Adventures in sighting in my new in-line muzzleloader.

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  • BigBoxaJunk

    Grandmaster
    Feb 9, 2013
    7,273
    113
    East-ish
    After many years deer hunting with my 1985 TC Hawken, I had decided this year to get an in-line muzzleloader. I mostly wanted a rifle with a scope, and it always seemed sacrilegious to mount one on my old TC. I decided on a CVA Optima that came with a scope on it. I figured it would also be nice to have a lighter, stainless steel rifle that’s faster loading and easier to clean.

    Before I go to the range to sight in a scope, I usually start with my poor-man’s bore-sighting technique. That involves taking out the bolt (or breech plug in this case) and laying the rifle on my desk, pointing down the hallway, towards the wall in the front room about 45 feet away. I don’t have a gun vise, so I set it up on my shooting rests, shimmed up with books or magazines as needed. I make a spot on a post-it note and stick it on the far wall, moving it until it’s centered in the bore, looking through from the breech. Then, without bumping the rifle, I look through the scope and see where the reticle is. If you’re careful you can adjust the reticule to zero on the dot, going back and forth, looking down the bore, then the scope, making adjustments as needed. I’ve found that I can usually get it close enough that my first group is on the paper at 50 yards.

    At the range, I set up to shoot, and my plan was to start with patched round balls, since I have a bunch of those, and save the expensive conical bullets for the final zeroing. I know, they say the rifling isn’t ideal for round balls in an in-line muzzle loader, but I figured if I used half-charges, they might not strip out too badly. Turns out, they ain’t kiddin’ when they tell you not to shoot round balls in an in-line. They were all over the place; on the paper, off the paper, way left, way right, way low. I could have gotten tighter groups if I was throwing them. At first I figured it was me, then maybe the scope was loose, or defective. Then, at the height of my frustration, I decided to put in a conical bullet with a full charge, and see how that would do. That one hit right where I was aiming. Feeling better, I loaded up again and took aim at a clean target, and hit near dead center. I loaded another, and another, each time expecting a “flyer”, but the end result was six shots, in a group less than 3-inches, just off the bullseye, and I hadn’t even taken the caps off of my scope.

    So, one thing I learned was to save the patched round balls for my old TC Hawkin, and the other thing is that I’m getting darn good at bore-sighting with a post-it note.
     

    parson

    Sharpshooter
    Nov 1, 2008
    455
    18
    New Castle
    I've had an Optima for a few years, and really like it. Never have tried round balls in it. I cast a 265 grain bullet for 44 mag that My optima shoots very well with 100 grains of Pyrodex. I still use Pyrodex just because I have it.

    Had to go with inline and scope sometime back. At 75, my vision ain't what it once was.
     

    Mgderf

    Grandmaster
    Site Supporter
    May 30, 2009
    17,726
    113
    Lafayette
    My guess is maybe the round balls aren't perfectly balanced.
    Slightly denser on one side.
    This would account for the wild shots.
    That, or the round balls are woefully undersized for the bore.
    If they bounce side to side down the bore you never know where they'll go.
     

    BigBoxaJunk

    Grandmaster
    Feb 9, 2013
    7,273
    113
    East-ish
    My guess is maybe the round balls aren't perfectly balanced.
    Slightly denser on one side.
    This would account for the wild shots.
    That, or the round balls are woefully undersized for the bore.
    If they bounce side to side down the bore you never know where they'll go.

    I know that the twist of the rifling is different between the two guns, but I'm assuming that the diameter of both is .50. I'd also guess that the depth of grove is greater on the older TC gun. I also know that I'm not knowledgeable enough about those things to have more than a general view.

    And yes, I've also thought about the roundballs and whether they may have been the problem. I'm pretty sure that the balls I used were purchased .490s, but years ago when I shot my TC Hawken quite a lot, I had casted a bunch of .490 balls with a Lyman mold and pure lead, and I may still have some of those in my shooting box. For the last 15 or so years, when I shot my TC, it was one day at the range, iron sights at 50 yards, to get ready for deer season. I've used TC Maxi-Hunters a few times, but mostly a .490 ball with homemade patches of pillow ticking with bore butter for lube. I've always done fine with that setup and don't remember any weirdness with groups. One thing I did do different with my new inline was that I used some old purchased patches that had been greased with bore butter but were old enough to be a little crusty. Those patches didn't fit nearly as tight in the bore of the inline as my old pillow ticking patches used to fit in my TC. Maybe it was those old thinner, crusty patches.
     

    Mgderf

    Grandmaster
    Site Supporter
    May 30, 2009
    17,726
    113
    Lafayette
    ... One thing I did do different with my new inline was that I used some old purchased patches that had been greased with bore butter but were old enough to be a little crusty. Those patches didn't fit nearly as tight in the bore of the inline as my old pillow ticking patches used to fit in my TC. Maybe it was those old thinner, crusty patches.
    Maybe try doubling up on the patches?:dunno:
     

    BigBoxaJunk

    Grandmaster
    Feb 9, 2013
    7,273
    113
    East-ish
    Maybe try doubling up on the patches?:dunno:
    What I'll most likely do is to save the roundballs for my Hawken and only shoot the new-fangled bullets in my inline.

    It's funny, back in 1985 when I bought my TC, it was the first brand new gun that I ever bought myself. I was 23, with a new baby boy, and I was too poor to think about getting one of the nicer, more authentic Hawken replicas that were out there at the time, and I was too impatient to build my own. The TC was a great gun, and it has as much sentimental value as any other gun I own, but I saw it as a modern out-of-the-box version of the gun I really wished I could to get at that time. It's funny now, because now that gun is considered one of the old classics. Probably because so many guys like me got them for those same reasons back when black powder was so much more popular.
     

    BigBoxaJunk

    Grandmaster
    Feb 9, 2013
    7,273
    113
    East-ish
    Modern inlines proly have a twist rate around 1 in 28. Designed for sabots.

    The old TC Hawkens were 1 in 48 ( for roundball or conical).

    And stuff for exclusive roundball use around 1 in 66.
    If I remember right, someone even made a barrel with 1-66, deeper cut rifling, and a bit longer that was made to fit on the TC Hawken and I always wanted one but never got one.
     

    Hookeye

    Grandmaster
    Dec 19, 2011
    15,002
    77
    armpit of the midwest
    Think it was Green Mountain that made drop in roundball barrels for TC rigs.

    TC also had a 1 in 66 rifle called the Pennsylvania Hunter.

    Had had a couple Knight inlines. Conical or sabot, did well.
    Never tried roundball in em. Thought never crossed my mind.
    They weren't designed for em.
     
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