Muzzleloader Newcomers Need to Learn the Basics
It is also the black powder season for bear. Check your Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Hunting Guidebook for specifics.
Nearly everyone who has recently purchased or borrowed a muzzle-loading rifle for the first time has practiced with it. Many of these neophytes are now comfortable with the gun or at least not apprehensive about taking it to the woods.
Call it a front-end loader, smoke pole, charcoal burner, whatever, nearly any muzzle-loading rifle you buy these days will be effective on Arkansas deer. That is, depending on the person using it – but that’s also the case with modern guns, the cartridge rifles.
For starters, there is nothing to beat tutelage from someone who has used a muzzle-loader. That person can take you step by step through the process, and that person will emphasize that shooting a muzzle-loader does not end with pulling the trigger and hearing the boom. There is the essential cleaning process that you don’t find with modern guns.
First, acquire and look over the ingredients of muzzle-loader shooting. These are rifle, powder, bullet, patch, lubricant, percussion cap. Learn and become comfortable with the sequence of loading. It’s not difficult, but don’t try to skip or shortcut any of the steps.
Note the last item listed, the percussion cap. That goes on last. Never put a cap on the firing mechanism until the gun is loaded with power and bullet.
They call it a ramrod, the long wood or plastic stick that is housed under the rifle’s barrel. Forget the “ram” phrase. The instructions are to tamp the powder into place. This means a firm but gentle push with the ramrod, not a slamming of it.
If the recommended powder load is 60 grains, put 60 grains of powder into the barrel. More is not better, whatever you may have heard. A heavier than recommended load of powder is dangerous, of course, and it also affects accuracy in many cases. Stick with what the manufacturer says.
All right, you load the black powder rifle, you hunt all day, and you don’t shoot a deer. What next? Unload it before getting into a vehicle, and unloading doesn’t mean just removing the cap from the firing nipple.
You have two choices, and many hunters simply fire the rifle safely into the ground to unload it. An alternative is to use a bullet puller after the cap is removed then work out the patch and the powder. Some modern muzzle-loaders make these easier with removable breech plugs.
When the gun is unloaded, if it has been fired, and you are home or in camp, you clean out the barrel thoroughly with soap and water. A brush or swap on the end of the ramrod or on a cleaning rod is needed.
Work through the process form start to finish just a few times, and it becomes routine. Then muzzle-loader season becomes more enjoyable in addition to your hunting more days and perhaps bringing home good meat for the table.