View Full Version : New to muzzleloading, need advice.

03-25-2007, 09:17 AM
Long time centerfire shooter/hunter/reloader. I got to try out someones Euroarms replica rifle, and was very impressed with the whole experience. That person participates in North/South skirmish competitions, and is an excellent shot. I see these skirmish weekends as a possible means of involving my wife and kids (teens) in shooting. Up until now, shooting for them has been a little boring, maybe a little intimidating, and they don't share my enthusiasm.
Whether or not they take an interest, I'm bitten and need some suggestions for my first rifle. My local shop has a couple of used but very nice Lyman GPH rifles (I don't know caliber or twist; does it matter?) for under $300 each, and online I found a like-new .50 cal T/C Hawken for $300.
I just started casting for my centerfire rifles and handguns and would cast for the muzzleloader as well.
Thanks for your time! :drinks:

03-25-2007, 09:44 AM
The Lyman Great Plains Rifle (GPR) is a great place to start. You can get them brand new from Midsouth for about $375.

The Lyman GPR is a 1/60 twist for shooting patched roundball or the very shortest of conicals.

The Great Plains Hunter (GPH) is a fast twist variant (1/32?) for shooting sabots or large conicals.

You can buy just barrels to easily convert between GPR and GPH or between 50 and 54 caliber.


03-25-2007, 12:03 PM
Go for the T/C. The locks are much better made and the barrel can be upgraded any time with a Green Mountain drop-in if you want a different caliber or better accuracy. If you ever find yourself needing parts, you will have them direct from T/C in a matter of days, as opposed to weeks or months.

03-25-2007, 12:08 PM
Thanks for the info. So T/C's are good quality?
Can a rifle with a slower twist (1:60) still shoot minies, or is that strictly a fast-twist proposition?
I mentioned the T/C Hawken for $300 (looks new), but there is also a Renegade (also looks new) for $200. Both are .50 caliber. Is there a difference in how they shoot? Is there a difference in powder requirements due to the barrel lengths?

03-25-2007, 02:49 PM
Based upon the moulds I see (such as those from RCBS) you would be looking at some pretty good sized conicals for the Skirmish matches. I know basically nothing about the North/South Skirmishers but http://www.n-ssa.org/NATIONAL/SAC1-06.pdf shows the "approved arms". I spotted neither the Lyman nor TC Hawken styles on that list (quick look) so you might want to check out what is ...

If you are looking into used pieces, Williams Gunsight (http://www.williamsgunsight.com/gunsights/813usedblkpowderguns.htm) and Kittery Trading Post (http://www.ktpguns.com/interior.php/pid/28) are good places to check. Midsouth and DNR Sports have very similar pricing on the Lyman GPR/GPH rifles.

Longer twist rifles can still shoot minies but are much better suited to patched round ball. 1:48 twist rifles are supposed to be a compromise twist but sometimes shoot neither all that well. If you want to shoot minies, particularly heavy minies - I would suggest something with perhaps 1:32 or faster.

03-25-2007, 03:39 PM
The biggest difference between a TC Hawken and a TC Renegade is that the Hawken uses a 15/16 outside diameter barrel and the Renegade uses a 1" outside diameter barrel.

Muzzleloaders in this price range come with straight octagon barrels in standard outside diameters (between the flats). 54 caliber is the largest bore you can fit into a 15/16 barrel (therefore in a TC Hawken or any of the Lyman offerings). The Renegade was a TC offering that was available in 58 caliber, requiring a larger, 1" barrel.

Given the standard outside dimensions of the barrels, a larger caliber means a slightly lighter rifle than a smaller caliber in any given model, assuming barrels of the same length.


03-25-2007, 05:04 PM
Thanks for the info. So T/C's are good quality?
Can a rifle with a slower twist (1:60) still shoot minies, or is that strictly a fast-twist proposition?
Very good quality and they stan up to regular and heavy use very well. Minnies? Maybe, you have to try them, but the T/C's aren't 1:60, they're 1:48.
I mentioned the T/C Hawken for $300 (looks new), but there is also a Renegade (also looks new) for $200. Both are .50 caliber. Is there a difference in how they shoot? Is there a difference in powder requirements due to the barrel lengths?
No difference in how they shoot, practically speaking. But T/C barrels aren't famous for target accuracy (neither are the Lymans) though some do shoot very well. The T/C's are designed to shoot slugs, like MaxiBalls, but mine perform well with rb's and sabots, too - all "minute of deer" accurate.
The Renegade is heavier and less fancy - designed for hunters, though with drop-ins you can shoot anything from .32 to .58. If you like the looks of the brass furniture better, go for the Hawken. The locks are identical, except for the later Renegades were also available with single triggers. What do you want to use it for?

