I'll throw in my $0.02. I like mine. It's a .54 Cal Thompson Center Hawken. It's currently barrelled with a .54 Green Mountain IBC barrel 1-in-28. Back in the mid-80's when I got it, people preferred the .54 for deer. Nowadays, with inlines, most folks go for .50. I would probably pick .50 for convenience sake now-- there is just so much more available in .50. The reason for .54 is that at short range (think bow) the .54 can do a significantly better job at dumping energy into the boiler room. However, most guys are into distance these days-- they talk 200 yards. Personally I like 50 yards. 10 yards is even better. The only time I've seen a deer taken up and thrown was with a round from my .54 Hawken at 60 yards.
When I shoot traditional, the rest of the year. I put back on the original .54 barrel for patched .54 ball.
For deer hunting shoot .54 Powerbelts . They are devastating on deer. Next year, I am switching to pure lead from the Lee 380 grain R.E.A.L mold.
I can shoot patched ball for deer out of the original barrel , but I could never find a decent conical for it-- just not enough twist.
BTW: If you want in cheap and already have a Mossberg 500 shotgun, think about the ML barrel for the 500. I bought one for #2 son, and he loves it. He's shooting a pure lead cast REAL bullet. It gives 100 yard accuracy for $100. It's only problem is that the 209 primers stain the bolt.