Sighting In

Sighting in looks so simple. All a hunter does is arrange the sights so they send the bullet where he wants it to go. But the practicality of the situation is more complicated. It involves considerable shooting, as the only way to get sights and bullet together is to shoot. You can’t depend on a Collimator to put you on target, it will only put you close.

Despite what I just said, the first step is to have a good gunsmith calibrate the rifle’s sights and barrel with a Collimator. This will put the rifle roughly on target, making sighting in easy. White Shooting Systems rifles are all collimated at the factory during final inspection. But let’s pretend that this hasn’t been done, just to make the tale more complete.

I f you can’t get to a collimator, then take the breech-plug out of the barrel, brace it onto something solid and point the bore at a target spot a few yards away. Just look down the bore and center the target spot in the center of the bore. Now set the sights to hit the target spot too. Low on the target spot is better as this method usually puts a fired bullet group close but high..

Next, decide on the load you are going to use. If unsure and without experience, then use a reasonable load that hopefully comes close to what’s wanted.

Once the load has been chosen, pop a few caps and fire a squib load just to be sure that the rifle will shoot. White rifles need the squib load for consistent shooting.

After squibbing the rifle, set up a target at 25 yards. Use a target with a big black bull. Sight in targets calibrated in inches are super. Use a rest so your aim will be undisturbed. Fire a few careful shots at the 25 yard target. Try for a good group. Use 3 shots for close grouping loads and more in rifles that don’t group as well. Now, estimate the center of the group. Measure the distance from group center to the bull and readjust the sights to compensate for the difference.

Move the back sight in the same direction as the group needs to move. Conversely, the front sight is moved in the opposite direction.

To simplify, if the fired group is to the right of the bull, move the rear sight to the left in order to move the group to the left. The opposite is true of the front sight. If the group is high, then lower the back sight or raise the front, and the opposite if the group is low.

If you use a scope, then move the dials in the direction you want the group to move. That is, if the group is high, move the elevation or vertical adjustment lower. If the group is right then move the horizontal adjustment to the left. Most adjustment knobs are clearly marked right-left and up-down.

Shoot another group, or more if needed, moving the sights appropriately with each trial until the group and the sights are aligned at point of aim. With most open sighted muzzleloading rifles and most loads this arrangement will put the load on target at 25 yards and again at about 80-120 yards.

To simplify, if the fired group lies to the

right of your aiming point, move the rear

sight to the left in order to move the group

to the left. The opposite is true of the front sight.

Take the target downrange to 75 yards. Repeat the process at 75 yards just as at 25. 75 yards is appropriate because that’s the average muzzleloading bullet apogee if sighted in to hit point of aim at 125 yards. Obviously the groups fired will be larger, so it’s more important to determine center of group accurately. Required sight movement will also be less proportionately.

It’s best to fire for group at longer ranges as well. Locating the yardage at which line of sight and bullet cross helps make good long range hits easier. Normally, if sighted in 4 inches high at 75 yards, the bullet will cross line of sight again at 125-140 yards, depending on the load.

It’s wise to know where the bullet will fall to at 200 yards. Most will be surprisingly low at that range. Most loads sighted to hit point of aim at 125 yards will be 12-20 inches low depending on the bullet and powder charge used. This requires that range estimation be precise if you expect to center shoot the target at that range.

A study of the ballistics of the White .450 caliber, 490 grain SUPERSLUG with loads of 80, 100 and 120 grains Pyrodex P with all three loads sighted to hit POA at 125 yards shows that the mid-range trajectory of the loads is very similar. The slowest 80 grain load is 4.5 inches high at 75 yards while the fastest 120 grain is only an inch lower at the same range. Also, the spread of impact at 175 yards is not wide. The 80 grain load strikes 12 inches below point of aim while the 120 grain load hits 9 inches low. The difference is only three inches! Point blank ranges are likewise going to be similar.

Point blank range is related to the size of the eventual target. If the target is the chest of a deer, then eight inches would aptly describe ‘point blank range’. (That’s about half the vertical diameter of the deer’s chest) If so, the 80 grain load is point blank to 145 yds and the 120 grain load to 160 yds. In practical terms, this means that any deer within 145 yards can be taken with any of the three loads by centering its chest with the sights. The bullet will hit within 4 inches of point of aim no matter what the yardage within the 145 yard limit. It’s easy to see that good hits in the kill zone can be easily made at up to 175 yards with holdover in the 4-8 inch range.

