Here are a few of the best black powder rifles and the common things that they each bring to the table.
It's always subjective to make a list of the "best" of anything when it comes to our revered sporting goods, but with some reasonably sound research and by looking at what it takes to create a quality muzzleloader, it stands to reason that we can find some common ground.
You may think that it should come down to the individual, complex parts and designs of the the top-rated black powder rifles, but it can be more simple than that. If you're new to black powder, a .50 caliber muzzleloader is a good, versatile place to start, but there's other places you can go from there.
First of all, you'll need to buy the correct powder for your long gun, in the order of FG or FFG blackpowder, or a powder substitute such as Pyrodex. Low-drag sabots are a good choice for your projectile and in addition, you will need an ignition source: 209 primers, or shotshell primers, are usually suggested.
These are the basics to owning and shooting your inline muzzleloader, but it's worth mentioning that the best firearms in this category have some common ground. Let's take a look at what a good muzzleloading rifle should include if it wants to be the best of their category.
Magnum Propellant Charge Capability
Muzzleloaders capable of handling "super magnum" propellant charges in excess of 150-grain by-volume black powder (or the equivalent) are the new order of primitive hunting firearms. They can give the shooter an incredible 2,200 fps muzzle velocity.
New age muzzleloaders that can handle these charges will be on the top of the list for buyers for years to come.
Stainless Steel Barrel
This may be a moot point for most manufacturers, but the nitride-treated, high-grade stainless steel Bergara barrel is here to stay, and all of the best black powder rifles have them.
Not only that, but a solid twist barrel with an Armornite protective metal coating is a big plus for the serious muzzleloading fanatic.
Good for Right and Left-Hand Shooters
Just so we're clear: a left-hander's money is just as green as a righty, and worth the same amount. These black powder rifle systems need to be simple, reliable, and work equally well for right and left-handed shooters.
A good black powder rifle should have an ambidextrous stock with a recoil pad that makes it comfortable and easy to shoot for both right and left handedness. A reversible hammer extension that allows for easy cocking by either right or left-handed shooters is a great feature for your favorite smokepole as well.
The most versatile muzzleloaders currently on the market are due to their break-action designs that are well suited for both types of shooters.
Camo Patterned Hydrographics
It should be said right off the bat that many muzzleloading enthusiasts are perfectly happy with their black, grey, or green composite or walnut stock. The fact is that ever since we first saw what a professionally-dipped stock and barrel hydrographic can do to our favorite firearm, we've been in love with it.
Setting up in a treestand with the gun of your choice and having it virtually blend into the tree that you're in is like hitting the invisibility switch. There's a reason why we've been buying and wearing the latest in innovative camouflage every year, and why the top manufacturers keep coming up with new patterns to appease us.
Muzzleloading comes with more responsibility for the modern day hunter or shooter. Black powder rifle shooters have to keep track of and manipulate the cap, bullets, powder, and the ramrod, and that makes firearm safety a prime directive for enthusiasts.
Built-in safety measures that help the process of loading and firing a break-open or break-action muzzleloader go a long way, and should be incorporated in the firearm you eventually choose.
A Few of the Best Muzzleloaders
There are some extra features that certain black powder hunting rifles can also benefit from, like an innovative reloading system, a corrosion-resistant barrel, a high-quality striker, a straightforward ramrod, a good recoil pad, and a precision one-piece scope mount.
Most importantly, if you're a big game hunter, you need to invest efforts to learn all of the aspects of muzzleloader hunting and put the time in to get proficient at it. If all you've done in the past is bolt-action rifle hunting, then allow yourself the chance to get good before ever shooting at an animal.
Here are a few choices with most, if not all, of the main attributes modern muzzleloaders should have.
Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector Edition
Though the Thompson/Center Impact is likely the more popular firearm overall, this Bone Collector Edition of the Triumph is spectacular. T/C says "The Weather Shield coating is 50 times more corrosion resistant than stainless steel alone." And if it's good enough for Michael Waddell, it ought to be good enough for you.
We could have chosen the CVA Paramount, CVA Optima V2, or CVA Accura V2, but this gun and scope combo has really impressed hunters over the years. The CVA Wolf features a Quick-Release Breech Plug, a reversible hammer spur, and a trigger-guard actuated breeching lever making it completely ambidextrous.
Traditions Vortek StrikerFire
Many will be familiar with the Traditions name, and their Vortek StrikerFire represents the heights they've achieved. This gun replaces the external hammer with an internal striker fired system, which gives it a faster lock time, grants the ability to mount a scope closer to the bore, and it trims overall weight. The Realtree Xtra camo pattern makes this the ultimate muzzleloader for hunting in a variety of habitats.
Most muzzleloaders are reasonably priced in the $500-$700 range with some coming in at much less, and others that a hunter can pay far more for. Certain Gunwerks muzzleloader systems can run you about $11,400.
It doesn't matter whether you consider yourself a traditional hunter who favors a classic sidehammer design with cap and ball projectiles, or you prefer today's modern muzzleloader rifles, which can shoot bullet for bullet with centerfire rifles, even out to distances that were unheard of until recent years.
There's a black powder gun that's right for you, but don't settle for one without most of these common traits.