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What loads did the old-timers / mountain men use?
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G’day fellas!

I’m really enjoying reading the novel The Revenant - it’s one of my favourite movies, too.

Well, it says that Glass loaded his .54” with 200 grains of powder. Realistic or fantasy?

I’ve been known to use 100 grains in mine, chasing animals a .54” flintlock was never intended for.

Yeah, so I’m just curious about how realistic the novelist was being.

Cheers!
 
Posts: 1077 | Location: NT, Australia | Registered: 10 February 2011Reply With Quote
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Try an experiment. I do not guarantee the results, but at one time I built and shot muzzle loaders.

I have read/heard that if a person will take a bed sheet or piece of white canvas and place it on the ground 5 feet or so from the muzzle of the rifle and then fire the gun, they will see how much powder is blown out of the barrel at the shot.

It has been 20 years since I shot a muzzle loader so I may be off with that.


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Posts: 31014 | Location: Olney, Texas | Registered: 27 March 2006Reply With Quote
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Ben - Years ago I guided a Nevada cowboy that had a Maine moose tag. He had a homemade .58 cal round ball rifle. His loading method was one I had only read about in books about the mountain men of the pre-1840 American West. He put the ball in the palm of his hand and poured black powder over it until the ball was just covered. That was the measure. Worked just fine, no prob. He hammered a fine 56 inch bull from about 25 yards, that bull took a couple stagger steps and went down. Probably there'll be some anal wart that will reply regarding the in advisability of this loading method, but I believe it's correct historically if nothing else. Crazy Horse - That works on snow too. Merry Christmas to all
 
Posts: 194 | Location: maine, usa | Registered: 07 March 2013Reply With Quote
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The Revenant is long on novel. 200 grs. in a 54 is fantasy. Can/could it be done, sure, but it's an immense waste of powder and powder was always at a premium in any wilderness. We tend to use heavier charges today than was the norm back then.


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Posts: 219 | Location: Northern Missouri Ozarks | Registered: 13 February 2016Reply With Quote
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Thanks, guys. You confirmed my suspicions. Cheers!
 
Posts: 1077 | Location: NT, Australia | Registered: 10 February 2011Reply With Quote
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I always heard more like caliber in grains of powder.

I took my 50 up to 100 not much difference. So I stayed light.


As usual just my $.02
Paul K
 
Posts: 12790 | Location: Mexico, MO | Registered: 02 April 2001Reply With Quote
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For what it is worth my .50 TC shoots best with 100 grs of bp under a round ball. I started at 60 grs an worked up by 5grs at a time until the bang sounded like a crack. Accuracy is the same at 90 - 100.
 
Posts: 674 | Location: Quakertown, Pa. | Registered: 11 December 2008Reply With Quote
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Originally posted by groundtender:
Ben - Years ago I guided a Nevada cowboy that had a Maine moose tag. He had a homemade .58 cal round ball rifle. His loading method was one I had only read about in books about the mountain men of the pre-1840 American West. He put the ball in the palm of his hand and poured black powder over it until the ball was just covered. That was the measure. Worked just fine, no prob. He hammered a fine 56 inch bull from about 25 yards, that bull took a couple stagger steps and went down. Probably there'll be some anal wart that will reply regarding the in advisability of this loading method, but I believe it's correct historically if nothing else. Crazy Horse - That works on snow too. Merry Christmas to all


This was the way my Dad told me how it was done traditionally, except it was only used as a way of finding out the charge, after this you made a powder measure for this amount.


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Posts: 7603 | Location: Between 2 rivers, Middle USA | Registered: 19 August 2000Reply With Quote
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200 grains is a lot of powder, I load a 400 grain Minie ball in my .54 with 120 grains of FFG and it runs about 1,400 fps and the recoil lets you know that you shot it.

I've heard about people pouring powder over the ball until covered and I guess that makes it a highly personal load because of the different sizes of people's hands and how much you cup it every time.



GOEX has a Blackpowder loading chart: http://www.goexpowder.com/load-chart.html

It says that my load is at max so use caution.


