Have you thought about getting into “making smoke,” but don’t know where to start? This article and ones to come, ought to help point you in the right direction.
According to various sources, millions of people in North America target shoot, reenact, and even hunt game with muzzleloaders. Muzzleloading guns run the gamut from primitive firearms that use burning cord to ignite exposed powder to modern guns with just a ramrod underneath the barrel to give it away as a muzzleloading gun. Muzzleloading does not necessarily mean single shot only. Cap and ball revolvers and double barreled pistols are also available for purchase too.
What Are Muzzleloaders?
Muzzleloaders, be it ancient or modern made, utilize a lock, stock, and barrel. One end of the barrel is closed off with a small hole in the side or back for ignition. The front end, or muzzle, is where a charge of gunpowder (the explosive) and bullet are loaded and pushed down to the bottom of the barrel using a rod that normally sits below the gun. That is called the ramrod. Then the gun is made ready by an external or internal ignition source near the lock.
Why Get Into Blackpowder?
I built my first muzzleloader at age 14 because I felt my 270 caliber rifle was too much gun for me to handle and I thought a muzzleloader might suit me better. Muzzleloaders can perform in ways modern firearms cannot. Bullet choices vary, as does the amount of gunpowder used to propel them. A light powder charge can be used for a target load or for training a smaller or recoil sensitive shooter; it can also work for game within short ranges. Muzzleoaders provide great freedom for the shooter to adjust their charge and projectile to the pursuit of your choice without custom developing a cartridge as with a modern rifle or handgun.
2) Long Term Economy
Muzzleloading guns are quite inexpensive to shoot. I have gone to the extreme of casting my own bullets using a melting pot over the camp fire. It is also convenient to be able to use less gun powder or more as needed. While some types of muzzleloaders need primers or caps (these can be handmade too), other types do not need them, which saves that much more on cost. Simple flint stones ignited flintlock weapons of the 18th century and the fact that they did not need caps kept them popular. Regardless, even when using store bought ignition source or projectiles, muzzleloading is quite the bargain compared to most modern commercial ammo today. Because of the variable nature of muzzleloading, it’s a simple matter to ration powder, make your own bullets, ect., which makes muzzleloaders largely independent of ammunition shortages that many modern cartridge firearms users suffer.
3) Hunting Opportunities
Special muzzleloader seasons exist in all states to increase your chances of bagging your game. Many hunting grounds that are off limits to cartridge guns are accessible to muzzleloader users as well. In some states, the only modern long guns allowed for big game are shotguns. Here muzzleloaders, in addition to being permitted where other cartridge firearms are not, have another advantage: muzzleloaded rifles generally have a further effective range than permitted large game shotguns.
If you believe in living the ancestral way, or simply have a bit of a soft spot for these working pieces of history, then blackpowder firearms are a no-brainer.
I listed only a few reasons why you may be interested in shooting black powder guns, but there’s more to enjoy as you learn more. Join me in the next installment where we’ll get down to the details of muzzleloading so you can go afield with confidence. We’ll start by discussing different styles of muzzleloader guns and their various quirks.
Featured image courtesy of contributor arinahabich via istockphoto.com.