A 2011 Look at Muzzleloading Bullets

From the left: Hornady 250 grain .452 XTP, Barnes 225 grain .451 "XPB" #45120, Parker 275 grain .450 Ballistic Extreme, Barnes 290 grain T-EZ, Barnes Original #457010 Semi-Spitzer FB .458 300 grain, Parker 300 grain .451 Match Hunter. (Photograph by Randy Wakeman)

Muzzleloading projectiles have come a very long ways from ballistically inefficient, snowball from hell trajectory flying ashtrays they once were, Powderbelches excluded. They have become tougher as well, commensurate with the better velocities obtainable from better propellants and improved formulation sabots.

One of the most popular and economical bullets is the Hornady XTP. Yes, it is still a pistol bullet, with a comparatively poor ballistic coefficient and a velocity-robbing cannelure. However, by virture of being short and stubby, it isn't easy to load it canted or cocked which promotes accuracy. They've always been accurate. The 300 grain version is better, in my opinion, less prone to coming apart. For whitetail and similar it does well as long as you stay off the bone and don't over-drive it.

The Barnes 225 grain XPB bullet is mentioned as it is an extremely tough bullet, as all of the Barnes copper bullets are, and is an ideal choice when a extremely low-recoil load is desired. It out-penetrates and out-performs most conventional 250 grain class bullets, yet with very low recoil. Use the short, black MMP sabot or the 3-PETAL EZ MMP sabot for tighter bores.

The Parker 275 grain Ballistic Extreme has no cannelures, and is Parker Productions' best-selling bullet. With a .450 diameter, it is an easy-loading bullet in those “tight-barreled Thompsons.” I believe the jacket is .015 inch, making it a fairly rapidly expanding bullet at typical 90 – 100 grain volumetric charge muzzleloading velocities and ranges. It uses the MMP short black sabot.

The Barnes .451 T-EZ 290 essentially offers all the opening, penetration, and 100% weight retention of the classic 300 MZ-Expander, but in a more aerodynamic package. My walls are full of Barnes-taken game, and this bullet blew clear through three fat black bears for us the last couple of years. One is shown above. The fourth bear was taken with the 300 grain .458 Barnes Original, also out of a Savage 10ML-II.

The .458 300 grain Barnes Original Semi-Spitzer has accounted for my closest muzzleloading kill (a bayed-up hog at 12 yards). With dogs dancing in and out of my scope, the pig didn't take a single step. It has also accounted for my longest shot, a pronghorn at about 287 yards, and just about everything in-between. With a .032 in. jacket, it is a tough enough bullet for most all North American game. Superbly accurate with the Orange MMP .458 / 50 sabot, it is a very good flying bullet (published static B.C. of .291) and has taken many, many whitetails past 300 yards.

All the way to the right is the Parker 300 grain Match Hunter. Compared to the other bullets, you can see what an aggressive nose profile it has, making it apparently the flattest-shooting 300 grain .45 caliber muzzleloading projectile ever offered. With a .028 in. thick jacket, it is an extremely tough bullet as well, ideal for larger game, raking shots, breaking an animal down, high impact velocities, or combinations of all the above. As far as I'm concerned, tougher is always better than fragile and two holes are better than one.

For reliable pass-through performance, look to the Barnes T-EZ 290, the Barnes Original 300 gr., or Bob Parker's new Match Hunter 300 grain. What's best in your muzzleloader? I'm inclined to say whatever groups the best out of your individual rifle, as there still is no substitute for good shot placement . . . despite the prior musings of Roy Weatherby. Our individual guns know what they like to be fed far better than we can just guess at.

Saboted bullet / bore fit is important. As theoretical "50 caliber" barrels vary, we need to select the combination that offers a .003 - .004 inch interference fit for best ignition and accuracy. One or two thousandths may mean a huge amount as far as to whether a sabot loads properly or not, or not at all. The following list should give you an idea how easy it is to find a good fit for your barrel, from .502 - .508 in. assembled outside diameter.

MMP Sabots Assembled diameters:
Short Black .508 (250/.452 XTP)
HPH-12 .507-.508
HPH-24 .504 - .506
3P-EZ .502 - 504
Barnes BT .506
.458 / 50 Orange .507

Associated Links:

http://www.blackhorn209.com/ Blackhorn 209 propellant and loading data

http://parkerproductionsinc.com/ Parker Bullets

http://www.barnesbullets.com/ Barnes Bullets

http://www.spinjag.com/index.php Spinjag . . . the most accurate way to load your saboted bullets

http://mmpsabots.com/ MMP Sabots

http://www.hornady.com/ Hornady Bullets



Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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