Muzzleloaders Part 3 - by JoshOnce you’ve selected a powder and bullet it’s time to go to the shooting bench and start zeroing your rifle. In the following paragraphs I will discuss the process of loading a muzzleloader, as well as a few tips that will make shooting your muzzleloader more enjoyable.
All modern muzzleloaders have a breech plug. As its name suggests, it is a threaded plug located at the breech of your rifle. In the center of the breech plug is a tiny flash hole. The rear of the breech plug is designed to hold the primer or cap. Before firing your muzzleloader it is important to apply an anti-seize grease (breech plug grease), which is necessary for easy breech plug removal during cleaning.
The bullet is loaded from the muzzle end and has to be pushed down until it reaches the powder you added, which is sitting on the breech plug. If using a bullet with a plastic tip, it is often helpful to screw a jag or bullet seater on the end of your ramrod that has a recessed hole so the tip of your bullet is not damaged while loading. The bullet inside of the plastic sabot is a tight fit in your bore so adding a little lube can make things a lot easier. You can buy pre saturated patches that contain lube or you can buy the patches and lube separately. Whether you buy pre-saturated or not, the process is the same. Place a patch with lube over your muzzle, and using your ramrod with jag (supplied with your muzzleloader) work the lubed patch up and down your barrel. Be careful not to over -do -it with the lube -- a little goes a long way. If you do this each time you shoot, you begin to season your barrel much like a cast iron skillet, and loading and cleaning become much easier. So drop in your powder, load your bullet and next, let’s place the primer at the rear of your breech plug in the primer chamber.
Most modern muzzleloaders use a 209 primer to ignite the powder just like the ones used in shot shells. Earlier muzzleloaders used either musket caps or Number 11 percussion caps, but they were much less reliable than the 209 primer. Some manufacturers make primers that are designed and marketed as muzzle loading 209 primers and they are fine to use but standard shot shell primers should perform well too. It’s best to consult the powder manufacturer to determine which is best to use for their powder.
Remember, whether shooting at the bench or hunting from a blind or tree stand never load your primer in the breech plug until you are seated and ready to safely shoot. With your gun loaded with powder, a bullet, and a primer, you’re ready to take aim and shoot.
Powders in muzzleloaders can be very dirty and produce extreme amounts of fouling -- accumulation of unwanted material on solid surfaces to the detriment of function – therefore, it’s extremely necessary to clean this fouling out before you put your gun away, and also in between shots if possible. The use of a lube such as Thompson Center’s Bore Butter can aid in cleaning your gun when used prior to shooting, and also makes loading the rifle much easier as well.
Shooting and hunting with a muzzleloader can be a fun, rewarding experience. Just remember to follow all common sense safety precautions and have a great time. We’ll talk about the actual cleaning process in the next and final Muzzleloading post.