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Thread: .50 vs .54

  1. #1
    Boolit Man MAGA's Avatar
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    .50 vs .54

    I'm looking at getting my first muzzleloader, I want a side lock percussion I think specifically a Lyman deerstalker. I like the shortness and handiness of the short rifle. I plan on using it for plinking range fun as well as whitetail deer out to 100 yards or so. I live in the mountains so it's hard to get shots longer than that anyway.

    They Lyman deerstalker has a 24" barrel and a 1:48 twist.
    I like the idea of using roundballs mainly as well as a few conicals.
    What about recoil difference between the .50 and .54?
    Which would be a better purpose all around caliber?
    How much flatter will a .50 shoot?
    Is it worth losing the punch of a .54?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    The .50 and .54 have nearly identical trajectory with a patched ball. Thump and hole always wins on game.

    A conical may well be different. As would be recoil.

    I have a .50 cal Deerstalker and like it. But knowing what I do now I'd have chosen a .54.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAGA View Post

    What about recoil difference between the .50 and .54 ? - Think of Newton's Law - a .54 RB is heavier than a .50 RB, and with equal powder charges, stock shapes, & bbl lengths, a .54 will have slightly more recoil.

    Which would be a better purpose all around caliber ? - A .50 is a bit closer, but IMO neither is as much an all-around caliber as a .45.

    Is it worth losing the punch of a .54 ? - Not for me, but YMMV.

    A .50 is a lot more flexible because there are myriad more commercial conical boolits & accessories (like speedloaders) available for it, just about anywhere, than their are for the .54.

    .
    Last edited by pietro; 09-26-2017 at 05:23 AM.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    The 50 caliber will work just fine for whitetail deer.
    Unless you want to hunt moose or elk in the future then the 54 would be a better choice.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I have both calibers. When I deer hunt, it's the .54 Renegade. Round ball is more than capable for deer. You want more knockdown.... load a Maxi-Ball, akin to a 12 gauge slug. However, there is a significant increase in recoil.

    Winelover

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I too have both and will pick the 54 for round ball every time but ,I take the 50 or 45 for conical"s (boolits) thats why I have both . Short and light are nice for hunting ,not so for recoil or getting the most from your 80-90 grain load BP (I"m short+light too )

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    As noted by all above, they both work, and pretty much as expected, bigger is more. Want more punch, thump & recoil, go .54. Want a smidgen less, go .50. Those 1 - 48 barrels shoot most everything OK. Only experimentation with your individual rifle will tell you which is the very best. Lots of experimental factors, too; RB -.490 or .495?, powder type and charge weight, patch thickness & lube type, which conical and conical weight with which lube. You can spend all summer on one gun just finding out what combinations of everything you like best (or your gun likes best). Again, as noted above, components for the .50 abound and not so much for the .54. Not really a problem if you plan ahead. You just can't count on going to Wal-Mart for supplies on your way to the range/hunting trip with the .54. I've known guys who started out with a .50 who moved on to a .54, and guys who started out with a .54 and moved on to a .50.
    Good luck.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master FrontierMuzzleloading's Avatar
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    I had zero problems using a .50cal patched round ball for both deer and elk this year. Will do it again the next time I have tags for big game!

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    Get both. It's going to happen anyway, after you touch that first shot off with the black smoky stuff

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    MAGA, if you shop on the internet, you can find ball and bullet for both the 50 and the 54 24/7/365. And if you decide to cast your own, the sky is the limit. I own and shoot both 50 and 54 renegades, and I cast both RB and MAXI-BALLS for both. In my opinion, Patched RB is just fine on Whitetail. Shot placement is key....... and your ability to shoot repetitive tight groups will be your only handicap. This is a 3 shot group from my T/C 54 cal. Renegade at 100 yards. 90 gr. Pyrodex RS.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I have owned both calibers over the years and either will do the job you are looking at. I had a custom Hawken that I built years ago in 54 and it was a good shooter. I ended up selling it to a guy who wanted it in the worst way. Now, I have several 50 calibers - they are good shooters as well.

    I think you would be well served by either so it's really more of a personal preference. 50 versus 54 - if you cast, yea, maybe your lead will go a tad bit further but not much so you'll end up with about the same number of balls per pound. Caps will still cost the same for either and you aren't going to use that much more powder in the 54 than you will in the 50.

    If you were thinking of using it on game larger than whitetail, then I'd go with the .54 - sorry but i'm not going to get into a debate about taking elk or moose with a 50.

