Muzzleloading rifles Buying a new in-line model
Oct. 5, 2001
What with the recent change in Mississippi deer hunting regulations that now allows the use of magnifying telescopic sights on muzzleloading rifles, many hunters are upgrading. The change in regulations provides a convenient time to hang the old flintlock and caplock front loaders over the fireplace and go modern with a new rifle that features in-line ignition.
Let me hasten to note that there are some who will remain loyal to the traditional muzzleloading rifle and I salute them. They preserve the rifles that helped settle our country and that have a special beauty and utility that reflect the art of early gun making. And these loyalists hunt with the same degree of difficulty that Boone and Crockett and Bridger did. Telescopic sights are not for these faithful fans of black powder rifles.
But many appreciate the advances made in front loading rifles and the chance to hunt rutting bucks in the quiet, early days of December when only the black powder guns are legal. As a bonus, the primitive weapon season has been extended to include the closing days of the traditional late archery season.
These changes and the new technology have expanded the interest in muzzleloading rifles in our area.
The new guns are called in-line rifles because the firing mechanism and igniting components align directly behind the powder and bullet or patched ball instead of the angled alignment of early rifles. This has proven to make accuracy easy to accomplish and aids loading and cleaning. Also the ignition system is enclosed and thus away from moisture or other external elements.
The popularity of in-line designed black powder rifles has inspired most rifle makers to produce them. The earliest in-lines featured a nipple onto which an ignition cap was placed just as with earlier caplock guns. Recent advances have seen the use of shotgun primers to ignite the powder in the barrel. These rifles are designed to accept a small ignition vehicle into which a 209 shotshell primer has been inserted. The primed device is simply dropped into the chamber area, which is opened by a conventional two-stage rotating bolt like modern bolt action rifles. The bolt is then closed and the gun is ready to be cocked and fired.
Even pouring the powder down the barrel from the muzzle has been speeded up and made more convenient. Shooters can choose the popular Pyrodex propellant molded into 50 grain pellets that fit nicely down the barrel. Two pellets make a standard hunting load in most .50 caliber muzzleloading rifles, and three pellets provide a "magnum" load in those designed for the heavier charge.
The latest bullets for black powder rifles have a plastic portion affixed to the rear or base of the bullet. This greatly expedites ramming the bullet down the barrel against the rifling so I have been told by the manufacturers. The word is that these bullets slip easily into the barrel and seat with ease, even when the barrel is fouled by repeated shots.
Learn the details
With so many recent advances in front loading rifles, the shooter who is looking to buy one should study the characteristics of the rifles sold by the various companies. Looking at rifles offered at local gun stores is the route to hands on evaluation. For brands not available locally, the Internet is a quick source of complete information that will lead to a wise buying decision.
The web site of each company will provide thorough information or an e-mail address for the company where a request can be made for a complete description of the firearm being considered. Don't be shy. The company representative is anxious to sell their product. If you want to know the length of pull on their gunstock or how the ramrod fits into the forearm or a complete explanation of how the gun works – ask. These companies usually answer within one day with cost information, ordering options or anything a buyer asks.
If you don't have access to the web, get someone who does to show you the sites or at least get the mailing addresses from the sites. Then write the companies with questions.
The proper approach to buying one of the new in-lines is to learn all you can about the various models before laying out the cash. (Some Manufacturers' web sites are listed for reference)