"You manufacture such a wide range of bullet weights for use in my .50 caliber muzzleloader, how do I begin to pick a weight of bullet?"

This answer was originally posted in 1997. I have updated the answer July, 2000 to reflect additions to our bullet line. The updates are in blue. The orange updates reflect the DEAD CENTER bullet information which were introduced in 2002.

There are basically two criteria to consider when selecting bullet weight. The first is rate of twist in your particular barrel and the second is how big is the animal that you will be hunting. Let us consider each of these in some detail.

Rifle Twist: This is the gun and the bullet makers' nightmare! There seems to be quite the variety of opinions about which twist is the best. From my own personal experience of shooting every twist made in the process of testing many 1000s of bullets I have observed the following in .50 caliber guns:

1:48" twist with .44 caliber saboted bullets will most likely perform best with a bullet in the 250-275 weight range. I have encountered some that will shoot 300 grain bullets very well but I have never seen one that would shoot a 350 grain.
Using saboted bullets in .45 caliber 275-300 usually shoot great; 330 are acceptable but this twist will not shoot the 360 grains.
In the Ultimate 1 testing, every rifle tested shot the 300 grain very well with most also shooting the 350 quite acceptably. A few tested were able to stabilize the 400 grain and only one would shoot the 450 grain.
.40 caliber QT Polymer Tip in 180 grains with charges of 110 and up grains of powder shoot fine.

.45 Dead Center in 300 grains with 90 grains and up of powder shoot very well.

1:38" twist with .44 caliber saboted bullets is at it's best with a 275 grain bullet. Reduced powder charges can be used for bullets in the 250 grain weight and blunt bullets like the Keith Nose can be used up to 300 grains. Using .45 sabots, 1:38" twist guns can usually handle any weight from 300 to 360 grains.
With the Ultimate 1, we have found that the 350-400 grain bullets shoot fine. The 450 grain Ultimate 1 did not perform well with this twist. A footnote to the 1:38" twist shooters; we have not seen a 1:38" twist barrel that will shoot conicals to our standards. For whatever reason, this twist shoots sabots like a damn but does not seem to like conicals. I bought and tried three different Firehawks before I abandoned the twist totally.
.40 caliber QT Polymer Tip in 180 and 195 grains shoot extremely well.
.40 Dead Center in 200 grains, .44 260 grains and .45 300 and 340 all shoot very well with 90 grains and up of powder.

1:32" twist with saboted bullets will handle a variety of weights from 275 up to 360 grains depending on model. Weights down to 250 grains will only shoot well with reduced charges of powder.
Ultimate 1 testing showed that this twist would shoot the 350, 400 and 450 grain bullets very well. This could be the best all-round twist for the shooter who wants to be able to play with a wide variety of bullet types and weights.

.40 caliber QT Polymer Tip in 195 and 215 grains shoot extremely well.
All weights of Dead Center in all three calibers with 90 grains and up of powder shoot very well.

1:28" twist with saboted bullets will generally only shoot heavy bullets. My experience has been that 1-28" twists are extremely limiting to the bullets that they will shoot. In fact I am currently working on a Knight Wolverine in stainless steel that will not shoot anything lighter that a 350 grain bullet! Granted it does shoot that bullet very well but this becomes a somewhat limited use gun.
Ultimate 1 testing has shown us that 400-450 grains are the best choice for this twist with most favoring the 450 grain bullet.
1:28" twist seems to be winning the twist war. This twist was the primary reason for the development of our .40 caliber QT Polymer Tip bullet. Our customers wanted a lighter recoiling, flatter shooting bullet that would put some pleasure back into shooting their new muzzleloaders.
All weights of Dead Center in all three calibers with 90 grains and up of powder shoot very well.

To add even more confusion, there seems to be a correlation between number of lands and rifle twist. It seems that the more lands the barrel has, the less forgiving to bullet weight the barrel seems to be. A case in point is the Kahnke rifle. This rifle has less lands than most everyone else and although the twist is 1:26", this rifle will shoot every bullet that we have ever stuffed down the barrel. It is the only muzzleloader that I have seen that will shoot every weight of bullet without showing any preference for weight or style. Amazing.

Animal being hunted:

A simple rule is "The bigger the game, the bigger the bullet". Our entire bullet line is designed for the quick, humane harvesting of game. That's why we started and that is still our main goal. We want everything shot with our bullets to die as quickly as possible.

For deer sized game we suggest that you shoot the weight of bullet that shoots the very best in your rifle. Shots at deer can vary in distance from 20 to several hundred yards. Select the bullet to suit the hunting circumstance but we strongly suggest the Keith Nose Hollow Point, Semi Spitzer Hollow Point, Silver Lightning or the Ultimate 1 Hollow Point. Any of these bullets will get the job done immediately for this sized game.
The Extreme and the Spitzer HP are probably the best compromise bullets; offering explosive expansion and flat shooting.
Flatliner Hollow Points are more specialized and will kill game cleanly but not instantly.
Our QT Polymer Tip line are the ticket for open shots at any distance. The Polymer Tip forces the bullet to open on impact regardless of the remaining velocity while enhancing downrange energy and flat shooting. QT bullets should not be shot through cover as the bullet will expand before it reaches it's target. The Dead Center were designed to "shoot through" game therefore generating an entrance and exit hole to aid in recovery. All weights of Dead Center bullets have been used with excellent success.

For bears every thing we make will work fine. Because the distance that most bears are shot at is very close, we suggest that you select the heaviest bullet that your rifle will shoot. Don't be concerned about absolute accuracy. This is the only game animal where I would suggest that you select one size heavier bullet than your rifle will shoot with absolute accuracy. We have harvested bears with all our bullets and the results were always the same. Very short distance to recovery with a massive blood trail to follow.

For elk I would suggest any of the Ultimate 1 conicals except the Keith Nose HP. The Ultimate 1 is available in sizes up to 450 grains.
In a saboted bullet, I would use either the QT Polymer Tip or the Extreme in 360 or 400
grain . When selecting the weight, consider that you are shooting at a lung that is almost 12" x 12". I would tend to sacrifice some accuracy for bullet weight. Even if your rifle will group in the 3"-4" range at 100 yards with the heavier bullet, that is sufficient for the target size that you are shooting. Big, heavy bullets have the momentum required to plow through large bones and tissue. These bullets have proven to be very effective on large animals giving deep penetration with controlled expansion. Remember "the heavier the game, the heavier the bullet". My Dead Center choices for Elk would be the heaviest bullet made in each caliber that would shoot well. If the 300 Dead Center .44 shot better than the 240 .40 they would be my choice. If the 340 Dead Center .45 shot better than the 300 .44, then they would become my choice.

Moose are very large animals and often offer difficult shot angles. A large moose can be twice the size of a bull elk. Moose should only be hunted with Solids.
In a conical bullet, I would select a 450 grain Ultimate 1 Semi Spitzer Solid or Keith Nose Solid.
In a saboted bullet, I would select 400 grain Keith Nose Plinker, 400 grain Semi Spitzer Plinker or our new 330 grain LBT Hard Cast. These are huge animals that require a lot of penetration. This is one game animal where it's better to error on the side of penetration rather than expansion.
340 Dead Center .45 would be my only Dead Center choice for large Canadian or Yukon-Alaska sized moose.

Thanks to Tom D. from Utah for that question and I hope that I have answered it to your satisfaction.

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