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Thread: Terminal Effect of Roundball?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    Terminal Effect of Roundball?

    Part professional interest (firearm instructor), part recreational (hunter), and part historical, I'm hoping I can get some firsthand observations on how these nearly pure lead marbles behave on impact. Due to CA's impending lead hunting ban and the sheer difficulty of hunting in my zone, I'm unlikely to learn in the one season I'd have available to try, even if I did have the gear.

    On the negative hand, you have almost the worst possible aerodynamic shape, and the worst possible sectional density numbers.

    On the positive hand, people did successfully fight wars and feed themselves with them, and even in fairly primitive smoothbore form, the arms were viewed as sufficiently superior to the improved versions of the sharp stick that they were willing to accept the technical and logistical penalties of chemistry (gunpowder), and metallurgy - both gun making and bullet casting - to possess them. No less an authority than Elmer Keith observed the roundball in the .36 Navy Colt to be a superior manstopper to the conical options that were often found in the accompanying molds.

    Unfortunately, we don't have Marshall and Sanow doing studies of bank robbers being felled by round balls, nor do we have Federal, Remington, and Winchester shooting gelatin blocks with them and publishing the results. If the surgeons at Waterloo had anything to say about it, I'm not really sure where to look.

    So if any of you charcoal burners have smacked rows of milk jugs or done autopsies on your deer, elk, and pig in the name of science, I'd love to hear the details of caliber, velocity, penetration (recovered or not), expansion, and damage caused.

    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy UKShootist's Avatar
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    Not much help, but I was reading some time ago about the .577 Artillery Carbine muzzle loader which uses a Minie round. The article discussed terminal effects and stated that round balls tended to move to follow the softest tissue if it could. With the introduction of the bullet shaped Minie it was noticed (especially by anyone hit with one) that this bullet appeared not to mind in the least the presence of bone etc. in it's way. Exit wounds apparently became much more common.

    Ball rounds seemed quite effective in this case though.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3
    Boolit Master FrontierMuzzleloading's Avatar
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    IMO, paper #'s don't mean jack squat when it comes to round balls.

    .490" round ball, 70gr 3fg goex.





  4. #4
    Boolit Master FrontierMuzzleloading's Avatar
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    FrontierMuzzleloading,

    Good stuff there! I can't be 100% sure from the photos - was the shot on your elk a complete pass-through? The rib cage pics show the obvious hole (exit?) and a splotch on the opposing side that might be either the entry or just a blood puddle.

    No such questions on Porky! Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.
    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    This may be of interest to you:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hQnVfyhVJ-Y

    Also search YouTube for black powder ballistics gel test and it will bring up a couple handgun results.

    When I first became interested in muzzleloading arms I looked at the numbers such as what you did and wondered how on earth a ball could be very effective past about 50 yds with such low sectional density and energy numbers compared to what I “knew” about modern stuff and what was effective. According to modern gun forums most people held the same view and stated I shouldn’t even consider such and just move on to sabots with modern bullets.

    However I also signed up on traditional forums and asked lots of questions. And far too many answers of a ball being effective to 125 yds or even more were prevalent. Pics were shown and were no different than the ones posted here. I was schooled that the numbers don’t mean squat.

    One thing that was fairly common was that a soft lead ball generally mushroomed within 75 yds and was often found on the off side under the hide whereas beyond that it tended to give full penetration without much sign of expanding unless it hit bone.

    I don’t recall who’s commercial site stated that pure lead expands at 1200 fps and above. Below that it will tend to behave more like a solid.

    What I notice from ballistics gel and revolvers is that the ball tends to produce a little bit of an over caliber permanent cavity but after several inches it becomes a bit more like a FMJ. And this is why, for my revolvers, I created custom WFN bullet designs.

    As to the Civil War pistol conicals not being as effective as a ball I attribute this to the pointy design and low velocity of the paper cartridges used. A pointy bullet allows the flesh to stretch thereby creating a very small need caliber permanent cavity. Precisely why I believe Elmer Keith’s testing is weighty.

