How Good A Killer

I’m often asked about results with the White MuzzleLoading System. Most shooters don’t have much trouble with the concept. It’s obvious that loading is easy, the rifles are of high quality, and it’s easy to find out that they’re accurate. What shooters really want to know is what happens when they pull the trigger on a game animal.

The problem here is that many buyers of White products are as new to muzzle-loading as they are to White products. Their only experience has been with modern high performance rifles and metallic cartridges. So the question is quite natural for them.

It’s not all that natural for someone who’s been into muzzleloading for a while. Most of these shooters only have to witness how hard White’s bullets hit at extended ranges to recognize how potentially effective they are. All they need do is compare their experience with round balls or shorter bullets available elsewhere from our competitors. The difference is obvious to anyone with much experience.

…Most of these shooters only have to witness how hard White’s bullets hit at extended ranges to recognize how potentially effective they are. All they need do is compare…The difference is obvious…

If I could get you out to the range to fire a few shots, you’d catch on real quick. Just seeing those big SuperSlugs, PowerPunch or PowerStars smack a rock is a sight to behold. And they get there so quick compared to any other muzzleloading bullet. We joke about experienced muzzleloading shooter’s reaction to the System when they witness their first shot. Many of these shooters are truly frustrated. They’ve usually had some disappointments with short interference fit bullets and round balls. So when they first see White’s PowerPunch and PowerStars perform they can’t be blamed for how they act.

Generally, the reaction will take one of two forms. The funniest one is the whoop and holler. It’s sometimes accompanied by a jump. I’ve seen shooters bounce as high as the bushes with that first impressive shot. The other reaction is more prosaic. This type just reaches for the wallet and tries to buy the rifle he just saw demonstrated. They seem to think that this one rifle is a fluke and no other will do the same.

how_go22Red rock cliffs form a colorful backdrop to David White and Super-91, recoiling after a shot near the “horsecock,” a column of sandstone near 400 yards away and for which the canyon is named.

Well, the old Lyman handbook used to show a bag of pudding with the caption, “‘da proof of ‘da pudding ain’t in chawin’ ‘da string.” Shooting rocks is fun and illustrative but it isn’t the same as hunting big game and seeing those quick kills firsthand. Even studying the ballistic handbooks is not good enough, not even when they demonstrate that White’s SuperSlug. PowerPunch and PowerStar bullets consistently show far better retained velocity and energy than the competition. And flatter trajectories for better long range hits. And faster second shots when needed using the White System.

Even the recognition that White’s big, soft, Enhanced Lead bullets can expand into monstrous mushrooms isn’t enough. What’s enough is the actual experience. Lacking that, I’m going to attempt to verbally illustrate just what the System is capable of.


The original Winchester 45-100 bullet that evolved into the White SuperSlug. The expanded bullet is from the huge moose shown here that I shot in 1974 near the Chitina River in Alaska, using a double rifle by J. Hayton, which I had rebarreled to .451 for the 45-100 475 grain bullet. I sized it to .450 for a slip-fit and shot it with 70 grains Dupont 2Fg Black Powder. This was the first use of what eventually became the White Muzzleloading System and the revolutionary SuperSlug.

In 1974, long before I named the White Muzzleloading System but during the time when my thinking on the subject was maturing, Fred Goodhue and I went moose hunting in Canada with Pink Mountain Outfitters. There were a zillion moose in the country, all of them immersed in water up to their necks. The Indian guides, as averse to a dunking as anyone, claimed that the technique was to find the moose, spook him out of the water then drop him on the “beach,” if the thin strip of muskeg between water and pines could be called a beach.

Fred was shooting a heavy octagon barreled 45 caliber 1-22″ twist rifle that I had made for him. It fired Lyman’s #457121, a 175 grain bullet sized to .450 to slip fit into the .451 bore of Fred’s rifle, loaded over 90 grains of FFg Black Powder.

Fred and the guide eventually found a good bull, naturally shoulder deep in a lake. The guide cautioned Fred to drop the bull before he hit the trees. He’d be awfully hard to track in the brush. It was a good 180 yard shot to the bull.

Sure enough, the bull spooked out of the water, hesitated on the “beach” and Fred dropped him with a shot through the lungs and into the opposite shoulder. The Indian said, “Hey, good shot.” He had no idea what comparatively terrific muzzleloading performance he’d just seen. He’d never witnessed a shot from a muzzleloader in his whole life!

