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Selecting the Right Bullet for your Muzzleloader


Muzzleloading rifles have come a long way in the past two hundred years. Especially over the past few decades, the rise of Muzzleloading has grown in popularity across many spectrums of the country. Big game hunters all across the country have taken to using Muzzleloading rifles to hunt. Some of this is due to the expanded season afforded them in many states. Others have adopted Muzzleloading as a way to use rifled bullets in states that allow only shotguns during firearm season but allow muzzleloaders during primitive weapon seasons.

As the popularity has grown, so too has the ammunition used by hunters. Technology in the advent of the inline rifle did not stop with just the rifle. So too have we seen technology in powders as we discussed with pyrodex pellets. But when it comes to the projectile whether round ball, cast bullets or sabots, the technology has grown with the popularity.

Pure traditionalist who shoot flintlocks or side percussion will often times stick with the round ball when hunting. And while there are some arguments about down range accuracy with a round ball, those who use it, are not as concerned about down range accuracy as they are with performance. Those who choose to use round ball have decided to limit their range by choosing this projectile. Limited range would be conservatively inside seventy five yards. Sure there are some exceptions, but traditionalist prefer the closeness that traditional muzzleloaders afford and are not concerned with long range accuracy.

The next step would be the cast bullets, also known as a maxi-ball. Cast bullets are conical shaped solid lead projectiles that usually carry about three hundred grains and being conical in shape are inherently more accurate than a round ball. Cast bullets need special care when loading. Usually requiring more butter or a patch or both to seat the bullet precisely. Some of the traditionalist like to use cast bullets because they can make the bullets themselves. Using a bullet mold and molten lead. For many this adds to the mystique of shooting a primitive weapon. Personal preference here, is when shooting a traditional muzzleloader or flintlock, I prefer the round ball. On occasion when I may have shots out to one hundred yards, I will opt for the cast bullet. There is something inherently satisfying knowing that you killed your deer with a bullet you made from scratch, loaded by hand and fired accurately enough to be successful. Similar to archers who prefer to make their own arrows rather than buy them off of the shelf. (yes I do that too)

Last is the jacketed bullet also known as a sabot. Interestingly, the sabot is not the bullet itself, it is the jacket that holds the bullet. The sabot is usually a piece of plasticĀ  that has the outside diameter of the caliber of the gun it is being fired from, and this plastic jacket holds the bullet that is usually smaller in diameter than the caliber it is being fired from. For example, a .50 caliber rifle firing a sabot will have a sabot of .50 caliber but shooting bullet that is .45 caliber. The sabot acts as a spacer holding the bullet in line while traveling down the barrel. Thus allowing the hunter to fire a smaller caliber bullet from his larger caliber rifle. This allows for greater down range speed and performance.

Nearly all of the manufacturers of sabot projectiles will have .45 caliber bullets inside a .50 caliber sabot. Those who shoot a .45 caliber rifle will have a .36 caliber bullet contained within a .45 caliber sabot and so forth.

The advantage of these are many. As stated, they allow for greater down range performance. Greater accuracy, they can be shot with less of a powder charge if desired. Plus they come in a larger variety of bullet configurations and weights. For the hunter looking for one hundred and fifty to two hundred yard performance out of his Muzzleloading rifle, the sabot bullet is the only way to go.

As you can see, deciding to get into Muzzleloading can be daunting at best. Deciding on the style of gun you like, traditional or modern. The caliber, then there are the different powders and bullet configurations. It can be quite the learning curve. However for those who enjoy the time afield in a traditional manner, it can be a good alternative. As I grow older and shooting a bow will become more of a challenge. Shooting a traditional muzzleloader can be just as exciting due to the close proximity and the similarity of the challenge.