Muzzleloader 101


The YHEC rules require open or peep sights and no target type slings. Gong type targets are used at three ranges. First, circa 30 yards, is three shots standing with no extra support allowed. Second, circa 60 yards, three shots from any position except prone, crossed sticks or post support is allowed. Third, at circa 100 yards, three shots from any position including prone, crossed sticks or post support is allowed. Fourth is one shot at your choice of the above.


The 4H rules require open or peep sights and no target type slings. Patched round ball only with a 60 grain powder limit. A clear bore indicator is required.

The bullseye event is 10 shots at 50 yards, standing offhand. The novelty event is five shots at 25 yards at each of two different targets, "bottles" and "birds".


Typical rules require patched round ball, traditional locks (no in-lines) and open, not peep, sights, usually standing offhand. Most targets are "hit or miss" not bull's eye. Many are novelty shoots. In most cases some kind of a paper target is required for the tie-breaker. Here are a few examples but not an exhaustive list.

These guys often are creative and like to offer something you haven't tried before. One that I heard about but didn't see, was a varient on the old cross the river with a dog, a goose and a bag of grain puzzle, with the added complication of a bear (target) on the destination bank and using a real canoe on a real stream. You start taking the goose across but have to shoot the bear from the canoe and reload in the canoe before landing. You never know. If there is a second bear you won't have time to load on the shore. Back for the dog and shoot the bear each trip. Trying to reload a muzzle loader midstream in a canoe four times sounds like a challenge.

Trail Walk
This is nearly universal. Metal targets are scored as gongs. Various shapes at various distances, some with holes in the middle. You can always claim your ball went through the middle of the hole to soothe the ego, but no ring, no point. Your eyes may deceive you, but may need to shoot a pint size buffalo half way up a tree or a wart hog in the New Mexico desert.

Axe Split
There is a frame holding an axe head with the edge facing the firing line and holders for clay targets on either side. You have to hit the edge to split the ball and break both clays.

Stake Shoot
A board, usually a 1x6 with a black stripe about half way up. You have to cut it in half with holes in the stripe. Often done as a team. Reloading skill pays off in this speed event.

Mike Fink
According to legend Mike Fink shot a shot glass off a henchman's head, sooo this name. A small bathroom paper cup with a little bit of water for weight is placed on top of a water balloon. You must shoot the cup off without breaking the balloon. The second round has more water in the cup because you need to hit above the waterline or the shock will break the balloon.

Maggies Drawers
Ladies underwear is hung on a "clothes line" using the old fashioned fork style clothes pins. The object is to shoot off both of the pins without damaging the garment.

Pop Can
This is a two shooter team event. Two aluminum drinks are set out. The bottom one is filled with water and the top one is empty. The rifleman has to shoot the bottom can, creating a waterjet out the drink hole, launching the empty can into the air. The shotgunner shoots the flying can. Can with the most pellet holes wins. Often it is five shots with three from your own gun and two from your partners gun.

One Tie - All Tie
A large gong type target is used, often an old saw mill blade. The firing line is at about 75 or 80 yards for the first shot. Each shooter has one shot, but as soon as two shooters hit the gong it is a tie for everyone, no one is eliminated and everyone moves back 10 yards. The rotation continues and every time there is a second hit it is another tie and everyone moves back 10 yards until they reach a distance where everyone had a shot and only one had a hit.

Winchester NRA Patch Program

  • B19 target (B17 metric)
  • 13 shots, best 10 score
  • Any YHEC eligible rifle, no scopes
  • Center of hole scores
  • Each repetition must be on a separate day.
Pro-Marksmansupported @ 25 yards40/1002X
Marksmanprone @ 50 yards 45/100 2X
Marksman 1st Class kneeling/siting @ 50 yards 55/100 2X
Sharpshooter standing @ 50 yards 50/100 2X
  • kneeling/siting @ 50 yards
  • standing @ 50 yards
  • prone @ 100 yards
  • standing @ 100 yards
240/400 4X
Distinguished Expert same 4 position 265/400 6X
Note: Distinguished Expert scores must be in sanctioned competition.

Clubs and Associations

There are many clubs from the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association down to small neighborhood get-togethers. Check Google, Facebook and your local gunshop for locations, contacts and events. Sort of related, there are black powder cartridge events too. You can find many of the same kind of shoots as for carteidges. Silhouette, bench rest, long range, novelty. Cowboy action uses muzzle loading revolvers. Lots of fun competition out there.


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