Skip to main content

Black Powder 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Welcome to the fraternity of black powder shooters.

The most common reason people get "the black powder bug" is that it can extend your hunting season. Many states have muzzleloader-only seasons, and especially if you're not an archer, learning to use a muzzleloader could be a great way to increase your chance of bagging that buck.

Black powder guns are also cheaper to shoot, both because of the price of the firearm and, chiefly, the ammunition. Not to mention, it gives you control over how much powder you're using and how your bullets are made. Because black powder shooting makes you independent of ammunition shortages, it's a favorite option for preppers and survivalists as well as avid hunters. (It's also just plain fun. Enthusiasts insist that the smell and feel of shooting black powder is unlike anything else). So, what are you waiting for?

Here's your new grocery list. If you're a member of the Sportsman's Guide Buyer' Club, you can save big on most of the black powder shooting supplies you'll need. Start a your 30-day free trial here!

What You Need to Get Started With Black Powder

1. Your Black Powder Gun

If you're new to black powder, a .50 cal inline muzzleloading rifle is a good, versatile place to start. This is for those seeking the functionality of black powder rather than the nostalgia element, as inline rifles aren't historic weapons; they're modern guns that shoot black powder. Although you could also start with a black powder revolver or flintlock pistol, this article will focus on muzzleloading rifles because of their utility and ease of use for black powder beginners.

Here are three strong beginner options in .50 cal:

Knight Bighorn

It's tough to get more accuracy out of a muzzleloader than the Knight Bighorn. This is one of the most popular muzzleloaders for hunters.

CVA Accura

At just over six pounds, the CVA Accura is an easily maneuverable choice at a competitive price.

Thompson / Center Pro Hunter

No list of muzzleloaders can be complete without a contribution from this iconic brand. Thompson/Center is a longtime leader in this sector of the industry, known for reliability and comfort.

2. Powder

No-brainer, right? Yes and no. There are a couple things to consider when buying black powder. First of all, buy the correct powder for your weapon: for a long gun, you want FG or FFG black powder, or a powder substitute that is marked "Rifle Shotgun (RS)." They're not interchangeable, so you may want to call customer service to double-check for your safety before you shoot.

Speaking of which, most shooters don't actually use authentic black powder: black powder is far from clean to shoot and will leave your gun with a mess of fouling. Instead, many choose a black powder substitute such as Pyrodex, which won't require as much cleanup and is also more stable in storage. Some shooters also start making their own black powder after they learn the basics of black powder shooting.

3. Bullets and Primers

For a beginner, we recommend Hornady Low-Drag Sabots for superior accuracy as well as easy loading with Hornady's unique polymer casing technology. You could also try out conical bullets; you may even want to order a few kinds and try them out for feel. In addition, you will need an ignition source: 209 primers, or shotshell primers, are recommended.

4. Special Operation and Maintenance Supplies

  • Powder flask and powder measure: used to measure and dispense powder
  • Bullet starter: used to start a bullet down the bore when it fits too tightly for the rod included with your muzzleloader
  • Bullet puller: used for removing bullets if they're stuck, if you forgot to put a powder charge in, or if you decide you don't want to fire a round you've already loaded
  • Capper: used for priming your firearm
  • Nipple pick: helps ensure that your 209 primers work effectively
  • Breach plug grease: ensures easy disassembly when it comes time to clean your rifle

5. General Firearm Cleaning Supplies

Another item to keep in mind for cleaning a black powder rifle is The Pitch Patch. For your new .50 cal muzzleloader, these can significantly speed up the cleaning process for only a few extra bucks.

Here's an excellent beginner-friendly tutorial on muzzleloader cleaning:

Now that you have your gun, powder, and bullets, it's time to load and shoot!

This video, produced by CVA muzzleloader, is the one of the clearest step-by-step explanations of how to load and shoot a muzzleloader. Their videos, in particular their Essentials of Muzzleloading Series, are a great resource and highly recommended for new black powder shooters. You may also want to join a black powder or muzzleloading rifle club and attend an event if one is available in your area.

Watch, be safe, and enjoy!

Black powder shooting often becomes a lifelong love for those who feel drawn to it. Explore more black powder guns and possibilities here!


Black Powder 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started