Simple Muzzleloaders that Work

   Muzzleloading deer seasons are about to get started throughout

Modern in-lines or the older Hawken-style muzzleloaders such as this CVA will take deer decade after decade.

Modern in-lines or the older Hawken-style muzzleloaders such as this CVA will take deer decade after decade.

 the nation, and some who have never considered muzzleloading as a practical way to hunt are now taking up this aspect of deer hunting. I write about muzzleloaders  in Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound  and also in my annual Gun Digest  review

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  I am pleased to report that you can hardly go wrong to purchase a pre-packaged set made by CVA, Thompson Center Arms or Traditions. These are mostly modern 209 primed in-line muzzleloaders, and they are sold with everything needed to make them shoot except for the primers and powder. All of them will shoot, and all of them will kill close-range deer. None of them are “sighted in,” and the user will have to do that task and learn to properly clean his gun (diswashing soap and water works best followed by drying and oiling), unless he plans to shoot one deer and throw the gun away.

 Read the instruction manual, and watch any available videos.

  Pellitized powders such as Hodgdon’s Triple Seven pellets work very well in in-line guns, but not in conventional side-lock muzzleloaders. For a starting load in inexpensive, light-weight in-line guns, I recommend a load of two pellets (100 grain equivalent of FFg black powder) and something like a 300-grain bullet (I very often use PowerBelts). These will give moderate recoil and kill deer very well out to about 75-yards or so.  At 100 yards bullet drop is significant and gets rapidly worse at increasing range.

   Heavy loads, even though they may be safe, require a heavier gun. I used a 12-pound gun in Africa which I loaded with 150 grains of powder-equivalent and a 530 grain bullet to use on Cape Buffalo. This load gave moderate recoil. When moving up to 150-grain powder charges and bullets heavier than 300 grains I prefer to shoot a 9-pound gun. 

 Light-weight muzzleloaders with thin barrels must be shot from rests beyond about 30 yards. The best muzzleloading gun for off-hand shooting remains a Hawken-style rifle weighing between 8-9 pounds. I have re-rigged mine to take musket caps (replacement nipples available from Dixie Gun Works) and usually shoot 85-110 grains of FFg or Pyrodex RS and a patched round ball as a deer hunting load in .50-caliber rifles.

 If you inherited your dad’s or grandfather’s Hawken or traditional long rifle, learn how to shoot it and use its set triggers. These guns will still kill deer, wild hogs and bears very efficiently. They are somewhat more trouble to learn how to shoot and clean; but are worth the investment in time and energy; providing that your eyes will still allow you to use iron sights.

 If you are a new shooter, do not start with a flintlock gun. These are much more “fussy” to shoot, and it is best to practice with one of these for some months before taking it into the woods for the first time. Shooting flint guns well takes both physical and mental conditioning.

  The author’s CVA Hawken was built from a kit gun provided by CVA. These kits are no longer imported, but a few might still be in some distributor’s old stock.

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