03-25-2007, 10:59 PM
What will I use it for? Good question. Saturday I held and shot one for the first time, and was smitten. North/South skirmish was a thought, deer hunting is an option, and I target shoot at my club weekly. It would get use, but I guess I don't have a specific use just yet. I guess I just want to get into BP.
But...$300 or more is a good way towards $700 or more, which seems to be the price range for the really nice guns. Since neither T/C nor Lyman is famous for accuracy, what would you recommend? James River? Zimmerman?

03-25-2007, 11:08 PM
I doubt either of the mentioned rifle would be acceptable by a North/South skirmish association. They'd want you to use something that was actually used during the civil war or a replica thereof.

1 in 48 is quite likely the better twist for minies.

I don't believe the TC lock is any better'n the Lyman, they are just more technically correct. :coffee:

03-26-2007, 02:10 AM
I own a TC Hawken and a Lyman Great Plains and a Renegade and until last spring, I had a Lyman Deerstalker. So, I know more than a little about these guns. First, all of them will put five balls into 3" at 100 yards if you do your stuff. Can you really shoot better than that off hand with open sights?:roll:

Second, The Lyman Great Plains is a more period correct rifle if that's important but the deal is, there was so much variation in rifles of the 1830s - 1860s that it's really kind of moot.

The Renegade is a pretty plain-Jane shooter. It's designed for low maintence and easy use. If the price is better I'd go for it. I took mine and browned the barrel and furniture. I think it looks nicer that way. My TC Hawken is a bit gaudy with all of the polished brass etc. It is very accurate though with a round ball and not too bad with a maxie either though it really doesn't like minnies. The Lyman GP was rough at first. I fire lapped the bore and it now will shoot 5 balls all touching at 50 yards and 5 balls under 2" at 100. I've done it many times more than once (off sand bags) and have the last target hanging in my class room as a reminder of sorts. I tell the kids, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time" My form of motivation I guess.

None of these guns will qualify for a North South association skirmish but for plinking, hunting and just having fun, any of them will be a pure joy.

So, either of those guns at the price quoted is a fair buy.

03-26-2007, 04:44 AM
................Joining the N-SSA gets you involved with an enthusiastic group of folks. I'm sure any of them would be a tremendous help and their interest is all aimed in the same direction. The only issue there is similar to SASS and that is there is an initial expense in getting 'Kitted out'. So far as the firearms go, the various rifled muskets tend to be more expensive then the more generic Hawken type ML'rs available.

You're talking $500 + for a P53, P56, P58, M1842, 55, 61, 63, etc & etc. It's just me but I've never had much interest in shooting patched RB's, however I do admire the elegance of the so called Kentucky's. The Hawkin type plains rifle were intended to be handier more powerfull rifles for heavier western game. At one time it seemed even the drug stores were selling Hawken kits of widely varying degrees of competance.

The one big virtue of the RB is that it is ALWAYS point forward :-). You can get some blistering velocity from a PRB but it doesn't last long and fades rapidly. I know that the smaller sub 40 cal rifles can launch a RB at 2K fps or a bit over. One of the Burrito shooters has a smaller rifle in 30 cal and the little RB for sure cracks as it heads downrange, and a bag of buckshot he uses lasts a LONG time!

The military muskets in 58 cal on the other hand, are sending off 350 to 580grs of lead with each shot. With 437grs to the ounce, it doesn't take much shooting to launch a couple pounds of it away. However, those are the ML'rs I like to shoot. I have a Zouave, Zouave carbine and a P58 Naval pattern Enfield, a 45 cal Whitworth and a 45 cal Rigby clone (last 2 shoot long heavy slugs).

Muzzle loaders can be a very interesting and rewarding part of shooting. The noise, smoke and smell all add to the enjoyment. Some hate the cleaning but so far as I'm concerned it's a heckuva lot faster, easier and less expensive then cleaning a copper fouled smokless firearm by a long shot.


03-26-2007, 05:12 AM
Thanks for all the replies! You've given me much food (fodder?) for thought, and I'll post the results of my decision, complete with pictures.

