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The .58 Caliber Muzzleloader

By Randy D. Smith

Randy Smith
Randy D. Smith

I decided to write about .58's for Guns and Shooting Online because most muzzleloader magazines don't want to print anything on them because of the bias toward the high velocity products being put out by the gun companies. About the only well known hunting rifles in this caliber still available are the Navy Arms Buffalo Hunter and the Kodiak Express Double. The fine T/C Arms Big Boar 58 Cal. rifle has been discontinued, although many of these relatively popular .58's are still in use. Perhaps this article on 58's will attract some interest and be of use to those hunting with this caliber.

I still hunt with a .58, have owned a number of them, and have had a .58 of some sort around for years. My current rifle is a reproduction Lemen Plains Rifle made for me by Doctor Gary White. It is a round ball gun and my standard load is 100 grains of FFg with a patched round ball. My elk load, at Doc's recommendation, is 200 grains of FFg but I have yet to use that load in the field.

I've hunted deer with swaged hollow-based conical bullets such as the Hornady 525 grain Great Plains, Buffalo Bullet 525 grain or the 405 grain Buffalo Ball-et, mostly in Civil War Replicas, but none of them were very accurate. I shot the 405 grain Ball-et in a Navy Arms Buffalo Hunter with a charge of 70 grains of FFg and it did very well on deer.

I spine shot a cow elk in Colorado several years ago with a 525 grain Buffalo Bullet from a Confederate carbine replica at 40 yards. She dropped so fast that we had to roll her off her legs to begin field dressing her.

I shot a 525 pound Russian boar in Arkansas with a T/C System One in .58 using Thompson Center's Maxi-ball (555 grains, I believe) at 50 yards using a 90 grain charge of Pyrodex RS. The boar was charging and I shot at 50 yards. The bullet entered the front left shoulder and lodged in the hide of his right rump, splitting his heart in half. He turned and made it about 15 yards before going down.

I also had a nice custom box lock .58 sighted in for the 600-grain Warren Bullet for Africa. I ended up not taking it because Doc made me a .50 inline double for that safari.

Converting a T/C Big Boar to a musket cap for use with heavy Pyrodex loads is a good idea and really quite easy. Get nipples from Mountain State Muzzleloading. These nipples are shorter with rounded edges and work much better with sidelocks than some inline nipples. You will experience a sharper "crack" from the cap and it may hurt your ears a bit, but if you want to use Pyrodex it is a wise choice. And, of course, the best musket caps are RWS, which are vastly superior to CCI's.

Don't forget the T/C Maxi Ball or Maxi Bullet as considerations for a .58 rifle. A Ball-et is probably all that is needed for deer, and as long as powder charges are kept under 100 grains a felt over powder wad is usually unnecessary.

The Big Boar's 1:48 rifling should stabilize everything at some charge level. Probably (and I'm just guessing from other experiences) the most accurate loads will be between 70 and 85 grains with a Ball-et, and that is plenty for deer. I believe a 405 Ball-et will stabilize as well as any of the big conical bullets, but no better.

The reason for going with a Ball-et is lower recoil and a bit higher velocity, but the big conicals will exhibit superior down range energy. At ranges from 100 to 200 yards either will do well, depending entirely how an individual rifle works with them. Use whatever gives you the best 100 yard groups at a recoil level you can live with. For deer hunting I still prefer the patched round ball in a .58.

The .58 has a lot going for it, but most hunters don't realize it because they get all bogged down in velocity and energy figures, which do not adequately reflect the .58's game taking performance. I would keep a .58 before a .54, although a .54 is probably a bit better as an elk rifle because of a slightly flatter trajectory.

In spite of that, I love the .58's ability to take down big game and especially dangerous game. A T/C Big Boar, I would think, would be an ideal Western Mountain rifle. It is short, powerful and handy, perfectly capable of taking out dangerous game while on a deer hunt if the need arose; a great bear defense gun, for instance.

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