I have a .50 cal Cabela's Hawken with 1 in 48 twist. I am looking for some feedback on patch thickness. From what I have been told, you have to experiment with what works best in your gun. Is there a patch thickness that more often than not will work best in most guns? Will prelubed versus split lubed make a big difference? Is there a general rule about how tight the patch and ball should fit?
I am going to ask, you are planning on shooting round ball, and not conicals? I do not know what your experience is with BP, so it is best to ask. If you are going to be shooting conicals, you do not need or use a patch.
For pre-cut patches use a pre-lubed or unlubed .010 to .015 inch patch. If you use an unlubed patch, forget about "spit patches" you probably do not have that much saliva! Just use any of the commercially available lubes, they are all pretty good. If you cut your own use pillow ticking, which averages between .015 and .018 inches, and in any case a .450 round ball.
It is difficult to describe how tight the patched ball should be going down the barrel. Obviously, a clean barrel is going to feel different from one that has been fired, and what powder you are using can make a big difference too. Genuine Black Powder loads a lot different than Pyrodex after the first shot, due to the amount of fouling the powders leave behind. The fit of the patched ball should be snug; a couple pounds pressure to push the ball down. If you have to hammer the ball then it is time to clean the barrel.
The 1:48 twist is a bit fast for a round ball, so try some conicals too.