What is the Range of my Muzzleloading Rifle?
What is your Effective Range?
Probably one of the most commonly asked questions, and one to which there is no absolute answer is "What is the range of my muzzle loader?" To test your own effective range, fire several shots at a 8" square target at various ranges. The square is a rough representation of the kill zone of a deer. If you can keep 8 out of 10 shots in that target you are still within a practical hunting range. With many variables taken into account, 100 yards is the practical limit with a round ball. Due to the inefficient nature of a round ball as a projectile, the energy levels fall off rapidly at long range. Various conical bullets may be more efficient or carry more energy at longer ranges, but you are still dealing with a low velocity bullet compared to most modern firearms.
Beyond 100 yards, drop (the distance between the point of aim and the point of impact) becomes significant, so the shooter must be able to judge the distance to the target very precisely and be able to raise the point of aim enough to compensate. While we've all heard those "long shot" stories, and while some of them may even be true, we must still say that for the average hunter 100 yards is the limit.
We usually recommend that an Eastern hunter sight in an inch or two high at 50 yards. This will allow a dead center point of aim from 0 to 80 yards. Beyond 80 yards or so you will have to start "holding over" (aiming high) to allow for bullet drop. Since the vast majority of reasonable shots on Eastern white tail deer are well within 80 yards, this works well.
This is a variation of the three-sixes rule of hunting. Your effective range is a combination of you and your rifle. You should know where your limitations lie. The rule is simple and to the point. You are out of range when you can no longer keep six out of six shots in a six inch circle. Your effective range will also change dependent upon whether you are shooting off hand or from a rest. A good hunter will take the time to find his effective range from a variety of shooting positions.