type slugs from 1:40 tin-lead in a Lyman mold, loads 100 grains of Swiss 1-1/2Fg powder, filling the hollow base of the slug with lard, loading it unpatched like a Minie Ball.

With simple, rudimentary sights, no rear sight at all, but using only a crude blade silver-soldered to the muzzle he can shoot on demand 4-5 inch, five-shot groups at 50 metres. He regularly kills boar with it. Typical ranges are normally short, 20-30 metres with 40 metres being more the exception than the rule as boar are driven by hounds to the stand hunters.

My understanding is that flintlocks are not regulated there, so these old muskets are still used all over Europe. In northern Italy all the peasant farmers have them. Now they are over the fireplace, but during WW2 they were hidden in barns, attics, etc. and nobody ever gave them up when modern cartridge guns were confiscated. These old guns are handed down in families as "useful artifacts" and it is a right of passage for teenage boys to learn their use and management in bringing game to the kitchen.

The same 100-grain black powder load works with 1-1/4oz. of No.7 or No.6 shot tied into a balloon or condom, lubricated with lard using a ball of crumbled up newspaper for wadding, for hunting rabbits or pheasant. Rough game shooting is not officially permitted, but is routinely and discreetly practiced in the poor rural areas because the Carabinieri are more interested in finding drug and bomb labs than harassing farmers from old families whose fathers and grandfathers were partisans who fought the Nazi-Facists and resisted the red scarved Garibaldi Communists long after Liberation Day.
 

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^^ I would not believe that his method would produce a hand-sized group at 100 yards unless I saw it. Smoothbore accuracy falls off faster than we're used to with modern guns IMO.

I am a decent shot, and I wouldn't bet a dollar that I could hit a man-size target at 100 yards in 10 shots.

Also, I am not sure what the point would be, if loading will be slower anyway. May as well use rifling. With a rifled barrel and decent sights, you can usually hit a soda can at that distance, or if you miss, it won't be by much.

My faith in percussion caps made out of soda cans with that compound is not that high, but I haven't tried it.

Any rock that throws a spark when it hits other rocks can be used in a flintlock, although some last longer than others or otherwise have better characteristics for this use.
 

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as for smooth bore accuracy.. the video i posted earlier solves that.. the duelist guy was loading a 62 cal smooth bore for accuracy using a tighter lead ball and patch than what military would use (they use undersize to compensate for fowling under high volume of fire).. he was getting 3-3.5" groups at 50.. which is about as good as most your handguns.. that at 100 yards would have a group size about that of my opened hand, and is easily a kill shot on deer
I don't think the calculation on that is going to be as linear as you think it is. Most flintlock smooth bore shooters that you talk to are going to give you a reference of between 50 and 70 yards to reliably hit the kill zone in a deer. I agree with that. There is a point somewhere slightly past that where round balls from smooth bores have a tendency to behave like knuckle balls in baseball.

Add to that the inconsistencies of field positions, cheek weld, lack of a rear site and humidity....hitting reliably at 100 yards is no small feat with one.

On the other hand, Joseph Martin took a rest off of fence post and dropped a red coat at 250 yards with his. As a friend of mine used to say, the ball has to come down somewhere.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #13
^^ I would not believe that his method would produce a hand-sized group at 100 yards unless I saw it. Smoothbore accuracy falls off faster than we're used to with modern guns IMO.

I am a decent shot, and I wouldn't bet a dollar that I could hit a man-size target at 100 yards in 10 shots.

Also, I am not sure what the point would be, if loading will be slower anyway. May as well use rifling. With a rifled barrel and decent sights, you can usually hit a soda can at that distance, or if you miss, it won't be by much.

My faith in percussion caps made out of soda cans with that compound is not that high, but I haven't tried it.

Any rock that throws a spark when it hits other rocks can be used in a flintlock, although some last longer than others or otherwise have better characteristics for this use.
aluminum is fine for a cap material, close enough to brass to work for what it needs to do, and a cap is supposed to break apart and fall off after you use it anyway

as for the chemical, if your shaving off match heads, or scraping out other primers it'll probably be hit and miss, mixing the chemicals though and dissolving it all together with a drop of ethanol from what ive read so far seems to be quite reliable.. and 100,000 caps for $100 in supplies, thats way cheaper than flints, and without the problems generally associated with flintlocks like delayed ignition, moisture, etc.. the caplock is way better, so if the caplock can be done cheaper, thats perfect
 

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Aluminum isn't the problem, I'm just not sure if the caps would be formed regularly and perfectly, or if the compound would stay in for the long term vs being affected by moisture or temperature or being jarred around. And, the compound comes from a factory somewhere, so if the idea is to avoid reliance on factory stuff, one day the compound would run out, get contaminated or something. And in any case, I guess we're talking about #11 caps, which are less reliable than 209 or musket caps IMO. It's true that caps have several advantages over flintlock, though.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #15
Aluminum isn't the problem, I'm just not sure if the caps would be formed regularly and perfectly, or if the compound would stay in for the long term vs being affected by moisture or temperature or being jarred around. And, the compound comes from a factory somewhere, so if the idea is to avoid reliance on factory stuff, one day the compound would run out, get contaminated or something. And in any case, I guess we're talking about #11 caps, which are less reliable than 209 or musket caps IMO. It's true that caps have several advantages over flintlock, though.
if a couple pounds of materials and $100 cost is good for 100,000 rounds, its something you can store in advance and have a lifetime supply.. the punchers used are specifically for forming #11 size caps, so theyre sized properly.. moisture is an issue for any and all caps so it's a good idea to have a dry place to store them

you can get 209 nipples for caplock rifles too as another resource for a caplock rifle.. i think you can take the 209 primer apart and reuse them with the same chemicals
 

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Smooth bore, iron-sight accuracy is 2-3 mils, 4-6" at 50 yards, maybe 8-12" at 100 yards or metres at the very best.

Sorry, but that is reality. Smooth bore dispersion is non-linear beyond 25 yards or metres, so get over it.

50 yards or metres is the viable max effective range ONLY if you believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus....

Period.
 

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I think 8-12" at 100 yards is extremely optimistic. I'd think in terms of feet, not inches, at that distance. JMO.

As for the caps, it's something that I see people talking about on this site, but not something I actually see people do. And I am a reloader who hangs out with reloaders, and re-enactors. I think if it was that cheap and good, it would be widespread. But again, I haven't tried it. Maybe I'm missing out.
 

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Awesome
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Discussion Starter #19
whats the smallest caliber you'd use for hunting? if your goal is conversation of resources, it makes no sense to put 400-700 grains into a single projectile
 

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In the 1700s, hunters often used smaller calibers than are common today, down into the 30s. .45cal was also pretty common, and then ranging on up from there. Before rifles were made in factories, the caliber would be whatever the gunsmith had the tools to make, and could be what we'd consider oddballs, like .34cal or .42cal. As rifling wore out, guns would be rebored to larger bore sizes.

With hunting, reload speed is not as pressing a factor as it is for combat. Patched roundball and rifles were common.

For most hunting, my preference today would be .50 or .54 PRB or conical.

The people I know who hunt with smoothbores use shot, not bullets.
 
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