By Mike Roux
Every year thousands of hunters purchase their first muzzleloading guns. Some of them have used Muzzleloaders in the past by borrowing them from friends. The vast majority however have no actual experience with “front-stuffers”. Assuming that you might be one of these thousands or know someone who is, here are few invaluable tips and priceless advice.
I am going to start a bit before the title might infer. We should really start by discussing what muzzleloading gun you should purchase. For the sake of this article we are going to assume we are talking about muzzleloading rifles used mostly for deer hunting. I have extensive experience on this topic.
I have taken over 5-dozen whitetails and mule deer with muzzleloaders. I have shot and hunted with smoke-poles from many different manufacturers. In fact, my first muzzleloader was a .50-caliber Hawken I built from a kit. I have never been so proud in the deer woods as the day I shot my first deer with a gun I had finished and assembled myself.
In my decades of testing black-powder rifles I fallen in love with only one. THOMPSON/CENTER’S Encore .50-caliber is by far the finest muzzleloading deer rifle I have ever used. There are many different versions of this gun but the Pro Hunter is my personal favorite.
The overall design of the Pro Hunter is second-to-none. The T/C Omega is close, but the feel of the Pro Hunter Encore is as good as it gets. This gun shoots great, cleans easily and is as dependable as any centerfire rifle. I have never had a misfire from any of my Encore’s.
Regardless of the gun you choose I recommend using #209 shot-shell primers for your ignition choice. Some inline muzzleloaders still use percussion caps. I do not think you will be happy with these. I have had percussion caps fail me in bad weather conditions. Not so with #209 primers. I do suggest you replace your primers each season.
There are several good propellants from which to choose. For many years I shot loose powder and did pretty well with it. However the convenience of powder pellets cannot be beat. Again, after years of testing I discovered Pyrodex to be the best. I shoot their .50-50 pellets which means each pellet is equivalent to 50-grains of loose powder and fits into a .50-caliber barrel.
You will need to practice enough to find out what load matches the bullet you choose to shoot. Although many muzzleloader experts maintain that 2 pellets are more than enough for deer hunting I disagree. I shoot 3 Pyrodex pellets for more velocity and a flatter shooting, harder hitting shot.
Since we just mentioned bullets you will need to find out which projectile best meets your specific needs. Again all I can do is give you the benefit of my years of research and practice. I shoot a unique 250-grain .50-caliber Flex Tip bullet by Hornady. This special bullet comes in a sabot sleeve designed for rapid loading. The SST-ML Lock-N-Load Speed Sabot system is the slickest loading system on the market. The sabot actually has a tail that allows you to slide your Pyrodex pellets onto it for a really fast reload. This Hornady system is the only way to go regardless of your gun.
Now that we have successfully built your new muzzleloader program let’s take a quick look at some tips to save you time and aggravation. The first best piece of advice is simple but of utmost importance; put the powder in first! Nothing will slow-down a trip to the range or a hunt quicker than dropping the bullet before the powder. There is just no easy way to get the bullet out. The Hornady Lock-N-Load system will help you prevent this unfortunate accident.
Next and just as crucial is cleaning your muzzleloader. Be sure to have all the right components and clean your gun early and often. There is no such thing as “too clean” for any gun but this is even more critical with a muzzleloader. Also be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to seasoning your barrel.
It may sound complicated but once you are into developing your own program you will have a ball and find it a great way to extend your season and maybe end-up using your muzzleloader for predators and even turkeys with a smoothbore shotgun barrel.