Now that the Brunswick rifle has taken its deer, the next step it its hunting evolution is to take on larger game, like elk. To ready the gun, I lapped the bore again to help preserve the patches that go around the belted ball with the hope that smoothing the bore would allow me to increase to gun’s powder charge to 110 grains of GOEX FFg.
Chronographing the Brunswick rifle gave velocities of between 1,121 and 1,131 fps. which is stepping along for a 471 grain belted ball. This translates to 1,326 ft.lbs. at 10 yards. The comparative range of velocities indicated that smoothing the bore combined with an 11-gauge over-powder card and 30 grains (vol.) of Cream of Wheat helped to provide a more-or-less consistent gas seal. The gun, at 100 yards, shot 4-inches high and 10-inches left with an 8-inch group. This pie-plate sized group can take elk at that range, but I much prefer to shoot them at 50 yards.
The rough bore still tears the patches because of irregularities in the bottom of the barrel’s two grooves, but the patches hang together well enough to stabilize the ball. This is much improved from when I first shot the belted balls through the gun and had difficulties in finding any traces of the patches because they where torn into tiny burned bits of cloth. Bore lapping much improved the shooting qualities of the gun. However, it is still a touchy gun to work with, and the barrel must be cleaned every couple of shots to maintain good groups.
The Brunswick’s coarse and crude sights are the next largest detriment to good shooting. If I can obtain another barrel, I may lap that one and install modern adjustable sights. That may or may not be possible as each of these guns was hand-built. It is unlikely that the barrel from one gun will fit another without modifying the second barrel.
The Traditions’ Magnum Hawken was one of the very few Hawken-style rifles designed to use Pyrodex pellets. I added a musket cap nipple to my gun and a set of Ashley Ghost Ring sights. This gun was targeted at 100 yards with a 348 grain lead PowerBelt bullet. Idaho does not allow the copper-coated PowerBelt bullets to be used during their Muzzleloading Season. These bullets chronographed at 1,360 fps. for a 10-yard muzzle energy of 1,430 ft. lbs. The Traditions rifle shot a 3-inch group at 100 yards which will certainly anchor an elk, provided that I put the bullet in the correct spot. This gun has worked for me before, and I have previously taken a Florida gator with it.
The Brunswick rifle would be my 50-yard gun and the Traditions would serve as a back-up or for longer-range shots.
For more information go to my website, www.hoveysmith.com, and consult my books Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and my forthcoming book Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures Presents: X-Treme Muzzleloading which will be available in the Winter of 2010. This book contains a story of my gator hunt with the Traditions Hawken rifle.
A shot opportunity did not present itself during my late November elk hunt. It snowed almost continuously during the six-day hunt, but I kept the guns dry (see related post for 12 tips for wet-weather hunting), and they fired reliably even after being loaded and carried for days. Just for the sake of insuring reliability, I fired and cleaned the Brunswick rifle after three days.
A video of this testing is below. If you have trouble viewing it here you can also see it on YouTube by clicking on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTPZnvkUpCs&layer_token=717f43a50007dca0.