Muzzleloading rifles have seen quite the evolution in recent years, as while you can still purchase a flintlock or percussion cap configuration similar to what Daniel Boone and Jim Bridger may have used, the inline market has inherited a wealth of improvements. Nowadays, with modern technology and enhanced materials, muzzleloaders have gone from once being limited to 50-75 yards to having long-range capabilities geared toward big-game hunting applications.
However, when it comes to the black powder enthusiasts—who tend to own the traditionalist corner of the hunting community—technological advancements inevitably come at the cost of nostalgia. While there are plenty of hunters who snatch any edge they can find to up their odds of success, the purists who are loyal to their old-school muzzleloader will always exist. Regardless of which side of the fence you claim, these improvements indisputably expand hunting opportunities for those who elect the latter-day firearm during these seasons.
We decided to address each camp with this list, however, compiling what we believe qualify as the top muzzleloaders for hunting.
Knight muzzleloaders have a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and reliability. However, while the Bighorn managed to live up to Knight standards, it's arguably its irresistible price tag that made it a favorite among American hunters, as most retailers sell it for $269.99. Years of success not only reinforce this firearm's capabilities, but also make it one of the best options for new black-powder hunters ever. Knight offers the option of a standard stock or one with a thumbhole, both of which feature a nice recoil pad and Realtree's MAX1 camo pattern. All Knight rifles are 100-percent American-made.
Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
The Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader rifle is one of the most advanced muzzleloaders currently in existence. Built on a standard Model 700 bolt action, it's designed with long-range accuracy in mind. It uses a new, innovative ignition system, which may be one of the most cutting-edge developments ever for the muzzleloading industry.
Instead of using a standard musket cap or primer, the Ultimate Muzzleloader uses a primed centerfire magnum rifle casing. This results in a hotter and more direct spark, which allows the Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader to safely and efficiently use up to 200 grains of powder. For comparison, most other modern muzzleloaders are only rated to use up to 150 grains of powder.
Because of this, the Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader is advertised as being capable of accurate performance out to, and potentially exceeding 300 yards. This is far more than any other comparable muzzleloader. Without a doubt, it's certainly one of the best muzzleloaders currently on the market. However, it's such an advanced design and is capable of such outstanding performance that it's not legal to use during muzzleloading season in many states. Be sure you check the hunting regulations for your state before you buy one.
Lyman Great Plains Rifle - Palmetto State Armory
The Lyman Great Plains rifle is the exact opposite of the Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader. Available in either a flintlock or percussion cap configuration, this is the perfect muzzleloader for a hunter who wants to channel his or her inner Davy Crockett. It's also ideally suited for use in states like Pennsylvania that have very strict regulations on what muzzleloaders may and may not be used during their primitive weapon season.
Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter FX
No list of the best muzzleloaders is complete without an entry from Thompson/Center. The Encore Pro Hunter is the muzzleloader used by Jim Shockey on all his adventures. This company has long been a leader in the muzzleloader industry, and the Thompson/Center Pro Hunter lives up to the company's reputation. It's accurate, user-friendly, ambidextrous, and has a scope mount as well as a "weather shield" coating on the stainless steel barrel and other parts to help fight corrosion. If you're looking for a high-quality muzzleloader, the Thompson/Center Encore Hunter is a great, lightweight choice.
Just like the Thompson/Center Encore, no discussion about the best muzzleloaders on the market today is complete without the inclusion of the CVA Optima. There is a good reason why the Optima has been America's best-selling muzzleloader for the past few years: it's awesome.
Though CVA got a bad reputation for a couple muzzleloader models that were defective and had to be recalled back in the mid-1990s, their current production muzzleloaders are all of excellent quality. The Optima is CVA's mid-level muzzleloader, above the CVA Wolf and below the Accura. Not only is it a very well designed and user friendly gun, but it is also very reliable, accurate, and reasonably priced.
CVA also makes a special version of the Optima that is legal to use in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. All in all, the CVA Optima is an outstanding piece of workmanship and is one of the best muzzleloaders currently in production.
READ MORE: 6 BEST HANDGUNS FOR HUNTING
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