  7. #7
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    First thing i would do is to get written clarification if lead ball is going to be banned in commifornia. If it is, I would suggest leaving Ca. without delay.

  8. #8
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    As frontier has pictured, a roundball can surely kill an elk with no trouble at 30 yards. I have a friend who hunted with a 50 cal. Hawken for over 40 years. He was a survivalist freak. He hunted elk Like a true mountain man. Hiked miles into his hunting grounds where there are no roads. Not 1 single shot went past 50 yards.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Probably the best description I ever heard or read about the lethality of the round ball was coined by Sam Fadala, I believe. "A patched round ball kills all out of proportion to its paper ballistics". That would echo my experience as does Frontier's pictures and experience. No sir, the paper ballistics do not indicate a very effective projectile. Flesh and bone tell another story.
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    Killed a couple of critters with a roundball. One was a deer at very close range with a 36 C&B revolver straight into the chest. Whiel it did not run that far trailing was a problem. Another was a doe hit in the neck with a 3-50 cal round ball. Broke the neck, but I think the charge was a bit high as it did not exit. Totally destroyed the spine. Had a friend that shot 26 deer with a 50 cal round ball and 70 grains of powder. He felt it was superior to the Maxi's at closer range as it seemed to do more damage. He also claimed a kill at over 200 yards on a bedded deer.
    Another BP shooter from Canada mentioned seeing a bull moose shot at 175 yards with a 54 round ball. The terminal ballistics would have been similar to a 45 Colt. Ball was recovered and looked almost like it could be reloaded.
    We have grown up and been exposed to energy charts and other bullistic nonsense making think it takes 1000 foot pounds of energy to kill a deer and so forth. Never really been any backup to those theories other than some comparison to a caliber that is thought to be effective. How many deer were killed with a 44-40? One thing was that back in the BP days they often took shoulder shots to put game down.

    DP

  11. #11
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    I agree with the others posted here. I have shot my 50 cal rifle out to 100 yards on targets from a standing off hand shot with no problems hitting my target. My 69 caliber smoothbore at 50 yards and less is no problem for hog sized or larger game. ( Target shooting I can do 70 yards ... but I just wouldn't take that shot on an animal at that range with a PRB out of a pipe. ).

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    RB's work. They work very well. I generally prefer them in my ML's, although I do use conicals from time to time. As a matter of fact, I developed a cast round ball load for my rifled 12 ga. shotgun that is truly exceptional, both in term of accuracy and lethality. I also like a round ball load in my .45-70 which allows me to shoot quietly and is just fine for small game. I punch paper most of the time but that is only "Prep" for hunting. I'm sorry California is so whacky about all things guns & ammo. I understand why those who can move away from the place. Good luck with the prevailing anti-everything in Cali.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master FrontierMuzzleloading's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigslug View Post
    FrontierMuzzleloading,

    Good stuff there! I can't be 100% sure from the photos - was the shot on your elk a complete pass-through? The rib cage pics show the obvious hole (exit?) and a splotch on the opposing side that might be either the entry or just a blood puddle.

    No such questions on Porky! Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.
    On the elk and hog, the Huge holes are the ENTRANCE holes, the smaller holes are the exit. Both balls exited these animals. I for sure was thinking I could recover the ball on the elk after I shot it!

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy ofitg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigslug View Post
    .

    Unfortunately, we don't have Marshall and Sanow doing studies of bank robbers being felled by round balls, nor do we have Federal, Remington, and Winchester shooting gelatin blocks with them and publishing the results. If the surgeons at Waterloo had anything to say about it, I'm not really sure where to look.
    Since you mentioned Ed Sanow - he published this gelatin test data in the Feb'98 issue of HANDGUNS magazine (the one-shot stop values were estimated) -



    https://i.imgur.com/rwukmui.gif
    Last edited by ofitg; 02-19-2018 at 05:55 PM.
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  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by ofitg View Post
    Since you mentioned Ed Sanow - he published this gelatin test data in the Feb'98 issue of HANDGUNS magazine (the one-shot stop values were estimated) -



    https://i.imgur.com/rwukmui.gif
    Did the article happen to mention the powder used for these figures?

