In the past when I heard the word muzzleloader, the first visual that came to mind was Civil War re-enactors scrambling to get their next shots loaded as the opposing army marched forward.
Can you imagine the stress?
Now, that I have a better understanding of muzzleloaders and have shot a few, my first thought is a bonus hunting season. Actually, depending on where you live or hunt, it may mean the harvest of additional animals if taken with a muzzleloader, hunting during milder weather or even during the rut. Now do I have your interest?
Simply described, a muzzleloader is a firearm that is loaded from the muzzle rather than the breech. There are 2 basic kinds of muzzleloaders. The sidelocks have a hammer on the side of the barrel and are usually historical replicas, copies of antique guns. Many are built to work and run like the originals; these are the kind you see at Civil War re-enactments. Some replica muzzleloaders may look like the antique guns, but they are used differently and are made of synthetic stocks. A hunter might add a scope or adjustable sights and modern projectiles might be used.
The second type is the in-line muzzleloader that resembles a modern rifle. The hammer, or firing pin, is in-line with the barrel.
3 Types of Ignition Systems for Muzzleloaders
1. Flintlocks hold a piece of flint in the jaws of the hammer. As the trigger is squeezed, the hammer falls and the flint strikes the frizzen (a steel plate). The frizzen moves, uncovers the priming pan. A spark from the burning priming powder is sent through a small hole in the side of the barrel, lighting the main powder charge
2. Percussion Caps use a priming cap that is placed on the nipple. As the trigger is squeezed, the hammer hits the cap sending a spark through the nipple lighting the main powder charge.
3. In-line Percussion also uses a percussion cap. The difference is that in an in-line percussion ignition system, the hammer and nipple are in-line with the barrel and powder charge.
3 Types of Projectiles
1. The round ball is always loaded with a patch.
2. The maxi ball is a conical bullet. Lube applied to seal the gas pressure.
3. The sabot uses a modern bullet surrounded by a plastic sleeve to provide a gas seal.
The Traditions Pursuit Lady Whitetail ($428 MSRP) was sent to me in 2014. Not only is it easy to use, it weighs only 5.75 pounds. The Load-It Kit ($25.95 MSRP) makes life easier out in the field, and the EZ Clean Value Pack ($51.49 MSRP) makes cleaning simple back at the cabin. Although I’ve had the opportunity to shoot many muzzleloaders over the years, I purchased the Traditions™ Pursuit Lady Whitetail in Realtree APC™ Pink Camo since I enjoyed shooting and to keep the men in my family from using it during muzzleloader season.
If you decide to take advantage of the muzzleloader season, take your time to find the right muzzleloader for you. Once you get your gun home, read the manual and learn how to run it safely. Make sure you have an understanding of how everything works.
Sitting in the woods is a poor place to learn how to run your gun. Don’t forget, more time is needed to load the projectile in a muzzleloader. Since you may only have one shot at your target, make it a good shot.
Finally, if you shoot your muzzleloader, you must clean it – immediately. Black powder and substitutes are corrosive.
After all, it’s never too late to try something new, get a muzzleloader!
This article was first published in Women’s Outdoor News.