Frank



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Posts: 11901 | Location: Bakersfield CA. USA | Registered: 30 December 2002Reply With Quote
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Well some say use all the powder you want as a muzzle loader blows what it can't use out the barrel..That may work on a modern muzzle loader with a heavy barrel, Ive shot as much as 140 grs in my 54 Great Plains and it was accurate and gave me no problems, little rough on patches but got past that by switching to bedding patches...My 2 58s will handle 160 and that's as far as I tried, My accuracy was 125 in one 58 and 140 in the other..The 54 has always shot 125 grs....All with double F .....I use the same load with bullet or ball, but mostly with bullets...

200 is way too much and recoil gets pretty grim when you get too much FFG, but not compared to a big bore rifle..


Ray Atkinson
Atkinson Hunting Adventures
10 Ward Lane,
Filer, Idaho, 83328
208-731-4120

rayatkinsonhunting@gmail.com
 
Posts: 37180 | Location: Twin Falls, Idaho | Registered: 04 June 2000Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by BenKK:
G’day fellas!

I’m really enjoying reading the novel The Revenant - it’s one of my favourite movies, too.

Well, it says that Glass loaded his .54” with 200 grains of powder. Realistic or fantasy?

I’ve been known to use 100 grains in mine, chasing animals a .54” flintlock was never intended for.

Yeah, so I’m just curious about how realistic the novelist was being.

Cheers!


I tend to agree with sharps4590. Powder was hard to come by so they probably used as little as possible.

I have never used more than 100 grains in any of my rifles. In my .54 I usually use 85 grains. Kills whitetails just fine.
 
Posts: 641 | Location: SW Pennsylvania, USA | Registered: 10 October 2003Reply With Quote
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I can tell you that 220 grains of Black Powder behind a 54 caliber PRB will kick the living bejeezus out of ya, but hit spot on target.
I have shot that load twict . . .
Both times being the result of the same person walking up, engaging me in conversation in the midst of my loading cycle.

Made me very conscious of keeping up with where I was in the loading procedures.

Was less than my proof load

50 FFFG is good target load, 80 FFFG is accurate and full power and 110 FFFG is just as accurate with PRB. Went elk hunting with the 110 FFFG and PRB, unfortunately I did not find a volunteer for a test target.

I did not get the above Goex link to work, but this will get one to the site, but I could not get the load data to open . . .

https://goexpowder.com/resources/load-charts/



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Challenge your limits


 
Posts: 3941 | Location: TN USA | Registered: 17 March 2002Reply With Quote
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The rule of thumb for loads the old timers used was one grain of powder per caliber designation for target loads, one and a half grains per caliber for most applications, and two grains per caliber for heavy hunting loads.
 
Posts: 807 | Location: East Texas | Registered: 03 November 2007Reply With Quote
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Well, Selous wrote that he used 20 drams in his 4-bore....so about 550 grains w/a 1400 grain ball.


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Posts: 708 | Location: Big Timber, MT | Registered: 14 November 2004Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by BenKK:
G’day fellas!

I’m really enjoying reading the novel The Revenant - it’s one of my favourite movies, too.

Well, it says that Glass loaded his .54” with 200 grains of powder. Realistic or fantasy?



Maybe he did. I don't. I would note that the military load for the .54 1803 rifle was 3 drams. Which is 82 grains. I use 85 in my .54

The great thing about black powder muzzleloaders is that what the barrel can't use is just blown out the muzzle.
 
Posts: 66 | Location: Port Crane, NY | Registered: 11 February 2018Reply With Quote
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there are several ways of determining a load to use. 1 is 3 7ths the weight of the ball. so a 140gr ball, would be 60grs. the other way is to put the ball in your slightly cupped hand and pour powder till it covers the ball. this will come up pretty close to the 3 7ths when weighed. Basically, though, folks going out into the blue, used as little powder as they could get away with, just because it was hard to find. I use a 70gr load when shooting my 45.

I suspect anyone attributing a 200gr load to a patched round ball rifle, doesn't know anything about shooting MLers,and should read "The Muzzleloding Caplock Rifle. has lots of good info in it.
 
