Lee Real 54 cal, TC 54 Hawken, 54 cal RB issues??

  • Last Post 29 October 2018
corerftech posted this 28 October 2018

This year I am hunting with a TC Mid 70's minty low mileage 54 cal Hawken. It bears Lyman 57 SML sights and again is minty. The past owner (a decade ago) claimed it was a one holer. I believe him, he is a reliable source and speaks truthfully about such things. Can't get a hold of him now so I can't ask him questions.


Sighted it in today for next weekend. Had a heck of a time. I have a 50 that shoots like a BR scoped rifle. But I didn't take it today and have no confidence in it since it has been 5 years since last shooting.I'mm stuck shooting the 54 next weekend.


I started with Pure Lead LEE 54 cal REALs. They hit harder than an RB and are more stable in a 1-48 than a 540 gr Maxi. I loaded them at 70-90 grains and sent them lubed with bore butter. I was in a time crunch so I had little available to me to deviate from the plan. They didn't group and as a matter of fact must have been spiraling out of bore axis as they would land in a circle you could connect the dots on with a pencil, around the bull's eye. After taking a 50 round beating, I quit. I grabbed some round balls, TC .530's. I always use pillow ticking boiled in Emmerts Lube, wrung out and in strips ready to cut. I use this with my 50 and any size RB DOESNT CUT the patch radially when seating at the muzzle. I have to use a knife to cut the patch as is customary.


Today while seating the RB, literally the RB was acting like a perfect paper punch. Id use the short start and tap it and WHAM, a perfect hole cut in patch material and ball started 1/2 inch in the barrel. In shooting, my sights magically lined back up with the bore and I had massive windage adjustments to make but...... windage is right where it should be. I DO HAVE A PROBLEM though.


I believe that the muzzle cutting the patch is leaving the ball too loose. A .530 ball with my .020 patch should take a gorilla to seat it to the powder column. It doesn't a few taps and down it goes. So if you consider the ball being a die, cutting a perfect circle of cloth at the circumference, then there IS NO PATCH on the edge of the bullet OD. The piece of the patch that is cut is a WAD, not a patch that tightens the ball to bore.


What say ye sage wise BP/ML shooters? What can I do to the muzzle to correct? LAP with a brass lap? IS THIS COMMON?? IS THIS A COMMON cause of poor shooting?


I didn't have a chrono so my velocity is unknown. Didn't care, expected to shoot for 30 mins and get dialed in at 50-75 and leave. 6 hours later I left bruised. My windage is on the mark, repeats well. My vertical dispersion is as much as 6 inches. I'll kill the animal inside 70 yards but my confidence is marred and I still have a serious vertical issue. A loose or tight patch would give me just that type of vertical.


Its sure makes loading easy when the patch just cuts itself but it seems to leave much in accuracy.


I'll never shoot another conical or maxi in that gun. I'll stick with RB forever.


My 50 cal at 50, tosses RB at any velocity under 100-grain loadings into 1/2 inch groups. I can't miss with the rifle, period. I expected the same except a BIGGER hole. 


Any help or wisdom would be appreciated.

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BigMan54 posted this 28 October 2018

I too have a T/C HAWKEN in .54 cal. I do get good accuracy with the Maxi-Ball. 

My try at Round Ball was dismal. I tried a .535 RB with a .015 patch soaked in CRISCO. I used a pillow ticking round cut patch. .010, .015, .020. Couldn't get the last one more then 1/2" down the bore. 

I had palm sized groups at 50yrds. Tried 50grs to 100grs. Nothing really worked. I was so discouraged that I never bought/tried .530 balls or mold. And that was with a 4X scope.

Never even bothered to try RB in my White MTN Carbine in .50cal.

Sorry I am a DRY HOLE.



Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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corerftech posted this 28 October 2018

Well I did some other reading and it seems that both sharp lands cutting patches and also sharp muzzles are an issue.

I went ahead and lapped it with 600 grit on a center at low speed for about 45 seconds total.

Bluing is gone, there is now a clean crown with no sharp edges and I can run my finger down and its smooth and not sharp.

It has to make the patch less likely to be cut, but I wont be able to test the seating w/o a powder charge behind a ball and then Ill need to clear that load...... have to wit for an opportunity to shoot it and that wont come till..... opening day for ML season next Saturday.


Still hoping for some feedback though, for confidence, experience, similar issues....

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BigMan54 posted this 28 October 2018

Now I have an idea to improve my HAWKEN.


Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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corerftech posted this 28 October 2018

The crown was burr free, although it may have had a BURR that was not closing the hole but shaped more like a vertical blade slicing the patch. Didn't tighten the muzzle, didn't roll into the bore but stood straight up. The crown has CLEAR grooves from a FAST FEED rate on the lathe that cut it. Very coarse cut. The last two radial grooves of that crown are now polished to near mirror and missing. All other grooves are at about .550 D and larger. I hope it makes things right. 

I have owned 4 TC's, all in 50 or a custom 40 cal, 38 inch GM barreled one. This is the only 54 I have. First time shooting it.

I have shot 5 TC's now (in 20 years) and every one of them shoots lights out and the 40 was ridiculous. It was a laser beam! I had to pound .395 balls down its throat and .015 patches. As per GM, tighter is better. Use a hammer they said. It worked, except Id get worn out loading it, literally. 10 shots and done.

This gun SHOULD SHOOT RB excellent. This is the first ML of any kind to cut a patch on way down the barrel.

