Friday, October 11, 2013

The Thompson/Center “Seneca” .45 Light Hawken Muzzleloader

The Seneca's simple yet beautiful appointments are testament to
T/C's attention to quality and detail.
The Seneca is such a fine piece of work that I fell in love with it the first time I held one. Its fit and finish, fine wood with brass furniture, light weight and balance, the natural feel of its brass-frame pistol grip, and a set of sights that allows true aiming all combined to make it something I didn’t want to put down. But I did – only to come back about an hour later to buy it. It was to become my all-round hunting rifle for many years: legal for deer yet suitable for smaller game.

Aside from being a percussion cap rifle instead of the older style flintlock, the only modern feature of this rifle is its sights. It has pistol-style open sights, with a U-notch rear sight that is adjustable for elevation. Once that’s adjusted for the individual rifle, there is no need to change it. Right or left sight alignment is achieved with a small screw on the rear sight and/or by drifting (or moving) the front sight in its dovetail groove. Be sure to use a brass punch for this if available, to prevent tool marks. Again, you can set it and forget it.

Front sight and ram-rod.
The front sight seems perfectly sized to provide the right amount of light on either side of it to allow quick and accurate centering within the U-notch. With its flat-top blade that easily aligns to the top of the U-notch wings, there is no question that you have a perfect sight picture. In my opinion, the Seneca rifle can be fired as quickly and accurately as any modern rifle with open-iron sights, within its range.

The Seneca has two triggers. The one nearest the muzzle, or front, is the firing trigger. When the hammer is cocked, this front trigger provides a nice, crisp break that requires the force of “pull” that you normally expect when shooting any conventional rifle. (That trigger has an adjustment screw located between the triggers.) But when you have time to take very deliberate aim, you have a rear “set-trigger” available to enhance your accuracy. Once the “set” is made by pulling the back trigger, the front trigger only takes a slight touch to drop the hammer. Using that set-trigger makes for superb accuracy but care must be taken not to touch it until you’re ready to shoot. Also, I have found that if you are very near your game, the little metallic “click” sound it makes when it sets can spook the game, so it’s best to use that set-trigger only for longer shots or target shooting.



Most Hawken Style muzzloaders are today in .50 or .54 caliber (as this one show), and weigh as much as
50% more than the Seneca. That's 8-9 pounds vs. about 6 pounds! Major difference when hunting.

When silent hammer-cocking is needed, the hammer-cocking clicks (similar to the old Colt single-action revolvers) can be eliminated by holding the front trigger down while cocking the hammer. Just make sure that you have a good grip on the hammer and that you release the trigger before slowly and carefully releasing the hammer at its cocked position. Though it has never failed to hold at the cocked position for me, I strongly suggest that you keep the gun pointed in a safe direction if and when you ever try this.

Thompson/Center Arms specifically states in the Seneca literature to avoid the use of sabots. I’m not sure why they advised that other than muzzleloader sabots were new at the time. Perhaps the early plastic sleeves, ca 1978, left a burned-on or melted plastic residue inside the barrel. I fired a few sabots made ca. 2000 to see how they performed on a target and found them to be very accurate. Those sabots used what appeared to be .40 caliber flat-nose bullets inside a plastic sleeve. I expect they may extend my effective hunting range. However, I have no hunting experience with them to relate.

My primary load for this gun has always been a patched .440” lead round ball. It weighs approximately 128-gr. The rifle shoots very accurately using the fully-round Speer lead ball. I also use Pyrodex RS powder and CCI #11 percussion caps. Since my powder flask delivers 30-gr. per neck fill, I can quickly choose to shoot with 30, 60, or 90 grains of powder. However, I find the 30-gr. load is a little puny for hunting and the 90-gr. load (maximum for this gun) tends to be a little erratic with its accuracy. But the 60-gr. load seems to be just right, so that’s my normal loading. If you wonder about the power of this mid-load, just remember: The heavy rifle of the Old West, the .45-70, originally shot a .45 caliber bullet using 70-gr. of black powder.

