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Thread: .54 or .58 for brown bear

  1. #1
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    Default .54 or .58 for brown bear

    I am new to the forum and would like some advise. I own a Thompson Center Renegade hunter in .54 cal. Is this large enough for brown bear or should I upgrade to a .58cal Big Boar. I will be using Maxi-Balls and not round balls. Any input would be helpful.

  2. #2

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    How good of a shot are you?Very good accuracy is the most important.Shoot your 54 and try to borrow a 58 and see if you shoot better with one or the other.They do have very good bullets today so the shooting and killing is up to you.

  3. #3
    Member alaska bush man's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Big Boar

    They stop making Big Boar years ago.......but that is fine rifle.

    The 54 Cal Renegade with the TC Maxi Ball will work......keep the range short 50-100 yards and a back up with a big rifle..........because bears can cover ground fast!

    100 grains of 777 2F and a Mag Primer.......I switched mine over to Musket caps........Big Boar 58 Cal with TC Maxi Balls
    Alaska

  4. #4

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    I've whapped everything from moose to mice with a 54, and one of my hunting partners has done pretty much the same with his 58. I've seen a few of his kill shots and most of the aftermaths.

    But neither of us has shot brown bear with them. Been around bears a lot and talked a lot with guide friends and individuals who have more experience than most, so I've formed secondhand impressions I think are pretty well grounded in fact.

    If I was in your shoes and determined to do it, I'd weigh recoil pretty seriously against sectional density and its relationship to penetration. I've pushed heavy bore-sized 54 cal conicals as hard as the guns were designed for, and in all honesty I had trouble keeping the forend in my hand. With one of my inlines, it consistently scoped me with any scope I tried till I went to the Leopold VXIII 1.5x5 with it's very long eye relief. The combo of very heavy bullets and very large powder charges adds up to monstrous recoil (subjectively more than my 460 Wby, BTW).

    I point all that out because in order to achieve similar penetration with a 58 you will most certainly need much heavier bullets and powder charges in a rifle of the same weight. I'm no wuss about recoil as you might guess from the collection of scope scars in my eyebrow and nose, but I don't think I could handle the recoil of a 58 in a rifle of the same weight driving a bullet fast enough to achieve the same penetration you can get with a 54. The little increase in diameter of the 58 over the 54 is not enough to compensate for loss of penetration if you use a 58 cal light enough that the sectional density drops below that of the 54.

    If your marksmanship suffers with either caliber due to the recoil, it's all a moot question anyway. You HAVE TO pick the right spot for your shot and hit it every single time.

    Penetration will be key right behind marksmanship. I've shot enough moose and elk with my 54 to suspect that pure lead bullets, while creating massive damage from expansion, will also limit penetration. Your call whether it will do so to the detriment of brown bear performance. But I'd be sorely tempted to use something other than pure lead, and therein lies the problem. A bare lead conical needs to be pure lead to perform correctly in a BP rifle.

    That all leads me to guess that the best medicine might be a heavy, hardened lead bullet in a sabot, giving you a better combination of accuracy and hardness for penetration. Various 54 cal sabots are made to accept .451-.452 diameter bullets, and hardcast bullets are available at up to around 350 grains. Go for the ones with large flat noses (meplats) for optimum killing effect. The 350 grain bullet is going to be 100+ grains lighter than a 54 cal bore-fitting conical, but I suspect it's a fair tradeoff due to similarities in SD, along with better terminal performance due to the large meplat and hard construction.

    Now we're back to marksmanship and the need for a one-shot kill. Heck, you can't guarantee a one-shot kill with a perfect shot from the meanest bolt action cartridge gun. So without impuning muzzleloaders or your marksmanship, I'd put as much effort into choosing and proving the guy (or maybe two), backing you up with conventional rifles in heavy calibers.

    As much as I love muzzleloaders and hunting, I'd sure hate to read a discussion on AOD about the fool who got himself or someone else hurt while trying to kill a brown bear with a muzzleloader. I suspect it would read kind of like the "discussion" about the tundra trucks, and it wouldn't do any of us hunters a darn bit of good.

  5. #5

    Default Maybe

    The first recorded grizzly killed in the US was in 1806 and was killed with 1805 Springfield flintchipper. Yep it is in the annals of the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was a harrowing experience and they almost didn't have enough toilet paper to handle the job. In the records of this trip they used the new-fangled 54 caliber Springfield and the customery patched lead ball. Good reading and informative. GOOD LUCK !!!

