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.58 Caliber, Zouave ML Rifle, Range Report
Old 03-17-2016, 07:41 PM
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Default .58 Caliber, Zouave ML Rifle, Range Report

Recently I applied for some drawing permits in Utah so that I might hunt with my daughter and son-in-law. The short version is that the odds of getting drawn for an elk or deer (bulls and bucks only), is very low for non-residents (me) with no "preference points", (me and my daughter and SIL). The odds are better for muzzle loader hunts than for "any firearm" hunts, so...

While I have been working on building a ML rifle for several years. (Jay Edward gave me the barrel, lock (cap), and trigger group. I bought a chunk of wood and am inletting everything and shaping the stock.) However, that project is not likely to be finished in time for this fall. (Probably won't be drawn for this fall, but you never know.)

The barrel that Jay gave me is a .58 caliber, and I just like big calibers, so I if I got a 'prefab' ML rifle, it was gonna be at least .58 caliber. Looking around, the best buys on ML of .58 caliber and larger is the "Zouave US Model 1863 Rifle". http://www.davide-pedersoli.com/sche...863-rifle.html I picked one up for $325 including shipping to my door. It is identical to the Pedersoli, but it was made by Anton Zoli in the '60s and imported by Sears until about 1967. Here's an internet picture of one. I don't have the bayonet.

That's the background.

I took the Zouave (pronounced zhoo ahv) to the range with me the last time I went to work on the Sauer 90 loads http://thehunterslife.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18930. I brought 3 projectiles:
1) Round ball, (RB),
2) A 'traditional' Lee "Minie" bullet: http://leeprecision.com/mold-575-500-m.html, and
3) Another Lee "Minie" that is basically a hollow-based cylinder: http://leeprecision.com/mold-575-470-m.html

I have some real black powder (BP); some Pyrodex RS, a black powder substitute (BPS), and I bought another pound of BPS made by Alliant that only cost $9/lb at Sportsman's Warehouse. I only took the Pyrodex and Alliant powder to the range, and I only used the Pyrodex.

The rifle is used, and a new type of ML that I am unfamiliar with, so I started with patched RB. The ".58 caliber" RB mold I have throws RBs of wheel-weight alloy (WW) at 0.578" in diameter. (I don't remember the exact weight, but about 280 grains.) I decided that a good "starter" charge would be 65 grains.

Since I had been shooting the Sauer at 100 yds, and I was 'feeling froggy', I decided to just leave the target at 100 yd. If I couldn't hit a target that was essentially 15" x 30" at 100 yd, that was "information" too. I touched off the first round.

Air ball. Hmmm. I had aimed at the lower of the two large bull's eyes and thought that maybe with the light load I had gone low. I reloaded and aimed at the upper large bull's eye.

Its hole is the single hole at about 3 o'clock at the end of the red horizontal bar. So it had dropped about a foot and was about 6" right. Not too bad all things considered. I then loaded the other bullets, and to make it short, "couldn't find paper" at 100 yd, so I decided that since I was "working up a load", I should probably move the target to 50 yd, and did so.

At 50, I went back to the RB and upped the charge to 80 grains. The three-shot group you see to the left of the bull are two RBs and one of the cylindrical bullets. I was kind of fiddling around with patches and charges and shot the next three. Again, two RB and one cylindrical. Here are those three shots:

Then I went to the 500-grain "traditional" Minie. I'd show you those shots, but none of them hit the target ANYWHERE at 50 yd. I didn't waste any more bullets or powder or caps on those. SHEESH!

So after all of this I took the rifle home and cleaned it thoroughly. Afterward, leaving oil in the bore overnight to let it soak in. Then cleaning with clean, dry, patches until all the oil residue was gone. I then fired a cap to "season" the powder chamber.

A few days later, I was wrestling with some BP vs BPS issues and decided to call Alboy and get some expert advice. After that conversation, I decided to:
1) Stick to patched RB for the time being, and get those "on", and
2) Up the charge to 100 grains.

Alboy pointed out that the twist rate of the barrel might well be suited for RB and not "bullets". The range session would certainly suggest that. I haven't measured the twist rate, but I SERIOUSLY doubt there is one full turn in the 33" of the barrel. Alboy thinks it might be 1:48 or 1:60. I don't care much. If it shoots RB to 3 MoA or so at 100 yd, I'll be happy. I'm thinking/hoping that the cylindrical bullet might 'work' because of the inherently stable nature of a cylinder. (You will not Lee's comment that this mold is being discontinued in 2016. Of course. But I already have one and I don't think it's "worn out". )

Today, not being able to resist any longer, I dropped in 100 grains of Alliant's BPS, "Black MZ", put a RB on top of a prelubed patch, rammed the patched ball home, filled a 1 gallon milk jug with water and set it 35 yards from my patio, backed off, and 'let fly'.

I was going to aim in the center of the circle, but since it had been shooting low at the range, I thought I'd aim just a tad high. Hit right where I was aiming.

I wasn't expecting the the "explosion". I thought maybe some ripping with essentially a .60 caliber hole. This is pretty powerful medicine. Now it's back to the range to do some shooting at 50, 75, and 100 yd and maybe get some chrono data. I'm liking what I see in one shot.

Be nicer than necessary.

Last edited by gitano; 03-17-2016 at 08:08 PM..
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.58 caliber, muzzleloader, round ball, zouave

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