When it comes to muzzleloading, what amazes me more than anything else is how there are still quite a few staunch "traditional only" muzzleloading hunters who tend to go out of their way in order to bash the modern side of this sport. Being the host of this website, which presents both the "traditional" side and the "modern" side of muzzleloader hunting, there are times when I receive quite a few e-mails from angry traditional "black powder burners" who failed to fill their tags during "their muzzleloader season" ... and they want to blame the modern in-line rifle hunters ... who they feel have taken over "their" special hunting season.
Personally, I think the burr under their saddle is that the modern in-line rifles and loads most definitely have honest 200-yard capability ... while the reproduction circa late 1700's and early 1800's patched round ball rifles favored by so many of the "historically correct" crowd really don't even have a 100 yard effective range. What it boils down to is that some traditional purists of muzzleloader hunting, who have accepted the challenge of hunting with an open sighted 60 to 70 yard muzzleloader, feel that ALL muzzleloading hunters should be forced to hunt with the same.
That misguided logic totally overlooks the fact that the modern in-line rifles WERE NOT the first honest 200-yard muzzle-loaded hunting rifles. The rifle shown directly above is one of the 1-in-24 rifling twist .50 caliber Missouri River Hawken models, produced by Davide Pedsersoli & Co. This is a modern copy of the circa 1840's to 1860's rifles developed in the U.S. - to shoot heavy elongated conical bullets of 300 to 500 grains. And ... to tap the 200+ yard accuracy and game taking energy produced by the rifles and bullets was another U.S. shooting and hunting innovation - the "telescopic rifle sight" (known today as the rifle scope). The one shown here is the modern made long Wm. Malcolm 6x scope offered by Hi-Lux Optics.
The buck shown in this photo was taken at just over 170 yards ... with a very traditionally styled 1850's muzzleloading rifle and sight. Still, many traditionally minded muzzleloading shooters and hunters continue to try making it illegal to use during the muzzleloader seasons.
The whitetail doe in this photo was also taken at about 170 yards ... and also with a .50 caliber muzzleloader. This is the Cooper Model 22 ML, one of the nicest No. 209 primer ignition in-line rifle models available today. Shooting a 110-grain charge of a modern black powder substitute such as Blackhorn 209 or FFFg Triple Seven and the Harvester Muzzleloading saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold polymer tipped spire-point bullet, the rifle, topped with that Hi-Lux Optics 3-9x TB-ML muzzleloader hunting scope, is fully capable of punching sub 1-inch groups at 100 yards. It will also deliver that bullet with some 1,500 foot-pounds of retained energy - AT 200 YARDS!
This is the kind of performance that many traditionally minded muzzleloading hunters find offensive ... and which they very often loudly object to - claiming that such muzzleloaders should only be allowed during the modern gun seasons. Thanks to the protests of such traditional muzzleloading hunters, extremely backward muzzleloader hunting regulations remain in place in a number of states ... namely Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Oddly enough, the modern side of muzzleloader hunting has not retaliated and demanded that states establish minimum energy levels for the traditional patched ball rifles. Most deer hunting experts agree that 800 foot-pounds of energy should be accepted as the minimum amount of energy needed to take deer. If a state's regulations required that a rifle and load be capable of delivering a ball with a minimum of 800 f.p.e. at 100 yards - VERY FEW OF THE PATCHED ROUND BALL RIFLE LOADS BEING HUNTED WITH WOULD QUALIFY.
The big whitetail doe in the photo at left is one of the largest doe's I have ever shot - weighing in at almost the weight of a mature buck. The deer was taken at 77 yards, with a single well-placed shot from the Pedersoli .54 caliber percussion Rocky Mountain Hawken also shown in the photo. My load consisted of 120-grains of FFg Olde Eynsford black powder (from GOEX) and a patched 230-grain Hornady swaged .535" lead ball.
At the muzzle of the heavy 34 5/8 inch barrel, the load is good for 1,854 f.p.s. and 1,755 f.p.e. I figured the maximum effective range (still capable of maintaining right at 800 f.p.e.) was between 75 and 80 yards. My laser rangefinder said the deer was at 77 yards ... so I took the shot. The ball centered both lungs ... and this giant old doe went down on the spot.
Now, this same rifle and powder charge gets that same ball across the chronograph at 1,126 f.p.s. at 100 yards - which translates into just 646 f.p.e.! Yes, even the "power house" .54 stoked with 120-grains of black powder cannot deliver a patched ball with 800 f.p.e. at a hundred yards. The popular old Thompson/Center .50 caliber Hawken was at best a 60-yard rifle (capable of 800 f.p.e.) when stoked with a 120-grain charge of FFFg GOEX black powder behind a patched 182 grain swagewd .495" lead ball ... while most .45 caliber patched ball rifles, loaded with 80 or 90 grains of FFFg black powder, could NOT get a 128- to 131-grain ball to still generate 800 f.p.e. at 50 yards.
When two different sides or factions of a so-called "common" interest or endeavor continue to squabble ... both sides begin to lose. We've already lost a few muzzleloader only hunting opportunities, which took a great deal of work to get first established. In Mississippi, what USED TO BE a "Muzzleloading Season" is now a "Primitive Firearms Season" ... which now ALSO allows single-shot breechloading cartridge rifles, such as the Sharps Model 1874 or Remington Rolling Block rifles, or reproductions of these rifles ... as long as they have an exposed hammer and are .35 or larger in caliber. Likewise, Missouri no longer schedules a "Muzzleloader Season", but instead now conducts a so-called "Alternative Methods Season" - which allows muzzleloaders, black powder cap and ball revolvers, modern cartridge revolvers, bows, crossbows ... AND ... large caliber air rifles.
Do any of you know of any other states which have eliminated muzzleloader hunting opportunities ... or which have turned the muzzleloader season into a hodgepodge methods season? Please share in the comment section for this post. I blame the muzzleloading industry, or rather lack of a true muzzleloading industry, for allowing this to happen. It seems that very few of the muzzleloading companies even care any more. - Toby Bridges
Here At NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING ... We Feel That
If It Loads Through The Muzzle ... We Consider It A Muzzleloader!
Featured Muzzleloader Above - Pedersoli Percussion Magnum 10-Gauge Double
Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
This blog is made possible by Davide Pedersoli & Co., Dixie Gun Works, Traditions Firearms, Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., October Country, and Hodgdon/GOEX powders. The topics presented here will be devoted entirely to shooting and hunting with muzzleloading guns of pre- 1860's design.