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    Default BP bigbores

    The 50 caliber is also another option but I think both the 50 and 54 are adequate within the proper ranges. For brown bear I would consider the pedersoli kodiak double rifle which will offer you a follow up shot and it's available in 50, 54, 58, and 72 caliber plus it's always nice to have an excuse to buy another gun...................

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    Default Oh yeah.......

    Power belt bullets offers a 50 cal. dangerous game bullet in 420 gr. and 530 gr. for maximum penetration. I've shot the power belts out of an in-line and they were easy to load and very accurate, might want to give these a try...................

  8. #8

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    Good suggestion on the Pedersoli Kodiak TC1. I don't own one but have shot them in 58 and 72. I can't recall accurately, but aren't their barrels slower twist for round balls rather than conicals, however? I'd sure check on that before buying.

    And it's probably a very good idea to arrange to shoot one, especially the 72 before buying. With a heavy powder charge the 72 is darn near a religious rebirth to fire, in terms of recoil. And that's with RBs, rather than a conical heavy enough to have a high sectional density. In my experience centerfire shooters tend to overlook the effect of powder weight in recoil formulas, but it is a huge contributor to recoil with loads large enough to get heavy bullets moving, compared to a smokeless powder gun achieving the same velocities with the same bullet weight.

  9. #9
    Member RMiller's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by brav01 View Post
    The first recorded grizzly killed in the US was in 1806 and was killed with 1805 Springfield flintchipper. Yep it is in the annals of the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was a harrowing experience and they almost didn't have enough toilet paper to handle the job. In the records of this trip they used the new-fangled 54 caliber Springfield and the customery patched lead ball. Good reading and informative. GOOD LUCK !!!
    Don't forget too that the Calfornia brown bears were wiped out with muzzleloaders. and rounds balls.

  10. #10

    Default Recoil

    In BP rifles recoil is based on ball weight plus half the powder charge weight.

  11. #11

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    I would use something that will give you better penetration. I think the 54cal will do but a 58cal would be nice. Get yourself a 58cal and have some fun with it.

  12. #12
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    Default Smooth bore for Bear -

    I know this sounds stupid - But it might not be a total waste of time to consider a large caliber smooth bore. Something like .69 or even 12 bore (.75cal).
    I have had a number of reproduction, original, and ones I have built that when patched well will keep balls inside a paper plate target at 100 yards all day long using a fair set of open sights. A well patched smooth bore with round ball will amaze you. The best part is that you can alloy the ball and end up with a large projectile going up to say 1300 to 1500 fps that will deliver very deep penetration.
    A fellow in Scotland in the mid 1800s designed some barrels that had super narrow grooves and wide lands with rates of twist as slow as one turn in 110". These barrels shot close to ordinary rifle accuracy and could use an alloyed round ball. The recoil was less than with a rifle of the same caliber and charge (nearly 50% of the ball weight!) and shot flatter than the rifle. Unfortunately the work was done at about the time that conical bullets were catching on and the work never got off the ground.
    I have seen what my Brown Bess Musket can do on Montana mule deer at 75 yards. On one the .715 ball went almost end to end and I'm not sure it even slowed down! It was like flicking a switch. One second alive and standing - the next down and dead. You could still eat right up to the hole.
    It would simply be a matter of getting your brain wrapped around the idea of using a smooth bore instead of a rifle. But on Kodiak as I understand it one of the bear guns of choice for protection from bears is an ordinary 12 guage shotgun with slugs and cracker shells.
    A .75 caliber round ball weighs as much or more than most slugs and you can get velocities out of them that rival or beat the shotgun.
    Having only recently moved to Alaska and being 60 years old I can only hope I live long enough to hunt some Brown Bears with a gun I make and a few cool cartridge guns I would like to try (my .460 Smith and if I can ever get it done a Browning M-71 450 Alaskan).
    Most of my friends here think I'm nuts to want to try a Brown Bear with a traditional muzzle loader. But they have all volunteered to provide me backup. Not sure if it's because they like me or just want to see the makings of real "adventure" at my expense!
    I say go for it, but have enough gun for certain. I would not use an ordinary pure lead projectile no matter the caliber. I think even a large fast moving round ball would 'pancake' on the muscle it's going to encounter on it's way to the vitals of a Brown Bear if it were not significantly harder than pure lead. Since I having moved to our village two 8'+ Browns have had to be killed right in the village. A close look and some poking around on them convinced me these guys are not going to fall easy. They felt like a chunck of furry wet leather over cinder block!
    Ron

  13. #13

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    Hey Ron,

    I don't have a smoothie, but according to friends who are advocates it sounds like you are right on the money. They claim to use alloy balls with tight patches for great accuracy and penetration, which you aren't likely to manage with a contemporary rifled bore. Have you tried that approach with your smoothies?

