A Little History:
- Black Powder: Black powder, an older form of gunpowder used in muzzleloaders, is well known by antique gun enthusiasts. It's a composition of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur ground to a powder consistency. it was originally used by the Chinese in the 1300's, but the Englishman Roger Bacon is given credit for actually developing black powder in the 1600's. Bacon refined the Chinese version of gunpowder to use it in muzzleloaders of the day.
- Muzzleloaders Firearms: The development of firearms was actually made possible by the invention of gunpowder. The first firearms were cannons. When hand-held firearms were made, they became tools for warfare, protection and hunting. These early firearms were loaded from he muzzle end, thus the designation "muzzleloader" - a term still used today.
As popularity of muzzleloaders increased, replicas were made like the traditional style rifles used by American frontiersmen. Along with the traditional style muzzleloaders, new designs sprang up making the rifles lighter, more accurate, quieter and more reliable for the competitive hunters of today.
Muzzleloader Parts/Firing Mechanism:
- The Flintlock: To load a flintlock, the proper charge of black powder is first-poured down the bore. The shooter then seats a pre-cut, lubricated patch and ball over the muzzle. Using a starter, the patched ball is moved down into the barrel. With a ramrod, it is pushed the rest of the way down until it is seated firmly against the powder. Very fine black powder (usually the granulation designated as FFFg) is dropped into the pan; this is the primer. The pan cover, or frizzen, is closed. When the flint held cock is pulled all the way back, it is ready to fire. At the pull of the trigger, the cock is released and the flint strikes the frizzen, producing a shower of sparks to ignite the fine powder in the flashpan. The flash goes through a small touchhole to ignite the main charge and fire the piece.
- The Caplock or "Percussion": With a caplock gun, the percussion cap performs the same function as a modern primer in a cartridge. The cap is seated on a nipple at the end of a little tube leading into the barrel. When the hammer falls, it ignites the priming compound in the cap, driving sparks down the tube to the powder charge. the loading process is the same with a percussion gun as with a flintlock, except that the cap replaces the loose priming charge and flashpan - and the hammer replaces the cock and flint. Caplock rifles are more popular for hunt than flintlocks. the caps are faster and more convenient to use than loose priming powder; there is no need to replace flints; and ignition is faster and surer with the caplock.
- Pyrodex Powder Grades: There are a number of substitutes for black powder, and perhaps the best known is Pyrodex. Pyrodex is cleaner burning than black powder and harder to ignite. It is not recommended for flintlock rifles. Pyrodex is available in P for Pistols, R-S for rifles and shotguns and CTg for cartridges and pellets. Pyrodex pellets will give you more consistency, better performance, faster second shots and less waste. Seat it. Cap it. Shoot it. It's that easy! Guns using black powder or Pyrodex must be cleaned after firing.
- Black Powder Grades: Black powder is available in four grades for a variety of uses. Fg is a coarse granulated black powder for cannons; FFg is for mid range calibers such as .50, .54, .58 and .62: FFFg is designed for pistols and small caliber rifles like .36 and .45 and FFFg is flash powder, used for priming flintlock muzzleloaders.
- Black Powder Loads: Always use a good adjustable powder measure to prepare charges in correct amounts. Because no two muzzleloaders are alike, you must determine the best load for each gun and each use.
Bullet Selection Guide:
Game Caliber Bullet
Small Game (rabbit) .32-.40 Round Ball
Medium Game (deer) .40-.50 Round ball or conical bullet
.50-.62 Round Ball
Large Game (Elk) .50 Conical Bullet
.54-.62 Round Ball or Conical Bullet
Black Powder Loading Tips: Getting your frontloader to hit where you're aiming begins with good loading practices. Here are a few tips that will help to ensure that you achieve optimal accuracy and performance.
- Always use your ramrod and cleaning jag with a dry patch to wipe the bore of your rifle clean of oil before pouring in a powder charge.
- If the patched round ball, conical, or saboted bullet you are loading fits so tightly that it is deformed by the time it's forced into the muzzle with a starter, it's not likely to shoot accurately. Try a different combination.
- Seat the projectile with the ramrod in one continuous stroke. Trying to ram the projectile down the bore with shot jabs only deforms the ball or bullet and increases the chances of getting the projectile stuck in the bore before it's properly seated.
Safety Guidelines: Because blackpowder and Pyrodex are both highly explosive, safety rules must be followed closely.
- Never store or use black powder or Pyrodex near direct heat or flames.
- Always store them in a dry place in the original container, a flask or powder horn.
- Never dry black powder that has gotten wet.
- Don't smoke or allow others to smoke around blackpowder or Pyrodex.
Remember to follow safety rules and be especially careful when working up hunting loads for a new rifle.
As always when shopping at your favorite outdoor store Bass Pro Shops for all of your muzzleloading needs, please see our knowledgeable associates in the Hunting department to answer your hunting questions. They are happy to give you tips on how to get started in the exciting sport of muzzleloading and help you select all the components needed.