Knowing available options in modern muzzleloading can make a “smokepole” the best hunting rifle you’ll ever have.
Muzzleloaders have been used since approximately 1515. Over the course of over 450 years these rifles, the components and mechanisms that make them fire, and the projectiles they launch, have been refined for maximum efficiency. These muzzleloading secrets will ensure you a good hunting rifle.
Know your laws
Muzzleloaders vary from vintage flintlock rifles, to reproduction muskets, to completely modern in-line rifles. The more primitive the design and the more simplistic the components, the more widespread the restrictions become. Knowing the local rules where you intend to hunt with a muzzleloader will help you decide which one is right for you.
Muzzleloading only hunts
There are many muzzleloader-only hunts throughout the country as well as early and extended seasons. In some areas, a muzzleloader-only tag is much easier to obtain.
Consistency is key
All the components must compliment one another in order to produce repeatable accuracy and sufficient “power.”
Choose your ignition wisely
The ignition is accomplished via flint, musket cap, percussion cap or a 209 primer. There has even been a few modern muzzleloaders that use an electric charge to ignite the powder. Each brand of ignition component will vary somewhat in consistency as well as temperature output. If you can get a chronograph it will be easy to determine which one produces the most consistent velocity and lowest extreme spread between shots.
If you are using size 209 primers, the Federal 209M is one of the hottest and most consistent primers available.
Choose a good powder
Powders vary from “black powder” to “black powder substitute” and include “muzzleloader propellants” as well as “pellets.” Real black powder is hard to buy and sometimes restrictive to transport. Pellets are inefficient since they are under bore size and there is a gap of air between the pellet and the bullet. Pellets are also coated, making them harder to ignite and less likely to burn completely. There’s a reason most pellets have a hole through them.
Black powder substitutes that are phosphorus, and those like Pyrodex are pretty efficient but they attract moisture. The longer they sit in the barrel the more moisture the powder will absorb because they are hygroscopic, changing its ignition properties just enough to create inconsistencies from shot to shot.
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More powder is not always better
Try loading with 15 grains equivalent less than the maximum recommendation and working up in 5 grain increments to determine what charge groups the best from your rifle. Try Blackhorn 209. This powder will not set up or degrade and has an almost unlimited shelf life. It also cleans with regular solvents so you don’t need to use water on your rifle (you’d never do that to your centerfire!).
Choose your muzzleloading bullets wisely
Some bullets, especially those that require a sabot are nothing more than pistol bullets. You’ll need to experiment to find the most accurate bullet but you need to consider the bullet properties too. Most muzzleloading rifles will produce velocities that exceed even long-barreled handguns shooting the same projectile. Make sure the bullet matches the velocity you are achieving.
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Sabots vs. bullets
Sabots react differently to different velocities. Consistency is accomplished when the sabot fits the bore tightly creating a good seal over the powder. The sabot also effects accuracy. If the sabot cannot open and release the bullet in the same way with every shot it will throw off the accuracy. Some bullets use “skirts.” The bullet is under the bore size and relies on the skirt to form a tight seal over the powder. Again, you will have to experiment with them to see if they perform properly in your rifle.
Once you chose a bullet there are often similar bullets that can be used for practice at a lower cost. Try the Traditions Smackdown/Plinker combo pack available from Bass Pro. The Thor Bullet is a full bore projectile designed specifically for muzzleloaders and available in a sample pack that allows you to determine the proper diameter bullet for your rifle.
Muzzleloader accuracy is limited by the shooters ability to use the sighting system. While some areas require iron sights, other areas permit peep sights or optics. After-market sights are available that can enhance the sight picture and extend the range in which you can shoot. Williams Gun Sight Company has fantastic sights available. Special optics are available from companies like Burris, Leupold and Cabelas that can extend your muzzleloaders range substantially.
If you change your components you can have a versatile rifle that covers a variety of duties. You can purchase a muzzleloading rifle on-line, by mail or via phone order and have it shipped directly to your front door.
Discover the secrets of modern muzzleloading. You will see that a muzzleloader is an extremely versatile, effective and efficient tool that will also extend your hunting opportunities.