Posts: 446 | Location: Maryland | Registered: 18 June 2006Reply With Quote
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My rule of thumb after you fire a round you run a patch on your cleaning rod, If it black to much powder. Reduce load until your patch comes back green. Now. this is for high grade black powder, not all black powder is the same.
 
Posts: 5 | Registered: 10 February 2018Reply With Quote
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Everyone please read the Lyman BP handbook and the Gn Digest BP loading manuals, both by Sam Fadela. In them he tests a wide range of loads for each caliber of rifle, and gives an "optimum" load and pressure data for each. That will prevent guessing; just like we do when loading smokeless powder.
Yes, 200 grains is a complete waste of powder.
 
Posts: 13313 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
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200 gr in a 54 would be very wasteful and push a lot of unburt powder out the end. I use 200gr in my 12 bore underhammer. The most I have ever shot in a 54 is 130 and 120 was the most accurate in that rifle.
 
Posts: 227 | Registered: 01 November 2016Reply With Quote
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I could swear I read an account of the outdoorsman Horace Kephart shooting his original Hawken with a great deal of powder -- perhaps as much as 200 grains. I will look for the reference. Of course, at the turn of the 20th century, he would have had access to the legendary Curtis and Harvey Diamond Grade No. 6.


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Posts: 13785 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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It can be done, but as some state you blow the excess out the tube and gain nothing but recoil..

Ive seen many elk shot with 54s and 58s during the Idaho muzzle loadidng season, the best elk hunt available btw, as is archery....they have made it as easy as possible for you infirm primitive types! rotflmo

Im sure of one thing, the 58 caliber is by far the quickest killer on elk Ive ever seen with a bullet and not bad at all with a ball...and that includes many modern calibers..Those big bulls go down pronto with the 58..


Ray Atkinson
Atkinson Hunting Adventures
10 Ward Lane,
Filer, Idaho, 83328
208-731-4120

rayatkinsonhunting@gmail.com
 
Posts: 37180 | Location: Twin Falls, Idaho | Registered: 04 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Originally posted by Willy47:
My rule of thumb after you fire a round you run a patch on your cleaning rod, If it black to much powder. Reduce load until your patch comes back green. Now. this is for high grade black powder, not all black powder is the same.


Might just have to try that. Never seen a green patch come out of a black powder gun.
 
Posts: 8169 | Location: humboldt | Registered: 10 April 2002Reply With Quote
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I had a .72 cal/12bore barrel made by Ed Rayl
in Va. I asked what's the max loading so I don't get into trouble with it.

"1400gr slug with 240gr FFg, but, start around 80 and work up and you'll never get near max charge".

I reamed out a Lee 12ga slug mold. Forgot to make grease grooves though. Slug comes out at 1160gr, with a nice 1/8"deep x 3/8" dia. HP.

I'd taken the sprue plate off and stuck the nipple down in the blocks. As it started to set up I twisted it and came out with the HP. Looks sharp as can be.

Never found anyone to cut the stock for me. So it's never been finished yet. Barrels: 1 1/8" oct, 38" long, 1:38". Alone it weighs 7#'s.

Trying to hit the 200 meter Ram with large REAL's in a 24", 38" twist CVA. They were hitting a touch short with 100gr FFg, I upped it to 120gr. Don't know if that helped or not with accuracy. May have been better off just raising the elevation.

After hitting it 3 out of 5 shots I went to look and found half dollar sized lead disks on the ground. So it still had plenty of velocity. That was with recycled range lead, pretty hard stuff. Never shot much RB's with it. Just playing in the BP match's is all. Took it elk hunting a couple times, never got a shot. Gun was stolen a few years ago while I was in the hosp. sick. Just got a new Hawken, hasn't been loaded yet even.

George


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Posts: 4963 | Location: Pueblo, CO | Registered: 31 January 2006Reply With Quote
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It depends on what quality powder Mr Glass had access to. Cheap and poor performing powder sold to Indians on the frontier might have required more.

Still it is possible to shoot that much in a .54, and for a particular shot maybe he had good reason.

Or perhaps there is a typo and the author meant it was a .64 calibre trade gun or some such.
 
Posts: 262 | Location: New Zealand | Registered: 18 December 2006Reply With Quote
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I use about 100 grains (measured) in the 54 caliber Hawken.