    You are talking about 100 yd. shots where you hunt. Where I hunted in Michigan on the farm, I never "field hunted" so never had to worry about taking a longer range shot. Most of what we hunted was woods and swamps and 50 yards was about the longest distance we'd get anyway. I got tired of lugging the weight of the Hawken around on an all day hunt.

    I'd probably get a .54 but at my age, I tell myself that the .50 cal. rifles have little less recoil - regardless if they do or not - it's all a way of justifying my choice! LOL I don't hunt anymore as my legs won't take the trekking, but for white-tails, I would have no issues with using a .45 and keeping shooting distances reasonable.

    In the end - it's your choice as everyone is different. But again, if you are going to ever hunt larger game, or perhaps want to play with some longer range shooting for fun, then I'd definitely go with the .54. What ever you decide on, practice practice and practice - and just not at 25, 50 and 100 yards. "Learn" your rifle and learn where the POI is as opposed to POA at a wide variety of "odd" distances. Game can't read yardage markers so work up your loads and once you know how the new rifle shoots with what, you can always adjust your sight picture to accommodate the estimated distances you might get a shot at. Good luck and have fun! Sounds like the make/model you've selected will work well for you!

  12. #12
    Boolit Man MAGA's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info guys! Keep it coming

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I'd go with a .50 for white tail for the reasons given above. Only if you want to go after elk would I go with bigger.

    Even if hunting elk at shorter ranges, a conical in .50 will do the trick.

    Or, get a Lyman Great Plains Hunter and use bigger conicals Not as handy though

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    of course now keep in mind if you got a 54, you can always throttle back on the load and shoot light PRB loads

  15. #15
    Boolit Master


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    OK I can tell you guys are young. It is not a question of a 50 or a 54, but the rifle you need is the 58. Why, the 50 you so lovingly carried up and down hill so many years gets heavy enough that you hesitate to go hunting. The 58 is signifitly lighter and if recoil is going to be a problem just load less powder for practice or match shooting. My current build is a 54 American Yeager in flint. My flint Hawkens got heavy enough that a swamped barrel came into play
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I have a CVA 54 cal. I found that the 54 is a perfect fit using a 28ga plastic shotgun wad with a 50cal RB inside. I use a gob of patch lube in the center part of the wad and can shoot all day without cleaning the barrel. I can also just drop in a 50cal conical or shoot 54cal RBs with a patch or 54cal conicals. Best of both worlds. It shoots about 1"- 1 1/2" at 50yds which is about as good as I can shoot open sights.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master OnHoPr's Avatar
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    Decent standard noob question asked short and well. I will add to the other posters finer points and opinions. The RB of either the 50 or 54 will work on deer with the 54 having a slight edge, hard to say how much. The PRB is a deadly projectile on deer. The 50 for "plinking range FUN" would be more appropriate, especially with the noob. The 50 has less lead consumption and recoil as well. If you ever get an itch for a NC black bear the 54 RB would be more appropriate. Though, the 50 cal conical would be plenty effective even on larger game. Remember this, the RB will get blown around by the wind more than the conical. So, when you start getting pass 75 yds 10 mph winds can play havoc with the RB and here is where the conical comes into its effectiveness with considering drop as well to 75 yds and pass 100 yds. Considering what I have stated the 45 cal would seem like a great choice. FUN for the plinking range aspect with the RB and with a conical for your 1 or 2 weeks a year of hunting. The 45 conical will do everything you want or need on a NC deer and should have no problems with even a large NC bear.
    May you hands be warmed on a frosty day.

  18. #18
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    if possible, i'd always opt for a .54 as it's just more versatile. load down for all day plinking or load up for bear. personally, i'd want it as a flinter, at least a 28" barrel, and with a slower patched ball twist, too. ymmv, it's all good.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DIRT Farmer View Post
    OK I can tell you guys are young. It is not a question of a 50 or a 54, but the rifle you need is the 58. Why, the 50 you so lovingly carried up and down hill so many years gets heavy enough that you hesitate to go hunting. The 58 is signifitly lighter and if recoil is going to be a problem just load less powder for practice or match shooting. My current build is a 54 American Yeager in flint. My flint Hawkens got heavy enough that a swamped barrel came into play
    I haul around a .62! Good stock design, so no recoil problems. 65 gr. 3f for plinking, 95 gr. 3f for business.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check