"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold
Monday, October 22, 2012
From "Good Hunt" - Some Things about Muzzleloaders
My collection of Muzzleloaders
I wanted to take a moment for a little cross-promotion. As some of you know, I've been writing a hunting blog, Good Hunt, for the local newspaper, the Lakeland Ledger, over the last nine months. Really enjoy it and feel it is going well. We have covered a wide range of hunting activities in this time. In addition to my efforts, the paper's regular outdoor writing staff has contributed a wealth of information on freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting, hiking, and environmental issues. Together, we are grouped at the Polk Outdoors website. If you live in Florida, plan to visit here or already do so on a regular basis, or just find an interest in our outdoor lifestyle, I encourage you to visit the site and bookmark it for future use.
Below was my last post on Good Hunt. It's a little longer than I usually publish there and not as Florida-centric, and I was torn on which site to post it. Problem solved now!
Anyhow, please take some time to visit Polk Outdoors and snoop around. Hope you enjoy and feel free to drop a line with comments, suggestions, etc.
Over the last 15 years I’ve hunted muzzleloading season it’s been quite entertaining watching folks trudge into camp all excited about an extra weekend or two of hunting, only to leave without their new weapons, having sold them in fits of rage for pennies on the dollar to anyone willing to take the cursed tokens off their hands. One year this camp regular, who had gone through at least a half-dozen frontstuffers that failed him in some way or another, showed with his single-shot Ruger No. 1 in .375 H&H arguing it was the same general concept of muzzleloading. Of course this was very illegal, and I would never recommend or endorse anyone to do likewise – unless maybe they’ve gone through, at minimum, 10 different blackpowder devices.
The truth is, failures with blackpowder equipment are typically the result of operator error. Though the guns they manufacture today are about as fool-proof as you can design these tools, they still require more diligence than your standard issue cartridge-fed, breech-loaded rifle.
Just wanted to run through a list of errors and issues I’ve witnessed in the past.
1. Trouble with Sidelocks – It seems most folks who first dabble with muzzleloading start with those $89.99 sidelock CVA’s. Then they buy the coolest looking sabot-ed projectiles and the Pyrodex pellets and doom themselves to disaster before they’ve left Wal-Mart. One, those sidelocks aren’t designed to use pelleted forms of powder. They require loose powder. Yes, you can get them to ignite from time to time, but reliability is severely compromised. There are no shortcuts with these guns – you must measure the loose powder. Two, those 250-grain sabots with the colorful polymer tips aren’t designed for sidelocks, either. Using the factory sights, these bullets will always hit high and usually above the target. I’ve witnessed folks – seriously – file down the front posts on their sidelocks to get sabots to print on paper. It’s depressing and frustrating to watch. You’ll need to shoot 350 – 385-grain MaxiBalls or Plains slugs, and if you can put three of those in a softball-sized circle at 50 yards, friend, you’re killing deer.
2. Care with Primers – You want to avoid handling your primers as much as possible. Your skin has oils that will ruin the caps. Percussion caps are the worst. Musket caps are a little better, followed by the 209 Shotshell Primers. If I drop a cap, I throw it out. I hunt with it once, then throw it out. No part of this process is as important as keeping your primer’s integrity intact.
3. Ramrods – Carry an extra ramrod. They are made of plastic, carbon fiber, or wood, and their job is to push a tight fitting bullet 20 inches down a rifled tube. They break. Also, once you load your rifle for the first time, cut a line or notch on the ramroad where it meets the crown of the barrel. This will ensure in the future that you have the proper seating for the load – or that there’s not another, forgotten load in there, Mr. No Fingers.
4. Realistic Inline Accuracy – As designed, inlines are inherently more accurate than sidelocks. Having said that, I’m sure someone in the Heartland has a sidelock that prints 1/2-inch MOA and if that’s the case, I would parlay that luck into lotto tickets and a trip to gamble on the ponies. Still, inlines do have accuracy issues. Let’s set a standard first – if you’re getting 2 – 2 1/2-inch groups at 100 yards, you’re in the stink. Most factory centerfire rifles barely do better than that. If you’re wandering outside of the 3-inch mark, there are some things to look at. Start back at the primer and work forward. At first, using standard 209 primers, my Knight Disc rifle wouldn’t even group, just randomly splatter shots across paper, certainly not what I had in mind when I purchased it. When used with Pyrodex or Triple 7 pellets, I discovered those generic primers left a fouling ring in the throat of the barrel that prevented proper seating by about a quarter-inch. This was enough to send the bullet astray. I switched to Remington’s Kleanbore primers and the patterns immediately tightened. The amount of powder you use is important. I use 100-grains of Triple Seven. Some guns are designed for 150-grains, but I’ve never felt the need and have heard about wild accuracy issues as the space needed for three 50-grain pellets takes up barrel space and shortens the time the bullet has to stabilize. If you’re having accuracy issues with 100-grains, back off to 90. It could be the bullet/barrel combination is more accurate with less powder behind it. Or it could be you appreciate not being violently beaten as bad in the shoulder. If you’re still having trouble, try different bullets – after that, switch to a .375 H&H…
5. Gun Function Issues – Above were mostly internal issues with muzzleloading accuracy, but, in reality, many of these guns aren’t exactly built for benchrest shooting. The triggers have the grace of a ratchet strap. Many of the cheaper models have hollow stocks, not all that much comfort when launching a .50-cal. projectile at a couple thousand feet per second. My first inline was like this. If you filmed the stock in slow motion while I shot it, I bet you’d see it crumple like a used toilet paper roll against my shoulder and the receiver actually hit me. With little weight to help brace for the recoil, it doesn’t take long for The Flinches to take control. One day I filled it with fishing weights and epoxy and that tamed the beast, though it became a bear to carry in the woods. As for the trigger – thanks to a litigious society, I’m not suggesting anything here other than to take it to a gunsmith and see what he or she can do for you. All I know is it’s hard to accurately shoot any rifle that beats you to death and requires a tricep flex in order to pull the trigger.