200? Yeah I might have tried it if I lived in those times. But as was said I am not sure how much powder they had available then.

I did read once, that when Lewis and Clark returned from their first trip west, they still had enough powder and ball left to go again. Those guys went prepared right.
 
Posts: 1440 | Location: Houston, Texas USA | Registered: 16 January 2005Reply With Quote
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I use between 90 and 100 grains measured in my three 54's depending on what projectile I am using (round, mini or maxi ball). Plenty enough powder for anything that I want to hunt. Big Grin
 
Posts: 15891 | Registered: 04 April 2005Reply With Quote
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In old African hunting books they used to just load a handful of powder.

No measurement at all.

On several ocassions they would forget that the rifle was loaded and add another one!

Flying off the back of a horse while chasing a wounded elephant must have been quite good fun.

Some wrote an elephant required over 30 round balls to kill it.


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Originally posted by Mark:
quote:
Originally posted by groundtender:
Ben - Years ago I guided a Nevada cowboy that had a Maine moose tag. He had a homemade .58 cal round ball rifle. His loading method was one I had only read about in books about the mountain men of the pre-1840 American West. He put the ball in the palm of his hand and poured black powder over it until the ball was just covered. That was the measure. Worked just fine, no prob. He hammered a fine 56 inch bull from about 25 yards, that bull took a couple stagger steps and went down. Probably there'll be some anal wart that will reply regarding the in advisability of this loading method, but I believe it's correct historically if nothing else. Crazy Horse - That works on snow too. Merry Christmas to all


This was the way my Dad told me how it was done traditionally, except it was only used as a way of finding out the charge, after this you made a powder measure for this amount.


The above is true as far as mountain men are concerned. This was done to find the proper amount, as Mark says. However before a measure was made, and after, the loads were packaged with a ball in one end and the proper powder charge in the other end of a waxed paper cartridge, with a string around between the ball in one end and the powder in the other, The powder end was torn open and powder poured down the barrel, and the ball still wrapped in the greased, or waxed paper driven down the barrel, cap placed on the nipple, or primer powder in the flint pan ready to shoot. This was because the rifle could be reloaded much faster for another shot, or shots if the Indians or a grizzly was the target! These paper cartridges were made up ahead of need and carried in a so-called bullet box on the belt for fast reloads when needed.


…………………………………………………………….. old


....Mac >>>===(x)===> MacD37, ...and DUGABOY1
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"If I die today, I've had a life well spent, for I've been to see the Elephant, and smelled the smoke of Africa!"~ME 1982

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Posts: 14521 | Location: TEXAS | Registered: 08 June 2000Reply With Quote
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This is a bit off. Actually very little us known about actual loads and/or effectiveness. Black powder was many times handmade and the purity of it will always be conjecture. Early settlers were said to just pour some powder from the powder horn down the barrel. The length of the barrel was very important. Long barrels allowed more of the powder to burn while shorter barrels sent as much downrange as behind the bullet. Even today, traditional guns waste 50% of their charges.

Though we speak of "grains" all your measures are made by volume. Surprisingly, 200 grains is less than a half ounce and as stated, volume measure equivalents were made and spit cartridges made using that volume measure easier.

Another more important variable was powder grade. Powder in a horn continually self-ground. You had FFG all the way to FFFFg in that horn. Your ballistics varies by what grade was most prevalent. As long as the barrel wasn't obstructed the gun fired without accident.

Like Babe Ruth's homerun call, we'll never know.


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Posts: 827 | Location: Magnolia Delaware | Registered: 02 December 2006Reply With Quote
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George you are correct of course! The quality of the powder was not consistent, and so the amount of powder is not , nor has ever been even today with things as simple as different lot# of modern black powder.


That being said, I'm sure the OP was looking for a general method that would suffice for today. The waxed paper cartridge/ ball combination and bullet pouch, regardless of accuracy, made for a very quick re-load of a muzzleloader for the follow-up shots to protect the shooter, or to keep game from escaping, when food was needed, or protection was the need.

