The 54 roundball has been anointed by many of the powers of muzzleloading as king of the hill when it comes to general all around calibers. The numbers don’t disagree. At 2000 fps (readily achievable with 120 grains of powder and less with some) the ubiquitous 54 has a point blank range of 140 yards or more. Of course many don’t believe the 54 should be used beyond 125 yards in the interest of conservative muzzleloading. It is also the range where the 54 drifts below 500 foot pounds of energy. Question?
Actually I’d like to know how this idea of a foot pound of energy kills deer… or 500 or a 1000… Anyone who has witnessed a jacklighted deer dropped (USDA venison harvests on Lanai for commercial consumption) with a 22 Mag can tell you that you don’t need anywhere near 500 foot pounds to drop a deer.
Back to the 54.. its got it all… speed, trajectory, energy and size… Anyone here disagree with that? It’s strange that it’s not the most popular caliber given its reputation as a round ball shooter, yet you find that the most popular caliber is the 50. The minimum caliber in many states is the 45 with a few adopting the little .40. What does it take to kill a deer?
An interesting article was found on the web recently, regarding the theory of Kinetic Pulse… http://www.xmission.com/~fractil/math/kp.html
In it one section reads.. "The diameter or mushrooming of the bullet does not effect the energy or the momentum or the kinetic pulse (kp). However the shape of the crater or wound cavity is changed. A simple rule is that the larger the bullet is ;or, becomes through mushrooming, the more shallow the crater or wound. This is because the larger diameter bullet must move more material at once. The amount of material moved does not change--it must be emphasized to understand the impact shape."
What all this means is, is that two bullets shot into the side of a hill, one a fast skinny one and one a fat slow one, that have the same energy, momentum, and Kinetic Pulse will have different depths of penetration, and if filled with foam will produce a foam plug of equal volume. However what becomes more germane to the discussion is not so much the energy, penetration or momentum, it’s fact that a larger bullet has to move more material “at once”. Since in almost every case the round ball, whether 40 caliber or 58, sail right through the chest cavities of deer, sheep and goats, the implication of the wound channels become more important to the kill.
Enter the 58. Do its numbers match those of the 54? Nope. The 58’s get roughly 1450 fps with 120 grains of powder, maybe a little more with hotter powders.. but its not enough to catch the speedy 54. Because of the formula for kinetic energy favors speed, the 54 surges ahead in this category. Momentum too, shifts with the 54 at such velocity as well even though the 58 weighs almost 25% more. The 58 does have one thing going for it… a bigger hole going in… and out. It’s hard to quantify the performance of a big 58, or lager calibers. The .040 larger diameter is hardly worth mentioning, but the results are definitely noticeable.
The 58 doesn’t cut it on paper, but give it some flesh and bone and it and sings like an opera star. The 45, 50, and 54 all kill deer with neat holes all the way through. You see interior damage as well with the 45-54’s with foamy lungs and busted hearts, but when a 58 blows through, its akin to heavier calibers (like the heavy 45’s, 50’s and 58’s).. you sometimes see the interior just awash in blood tissue.
This is a note on the round ball only… but when you get into the big minies… now you and the 58 are into a whole different realm.. now its like launching a freight train towards your game and brings a new meaning to the term pole-axed.
If you shoot game in your point blank range only, the 54 will lengthen your hunt by about 20 yards. If you want to send a deer anchor downrange then a good 58 or larger is your choice of champions…
Back to Kinetic Pulse… that article is a great read… the third or fourth time through you finally begin to “get it”… and his Kintetic Pulse theory is essentially the multiplication of Kinetic energy by the factor of momentum, using both determinants of power together.