Muzzleloading Without Tears

While successful muzzleloading does take some attention to detail, it need not be a particularly arduous journey. If you are new to front-stuffing, or just want to upgrade your gear, there are some fairly easy choices you can make to make the entire affair easier and more rewarding.

The most consistent blackpowder replacement for inline muzzleloaders today is Blackhorn 209. It is easy to use, has very low corrosivity, and cleans up with a patch or two of Hoppe's No. 9 or similar solvents. It is also harder to ignite than organic blackpowder, making it safer to carry, use, and store . . . all good things. For best results, you need to use full-strength shotshell primers (I prefer Federal 209A) and also a sealed action inline with an efficient breechplug.

The two best choices in currently manufactured muzzleloaders are the LHR Redemption as shown above, followed by the T/C Encore F/X. The Thompson/Center Pro Hunter FX is a fixed barrel, non Form 4473 arm, with actually a better breechplug than the interrupted thread nonsense on the Encore Pro Hunter and others. Both have 1:28 rate of twist barrels, the LHR Redemption has more consistent barrel quality as Green Mountain makes their barrels, currently.

A light load of Blackhorn 209 pushing a 300 grain Parker Ballistic Extreme has roughly a 163 yard Maximum Point Blank Range. Sighted in three inches high @ 75 yards, it is just center of the body hold to 160 yards and go pick him up.

Take the same Parker 300 grain Ballistic Extreme, bump it to 2050 fps, sighted in three inches high @ 100 yards, now it is essentially center of the body hold to 200 yards, and go pick him up.

You need not start with any heavy powder charge to flatten a whitetail at 150 yards with Blackhorn 209. Quite the contrary, for an 80 grain volumetric charge (about 56 grains by weight) of BH209 nets you about 1700 fps muzzle velocity, faster than any 20 gauge slug load out of the 24 – 26 inch barrels that are offered. The “SAAMI standard” for 20 gauge barrels is 30 inches, so that's the reason shotshell slugs do not perform anywhere close to "as marked."

That's where modern inline muzzleloading performance starts, although you can easily get to 2000 fps with accuracy using a 300 grain saboted bullet, or 2100 fps with a 250 grain class bullet if you wish, with Blackhorn 209.

For these two rifles, the Parker 300 grain Ballistic Extreme with the short, black MMP sabot is a top choice. I've also has good results with the Barnes 290 grain T-EZ. Your own rifle will tell you what it shoots the best, so there really is no escaping some quality trigger time of your own.

The scope choice for your muzzleloader is little different than for any other rifle used for the same game at similar ranges. Whether 2-7, 3-9, 2-10, or 3-12, the zoom range is up to you. I've had outstanding results with Burris, Sightron SII Big Sky series, the newer Minox models, and others reviewed in detail elsewhere. A muzzleloading rifle is no less deserving of a quality optic than any other big game hunting rifle, for that's exactly what it is.

Use a Spinjag to enable consistent loading, keep your barrel cool during sight-in so as not to soften and weaken your sabots, and go have fun. It's what's for dinner.

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Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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