Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thompson/Center Renegade Black Powder Rifle

Yesterday I took a vacation day, went down to my club, and shot the Thompson/Center Renegage rifle which I'd picked up earlier in the week.

T/C helped give the modern muzzleloading scene a big boost when they introduced their Hawken in 1970. While it isn't an accurate replica of an original Hawken*, it was a well made traditional rifle that sold very well for several decades. T/C now mostly makes inlines, but the Hawken is still available from them.

In 1977, T/C came out with the Renegade as a lower-cost alternative to the Hawken. Instead of the Hawken's brass furniture, it had blued steel. It also lacked a nosecap on the stock and instead of a crescent buttplate, had a shotgun butt. This makes it more comfortable to shoot with heavy loads.

General specs of the Renegade were cap or flint ignition, .50 or .54 caliber with a 1:48" rifling twist, and a 26" long octagonal barrel measuring 1" across the flats. Overal weight was around 8 - 9 pounds. It was available fully finished or as a kit.

My father had a .54 caliber Renegade when I was growing up. T/C discontinued the model a few years ago (I believe in the wake of a factory fire). Recently, I'd come to have a hankering for one and periodically would check to see if any left hand .50s were available. Occassionally I'd see one but other things had to take priority.

Well, I had last Monday off and took a drive up to Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop. As I was looking around, I spotted a lefty Renegade on the shelf. It was a late production model in .50 and looked barely used. I spoke to Chuck Dixon about it and he dropped an LED borelight down the barrel so I could see how it looked. It was spotless. The nearly new condition and the very reasonable $220 price tag meant that it came home with me.

As a late production gun, my Renegade has T/C's "Quick Load" muzzle. Basically, they coned the muzzle at the factory to make it easier to start a ball, or especially conicals. It has fiber optic sights although I don't know if they are factory original. It also has studs for quick detatchable sling swivels, which I also don't know if they are OEM.

My goal yesterday was to get the rifle sighted in at 50 yards and hopefully find a decently accurate load. I first shot it with 60 grains of Goex 2Fg black powder, a patched .490" round ball, and CCI No.11 caps. My patches are pillow ticking and lubed with Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil Tallow.

Recoil with the 60 grain load was very mild, not much more than a .22 Magnum. The Renegade's heavy weight and broad, flat buttplate made it very comfortable to shoot. I bumped the powder charge up to 70 grains, which would be a better hunting load. The recoil increased a little but not too much.

Accuracy with the PRB was only so-so, about 4" at 50 yards. T/C's barrels have a 1:48" twist, which is commonly called a compromise. It'll shoot either patched roundballs or conicals (Minie Balls or Maxi Balls) with usable hunting accuracy. I would like to halve these group sizes, though, which will require experimenting with ball diameter and patch thickness. I will have to buy a box of .495" balls and see if they give better accuracy. (In contrast, my Cabela's Traditional Hawken made by Investarms with the same twist shoots .490" round balls just fine with a 60 grain load and pillow ticking patches.)

I also shot a 5 round group with some Hornady Great Plains bullets. These are 385 grain lead hollowpoint slugs, which a small cavity in the base. Essentially, the GPB is a modernized Minie Ball. These shot a little better than the PRBs, with my shots going into about 3". I used the same powder charge -- 70 grains -- and let me tell you, recoil was a lot more noticeable with the heavy bullets. But they ought to really lay the smackdown on any North American game.

The coned muzzle really came in handy when starting the GPBs. They slipped in straight with light thumb pressure. They were then easy to seat all the way.

As expected, the Renegade was reliable. I did have one failure to fire, and it happened on my very first shot. Before I shoot a percussion gun I always swab the bore with a dry patch and pop one or two caps on the nipple to clear out any oil. Well, this time something must've gotten stuck in the flash channel because the charge didn't go off until the second cap. This was a first for me.

Overall, I'm pleased with the Renegade. It's a nice addition to my collection.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Homemade Arrows With Dowel Shafts

I made up a couple arrows using 3/8" poplar dowels that I got at Lowe's. I selected them for straightness and grain, but didn't doing anything to straighten them beyond how they came home from the store. Fletching is 3M duct tape (it's OK for this use but otherwise it's garbage).

Arrow #1 is my scrounged materials Zombie Killer model.  The point was cut from 16 gauge steel, glued and tied into a slit in the tip. It's not sharpened but if it hit an animal (alive or undead) I have no doubt it would cause a nasty wound.

Arrow #2 is a blunt for small game or stump shooting. I made this one about an inch longer and it seems to shoot better from my 50# longbow. The point is a .357 Magnum empty, glued on with Ferrl-Tite hot melt glue.

I reinforced the nock and tip on Arrow #1 using dental floss (continuing the scrounged material theme) and cement. I used artificial sinew for the same purpose on Arrow #2.

I was pleasantly surprised with the sheet metal point of the Zombie Killer. I shot it several times into the ground and it only bent a little. Empty .38s and .357s have been used for blunt heads for decades, so no surprise that it works just fine. I have some more dowels and will be making up more of these.

The tools I used to make these were my Victorinox SwissTool (scissors, knife, file, and saw), a pair of Wiss metal snips, and some sandpaper.

Some pics:

Some caveats if you try this:

1. I would not shoot these from a compound bow. I'd worry about them splitting.
2. Carefully select the dowels for straightness, lack of grain runout, and general integrity.
3. Inspect the arrows before and after each shot. If you see any defects developing, do not shoot it! You don't want the arrow to split and get part of it stuck in your bow arm.

Also note that I did some online research about using dowels for arrow shafts before I made these. One source I found indicated that the average 3/8" poplar dowel spines anywhere from 65 to 80 pounds. So I felt confident that as long as I used good condition poplar dowels with little to no grain runout, I'd be safe shooting these in my 50# bow.