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Thread: how do cast bullets shoot out of 1:60 twist barrels?

  1. #1
    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    homer, alaska

    Question how do cast bullets shoot out of 1:60 twist barrels?

    looking at a number of rifles, and wondering what bullets will shoot...any rule of thumb?
    will cast bullets not shoot at all, not as well, or does it boil down to individual loads and guns?
    Alaska Board of Game 2015 tour... "Kicking the can down the road"

  2. #2


    Cast round balls shoot very well out of 1:60 barrels. If you want to shoot conicals, short ones like Buffalo Ballettes are best in such slow twists. The only home-cast version I have found that shoots decently in my 1:60 Lyman 54 cal GPR (Great Plains Rifle) barrel is the 300 grain Lee REAL. The 380 grain Lee REAL simply won't work.

    On the other hand, they (and any other conical he has tried) shoot really well out of my hunting pard's Lyman GPH (Great Plains Hunter) with its 1:32 twist barrel. It shoots roud balls well too, but only at lower velocities with powder charges no heavier than 50 grains.

    He got the 1:32 twist GPH barrel as an extra to go with his GPR. They'e interchangeable, and I think he paid around $130 for the barrel from Midsouth Shooters Supply. It is superbly accurate with just about any conical he has stuffed down the bore.

    Thompson Center and others put 1:48 twist barrels on their models as a compromise between fast and slow twists so people can shoot both round balls and conicals at higher velocities from the same barres. The same friend has several, as do other friends. All report that the Hawkens live up to the claim, and I've sure seen the evidence on the range.

    Be aware that the Lee REAL bullets (and all conicals, for that matter) need to be cast from pure lead rather than an alloy in order to shoot well. Lube choice can really affect accuracy, too. I've consistently had the best results with conicals if I also put a lubed felt wad (readily available from many sources) between the powder and the bullet.

    As a rule of thumb conicals penetrate better than round balls while generating lots more recoil and lower velocities. I've found the RBs to be just fine for deer up to moose, but you have to take broadside shots to make sure it gets through the lungs. Some folks insist on heart shots, but we like heart on the table too much to put holes in them.

  3. #3


    Cast bullets, whether round ball or conicals, should shoot just fine. It's probably more a matter of matching up the correct powder / bullet combination for a particular gun. In a 1:60" twist round balls would be ideal but that doesn't mean you can't shoot conicals. Brown Bear mentioned the Buffalo Ball-ets. I shot those for a couple years with good success on deer. I have a 1:48" Hawkin and they shot well, very easy to load. But they'll shoot just fine out of a 1:60" as well. Right now I'm loving the Great Plains Bullets out of my Hawkin. They are amazingly accurate, although the 385 grain bullet and 80 grains of Triple 7 thumps my shoulder a bit. They fit my barrel well enough that I do not use a felt button between the bullet and powder. I have not tried the T/C Maxi Balls, but have heard good things. I'd really love to have a Lyman rifle someday in .54, just can't decide on a Plains Rifle or Hunter.

  4. #4

    Default casting

    Brown Bear is dead on. The 1 in 60 twist shoots the patched cast round balls very well, but if you want to shoot the sabots you need the 1 in 32 or 1 in 48 twist. Most of the traditional ML's are 1 in 60 and meant for round balls, but most of the newer inline one's are made to shoot the sabots. Load the softest lead that you can get you want it very soft to be able to go in to the rifling. The melted down wheel weights are good for handguns, but not ML's. You want 98+ pure lead. Good luck with it.


  5. #5


    Just to clarify a bit:

    The role of a lubed felt wad between the powder and bullet is more related to accuracy. It's debatable whether it does more to protect the base of the bullet or simply provide a better gas seal and some extra lube.

    Fit of conicals in the bore is a little different question. Bullets like the REAL (which stands for Rifling Endgraved At Loading) are a tight fit. The REAL's top ring is actually bore sized, while the lower rings are smaller. The bullet drops right into the bore and stops on the last ring, and you have to smack it with a short starter to get it to go on down. That helps in the accuracy department in some guns, as well as in keeping the bullet from shifting away from the powder during heavy field carry. But because the base part of the bullet is smaller than the bore, it has to expand on firing to get a good gas seal. Therefore it has to be cast of the purest (and therefore softest) lead possible to assure that it expands. Especially if your lead source is suspect, the felt wad is important under the REAL to assure a good seal.

    Some conicals are loose from end to end in the bore. That sure makes it easier to seat them, but they are also prone to shifting around in hours of carry before firing. They too need the felt base wad to help assure a good gas seal, but you also need to make sure that the bullet doesn't shift around, which could create a dangerous situation if you get a big air gap between the bullet and powder. To a degree you can cut down on that shifting with lots of lube on the bullet, but if the lube is soft or it's a warm day you lose that effect. Lots of shooters wrap their loose conicals in teflon tape (the same stuff you get at the plumbers supply) to increase their diameter slightly to stop the shifting, while also adding the effect of teflon for lube. I've seen amazing results using the teflon tape, but it does put you right back in the situation of a tight bullet requiring a smart slap of a short starter to get the bullet down the bore.

    Personal tastes as well as function are a rule of thumb with conicals. They will usually "work" right out of the box. But each variety of conical has a personality, just like individual guns have personality. You often need to fiddle around to find out what each variety of conicals likes in your gun. But that's part of the fun!

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by homerdave View Post
    looking at a number of rifles, and wondering what bullets will shoot...any rule of thumb?
    will cast bullets not shoot at all, not as well, or does it boil down to individual loads and guns?
    Can I ask what rifles are you looking at, In line or traditional side lock? As a rule of thumb the inlines are rifled for shooting conicals and saboted bullets. The traditional style rifles can be found with rifling designed for one or the other, with some having a rifling rate of twist of 1:48.

    The 1:48 is a compromise which supposedly allows the use of patched round balls and conicals. Conicals being refered to here as maxi balls, minie` ball, or saboted. As a general rule the smaller caliber rifles intended for PBR will have a rate of twist in the 1:60 rate. As you go bigger the rate will slow to 1:72 or even 1:96.

    Another consideration concerning rifling is the depth of rifling. Patched round balls traditionally do best with deeper rifling 10-12thou where as the conicals do best with shallow rifling 5 thou. The deeper rifling must be obtained by a method known as cut rifling whereas the shallower rifling can be done with broaches or forged. Cut rifling does exactly that it removes the metal forming the lands and groove pattern. The other methods simply displace metal forming the land and grooves. Both methods have their pluses and minuses.

    I personally much prefer the cut rifling method for PRB shooting. My rifles from 32 cal thru 40 cal have rifling rates of 1:60, 45 cal to 54 cal 1:72 and above 54 cal 1:96. The slower rate of twist allows for increased charges of powder and tolerable recoil levels with the large bore rifles.

    One exception to all the above is the military rifled muskets, they were as a rule intended to shoot the 58 cal minie` ball with moderate charges with a rate of twist 1:96, shallow rifling with 3 lands and grooves. I think the reason for this combination was to reduce the recoil as even a 65 gr charge behind a 550 gr minie can get your attention.

    PS: Every rifle seems to have it's own preference for ball size, patch thickness and powder charge wt and granulation. Cast pure lead balls and conicals have always worked for me.


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