The belt bullet/powder and patch box as one of the things that was brought about to facilitate a constant powder charge as could be expected in the muzzleloader days.
Certainly for smoke pole shooter today this certainly makes hunting a better choices than just dumping a different amount of black powder for every shot.

…………………………………………..Just a thought but one should paddle his canoe at what ever speed he chooses, so that it works the best for him/herself!

….Now lets get into how one gets loads consistence enough to make a muzzle-loading DOUBLE RIFLE regulate consistently!
…………………………………………………………. Confused old


....Mac >>>===(x)===> MacD37, ...and DUGABOY1
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"If I die today, I've had a life well spent, for I've been to see the Elephant, and smelled the smoke of Africa!"~ME 1982

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Posts: 14521 | Location: TEXAS | Registered: 08 June 2000Reply With Quote
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200 gr of homeade, maybe damp powder, sounds fine to me.

I have read where grizzlies are kind of hard to kill. I am pretty sure I would rather the gun go bang with enough velocity to hurt the bear real bad, even to the point of death. I have read where Mr Glass was hurt pretty bad by a she bear. I am thinking wasting powder on a griz was not the first concern.
 
Posts: 275 | Location: UP of MICH (for the good times) East Central Wisconsin (by mistake) | Registered: 05 March 2007Reply With Quote
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I believe that Horace Kephart article on testing an original Hawken was published in the April 1924 issue of "American Rifleman." Will look for a link.


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Posts: 13785 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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It is the April 15, 1924, issue; American Rifleman came out twice a month in those days. Now to find a copy.


I won't take a sermon longer than 10 minutes.
 
Posts: 13785 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Not the American Rifleman article, but Kephart quoted in "The Plains Rifle" by Dr. Charles Hanson, pp. 41-42, and footnoted from an article in the Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 21, 1920, Vol. 192, Page 65. A 217-grain lead round ball would be about .525 caliber.



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Posts: 13785 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Originally posted by Atkinson:
Well some say use all the powder you want as a muzzle loader blows what it can't use out the barrel..That may work on a modern muzzle loader with a heavy barrel, Ive shot as much as 140 grs in my 54 Great Plains and it was accurate and gave me no problems, little rough on patches but got past that by switching to bedding patches...My 2 58s will handle 160 and that's as far as I tried, My accuracy was 125 in one 58 and 140 in the other..The 54 has always shot 125 grs....All with double F .....I use the same load with bullet or ball, but mostly with bullets...

200 is way too much and recoil gets pretty grim when you get too much FFG, but not compared to a big bore rifle..

I shoot 120 grains in my .54 with a Barnes Sabot or a maxi ball. Works well for me.
 
Posts: 5301 | Location: Ohio | Registered: 02 April 2003Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by groundtender:
Ben - Years ago I guided a Nevada cowboy that had a Maine moose tag. He had a homemade .58 cal round ball rifle. His loading method was one I had only read about in books about the mountain men of the pre-1840 American West. He put the ball in the palm of his hand and poured black powder over it until the ball was just covered. That was the measure. Worked just fine, no prob. He hammered a fine 56 inch bull from about 25 yards, that bull took a couple stagger steps and went down. Probably there'll be some anal wart that will reply regarding the in advisability of this loading method, but I believe it's correct historically if nothing else. Crazy Horse - That works on snow too. Merry Christmas to all


The above post, though old, is a true process to find volume, for the making of a powder measuring cup for measuring loads for any muzzle loader. Of course this is a start to find the proper volume for a starting volume that shoots the best in any black powder rifle. ones found a brass load dipper can be made for hunting in the field!

.................................... old MacD37


....Mac >>>===(x)===> MacD37, ...and DUGABOY1
DRSS Charter member
"If I die today, I've had a life well spent, for I've been to see the Elephant, and smelled the smoke of Africa!"~ME 1982

Hands of Old Elmer Keith

 
Posts: 14521 | Location: TEXAS | Registered: 08 June 2000Reply With Quote
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If you read up on some of the plains rifles by Horace Dimick, E K Tryon and others ( yes the Hawkens too)
Many of the rifles weighed 12-15 pounds, to withstand charges of up to 215 grains. That is from there own advertising.
 
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