Its also only been fired MAYBE 50 rounds prior to my 50 + today. Its essentially new. No wear of internal bluing at all.

That's what I have experienced and the TC platform took NO WORK to get that accuracy. My expectations were high, that may have worsened the situation today. 

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onondaga posted this 28 October 2018


All the problems you mention with patches cutting when loading RBs and then REALs shooting all over the place also could be caused by your casting metal. If you are not using very pure lead ,  you are seeing that you haven't fooled your rifle and have repaired things you blamed incorrectly. Spill the beans! What metal are you casting with???  Range scrap or wheel weight alloy or unknown scrap that hasn't hardness tested under BHN6 will cause just the problems you have in your application.

If you have been fooling yourself about your alloy, relinquish and get certified pure lead from someone like RotoMetals. Their pure lead is their least expensive bullet metal and orders over $99 ship free. It is never a bargain when you use the wrong metal in a muzzle loader, no matter how cheap it is.


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corerftech posted this 28 October 2018

Um Gary, don't be a spaz. Please?

TC Factory RB, yes in a bag from TC (read the post again).

Yes Gary, factory swaged round balls.

I didn't cast the RB, I bought them in a store.

Is there a conspiracy here, Thompson Center arms is selling BAD BALLS?

Anything else you'd like to add that may be helpful?

As for Reals, yes..... Gary..... I used real lead, hardness tested by me at BHN 6 as from a lead pig they were drawn from. Won't get any softer Gary.

I suppose I should have used the Speers or the Hornadys I had on the shelf as well but FIrst in First out is a rule in my home.

Appreciate the food for thought.

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onondaga posted this 28 October 2018


More food for thought:

I also offer a free service that a number of members have used. I will hardness test up to 5 of your samples for free with my Lee Hardness tester. PM me if you are interested.

I have loaded some tight patch loads myself and use Cotton Twill .015" patches. Fabric selection is important for strength, Twill is more rip resistant than Pillow ticking that is popular. I just go to a fabric store with a micrometer and measure cotton twill fabrics to find the strongest dense weave twill that measures right. If you know the formula, .015" patches are thicker than needed for any recommended mold sizes for your caliber and you are using .020". That may also be part of your difficulty. You may have engaged the rule of diminishing returns with your patch material and it's thickness selection.

My Lyman GP 50 Cal. has a 1/8" by 45 degree sharp cut crown and I use my .015" Twill with an oversize .495" instead of the recommended .490" RB in pure lead....that is a tight load to start but a match winner for me. Personally, I don't see how you use or justify a .020" patch with a recommended ball size or worse a .005" oversize like me for your rifle. I would expect to cut patches with your setup every time.

I will also say that if you can't start your patched ball by pushing the ball starter with your palm to get the ball down 1/4" with the starter and you have to pound or slap it that your combination is too tight and you should expect damaging patches. That is far from new news also, and it is mentioned in many ML rifle owners manuals. I have read that in my Lyman, Traditions, and CVA owners manuals.

I can start my load 1/4" down with my palm on the wood ball and pushing the short start nub but have to slap it with the 6" starter before I can ram with the rod. I also recommend an analog bathroom scale at the range under the rifle butt when seating and I push 80 pounds to seat. All ML projectiles are sensitive to seating force and consistency is developed well for the field by using a scale for every shot at the range. Uneven seating pressures alone can account for your shots forming a ring around the bullseye as you mention.



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Maven posted this 28 October 2018

corerftech, Just some food for thought:  Have you mic'ed either the Lee REAL's or the TC .530" RB's?  The reason I ask is that it is certainly possible that one or both are undersized for your bore.  (I sold 2 essentially new Lee REAL molds because they cast undersized bullets, which shot poorly in my gun.)  Btw, even if you were to cast the RB's yourself, assuming pure Pb of course, you may not get a true .530" diameter sphere.  E.g., my two nominally .530" RB molds cast .527" (Jeff Tanner) and .531" (RCBS).  The latter is more accurate than the former, with a .018" (compressed) pillow ticking patch.  The smaller RB, although easier to start and seat, doesn't seem to shoot more accurately even with a .022" denim patch.  In short, you may have to experiment with patch thickness to get better accuracy from your RB's.

As for the REAL's, paper patching will improve their accuracy as will "beagling" the mold IF it is undersized.

One last thought, T/C didn't make their own bbl's. and some were known to be inaccurate (bad quality control?), let's hope yours isn't one of them.

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tlkeizer posted this 29 October 2018


FWIW IMHO I have 2 round ball molds for my .58 Big Bore Mountain Rifle, and use an old tube of CVA grease for patch lubricant, which is getting pretty low now after some years.  For the smaller ball I use pillow ticking, for the larger ball I use old cotton t-shirts that I cannot see through.  Any chance you could get a RB slightly smaller from some local friends and try them?  If I use the larger RB I have with pillow ticking it takes a lot of starting and I can see threads at the end of the barrel after loading.  If I use the smaller RB with T-shirt, it loads really easy, but stays put on the powder and I have not yet seen significant difference in group or location of group for my use, but don't use that combination unless I am at the range or a "bean shoot" and run out of preferred combinations.  In the past I had a lot of cast used .22 lead from a college range, but am out of that lead.  Now I have lead from lead rope that was on fishing nets (core lead).  It is pure, and I rinsed it three or four times in clean water, and let it dry a long long time.  The .22 lead worked on caribou and deer.  Good luck.


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