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Is Muzzleloading for Me?


When firearms were first developed they were all loaded through the muzzle. Powder, patch and round ball. Slowly, bullets changed to a more conical shape, followed by sabot bullets that are very accurate. Gun powder evolved into prepared pellets of fifty grains each making loading and re-loading much more accurate and indeed faster. Flintlock ignition gave way to percussion caps that eventually evolved into the .209 primer as the main ignition source for most percussion Muzzleloading rifles and shotguns. Yes the gun that ole Daniel Boone carried is not the same gun that is found in the woods today. While the replicas of Daniel Boone’s gun are available, most modern Muzzleloading rifles are far different.

When it comes to discussing “is Muzzleloading for me?” the series of questions that follow include; 1. What kind of ignition do I want? 2. What caliber of rifle do I want? 3. What is my budget? 4. How modern do I want to go?

To answer these questions, we will look at each of them individually and in detail to try and help you answer the primary question. First; what kind of ignition system do I want? In order to keep this simple we will only focus on the three primary methods used by most of the firearms available today at reasonable prices. First is flintlock – we will actually spend a lot of time on this topic in a few weeks. But for beginners in the world of Muzzleloading I would definitely not recommend the flintlock. There is quite the difference between the flintlock and all other methods and these are inherently more difficult to master. After this, it is difficult to argue against those who use the .209 shot shell primer as the ignition source. These primers are dependable, inexpensive and did I say dependable? Compared to the #11 percussion cap that in my experience has a very high failure rate. This alone is reason not to choose a gun that uses this method.

What caliber do I want? Is really dependent upon your intended quarry. The most common is the .50 caliber rifle but other calibers include the .32, .36, .45 and the .54 as the more common calibers. For those pursuing big game like whitetail deer and feral hogs found in South Carolina, the fifty caliber is king. Having said this, do not overlook the .45 caliber. The .45 is quite capable of effectively killing these species and many more with a lot less felt recoil on the hunter. It is my opinion and the opinion of many others that the .45 is perhaps the best caliber for whitetail in the southeast. But the .50 is still more versatile. And can be used for larger game and loaded down to reduce recoil and still be very effective.

The smaller calibers such as the .32 and the .36 are small game calibers and are great for beginners and those who want the added challenge of hunting small game such as squirrels to old way.

The budget is a personal decision that is difficult to discuss. However, it is important to note that some of the replica muzzleloaders can run into the thousands of dollars. Some of the kit guns, (where you buy an unfinished gun and complete it yourself) costs in the couple of hundred dollars range. The inline muzzleloaders or the modern muzzleloaders are far less expensive. But even within this genre the price ranges from a couple hundred to a thousand dollars. Options such as stainless, camouflage dipping, hammerless, all add to the overall cost. Manufacturers such as CVA, Thompson Center, and Traditions, all make excellent firearms with several models in different price points.

To follow up on the price point and the ignition system is the question of how modern do I want to go? If you are looking for something that resembles the firearm that settled America than a replica Hawken or Pennsylvania rifle is what you need to look for to fill this niche. Every major manufacturer makes these for the consumer. However, if you want a true modern rifle, complete with removable breech, stainless steel, quality optics and a fiberglass ramrod with a .209 primer in either .45 or .50 caliber you cannot go wrong with either of these.

Perhaps the best introductory gun for the beginning Muzzleloading hunter is the CVA Optima with a price point barely over $200 it is a real bargain and definitely something worth considering if you are considering getting into Muzzleloading.

Hunting and shooting a primitive weapon, even a modernized primitive weapon is a lot of fun and adds some excitement to your hunt that you may be missing. Not everyone is capable of shooting a bow and arrow, and perhaps a crossbow is just not your thing. But if you are still looking for a challenge, give Muzzleloading a try, you won’t be disappointed.