Modern muzzleloading offers an array of propellants and projectile choices. One popular choice of projectile is the conical bullet and in states where sabots are illegal during muzzleloader season, conical can be the best choice. Powerbelt Bullets of Nampa, Idaho offers a variety of solid lead and copper plated conical bullets for today's muzzleloader. For this review we decided to take a look at some of their bullet offerings.
Powerbelt Bullets in Copper series (left), Platinum series (middle) and Aerolite (right).
Powerbelt bullets have been around for some time and offer a diverse lineup of projectiles for 45 cal, 50 cal, and 54 cal muzzleloaders. For this review we are focusing mostly on the Aerotip bullets in the copper series, platinum series, and the new Aerolite series. All of these bullets use a ballistic (aero) tip that improves their ballistic coefficient over similar blunt nose or hollow point projectiles. Improved ballistic coefficient translates into less bullet drop for a given muzzle velocity and can make longer shots easier by taking some of the guess work out of hold over.
Currently the copper series Aerotips weights for 45 cal are 175gr, 195r, 225gr, and 275gr. For 50 cal Aerotips are available in 405gr, 223gr, 245gr, 295gr, and 348gr. Finally for 54 cal offerings are in 295gr, 405gr, and 348gr. The copper series aerotip bullets are similar to the pure lead bullets but they are copper plated and topped with a ballistic tip and a straight walled plastic gas check.
Copper series Powerbelt Aerotip 50 cal in 245gr.
Platinum series Aerotip Powerbelts are offered in 223gr and 300gr for 45 cal and 270gr, 300gr, or 338gr for 50 cal. Currently there are no 54 caliber platinum Powerbelts. The platinum Powerbelts are similar to the copper series Aerotip except they have a slimmer ogive and a fluted gas check which improves the ballistic coefficient over the copper series. The plating is also a silver color giving them the "platinum" name.
Platinum series Powerbelt 50 cal 300gr.
Aerolite series bullets are currently only offered in 50 caliber in 250gr and 300gr weights. Overall the Aerolites have a similar profile to the platinum series with the same fluted gas check. The big difference is the black plating color and the much larger polycarbonate red tip. The red tip is fitted into a larger hollow point, so while the overall bullet has a similar profile to a Platinum series (although they are longer), the lighter weight allows the Aerolites to be driven at a higher velocity than Platinums, given the same powder charge.
Aerolite series Powerbelt 50 cal 300gr.
In general all Powerbelt bullets are easy to load. The plastic gas check helps get the rifling started and the bullets are easily pressed into the bore. Surprisingly Powerbelts are easy to load even with a significantly fouled barrel and it's not unusual to shoot 15-20 repeated shots without barrel cleaning using Pyrodex 777.
The only real issue with loading is pressing the bullet in without deforming the tip which will degrade accuracy. Some traditional bullet starters may deform the Aerotip and the Powerbelt company sells a universal bullet starter that has a variety of detachable tips that can be made to fit many different conical shapes without deforming the tip. If you plan to shoot a lot of Powerbelts it may be worthwhile to pick up this bullet starter or similar.
Generally accuracy with the Powerbelt Aerotips is very good especially if one is willing to experiment with powder charge, powder type, and bullet weight. If a particular bullet is not grouping satisfactorily, moving the charge weight down (or up if you're not already at max load for your rifle) in 10 grain increments can make a noticeable difference.
The best overall ballistic performance (higher retained velocities and greater distances) goes to the Platinum and Aerolite series because of their better ballistic coefficients and lighter weights. However keep in mind that when dealing with a muzzleloader, ballistic performance is not the only goal. With the slower velocities of muzzleloaders it's important to get the bullet mass up and as high as reasonably possible. For deer, especially mule deer, hunters should be shooting for a bullet mass greater than 300 grains or better and on elk 338 grains or better. The heavier the bullet weight the better weight retention will be after impact.
In states where sabots are illegal during hunting season, Powerbelts are an excellent choice. In regions where sabots are allowed, Powerbelts still offer easy loading and heavier bullet weights, although generally cannot compete with the highest velocities offered by sabots.
For more information visit www.powerbeltbullets.com .