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Author Topic: How to Work up the Perfect Load for Your Muzzleloader by Duane72  (Read 1259 times)

Offline TalkHunting Mag

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  • Join Date: Mar 2013
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Last year I finally pulled a range day together for several of my friends. Many had been asking to go to the club with me and shoot. Some have firearms, some don’t, and some just came for the fellowship, and some to see if they could outshoot the other in a friendly contest. No matter the reason or expectation, it made for a great opportunity for many to shoot weapons they had never shot before. It gave me the opportunity to introduce a few of my friends to the world of muzzleloading. I remember one in particular, when asking me about it, commented on the idea of reloading after each shot, “Why would I want to go through all that trouble?” Well, it wasn’t a question I could answer verbally. I just said he’d have to try it and see. So as I walked him through it, it only took one shot and he was ready to swab, reload, and fire it again… and again… and again…

In this issue is a great article by Brad Gordon, “Considerations for Muzzleloader Buying and Usage”. It has a lot of great info on picking out a muzzleloader with things to think about while making the decision on the one that’s right for you and what to look for. In my article I want to focus a little more detail on what to do once the decision and purchase is made. Now, I want to stress the best thing you can do before anything else is to READ THE MANUAL that comes with your muzzleloader. You may have seen some of the things while researching the gun, but there are several safety things you need to know up front. You need to know what the maximum powder charge your gun can handle is for instance. Read the manual, KNOW THE LIMITS OF YOUR WEAPON.

All that being said, first thing's first… getting the muzzleloader “on the paper”. If you have access to a bore sighter, they are usually the best method with or without a scope. However, many muzzleloaders come factory bore sighted with their open sights, or scope if you purchased a “package” and provide you with the opportunity to head straight to the range. If a bore sighter is not readily available, you can still sight in, but will start at a much closer distance at first.

Where to Start: Your manufacturer most likely suggests a recommended bullet weight and powder charge. You can start there, but I would also purchase, or bum from friends as Brad suggests (which is what I did!), several different projectiles within + or – 50 grains of the suggested and a few different types of powder. Different brands of primers can’t hurt either.

Projectiles: Projectiles can seem overwhelming with so many variations of them out there and each touting to be the best, newest and most accurate. In your selection + and – 50 grains from manufacturer recommendation you’ll find many options as with any rifle bullet. (If there is no suggested “load” from the manufacturer, I recommend the 240 to 340 grain range to begin with.) Both conicals and sabots can shoot well and have their advantage. A straight conical is basically a bullet. They are typically a heavier bullet ranging between 300 and 400 grains. However they do go as low as 240 grain and as high as 425 grain or more depending on the caliber of muzzleloader and the use. Roundballs are still used as well, but mostly in pistols and more traditional muzzleloaders. They have a variety of weights based mainly on caliber, and finally, sabots. Though used as a general term for the projectile, sabots are actually the piece (made mainly of plastic today) that wraps around a bullet. The bullets are a smaller caliber, allowing for a plastic sabot to encase it. This gives the option of producing a more varied style of bullet as the sabot is what is designed to engage the rifling of the barrel and seal the barrel as it is fired to prevent compression loss. With a smaller or larger sabot, manufacturers can adjust the caliber size and weight of the bullet greatly while still being fired from a larger caliber rifle.

Powder: You may also want to try different powders. It can be an expensive venture if you don’t have friends with different types readily available. Different powders can shoot better or worse in different rifles. Most black powder and black powder substitutes found on the shelf today ,however, are of an acceptable quality. But as you can afford to, it is always best to try as many as you can to dial in just the right one for your rifle. My personal suggestions are Hodgdon’s Triple Se7en (777) or Blackhorn 209. These are both very good powders with very minimal corrosive components. They clean up very easily and I have seen good performance from both. The 777 also comes in pellet form, which can be a great way to start. “Pellets” are pre-measured amounts of powder packed tightly into a pellet form. With both 50 grain and 30 grain pellet options available you can fine tune your powder charge to some degree, though the powder form allows you a much greater range of adjustment to work up just the right load for your gun. That can always be done down the line though as more time and money are available. A final note on powder is to not be confused by the “F” rating. The “g” stands for Granulation and the “F, FF, FFF, or FFFF” is an indication of the size granule, determined by the size holes in the screen used to sift them at the manufacturer. The single F is the largest granule and FFFF the finest. Basic rule of thumb is that “FFg” is for rifles and “FFFg” is for pistols. This is not a hard rule, and can have exceptions, but you cannot go wrong with FFg in your muzzleloading rifle as a guideline.

Primers: Primers come in #11, Musket Cap, and 209 Shotgun. Most of your modern inlines come set up for 209 primers now. The majority of newer black powder substitutes require the hotter fire to burn the powder properly. You can sometimes however purchase different breach plugs set up for another type of primer. There is little variation within each primer style. Some manufacturers shoot better than others with different powders. Some 209s are a little hotter than others. I find the 209 primers used in reloading shotgun shells, not the ones made specifically for muzzleloader use, work the best in my gun. You may find different.

Ok, now that you have your varying projectiles and different powders all laid out at the range, you’re ready to begin the process of working up your renowned and accuracy feared “perfect load” for your muzzleloader. You can start in the middle of your range of projectiles, start at the lightest and work your way up, or start at the heaviest and work your way down, it’s all up to you. I know, I know, “decisions!” So let me help… start at the lightest. You have to decide which style or manufacturer of bullet to start with if you have multiple ones in that weight to choose from. I can only be expected to make so many decisions in one article after all. For powder, more is not always the best way to go. Some projectiles fly better and more accurately with less powder. Choose one kind of powder and I suggest you start with 80 grains. Again, if your manufacturer suggests a load, start there.

Here’s where bore sighting shines. You’re only concerned with being on the target at this point, not drilling the bullseye. If you didn’t have the boresighter, or the gun did not come bore sighted than you may want to start at 15 to 25 yards to better ensure you hit paper. Using the same bullet and powder charge each time, take three consecutive shots. Swab the barrel in-between each shot. Now you can increase or decrease the amount of powder by 5 to 10 grains and fire 3 more shots. By doing this, you can find the best volume of powder for that particular bullet. Mark each 3 shot group with powder charge used. You can use separate targets or use one for each different bullet you work with, however you choose. Work through each type and weight of bullet using various powder types and charges. As you do you will begin to see what works well and what doesn’t in your muzzleloader until you find just the right one. From there, you can sight in for that bullseye and see how it does at longer ranges. Some that shoot well at closer range may not serve you well at longer distances.

There are things however that you will discover in the field that you can’t find out on the range. For instance, you may find several different loads that shoot well and close performance-wise on the range, but in the field they perform differently. I found one particular load that worked amazing for my gun on the range, but after taking a few deer with it I noticed some failed performance from the projectile in hunting situations. I had to go back and find another projectile that would shoot well and use that one in the field for a while. Eventually I found one that not only shoots great accuracy-wise, but with deadly performance in the field. Of course, now they are being discontinued and I will have to go back and do it again. But hey, more time on the range is never a bad thing right?

It all may seem overwhelming and way too time-consuming to some, but these are methods of dialing in your weapon to just the right point. You can spend as much time and money in the effort as you can afford to do. If you have only three or four different projectiles and one kind of powder, you can work up the best load that those combinations will shoot in your muzzleloader and hit the field. It may not be the best your muzzleloader can do, but it may be the best you can do at the time. That’s OK. Do as much with it as you can when you can, just make sure whatever you end up with is accurate, safe and ethical. You can work on perfection over time.



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