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Hunting Wild Boar with a .50 cal Percussion Hawken.

Being interested in muzzle loading firearms since I was a small boy and  I have always wanted to hunt with them. Shotguns are not a problem but in England many rifles are not what is known as “Deer legal” as they can not generate the minimum of the 1700 foot pounds of energy required. I have a .50 cal percussion Hawken that I have used with patched ball to shoot at targets and I have enjoyed using it. It is not like using a Telescopic sight or Red Dot.  With open sights you have to ensure your foresight and rear site line up when taking the shot and you see the correct “sight picture.”.  

There is a problem with using a patched ball in some countries as they are illegal. The reason is because the authorities are concerned that particularly on hard surfaces a ball is more likely to skip. Also on a driven boar hunt the drivers are walking towards you on the same level.

To over come this the only option is to cast and swage some mini bullets that can be used in the Hawken. It is important to remember that a mini bullet must be cast out of soft lead as it needs to expand at the point of ignition to engage the rifling. My good friend Mike Salmon had some scrap flashing lead that would be ideal for making mini bullets. After heating up the lead and fluxing it, I cast some bullets using a Lee .501 bullet mould. I then lubricated them with liquid allow and resized them to .500 The bullets all weighed a regular 350 grains after resizing.

I would not be able to take black powder on the airplane, as it an explosive, so I would need to use a propellant. After some research my choice was Hogdon’s Tripple Seven in FFG. The powder charge required to generate enough energy would be 70 grains by weight and this was producing 1900 ft/lbs on average, which would be more than adequate for the purpose..

To ensure I would get consistent energy from each load I fired 10 shots through my chronograph. As all was more than satisfactory my next concern would be accuracy. Bad shooting errors on a piece of paper is not what is desired but when shooting at a live animal you have to know the rifle will group accurately.

I soon found out that to get the best sight picture for me I needed to keep the rear sight low and hole the foresight slightly high in the rear sight with an equal gap between the blade left and right.

We went to the normal place in Lithuania and on the first and drive I loaded the rifle and placed on a Percussion cap on the nipple. Loading in minus 20 c was an experience. Even though there was no wind chill the rifle was very cold and my fingers we not very deft!

I could not believe my luck when a loan boar was running across me. It was a good male of about 160 to 180 kilos. when he was crossing at about 100 yards, I cocked the hammer, set the trigger, followed through his nose and missed!

Oh well, I thought that is the first drive on the first day there will be more opportunities. There was not, I saw boar but they were all to far away for a shot.

It was now day two and I had two blank drives, seen boar but had no shots. I heard other people shooting but I was still on a blank. We had some soup and hot stew for lunch and I was feeling a bit more positive. My next peg was just inside the forest on a raised area of ground. Half and hour had gone by and I was not concentrating, in my peripheral vision a saw a black shape. I though it was a Lithuanian hound following a trail of a deer. Suddenly I realized it was a smallish boar, I shouldered the rifle cocked the hammer, set the trigger and fired. It was all a bit quick, the boar showed no reaction to shot. It was only about 50 yards away did I really miss it? I walked over to were the boar had gone through when I fried and the tracks showed no sign of a stumble, the was no boar hair or blood. Oh well, I had missed yet again.

I was packing up my rifle at the end of the drive and saw two Lithuanian hounds  following the line the boar had taken and barking a great deal. I could hear them for some way off, I guessed at about 100 to 150 yards they suddenly went quite. Normally, when this happens, they have found a dead animal but why on this occasion I was sure I must have missed it.

When we met up with Almontas I told him what had happened, he became very excited and was positive I had shot it after finding the boar and dog tracks they lead to a large round flattened area of snow about 6 feet across with boar, dog and boot prints but no boar. The drives had walked through seen the boar and taken it back to the assembly area were we all meet up.

So why did I see no shot reaction? Obviously with a muzzle loader there is more muzzle blast and things are much harder to see. The mini bullet missed the ribs and shoulder and went between the gaps in the ribs so the animal sowed no sign of impact.

So I lived the dream a 55 kilo boar with a Hawken muzzle loader. The size was not important it was just doing something as it would have been done in the 1860s