…”Why is the System so effective?” That we should even have to ask that question is the result of the brainwashing–by Weatherby and others– with their magnum-cased high velocity cartridges…

One of the great adventures of my life was hunting brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula with the very first .504 caliber White Super 91. I used 140 gr. FFg black powder under a 600 gr. SuperSlug. When finally encountered, the bear was running obliquely away at 50-60 yards. I led her nose about a foot and touched the rifle off, forgetting how hard it kicked. The scope kissed me right between the eyes. The bullet hit a little far back on the bear’s right side, penetrating through and smashing the liver to smithereens, then blasted through the diaphragm and blew out the left lung. She slewed around three quarters of a turn with the hit, then rolled and came to a sit. The second shot took her just inside the left shoulder, clipped the left lung, blew up the heart and exited out the back of the right lung. Both bullets went all the way through.

how_go25Kodiak Bear, .504 White Super-91, 600 grain SuperSlug over 140gr. Ffg Black Powder, taken at 60 yards .

I complained about that, wanting a mushroomed bullet to take home. The guide commented that he’d never seen a bullet go the length of a bear, so why not shoot her in the butt and catch a bullet against the opposite shoulder. The shot from ten yards blew her opposite shoulder joint out of the hide. The bear was eight feet long, butt to shoulder. I never did get a bullet out of her to brag on.

Another bullet that wasn’t recovered was shot at a 700 lb. pig on a Missouri game ranch. This big thing charged down a creek straight for me, running away from some other hunters. I shot at ten feet, shooting to break his neck. Damned if I didn’t miss the spine. Even then, the bruiser only went 20-30 feet before biting the dust, or rather flopping into the creek, with blood squirting like a fire hydrant.

The 490 grain .450 caliber SuperSlug, fired with 100 gr. P Pyrodex, had expanded to quarter size, destroying the big neck arteries and trachea and dumping all that high pressure blood into the lungs. Death was swift and sure.

DocBoar_fraleyssuper91.BWJPGBig tusked Russian Boar killed on Tom Fraley’s place in Missouri with a 45 caliber rifle using 90 grains Pyrodex P and a 460 grain PowerPunch slip-fit bullet. Range was about 100 yards and the pig didn’t travel 6 feet after the hit. I killed several other using the same rifle and load same day.

Two other pigs, both smaller but with bigger teeth, were killed with single shots at 80 yards, same rifle (a Super Safari) same load. Both shots were through the heart and both lungs. The entrance wounds were small, about a half-inch in diameter, and the exit four times that. The pigs didn’t travel 5 feet.

The summer of ‘94 saw the White Muzzleloading System in Africa, where the game is said to be bigger and tougher. This time I used a Super 91 in .504 caliber, loading a 600 grain SUPERSLUG over 140 grains P Pyrodex. Cape buffalo hunting turned out to be right scary, as they fear nothing.

I eventually took a good bull with a single shot to the lungs at 60 yards. The bull was almost nose on, looking at us curiously. The big bullet landed just inside the shoulder blade, deflated the front (left) lung, punctured the big vessels coming off the heart and perforated the back end of the opposite lung. He whirled around a few times, ran in a tight circle and keeled over in a cloud of dust.

how_go26Doc with Cape Buffalo, Africa , 1994. Any Cape Buffalo you get with a muzzleloader is a good trophy

The biggest antelope in Africa is the eland. It comes in three sizes, the middle sized Livingstone variety being found in Zimbabwe. These creatures inhabit the thick brush and act like 1200 lb. whitetail. They are spooky as can be, have excellent eyesight and noses and run like the wind. The big bulls grow beautiful three foot long spiral horns.

We ran into a good one late in the African hunt. Range was around 150 yards and the bull was almost broadside. There was a bit of a fuss getting into position and I pulled the shot a little high on the bull’s near shoulder. The bull whirled and sprinted into the brush. I was heart-sick. We beat the brush for several hours before spooking the bull out of a teeny patch of brush you wouldn’t think a Dik-Dik could hide in. The bull hadn’t gone 60 yards before going to the ground. I lucked in a second shot through the lung and shoulder with the .504 caliber, 140 gr. Pyrodex-600 gr. SuperSlug load for an instant knockdown. The first shot had penetrated both lungs but not the heart or big vessels. The second shot got both. Despite plenty of lung hemorrhage, the bull still made it to temporary safety in the brush. The story illustrates how tough African animals can be.

Now that you understand just HOW effective the System can be, we can ask, “WHY is the System so effective?” That we should even have to ask that question is the result of the brainwashing that Roy Weatherby and others started years ago with heir big magnum-cased high velocity cartridges.

Whereas before Weatherby and cohorts, killing power had been equated with bullet mass, suddenly it became popular to equate the ability to kill with velocity. Some truly fantastic claims were made about small high velocity bullets killing huge animals. Some of them were true. Unfortunately, many were not. Using bullet energy as a general guide to killing power is not such a bad method, it’s just incomplete. It doesn’t take into account the mass effect of a big, slow moving bullet. Nor does it count penetration. It only accounts for the hydrostatic shocking power of small fast movers. Let’s illustrate.

