Powerbelt Bullets

By Randy Wakeman

Powerbelt bullets, manufactured by Big Bore Express, have been around for a long time now. They were known as "Black Belt Bullets," available in plain lead versions as well as with a thin copper-wash, as thin a copper plating as you may have seen on some .22 rimfire bullets.

CVA may offer some questionable guns, but what this Spanish owned importer does have an affinity for is loud, hyperbole driven marketing. CVA / BPI / Winchester Muzzleloading / New Frontier Muzzleloading rifles all come from the same inferior source. But "Powerbelt" bullets are made in Idaho.

Contrary to what the ads say about CVA Powerbelts, they are not the "most advanced" muzzleloading bullets. They are also not the "hardest hitting," nor do they have "all of the advantages of sabots."

The fact of the matter is, ballistically, bore sized projectiles are the very worst muzzleloading projectiles available. Comparing a .452 or .452 saboted pistol bullet to a "fifty caliber" bore-sized conical makes even the poorest pistol bullet look like a shooting powerhouse. It is fundamental that when comparing projectiles of similar weight and shape, the smaller caliber bullet is always superior in sectional density and almost always superior in ballistic coefficient. In other words, it flies better and penetrates deeper, losing less of its terminal striking force than a bore sized bullet.

Far from advanced, the Powerbelt is merely a pure lead conical. It is old wine in a new bottle, doing very little that the Minie balls of the Civil War did not do. The lighter versions do less.

Pure lead can be scratched with your fingernail; drop a Powerbelt and it easily dents. Powerbelts, like all lead conicals, shorten and belly out upon firing. Powerbelts shoot exactly the same whether the green hula hoop skirt is attached or detached.

They are simply slip fit conicals. Their sole benefit being that they need no messy lubrication of Crisco or other bullet lube, as the copper plating takes care of that. Unfortunately the better selling, lighter Powerbelts (245 and 295 grain) are the worst performers on game. The 348, 405, and 444 grain bullets are far more effective.

Powerbelts work best at moderate velocities and ranges. Doc White has extolled the virtues of heavy pure lead conicals for many years. What they do best is expand well at relatively low impact velocity, and they hardly need a hollow point (or a plastic "Aerotip" shoved into that hollow point) to initiate expansion. But, muzzleloading marketing being what it is, things seem to sell well if brightly and colorfully packaged--and you don't mind lying a bit.

Their primary benefit is easy loading. Otherwise, these overpriced and ballistically inferior slugs wouldn't have much sales appeal.

The 405 and 444 grain renditions are easily the better bullets, doing their best work with loose powder. Unfortunately, CVA barrels are not rated for bullets this heavy. It is unwise to use heavy conicals in a muzzleloader with an extruded barreled. They are better reserved for use in frontloaders with high quality barrels, such as Knight, Thompson, and Savage.

The facts speak for themselves. From any ballistic performance standpoint, Powerbelts make Hornady XTPs and Barnes MZ-Expanders in MMP sabots look like God's gift to muzzleloading. The day of the deer-crippling round ball has come and gone. Now, with the advent of Triple 7 and other high-energy propellants, the dismal trajectories of conicals means that their days as popular hunting projectiles are probably numbered.

It is only fair to note that, for "honey-hole" or "boiler room" shots on deer inside 120 yards, the 348 and 405 grain bullets have done well, and have given acceptable field accuracy in Austin & Halleck, Knight, and Savage muzzleloaders with 100 grains of T7 FFg loose powder. Where sabots are not an option, the 348 and 405 grain Powerbelts have a good track record when used within their limitations.

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Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.