Muzzleloaders are firearms of any type that are loaded through the open end of the gun barrel, i.e., from the very place from which the bullet will exit. This article provides an overview of muzzleloaders, including the pros and cons of muzzleloaders.
What Are Muzzleloaders?
Muzzleloaders may be rifles, pistols, or shotguns, for example. For the purpose of differentiating them from other types of firearms, muzzleloaders are defined by the fact that they load through the muzzle.
But that’s not all there is to it. There are other qualifications that muzzleloaders must meet to, for example, be used for hunting in states that have muzzleloading seasons. In some states, a muzzleloader with an electronic ignition i.e., one that uses a battery charge to ignite the powder does not qualify for use in the muzzleloader hunting season, but in some cases may be allowed in the “regular” hunting season.
Another definition that muzzleloaders may or may not qualify for is “Antique Firearms.” Generally, any muzzleloader manufactured prior to 1898 or a replica of one, is an antique firearm, as long as it isn’t designed or altered to fire rimfire or centerfire rounds and only fires black powder (or some substitute for black powder).
How Do Muzzleloaders Work?
How a muzzleloader works depends on what type it is. Some shoot sabots (collared pistol bullets), some shoot round balls, some substitute a smokeless powder for black powder, some use electronic ignition, and those referred to as having an in-line design are modern rifles in muzzleloader’s clothing, and like the sidehammer, the inline gun can actually fire any type of projectile.
For a traditional muzzleloader, rough instructions for loading include first examining and cleaning the gun, measure the powder, settle the powder, pour the powder down the barrel and tap the rifle to settle to powder, seat your projectile, and prime your weapon.
Pros and Cons of Muzzleloaders
Muzzleloaders provide some undoubted benefits. For the person involved in historical reenactment or the collector, there’s no substitute. There’s also no doubt that in state’s that have a separate muzzleloader hunting season, having a muzzleloader allows hunters to extend the season. The muzzleloader also holds charm for the do-it-yourself types who like the connectedness of the muzzleloader process, as well the hunter who likes the one-shot-or-its-lost challenge of hunting with a muzzleloader.
On the other hand, shooting with muzzleloaders is demanding, time-consuming, limiting, and sometimes messy. It’s demanding because the shooter has to make measurements and decisions for each shot, rather than loading a magazine, adjusting a scope once, and firing a number of shots. It’s time-consuming, because each shot has to be loaded, and swabbing with a slightly moistened patch and a dry patch after every shot is recommended. It is limiting because one shot is all you’ve got, and messy because that’s the nature of black powder – it emits thick smoke, it’s caustic, and it builds up within the barrel.
Muzzleloaders, like every firearm, can be dangerous because of the possibility of overloading. Also because the chemicals produced by black powder are destructive and those produced by Pyrodex are toxic, it can be a health hazard. Black powder can also ignite unexpectedly. There have also been problems with poorly made guns that injured users, the CVA brand in-line rifle models from 1995 and 1996. While CVA claims that by 2011, 96% of the 55,000 recalled guns had been accounted for, that still leaves 2,200 guns that no one should purchase or operate. And while they claim they no longer use the defective barrels, there are claims that CVA applied proof marks to these products and sold them, but without ever having tested them. As regulation of muzzleloaders is sketchy in the U.S., great care should be taken in making a purchase.