Long Range Big Game Hunting
with your Muzzleloader


Generally I try really hard to stay out of politics; especially the politics of hunting because it is just not worth the effort and time. Today, it seems everyone has an opinion of how far you should ethically attempt to harvest game with a muzzleloader.

The majority of people are reasonable. Some old school hunters think that anything over 100 yards is too far. The majority of the informed, up to date with modern guns, scopes, range finders, bullets and powders have extended that range considerably. And with care and caution and practice, the latter of these two is correct.

Personally, I have harvested a deer at 318 yards with my muzzleloader. I can hit an 8" steel gong, all day at distances considerably further, but I have not harvested a big game animal with a muzzleloader beyond 318 yards. I have seen plenty of game animals beyond 318 yards; many in fact offered me short time shooting opportunities but none has been perfect.

To try to add some substance to the argument, I decided to generate some "Killing Energy" numbers. My hero, P.O Ackley, has an article on killing energy in his '60s book "Wildcat Cartridges". In this article he has pegged 900 foot pounds of Kinetic Energy as the minimum to humanly harvest deer sized game and 1500 foot pounds as the minimum for elk sized game. These figures are not at the muzzle but actually at the strike distance. Opinions of required foot pounds of energy will vary from writer to writer but we will use these numbers for our discussion today.

As of this writing, I believe that Blackhorn 209 powder generates the most velocity in modern in-line muzzleloaders. I also believe that every muzzleloader currently being marketed would be safe with a charge of the volumetric equivalent of 120 grains of Blackhorn 209. We will use this as our powder of choice and our charge of choice.

We decided to do our test with only Dead Center bullets, as they are the flattest shooting bullet we make, and therefore, logically, will also carry the most down range energy. We then used a 26" barrel T/C Encore to shoot each bullet at 20 yards and at 50 yards through our Oehler 35P chronograph. Once we had velocities from both distances, our Ballistic computer program was able to determine the effective ballistic coefficients.

We then took the 120 grain velocity reading combined with the ballistic coefficient to determine Kinetic Energy at distance. We let the program run out the 900 foot pound minimum for deer sized game as well as the 1500 foot pound for elk sized game. The results are shown in the table below.

Bullet / Weight / Caliber
Ballistic
Coefficient
Muzzle Velocity with 120 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder
Maximum Distance DEER
900 ft. lb.
Maximum Distance ELK
1500 ft. lb.
Dead Center 195 .357
.341
2195 fps
360 yards
150 yards
Dead Center 240 .40
.378
2131 fps
470 yards
235 yards
Dead Center 260 .40
.382
2104 fps
510 yards
260 yards
Dead Center 300 .44
.264
2078 fps
395 yards
220 yards
Dead Center 300 .45
.245
2078 fps
365 yards
205 yards
Dead Center 340 .45
.261
2023 fps
425 yards
235 yards

Bullet drop, with today's multi dot reticule scopes and laser rangefinders, is no longer an issue. Once you know the range, you can easily determine the required hold over. There is already an article on how to accomplish this under "Tips and Questions; mil dot scope" on our web site.

Time in flight is the final and biggest obstacle facing the long range muzzleloader hunter. Big area, heavy bullets take a long time to travel 300+ yards. The side area of these bullets is massive compared to the bullets most cartridge rifle hunters shoot. The wind can easily drift the bullet by 36" or more. Not to mention how far a game animal can move in 1/3 of a second. That movement combined with the wind can turn a perfect shot into a clean miss... if you are lucky. If you are not so lucky you end up gut shooting a 165 inch buck of a lifetime and get to look yourself in the mirror every time you shave for the rest of your days.

I believe our bullets deliver more down range energy than any other bullet designed for muzzleloaders use made today. As you can see from the table, energy is not the issue; only one piece of the puzzle.

Ethics.... did I mention that I try really hard to stay out of politics?

Cecil Epp

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