    I noticed an incorrect listing. There was no 1861 New Army. There was an 1861 Navy in .36 cal and the 1860 Army in .44 cal. Unless it was some fantasy gun...

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by FrontierMuzzleloading View Post
    On the elk and hog, the Huge holes are the ENTRANCE holes, the smaller holes are the exit. Both balls exited these animals. I for sure was thinking I could recover the ball on the elk after I shot it!
    Now THAT is some fascinating data that at least touches on the old "bullets that exit waste energy" argument. Veral Smiths response is that a bullet that exits at high speed is still crushing and tearing, while one that grinds to a halt in the chest cavity at some point is merely pushing tissue gently out of its way. While you obviously had plenty of steam to make an exit wound, I think we're seeing clear evidence of velocity loss as the wound progresses. But the fact that an entire bull elk torso is not an obstacle to a .50" PRB is certainly an eye-opener.

    And yeah guys, California is a horrid place to be a firearms professional, but whatyagonnado until one gets his retirement? The good news is that Barnes TTSX's work entirely to my satisfaction. The bad news is that I'll have to do my deer killin' with the more meat and potatoes diameters. This hasn't been the barrier that one might think. Being a glutton for punishment, the zone I hunt in has roughly a 3% success rate. Given the difficulty, I tend to automatically reach for the tools with sharp optics and flat trajectories rather than make the attempt with the older, emotional favorites. Might take a stab with cast in a P17 Enfield sporter this year - won't be able to in 2019.
    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

  17. #17
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by rodwha View Post
    Did the article happen to mention the powder used for these figures?

    I noticed an incorrect listing. There was no 1861 New Army. There was an 1861 Navy in .36 cal and the 1860 Army in .44 cal. Unless it was some fantasy gun...
    There certainly have been some fantasy 44's from pietta.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy ofitg's Avatar
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    Rodwha, I managed to find that 20-year-old magazine; Sanow's complete article is spread out across 10 pages, but he didn't specify what brand of powder he used for the tests.
    He did express thanks to Dixie Gun Works, Uberti USA and Navy Arms for furnishing the revolvers he used - chances are, he was not an longtime blackpowder enthusiast.
    "Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto."

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  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    I have a high regard for round balls. The ball pictured took the buck on the wall with a head on neck shot. After breaking the spine, I found it in the chest- missing one gr of its original 225 gs. (.54)
    The javelina fell to a .50 rb- on the same hunt I got a WT doe and a gobbler - all one shot DRT.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigslug View Post
    Now THAT is some fascinating data that at least touches on the old "bullets that exit waste energy" argument. Veral Smiths response is that a bullet that exits at high speed is still crushing and tearing, while one that grinds to a halt in the chest cavity at some point is merely pushing tissue gently out of its way. While you obviously had plenty of steam to make an exit wound, I think we're seeing clear evidence of velocity loss as the wound progresses. But the fact that an entire bull elk torso is not an obstacle to a .50" PRB is certainly an eye-opener.

    And yeah guys, California is a horrid place to be a firearms professional, but whatyagonnado until one gets his retirement? The good news is that Barnes TTSX's work entirely to my satisfaction. The bad news is that I'll have to do my deer killin' with the more meat and potatoes diameters. This hasn't been the barrier that one might think. Being a glutton for punishment, the zone I hunt in has roughly a 3% success rate. Given the difficulty, I tend to automatically reach for the tools with sharp optics and flat trajectories rather than make the attempt with the older, emotional favorites. Might take a stab with cast in a P17 Enfield sporter this year - won't be able to in 2019.
    Another option is non lead round balls:

    http://www.ballisticproducts.com/mob.../products/365/

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