03-26-2007, 12:17 PM

This is just food for thought but you could pick up a used BP rifle like a CVA or Traditions for like a $100 or less and sometimes a new one for that price but with a plastic stalk. I know this doesn't sound like what you want and these brands are kind of bottom line but they are sound and still shoot well enough to get you on target. They may give you a better idea of where you want to go before spending $100's of dollars. The other rifles mentioned are very good and all the advice given here was sound. If you want to get into the authintic shooting these rifles may work also depending in how the group you get into is. I heard of many people of that era shooting whatever they had because guns were of short supply. A couple places you might want to look is Dixiegunworks who has a large supply of authinic gear and guns including originals and a smaller place is Mountain State Muzzle who has not to this date developed a web site, Why I don't know but they have allot of gear also. Good luck on what you deside and either way I don't think you could go wrong!
Bass pros has the best prices I've seen on these guns but less (authintic)selections than some places!

03-26-2007, 12:51 PM
I don't believe the TC lock is any better'n the Lyman, they are just more technically correct. :coffee:

I think that's probably because you have not had the dubious pleasure of repairing dozens of Lyman locks and waiting weeks or months for parts. T/C locks have much better heat treatment of pins and bearing surfaces, need repair much less often, and stand up to regular hard use much better.

N-SSA requirements are beyond me as I'm not into it.

Target shooting, on the other hand, I do a lot of. For my money, I would go with either Thompson model and use the factory barrel to get used to shooting m/l's. It will be more than accurate enough for hunting, and T/C makes a decent factory peep sight that is easily installed in the pretapped holes on the tang. Then, if it isn't as accurate as you'd like for target shooting, you can get a Green Mountain drop-in, and post the T/C barel on Swappig & Selling and someone here will snap it right up. I wouldn't mind a deer barrel in .50 for my Renegade myself.
GM makes the most accurate commercially available m/l barrels you can find, and you can get them in all different calibers and twist rates, depending on what you want to shoot for projectiles. The company was founded by a bp benchrest champion (Branch Meanley), and while he was bought out some time ago, their quality is still top-notch and their customer service supurb.

03-28-2007, 12:07 AM
I have been shooting N-SSA for 27 years.Great bunch of people.Feeding
the.58s is how I got started casting.Anyway to shoot with us you must
join a team.So hook up with your buddy and check them out.If you dont
like that team post on the BB we run http://www.n-ssa.org/phpbb/
There are a bunch of units in the Pa area.
The home page is http://www.n-ssa.org/
Many teams have extra muskets that they loan out to new shooters and
have extra kit and or guns foe sale.Your team mates have a vested
intrest to help you out to improve the entire team.They will point
you in the right direction on what to buy.Best deals etc.We also have a
lot of machinest/gunsmiths types that make a lot of spare parts and other custom stuff we need.
All of our shoots [skirmishes] are a two day affair so most people camp.Lots
of family members/kids.My daughter started shooting with us at age 15
some 11 years ago.She can outshoot a lot of men and she does cast also

04-01-2007, 07:08 PM
My recommendation would be to follow the general advice of Shooter575 since he is giving you the best advise if you are interested in joining the North-South Skirmish Association(N-SSA). I have been a member of this fantastic organization since 1974. My wife and family, 2 boys and a girl, have been going to skirmishes since they were born so i can attest to the fact that this can be a real family involved sport.
I would suggest you get with your buddy and go to a skirmish. This will allow you to see and experience exactly what this sport is all about.
I would not invest in any guns at this time since the rules are very specific as to the type and manufacturer that is allowed. Look to the N-SSA website for more specific information on the arms that are approved.
I started out with a number of borrowed guns from team members which gave me a better idea of the type of gun I felt comfortable shooting.
I hope this was of some help and will be looking forward to seeing you on the line.

04-02-2007, 05:46 AM
Macvcallsign,What team and region you with? Im with Battery C 1st Mi Lt. North west. Anyone wanting to see pics of Skirmishing my daughter set up this site
Pushing 2k worth of pics.

04-04-2007, 11:40 AM
The one thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the warenty on T/C even if you are not the orignal owner they will still give you their liftime warrenty.Brocken part wrap it up with a letter to the manger new part no cost not even handeling, My 2 cents Dave T.

04-04-2007, 12:13 PM
d. thomson
Do you think that is still true even though they have been bought by stupid and worthless (S&W). Sorry fellas I stole that name from Jr. so if ya wana git mad git mad at him. Such a shame youth is wasted on the young, "Mark Twain"

04-04-2007, 12:40 PM
Yes, it's still true. So far, so good.

04-05-2007, 04:34 PM
To Shooter575
Go to you private messages.