  14. #14
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    Default Smooth bore for Bear -

    I have yet to get to hunt a Brown Bear with anything but my imagination.
    But I have done extensive playing around with smooth bores including alloyed balls.
    I tested them on a fixture I made and filled with wet magazines and phone books. Alloyed balls penetrated much farther than pure lead. That was some time ago so I can't recall just how much difference there was but it was considerable in that medium.
    How close to the anatomy of a bear packed wet magazines come - I don't know. I do recall placing several layers of 3/4" plyood between them to simulate bone. Should have taken better notes I guess.
    As I mentioned, there is not enough interest in smooth bore guns for there to have been a lot of experiancial information about their performance out there so those of us with the desire will have to do it ourselves.
    I do know that if you have a rifle and a smooth bore that use the same diameter and weight ball and you use the same charge in the same legth barrel with the same weight gun you get the following from the smooth bore every time:
    Higher velocity and lower recoil. Both of these are due to the lack of resistance from the spiral grooves. Because of the high velocity you get a flatter shooting projectile. All of which equals better terminal performance on the target. Also; an alloyed ball weighs a little less than pure lead = higher velocity yet with corrispondingly less recoil.
    When I loaded my old Brown Bess I used 125 grains of FFG under a tightly patched .735 ball (as I recall). I thinned down the bayonet lug and added a fixed rear sight. The darned old thing would outdo a few rifles and flip metal targets all over the place. I could shoot it all day long using spit lubed patches without cleaning and about 10 or so shots with a greased patch for hunting. On top of that it was murder on rabbits and birds as long as I remembered my follow through. Never was much of a shotgunner. Currently I am building myself another Bess only an earlyer model with wooden rammer and iron mounts. I AM planning a late percussion era gun for myself. While I love a good adventure I'm not sure at 60 I want to get out in wet weather with a flint gun of any size while after a Brown Bear on in his country with out good back up. So a big percussion smooth bore of some kind would work out good. Maybe I'll make it with a hook breach so I can have interchangeable matching smooth and rifled barrels.
    See if you can borrow a good smooth bore - perferably one with sights - and try some patched round ball loads. I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Patch thickness is no where near as critical as with a rifle. A thicker patch seems to work better for me for a tight fit than a thin patch. Heavy denimn or canvas seems to work well - holds lots of spit too! =)
    Ron

  15. #15

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    I know what you mean about bear hunting. All these years I've never got around to shooting one in spite of all the opportunities, so I doubt I'm going to bother with a ML either.

    The interchangeable barrel idea is really appealing. A friend bought a parts set from a good source at least ten years ago for a 72 flinter with interchangeable smooth and rifled barrels, but has never started work on it. I'm kind of hoping he'll give up on the dream and let me pick it up. In the meantime he's an old time flinter and has popped no end of deer on Kodiak with his 62 caliber smoothie flinter- rain, snow or sun. At the very least I should be able to shoot that.

  16. #16

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    keep this in perspective. I hunt brown bears with a 57lb longbow with wood arrows and 1 13/32 broadheads.

    Take your .54 get 50 yards away from the bugger put the maxi in his lungs and you will have a dead bear in 10 seconds.

    Your .54 will be just fine. Just make sure you can shoot it at whatever range your comfortable with and go do the do. Alaska is an awesome place, dont let it scare you. Respect it and the animals and you should have no problems.

    Get used to not shooting with a scope anyways. For Muzzle loader only hunts you have to use open sights.

  17. #17
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    Default Can't argue with shot placement

    Sure can't argue with shot placement. Better a .54 slug right where it will do the most damage than the biggest round ball going lickity split smack in the butt! Ability to control your gun and competence with it is also a major issue.
    However - with all that, I have kind of taken on an Elmer Kieth (remember him?) philosophy. Use all the gun you can. To a limited point - a big gun can make up for a lousy shot. That point again is limited and not something you bank on. Mostly I carry large bore guns - muzzle loader - and modern - because I want to make good quick kills. I don't like to chase wounded stuff to heck and back and I hate the thought of an animal enduring a slow agonizing death because I was undergunned. So I like going for the well placed shot in a gun I am confident, competent, and comfortable with.
    There once was an old saying that dispite all the cool stuff to chose from out there and the ability and temptation to have a different gun for every occasion is still true: "Beware of the one gun man".
    Ron

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