The lead ball is stubby and light by modern tastes, but a single ball will take out everything from squirrel to elephant.
Since the adoption of practical firearms in the 15th Century, the lead round ball has been the obvious choice. Lead melts at only 625 degrees Fahrenheit, which made for easier projectile manufacturing than the iron balls previously used in cannons. Lead balls turned out to be more stable in flight, and their mass, compared with iron, made them better for delivering energy at range.
Today, the lead ball is no longer the only game in town, but any muzzleloader shooter can attest to the effectiveness of this lowly pill.
Yet, you don’t have to be a traditionalist to have an interest in lead balls and what else works. I had similar questions when I first started my black powder adventure some 10 years ago.
Here is the breakdown on the lead ball, both good and bad:
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On paper, the lead ball is a bad projectile. It has a poor ballistic coefficient, compared with modern projectiles. It’s not aerodynamic at all, and its design doesn’t lend well to penetration. Not to mention that the lead ball loses about 40 percent of its velocity at only 100 yards.
However, the lead ball ended knights in shining armor, and has taken men and animals at great distance with mythical accuracy. The results defy ballistic fact, in a way.
If you are toting around a muzzleloader, consider the simple lead ball. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this odyssey, in which we will explore more advanced projectiles.