The 30-06 is the epitome of the useful cartridge by almost any standard. A 180 gr. fast mover in the ‘06′ gets out the muzzle at 27fps with about 3000 ft. lbs. of energy. We commonly use it on deer and elk, with the average being a middle sized elk weighing maybe 500 lbs.

Now consider the elephant. A good big one weighs in the 4-5 ton range. He’s a big target. And we use various .458 magnums throwing 500 gr. bullets at 2000-2400 fps for energies of 4000-6000 ft. lbs.,-only twice as much as we use on a lowly elk. The average elephant weighs 16 times as much. Now what does that say for the effectiveness of a big slow moving bullet.

…What? The [.504 600][ SUPER-SLUG has a better (TKO) index number than the 375 H & H? Perhaps this is why truly big game is shot with truly big rifles, all of which throw big bullets…

Apply the same argument to the big slow moving bullets we fire out of muzzle-loaders. Let’s use John “Pondoro” Taylor’s TKO formula. He was an African pro-fessional hunter who killed literally thousands of game animals during his years of guiding. He was also an articulate man, who wrote several very readable books on African hunting and the guns used for it.

He made an attempt to generate a formula that would predict what the performance of a given bullet at a certain velocity might be, attempting to correlate the relative numbers of his formula with observed results in African game. He called it the TKO or Taylor-Knock-Out Formula. Used correctly, it will predict, in relative terms, how well your load will do.

TKO = X/7000 times (VELOCITY) times (CALIBER)

Where X= weight of the bullet in grains

Where velocity is in feet per second (FPS)

Where Caliber is in incheshow_go27

It’s easy. Take the bullet weight in lbs., that’s weight in grains divided by 7000, times velocity in ft. sec., times caliber in thousandths of an inch. This produces an index value that can be related to other values to reflect killing power. For example, the venerable ‘06′ throws a 180 gr. bullet: that’s 180 divided by 7000, times its velocity of 2700 fps, times its caliber in inches, which is .308, to produce an index number of 19.

This compares to a .375 magnum, throwing a 300 gr. bullet (divide by 7000), times velocity of 2560 fps times caliber of .375. This index number is 41, a substantial improvement.

Now compare with a 600 gr. SuperSlug. Divide 600 by 7000, times velocity of 1400 fps times caliber of .504. This produces an index number of 56. What? The SuperSlug has a better index number than the .375? Perhaps this is why truly big game is shot with truly big rifles, all of which throw big bullets.

Let’s try a Zimbabwean veterinarian friend’s .505 Gibbs. This monster will shuck a 525 grain bullet at 2400 fps. The index number is 525 divided by 7000, times 2400 times .505 for an index of 91, four and a half times as potent as the ‘06.’ He says he can shoot a bull buffalo in the fore-shoulder, shoot through to and break down the opposite hindquarters and drop the bull instantly, and has done it any number of times

To equal that index in a muzzle-loader, we’d have to use a 2 oz. or 875 gr. bullet, (that’s an eight gauge or .83 caliber round ball or a .62 caliber bullet 1.3 inches long), at 1300 fps. I’m estimating that it might require about 250-300 grains of Black Powder. Guess what, that’s the load used by African hunters in the heyday of muzzle-loaders and early black powder cartridges.

They loved their 2 oz. double guns, simply because they were so effective, real life savers.

Anyway, even White’s lowly .410 caliber SuperSlug weighing in at merely 400 grains has a TKO index of 32, half again better than an ‘06.’ Now, we realize that the ‘06′ is going to be a better killer at 300 yards. But that’s because of its flat trajectory, not any inherent ability to make big wound channels or penetrate deeply. Making a killing shot on an elk at 300 yards even with a scoped White muzzleloader is difficult if not impossible, while such a shot with a similar scoped modern ‘06′ would be much easier. The range of the shot begs the question as to which is the better killer.

Up close, at less than 150 yards, the White .410 is the better bullet if we forego the question of near instant repeat shots. We’ve proven it, the ballistic charts agree and the TKO formula confirms it.

DocMuleDeerfancySuperSafari2000Doc and Utah Mule Deer, killed in 2000, in the Book Cliffs of NE Utah, with the full-stocked .410 caliber SuperSafari in his hands. (Yes, it does have a brass patch box, brass trigger guard and brass side plate.) Load was 60 gr. Pyrodex P and 380 Grain PowerPunch bullet. Range was 140 yards, offhand only because there was nothing close to lean on.

Good Hunting,

‘Doc’ White

PS- Illustrations of the effectiveness of the White Muzzleloading System are available in the many videos participated in or produced by White. See Splitfire’s latest catalogue for up to date hunting action. Net users, click on