The Seneca was made in both .36 and .45 calibers, and in cap-lock and (I think) flintlock versions. The .36 is often referred to as a “squirrel gun” and I suppose it is well suited for that. If you can find a Seneca, it will probably cost well north of $300. Just how far north will depend upon its condition.

If you are interested in using a .36 or .45 caliber muzzleloader, be aware that they are not as common as in the early days of the muzzleloader resurgence. Supplies and parts for them are difficult to find and the variety available is quite limiting. I attribute this to the increased popularity of the .50 caliber muzzleloader, which appears to be far more efficient on deer and many states now have a deer muzzleloader season. Since the .45 is so devastating on small game and comparatively less efficient on large game, where does that leave it as a hunting gun? It’s kind of in an “in the middle” category.

All this being said, I still love my Seneca rifle for what it is: A great little all-round gun.


14 comments:

  1. I have both the Seneca and the Cherokee in 45 cal. Neither have ever been fired and it kills me cause I so want to shoot them but I can't bring myself to ruin their virginity. I bought them both about 2 yrs ago as an investment knowing I could easily sell them at anytime. Money in the bank. I also have three TC Hawkin 50cals. One is my shooter the other two, one flinter, have also never been fired. They just hang on the wall and look good:)

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    Replies
    1. U ever want to sell them send me an email 196971@yahoo.com I have a 45 cal and have used it since I was a kid I love it and would like to have another one

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    2. U ever want to sell them send me an email 196971@yahoo.com I have a 45 cal and have used it since I was a kid I love it and would like to have another one

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    3. I tried to reply to that email and it came back to me. I have a .54 cal in great condition that I would sell. contact me at jdavis8677@yahoo.com for pictures

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  2. what's the point in having a gun if you do not use it??

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  3. sell, keep, or just forget about the virgins and go buy some shootable guns!

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  4. You forgot to mention that the Seneca has a "Cast Off" stock and I don't know of any other factory production muzzleloader that do. That to me makes this little rifle a cherished little rifle. I love mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for catching this great feature that I failed to mention. It makes the rifle so natural to shoulder and aim that it is probably one of the primary reasons that I fell for this gun -- without even realizing why.

      The cast off of the Seneca stock is generally unnoticed due to the cheek swell on the stock. But if you try sighting down the stock ridge, the cast off is apparent, with the barrel pointing slightly to the right of the stock. That offset alignment allows you to aim with your neck and shoulder in a more natural position than required by a straight rifle, which is a good thing. Just another reason to love the Seneca.

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  5. How much are the 50 cal usually worth?

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  6. I have a couple of EARLY T/C Seneca rifles in 45 cal. One is 48" twist bore and the other is 56" twist. Must have been a contractor supply [Douglas??] for T/C as it is marked with normal barrel rollmarks. Neither has 'Seneca' on barrel. I've been told they didn't all get the 'SENECA' rollmark in early years, and yes, it is not a Cherokee.
    The 48" twist is in the #3,XXX serial range and the 56" twist is in the #9,XXX range.

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  7. i like to drink beer and go fishin

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  8. My early Seneca has no marking of "Seneca" on it & has a Douglas cut rifled barrel. It is very accurate but the bore is a tad smaller than the TC barrel. It cut patches on a .440 ball due to the tighter fit & sharp rifling lands. I found a Lyman RB mold in .437 that works just right.

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  9. Very nice air rifle. I am very impressive because I want to buy a air rifle for hunting. So I think why I don't buy this air rifle. So I think this is the best air rifle for hunting.

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  10. I have a T/C Seneca .45 cal. Serial #12823 with the matching .36 cal. Serial #29604 barrel. I can change from one to the other in 15 seconds. Fired maybe 15 times and in excellent condition. I would consider selling if the price is right. bamanofmars@aol.com

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Keep it clean and courteous people. Lively is good, mean spirited is bad. Thanks for participating!

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