—- examination of any ballistic handbook

will show that a 200 yard shot with a

muzzleloader is equivalent to a 4-500 yard

shot with a modern magnum —

Ranges beyond 175 yards become progressively difficult. A 200 yard shot becomes a real challenge, with significant although not impossible amounts of holdover required. More study will show that the 80 grain load drops 21 inches below point of aim at 200 yards while the 120 grain load falls only 16 inches, still a significant fall that’s bound to be hard and difficult to judge. Two hundred yard shots are not impossible, they’re just difficult even with the best muzzleloading rifle and bullet in the world.

There’s only one bullet design better than the SUPERSLUG or POWERPUNCH for extended range shooting on thin skinned game. This is the White POWERSTAR fired with the patented White SUPERSABOT. This fantastic lead bullet is spitzer shaped with boat tail and hollow point and can be pushed to near 1600 FPS at the muzzle in either 45/40-350 or 50/45-320 caliber. The 50/45-435 is lnly a little behind and has even more energy at 200 yards than the other two lighter bullets. (read 45 caliber sabot/40 caliber bullet-weighs 350 grains.) The 45/40-350 bullet rises 4.5 inches to its maximum midrange trajectory at 94 yards when fired with 110 grains Pyrodex P, falls to point of aim at 160 yards and is only 8.6 inches low at 200 yards. This is the flattest trajectory with the highest remaining energy in muzzleloading. It retains 1250 plus ft. lbs. of energy at 200 yards, just 200 ft. lbs. less than the 45-490 SUPERSLUG with a 120 grain charge. The 50/45-320 performs virtually the same with a 120 grain charge while the 50/45-435 hits only an inch or so lower while the residual 200 yard energy is equal to that of the bigger SUPERSLUG.

Just to illustrate what a flat trajectory will do, I once hunted exotics in Missouri on the Fraley Ranch, persuing a big white fallow deer that had proven to be quite elusive. Fallow deer just love the thick cover. This particular buck had proven to be strikingly adept at keeping the Missouri ‘jungle’ between himself and Fraley’s hunters.

I hunted for three days without getting even a glimpse of the buck. I sat in stands, sat in trees, and frequented the country where the big buck was last seen by foot and vehicle. On the last day, I+ decided to ‘still hunt’ the thick Missouri oak forest , finally picking up a patch of white about 80 yards away through the brush and trees, which eventually turned out to be the fallow buck. Unfortunately the buck was virtually hidden by the intervening thicket. Fortunately, I was shooting a Super 91 with 45/40-350 SHOOTING STAR bullet and 100 gr. Pyrodex P. I luckily found a small opening through the trees and brush, and dropped the buck offhand with a high lung shot that clipped the spineat about 100 yards.The only reason that I could do it was the flat trajectory of the 45/40-350 bullet. The opening in the brush was less then 4 X 6 inches horizontally, luckily centered high on the buck’s chest.

Two hundred yard shots are not impossible,

they’re just difficult even with the

best muzzleloading rifle and bullet in the world.

There’s not a huge difference in the trajectory of White’s bullets out to 200 yards, but the 45/490 energy chart shows quite significant differences in retained energy with different loads. Obviously, faster/heavier bullets have the advantage in the energy department. High energy plus big caliber makes a bullet a better killer than most will believe, even better than many smaller calibered but higher velocity centerfire bullets.

For example, Taylor ‘s TKO formula shows that the smallest 45/490 load shown in the charts above is as good a killer as a 30-06, within 200 yards. (It’s obvious that the ’06 is better at truly long range because of its high velocity and flat trajectory) It would also be well to remember that a thin-skinned eastern Whitetail just doesn’t require the bone crunching energy and penetration needed for elk. A lighter, perhaps shorter and quicker expanding bullet would be advisable. An intelligent choice, considering the two, would be the 45/490 SUPERSLUG for the elk and the 45/40-350 SuperSaboted Shooting Star for the Whitetail.

Pick your bullet and load carefully, taylor it precisely to the animal and circumstances you expect to encounter, plus some leeway for the unexpected, do a good job of sighting it in, practice with it at both short and long ranges, train your hands to load it without your brain functioning and you will greatly increse your chances of a successful, if not enjoyable, hunt.

Good Hunting